Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Communist Party

New Programme and New Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

(Drafts for Discussion)

Proletarian Revolution Requires The Armed Seizure Of Power And Continuing Struggle By The Masses To Overthrow And Finally Eliminate The Capitalist System, The Bourgeoisie And All Class Distinctions

“A revolution,” wrote Mao Tsetung, “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.” This expresses in concentrated form a fundamental truth of human history. Since classes first emerged with the development of slavery out of the old primitive communal conditions, society has been propelled forward by class struggle and has made the leaps from one form to another, higher form only through violent collisions and confrontations leading to the replacement of one ruling class by another which, at that time, is capable of organizing the economic foundation and the corresponding political and ideological superstructure of society on a more advanced level. As Karl Marx graphically summed it up, “Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with the new.”

So long as society is divided into classes, in whatever form, the economics and politics as well as the ideas, culture, etc. of society will be dominated by one class or another–they cannot serve all classes, exploiter and exploited, oppressor and oppressed, master and slave, equally–and whichever class can in any period organize society in such a way as to most rationally utilize the productive forces at hand will hold sway for that period. But these productive forces are continually being developed–new tools, machinery, technology and with them new skills and knowledge–and therefore the old ways of organizing productive activity, the old forms of relations among people in production, are transformed from the most appropriate means for developing the productive forces into fetters on their development. Along with this, a new class which has developed within the old form of society but which represents a higher form of organizing production to utilize the new productive forces, becomes conscious of this and seeks to reorganize society accordingly. But in doing so it comes directly up against the fact that the old form is enforced by the political domination of the ruling class, and that this ruling class, whose political institutions and ideas correspond to the old mode of production, cannot and will not recognize that its time has past and that its system must be replaced by a higher one. Thus, in such periods the new and rising class assumes the leadership of the resistance of the oppressed masses and carries out in this way the revolutionary overthrow of the old ruling class and the replacement of the old system by a new one which corresponds to the outlook and interests of this rising class–and, for the time, to the further development of society.

Such has been the actual history of human society and its advance from one epoch to the next. And it is a universal truth that never has the old ruling class willingly stepped aside, but on the contrary it has always used the most vicious and desperate means to preserve its dominant position and could be swept aside only by violent revolution. In short, all forms of governing class-divided society, whatever their outer shell, have always in essence represented the dictatorship–the political domination backed up by armed force–of one class or another; and the forward, upward march of humanity has, since the time classes and states emerged, taken place only through the overthrow of the old state–the dictatorship of the old ruling class–and its replacement by a new state–the dictatorship of the new ruling class.

This fundamental principle certainly applies to the revolution of the present epoch–the proletarian revolution. The capitalist class, which arose within feudal society and ultimately led the struggle to overthrow it in past centuries, has beyond all doubt outlived its historical usefullness and can only act in this period as an obstacle to further progress–its mode of production suffocates and strangles the development of the productive forces and repeatedly hurtles society into ever more paralyzing and destructive crisis. Yet the capitalist class certainly does not recognize or accept this–it not only regularly brings down murderous repression against any serious resistance and systematically terrorizes especially those from whom it most fears rebellion, but it time and again plunges millions of people into war in the attempt to save its system and protect its dominant position. What is the history of the United States of America, if not this!

And this has become all the more pronounced with the development of capitalism into its highest and final stage since the turn of this century–imperialism–capitalism which has come to be marked by the domination of monopolies and international finance capital, not only living off the exploitation of the working class in its own country but parasitically sucking the lifeblood out of peoples and whole nations throughout the world. Imperialism is capitalism in decay and on its death-bed, when it has become even more a fetter on the development of the productive forces and society as a whole and therefore becomes all the more violent. Imperialism, even more than the earlier, competitive stage of capitalism, means war–war to suppress the resistance of the colonial peoples and oppressed nations, to enforce imperialist plunder an ensure imperialist superprofits; and war among the imperialists themselves, who have already carved up the world and must repeatedly hurl the entire world into military conflict in the battle to re-divide it. How can reforms or “peaceful change” bring an end to all this? Where or when have they ever done so? Right now, with the imperialist system back in the ditch of severe crisis and once more dragging the world’s people to the brink of world war, can anyone seriously believe that there is any way to abolish such towering evils, any way to break the stranglehold of the imperialists on society and the world except through violent revoluton? Only the imperialists themselves and their allies and flunkies have an interest in holding and spreading this illusion–and those among the people who cling to it will be jolted awake to reality in the coming years!

The revolution of this era, the revolution led by the proletariat, though it will assume different specific forms and proceed through different stages in different countries, depending on the concrete conditions, can and will succeed only through the mobilization of the masses of people to carry out an armed uprising to overthrow the dictatorship of the imperialists (and allied reactionaries) and to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat, the one class which at this stage can reorganize society in every sphere in conformity with the development of the productive forces. This need to violently overthrow and replace one class dictatorship with another is true of the proletarian revolution certainly no less than any other, previous revolution. But the proletarian revolution is, on the other hand, fundamentally different from any previous revolution: it aims not at the replacement of one system of exploitation by another, though higher, system of exploitation, but at the abolition of exploitation in any form; and its historic mission is fulfilled not merely through the overthrow and replacement of one class dictatorship by another, but through the final abolition of any form of class dictatorship with the elimination of class distinctions themselves.

All prior transformations of society, though they advanced it from a lower to a higher level and made possible the further development of the productive forces, nevertheless took place on the foundation of relatively backward and more or less slowly changing productive forces. But capitalist society, within which the proletariat emerges as the main productive force itself and the revolutionary class, is characterized by highly developed productive forces which, especially in the early, vigorous period of rising capitalism, constantly undergo rapid change. Thus, capitalism has laid the basis for an unprecedented development of society, without scarcity and without therefore the basis for antagonistic social conflict. But capitalism itself, especially in its imperialist stage, has become the very force that stands in the way of the realization of this potential, and the longer capitalism prolongs its existence the deeper become the antagonisms within it, and especially its basic antagonism between highly socialized production and private appropriation of social wealth in the hands of fewer and more bloated exploiters and parasites.

But, at the same time, this very process means that the proletariat, carrying out this socialized production and representing the potential of socialized ownership of the means of production to conform with it, grows larger and more socialized and concentrated, laying a stronger material basis for it to become conscious of the role and historic mission of its class and to lead the masses in socialist revolution. And, along with this, the development of capitalism, necessarily accompanied by vigorous, tradition-challenging advancement of the natural sciences as well as the progressive splitting up of society into two basic camps–the proletariat, representing the majority, and the bourgeoisie (capitalist class), a smaller and smaller minority–made possible for the first time a thoroughly scientific view of society and the world, the recognition of class struggle as the motive force of society’s development and of the ultimate outcome of that class struggle–the achievement of classless society, communism, through proletarian revolution. This science, then, the science of Marxism, is both objective and partisan–it corresponds both to the actual development of nature and society and to the interests of the proletariat, which is an agent not just of revolution in this period but of a revolution unprecedented in human history and leading it to a whole new and qualitatively higher era. For all these reasons, the way in which the proletariat wages the revolutionary struggle both to win power and then to transform society under its rule–its class dictatorship–cannot help but be qualitatively different than in any prior revolution. While previous historical classes, in their rising period, were forced to mobilize the masses in order to overthrow the old ruling class, they had neither the need, the interest, nor the capability of enabling the masses to consciously grasp the essence of the revolutionary process and their own role in it and to consciously take hold of and transform society in their own interests. In fact, this was impossible in those earlier periods of human history. But the proletarian revolution of this epoch is impossible without this.

In past societies, the productive relations characteristic of the new society would begin to appear spontaneously and alongside the old ones within the shell of the old society–for example, capitalist work places in feudal society. But this is impossible under capitalism, because exploitative relations can only be abolished by abolishing them and their basis throughout society. This is another aspect of why the socialist revolution has to be a conscious act whereby the proletariat takes control of the superstructure through a political revolution and only then can begin to establish the new socialist productive relations.

Further, unlike all previous revolutionary classes, the proletariat, upon coming to power, cannot simply consolidate its political rule and economic system and then fortify them against further change. Quite the opposite–it must continue to transform society in every sphere, material and ideological, and must transform itself–develop its own class consciousness and scientific outlook in opposition to those of the bourgeoisie and all other classes–in the process. As Marx and Engels expressed it in The Communist Manifesto, the proletarian revolution involves the most radical rupture with all traditional property relations and with all traditional ideas as well.

The first step of the proletariat, once having won political power, is to take into its hands, through its state and the leadership of its Party, the decisive levers and lifelines of the economy. It quickly expropriates the factories, land, machinery, etc. of the overthrown bourgeoisie, beginning with the largest concentrations of capital, and exercises firm control over finance and trade. On this basis it is able to move rapidly to rationalize the productive process and begin eliminating the mad anarchy of capitalism with its frenzied chase of a competing handful for profit and such criminal absurdities of capitalism as unemployment. In short, it socializes ownership of the major means of production, and institutes overall planning of the economy in accordance with this, through the proletarian state. And all this constitutes a tremendous leap forward, laying the basis for and opening the way to both a tremendous development in the economy and further transformation of society in its economic foundation and its political and ideological superstructure.

But this is precisely the beginning, not the end, of socialist transformation. With regard to the many small producers and traders, the intellectuals of various kinds and others–the middle strata of society–the proletariat in power must apply a long-term policy of both unity and struggle, with the aim of transforming their economic position, political stand and ideological outlook through a protracted, step-by-step advance. While the proletariat can and must exercise ruthless dictatorship over the overthrown bourgeoisie and other outright enemies of the revolution and socialize their vast holdings almost in one stroke, it cannot and must not apply this policy to the middle strata. Instead, it must lead and organize them to develop forms of cooperative ownership and collective labor–through which to progress to socialized state ownership–and to take part in the political movements launched by the proletariat and remold their world outlook in accordance with the socialist revolution and the ultimate advance to communism.

Because of all this, and more generally because upon overthrowing capitalism and the bourgeoisie the proletariat will inherit the divisions and inequalities left over from the old society–between mental and manual labor, between the city and the countryside and workers and farmers, as well as between different na-tionalites, men and women, etc.–for all these reasons, it is impossible to make the advance to communism in one leap or in a short period of time. Rather, between capitalist and communist society there lies a long transition period of socialism, all during which the proletariat must maintain and strengthen its dictatorship and the socialization of ownership of the means of production, strike at, restrict and move toward eliminating the differences and inequalities left over from the old society and transform the thinking of the people according to the scientific principles and outlook of Marxism. Further, communism can only be finally realized on a world scale, and therefore in coming to power in country after country the proletariat will still find itself surrounded by hostile imperialist and reactionary states which will attempt every means to crush, subvert or otherwise destroy the socialist state.

Thus the socialist transition period is not a smooth, broad freeway leading directly and quickly to communism, but a tortuous path, full of twists and turns and marked by sharp struggle. Within each socialist country, the remnants of capitalism will continually give rise to a new bourgeoisie that will repeatedly attempt to seize power from the proletariat and restore capitalism; and in so doing it will seek to make use of the contradictions within socialist society to mobilize a social base of more privileged strata and play upon backward sentiments within the working class itself, as well as seeking support from and alliances with imperialist and reactionary states.

The experience of the proletarian revolution and socialist society, both the historic victories and advances as well as the temporary defeats and setbacks, has shown not only all this but even more specifically that the heart of the new bourgeoisie engendered in socialist society lies within the party of the proletariat itself, especially at its leading levels. The contradiction between the party and the masses, the leadership and the led, especially when the proletariat is in power and its party is the central force in exercising political power and economic control, is a concentrated expression of the contradictions left over from the old society. This can be resolved in the interests of the proletariat only by developing the forms of mass struggle and mass organization to draw the millions of working people into the administration of society and the determination of political questions and affairs of state as well as culture and all other spheres of society, in accordance with the revolutionary outlook and interests of the proletariat, while involving the intellectuals, and especially party officials, in mass political struggle as well as productive labor and other activities together with the masses and developing mass movements to promote the study of Marxism and the remolding of the world outlook of the people. But inevitably, until the transition to communism is carried through world-wide, there will be repeated attempts to restore capitalism by bourgeois elements, and most dangerously by leading party officials who have betrayed the proletariat and turned their position of leadership into private capital but continue to claim the mantle of Marxism and communism.

This emphasizes all the more that the proletariat cannot rest content with the first great steps of seizing power through armed force and then socializing ownership, beginning with the major means of production. It must continue the struggle under these conditions to revolutionize all of society and not only defeat attacks, subversion and pressure from external enemies but actively assist and support the revolutionary movements of the workers and the oppressed peoples and nations throughout the world against imperialism and reaction. Further, as a crucial part of this continuing class struggle within socialist society, the party itself must be continually revolutionized–which means driving out those die-hard party members, especially within its top ranks, who are determined to take the road of capitalist restoration, but more fundamentally it means linking the party as a whole with the masses in the continuing and deepening struggle to transform all of society, including the thinking of the people, and advance along the socialist road toward the historic mission of communism.

That the new conquers and supersedes the old, and that this happens only through repeated and intensifying struggle–this is a basic law governing the development of all things. It is a fundamental truth in the history of human society no less than in nature as a whole. Capitalism and the bourgeoisie represent only what is old and dying at this stage in history; regardless of what resistance they put up and how much violence they unleash in the attempt to hang on, they are bound to be overcome and eliminated by what is newly arising, the proletariat. But beyond that, and in fact together with the final victory of the proletarian revolution, the proletariat itself and its socialist society will also grow old in the future and be superseded by communism with the abolition of all classes. What makes the proletariat different, however, from all previous classes is that it has nothing to fear or lose from, and in fact aspires to and works and struggles for, precisely this future.

In the U.S. the first great step of the proletarian revolution–the seizure of power through the armed overthrow of imperialism and the bourgeois state–remains and demands urgently to be taken. Not only has there been no proletarian revolution in this country, there has before now been no serious attempt at or even preparation for it. This has been due both to the remaining strength and reserves of the imperialists, especially since World War 2, and importantly, if secondarily, to the weaknesses, errors and outright deviations from Marxism on the part of the communist and revolutionary forces. Now, however, we are on the threshold of a period in which there is the real possibility that the objective conditions necessary for revolution may develop–the weakening and desperation of the imperialists and the accompanying unrest and upheaval in society, stirring revolutionary sentiments among the broad masses and driving them to seek a radical way out. And there is a party, the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA which is actively preparing its own ranks and the masses for that day of reckoning.

While this country has never seen a revolutionary struggle for power led by the proletariat, it has certainly witnessed revolutionary mass movements shaking the foundation of this country if not yet capable of overturning it. And today there is not only the profound and deepening economic and political crisis and the imminent danger of world war, but there are, increasingly, minor political shocks that jolt society and awaken growing numbers to political life. These are but tremors before a gigantic earthquake.

In all these events the embryo of a revolutionary crisis can be discerned. When, for example, in the thunderous rebellions of Black people and other oppressed peoples that have erupted, the police and then the national guard are unable to enforce “law and order,” when even the power of the army units called in has been challenged, if only for a few days, a bright glimpse of the future can be seen where the authority and power of the ruling class is no longer capable of intimidating and bludgeoning the masses into submission and all the suppressed outrage not only explodes but is channeled and directed toward its source and toward the solution–the capitalist system and its overthrow. Or, when millions of people are suddenly engaged in active debate about world affairs, whether around Iran, Afghanistan or some other event, when they are urgently seeking answers to fundamental questions and open to new ideas even while still under the sway of the old, backward ones propagated by the bourgeoisie, here, too, is a taste of the future when the “normal routine” of life will be disrupted throughout society by political debate and struggle and the even more urgent search for answers and solutions, not only in theory but in practice.

Or, again, when in Vietnam the bourgeoisie’s main pillar–its own army units–began to crack and rebel, at times massively challenging the military authority to the point of battling other units sent to quell them–this too foreshadowed the future storm. All this gives a glimmer of what it will look like when workers in their millions not only become more militant but go over from economic to political strikes; when big sections of the working class and other struggling masses not only are engaging in large demonstrations, marches and outbreaks of street battles with the police but finally go over to various forms of armed struggle which are organized by the Party into a coordinated uprising and revolutionary warfare, defeating and disintegrating the bourgeoisie’s armed forces and winning over large numbers of their rank and file soldiers in the process.

As yet, of course, the imperialists still are able to maintain the great majority of the people in a state of relatively passive submission and routine subordination to the established order and authority. But as things develop, punctuated by sudden breaks and leaps in the situation, they will be forced more and more to reveal their true nature and to more nakedly rely on the decisive edge of their political domination–their armed dictatorship over and violent suppression of the masses. Even now, the imperialists use their armed forces and weaponry not only to suppress mass rebellion but to intimidate the masses from rebelling in the first place. But the more social upheaval deepens and spreads, and especially the more that the crucial element of the class-conscious workers becomes a growing force and influence within this, the Achilles heel of the bourgeois armed forces will be further exposed–for, despite its awesome arsenal, it must still rely on its basic military units to occupy territory and put down rebellion, but these units are drawn overwhelmingly from the youth of the proletariat and the oppressed masses generally and are forced, through all kinds of degrading methods of indoctrination and intimidation, to fight against their own interests and their own class brothers and sisters. As the old authority begins to be seriously challenged and to break down, many will come over to join the revolutionary struggle led by the class-conscious proletariat, especially if there is–as there will be–the firm leadership of the Party, armed itself and arming the masses with the correct line, strategy and policies, with a clear sense of the revolutionary way forward.