Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Communist Party

Mensheviks Sow Confusion On Fusion

First Published: Revolution, Vol. 3, No. 11, August 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Mensheviks–the rightist renegade clique headed by M. Jarvis and L. Bergman, who were booted out of the Revolutionary Communist Party by its Second Congress earlier this year–consider their line on the fusion of Marxism and the workers’ movement a major weapon in their arsenal. They claim that the Party had, at first, reacted with “vacillation and doubt” in the face of this task and “failed to break through on fusion,” and that with the further development of the Party’s line (especially as embodied in the 1976 Central Committee Report), the Party “abandoned” the task and “retreated” from it as fast as possible. This accusation is coupled with a related charge against the Party for “failing to make a basic analysis of the specific stage of the struggle we’re in.”

The purpose of this article is to criticize and repudiate the Mensheviks’ line on fusion, leaving the task of more fully presenting the Party’s line on this question for a later date. In this context, it’s also important to deal with the Mensheviks’ concept of stages, which they use to defend their line on fusion, because in this way it becomes clear that what they propose is a recipe for “fusing” their own backwardness and rightism with whatever backward and rightist political trends exist at any given moment. This applies in movements of all sections of the people–not just the working class.

In other words, adapting yourself to whatever seems quick and easy at the time–this is what underlies the Mensheviks’ confusion of Marxism and the tasks of communists with the spontaneous struggle and consciousness of the masses.

What Is Fusion?

The communist movement in this country in the past decade arose at first outside of the working class and the struggles it was waging, and therefore faced the task of fusing Marxism with the workers’ movement.

Marxism cannot arise directly out of the day to day struggles of the workers. It was first developed by revolutionary intellectuals (such as Marx), as well as by class conscious workers, who took up the study of broad social, economic, historical, and philosophical questions in the context of the development of capitalism and the modern working class, and in close connection with the workers’ movement of the time.

In this country, it was mainly immigrant workers who had learned Marxism in Europe who brought it to the U.S. working class in the mid-19th century, and who later helped bring the further development of Marxism by Lenin to this country after the First World War. But with the revisionist degeneration of the CPUSA and a generation of comparative ebb in the class struggle in the U.S. after World War 2, communism all but completely ceased to exist as a trend within the American working class.

The process of fusion began for the second time in this country in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the first groups of young communist intellectuals, joined by some veteran communists and class conscious workers, first began to take it up. This process took a qualitative leap with the formation of the Revolutionary Communist Party, the political party of the working class.

It is a task that continues today, as the Party bends every effort to bring to the workers the political consciousness and organization necessary to carry out their historic mission–and this task will not be completed until the working class liberates itself and all mankind and classes no longer exist, and Marxism becomes the common outlook of all humanity.

Fusion or Confusion?

The Menshevik conception of fusion has nothing at all to do with fusing Marxism with the workers’ movement, because it leaves out Marxism.

In the early 1970s, communist forces waged several sharp and crucial battles in which the Revolutionary Union (which later played the key role in the formation of the RCP) upheld and deepened its understanding of the necessity for proletarian revolution, and of the working class’ role as the revolutionary class. More or less openly anti-working class lines enjoyed some popularity during this period because the working class was not a leading or even organized force in the big battles then shaking the country.

The Mensheviks hypocritically make a big deal about being the defenders and heirs of the RU. This is why, for instance, they call their “theoretical” publication Red Papers 8–as if it represented a continuation of the RU’s Red Papers Nos. 1-7. They point out that the RU was insisting on the need to go to the workers, at a time when others were carrying on about how the workers had all sold out, were hopelessly backward, etc., and it was the youth/lumpen-proletariat or whatever who were going to make revolution in this country.

But these Mensheviks completely leave out what line the RU was taking to the working class. They completely leave out the fact that, from the first, the RU upheld as the strategy for revolution in this country the united front against imperialism under proletarian leadership, and that it was this strategic orientation that guided its work.

For the Mensheviks, what was good about the RU was that it sent most of its people into the plants and other workplaces. Of course, they don’t quite say this in so many words. In their sumup of the RU’s history, they speak of the RU “upholding and applying Marxism-Leninism and entering into the struggles of the working class and masses...”

Yes, the RU upheld Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought, and yes, the RU entered into these struggles, but what’s not said even once is that it was on the basis of the RU’s Marxist political line that it took part in and sought to lead these struggles, not just to build these struggles, and not just to become leaders, but in order to build the struggle, consciousness and revolutionary unity of the working class and its leadership in the united front against imperialism.

What the Mensheviks mean by this omission is made even clearer when they go on to discuss the Founding Congress of the RCP: “There was the opening sentence in the Workers Movement section of the Programme that blasted through all Trotskyite idealism and metaphysics: ’The working class learns through its day to day struggle.’ There was the push in the MPR [Main Political Report given at the Founding Congress] to unite with the concrete battles of our class, and there was the call in the orientation section of the MPR to rely on, learn from and bring forward our class brothers and sisters, about which there is too little talk today. There was our determination not to be condescending saviors and lecturers, because we saw our class had far too many of those. All these things marked our distinction from every political organization which has existed over the last 20 and more years.” (emphasis added)

Here the Mensheviks have “forgotten” only one thing. The RU was not the only organization to take up the concrete battles of the workers, nor was it the only organization to recruit workers and promote them to leadership, nor was it the only organization which didn’t lecture much, at least to the workers.

For instance, there was the Progressive Labor Party, which tried to beat the youth and Black struggles over the head in the name of the working class–in reality trying to reduce the revolutionary thrust of these movements to the level of the workers’ economic struggles. In its earliest days the RU had to wage a very bitter struggle against this idea of going to the working class. And above all, there was the revisionist Communist Party, USA, which had been busily engaged burrowing among the workers long before the RU existed. The RU, which had originated outside of the working class, went to the working class on the basis of a revolutionary line, while the CPUSA, formerly the party of the working class, which had degenerated into an outfit in the service of the bourgeoisie, took up some struggles of the workers in order to carry out the CP’s counter-revolutionary line.

What, according to the Mensheviks, distinguished the RU from the CPUSA? That when we sang those words from The Internationale about “no condescending saviors,” we were sincere and they weren’t? In fact, it was a question of line–the line that guided the RU’s work in the working class and all its work, and not just some capricious decision to do work among the workers.

How could it be clearer that what these Mensheviks want is “a party just like the party of dear old mom and dad”?

“Vacillation and Doubt”

We would like these Mensheviks to explain what they mean when they say that the Party first reacted with “vacillation and doubt” in the face of the task of fusion, and now is “retreating” because it supposedly finds it too “difficult.” Is there some way in which we’ve failed to take up the major battles of the working class and the masses? Is there someone who’d like to claim that the main problem among RCP comrades in the shops is that they are ignoring the day to day struggles there? As we’ve said before, even if it’s just a question of involvement in strikes, we’ve certain done more than the Mensheviks.

What really bothers the Mensheviks is not our nonexistent failure to take up these battles, but rather our insistence on trying to raise the political level of the workers in the course of these battles, and more especially, on doing all-around political agitation and exposures. This includes agitation–heaven forbid–even on questions, such as U.S. imperialism contention with the USSR, that have little to do directly with the battles the masses in this country a presently waging.

What they object to is our “failure” to submerge ourselves in these day to day struggles–our insistent on working to transform the present level of the struggle of the U.S. working class into a conscious struggle at the head of all the oppressed, for socialism and communism. This is what the Mensheviks are referring to when they say we are “separating” rather than fusing Marxism with the mass struggle and “preaching the people from the sidelines.”

The Mensheviks can’t analyze history, since they lack Marxism. But that doesn’t stop them from trying to bolster their argument with vulgar historic analogies. They try to make it seem as if the Party’s alleged “running away” from taking up the “concrete battles” of the workers is a replay of similar tendencies in Russia at the turn of the century.

In their split documents they quote Lenin’s “Urgent Tasks of Our Movement”:

In Russia, the necessity for combining socialism and the working-class movement was in theory long ago proclaimed, but it is only now being carried into practice. It is a very difficult process and there is, therefore, nothing surprising in the fact that it is accompanied by vacillations and doubts.

But why don’t they give us the first part of the paragraph as well as the last?

Social-Democracy is the combination of the working-class movement and socialism. Its task is not to serve the working-class movement passively at each of its separate stages, but to represent the interests of the movement as a whole, to point out to this movement its ultimate aim and its political tasks, and to safeguard its political and ideological independence. Isolated from Social-Democracy, the working-class movement becomes petty and inevitably becomes bourgeois... (Collected Works, Vol. 4, p. 368)

And earlier in this essay, Lenin says:

Russian Social-Democracy is passing through a period of vacillation and doubt bordering on self-negation. On the one hand, the working-class movement is being sundered from socialism, the workers are being helped to carry on the economic struggle, but nothing, or next to nothing, is done to explain to them the socialist aims and political tasks of the movement as a whole. On the other hand, socialism is being sundered from the labor movement; Russian socialists are again beginning to talk more and more about the struggle against the government having to be carried on entirely by the intelligentsia because the workers confine themselves to the economic struggle. (Collected Works, Vol. 4, pp. 366-367)

What Lenin was describing and condemning is not a tendency toward “vacillation and doubt” in the face of the economic struggle, not too much emphasis on “the struggle over ideas,” as our Mensheviks say, but exactly “vacillation and doubt” on the task of bringing Marxism to the working class, on linking the economic struggle with the working class’ overall struggle for revolution. He is polemicizing against those who were developing into the Mensheviks of his day–the original Mensheviks–who openly proclaims themselves interested in promoting only the economic struggle of the workers, while reserving political questions for other, more “educated” people. Our Mensheviks, of course, have no vacillation or doubt at all in regard to this task–they have straight out abandoned the political tasks of communists.

It is extremely revealing that the Mensheviks explicitly separate out the question of “fusion” from the question of building the working’ class’ political struggle. “Just like we [meaning the RCP when they were in it] did not break through the middle on the all oppression question, we did not break through on the fusion of Marxism with the workers movement.” (Menshevik split documents)

The Mensheviks hated and opposed the slogan “Workers Unite to Lead the Fight Against All Oppression” as “an abstract call to fight all oppression divorce[d] from the actual struggles the workers are already waging.” (Menshevik internal May Day bulletin, 1978) But here they are really putting their finger right on the question only to stick it up the own noses, because fusion separated from the task of developing the workers’ movement into a class conscious fight against all oppression is impossible and means nothing.

As the Programme of the RCP puts it:

Fighting blow for blow on all fronts, and led by its Party, the working class will develop its movement of today into a revolutionary workers’ movement that fights exploitation and all oppression in order to end wage-slavery. To do this the working class must take up and infuse its strength, discipline and revolutionary outlook into every major social movement. (pp. 102-103)

This is exactly what it means to fuse Marxism with the workers’ movement.

Lenin might as well have been speaking to Jarvis and Bergman when he warned:

The workers have no need for socialists in their struggle to improve their conditions, if that is their only struggle. In all countries there are workers who wage the struggle for the improvement of their condition, but know nothing of socialism or are even hostile to it. (“A Retrograde Trend in Russian Social-Democracy,” Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 4, p. 275)

Fusing Economism and Reformism

Of course, at this point the Mensheviks would probably try to defend themselves by saying that they do concern themselves with more than the workers’ bread and butter issues. There is some truth to this claim, but the Mensheviks’ line on these other issues is essentially a rerun of the old original economist Menshevik formula–economic struggle for the workers, political struggle for the intellectuals (and even “enlightened” bourgeoisie). This isn’t fusion–it’s a further separation of the working class from political struggle.

Because the Mensheviks really have no principles, the economic struggle is not something sacred to them but only something convenient. They are willing to take up politics when it suits them–when they feel they can find a current of backwardness to unite with and advance themselves in political movement.

While the Mensheviks’ line today is to concentrate on the economic struggles of the workers and to do this in a purely economist way, building these struggles as ends in themselves, they also dabble in political questions, especially among other strata in society such as professionals and students. Here their method is to “fuse” economism with petty bourgeois reformism.

The Mensheviks have consolidated a line–which had existed as an incorrect tendency in our Party (promoted, of course, by themselves)–that sees the work among oppressed nationalities, etc., as “united front work.” This line “forgets” that the object of all our work, whether building a factory strike or a struggle in support of African liberation, is to build the united front against imperialism under proletarian leadership.

Instead, the Mensheviks are content to “fuse” with the spontaneous struggles of petty bourgeois forces which come up against the imperialist system, building them, like the economic struggles of the workers, as separate struggles in themselves, without bringing out the need for proletarian revolution and the outlook of the proletariat in these battles, and on that basis working to unite all the struggles of the people into a single powerful political current.

This was clearly true of their student work, as has been extensively written about (see the pamphlet, Communism and Revolution Vs. Revisionism and Reformism in the Struggle to Build the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, RCP Publications). The same basic method is also very clear in their work among the oppressed nationalities. Of course, following their overall line, their main tendency around the national question has been to ignore it, to act as though the struggle against national oppression were a diversion from building the (trade union) unity of the working class in the struggle against this or that employer.

But when they have taken up this question, they have distinguished themselves for promising reforms, tailing bourgeois nationalism and unbelievable all-around narrowness. Their work tries to pimp off the hatred of the Black masses for oppression without doing a thing to bring out where this oppression comes from and how it can and will be ended. In work around the Bakke case, they have run themselves ragged criticizing the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade for raising the slogan “Fight Imperialism, the Source of All Oppression,” in addition to twq other slogans more specifically related to the Bakke case, claiming that this slogan is correct “in general” but “too left” for Bakke work.

They’ve worked (along with their suitors in the Communist Party [Marxist-Leninist] [CPML] and other rightist misfits) to confine the outrage and opposition around the Bakke case to a struggle for bourgeois democracy, without using it to expose why bourgeois democracy can’t end the oppression of minorities. In the Arthur Miller case in New York these Mensheviks, again working in tandem with the CP(ML), have “fused” themselves completely with some reactionary nationalists working to turn this struggle against police brutality and national oppression into a fight against the Jewish residents of the area.

Fusion of Another Sort

Here, in order to go deeper into the essence of the question, since the Mensheviks are so superficial, it might be useful to compare them with the CP(ML). For the Mensheviks, “fusion” with the workers’ movement means essentially fusing themselves into the labor movement. It means keeping their mouths shut about politics so as not to “scare” the workers while they try to lead–or tail after–a few strikes, in hopes that in this way they will become union officials, and then will have some real “influence” over the workers when they speak of political issues. This is also an illustration of the Mensheviks’ stagism.

But the CP(ML) already has tried going along this route, developing it into a principle a few years back, and today perhaps has a more developed opportunist antenna which allows them to sense that the workers want more than that. The CP(ML)’s idea of fusion is to merge with economism, reformism, nationalism, or whatever else seems like a good bet in a particular struggle, and then tag on a few words about socialism at the end of speeches, leaflets and articles.

The object of this game is to “prove” to the masses that communism is really not so different from bourgeois ideology and their bourgeois prejudices. Both these methods of “fusion” are guided by the bourgeois philosophical line of two-into-one, which leads to acting as though communism and the present outlook of the masses could be combined, instead of the proletarian, dialectical viewpoint of dividing one into two–in this case, taking up the daily struggles of the working class in order to unite with the revolutionary kernel within these struggles, and within the workers’ outlook, that is covered over with the husk of bourgeois ideology and politics, and to aid the workers in making a radical rupture with the bourgeois outlook which goes against their basic class interests.

In this regard, too, it is important to note that even in the situation of today, where the workers are mainly involved in the economic struggle, communists can’t simply bring light to the economic struggle, but must also do political exposures about broader questions. They must promote revolutionary struggles, political struggles that expose and attack imperialist rule (not reformist “political” struggles which sidetrack the revolutionary kernel of the masses’ struggles and strengthen the bourgeoisie’s political and ideological hold). The communist work done around African Liberation Day this year is a good example of how it is possible to promote such struggles under today’s conditions.

The necessity of waging such struggles, which the rightists never seem to grasp, is well put by this quote from A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement, written under Mao’s leadership in 1963 against Khrushchev-style revisionism:

Even in ordinary times, when it is leading the masses in the day-to-day struggle, the proletarian party should ideologically, politically and organizationally prepare its own ranks and the masses for revolution and promote revolutionary struggles, so that it will not miss the opportunity to overthrow the reactionary regime and establish a new state power when the conditions for revolution are ripe. (p. 22)

On Stages

Overall, what characterizes these Mensheviks is the line of least resistance. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, the line of least resistance–arising from the fact that the working class and its struggle was not on the center stage in society–was to look elsewhere than to the working class for revolution. In particular, the pull of spontaneity favored trying to adapt Marxism to nationalism, giving rise to such deviations as “Black workers take the lead,” and revolutionary nationalism and Marxism were often considered one and the same thing.

Although some leading Mensheviks did react with “vacillation and doubt” in the fight against these various deviations which went against basing the communist forces in the working class and on its outlook, in general they went along with the correct line sooner or later.

But today, because of the relative ebb of the movements of the 1960s and early ’70s and the advances in the working class struggle, and especially because of the advances made in fusing the communist and working class movements, overwhelmingly spontaneity pulls towards seeking short-term results in “the actual struggles the workers have already begun to wage.” Because founding the Party represented a giant advance in the ability of the working class to advance beyond the treadmill of eternal struggles around nickels and dimes, it was inevitable that this contradiction between communism and economism within the Party would greatly intensify.

The Founding Congress of the RCP led to a reorganization of the communist forces that had grown up spontaneously, concentrating them in key industries and key industrial areas, and giving emphasis to establishing ties between the Party and the day to day struggles of the workers. This was a correct step, a vital step, in order to carry out the party’s overall political role.

But along with this a countercurrent emerged, a rightist current which sought to restrict the Party’s efforts to the economic struggle and to make this linking up with and leading the economic struggle a separate stage of our work. (For more on this, see the article, “Economic Struggle and Revolutionary Tasks,” in the July 1978 Revolution.) The Mensheviks not only “fused” with this spontaneous rightist current within the party, they also sought to make this error everything, to drag the whole Party under with this orientation.

A fierce struggle was waged within the Party against this deviation. The Party’s 1976 Central Committee Report, “Revolutionary Work in a Non-Revolutionary Situation,” represented a qualitative advance in the Party’s understanding of the current situation and our tasks. It characterized the present mood of the masses and the current state of the working class-struggle–and put this in the context of a situation in which, after a generation of relative stability, U.S. imperialism is at the beginning of a period of deep economic and political crisis, the beginning of a new downward spiral “which will only give way to another spiral through a major change in the relation of forces in the world–redivision of the world through war, among the imperialists, revolution, or–most likely–both, on a world scale.” (1976 CC Report, p. 3)

Before their widely welcomed departure from the Party, the Menshevik leaders filled their factional channels of communication with cries that this report was “metaphysical.” Now they are crying out that one of our greatest sins is “failing to make a basic analysis of the specific stage of the struggle we’re in.” But of course we didn’t “fail” to make such an analysis. What really gets to them is that we refused to base the Party’s work on the present stage of things and instead analyzed it dialectically and formulated the Party’s tasks in terms of carrying out work in this stage so as to serve the interests of the overall development of things toward revolution.

This line of submerging communist work under whatever seems to be happening at the moment (in this case, the economic struggle), instead of representing the overall revolutionary interests of the working class, is and always has been a major hallmark of opportunism.

The importance of grasping how all things, including the class struggle, develop through stages is not to restrict the party’s tasks to those which fit in easily and which in fact tail behind the general stage where things are at today. It is exactly the opposite–to grasp the development of stages in order to lead the working class movement beyond its current level towards it final goal of revolution and communism.

If communists are not concerned first and foremost with how to advance towards the goal of socialism and communism through all the stages of the development of the workers’ movement, or if the working class could develop spontaneously through all these stages without communist leadership, then why would the working class need a Party at all! It could very easily get by with just a “Revolutionary Workers Headquarters,” as these Mensheviks now call themselves, meaning no more than a center for coordinating the spontaneous working class struggle as it exists today.

The 1976 CC Report pointed out:

.. .at any given time you do have to figure out how to make concrete, qualitative (within quantitative) advances. But you have to do this without falling into a theory of stages, or ’here’s the program for the next period,’ which then turns into its opposite and becomes reformist... For example, you can see that in the history of the old CP when they went about building the industrial unions, there was a real tendency to make those unions an end in themselves and to make the building of them a program in itself. And when you do that, then instead of the reforms being a by-product of the struggle for revolution, the dialectic gets reversed and they become an end in themselves and revolution becomes something separated from your day to day work and off in the distant future. (pp.-20-21)

The dividing line then is between recognizing that development takes place in stages, precisely in order to play a vanguard role in pushing development forward, and the Menshevik line of walling off the movement into frozen stages in order to passively adapt themselves to what’s happening at any particular moment.

These Mensheviks screamed bloody murder when we emphasized that in taking up the day to day struggle communists must do this in a revolutionary way and link this to the overall interests of the working class. They screamed more when we insisted that along with this work, communists must do work among all strata of the people, and must organize the struggle around broader political questions and conduct widespread political agitation and exposures. This, they said, was “abandoning” the economic struggle, “separating” communists off from the workers and “failing to understand” what it means that the U.S. working class “has been without socialism for 20 years.” This is their great contribution to an “analysis of stages.”

It is true that the political tasks of communists run into contradiction with the nature and level of the workers movement today. It is easier to get a certain kind of “results” if politics are kept out. For instance, in a particular plant, the workers may be more than ready to wage a struggle around a contract, etc., and Joe Menshevik, who may be more experienced in organizing such things than many (though not all) of the workers, may find himself in the lead.

On the other hand, a communist, who is not just a trade union organizer but a tribune of the people, who works to bring out the overall interests of the workers in this and every struggle, may find the going a little rougher. It won’t be so clear to all the workers what this contract struggle, etc., has to do with broader political questions, and raising such questions–and even the issue of communists participating and leading the economic struggle–certainly raises the ante.

But this brings us back to the fundamental question of what communists are all about in the first place–do we seek to capitalize on the present level of the workers movement, do we use it to advance our own careers and in fact promote this backwardness? Or do we take into account where things are at in order to figure out how to make the maximum advances in changing it, in working towards the transformation of the current level of the workers movement–diverting it from its spontaneous path–into the class conscious struggle of the proletariat for its historic goals?

This is not the first time this question has come up in the U.S. in the last twenty years, despite the lack of a genuine communist party. In fact, what the Mensheviks are trying to do is repeat the backward and reactionary role played by the revisionist CP, the Trotskyite SWP and other petty reformers during the 1960s.

Mensheviks’ Ugly Ancestors

For instances, at its beginning, the Black people’s struggle was mainly a struggle for civil rights. This is what characterized the goals and understanding that spontaneously developed among the masses of Black people who took up this struggle. Yet even at this early stage an extremely positive role was played by people like Malcolm X and later SNCC, who pointed out that the movement could not remain at the level of demanding equality under the law–that it had to challenge the very system which oppressed Black people–and who linked the Black people’s struggle to the worldwide struggle against U.S. imperialism.

This was in very sharp contradiction to forces like Martin Luther King and others who tried to keep the movement confined to its initial level, who fought tooth and nail against anything that would bring a broader outlook to this struggle, and whose sharpest criticism against those who tried to make these advances was that anything “too radical” would spoil Black people’s chances for advancing in their immediate struggle at the moment. (Ten or fifteen years after advanced forces in the Black movement came out against King’s backward role in this, the Mensheviks still have been known to claim that the Black masses are “not ready” for any criticism of him!)

Similarly, when the Black people’s movement advanced anyway, despite all the bourgeoisie’s efforts to hold it back, the Black Panther Party’s struggle against reformism and cultural nationalism and their promotion of armed revolution played an even more crucial and advanced role in the late 1960s, setting the stage for further forward motion in the revolutionary movement.

No one in their right minds could claim that Malcolm X in the early 1960s or the Panthers at the end of the decade represented the consciousness of the “average” Black masses. Their views were those of an advanced minority. They were extremely controversial and widely condemned by the forces of conservatism. Both ordinary reformism (“let’s get a piece of the action”) and narrow cultural nationalism, for instance, were far stronger currents among Black people than was the Black Panther Party.

But Malcolm X and the Panthers played an advanced role exactly because they spoke to the basic interests of the Black masses and to the contradictions that the Black people’s movement was objectively running up against. While these forces were not communist and could not fully represent the overall revolutionary interests of the masses of people nor proceed from the point of view of the proletariat, there is certainly much that communists can learn from their historic role in pushing forward the struggle against the capitalist ruling class.

Few who took part in the anti-war movement in that decade can forget the treason practiced by the revisionists and Trotskyites. These scum, because of their wide connections and organizational experience and the lack of fully developed communist forces, were able to capture the main nationwide anti-war organizations and coalitions, capitalizing, exactly like our Mensheviks are trying to do, on the backwardness and shortcomings of that movement.

Because the masses of people in general were only just beginning to get a picture of U.S. imperialism–because, especially at first, the movement was in a certain sense in the “stage” of opposing the war and not of opposing the imperialist system–these reactionaries did everything they could to keep things exactly where they were and tie this movement to the tail of the bourgeoisie. The revisionists and Trotskyites became infamous for filling the stage of anti-war rallies with all kinds of bourgeois politicians, with the excuse that this was how to “reach” the American people, when in fact these bourgeois politicians were running as fast as they could behind the growing antiwar movement of the American people in an effort to pull it back.

From the beginning, and especially as more and more advanced forces did develop in the course of this struggle, there were those who insisted that the cause of the Indochinese peoples was just and that their struggle was in the interests of the masses of people in this country. The revisionists and Trotskyites freaked out when a few people would show up at an anti-war demonstration carrying “Vietcong” flags!

In fact, not only did they seek to politically isolate them by claiming that such actions would “hurt” the anti-war movement and its “credibility” with the people (or more to the point, with bourgeois forces), these reactionaries often sent in their goons to do police work against the advanced forces who had to fight for their line with fists and sticks. Revolutionary forces built–heaven forbid–“anti-imperialist contingents” in these marches. Wasn’t that “too abstract,” Mensheviks?

When we raised such points to the Mensheviks in the polemics about youth and student work, these Mensheviks freaked out too, yelling and screaming about how we were prisoners of “nostalgia for the 1960s.”

Of course, when it was more fashionable, some of these Mensheviks were willing to go along with the radicalism of the 1960s. But the reason that they are repudiating it today–and what other top Mensheviks like Jarvis have despised all along–is not the lack of proletarian leadership and all the many shortcomings that flowed from this, but that the 1960s were “too radical!”

And of course the Mensheviks are quite capable of joining with their CP(ML) cousins in trying to recreate the petty bourgeois (and often reformist) political and ideological character of the 1960s movement, especially the less “radical” variety that flowered in the early 1960s. Trying to whip up nostalgia for that period and appealing to people who got “stuck” in it is something that the CP(ML) has specialized in for years.

History has shown that those who speculate on the backwardness of the movement, who base everything on “the specific stage of struggle we’re in,” are doomed to be left behind by the development of things which takes place whether any one likes it or not. Such will also be the case with these Mensheviks. The struggle of the working class is developing and it is already beyond any point where a handful of “organizers” (as the Mensheviks style themselves) can seize hold of and guard as their own “capital” the spontaneous struggles of the workers. But of course our Mensheviks have long ago shown that they are capable of change, of adapting themselves to “fuse” with backward tendencies that will always exist within any given stage of things at any time.

As the development of the objective situation–and of new stages of struggle–is conditioned above all by war between the U.S. and USSR, while the conditions for revolution may well mature, the pull of spontaneity in the direction of capitulation to the U.S. bourgeoisie will inevitably increase greatly.

This capitulation in the face of superpower contention has already been pioneered for the Mensheviks by the CP(ML). Certainly the Mensheviks, who are swept off their feet by the tendency towards economism today will be completely blown away by the tendency towards combining “Marxism” with patriotism and outright imperialist war. As Lenin put it, speaking of the reformist socialists at the outbreak of World War 1, “the boil burst.” Spontaneity has never led any party to make revolution–the line of least resistance always leads downward.

Thus the need for communists to guard against and reject the seductive pull of such “fusion” and to uphold above all the proletariat’s long term interests will be a key task for a very long time to come.

Karl Marx, who along with Frederick Engels began the historic process of fusing the principles and outlook of scientific socialism with the working class movement, put it like this:

The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: 1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole. (The Communist Manifesto, section II, “Proletarians and Communists,” p. 46)