Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

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



Marx taught us that “upon the different forms of property, upon the social conditions of existence, rises an entire superstructure – distinct and characteristically formed sentiments, illusions, modes of thought and views of life.” This applies to different classes as well as people of different nationalities.


In China, for example, thousands of years of slave and feudal economic systems have given rise to Confucian ideology, an ideological system with distinct theories, ethical codes, sentiments, and modes of thinking, which served the ruling class and imperialists in China. As all reactionaries who worked for the interests of a minority, they inevitably drew their strength from the old world outlook.

Because Confucianism is such a comprehensive ideological system which stifled the rebellious instinct of the slaves, it was “adapted” later by feudal lords as well as the Chinese bourgeoisie and imperialists to maintain their rule, despite the fact that there was no more corresponding slave mode of production (this is an example of the relative independence of ideology).

Lin Piao, the arch-reactionary, was no exception. That is why he used bourgeois trends of thought, slogans, insinuations, and theories based on Confucian ideology to deceive the masses and to corrupt the party.

Here in the U.S., we also have a nationally distinct ideological superstructure derived from our particular history. Though many aspects of this ideological superstructure, like illusions of bourgeois democracy, chauvinism, etc. are common to other countries, as a whole there is a distinctive form of ideological superstructure particular to the U.S. The dominant aspect of this ideological superstructure, of course, serves the bourgeoisie. Our movement is constantly affected by it and suffers from deviations due to it, especially with representatives of the petty bourgeoisie and labor aristocracy in our organizations.


The U.S. has a particular and concrete history, and this concrete history, including the most rapid development of capitalism, is linked to the development of pragmatism and belittling of theory. When we said that pragmatism is “a uniquely American bourgeois philosophy” (Workers Viewpoint Journal, Vol. I, No. 2, p. 21), we meant that it was most fully developed in the U.S. because of the most fertile basis here historically. However, PRRWO typically uses words and phrases to distort the main point by distorting what we said to mean that pragmatism is unique in the sense that you can’t find it elsewhere.

They further distort the point by purposely leaving out the paragraph following the previous quote. We said, on the same page cited above, that “American pragmatism naturally also serves the labor aristocrats as a collaborationist ideology of sham reform. In the Marxist movement, it takes the form of the notorious ideology of ’American Exceptionalism.’ Of course, far from being an ’exception’ to the rule, the distinctive feature of American bourgeois ideology probably represents the purest ’coldly calculated’ ideology of the bourgeois ruling class. And far from being unique, the bourgeoisie of other countries are indeed indebted to their American counterparts for propagating this ’exceptionalist’ ideology to get their jobs done well.” (Ibid., pp. 21-22, emphasis added) So clearly, we have taken into consideration the role of this “advanced bourgeois ideology,” and how it, too, as a form of an ideological commodity which is well understood and appreciated by capitalists everywhere, is exported, like any commodity, to get their jobs done.

A striking recent example of what we are laying out in the above-quoted article is the case of Chinese capitalist-roader Teng Hsiao-ping. Teng’s methodology of “white cat, black cat, any cat that catches mice is a good cat” is

nothing but a new version of the notorious bourgeois philosophy of pragmatism which preaches that anything useful is a truth’ and vaunts that it is a philosophy above class. Chin Chih-po, “Denial of the Difference Between Socialism and Capitalism is Not Allowed,” Peking Review, no. 16, April 16, 1976, p.20.

Chairman Mao, in response to this borrowing from American imperialist ideology, said:

This person does not grasp class struggle; he has never referred to this key link. Still his theme of ’white cat, black cat,’ making no distinction between imperialism and Marxism. Ibid., p. 18.

And was it any accident that bourgeois pragmatism got exported to China? No, absolutely not. Bourgeois ideology was poorly developed in China due to the lack of development of capitalism prior to 1949. As a result, slave and feudal ideologies firmly entrenched in the history of China ruled supreme, accompanied to a lesser degree by imperialist bourgeois ideology, such as pragmatism, which was “imported” during the period of imperialist aggression.

That is why bourgeois democrats and the rising petty bourgeoisie – who, despite their patriotism and anti-imperialist stand, nevertheless aspired to rule China – were affected by pragmatism as the ideology which to them represented “modernization.”

This pragmatist line jumps out loud and clear in class struggle under socialist revolution, where petty bourgeois and bourgeois democratic ideology has lagged behind.

In the sense that all ideologies in the present era must serve the interests of either one or the other of the two classes – the proletariat or the bourgeoisie – this “strength of the old world,” the slave and feudal ideology of Confucianism, is the dominant form of bourgeois ideology in China today. That is why Chairman Mao’s campaign to criticize and prevent revisionism has been mainly aimed at this specific ideological source – Confucianism and capitulationism based on this same Confucianism – the weak spot in China, which opportunists appeal to, hide under, and use to hoodwink the masses.

PRRWO just “accidentally overlooked” the paragraph we have just expanded on, which, as we have noted, appeared on the very same page as the sentence which they attack so self-righteously. Comrades, isn’t this a blatant example of get-it-over type pragmatism – demagogy for effect, hustlerism – of PRRWO, a typical product of the “entire superstructure” of our spontaneous movement of the 1960’s “which is inseparable from the basis”?!

PRRWO, besides distorting what was said in the text, further exposed themselves by attempting to “prove” the point by quoting Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-Criticism: “From the standpoint of materialism, the difference between Machism and pragmatists is as insignificant and unimportant as the difference between empirio-criticism and empirio-monism. Compare, for example, Bogdanov’s definition of truth....” This only again proves that PRRWO uses demagogy and bourgeois rhetoric to play with words to fool the workers. Yes, from the standpoint of materialism and epistemology (the theory of knowledge), Machism was a form of empiricism. From that angle, Lenin said that “the difference between Machism and pragmatism is as insignificant and unimportant as the difference between empirio-criticism and empirio-monism.” But from an historical and concrete ideological angle, there were differences, though they were both affected by the rapid development of the physical sciences during the turn of the century.

In feudal Russia, Machism, though epistemologically a form of empiricism, turned into “god-building” – advocating a madness which wanted to turn socialism into a socialist religion because of the demoralization of the peasant and petty-bourgeois revolutionaries during a lull in the revolution.

During the period of the Stolypin reaction, these petty bourgeois revolutionaries turned inward and based their ideology on the strong tradition of religion in feudal Russia. Unlike the U.S., the deep, feudal roots of religion in Russia were not weakened by the development of capitalist relations of production. So these petty bourgeois revolutionaries treated the concept of god as a complex of ideas, of “experience,” and attempted to organize along those idealist lines.

Against this idealist trend, another empiricist trend, philistine vulgar materialism, was also on the rise at that time. These were the ideological deviations that Lenin struggled with during the period of lull in the communist movement. As Lenin stated, “Not accidentally. but of necessity, have our reactionaries in general and the liberal (Vekhi, Cadet) reactionaries in particular, pounced on religion.”!!(Lenin. “Those Who Would Liquidate Us,” LCW.)

In the U.S., though there are also god-builders, those mystics who use the “experience God” pitch is not a problem in the communist movement. That’s why “not accidentally, but of necessity” our RCP pounces on pragmatism and our OL on faith in bourgeois democracy instead of religion, because religion is far weaker in capitalist America than it was in Czarist feudal Russia. What we have to fight is the party program “fleshed out of the experience of the last few years” and “my experience is theory” variety of pragmatism, the RCP’s “do it” variety of empiricism, and PRRWO’s vulgar materialism, which uses their narrow one-sided experience to justify their dogmatism.

This concrete historical distinction, due to different historical particularities of the U.S. and Russia, means nothing to PRRWO, nor do they give a damn. But they nonetheless quote anything Lenin said, regardless of what he really meant. to disprove WVO and to prove correct their own vulgar materialism, which states “don’t bother with these forms of bourgeois ideology, they are all idealist and metaphysical, because idealism is idealism.” From the general theory of knowledge this is correct. But from the need to combat and prevent concrete forms of revisionism, this is just paying lip service!!

Many deviations in the communist movement arising out of illusions of bourgeois democracy, chauvinism, centrism can also be found throughout the history of the international communist movement. Lenin spoke of the social-chauvinism of the Second International and how it was coupled up with illusions of bourgeois democracy through legalism. Lenin spoke about the centrism of Plekhanov and Kautsky in numerous incidences, especially the centrist role of the renegade Kautsky between the Second and Third Internationals and how he fully degenerated under the conditions of war (World War I). This has been raised by the WVO many times in public forums.

We have done and are continuing to do some study of the history of the “C”PUSA, as well as the history of the Socialist Party and working class movements, to try to analyze the reasons for degeneration. And this task is impossible unless we do some study of the concrete history in the U.S.


The most important early historical roots shaping this ideological superstructure were the U.S.’s long history of the most full-blown, “classic” bourgeois democracy, built through the 1800’s on the fastest and deepest growth of capitalism in the world. This superstructure was further shaped by the uneven development of capitalism in the U.S. from east to west, with the land speculation and home-steading in the west, and the open system of immigration that drew oppressed nationalities from all over the world to build U.S. capitalism.

We have struggled against and summed up five major ideological deviations in the U.S. communist movement. They are downgrading of theory, pragmatism, bourgeois democratic illusions, centrism, and chauvinism.

We think that these deviations in our communist movement reflect some important, if not the most important, features of the U.S.’s ideological superstructure. They are the bourgeois trends of thought that run especially deep in the U.S., throwing off course and corrupting both the communist and the mass movements. These dangerous currents are major ideological sources of degeneration in the U.S. As we will show, they have repeatedly caused the U.S. workers’ movement tremendous setbacks and suffering.

In what way is this superstructure nationally specific? How do the different currents intertwine and feed each other? And on what historical and material ground did these ideological deviations sprout and grow?

Pragmatism in the U.S. grew straight up from the ground of the rapid and deep spread of capitalism in the 1800’s. In analyzing the historical basis of U.S. pragmatism, we wrote:

Pragmatism, as a uniquely American bourgeois philosophy, reflects the particular modes of the productive forces that developed very rapidly over a relatively short span of time, and the subsequent form of bourgeois ideology that arose as a part of the superstructure and was promoted under those material conditions....

Marx and Engels said: “The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has...left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of Philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value...” (The Communist Manifesto, in Selected Works of Marx and Engels, Vol. 1, p. 111) This development was most abrupt in America, which was not bound by residual feudal social and, productive relations....

Such an astonishingly rapid pace of development naturally was accompanied by bourgeois ideology which further promoted such development. This ideology is American pragmatism....

American pragmatism in its crudest form simply means that whatever works for me and gives me results is good. It regards efficiency, expediency, and usefulness as truth, and whatever works as correct....

Of course, far from being an “exception” to the rule, the distinctive feature of American bourgeois ideology probably represents the purest “coldly calculated” ideology of the bourgeois ruling class. And far from being unique, the bourgeoisie of other countries are indeed indebted to their American counterparts for propagating this “exceptionalist” ideology to get their jobs done well.

Pragmatism is an ideology mutated and promoted by the social relations. Functionalism, instrumentalism, and utilitarianism – these are the “above class” pillars that have evolved and are deeply circulating in the bloodstream of our good old American pie tradition. (WV, 9/74. Vol. 1, No. 2, p. 21-22)

Already in the 1800’s, this pragmatism flowed not only in the blood of the U.S. bourgeoisie, but also among the working class and the masses. U.S. capitalism not only grew quickly, but grew on new turf and on a new people, with hardly any feudal traditions. The U.S. workers had already brought their un-feudal, thoroughly bourgeois disdain for theory with them from England, and in the U.S. it took even firmer root.

Engels wrote many times about this modern rationality and practicality of the U.S.:

We usually think of America as a New World, new not merely because of when it was discovered, but new in all its institutions – a world far ahead of us old-fashioned, sleepy Europeans with its disdain for everything traditional, handed down from the past, a world built entirely anew on virgin soil by modern people and founded on modern, practical, rational principles. For their part, the Americans strive to confirm us in this opinion. They look down upon us with scorn, considering us to be sluggish, impractical people, with hidebound, antiquated prejudices, dreading everything new, while they, the most progressive nation, boisterously developing, instantly try out any plan for improvement simply from the standpoint of its practical advantages and, if the plan is found to be good, put it into effect immediately, almost the very next day. Everything in America has to be new, everything has to be rational, everything has to be practical, consequently, everything is different from what it is with us. (Engels, “American Travel Notes,” 1888, Letters to Americans by Marx and Engels. pp. 291-292)

So deep in the U.S. blood, this pure practicality was bound to show up in the U.S. labor movement. And in fact, this lack of theory has characterized the workers’ movement from the very beginning. In the 1880’s, the U.S. working class launched a tremendous wave of struggle. This is the decade when the U.S. workers gave May Day to the international working class, when the union movement and socialist movement leaped forward, and the influence of unions such as Knights of Labor mushroomed.

And in 1886, Engels wrote:

...the cause is moving ahead mightily in America. A real mass movement exists among the English-speaking workers for the first time. That it proceeds gropingly at first, clumsy, unclear, unknowing, is unavoidable. All that will be cleared up; the movement will and must develop through its own mistakes. Theoretical ignorance is a characteristic of all young peoples, but so is rapidity of practical development. As in England, all the preaching is of no use in America until the actual necessity exists. And this is present in America now, and they are becoming conscious of it. The entrance of masses of native-born workers into the movement in America is for me one of the greatest events of 1886. (Engels, Letter to Sorge, April 29, 1886. Letters to Americans, p. 154)

In a country as untouched as America, which has developed in a purely bourgeois fashion without any feudal past, but has unwittingly taken over from England a whole store of ideology from feudal times, such as the English common law, religion, and sectarianism, and where the exigencies of practical labor and the concentrating of capital have produced a contempt for all theory, which is only now disappearing in the educated circles of scholars – in such a country the people must become conscious of their own social interests by making blunder after blunder. Nor will that be spared the workers; the confusion of the trade unions, socialists, Knights of Labor, etc., will persist for some time to come, and they will learn only by their own mistakes. But the main thing is that they have started moving, that things are going ahead generally, that the spell is broken; and they will go fast, too, faster than anywhere else, even though on a singular road, which seems, from the theoretical standpoint, to be an almost insane road.... (Engels to Sorge, September 16, 1886, Letters to Americans, p. l6l, emphasis in original)

This lack of theory in the U.S. workers’ movement, the need to learn by making blunder after blunder, has many times cost us tremendous suffering. The original revisionist, Bernstein, said: “The movement is everything, the ultimate aim is nothing.” And the pragmatic shortsightedness in our workers’ movement due to its lack of theory is one of the most important U.S. varieties of this revisionist motto and practice.

The same U.S. capitalist explosion through the 1800’s that strengthened pragmatism so much, also allowed many U.S. workers to rise through small-time business and farming into the petty bourgeoisie. This dulled the proletariat’s class struggle and fogged over its class consciousness. The long industrial prosperity was also therefore the early basis for bourgeois democratic and other illusions.

This partly accounts for the relative political backwardness of the U.S. workers’ movement. Lenin wrote that one of “the fundamental features of the British and American working class movement” is “the proletariat’s complete subordination to bourgeois politics” (Lenin, 1907, “Preface to the Russian translation of Letters by J. Becker, J. Dietzgen, F. Engels, K. Marx, and others to F. Sorge and Others,” in Collected Works, Vol. 12; also in Against Revisionism, p. 71) For the U.S. really has been the best home of “classless,” “pure democracy”:

...America after all is the ideal of all bourgeois: a country rich, vast, expanding, with purely bourgeois institutions unleavened by feudal remnants of monarchical traditions, and without a permanent and hereditary proletariat. Here everyone could become, if not a capitalist, at all events an independent man, producing or trading, with his own means, for his own account. And because there were not, as yet, classes with opposing interests, our – and your–bourgeois thought that America stood above class antagonisms and struggles. (Engels to Mrs. Wischnewetzky, June 3, 1886, Letters to Americans, p. 157; emphasis in original)

One of the most important features of the capitalist growth in the U.S. was its uneven development from east to west. By the later 1800’s, east coast capitalism was beginning to consolidate monopolies. But in the “virgin west”, capitalism was still just getting started, developing local industries and clearing land for agriculture.

As we’ve written:

Between 1830 and 1890, U.S. capitalism flourished at an unprecedented level... By the turn of the century, America, once a colony of Europe, was already producing half as much as what all of Europe produced. Along with the flourishing of capitalism came the development of monopolies.

In the West, however, capitalism was undergoing a period of intensive primitive capital accumulation. Aside from building the transcontinental railroad, land had to be reclaimed and local industries developed. (Asian Study Group, “Preliminary Draft on the Asian National Question in America,” Part I, The Chinese National Question, July 1973. pp. 3-4)

This opening up of the west, as a special feature of the U.S. capitalist explosion, bred even faster the petty bourgeoisie and the whole range of its bourgeois democratic illusions. The constant flow of workers from the eastern cities to the open west for a long time worked as a big escape valve for the steam of the workers’ movement, helping to strengthen the American small farming and small business, bourgeois democratic dream. It kept the young working class in constant flux and weakened the growth of solid traditions of struggle. And for many U.S. workers, this pioneering and homesteading on the western land was not only a dream, but the reality.

...there are the special American conditions: the ease with which the surplus population is drained off to the farms, the necessarily rapid and rapidly growing prosperity of the country, which makes bourgeois conditions look like a beau ideal [beautiful ideal] to them, and so forth. (Engels to Weydemeyer, August 7, 1851, Letters to Americans, p. 26)

Engels explained the relative backwardness and the ups and downs of the U.S. workers’ movement by the country’s youth and uneven development:

That is due, on the one hand, to the fact that America is only now beginning to have time, beyond concern for material production and enrichment, for free intellectual labor and the preparatory education that this requires; and, on the other hand, to the duality of American development, which is still engaged in the primary task – clearing the tremendous virgin area – but is. already compelled to enter the competition for first place in industrial production. Hence the ups and downs of the movement, depending upon whether the mind of the industrial worker or that of the pioneering farmer gains predominance in the average man’s head. (Engels to Sorge, January 16, 1895, Letters to Americans, pp. 269-270; emphasis in original)

Land is the basis of speculation, and the American speculative mania and speculative opportunity are the chief levers that hold the native-born worker in bondage to the bourgeoisie. Only when there is a generation of native-born workers that cannot expect anything from speculation any more, will we have a solid foothold in America. (Engels to Sorge, January 6, 1892, Letters to Americans, p. 239; emphasis in original)

William Foster also summed up the effect that all this had on the workers’ movement:

Various factors have combined to retard the development of the American working class. Of basic importance was the very rapid and extensive development of the industrial system in a thinly settled country with tremendous natural resources. The insatiable demands of the swiftly growing industries for workers, which even the greatest immigration in the world’s history could not sate, coupled with the bonanza features of American industry generally, enabled large sections of the workers to secure a relatively high standard of living. This checked the development of class consciousness. Besides, the industrial boom presented an opportunity for large numbers of the workers to raise themselves into the ranks of the petty business elements, which tended to blur class lines, to decapitate the working class, to cultivate illusions of democracy, and generally to prevent the growth of a powerful and class conscious labor movement.

Similar hindering effects were exerted by the existence, up till a few years ago, of vast stretches of free land, which acted as a safety valve to draw much explosive matter away from the industrial centers.

For many years the ideal of the workers was definitely a petty bourgeois ideal. Few expected to remain workers. The great bulk of them looked forward to the time when they would “get a farm and go into business for themselves.” The impulse to adopt advanced proletarian ideas and to build revolutionary organizations was weak. (Foster, 1927. Misleaders of Labor, p. 11)

The growth of capitalism in the vast, unsettled U.S., also drew the immigration of oppressed masses from all over the world, and created the beginnings of the U.S. multi-national working class.

As Marx explained, the development of capitalism demands the tearing away of the small producers (peasantry, handicraft workers, etc.) from their means of production, so that there is a large pool of “free” workers who have nothing but their laboring power, facing a few individuals who own huge sums of capital. The few capitalists open up their industries, and the masses of workers, who have no other way to live, are forced to work there.

This “expropriation of the small producers” happens wherever capitalism steps in. In England, from the 15th to l7th centuries, the rising bourgeoisie just ripped off the land from the native peasantry, driving them by force off the land and into the cities and factories.

But where did the U.S. working class come from?

Traditionally, in Europe, as the embryonic industries built from primitive capital accumulation developed and required more labor, the laboring masses of the native country, who were historically bound to the land, were expropriated. But capitalism in America, unlike capitalism in nation-states such as England or France, was an “open system” which drew most of its labor not from rural areas surrounding the cities, but from countries beyond its borders....

In this open system, during the rise of capitalism, immigrants constituted a pool of reserve labor and were sucked in as sources of cheap manpower.... People immigrated to the U.S. in search of a new life and the new life awaiting them was the lowest wages for the most menial work in rapidly expanding competitive industries. (Asian Study Group, “Preliminary Draft on the Asian National Question in America,” Part I, The Chinese National Question, July 1973, P. 3)

And this tremendous growth of the working class through wave after wave of immigration, the brutal oppression of the fresh waves and the relatively well-off position of the U.S.-born workers pushed by the capitalist divide-and-rule tactics, all made for the beginning of national chauvinism. And this has constantly upset and broken up the U.S. workers’ movement from the very beginning, from the outright slavery of Afro-Americans to the coolie gang labor of kidnapped Asians and the indentured service of new immigrants from Europe.

Your great obstacle in America, it seems to me, lies in the exceptional position of the native-born workers. Up to 1848 one could speak of a permanent native-born working class only as an exception. The small beginnings of one in the cities in the East still could always hope to become farmers or bourgeois. Now such a class has developed and has also organized itself on trade union lines to a great extent. But it still occupies an aristocratic position and wherever possible leaves the ordinary badly-paid occupations to the immigrants, only a small portion of whom enter the aristocratic trade unions. But these immigrants are divided into different nationalities, which understand neither one another nor, for the most part, the language of the country. And your bourgeoisie knows much better even than the Austrian government how to play off one nationality against the others Jews, Italians, Bohemians, etc., against Germans and Irish, and each one against the other, so that differences in workers’ standards of living exist, I believe, in New York to an extent unheard of elsewhere. And added to this is the complete indifference of a society that has grown up on a purely capitalist basis, without any easygoing feudal background, toward the human lives that perish in the competitive struggle. (Engels to Schlueter, March 30, 1892, Letters to Americans, p. 242)

An obstacle to the development of the workers, organizationally and ideologically, is the great melange of races and nationalities, the product of the vast immigration, which go to make up the American working class. With their diversified elements speaking many languages, having a multitude of different religious and national prejudices, often accustomed to much lower living standards than those in the United States, and having but few traditions in common, the difficulties in the way of their uniting into one compact class conscious movement have been great. (Foster, 1927, Misleaders of Labor, pp. 11-12)

These are a few of the important specific features of U.S. capitalism in the 1800’s. This was the period of pre-monopoly, pre-imperialist U.S. capitalism, when both its economic base and its superstructure were taking shape and really setting in.

This is some explanation of how downgrading of theory, pragmatism, bourgeois democratic illusions and chauvinism got their start in the U.S. and became such permanent and damaging features of the workers’ movement. They grew up more or less together on the very same specific material and historical conditions.

Maybe PRRWO wants to wash over all this! As they see it, capitalism is just capitalism, and bourgeois ideology is just bourgeois ideology. When you’ve seen one bourgeois superstructure, you’ve seen ’em all!

As we’ve always said, all of these deviations do exist in many other countries, as in England, which is probably the most similar to the U.S. But because of these “good historical reasons” that we’ve just gone over, nowhere else do they exist in just this combination and “mixture”. And this is what makes the U.S. ideological superstructure nationally specific. Or to put it another way: this is what gives the Americans, the Germans, and the Japanese, etc., their distinctive national characteristics. (The dominant aspect of this is bourgeois, but there is also a rich variety of nationally distinctive proletarian characteristics.)

To really apply historical materialism to explain exactly why certain features come up stronger than others in the U.S. ideological superstructure, is very hard. What we have just laid out is just a small beginning.

But the basic idea that different countries’ theories, cultures, politics and traditions vary according to their specific historical conditions, is something that most people can sense easily. But not PRRWO! This is too much for these stiff dogmatists.

At the turn of the century, world capitalism turned into world monopoly capitalism, into imperialism. As far as the labor movement goes, one of the most important new features of imperialism is the growth of the labor aristocracy.

The old petty bourgeoisie of pre-monopoly U.S. capitalism had ridden on the soft conditions of bourgeois democracy and the spread of capitalism. Engels already noticed how these conditions and the fresh waves of immigrant workers, under capitalist divide-and-rule tactics, tended to put some of the U.S.-born workers in a privileged, aristocratic position.

The same thing happened in England. And here the petty bourgeoisie had the additional “fringe benefits” squeezed out of England’s colonies and monopoly profits, which started around the mid-1800’s. In his famous article, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism,” Lenin showed how Marx and Engels had studied the damage that these aristocratic privileges caused to the English workers’ movement.

U.S. capitalism turned into monopoly capitalism, and the U.S. labor aristocracy sprouted on the superprofits ripped off from the oppressed nations. It was no longer just the small farmers and small businessmen of the old capitalism. Now it was the totally bribed, corrupted and permanent stratum of the Gomperses, Lewises, and some of the better paid workers.

The principal historical cause of the particular prominence and (temporary) strength of bourgeois labour policy in Britain and America is the long-standing political liberty and the exceptionally favourable conditions, in comparison with other countries, for the deep-going and widespread development of capitalism. These conditions have tended to produce within the working class an aristocracy that has trailed behind the bourgeoisie, betraying its own class. (Lenin, “In America,” 1912, CW, Vol. 36, p. 215, emphasis in original)

Here Lenin clearly lays out how the full-blown U.S. capitalism and bourgeois democracy contributed to breeding the U.S. labor aristocracy. These tendencies have been especially strong in the U.S. since World War I, when the U.S. became the biggest and most powerful imperialist country m the world. In the half-century since then, U.S. imperialism has been in a position similar to England’s long colonial monopoly in the late 1800’s. And on the superprofits squeezed for so long from the oppressed nations and even from the lesser imperialists, we have the most solid and corrupt labor aristocracy in the world.

Imperialism means reaction all along the line. In all spheres, imperialism sucks on everything reactionary that came before, multiplies it and raises it to “higher” levels.

This is true in the ideological sphere. U.S. monopoly capitalism grabbed onto all the old and rotten bourgeois theories and trends of thought that had grown up before, deepened them and used them to further enslave the working class.

The labor aristocracy inherited all the old ideology of the petty bourgeoisie and the ruling class. They became an additional social basis for all the old ideological currents, while adding their own reactionary twists and mutations.

These ideological deviations were bound to show up in the communist movement and the CPUSA, and in fact they showed up from the very beginning. Here we can just give a few examples.[1]

What we have shown so far, such as the quick growth of U.S. capitalism and bourgeois democracy in the 1800’s, and the special position of U.S. imperialism and the strength of the labor aristocracy since World War I, are some of the larger nationally specific features of this country. These give rise to the fundamental and long-term ideological deviations, such as bourgeois democratic illusions, pragmatism, etc.

But shorter periods and particular movements have their own special characteristics that act on this larger and more fundamental basis, adding their own twists and variations. To see this, we can take a look at the CPUSA’s open liquidation of the Afro-American national question in 1957, and how the special features of the post-World War II period and the bourgeoisie’s reactionary dual tactics of reform’ and repression, combined to evoke this chauvinist response from the CP.

Up to its Sixteenth Party Convention in 1957 (except during the 40’s under Browder), the CPUSA held that a Negro nation existed in the Black Belt South and upheld its right to self-determination, as well as full democratic rights for the oppressed Negro national minority in the North. At the Sixteenth Party Convention, the Party came out with its infamous intergrationist line.

Why did this happen just then?

U.S. imperialism came out of World War II even stronger than it had gone in. It was the unchallenged imperialist power by long shot. In the period immediately following the War, the U.S. imperialists attacked revolutionary struggles everywhere, threatening war against the socialist Soviet Union, and trying to beat back the struggles of the oppressed nations and the U.S. people.

To start a war, the U.S. reactionaries must first attack the American people – oppressing the workers and democratic circles in the United States politically and economically and preparing to impose fascism there. (Mao, “Talk With Anna Louise Strong,” 1946. Selected Works, Vol. 4, p. 98).

This was the infamous McCarthy era, a period of intense repression. By the mid-50’s, the CP was just coming out of this, under which it had suffered greatly.

At the same time, the U.S. imperialists were running into tremendous resistance from the liberation struggles of the oppressed nations, which were scoring great victories. The U.S. imperialists were already being forced to move from open colonialism to their slicker neo-colonial tactics. At home too, they were giving a few concessions to the Afro-American civil rights movement, to try to remake their image in the world. It wouldn’t do for a “democratic” country to have a policy of national oppression as severe as South Africa’s if it wanted to penetrate the oppressed nations.

In 1963, Chairman Mao wrote about this hard push and “soft” pull policy:

The Kennedy administration has resorted to cunning two-faced tactics. On the one hand, it continues to connive at and take part in the discrimination against and persecution of Negroes; it even sends troops to repress them. On the other hand, it is parading as an advocate of the “defense of human rights” and the “protection of the civil rights of Negroes”, is calling upon the Negro people to exercise “restraint” and is proposing to Congress so-called “civil rights legislation”, in an attempt to numb the fighting will of the Negro people and deceive the masses throughout the country. However, these tactics of the Kennedy Administration are being seen through by more and more of the Negroes, The fascist atrocities committed by the U.S. imperialists against the Negro people have laid bare the true nature of the so-called democracy and freedom in the United States and revealed the inner link between the reactionary policies pursued by the U.S. Government at home and its policies of aggression abroad. (Mao, “Statement Supporting the Afro-Americans in Their Just Struggle Against Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism”, 1963)

These were the complicated reactionary dual tactics of reform and repression that the U.S. monopoly capitalists were practicing internationally and at home, and especially against the CPUSA. Caught between the McCarthy repression and the liberal tactic towards the Afro-American struggle, the Party jumped for the liberalism. The liquidation of the national question was one of the most important manifestations at this time.

The fear and vacillation under fierce repression worked with the liberal tactic to draw out the bourgeois democratic illusions and chauvinism in the Party.

Lenin wrote about this kind of zigzag of bourgeois tactics:

...an extremely important cause of differences among those taking part in the labour movement lies in changes in the tactics of the ruling classes in general and of the bourgeoisie in particular. ...The first of these is the method of force, the method which rejects all concessions to the labour movement, the method of supporting all the old and obsolete institutions, the method of irreconcilably rejecting reforms. ...The second is the method of “liberalism”, of steps towards the development of political rights, towards reforms, concessions, and so forth.

Not infrequently, the bourgeoisie for a certain time achieves its object by a “liberal” policy, which, as Pannekoek justly remarks, is a “more crafty” policy. ...The zigzags of bourgeois tactics intensify revisionism within the labour movement and not infrequently bring the differences within the labour movement to the point of an outright split. (“Differences In The European Labour Movement,” 1910. LCW, Vol. 16, p.350-351, Against Revisionism, p. 127-128).

Even specific movements with their particular social basis and historical context, show their own tailor-made deviations.

One clear example today is the white blindspot trend, once represented by the now-dead Harper’s Ferry Organization but carried on by others, and which is one of the worst hang-overs from the 60’s national and student movements. This trend sees the oppressed national minorities as the vanguard of the U.S. socialist revolution. They see the “liberal”, “pro-integrationist” bourgeoisie as friends of the national minorities, and see the white chauvinism of white workers as the “direction of the main blow”!

This backward trend was conditioned by the prestige of the powerful Afro-American national liberation struggle, by the reactionary dual tactics of reform and repression that the bourgeoisie used to try to break that struggle, and by the rising danger of fascism today.

The class basis of this trend is the petty bourgeoisie. Many thoroughly liberal, white petty bourgeois elements, mainly from the student movement, have always been more concerned with their own “guilt” and “sins” for being white, than with revolution! But these guilt-ridden liberals along with some petty bourgeois elements from the Afro-American movement, managed to grab onto the genuine fight against national oppression and chauvinism. These “anti-chauvinist” self-cultivators latched onto this one aspect of the fight against monopoly capitalism, but only this one aspect.

And being throughly petty bourgeois, many of these forces were the same ones who had the deepest bourgeois democratic illusions. Swept up in the genuine fight against national oppression, they were mesmerized by the bourgeois judicial rights and blind to the reactionary liberal tactics of the Ford Foundation, the Kennedy Democrats and the Judge Garritys. From their genuine* but thoroughly petty bourgeois anti-chauvinist sentiments, they bounced right into their petty bourgeois democratic illusions!

This is a perfect example of how these ideological deviations exist together, intertwine and constantly feed each other. The petty bourgeoisie, with all its onesided prejudices, jams one door shut and leaves the others wide open.

Again, a constant source of differences is the dialectical nature of social development, which proceeds in contradiction and through contradictions. ...It is Marxism, the theory of dialectical materialism, that is able to encompass these contradictions of living reality, of the living history of capitalism and the working-class movement. But, needless to say, the masses learn from life and not from books, and therefore certain individuals or groups constantly exaggerate, elevate to a one-sided theory, to one-sided system of tactics, now one and now another feature of capitalist development, now one and now another “lesson” of this development.

Bourgeois ideologists, liberals and democrats, not understanding Marxism, and not understanding the modern labor movement, are constantly jumping from one futile extreme to another. ...They seize upon one aspect of the labour movement, elevate one-sidedness to a theory, and declare mutually exclusive those tendencies or features of this movement that are a specific peculiarity of a given period, of given conditions of working-class activity. But real life, real history, includes these different tendencies, just as life and development in nature include both slow evolution and rapid leaps, breaks in continuity. (“Differences in The European Labour Movement”, 1910, LCW, Vol. 16. Against Revisionism, pp. 125-126)

This white blindspot trend naturally exposes itself immediately through its support for the Boston busing plan. Community Control schemes, affirmative action and super-seniority programs, which all divert the real struggles of the oppressed nationalities and aid the capitalist attacks on the entire multi-national working class. The thoroughly anti-working class character of this trend comes out when they in practice aim the “direction of the main blow” against the white workers, and take some of the most dangerous monopoly capitalists and their social props right off the hook.

Then we have the OL, which is just the left wing of this petty bourgeois liberal trend and its representative in the anti-revisionist communist movement. The OL has recently mutated from a non-position “in theory” on the Boston busing plan to open support for the plan in theory and practice. Just like their friends to their immediate right, the OL has tailed closely after the Ford Foundation imperialist think-tank and the NAACP Legal Funds.

The OL’s slimy opportunism lies in the fact that these “friends of the Afro-American people” pretend to fight national oppression and chauvinism. As long as they do this, they figure they are “safe” from criticism and can gain a foothold in the Afro-American and other oppressed nationalities’ communities.

Many petty bourgeois representatives of the oppressed nationalities can also make careers on these zigzags of bourgeois tactics, at the expense of those nationalities and the US proletariat. They love all “friends of the Afro-American people” and they willingly hook themselves with these guilt-ridden “supporters”, including “communists”.

Such alliances give these backward lines plenty of mileage. And the attacks of the fascists and racists constantly fuel and refuel these liberals’ “cause”, who likewise return the favor! But this is only the “cause” of the monopoly capitalist class, to split the multinational working class, isolate and burn the oppressed nationalities, to whip up chauvinism and spread a mass base to usher in fascism:

On the other side we have the RCP, who take the correct stand of opposing the forced busing plan. But in fighting against the liberal white guilt deviations, they have just opened the door wide for their own blatant chauvinism!

Chauvinism is clearly the main danger on the national question, both in US society as a whole and in the communist movement. But narrow nationalism is a serious and deep-going deviation in the communist movement today, for “good historical reasons”.

By this time, open narrow nationalism has been beaten back pretty well and exposed. Even the diehard narrow nationalist IWK has finally come out for multinational communist organization and recruitment, at least “starting from now”! Of course, they try to justify their past all-Asian composition by appealing to their “special origin” in national struggles, the national movements as “the context of our development as a national form of organization”. All the same, when these ultimate rearguarders switch their line, you know that the rest of the movement must have!

But the same deviations live on in newer and more slimy forms, now hoisted under the flag of “ML”. And they continue to find a wide field to flourish on.

The struggles of the oppressed nationalities have tremendous respect today. They were a major section of the 60’s “fire at the treetops”, and have produced a large proportion of the comrades of the present communist movement. All this is very good, of course. But it is also part of the historical basis for the narrow nationalist deviations in the movement today.

How else can IWK even try to justify their narrow nationalist, “Asian national form” of communist organization by appealing to their “particular history”? In principle, real communists always unite around line, and never around nationality!

How else can PRRWO get over with saying that SDS “reflected a motion bound to split up and move away from Marxism-Leninism” , whereas the YLP and others from the national movements were definitely ”part of a developing motion to grasp Marxism-Leninism”? How else can they try to hustle this narrow nationalist and class determinist garbage under the cover of “Marxist analysis” of our movement’s “social basis” and “periods”?

How else? Because of the tremendous prestige of the national movements. This is why these organizations can get over pimping their skins, their “good class backgrounds” and even their “styles” to the rest of the communist movement. This is why their appeal to narrow nationalism has so much pull, and can even hold their cadres and organizations together, regardless of line!

These are some of the historical reasons for this narrow nationalist deviation of PRRWO’s and other organizations with similar compositions and backgrounds.

We don’t think that narrow nationalism is one of the deep and widespread deviations in the US working class as a whole, as chauvinism is. Chauvinism remains the main danger because of much more fertile material base and promotion by the bourgeoisie. But because of the tremendous role and prestige of the national struggles in the 60’s movements and in the communist movement today, because of these “good historical reasons”, narrow nationalism is definitely something that the communist movement has to smash.

Another example of these backward trends is centrism, which today is an international trend, showing up in many countries and communist movements. Centrism is a product of the petty bourgeois desire to stand in the middle and unite “everybody”, including the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the anti-revisionist communist movement with revisionism, and the revolutionary and opportunist wings of the communist movement.

Many forces in the communist movement today came out of the 60’s anti-war movement and support work for national liberation struggles’. Like the fight of the oppressed nationalities in the US and the student movement, these support struggles were part of the “fire at the treetops”, which was a tremendous revolutionary wave of the US people. And like the other currents in the 60’s movements, the antiwar struggle involved many classes, including the petty bourgeoisie.

This was the period when US imperialism was the No. 1 enemy of the people of the world. In this period, these petty bourgeois trends’ opposition to US imperialist aggression and support for national liberation struggles, such as Cuba, Puerto Rico and Indochina, was a good thing.

But many of these petty bourgeois elements like the revisionist Guardian never adopted the proletarian class stand and the science of Marxism-Leninism-Mao-Tsetung Thought. Like those white blind-spot liberals who one-sidedly latched onto the struggle against chauvinism, the Guardian and all their revisionist and centrist friends rode in on the struggle against US imperialism.

They turned out a whole system of vulgar, one-sided theories and tactics, filled with all their petty bourgeois prejudices of the period. This was the time of “Third World is vanguard of the world revolution”, and other vulgar Third Worldist deviations. This is the time [text missing in original – EROL]

Many others never even got as far as this. The worst just rode in on the movement as anti-war “progressiveness”, became “acceptable” and then downright “popular” with the petty bourgeoisie.

There is plenty of fertile soil and a rich class basis for such trends. There are “professional radical” intellectuals, paid to ride on their scholarships to keep away from the job market, there are “revolutionary” disc jockeys and singers, and even jet-set Jane Fonda movie stars, who all consider themselves part of the “Movement”. And the ruling class naturally maintains, bribes and promotes them in every possible way.

To them, “revolution” has no urgency or was never any aim at all. The “revolution” had better not demand any sacrifices from them, beyond subscribing to the Guardian. To them, the “revolution” is just a part of their easy, radical-chic lifestyles;

Naturally there is a happy marriage between all these marsh forces and petty bourgeois slag. They all rally together around issues like Boston busing and Angola. Everybody from the revisionist “C”PUSA and Guardian, to the centrists and trotskyites, to the “socialist feminists” and lesbians in the women’s movement, to the white blindspot forces, all come out supporting each other.

They all have more faith in bourgeois democracy and their petty bourgeois “common sense” than in Marxism-Leninism. They all hate “dogmatic theoreticians”, oppose principled polemics in the communist movement as “sectarian”, and fight organizational centralism and discipline like the devil. Internationally, they all promote their revisionist and centrist friends a-cross the oceans, and fight any strong opposition to Soviet social imperialism as “one-sided”, “narrow” and “over-exaggerated”.

The OL, too, the left wing of this full petty bourgeois spectrum, grew out of that trend, were nurtured by it, draw their strength from it, constantly enlarge and replenish their ranks from it, and advocate lines that represent the mood, prejudices and outlook of that trend. when they raised the United Front Against US Imperialism to a strategy, and even turned “anti-imperialism” into a third ideology.

But today we’ve clearly seen the disintegration of the socialist camp and the degeneration of the “C”PUSA and the “C”PSU, we see the relative rise of Soviet social-imperialism and its contention with US imperialism, and the growing danger of world war between the two superpowers. These are some of the broad conditions of the present period that are drawing out and exposing this centrism on the international situation.

The Guardian started hoisting “a separate flag” with piecemeal differences with the international line of the People’s Republic of China, continued by supporting the superpowers’ Palestinian mini-state plan, and went on to support the revisionist “Communist” Party in Portugal.

The “Communist” Party of Cuba, which was never a genuine Marxist-Leninist Party, has now swung fully into the Soviet social-imperialist orbit. The Guardian has been testing this wind for a long time, and now it’s blown them completely away. Now they’ve run straight into the revisionist field with their open support for Soviet social-imperialism, the Cuban mercenary troops and the MPLA in Angola, and their criminal condemnation of the other Angolan liberation organizations.

And it’s no accident that they are all so happily married. They are all based on the particular features and class roots of the 60’s movements. And they are all being drawn out and exposed together by the complex and rapidly changing conditions today.

We see on a smaller scale what Lenin once wrote about European opportunism:

At the present time (this is quite evident now), the English Fabians, the French Ministerialists, the German Bernsteinians and the Russian critics–all belong to the same family, all extol each other, learn from each other, and together come out against ’dogmatic’ Marxism. (Lenin, WITBD, LCW, Vol. 5. Peking edition, p. 7.)

All these particular deviations from the 60’s movements are just small trickles springing from the much larger and deep-going mainstream, the nationally specific ideological superstructure in the US.

And just like the smaller trickles, these larger currents, such as chauvinism, pragmatism, etc., all flow together, mix and feed each other. They are different sides of the single ideological superstructure.

These larger bourgeois ideological currents spring from their common historical and material basis. The special growth of US capitalism and bourgeois democracy in the 1800’s, the special position of US imperialism since WWI and the other features that we’ve analyzed, are part of that basis.

The two contending trends, the rising danger of world war and fascism and the move from the 60’s “fire at the treetops” to the workers’ movement today, are the larger objective conditions that are drawing out and exposing all the petty bourgeois trends. The same Soviet social-imperialist aggression that exposed the Guardian’s love for Cuba in Angola, also exposed the OL’s trust in the US puppet Shah of Iran. The rising danger of fascism in the Boston busing plan pushed them all to line up with the Ford Foundation and aid in splitting the working class. And it’s the rising multinational working class movement today that’s drawing out and exposing PRRWO’s narrow nationalism.

But these same conditions that are exposing the petty bourgeoisie’s bankruptcy are also mobilizing the proletariat, educating and strengthening it. The US’s nationally specific, most thorough-going capitalist development and the strength of bourgeois ideology coming off of that base, have caused tremendous setbacks and suffering to the workers’ movement. But that only means that the US working class’ rupture with it all will eventually be that much more radical and thorough-going:

In such a country continually renewed waves of advance, followed by equally certain setbacks, are inevitable. Only the advances always become more powerful, the setbacks less paralyzing, and on the whole the cause does move forward. But this I consider certain: the purely bourgeois foundation, with no pre-bourgeois swindle back of it, the corresponding colossal energy of development, which is displayed even in the mad exaggeration of the present protective tariff system, will one day bring about a change that will astound the whole world. Once the Americans get started, it will be with an energy and impetuousness compared with which we in Europe shall be mere children. (Engels to Schlueter, March 30, 1892. Letters to Americans, pgs. 242-243).

Let PRRWO laugh at the nationally specific features of the U.S.’ history, its workers’ movement and its ideological superstructure. Let these “dialecticians” whirl their words and terms, like “American Exceptionalism” and “two superstructures”, to “whip” WVO. How formidable!

This just confirms PRRWO’s character as a sect, isolated from the realities of the U.S. working class. Their downright disdain for this reality proves their deep, anti-working class stand.

Chairman Mao fought dogmatists in China, who knew nothing about China, denied China’s particular and concrete features, and actually stood against the Chinese people and the revolution. The dogmatists’ method was subjectivism:

First, there is the subjectivist attitude.

With this attitude, a person does not make a systematic and thorough study of the environment, but works by sheer subjective enthusiasm and has a blurred picture of the face of China today. With this attitude, he chops up history, knows only ancient Greece but not China and is in a fog about the China of yesterday and the day before yesterday. With this attitude, a person studies Marxist-Leninist theory in the abstract and without any aim. He goes to Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin not to seek the stand, viewpoint and method with which to solve the theoretical and tactical problems of the Chinese revolution but to study theory purely for theory’s sake. He does not shoot the arrow at the target but shoots at random. ...A good number of them are doing research work but have no interest in studying either the China of today or the China of yesterday and confine their interest to. the study of empty ’theories’ divorced from reality. ...They have no intention of seeking truth from facts, but only a desire to curry favour by clap-trap. They are flashy without substance, brittle without solidity. They are always right, they are the Number One authority under Heaven, ’imperial envoys’ who rush everywhere. (Reform Our Study. Mao. 1941. MSW, Vol. III, p. 21)

Why do we raise so sharply the importance of the nationally distinctive ideological superstructure?

In the communist and workers’ movements, there are deviations and deviations. We have to be able to judge whether each deviation is fundamental and long-term, or secondary and accidental. We have to distinguish between these deviations to tell whether they are deep-seated and rooted in the country’s nationally specific class and ideological basis, or whether they are rooted in particulars that can be defeated relatively easily.

Deep-seated class and ideological sources give rise to deviations that are inevitable, independent of our will. Unless we learn to recognize them, seek them out, grasp and predict them, we are bound to repeat these deviations. If we don’t maintain our vigilance against the basis and conditions that give rise to these fundamental deviations, they will come up again and again until they break us.

The best and least detectable means that political opportunists and swindlers of all countries use to hoodwink the people, is by appealing to the bourgeois theories, trends’ of thought, slogans and rumors that are deepest in the people. Skillful opportunists appeal to the most strongly rooted bourgeois traditions, modes of thinking, customs, culture and sentiments, those realms of ideology that MLMTTT has penetrated least because of the nascent character of the communist movement. Bourgeois ideology can most easily reign supreme in those ideological realms that seem like “second nature”, and seem most remote from property relations, class interests and class struggle.

These ideological weak spots fall right on the nationally specific deviations, for these are the deepest deviations of all. These are the ideological vehicles that bourgeois class representatives ride to sneak into the communist movement and the party.

The best way to fight disease is by prevention, and the best way to prevent revisionism is to combat it actively and constantly. And this is why our understanding of the nationally distinctive bourgeois ideological superstructure and our fight against it, are fundamental to preventing degeneration. Using the theory of MLMTTT, we especially have to ferret out and combat those forms of bourgeois ideology that are deepest, and which we are least vigilant about.

And to do all this, we have to study the current conditions of the U.S. and engage in revolutionary practice. We have to study U.S. history in all spheres, economic, political, cultural, etc. Taking the most advanced lessons from the world communist movement, we have to aim all our theory at solving problems of the U.S. revolution. This is what Chairman Mao called “shooting the arrow at the target”.

PRRWO’s total disdain for this approach, their denial of any specific features in the U.S. “base” or “superstructure”, heads them towards certain degeneration. Their approach blinds them to the things they have to be most vigilant about, and this condemns them to isolation as a tiny sect, alone with their random, pot-shot “theoretical work”.

But we take the other road:

Secondly, there is the Marxist-Leninist attitude.

With this attitude, a person applies the theory and method of Marxism-Leninism to the systematic and thorough investigation and study of the environment. He does not work by enthusiasm alone but, as Stalin says, combines revolutionary sweep with practicalness. With this attitude he will not chop up history. It is not enough for him to know ancient Greece, he must know China; he must know the revolutionary history not only of foreign countries but also-of China, not only the China of today but also the China of yesterday and of the day before yesterday. With this attitude, one studies the theory of Marxism-Leninism with a purpose, that is, to integrate Marxist-Leninist theory with the actual movement of the Chinese revolution and to seek from this theory the stand, viewpoint and method with which to solve the theoretical and tactical problems of the Chinese revolution. Such an attitude is one of shooting the arrow at the target. The ’target’ is the Chinese revolution, the ’arrow’ is Marxism-Leninism. (“Reform Our Study”. Mao. 1941. MSW, p. 22)


[1]There are plenty of hidden pitfalls and deviations that we can make in analyzing the degeneration of the “C”PUSA.

One deviation is to focus on Browder and Lovestone, the individuals, instead of on the ideological and political deviations they represented. The CP, by “cleansing” the party by expelling Browder and his clique in 1945, directed their main fire at the individual and completely-failed to root out the bourgeois trend he represented.

And Browder’s views had largely consolidated the entire Politburo! His notorious love for Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, his slogan “Communism is Twentieth Century Americanism” all went virtually unchallenged by leading U.S. Communists for nearly a decade!

Browder’s errors were not the errors of one man, but the product of a definite social basis, the petty bourgeoisie and the labor aristocracy, and years of accumulated bourgeois ideological muck in the Party. And as we’ll see, Browder appealed to the whole arsenal of capitalist ideology.

Another serious deviation is to focus on Browderism, strictly as a set of political deviations, and to fail to raise our grasp of those deviations to the ideological plane. Both the RCP and the Marxist-Leninist Organizing Committee (MLOC) see Browderism as a set of clear political deviations, such as the liquidation of the Party, the liquidation of the Afro-American national question, tailing after bourgeois liberalism, the view that imperialism is a “progressive policy”, etc. But neither the RCP nor MLOC trace Browderism to its ideological fountainhead.

In fact, they both point their fingers at Browderism and Lovestoneism, calling them the fountainhead! But Browderism and Lovestoneism were the concrete political streams. Browder and Lovestone were bourgeois representatives in the Party. These representatives and their political trends, themselves flowed from the larger ideological and historical fountainhead! And that fountainhead is the U.S.’s nationally specific superstructure.

The RCP and MLOC’s narrow “conscious realm” approach to revisionism limits them to criticizing only its cruder political aspects. All this really amounts to is pointing their fingers at the official Browderite and Lovestoneite revisionists, and shouting “Revisionists!”

Even the revisionist “C”P today is willing to go this far! The “C”P often points and “criticizes” Browderite revisionism, for even they recognize this official brand.

Without elevating our criticism of these old revisionist brand-names to the ideological plane, we cannot apply these historical lessons to our present situation. How do we apply the lesson of Browderism to understand the line struggle today around the Boston busing issue? How do we apply the lesson of American Exceptionalism to understand community control, super-seniority or the Afro-American national question? Certainly these historical experiences would help tremendously to raise many larger questions, such as the revisionist position on the role of the state, which characterizes organizations like the OL and the RCP today.

But to use these lessons, we have to trace beyond the political forms of the deviations, and break them down into their long-term ideological and class roots which still affect the communist and workers’ movements today. to get to the real ideological fountainhead.

The struggle against Lovestone’s “American Exceptionalism” in the 1920’s, and the factional fight that went along with ’it between Lovestone/Pepper and Foster/Bittelman is well known. Foster’s History of the CPUSA, the revisionists of the “C”PUSA today, and more recently MLOC, have all summed up the struggle pretty much in the same way – as a political manifestation of revisionism in the party at that time. What all of them have failed to do, however, is to disclose the ideological roots and social basis which perpetuate the ideology that is behind the manifestation and makes it inevitable. They have failed to look at the conditions and basis of its development, and therefore objectively liquidate its ideological significance, to see from where it springs in the concrete situation of the U.S. These “sum-ups”, then, are of very little use for the anti-revisionist Communist movement in drawing lessons for our own party-building task, as we cannot use them to guide our effort in building the party on the ideological plane.

The Chinese comrades have put it correctly: the many streams of revisionism have to be traced back to their fountain-head. Unlike MLOC’s history of the “CP”USA we cannot just repeat names like “American Exceptionalism,” or “Browderism” without disclosing the ideological fountainhead of specifically American mani- . festations of revisionism and their social basis. To do less would be to complacently build a wall of sand to dam one small stream* without seeing the streams all around it which, if the fountainhead is not dammed, will lead the party into revisionism again and again.

In the specific example of Lovestone’s revisionism, we see the main ideological factor operating as the denigration of the role of Marxist-Leninist theory, a prominent feature of all “American Exceptionalism.” The whole point of American Exceptionalism is that no general theory can explain the “specific features” of U.S. capitalism, which operates “independently” of any larger theoretical laws. Lovestone rejected the stand, viewpoint, and method of Marxism-Leninism, saying that U.S. capitalism was different from the larger world – while the world was moving into general economic crisis, U.S. capitalism was stable. In rejecting Marxism-Leninism, bourgeois ideology rushes in and fills the vacuum, but again in nationally specific forms, opening the door to all kinds of ideological deviations. If not Marxism-Lenin-ism, then pragmatism, and its empiricist theory of knowledge, with its rule of thumb, its rejection of principles, as manifested in the factional style of struggles and maneuvring exemplified by Lovestone. It showed its ugly head again in the chauvinism of his liquidation of the Afro-American national question, stating that capitalism will proletarianize Afro-Americans, thus ending the question.

In this line struggle, the theoretical weakness of Foster came out in his response to Lovestone’s factionalism: again factionalism, more pragmatic maneuvering, although Foster did not degenerate at that time because of a relatively better stand. This weak grasp of theory and underestimation of its significance, had fatal effects on the party, and is largely responsible for its degeneration. The Lovestone years were the first indication of this degeneration.

The social basis for Loveston’e rejection of the stand, viewpoint, and method of Marxism-Leninism is the petty bourgeoisie and labor aristocracy. Without a proletarian world outlook, the methodology cannot be grasped. The ex-intellectual Lovestone – careerist and petty bourgeois striver that he was – could in no way grasp Marxism-Leninism, and could use Marxist phrases only to cover his own personal maneuvering for positions within the Party, as a representative of U.S. imperialism.

Following the ousting of Lovestone from the Party, the banner of revisionism was raised once again by the most famous of all American revisionists – Browder. Sneaking into the position of General Secretary in the Party, this bourgeois agent usurped the Party under the complex situation of the rising danger of war and fascism. The Congress of the Communist International put out. the call to build the united front against fascism tactically, which Browder, having no grasp of Marxist-Leninist theory, one-sidedly assimilated. What he did was to give full play to his bourgeois democratic illusions, thus revealing his petty bourgeois instability. By 1936, he was pushing the line of “pushing Roosevelt to the left” and in fact supporting him, practically liquidating the CPUSA’s independence and initiative in the united front. By 1940, Browder went so far as to explicitly hand over the leadership in the united front to the liberal bourgeoisie, thoroughly capitulating to Roosevelt.

In the overall liquidation of the independent role of the Party in the united front, Browder’s bourgeois democratic illusions showed themselves in sphere after sphere. A clear example of Browder1s bourgeois democratic prejudices running wild in the Party is the liquidation of the entire Party apparatus concerned with trade union papers and cells between 1935 and 1937. The liquidation of secret trade union work is not simply a question of initiative or tailing (which are tactical .questions), but a question of how we see the bourgeois democratic state (the capitalists’ armed machine for the oppression of the working class), and the necessity for secret and illegal work. The question, then, is whether or not to put our faith in the bourgeois democratic form of the capitalist dictatorship. Clearly the CPUSA liquidated closed work in trade unions mainly out of bourgeois democratic illusions.

Pragmatism helped to feed this line. Abandoning the teachings of the Bolshevik Party, Lenin, and the Comintern, the CPUSA plunged headlong into the ditch of “palpable results” and the numbers game. Since the elimination of fractions and the establishment of “left-center blocs” objectively won over more trade unionists to the Party (on the level of trade unionism and not of Marxism-Leninism), this pragmatism led the CPUSA to dilute its work even more. Any organization which bases its line on the trade union question on “sum-ups” will inevitably liquidate its independent work in the trade unions. Foster boasts in his History of the CPUSA that “it was this [left-center bloc–Ed] ...throughout the ten years that it lasted that made the CIO the leading section of the American trade union movement.” (p. 349) So by this twisted pragmatic logic, because of the purely numerical successes of the Party’s revisionist trade union work, the Party must liquidate its own independent work! This is pure unadulterated American pragmatism at its worst.

Since the “C”PUSA ran its fractions and cells at the level of a popularity contest, it was inevitable that they yielded the leadership of the trade unions to the labor aristocrats like John L. Lewis as they did in 1936. The full strength of the bourgeois democratic illusions, pragmatism, and pure and simple bourgeois liberalism, comes through in the following passage by Foster:

“Do Communists form fractions (organized party groups) within the trade unions? No. In the earlier years of the CP, the policy was sometimes followed of the Communist Party members in a given union meeting together to plan education work in that organization. But this practice has been discontinued, as tending to create possible misunderstandings among the rank and file of the unions. The Communists, like all other members, function through the regular democratic procedures and committees of the unions. We are resolute opponents of factional control of the unions, whether by a conservative bureaucratic clique or by some special political group.

MLOC’s superficial political analysis can never tell us why the CPUSA gave John L. Lewis the entire Party trade union machinery in 1935. But the above passage clearly shows that the CPUSA (a) sees fraction work as being factional (!) and hence not “democratic,” (b) sees the correct line will eventually win out if we have trade union democracy (!), (c) that our work will win over the greatest number of trade unionists if we bastardize our principles as much as possible in a pragmatic way. A majority of the new movement can safely say that they will never hand over their Party machinery to the CIO. But can a majority of the Communist movement say that they have rooted out pragmatism and faith in bourgeois democracy, the ideological roots of these deviations which are bound to reappear?

The final, most devastating act of Browder, and the logical extension of his bourgeois democratic views, was the liquidation of the CPUSA in 1944. Totally abandoning the stand, viewpoint, and method of the proletariat and openly siding with and acting for the imperialist bourgeoisie, Browder performed a great service for his masters. That Browder would end up a bourgeois liberal and attempt to destroy the party of the proletariat would not be hard to see, given his history of degeneration, but what allowed the rest of the Party to go along with this monstrous act must be put in the forefront. Clearly, the lack of theoretical consolidation among the rest of the leadership and the cadres was a key aspect. Not being able to clearly and firmly oppose Browder and expose him as a renegade, showed the clear lack of theoretical training in the Party, and the lack of consolidation around the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism. That the social basis of this degeneration was the large numbers of petty-bourgeois elements who had sneaked into the Party at that time is indisputable, aS was the lack of contact with the industrial and lower, deeper strata of the working class. These factors led to vacillation on the question of the very existence of the Party (!) .and to the virtually unopposed victory of Browder’s revisionist line. Moreover, even though Foster took a correct stand on the question, he was by no means staunch in “going against the tide”, and his theoretical weakness made him lose his bearings, to the point where he did not push his position in order to “avoid a useless split”!

Browder’s bourgeois democratic illusions and pragmatism opened the door for chauvinism in the Party. Not only did he liquidate the work among the Afro-American people by destroying voluntarily the organizations and organizational work done by the Party, under the guise of the development of bourgeois democracy rendering the Black national question null and void, but he also, in his rush to show how faithful he was to the American bourgeoisie, liquidated support for the national liberation struggles in the oppressed- nations and colonies. To show how “100% American” he was, in typical chauvinist manner, he expelled thousands of immigrant workers from the ranks of the Party in 1940, in order to “comply” with the Smith Act, and retain the Party’s legal status.