Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The New Voice

Resist Separation Trend from the Masses

First Published: The New Voice, Vol. IX, No. 7, June 23, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The problem of integrating Marxism-Leninism–the science of revolution–with the mass movement arises in different forms at every phase of history. This problem has taken new forms in the last year in the communist movement of the United States.

Some groups, in an attempt to increase their political influence, have mistaken coalitions and alliances with reformist leaders for links with the masses. These groups have welcomed the Citizens Party and trimmed their criticism of it. When they publicized events staged by the Progressive Alliance (a clique of top labor officials, democratic socialists and left liberals), they soft-pedaled exposure of the hopeless, reformist nature of the slogans for Big Business Day on April 17 and Stop Big Oil rallies earlier. These communist groups sought desperately to stay in the leadership committee; emerging out of the February 2 Greensboro march, so they said little about the SCLC’s maneuvers to contain the potential demonstration of the masses’ anger.

Some communist groups have removed much of the Marxist educational content from their publishing activities. It is easy enough to see that theoretical journals have lagged and that newspaper articles addressed to communists (such as this article) have stopped appearing.

Another kind of article has been dropped, too. This is the article that takes up a contemporary event or issue–like the surge in unemployment, the hostage situation in Iran, or the aggression of the Soviet Union–and makes a deeper analysis of the question. This analysis may not directly interest all readers, but it shows the progressive student of the newspaper how to develop some ideas with people.

For example, it is good besides summarizing the wave of layoffs to explain something of the laws of unemployment, the decay of industries and stagnation under monopoly capitalism; besides demanding that the U.S. settle with Iran on just terms, explain why the economic interests of United States working people are allied with the anti-imperialist Islamic revolution; besides exposing aggression by the Soviet Union, explain something about its capitalist economy and restored capitalist rule under Khrushchev and Brezhnev. Such points are made less often today than before.

Finally, there have been cases of outright ideological drift from Marxism. This has occurred in stands taken on various Hollywood films(such as that flop of imperialist culture, Apocalypse Now), the philosophy of existentialism (in reflection on the passing of Jean-Paul Sartre), and questions of socialism (which, it must be said, cannot be achieved without revolution, the Communist Party and the dictatorship of the proletariat).


Marxist-Leninists place the highest value on integration with the masses. They do work among the masses, they listen closely to the masses, they make the masses’ problems and concerns their own primary problems and concerns, and they immerse themselves and their organization among the masses. The mass movement is always the firm reference point for real communists.

But some communist leaders, influenced by the judgment that ultra-leftism has been the communist movement’s main problem in the last few years, have forgotten about real connections with the masses. Instead, they have substituted non-communist political activity (which, they think, can hardly be called ultra-leftist!) in place of communist work among the masses. Since non-communist activity far outweighs activity with a Marxist-Leninist aspect in the country’s politics and mass media, the illusion arises that this turn toward coalitions with reformists at too high a price, toward non-Marxist agitation and toward bourgeois ideological positions means the entry of communists into a wider sphere.

In reality this tendency is a turn away from the masses and toward the bourgeoisie. Communists abandon the masses when they conduct alliances with reformists wrongly, failing to maintain an independent political and ideological stand. This tendency is based on the unspoken, perhaps unrealized assumption which says that in times of defeats or ebb the masses positively support bourgeois politics, capitalist exploitation and the bourgeois world outlook. The truth is that the masses are dismayed, unhappy, confused and temporarily in retreat because of the problems of capitalism in crisis and the need to accumulate new proletarian forces.

Marxist-Leninists should recall how a revolution happens. It is not accomplished by the gradual accumulation of vaguely progressive sentiment. Revolutionary situations occur during extremely sharp crises. Prior to these situations communists have much work to do in order to organize the rallying pole of proletarian revolution–but overt mass sentiment will not rally around it before the revolutionary situation itself.

Communists must get organized; they must keep in close touch with the masses and in a certain profound sense merge with them; they must design and carry out accurate, complicated political strategy and tactics. Communists should not desire to part of the bourgeois blanket that suffocates the masses today.


Fortunately, the trend of turning away from the masses in the name of achieving “mass” successes arouses resistance among communists. Many of them have been involved since the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Over the years they have gained a lot of experience and take a serious attitude toward the line and work of the movement. They will eventually separate their concern for realistic planning, grass roots work and patient persistence from the illusion that it is down-to-earth to turn away from both the masses and Marxism. Another section of the communist movement is composed of newer recruits who entered when times were not stormy. They, too, have a serious attitude and combine a sense of realism with the dedication that motivated them to join the movement.

The trend toward abandoning the masses must be repelled. The struggle can be carried out in the spirit of unity, struggle and unity. It will not be a banner-waving, sloganeering kind of struggle. But it is an important one for the communist movement, and the more consciously it is waged, the better.