First Published: The Communist, Vol. III, No. 9, May 7, 1977.
Reprinted: in the pamphlet The Main Blow in the Present Historic Period, n.d. .
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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May Day is an international working class holiday. It affirms the international solidarity of the working class and oppressed peoples. May Day is a good time, therefore, to take stock of the struggle against social chauvinism in our movement. Especially this is so in view of the rising danger of imperialist world war.
Social chauvinism is an opportunist trend in the international working class movement. Lenin defines social chauvinism as “socialists in words, but chauvinist in deeds, who are helping ’their own’ bourgeoisie to rob other countries and enslave other nations.” He continues, “That is the very substance of chauvinism – to defend one’s own fatherland even when its acts are aimed at enslaving other people’s fatherlands. OPPORTUNISM AND THE COLLAPSE OF THE SECOND INTERNATIONAL (Lenin, Collected Works, v. 22, p. 109). In SOCIALISM AND WAR Lenin identifies the economic basis of social chauvinism – “the interests of a tiny stratum of privileged workers and of the petty bourgeoisie who are defending their privileged position, their ’right’ to crumbs of the profits ’their’ national bourgeoisie obtains from robbing other nations, etc.” Politically social chauvinism means “collaboration of classes instead of class struggle, renunciation of revolutionary methods of struggle helping one’s ’own’ government in its embarrassed situation instead of taking advantage of these embarrassments for revolution.”
Imperialist war and imperialist war preparations feed social chauvinism. For that reason, now, with the increasing danger of a new world war between the U.S. and the USSR, we must place to the forefront of our tasks the struggle against social chauvinism. Only by defeating this opportunist trend do we lay the basis for an independent communist policy to lead the proletariat and oppressed masses in conditions of war.
Party building, therefore, is directly connected to the struggle against social chauvinism, and the rupture required with the positions of petty bourgeois democracy is also a rupture with social chauvinism. Preparing the conditions for a new Marxist-Leninist party means purging our ranks of social chauvinism and of every tendency to confusion and vacillation on the question.
Significant debates on the international situation in our movement show that this task has not yet been accomplished. The Draft Program of the Communist Party (M-L) recently published by the Organizing Committee for the Marxist-Leninist Party (OC) is the most important example of confusion on fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism leading necessarily to social chauvinism.
The Draft Program reads:
The Soviet Union is not only an imperialist superpower; it is also the center of modern revisionism, which is the main social prop of imperialism in the international working class movement. The Soviet Union, which carries out its aggression under the signboard of socialism, is the most dangerous of the two superpowers. Therefore, while we oppose both superpowers, as part of the worldwide movement against imperialism, we must direct our main blow internationally at Soviet social-imperialism. (The Call, April 4, 1977).
The October League (OL) has argued in its polemics over the last year that US revolutionaries should direct their main blow internationally at the USSR because the Soviet Union was “the main prop of imperialism”. The OL relied here on Stalin’s argument that we must direct our main blow against the parties of compromise with imperialism which are the social support or props of imperialism. (See FOUNDATIONS OF LENINISM and THE OCTOBER REVOLUTION AND THE TACTICS OF RUSSIAN COMMUNISTS.) Summing up the experience of the Bolshevik party in the October Revolution, Stalin writes:
In this period the petty bourgeois democratic parties, the parties of the Socialist -Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, were the most dangerous social support of imperialism. Why? Because these parties were the compromising parties, the parties of compromise between imperialism and the laboring masses. Naturally, the Bolsheviks at that time directed their main blows at these parties, for unless these parties were isolated there could be no hope of a rupture between the laboring masses and imperialism, and unless this rupture was ensured there could be no hope of the victory of the Soviet revolution. (ON THE OPPOSITION, p. 166)
In other words, the main blow is directed at the compromising parties in order to facilitate and hasten the victory over the principal enemy. It is a means of organizing and preparing the conditions for revolution by breaking the influence of the disorganizing forces among the ranks of the people who attempt to subordinate the working masses to the leadership of the bourgeoisie at every turn. No party was as thoroughgoing as the Bolshevik party in preparing the conditions for that rupture and winning the broad masses of working people from the influence of the compromising parties– this was one of the decisive factors of the Bolshevik revolution. And no party was as ruthless with itself in overcoming those influences in its own ranks. That is why Bolshevization retains its significance as a party building slogan for us today.
However, the OL and the OC have never grasped the significance of the rupture required with the influence of the parties of compromise with imperialism and have proposed to form a new revolutionary party without demonstrating leadership in that struggle. As a result, they miss the point of Stalin’s analysis. Instead, they took up dogmatically the positions of Stalin and used them to justify their view on a connected but somewhat different issue – that the main blow of communists internationally ought to be directed against the USSR. In the CALL of December 6, 1976, they wrote:
The October League, along with the organizations inside the Organizing Committee for a Marxist-Leninist Party (OC), holds that, while the objective of the revolutionary struggle in the US is aimed at the overthrow of U.S. imperialism, internationally we must direct the main blow at the Soviet Union. Because it is the center of modern revisionism, the USSR is the main prop of imperialism internationally.
In other words, the USSR is a social support or party of compromise with imperialism.
For Marxist-Leninists this position is absurd. The USSR is not a party of compromise with or social support of imperialism – it is imperialism. It is not a prop of the enemy of the revolution – it is an enemy of the revolution.
Internationally, modern revisionism is the main party of compromise with imperialism – that much is true. In the international communist movement revisionism is the main danger and Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations direct their main blow against it. It is also true that the Soviet Union is the center of modern revisionism. But it is empty dogmatism to conclude from this that the USSR is a party of compromise and a social prop. The ideological, political and organizational center of every opportunist and compromising party will inevitably be found at the general headquarters of the bourgeoisie. This phenomena is not peculiar to modern revisionism. In fact, that is the significance of the collapse of the Second International. With the crisis of the First imperialist war, the social chauvinist and compromising parties of European Social Democracy found their center not with the organizational leadership of the international proletariat, but instead with their own bourgeois governments.
What is confused in the OL’s presentation is that the USSP is not a “party” but a bourgeois state exercising class dictatorship. Stalin pointed out that after the February revolution in Russia the party of the liberal bourgeoisie, that is the party of compromise with the tsar in the bourgeois democratic revolution, “had been transformed from a compromising force into a governing force, into the ruling force of imperialism.” The same kind of consideration applies here. While modern revisionism out of power is a compromising force, in power it is a governing force, in the Soviet Union, the ruling force of Soviet social imperialism. As Mao Tsetung said, “The rise to power of revisionism is the rise to power of the bourgeoisie.” (quoted at the Tenth Party Congress)
Revisionism in power is no longer a compromising party that must be isolated, but a class in power that must be overthrown. Under conditions of a fascist one party dictatorship in the USSR, compromising elements must be found among the middle and lower levels of the party and trade union bureaucracy, as well as the workers aristocracy, where an opportunist and reformist petty bourgeoisie has emerged whose role is to suppress class conflict and subordinate the goals of the working class to the needs of the new bourgeoisie and the state monopoly capitalist system it commands.
The paragraph of the Draft Program we have quoted is somewhat better than OL’s arguments in the CALL and, on its face, neither defends nor depends on these polemics. The statement of the Draft Program is:
“The Soviet Union is not only an imperialist superpower; it is also the center of modern revisionism, which is the main social prop of imperialism in the international working class movement.” Accurately understood, this is correct. Modern revisionism is the main social prop and the USSR is the center of modern revisionism, as we have pointed out.
However, if the language of the Draft represented a conscious correction and repudiation of the confusion of OL’s earlier positions, we would have expected the Commentary to the Draft to explain this and include a self-criticism. But with a stylish superficiality that has come to characterize the OC’s work, the problem is ignored. Comrades would therefore be wrong to conclude that the language of the Draft represents an advance.
In any case, the basic confusion of the Draft Program is not on the question of compromising parties. OL was led into error on that question because of its confusion on a more fundamental issue. Clearly from Klonsky’s first use of the concept of the main blow in the CALL interview last year, OL has been concerned with the broader question raised in Stalin’s essay on STRATEGY AND TACTICS. Stalin there is not considering the main blow of the party required to isolate compromising forces, but the main blow of the class and its allies required to overthrow the principal enemy. Stalin writes:
The most important function of strategy is to determine the main direction which ought to be taken by the working class movement, and along which the proletariat can most advantageously deliver the main blow at its enemy in order to achieve the aims formulated in the programme. A strategic plan is a plan of the organization of the decisive blow in the direction in which the blow is most likely to achieve the maximum results...The strategic plan defines the main blow to be delivered by the revolutionary forces and the corresponding disposition of the vast masses on the social front.
Here Stalin is speaking to the strategic alignment of all revolutionary forces to accomplish the tasks of a particular state of the revolution. It is no longer a question of how the party of the proletariat should use its main weapons during a period of preparation in order to win the broad masses of working people away from the influence of the compromising forces, facilitating their organization. Stalin is now speaking of the strategic disposition of the proletariat itself and its allies along the main line which can be taken to deliver the main blow against the principal enemy of the revolution.
With this meaning, is the Draft Program correct? No it is not. The strategic lesson Stalin brings forward is to deliver the main blow at the principal enemy. The Draft Program does not identify the USSR as the principal enemy, but calls for revolutionaries to direct their main blow against it anyway.
Identifying the main blow internationally is a question of the strategic alignment of forces and of our strategic plan. Today, this turns on an appraisal of the two superpowers. US imperialism, while still economically and financially more far-flung than Soviet social imperialism, has nonetheless entered its decline. Decisively defeated in Indochina, weakened economically, politically and militarily, relatively well exposed before the peoples of the world – for these reasons, US imperialism is on the defensive. The USSR, on the other hand, is an imperialist power on the offensive. Like Germany before World War I, it is a younger, more aggressive imperialist power seeking to push its way into every corner of the globe. It is a latecomer to the imperialist banquet and has geared up for war to demand a larger share of the pie. It is a war economy with 60% of industrial enterprises bound up to military purposes and has more than double the US forces under arms. The Soviet revisionist clique in charge of the state machine directly controls the entire national economy and all economic lifelines and there is a higher concentration and organization of state monopoly capital than in the US. Most important, the USSR carries out its rivalry for hegemony with the US under the signboard of socialism, falsely pretending to inherit the Bolshevik tradition of proletarian internationalism. Many are still confused by its phony claim to be a “natural ally” of the Third World. For all these reasons, the USSR is the most dangerous source of war. For these reasons also, it is at this time the more dangerous of the two superpowers.
Does this mean that our strategic plan, the main direction along which the proletariat and its allies can most advantageously deliver the main blow is, internationally, against the Soviet Union?
The point is a crucial one. As a part of the world wide revolutionary united front, the US proletariat has no goals internationally different from other workers movements. Our most important contribution to world revolution is the overthrow of US imperialism, but world-wide we have no objectives different from those of the international working class, Furthermore, the tasks of revolution in the US are always subordinate to those of world revolution. To direct the main blow against the Soviet Union is to subordinate the overthrow of US imperialism to that task.
The OC’s Draft Program is in error on this point. The strategic plan put forward by Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations world-wide does not call for the US or other revolutionary movements to direct their main blow at the Soviet Union, but calls for a united front against both superpowers. The Draft Program’s views on the international situation are fundamentally inconsistent. The OL’s position on the main blow has undermined positions of the Draft Program that are otherwise correct.
The Draft Program correctly states:
“The United States, along with the Soviet Union, stands today as one of the two imperialist superpowers who are the biggest international oppressors and exploiters. Together, they constitute the main enemy of the peoples, nations, and countries of the world.” (Our emphasis.) From this, the Draft Program correctly concludes: “The US working class must firmly unite with the international proletariat and the oppressed nations and peoples of the world, with all the countries subjected to aggression, subversion, interference and control or bullying by imperialism or social imperialism to form the broadest possible united front against imperialism and especially against the two superpowers.” These statements correctly identify the strategic plan and main direction along which the proletariat and its allies world wide can most advantageously deliver the main blow at its principal enemy. They identify the disposition of the vast revolutionary masses on the social front.
In other words, internationally, the strategic plan put forward by Marxist-Leninists is a united front against imperialism and especially against the hegemonism of the two superpowers. If we are to speak of the direction of the main blow of the international proletariat against its main enemy, the only position consistent with this strategic plan is to deliver the main blow against both superpowers which are together the main enemy of the peoples, nations and countries of the world.
But the OC vacillated on the point and offers a typical petty bourgeois attempt to compromise the positions of social chauvinism. It wants to have it both ways. If we direct the main blow against US imperialism, our strategic plan is to call for the people of the world to unite to defeat US imperialism and all its running dogs. If we direct the main blow against Soviet social imperialism, our strategic plan calls for a united front against Soviet social imperialism and its running dogs. At this time, however, the strategic plan of Marxist-Leninists calls for neither of these. At this time the call is for the broadest possible united front against the hegemonism of the two superpowers.
Under present circumstances, the call to deliver the main blow against one or the other superpower only, objectively aids its rival in the struggle for hegemony. It is social chauvinism: “the defense of the privileges, advantages, robbery and violence of ones ’own’ (or every) imperialist bourgeoisie,” The OC has not succeeded in purging its ranks of social chauvinism. The position of the Draft Program, which must lead to error and confusion on the international front, is particularly serious in view of the grave danger of imperialist war.
We do not speculate as to what historic turns may lay ahead in the course of world revolution. A united front against social fascism, for example, is a possibility we cannot exclude. That, however, is not our strategic plan at this time and under present conditions.
The OC would like to reduce the question of the main blow to a matter of uneven development between imperialist superpowers. Uneven development, however, is a constant phenomena of imperialism. Because of uneven development the USSR at this time constitutes the main danger to war – it is more aggressive, the least exposed and the more dangerous. For these reasons we must pay special attention to exposing its savage features and dragging its true character to the light of day. But the question of the main blow is a question of the strategic alignment of forces. It depends on our identification of the main enemy. At present the two superpowers together are the main enemy and everything depends on a principled stand toward this question. Until a turn in world history changes that situation, requiring a change in our strategic plan – that is, the whole alignment of revolutionary forces – we must direct our decisive blow at both superpowers.
The consolidation of the forces in the OC into a new Marxist-Leninist organization calling itself a party and based on the confusion of the Draft Program’s positions on the international situation as well as its failure , to thoroughly carry forward the struggle against social chauvinism would be a setback for our movement. Comrades in the OC and throughout the movement must give highest priority to the struggle against this deviation from the principles of orthodox Marxism-Leninism.
It is important to comment on the Revolutionary Communist Party’s (RCP) polemics against OL on the main blow.
The RCP correctly ridiculed OL’s position that the Soviet Union is a social prop for or a party of compromise with imperialism. But they can find no other way to do this than by a revisionist criticism of Stalin. After quoting Stalin’s analysis in THE OCTOBER REVOLUTION AND TACTICS, the RCP says, “In fact, the RCP does not agree with the formulation in these articles by Stalin” ’(REVOLUTION, February 1977). Ignoring the plain meaning of words they call Stalin inconsistent and go on to counterpose the strategic lessons of the Bolshevik party to the practice of the Chinese revolution led by Mao Tsetung. They complain that Stalin’s formulation ”came down to a policy of isolating middle of the road social and political forces in any given revolutionary period. To this is counterposed the practice of the Chinese revolution – directing the main blow at the chief enemy to isolate it, while for the middle forces, a policy is recommended of both uniting with them and struggling against them so they are at least neutralized and a basis provided for efforts to win them from neutrality to alliance with the revolutionary forces.”
Under the guise of upholding the contributions of Mao Tsetung and the Chinese Communist Party to the science of revolution, this is a shamefaced attack on orthodox Marxism-Leninism. Not so long ago the Revolutionary Union, which formed the RCP, proposed that US Marxist-Leninists could ignore the fundamental scientific characteristics of a nation as summed up by Stalin - in order to make room for a stale revisionist theory of their own. We thought they had backed off that. But there has been no repudiation. The source of the error clearly has not been rooted out. In the RCP we still have to do with a clique pf “creative” Marxists who think they can match their few years of ’building the mass movement” against a generation of stubborn Bolshevik revolutionary experience. What they offer now is revisionism on strategy and tactics.
In the first place the RCP confuses middle forces with compromising parties. In fact there will be no middle forces won over at all unless the parties of compromise with imperialism are isolated. In WORK OF THE XIV CONFERENCE OF R.C.P.(B), Stalin said:
Hence the task of the communist elements in the colonial countries is to link up with the revolutionary elements of the bourgeoisie, and above all with the peasantry, against the bloc of imperialism and the compromising elements of ’their own’ bourgeoisie, in order, under the leadership of the proletariat to wage a genuinely revolutionary struggle for liberation from imperialism.
What is there to contradict the theory and practice of the Chinese revolution in this? Nothing of course! In a war of national liberation against imperialism, the chief enemy is the imperialist oppressor nation and the compromising parties are national parties of capitulation and betrayal. These are the forces that sell out and attempt to disorganize the national struggle. Mao Tsetung wrote constantly on the subject and, for example, pursued a policy of isolating the diehard wing of the Kuomintang which represented not middle forces of the Chinese nation, but primarily the big landlords and the big bourgeoisie. This was the wing which fostered a spirit of defeatism and national capitulation and sought accommodation with imperialism rather than liberation, asking communists to “fold up their tents”, etc.
In the second place, the RCP confuses the main weapon of the proletarian party with the main blew of the proletarian class. In OCTOBER REVOLUTION AND TACTICS, Stalin makes clear he is talking about the weapons of the Bolshevik party – e.g. “Naturally, the Party at that time directed its main blows at the Cadets”, or “Naturally, the Bolsheviks at that time directed their main blows at these parties...” A vanguard party of the proletariat uses its main weapons to organize the working masses in a period of revolutionary preparation. But it is the masses themselves, not the party which makes revolution. Under the leadership of a vanguard party a revolutionary class delivers its main blow at its chief enemy. The Bolshevik Party directed its main blow against the parties of petty bourgeois democracy, but the Russian proletariat, together with its allies, directed its main blow at the Russian bourgeoisie, not the petty bourgeoisie.
Comrades who grasp this point will not be confused by the RCP’s base attack on Stalin for a supposed inconsistency concerning the main blow. As we pointed out above, in STRATEGY AND TACTICS, Stalin discusses the strategic alignment of the class and its allies against the principal enemy. In THE OCTOBER REVOLUTION AND TACTICS, he is speaking to the leadership of the vanguard of the proletariat muse give in order to prepare this strategic alignment. Thus in THE OCTOBER REVOLUTION AND TACTICS, Stalin asks,
The preparation for October thus proceeded under the leadership of one party, the Bolshevik Party. But how did the Party carry out this leadership, along what line did the latter proceed? This leadership proceeded along the line of isolating the compromising parties, as the most dangerous parties, as the most dangerous groupings in the period of the outbreak of the revolution, the line of isolating the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks.
This Stalin calls the fundamental strategic rule of Leninism. In throwing it down, the RCP has once again attacked the leading role of a vanguard party. The RCP proclaims an onslaught against the chief enemy, but repudiated the tasks necessary to prepare the conditions for that onslaught.
The RCP repudiates Stalin on this question because it is a representative of the petty bourgeois democractic trend in our movement masquerading under the cloak of Marxism-Leninism. Therefore, the RCP does not want to make a rupture with the positions of the compromising’ petty bourgeoisie, ideologically, politically and organizationally. What the RCP wants to do – as we know from its campaign in steel – is to make a place in its mass work for the reformist trade union bureaucracy.
On strategy and tactics, as with the national question, the RCP tries to drive a wedge between Lenin and Stalin. But the ideas Stalin fought for are a summation of positions consistently developed by Lenin from the experience of 1905 on. For example, TWO TACTICS OF SOCIAL DEMOCRACY IN THE DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION turns on an appraisal of the compromising parties of the bourgeois democratic revolution. Stalin’s quote from Lenin’s Address to the Constituent Assembly shows the continuity of Bolshevik thinking in spite of Trotskyite slanders: “in order to win the majority of the population to its side the proletariat must... entirely destroy the influence of the bourgeois and petty bourgeois compromisers over the majority of the non-proletarian toiling masses, (ON THE OPPOSITION, p. 280)
By abandoning the struggle against the parties of compromise with imperialism, the RCP abandons the hegemony of the proletariat in the revolution. This is the lesson of Lenin and Stalin on strategy and tactics and the significance of the RCP’s revisionism on the question.
In the second issue of its theoretical journal, May 1, 1977, the RCP has again reaffirmed its position that prior to 1974, party building could not be the main task of communists (p.77), even though the proletariat had no vanguard party. The particular circumstances, they claim, of mass upsurge in the US prevented it. However, this view reduces the question of the need of the class for vanguard leadership to a question of particular conditions and circumstances. The correct view is that whenever the class lacks a vanguard, the main task of communists is to build one.
The RCP’s attack on the leadership of the vanguard in the revolution is, therefore, only further developed and consolidated in its polemics on the main blow. Whereas the task of Bolshevization, which is essential to party building, requires a decisive break with the compromising parties and trends of our movement, the RCP comes forward to say that no such rupture is required, to say that this task contradicts the experience of the Chinese revolution. The necessary consequence is to abandon not only the leadership of the vanguard, but also the hegemony of the proletariat in the revolution.
A “revolutionary” “communist” party that repudiates the leading role of the party at every stage of the revolution and the hegemony of the proletariat – there is the measure of RCP’s degeneration!