Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Union

Why We Must Go From Old Period To New

First Published: Revolution, Vol. 3, No. 3, April 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another – Mao Tsetung.

Why do we say that it is necessary for us to put an end to the old period and move on to the new, and that forming the party is the bridge between the old and the new? First of all, the old period–the period of the last 15 years or so–has been one of militant struggle and many advances. The civil rights movement and later on the Black liberation movement and the struggles of other minority nationalities; the struggles of students and the development of a powerful, mass antiwar movement; and the struggles of the working class itself, which have continued throughout this period, as they have from the beginning of capitalism, and have become increasingly broad and sharp as the imperialist crisis deepens and the attacks on the working class intensify–these are the things that mark the old period.

The formation and growth of organizations like the Black Panther Party and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) represented a growing awareness that it was an imperialist class and its system it was responsible for exploitation and poverty, aggression in Vietnam, etc., and that it was necessary to declare war against the imperialists. It is this declaration of war that has given the old period its overall revolutionary thrust, and is what makes the old period overwhelmingly positive.

But at the same time, the old period has been characterized by serious weaknesses. For while war was declared against the imperialists, it was not clearly understood what the outcome and goal of this war should be, or who had to lead the people fighting and winning the war.

The Proletariat Must Lead

It was not understood that the proletariat–the working class–had to lead the struggle, that it had to because the proletariat is the only truly revolutionary class. It is the only class that has absolutely nothing to gain from the imperialist system and therefore the only class that stands absolutely against it and absolutely for its destruction. And it is the only class that has the strength and discipline and scientific understanding–Marxism-Leninism–to overthrow it. It is the class that understands that the goal of the revolution is to establish its own dictatorship over the defeated enemy–to prevent them from making a comeback– and to build socialism and eventually communism.

There in fact has been a strong anti-working class current running throughout the old period, reflected in wrong ideas such as “students will lead the struggle”, “Black people will lead the struggle,” etc.

This has been accompanied by a lot of liberalism and individualism–basically a failure to get serious about making revolution and committing oneself totally to revolution, preferring instead “to have revolution and have my petty bourgeois way of life and thinking, too.” There also has been outright diletantteism–dabbling in revolution, treating it as though it were a dinner party or writing an essay rather than “an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.” And in the worst cases, there has been straight up careerism and opportunism.

Because of such wrong ideas, groups like SDS and the Panthers didn’t seek to link up with the working class, to learn from the workers and their struggles, and to build their base there.

The Black liberation struggle, for example, while it did involve some workers and while many workers did become involved in the spontaneous ghetto uprisings, was essentially petty bourgeois– that is, its line and leadership were petty bourgeois. There was some talk about socialism and some study of Marxism-Leninism (the Panthers in fact did much to distribute and popularize Mao’s Red Book), but this was never the main current and never took hold.

The result was that this liberation movement, and the student and antiwar movement, hit a wall. They could go no further unless they correctly summed up their work and the situation, recognized the revolutionary and leading role of the proletariat, and linked up with the proletariat to make socialist revolution. This was the only way to knock down the wall and go forward. The only alternative was to stagnate, degenerate and become irrelevant. What happened to groups like SDS and the Panthers–who at one time made important contributions to the struggle–speaks for itself.

The Seeds of a New Period

But within the old period, and especially during its latter half, from the late 60s to the present, the seeds of the new period were born and began to take root. Some forces did correctly sum up the situation and, seeking the way forward, began to study Marxism-Leninism in earnest.

Some forces calling themselves Marxist-Leninist of course already were in existence by the late 60s, including the Communist Party, USA and groups which appeared to oppose the CP’s revisionist betrayal, most notably the Progressive Labor Party (PL). But PL and its line was in fact anti-working class, anti-communist, and PL in reality had a lot to do with developing anti-working class, anti-communist ideas among many of the honest movement forces, or strengthening such ideas that already existed.

In opposition to PL’s opportunism, to the CP’s betrayal, and to the prevailing and general anti-proletarian current, new forces sprung up, including the RU, that were determined to study Marxism-Leninism, to apply it correctly and creatively in practice by linking up with the working class and masses and leading them in struggle, and to develop a nationwide communist movement with close ties to the masses that could eventually give birth to a new and revolutionary communist party that could in turn lead the mass revolutionary movement to a higher, more powerful level.

And that is what has happened. Communists have helped develop the mass struggle, there have been mar important advances and much learned, especially over the last couple of years, and it is now possible to form the vanguard party and thrust forward into a new period, building on the many advances of the old period while learning from and overcoming and discarding its error; and weaknesses.

Both Possible and Necessary

And as we have stressed since last spring, when we said that forming the new party had become the main task of communists for the short period ahead, it is not only now possible to form the party, it is also necessary. Nothing stands still. Just as the struggle hit a wall in the late 60s and confronted the task of either breaking through the wall and going forward or falling back, so now we must either form the party and press ahead or stagnate, degenerate, turn the initiative over to the enemy, and become a roadblock to the proletariat instead of its vanguard.

And just as in the late 60s there were forces ready to go forward and others that were not, so today there are forces pointing the direction ahead while others are putting up Slow Down and Caution signs and are in fact pointing the direction backward. These forces claim that there hasn’t been enough summation of work, that there haven’t been enough advances, and that the errors and weaknesses outweigh what advances there have been. They complain endlessly about how all those going forward are supposedly “sectarian” and “ultra-left”, about how the proletarian forces are rude and crude, a bunch of “bully boys.”

What these forces have forgotten–or, to be more accurate, what they have never understood–is that a revolution “cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous.” What these forces are really putting forward–covered over with revolutionary words, like honey covering a piece of stale and moldy bread–is the same anti-working class, anti-communist current that represents what has been least progressive and most backward about the old period, and is precisely what all genuine communist forces are now ready to liquidate.

But these other forces have a deep affection for all that was backward and wrong about the old period and don’t want to leave this period behind. To the contrary, they want to keep everyone back in it along with themselves. And they cry “sectarianism” and “ultra-leftism” at those who refuse to have anything to do with this and who fight it tooth and nail.

But there is one lesson coming out of the old period that stands above all the others: if the movement does not link up with the proletariat–if the movement does not in fact become a proletarian movement–then it is bound to fall into and sink in the swamp of opportunism. There is actually a great deal in common between these forces who today are trying to entice us into the swamp, and forces in Russia at the turn of the century who were trying to do the same thing to the Russian Revolution at a time when it had to go forward boldly or fall back. This is what Lenin said about those forces:

We are marching in a compact group along a precipitous and difficult path, firmly holding each other by the hand. We are surrounded on all sides by enemies and are under their almost constant fire. We have combined voluntarily, precisely for the purpose of fighting the enemy, and not to retreat into the adjacent marsh, the inhabitants of which, from the very outset, have reproached us with having separated ourselves into an exclusive group and with having chosen the path of struggle instead of the path of conciliation.

And now several among us begin to cry out: let us go into this marsh! And when we begin to shame them, they retort: how conservative you are! Are you not ashamed to deny us the right to invite you to take a better road! Oh yes, gentlemen! You are free not only to invite us, but to go yourselves wherever you will, even into the marsh. In fact, we think that the marsh is your proper place, and we are prepared to render you every assistance to get there. Only let go of our hands, don’t clutch at us and don’t besmirch the grand word ’freedom’; for we too are ’free’ to go where we please, free not only to fight against the marsh, but also against those who are turning towards the marsh. (What Is To Be Done?)

Bid Them Farewell

We stand with Lenin, on the high and firm ground of the proletariat, on the science of the proletariat–Marxism-Leninism–and on proletarian revolution. There is no time to waste, and if these cry babies and snivelers insist on descending into the bog, then all we can do is bid them farewell and, to show them that a revolution is not totally without magnanimity, offer them snorkels.

It is no accident that at exactly the time when forming the new party–and not just talking endlessly and abstractly about how it is the central task–is imminent and when a draft programme has been written for that party, these backward-looking forces come up with harebrained schemes like creating a “theoretical journal” to talk about everything under the sun, or to run someone for president on an “anti-depression, anti-repression” platform.

The fact that these forces are now forced to call themselves communists and claim to speak in the name of the working class shows in fact the great strength of the working class and its ideology. On the other hand, the actual situation, the growing attacks on the working class and its rising struggle, only more deeply exposes these disgusting parasites who are trying to pimp off the working class.

But socialist revolution in this country is inevitable, and these swamp creatures can no more stop it than can the bourgeoisie whose bidding they do. To all those honest and genuine communist forces who want to lead the working class and masses in wiping out the bourgeoisie and building a new society free of exploitation and misery, we say “let us consciously strive to liquidate the old period, to fight against anti-proletarian ideas and petty bourgeois baggage, and go forward together into the new period, the period in which the proletariat leads the struggle-ideologically, politically ant organizationally.” A draft programme has been produced, and that represents a significant step in building the party our class needs to win.

The Answer is Clear

The U.S. working class is a great class, and we’ve had enough of people who keep putting it down while claiming to hold its banner. It must never be forgotten that our class has a great history of heroic, self-sacrificing struggle against the bourgeoisie, for while we have built this society with our minds, muscles and blood, we don’t own or control it, and the bourgeoisie tries to use everything we have produced and built to increase its fortunes and keep us and working people everywhere in poverty and chains.

But we won’t be denied, and we will be just as ruthless toward all enemies as we have to be, because, as Mao Tsetung says, “a revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”

The main question facing us right now is whether we’re going to a dinner party or we’re going to form a revolutionary communist party. The bourgeoisie and its friends have every right to tremble, because the answer to that question is very simple.