Red Papers 8 - The Fusion Of The Socialist Movement With The Working Class Movement

The Fusion Of The Socialist Movement With The Working Class Movement

On The Tasks Of Communists In The USA, In This Period


For Avakian and the current CC there was much more riding on the China question than just support for the Gang. While support for the Gang was the question of principle involved, the struggle around the Gang reflected differences that grew to sharp struggles – the basic and fundamental questions of making revolution in the US.

Avakian, true to his four fallen mentors in China, increasingly approached these line questions from the point of view that there a “bourgeois headquarters” in the RCP.

This headquarters, according to the new history of the RCP, had existed from the period before the RCP Founding Congress and was responsible for all the problems in the RCP. This headquarters was the bourgeoisie in the party, open allies with the bourgeoisie in China represented by Hua Kuo-feng, and was therefore growing in influence as each week’s Peking Review came over. In this situation, Avakian had to stop the “corrosive influence” of the revisionism of Hua by moving quickly and eliminating the bourgeois headquarters. This took form over the struggle to support the Gang of Four. In short, the Gang had been slow in moving against Hua in China and had paid for it. Avakian was not to make the same mistake here in the US.

So now the cadre in the RCP (and maybe someday the public as well) have the new pat answer to the problems in the work. Before the problem in the RCP was “right idealism in the cadre, now it is the bourgeois factional headquarters. Soon enough it will be back to the rightism of the cadres as the RCP which one time stood with the masses of people, especially the working, class, more and more retreats from the actual contradictions in promoting the working class struggle. The degeneration into a left sect has already picked speed in the past couple of issues of Revoution and we are sure that the future will bring more of the same as the RCP now makes all political problems it faced and failed deal with into a justification for becoming dogmatic guardians of the sanctity of what they call Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought.

The contradictions that gave rise to the difficulty of work in this period, both objectively and subjectively, will not go away - as much as the new Avakian rectification bulletin desires to wash them away with the “revisionist headquarters.” (see appendix C) The rectification Avakian calls for will not set the basis to move forward. Instead, by having to prove the existence of a leading bourgeois headquarters in the RCP for over 3 years, it has to turn the history of the RCP upside down. But even more fundamental than the history, the new CC has to turn the ideological and political orientation of the RU and the RCP around.

The basic reason for the split is not because a bourgeois headquarters has been messing around for three to five years, but because the present CC has made a qualitative leap backwards and is hell-bent on turning themselves into a small sideline sect. They call for rectification against the line of the Headquarters, but in practice, for all to see, what they mean is sectification.

This process has developed because the present leadership of the RCP has brought forward what was a secondary trend in the RU and the RCP and made it the leading line. This line which covers the RCP retreat from the class struggle is justified by an incorrect, one-sided analysis of the present objective situation and is perpetuated by the increasing inability of the RCP to put forward a line to change the world. Where this will lead the RCP is hard to say. But the degree to which they have already renounced everything that was positive about the RU and the RCP is striking.

The RCP has made a big play with their analysis of the current objective situation. But with all the talk of materialism and science, what comes out is that the present struggle of the working class is at a low level and not much can be done. This line does not mainly take the form of pulling cadre out of work (although it has led to this in certain cases) but of orienting the Party toward consciousness raising, theory and “keeping tense,” separate from and therefore in opposition to, the struggle of the working class.

Based on this determinist view and the elevating of what they call “theory” over practice has been the development of subjectivism in orientation and political line on the part of the current leadership of the RCP. In the past this has been a real problem, with the RCP acting as if it was the center of the universe and as if the concepts that the RCP developed stood as fully worked out guide posts for the struggle. But when this tendency was combined with a strong determinist line, the trend toward proceeding from one’s own ideas (in the name of ideological purity, of course) and not the real world became not a trend, but a forced march. As if this were not enough, you also have to consider Avakian’s tremendous fondness for his own ideas on the one side and the inevitable struggle in the RCP against his line on the other.

These factors all contributed to a situation in the RCP where increasingly the only form of struggle was the struggle over ideas. Inside the RCP it was the struggle between the revolutionaries and the economists; outside the RCP it was the struggle to win the working class over to the idea of fighting all oppression. The struggle over ideas is a key struggle, and ideas certainly represent different classes but the ideological struggle in the RCP was over concepts put in opposition to building the struggle of the working class. In this way the link between the practical movement and the ideological struggle was broken, creating the conditions for making the fusion of- the working class movement with the socialist movement impossible.

Fusion Of Socialism And Working Class Movements

The question of work in this period in the US has certain significant parallels with other periods in the development of the working class movement. Lenin’s writings at the turn of the century immediately after the formation of the Social Democratic Party in Russia explain a phenomenon crucial to understanding some of the ideological, political and social roots of the major errors of the Avakian CC: The fact that the socialist movement in capitalist countries, in its early stages, and at different times during its development, develops “outside the working class movement.” Lenin notes this creates the worst of both worlds,

“In every country there has been a period in which the working class movement existed apart from socialism, each going its own way, and in every country - this isolation has weakened both socialism and the working class movement.” (1)

Certainly what Lenin says here is true of the US in the past period. The working class movement of this country has not been combined with the socialist movement for over 20 years. US imperialism had become the major imperialist power after World War II, and this helped provide the material basis for driving the socialist movement out of the working class. McCarthyism, the revisionist takeover of the Communist Party, USA, the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Unit all set the conditions for the once revolutionary Communist Party to desert the goal of revolution and the working class movement.

Genuine communist forces again developed in a big way in the late Sixties and the early Seventies, mainly on the campuses and out of the various struggles of the oppressed nationalities. The Revolutionary Union was a leading pole within this tendency to resurrect Marxism-Leninism as the science of revolution and to join with workers in fighting the class enemy and bringing Marxism-Leninism home to the working class, where it belongs.

The movement to accomplish this task bridged two periods or stages in the struggle. The relative high tide of struggle against the Indochina war and the Black liberation movement of the late Sixties shifted into a period of relative ebb in these struggles. At the same time in the economy there was the beginning of the present crisis and downward spiral brought on by the declining position of the US in the world, and by the internal contradictions of monopoly capitalism which always exist, but which were intensified by the worsening position of the US in the world economy.

All this had begun to cause more stirrings in the working class itself. The material conditions of the working class had begun to break down, inflation and crisis started to take their toll. At this same time, severe crisis in the institutions of society started to become front page news. The death toll of a senseless war, the hypocrisy of fighting for “freedom” in Viet Nam while Black people and other minorities had no freedom here all affected the consciousness of the people. Government crises like Watergate also had a big effect on how people looked at the basic institutions of society.

While these conditions existed and have continued to develop, the struggle against them has been sharp but scattered. Further, it has been held down by the agents of the ruling class who have cemented themselves and their policies of collaboration at the head of the trade unions. This has sown the seeds of confusion and demoralization in the ranks of the class on the one hand, but on the other the conditions have thrown people into battle with their eyes open to new forms of struggle off of the negative example of the present “leaders.”

This situation posed sharp problems for the RU and the RCP in accomplishing the task that it had set for itself. On the one hand the movement toward Marxism-Leninism had to fight for its life against revisionists, who would merely have it serve reform, and dogmatists who would try to make it lifeless. On the other hand the socialist movement had to integrate with the struggles of the working class and oppressed people to lead their struggles. But at the same time the socialist movement itself would have to grow and develop, not on abstract principles but as a real force for revolution in the battle against the class enemy on all three fronts of struggle (the economic, the political and the theoretical). These are separate questions but they have a fundamental unity in that fusion is not simply a question of integration with the struggle but of integration on what basis and for what goal. This is both a question of ideological orientation and of political line based on this orientation to change the world.

The Main Political Report (adopted at the founding Congress of the RCP) speaks clearly this point in the section on orientation:

“…at the beginning of the past period communist forces arose mainly outside the working class and had at that time little connection with the working class. The task at that time was to begin the process of merging communism with the working class, and building communist organization with ties with the working class - in the course of battle.”

The MPR stresses that this task had to continue, further deepen and develop off the formation of the Party, if the working class movement was to ultimately rise to “smash the social chains on the producers and production itself,” and if we were to become a communist party that truly reflected and concentrated the advanced interests of the class and be capable of leading it on this mission.

The key question, the MPR notes, is one of line - and that this is a life and death question. The proletarian line will either transform the social base of our Party, or the social base (mainly from non-proletarian classes and strata) will transform the line. For a party which mainly grew out of non-proletarian struggles and which was made up mainly of communists drawn from non-proletarian classes and strata, this question of line means in the final analysis the difference between making revolution - going forward on the road to communism - or giving up on these as achievable goals of the working class.

Fusion Often Coupled With “Vacillation and Doubt”

But as Lenin runs down in “Urgent Tasks,” as history has proven dozens of times over; and as we have seen in our own brief history - the road of fusing socialism with the working class movement is not always smooth. Particularly in its early period of merger this is major contradiction to resolve and the underlying source of a great deal of struggle.

“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 vacillation and doubts.”(2)

As Lenin explains throughout his writings in that period, there are two ways you can go if you fail to resolve this contradiction correctly. You can step backward on the question of socialism, bow to the spontaneous struggle, only take up economic struggle, leave the theoretical and political battlefield to the students and bourgeoisie - and thus disarm the working class and condemn it to continued wage slavery. Lenin writes much about this error at the turn of the century in his major battles with the economists, and the article, “Urgent Tasks” is mainly aimed at this tendency.

The opposite error he speaks to is giving up on the working class, making a principle of the separation of the socialist movement and the working class movement in the name of socialist purity. Lenin wrote his major articles on this deviation (especially Left-Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder) in the post-World War I period, with the formation of the Third International and many new parties in Europe.

At that time when there was an upsurge in the movement in those countries, Lenin targets these parties with the failure to keep close ties with the people and to do work in the reformist and bourgeois mass organizations. Because of the upsurge these parties argued that the crucial thing was to put up a pure socialist revolutionary pole and not water down their politics by participating in trade unions and elections.

While the particular forms this took were not exactly the same as those that Lenin targeted, the difficulties of work in this period gave rise to both determinism and increased subjectivism in the leading circles of the RCP. The result of this, however, is very similar to the conditions that Lenin criticized as the second of the incorrect tendencies; that of separating the working class movement from the present socialist movement, and instead of making close ties with the masses, keeping socialist purity as the highest goal.

No Stages Or Concepts Last For All Time

Two examples stand out very sharply in the RCP march to the sidelines of the struggle. One is the failure of the RCP in making a basic analysis of the particular stage in the struggle we are in. The second, which is directly related to this, is the failure to deepen the line of the RCP Party Programme. This comes across very clearly with certain “concepts” like “two-headed monster” (3), etc. that were developed to guide the struggle, but because of the wrong line since then, have not been deepened and now stand increasingly as obstacles to deepening the line.

As was pointed out earlier, the RU and the RCP came into existence in the period of a change in the stage of struggle. The new stage poses new and therefore difficult tasks that require both close contact with the struggles of the workers and the application of Marxism-Leninism to the situation to develop a leading line and a proletarian pole in the workers movement.

The only way to proceed and to “break ground” in this period is to use the Party to practice the mass line, deepen our understanding of the objective situation and the mood of the masses and on that basis move forward. But instead of this, the analysis of the RCP of this period was to simply characterize the period as a non-revolutionary situation. While this is true, it is in itself not very helpful, especially when the analysis of this non-revolutionary situation is used as a one-sided cover to stress the importance of keeping the revolutionary goal in mind in opposition to shouldering the tasks of the period.

In the name of making a basic analysis of this stage, what this line does is in fact deny stages between non-revolutionary and revolutionary situations and promotes the concept of straight line development. In doing this a one-sided view of the situation that downplays the growing workers movement and ignores the necessity of communists merging with this movement arises - because of the danger of getting your hands dirty in the struggle and forgetting about the revolutionary goal.

This danger is in fact a real one, but the problems involved in this can never be made into a justification for a determinist flight to the sidelines in the name of socialist purity. Retreating from these contradictions will not make them go away, it will only ensure that the contradictions will develop spontaneously and that the cadre will not be armed with a leading line to break through. In the RCP this is exactly what happened. The Avakian prophecies of economism and pragmatism were self-fulfilled and used as justifications for further retreat from the tasks of ‘the stage of struggle and for focusing attention on the “pragmatism” of the cadre.

The contradictions that we all face in this period will not go away. You deal with them or they deal with you. When Lenin said the isolation of the socialist movement from the working class movement weakened both socialism and the working class, he was speaking from direct experience. To continue on the revolutionary path, the objective situation demands that those movements be joined.

But the RCP which once upheld the key task of fusion, now one-sidedly and incorrectly has set for itself the task of injecting the ‘socialist movement’ into the workers movement. For this task it is enough to say that the situation is non-revolutionary because the task of injecting can be taken up in any period. In fact, why pay any attention at all to the objective situation or to the mood of the masses? All that is needed, according to the emphasis now given in the RCP, to accomplish the task is constant struggle over the correct socialist ideas.

The current leaders of the RCP have had difficulty in moving off of and deepening the general line. So now they have found a style of work that raises this deficiency to a revolutionary “standard.” And it doesn’t seem to matter to them that in the process what was positive in the line and orientation of the RU and the RCP has gotten thrown out the window.

Comrades in the RCP should ask themselves: has the line of the Programme and the MPR been deepened, have the concepts that were correctly developed in the past - ”two-headed monster,” “the single spark method,” walking on two legs (for the work among the oppressed nationalities) been deepened? Why is it that these concepts have become things in themselves, “pat” answers that don’t answer anything?

Isn’t it clear that the line and orientation of the RU and the Founding Congress of the RCP is not under attack by some mythical revisionist headquarters, but is being fundamentally changed from the inside? There has been a split and every cadre has to ask himself’ what is left? What has been kept and what has been cast away?

The rest of this paper will go into some of the history of the RU and the RCP from the Founding Congress of the Revolutionary Communist Party through the building of the National United Workers Organization in the fall of 1977. In addition it will go into some points on the two line struggle as it relates to the question of the relationship between theory and practice and the Marxist theory of knowledge.

(1) V.I. Lenin, “Urgent Tasks of Our Movement,” Publishers, Moscow, 1969, p.7
(2) Ibid, p.7
(3) “Today, in its daily battles the working class comes up against both the capitalists and their henchmen in the unions - a two-headed monster backed up by the various arms of the bourgeois state,” Programme and Constitution of the RCP, USA, p.106