Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Communist League of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

Criticism of the ’Revolutionary Internationalist Movement’

First Published: October, No. 4, Winter 1988.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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After the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 and the ending of the Cultural Revolution, a strong right opportunist trend developed in the Marxist-Leninist movement in the imperialist and capitalist countries. Many organisations had been sectarian and ultra-leftist in their policies and practice during the period of the Cultural Revolution, and they had failed to develop strategies and tactics for political advance appropriate to the conditions of their countries, instead tailing real or imagined policies of the Communist Party of China. Now, the majority began to re-evaluate their previous practice. Some did so on the basis of continuing to hold to Marxism-Leninist: others began to reject it.

Organisations such as the Communist Party of Portugal (Marxist-Leninist) used the Three Worlds Theory to justify a rightist line of subordinating every other issue to that of uniting all possible forces against Soviet social-imperialism which meant aiming for a united front with their own ruling classes and US imperialism. Marxism-Leninist such as the necessity for a revolutionary party to lead the struggle for socialism and the vanguard role of the working class in that fight and ended up liquidating themselves.

In these circumstances, it was inevitable that an ultra-left trend should develop, leaning very heavily on the re-assertion of the old and safe certainties of the Cultural Revolution. Today, this trend is organised in the main within the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM). This contains organisations which may make serious political errors, but which have a significant base in their countries, such as the Communist Party of Peru organisation which is more widely known as ’Sendero Luminoso’ (Shining Path), as well as insignificant groups which draw much of the strength they do have, from associating themselves with more credible RIM groups.

The following article was written by a person who broke with RIM followers in Britain for a while, before going back to them. It is an individual view, with important omissions and inadequacies: for example, it does not tackle the RIM’s general tendency to belittle the importance of making the most of contradictions among the enemy within countries, and of rallying to the side of the revolutionary forces the middle forces within societies, which include much of the petty bourgeoisie and intelligentsia. Nevertheless the article does make sound criticisms of RIM, and can be taken as a contribution towards a more all-round critique of this trend.

On Ultra-left Revisionism

Comments on the ’Declaration of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement’


In the late 1970s and 1980s, the Marxist-Leninist Movement underwent a severe crisis, especially in the imperialist countries. Under the impact of this crisis (the reasons for which it is outside the scope of this article to analyse) two opportunist trends arose. One was liquidationism – questioning Marxism-Leninism itself, throwing up one’s hands and despairing of revolution and, logically, dissolving parties and organisations. Another was to retreat into the womb-like comfort of dogmatism and sectarianism. This tendency – which has aptly been called ultra-left revisionism – is best exemplified by the Party of Labour of Albania (PLA) and their adherents abroad.

Most Marxist-Leninists have seen through the crude and infantile line of these people, in particular their rejection of Mao’s theoretical enrichment of Marxism. But now a fresh challenge to Marxism-Leninism from the ultra-left has been mounted by the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM), an international organisation of Marxist-Leninist parties and organisations.

In many ways they are more dangerous than the PLA, as they claim to uphold Mao Zedong Thought (in fact, they have rejected many of Mao’s most important contributions, including the mass line and the theory of new democratic revolution) and are not so transparently dogmatic and idealist as the PLA and their supporters.

One of the distinguishing features of the RIM is that they claim to have broken with certain allegedly incorrect ideas which developed in the international communist movement from the 1930s onwards. The RIM rightly criticise the PLA for wishing to return to a ’mythical doctrinal purity’ of the 1930s: but the RIM are attempting to return to a scarcely less mythical purity of the ’20s. It is true, as the RIM says, that Marxism became to some extent ossified in the 1930s. But, on one cardinal question, its understanding was weak even in the ’20. The movement did not properly grasp that the centre of the world proletarian revolution had shifted to the east. It is precisely this which the RIM also have failed to understand. Whilst there was considerable excuse for this in the ’20s, and some in the 1930s, there is none now. And in fact, the RIM have rejected even the limited understanding of the ’20s. The ideas of the international communist movement which the RIM have ’broken’ with are in the main CORRECT ideas.

Another point of note concerning the RIM is that they are supporters of the Gang of Four. The petty-bourgeois ideology and composition of most of the Marxist-Leninist movement in the imperialist countries provided a strong basis for ultra-leftism. After Mao’s death, the ultra-left felt free to indulge to the full their subjective fantasies and, moreover, to claim that Mao too was in their camp, witness their claim that Mao opposed the Three Worlds theory (’Declaration’ p.25 – all refs. to the English edition).

The arrest of the ’Gang’ provided a ’king over the water’ for the ultra-left to look to for ideological and political inspiration, much as similar elements looked to Trotsky after Lenin’s death and Trotsky’s defeat by the leaders of the CPSU grouped around Stalin.

Before going on to make specific criticisms of the RIM’s ’Declaration’, it is only fair to note, as is customary, what is correct in it. In the writer’s opinion, there are valuable points in it on the history of the international communist movement; there are many abstractly correct statements of Marxist theory; and it upholds, although in a one-sided way, the theory and practice of the Cultural Revolution in China. But overall, it is characterised by an arrogant, sectarian and idealist ideological outlook and a thoroughly Eurocentric line on the world situation and the tasks of the proletariat and oppressed peoples and nations.

’Saviours From On High’

In the style of Nietzchean supermen, the RIM is going to save the world. The tone of their ’Declaration’ is set early on, when in typically unassuming style, the RIM announce that they will be ’forging an invincible barrier against revisionist and all bourgeois ideology’ and that they will be found ’providing scientific leadership to and standing in the forefront of the surging revolutionary waves...” (p.6.)

The task of communist is to struggle to provide scientific leadership to the objectively existing struggle, not, as the ’Communist Manifesto’ put it, to invent ’sectarian principles by which to shape and mould the movement’. Such leadership is difficult to give and can only arise out of the most painstaking and sustained investigation and analysis of concrete conditions and deep involvement in the struggles of the masses, backed up by a profound grasp of Marxist-Leninist theory. It is difficult enough for the best parties to provide this leadership – it took the CPC, for instance, decades to develop the line and policies which eventually led to victory in 1949. How much more difficult is it in today’s conditions, especially in the imperialist countries, for the infant Marxist-Leninist movement to develop a correct line. This can only happen if a modest, simple and unassuming style and method of work is adhered to.

The RIM though have no doubts about their abilities and knowledge. They have all the answers, or where they have not, they will pull one out of a hat. Thus we learn, that ’in countries where no Marxist-Leninist party exists the IMMEDIATE (our emphasis} task ...there is to form such a party.’ (p.28) Just like that! No hesitation here, no pause to reflect that if there is no party in a particular country, then this might well indicate that the concrete conditions are no favourable.

In Britain, for instance, the number of Marxist-Leninists is tiny, their theoretical knowledge and understanding of concrete conditions is weak and their mass influence, even among advanced elements, is small by any standards. It would be an elitist, putschist act to ’immediately’ form the party here. Such a ’party’ would represent nobody but itself. And yet the British adherents of the RIM, the miniscule Nottingham and Stockport Communist Groups, seriously considered such a step.

A phrase which is bandied about in the RIM to justify their arrogance is ’taking on the responsibility for the movement’ or, in other, less pretentious words, I’m in charge. Self-appointed leaders and parties have been ten-a-penny in the history of the revolutionary movement, from Bakunin, through Trotsky, to Jiang Qing. One thing all such leaders and parties have in common is a smug and overweening confidence in their ability and knowledge, coupled with disdain and contempt for the masses.

Such scanty references to the masses and the mass line as there are in the RIM’s ’Declaration’, are very revealing. Thus, the term ’mass line’ is qualified by the adjective ’revolutionary’. This term is a nonsense as becomes clear when we consider what its opposite would be – a reactionary mass line! The qualification is there because the RIM do not really believe in the mass line: they have no understanding whatsoever that, as Mao put it: “the masses are the real heroes, while we ourselves are often childish and ignorant.” What the RIM mean by a ’revolutionary mass line’ is revealed in several places in the text in question. We learn on p.27 that the tasks of communist is to ’hasten’ the revolutionary struggle. Not at all! Even the best, most experienced parties cannot ’hasten’ the revolutionary struggle. They can only lead the objectively existing struggle. Neither the Bolsheviks nor the CPC ’hastened’ the revolution: they merely provided the leadership which ensured that the masses could seize power when the objective conditions permitted it.

This word ’hasten’ is no slip of the pen: it captures the spirit of the RIM, a spirit which thinks that heroes, not the masses, make history. Here, it is relevant to look at the composition of the RIM. Whilst, as was remarked earlier, a majority of its adhering organisations are from the Third Worlds the dominant influence in the RIM is the RCP, USA. It is, in the main, THEIR ideological and political line which is dominant. It is justified therefore to look at some aspects of the practice of the RCP,USA as an illustration of what the RIM stands for.

One means that the RCP,USA used to ’hasten’ the revolution was to throw red paint over the US and Soviet ambassadors to the UN. This, no doubt, make them feel good, but what impact such adventurist activities have on the masses is another matter. No one cares what happens to such reactionaries, but unless attacking them expresses the righteous indignation of the masses and is carried out by people with close contact with them and with their confidence, then it is indeed adventurist and elitist. Similar putschist attitudes are expressed in the RCP,USA’s slogan ’Revolution in the 1980s, Go For It!’. This slogan expresses better than a million words their view that revolution is a matter of the will, not the result of a particular set of concrete conditions. The RCP,USA have decided that there must be a revolution in the USA in the 198Os, therefore there will be a revolution.

It is not unfair, at least on this question, to tar the whole of the RIM with the same brush as the RCP,USA. For May Day 1984, the RIM organisations adopted unified slogans. In sum, they betrayed an RCP-like contempt for the masses and a belief that revolution is brought about by the loud shouting of slogans, the louder and ’lefter’ the better. One of them ’Harness the Fury of Women as a Mighty Force for Revolution’ – had been previously coined by the RCP, as its empty rhetoric suggests. Women (whether ’furious’ or not) ARE a mighty force for revolution and it advances the cause of revolution not an inch to wander the streets of New York wearing the T-shirts emblazoned with this slogan which the RCP had printed. Slogans should address themselves CONCRETE needs and arise out of the struggles of the masses. The RIM’s slogan could appeal only to petty-bourgeois revolutionaries, divorced from the masses and who wish to ’harness’ that struggle to their own ends.

On Eurocentric Social-Chauvinism

The RIM’s ’Declaration’ is saturated in Eurocentrism or chauvinism. In its ideology the RIM is a variant of one of the ’left’ form of this disorder, Trotskyism. This is expressed most sharply in the fetishistic way the international proletariat is referred to.

The Second Congress of the Communist International (Comintern) adopted the slogan ’Workers and Oppressed Peoples and Nations, Unite’ in addition to the old slogan ’Workers of All Countries, Unite’. This was in recognition of the fact that the struggle of the oppressed peoples and nations had become a component part of the world proletarian revolution. This same Congress adopted Lenin’s ’Theses on the National and Colonial Question’, which were a first, though major, step in grappling with the problems posed for Marxism and the revolutionary struggle by the ’awakening’ of the peoples of the East and the shift in the centre of the revolutionary struggle from the imperialist heartlands to the oppressed countries of the periphery. Unfortunately the international communist movement as a whole made little further progress in this pressing task, the Comintern concentrating most of its attention on Europe. The Chinese party though, in the course of the national liberation struggle in China and in their polemics with the Soviet revisionists made significant further advances.

The RIM chooses to end the ’Declaration’ with the concluding words of ’Communist Manifesto’ “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains, they have a world to win”. These words, another way of expressing the sentiment ’workers of all countries, unite’ still retain an important and essential truth in that we are in the epoch of the world proletarian revolution. But not to use the slogan ’Workers and oppressed peoples and nations, unite’ shows that the ultra-left revisionists of the RIM have broken with the concepts embodied in that slogan. The ’Communist manifesto’ was written in 1848, before the emergence of modern imperialism, before the eruption of the national liberation movement in the East and before the shift in the centre of gravity of the world revolutionary movement to the oppressed countries. On these matters, the cardinal questions of the epoch, the RIM, despite their professed purity of doctrine, are in the same camp as the modern revisionists, the social-democrats and Trotskyists.

This is highlighted by the fact that in its appraisal of the CPC’s polemic against modern revisionism, the RIM fails specifically to uphold a thesis of the CPC which all varieties of opportunism take particular exception to, namely:

The various types of contradiction in the contemporary world are concentrated in the vast areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America; these are the most vulnerable areas under imperialist rule and the storm centres of the world revolution dealing direct blows at imperialism. (’Polemic on the General Line of the International Communist Movement’, p.201).

It is not surprising then to find that in its political line the RIM seriously underestimate the importance of the struggle of the oppressed peoples and nations against imperialism and exaggerate the importance of the other fundamental contradictions in the world. It exaggerates those contradictions which highlight the role of the proletariat of the imperialist countries – those between the imperialist powers and that between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie of the advanced capitalist countries – and ignores the contradiction between imperialism and the socialist countries.

The RIM say that proletarian internationalism is a ’reflection of the fact that the proletariat is a single class world-wide with a single class interest, faces a world system of imperialism, and has the task of liberating all humanity.” (p.30) Yes, the proletariat is a single class world-wide. But more must be said. In the first place, the proletariat of the imperialist heartlands is in an alliance, however temporary, with the imperialists against that part of the proletariat located in the periphery and against the people of the oppressed countries in general (this point will be elaborated later.). It is not therefore, even carrying out the elementary proletarian internationalist duty of supporting national liberation movements. Only the proletariat of the oppressed countries is carrying out a revolutionary struggle, and in those countries it is a small minority of those who have an objective interest in revolution. In the second place, the proletariat is a mere 12% of the world’s population and that of the imperialist countries a mere 8%. The implications of these facts for the strategy of the international communist movement are not considered for one moment by the dogmatists of the RIM. This will become clear when we consider their political line in detail.

The Three Worlds Theory

One of the most important developments of the imperialist epoch is the rise of the Third World, especially in the years since World War Two. The RIM acknowledges this, after a fashion, by saying that the countries of the Third World ’have constituted the main arena of the world-wide struggle of the proletariat’ (p.3O). But note that this struggle is described as a struggle ’of the proletariat’ not of the oppressed peoples and nations as A WHOLE. This is Trotskyism, pure and simple, and, in striking confirmation of this charge. The RCP, India, one of the adhering organisations of the RIM, have recently announced that India is a monopoly capitalist country, that the Indian bourgeoisie is mainly independent of imperialism, and that the stage of revolution in India is socialist, not new democratic.

The tremendous achievements of the Third World since 1945 are completely ignored by the RIM. In reality, the RIM recognise only the proletariat as a revolutionary force and only RIM approved organisation as true communists. They refuse to support advances made by other revolutionary forces or under the leadership of communists outside the aegis of the RIM, or through such progressive steps as the formation of the OPEC cartel. Thus, the only reference to the wave of struggles for national independence which took place in the ’5Os and ’6Os is to ’heroic struggle’s ...which have not led to the establishment of political power by the proletariat and its allies but where the fruits of the victories of the people have been picked by new exploiters usually in league with one or another imperialist power(s)’ (p.30). It is true that the proletariat is the only thoroughly, revolutionary force, that only communist leadership can ensure final victory in the revolution and that most formally independent countries are subject to neo-colonial rule in varying degrees. None of these elementary facts must be underestimated: but the RIM have carved these ideas on tablets of stone, referring to them as priests consult the bible, rather than studying the real world.

The RIM’s assessment of the situation in the Third World is extremely one-sided and grossly underestimates what has been achieved. In few countries have national struggles led to the seizure of power by the proletariat and its allies but they have on many occasions led to the establishment of national bourgeois regimes which have struggled with varying measures of success against imperialism. But for the chauvinists of the RIM, it matters little, for instance, that the people of Algeria threw out the French imperialists, or more recently, that the Nicaraguans defeated Somoza. All this would appear to be ’bitter experience’ (p.3O). The RIM are indifferent to whether or not Algeria is still a French colony, and whether it is the Sandinistas who, according to the RCP, USA, have ’sold out’, or the Somoza regime who rule in Nicaragua. The RIM’s viewpoint is that so scathingly described by Lenin:

to imagine that social revolution is conceivable without revolts by small nations in the colonies and in Europe without the revolutionary outbursts of a section of the petty-bourgeoisie with all its prejudices, without a movement of politically non-conscious proletarian and semi-proletarian masses against landlord, church, monarchical, national and other oppression – to imagine that means repudiating social revolution. Very likely, one army will line up in one place and say ’We are for Socialism’ while another will do so in another place and say ’We are for imperialism’ and that will be social revolution Whoever expects a ’pure’ social revolution will never live to see it. Such a person pays lip service to revolution without understanding what revolution really is.

The RIM profess to uphold Mao’s theory of ’revolutionary strategy and tactics in the colonial, semi- (or neo) colonial countries’. (p.3l) but in fact their line is ’left’ revisionist. The type of revolution in the oppressed countries is not a socialist one, but a democratic one of a new type with the aim of, as Mao put it, of “establishing a new-democratic society and a state under the joint dictatorship of all the revolutionary classes.” (Selected Works, Vol.2, p.344). Further, it is important to grasp, again according to Mao, that ’no matter what classes, parties or individuals in an oppressed nation join the revolution, and no matter whether they themselves are conscious of the point or understand it, so long as they oppose imperialism, their revolution becomes part of the proletarian-socialist world revolution and they become its allies’ (ibid., p.346).

For complex historical reasons, communist forces are not in the leadership of the revolutionary struggle in most countries (although there are important exceptions such as the Philippines); whilst this will undoubtedly lead to greater difficulties and setbacks, and, in some cases, to outright betrayal as in Iran, such struggles are no less objectively revolutionary in character. Stalin expressed it well:

The struggle that the Emir of Afghanistan is waging for the independence of Afghanistan is objectively a REVOLUTIONARY struggle, despite the monarchist views of the Emir and his associates, for it weakens, disintegrates and undermines imperialism. (Foundations of Leninism, Peking ed., p.75 (emphasis in original).

But for the RIM, “history demonstrates the bankruptcy of an ’anti-imperialist’(or similar ’revolutionary front’) which is not led by a Marxist-Leninist party...” (p.32). Really? Then we might as well ’all give up, for what is actually happening in most countries is precisely a struggle led by such a front. The task of communists is not to whistle for the moon, but to work where the masses are and to struggle to give communist leadership to the OBJECTIVELY EXISTING (not subjectively desired) struggle.

What the ultra-left (but, in practice, extremely rightist) line of the RIM means in practice can be shown by the attitude of the RCP,USA to some actual struggles. The ’Revolutionary Worker’ (the weekly paper of the RCP) has published one adulatory article after another on the armed struggle in Peru led by the forces known as ’Sendero Luminoso’ (actually the Communist Party of Peru). This is undoubtedly because this party is an adherent of the RIM. The author has no quarrel with the RCP publishing the achievements of the Communist Party of Peru. Yet, in several articles in the ’Revolutionary Worker’ which dealt in byzantine fashion with contradictions among the reactionary forces in the Philippines, virtually no mention was made of the fact that the Communist Party of the Philippines control large liberated areas and, according to the CIA, is likely to seize power in the next few years. No doubt when this happens, they will quickly be denounced as ’in league with imperialism’ (p.32). This is apparently inevitable if you disagree with the RIM, and the RCP,USA have scandalously described ZANU(PF) in Zimbabwe as being so.

The scurrilous accusations of the RCP,USA are entirely consistent with the line of the ’Declaration’. The RIM do not understand (or rather have revised) the basic Marxist-Leninist position that the objective of the revolutionary struggle in the oppressed countries is not socialism and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat (although this is certainly the eventual goal), but, again to quote Mao: “The establishment of a new-democratic society under the joint dictatorship of all the revolutionary classes headed by ...the proletariat.” (Ibid, p.347) In countries like Nicaragua, although it could not be claimed that it is ’headed by the proletariat’, at least a ’joint dictatorship’ has been established and this is a great step forward which clears the way for further advance.

The constant harping in the RIM’s ’Declaration’ about ’proletarian leadership’, ’hegemony’, etc., even when accompanied by ritual references to ’united fronts’ and ’other sections of the masses’ is a reflection of their Eurocentric social-chauvinism. Like the people criticised by Lenin, they look for pure, proletarian-led movements, proceed from abstract ’principles’ , not concrete analysis of concrete conditions and tick off and admonish all who fail to conform to their high standards. The RCP,USA for instance, are on record as lecturing the PLO for failing to carry out a last-ditch battle, rather than evacuate Beirut at the time of the Israeli invasion. Coming from people who benefit from the plunder of the US imperialists and who live what to a Palestinian would be an incredibly easy life, this is patronising and hypocritical.

It is striking that the discussion of the world situation in the RIM’s ’Declaration’, whilst recognising that countries exist (even the RIM could scarcely fail to notice this), discusses the class struggle purely in terms of classes, not recognising that many important class struggles take on the form of battles between COUNTRIES. This ’left’ form of exaggerating the ’pure’ class struggle (which of course never has and never will exist)has the rightist essence of failing to support the just struggles of Third World countries. Thus the struggle of these countries for a new international economic order is totally ignored and implicitly denounced. The case of OPEC has already been mentioned (it is worth recording that in an internal struggle among the British adherents of the RIM, the people who left were condemned for supporting OPEC). Every time bank interest rates in the imperialist countries rise, thousands more peasants are driven from their lands to make room for cash crops to be sold to pay debts to the imperialists.

Only a revolution can end such callous plunder, but if in the meantime, a Third World country refuses to pay its debts, isn’t that in the interests of the masses? And doesn’t it ”weaken, disintegrate and undermine” imperialism? Such struggles, and those for fairer commodity prices, for a re-scheduling of debts etc., are matters of complete indifference to the RIM, who, in their Olympian detachment will support only full-blown revolution. Objectively, this means support for the imperialists and their ruthless robbery of the peoples of the Third World.

The ’Declaration’ recognises only two types of country in the world: imperialist and oppressed countries. This is certainly the most important division, but more must be said. It is absurd to treat the imperialist countries as an homogeneous whole, from the two superpowers at one pole to such countries as Greece and Bulgaria on the other. Many of the smaller Second World countries have features in common with the Third World. Some of them are subject to varying degrees of control by the great powers, especially the superpowers. Often, there are still substantial democratic and national tasks to be accomplished in the revolutionary struggle, as in the cases of land reform in Spain and Portugal and the national struggle in Ireland.

For such reasons some of these countries frequently take a progressive stance in world affairs. Spain, for instance, refused to support US aggression against Nicaragua. Yet, the RIM, because they have rejected the Three Worlds theory, are unable to explain and certainly do not support such phenomena. On the question of war, the RIM says: “The revolutionary defeatist position must be adopted by the Marxist-Leninists in all the imperialist countries.” (p.44) If a new world war erupts, in the period leading up to it many things would occur which could not be dealt with in such a lofty manner. What if Greece were to attempt to force the US to withdraw from its bases there and the US carried out a military intervention? Should the Greek proletariat adopt a line of revolutionary defeatism? We think not! All of this, of course, is speculation. But it highlights the crude dogmatism and idealism of the RIM, their method of DEDUCING responses to relationships and events in the real world with the aid of a set of ’principles’ conceived a priori.

Even the bigger second world imperialist powers, (Britain, France, Germany, Japan, etc.), despite being bound by a thousand and. one threads to the US superpower and to each other, and playing a generally reactionary role, have contradictions with the superpowers which can be made use of. Many progressive people in Europe, for instance, resent the role of the US super-power and are fighting against US bases, for withdrawal from NATO, against Cruise missiles and so on. Under mass pressure, and for their own reactionary reasons, the governments of these countries have opposed certain plans of the US superpower; the EEC countries, to take but one case, have refused to endorse the US’s ’Strategic Defence Initiative’ (the so-called ’Star Wars’ plan). In another case Belgium resisted for a long time the installation of Cruise missiles there.

The people who fight for these things are dismissed by the RIM as having ’national chauvinist views that seek to avoid the devastation of war for one imperialist nation or another at the expense of the rest of the world”(p.44). This is crude ultra-leftism, but in the case of the RCP, USA it is out-and-out social-chauvinism. Which imperialist power has a particular interest in opposing such movements? The USA, of course! And which organisation of the RIM fights this so-called ’national chauvinism’ with particular zeal? Why the RCP, USA! Despite their loud protestations of revolutionary purity, the RCP,USA are not infrequently found to be objectively on the same side as their “own” bourgeoisie, as in the case of their unsolicited advice to the PLO and during their contemptible attacks on Deng Xiaoping during his visit to the USA.

Such criticism cannot be levelled at all the organisations of the RIM, especially those from the Third World. But it IS essential to make use of inter-imperialist contradictions in order to weaken the imperialist camp and broaden and deepen the anti-imperialist camp. All of the RIM organisations would do well to ponder Mao’s insistence that tactics must be guided by principles which ’make use of contradictions, win over the many, oppose the few and crush our enemies one by one.” (Ibid, p.444)

The Class Struggle in the Imperialist Countries

The most important thing to be said about the class struggle in the imperialist countries is, as has already been remarked, that the working class is in a temporary alliance with the bourgeoisie. This alliance is against the long-term objective interest of the vast majority of the working class, but it exists nevertheless and it has deep foundations. It should be added that here and in the discussion which follows, it is the ten or so great powers which are fully imperialist which are being referred to. Such countries as Greece, Bulgaria have quite different characteristics and the prospects there for the revolutionary struggle are quite different. The RIM, though, are unable to make such distinctions, as we have seen on the question of national defence.

The Bolshevik revolution of 1917 marked, not the beginning of the socialist revolution in the advanced capitalist countries of the west, coming as it did in one of the most backward countries of Europe, moreover a country which straddled Europe and Asia, but the decisive shift in the centre of the world proletarian revolution to the East. As Mao said: “The salvoes of the Russian revolution brought Marxism to China.”

Marx and Engels thought that the proletarian revolution would occur first in the ’advanced’ countries of the West, which were-ripest for revolution in the sense of the level of development of the productive forces. But the development of imperialism and the consequent plunder of the oppressed countries meant firstly, that the bourgeoisie were able to buy off whole strata of better paid workers, and, secondly that the productive forces of the imperialist countries were constantly developed, not held back, with resultant rising living standards for the mass of the working class. The vast majority of the working class of the imperialist countries have not faced the necessity for revolution for around a hundred years. Indeed, they have supported, to a greater or lesser degree, ’imperialist domination of the oppressed countries and of oppressed nations and national minorities in their “own” countries. The attitude of the English workers to Ireland and of white to black Americans are cases in point. The other side of this coin has been the increasing immiseration of and brutal dictatorship over the peoples of the Third World by imperialism, which has led to a constant revolutionary ferment there.

In general, the form that the struggle in the imperialist countries has taken since around the turn of the century has been an argument over the division of the national cake, including plunder from the Third World. The working class has not risen to the level of even questioning, let alone challenging the capitalist order. It is striking that even the profound crisis around World War One did not seriously shake bourgeois rule in the imperialist countries, save for the special case of Russia: even the uprising in Germany was quelled relatively easily.

For many years in the Marxist-Leninist movement, there was an implicit belief that the working class was subjectively revolutionary but was being ’betrayed’ by its leaders. An early article in ’Marxist-Leninist Quarterly’ (the journal of the RCL’s predecessor the CFB M-L) claimed that the German revolution of 1919 failed because the German workers had not a leader of the stature of Lenin. But this begs the question. Why did Russia bring forth a Lenin at that time? And why did China later bring forth a Mao? Objective conditions CREATE leaders and give them the confidence of the masses. As Engels once remarked ’treachery’ is a stupid explanation for failure. By and large, the working class gets the leaders it deserves.

The English workers get such leaders as Bill Sirs because these leaders represent the aspirations and desires of the average worker. ’Treachery’ was NOT the reason why most of the organised working class failed to support the miners’ strike of 1984-85, as some of the ’left’ have claimed. Quite simply, the majority of the class did not WANT to give more than token support: if they had wished to do so, they would have found the means and swept aside leaders like Bill Sirs in the process.

The consequence of the forgoing analysis is not, as some have suggested, that nothing can be done in the imperialist countries except to wait for the Third World to overthrow imperialism: it simply means that our strategy and tactics must reflect the realities described. The ’Declaration’ of the RIM appears to recognise these realities, particularly the plunder from the oppressed countries and the degree to which the working class benefit from this plunder. And yet, the RIM claim that “mass revolutionary struggles developed in most of the Western imperialist countries especially in the 1960’s...” (p.10). It is clear from the text that the RIM consider that the working class was involved in “mass revolutionary struggles”. But in fact, only three imperialist countries were seriously affected by the revolutionary upsurge of the 60s, and in none of them did the proletariat as a “class for itself” came to the fore.

In France, in the events of 1968, only at the end and in relatively small numbers, did the working class take part. France ’68 was essentially a student uprising and doomed to failure. The other cases were different. In the USA mass NATIONAL rebellions of black people erupted. And in the UK, in the internal colony of northern Ireland, the NATIONAL revolution took to arms once again. This, of course, is not accidental. Minority nations and nationalities suffer considerable oppression at the hands of the majority population in the imperialist countries. It has already been remarked that most of the majority proletariat, to a greater or lesser degree, connive in it and they are deeply infected with the racism and chauvinism which the bourgeoisie propagate to justify and bolster such oppression. Contrary to the dreams of the RIM, who attach equal importance to the socialist revolution in the West and the national democratic revolution in the East, there is no prospect for revolutionary advance in the West until significant sections of the white working class, under the impact of the crisis, break away from the ideology and politics of what Samir Amin has called the “social-democratic alliance”, i.e. the alliance of the working class with the imperialists. There are signs of this happening. But it will be a long process, the necessity for which the RIM do not recognise. For the present, and foreseeable future, it is in the Third World that revolutionary opportunities will present themselves.

But for the RIM, the revolutionary prospect in the imperialist countries are “more favourable than in any time in recent memory” (p.1O). This is true from a long-term perspective. But it is clear that the RIM are thinking in the short-term. In particular, they are banking on a Third World war erupting fairly soon and precipitating a revolutionary situation. It is hard though to see how a proletariat which has shared in imperialist plunder for decades and has shown little sign of a firm class, let alone revolutionary consciousness, is suddenly going to become revolutionary, even under the impact of war. Certainly they did not in World Wars One and Two and since then the proletariat has become even less subjectively revolutionary.

Given the general ideological outlook of the RIM, their recognition of the effect of imperialism on the working class of the imperialist countries, coupled with their insistence that the prospects for revolution in these countries are good, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that what they have in mind is not a revolution, but a putsch. If the adventurist, elitist style of the RCP,USA is anything to go by, this is indeed the case.

The RIM treat the struggle of the oppressed nations and nationalities in the imperialist countries in a chauvinist way which fails to recognise that these struggles are autonomous struggles against imperialism, not simply an aspect of the proletariat1s struggle. Thus such events as the uprisings in Britain in 1981 are described as being carried out “by the lower strata of the proletariat” (p.1O) and the national minorities are said to be “an important part of a single multi-national proletariat” (p.43).

That the vast majority of national minority people in the imperialist countries – Turks in Germany; Moroccans and Algerians in France; Asians, Irish and West Indians in Britain – are proletarians, and in the lowest strata at that, is not in doubt. Indeed it was and is overwhelmingly proletarians who have taken part in the national uprisings in the USA, Northern Ireland and Britain. This fact is of tremendous importance for the development of a revolutionary strategy. But at present it is their NATIONALITY not their class, which mainly accounts for exploitation and oppression which they suffer. Their very presence in these countries is a direct result of imperialist domination of their homelands. Driven from their homes by imperialism, they arrive in the ’mother country’ only to find themselves in the lowest and worst-paid jobs, subject to innumerable forms of racial discrimination and harassment and the victims of vicious attacks by the police and fascist thugs. As a direct consequence, national minority people in general have a far more developed political consciousness than the majority population and are in the forefront of the struggle against imperialism. Simply to describe national minority proletarians as ”an important part” grossly underestimates the objective importance of national minority struggles. And it is another form of the RIM chauvinism which refuses to give full support to national struggles against imperialism of ALL classes.

The view which blithely ASSERTS that there is a “single multi-national working class” ignores these considerations and is objectively a ’left’ form of the bourgeois view that national minorities should be ’assimilated’, i.e. their culture destroyed, their national rights trampled on, their very existence threatened. It is this viewpoint which gives rise to such facile slogans as ’Black and White, Unite and Fight’ ignoring the temporary alliance of the working class with the bourgeoisie, and to the chauvinist assertion that racism is devised by the bourgeoisie to ’split the working class’.

Racism IS used for this purpose. But it arose as an ideological justification for colonialism and imperialism and is principally used by the bourgeoisie to gain working class support for national oppression, with no small measure of success. Nowhere in the RIM’s ’Declaration’, nor, in the practice of its adhering organisations that are known to the author is there any recognition on of these facts.

* * *

This criticism of the ’Declaration’ of the RIM is by no means exhaustive. But it has shown that its adhering parties and organisations represent an old tradition of the international communist movement which must be decisively broken with, if the movement is to progress. To rise to the level of theoretically comprehending and, eventually, leading the world proletarian revolutionary struggle, a radical rupture is required with old Eurocentric ideas which have, as Lenin put it, “gaze(d) with awe upon the posteriors of the proletariat” of the imperialist countries and their backward even reactionary, struggles, and refused to recognise that it is the oppressed peoples and nations who are in the forefront of the struggle against imperialism. The RIM though have regressed even from the limited understanding that the movement gained in the 1960’s in the course of the polemics against modern revisionism. They are indeed ultra-left revisionists.

Postscript: The Philippines Revolution

This article was written in 1986. Shortly afterwards, the Committee of R.I.M. sent an open letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The letter (published in A World To Win No.8) is dated March 1987, and takes the CPP to task, stating in its first paragraphs:

Indeed, the inability of the CPP to find its bearings amidst the political crisis and ultimate fall of the Marcos regime in order to carry forward the revolutionary war has now given rise to political crisis in the CPP itself, and even to mounting tendencies towards outright capitulation.

The open letter condemns the CPP’s self-criticism, in which the party declares that it made an error in calling for a boycott of the elections in which Marcos was overthrown.

Towards its conclusion, RIM’s letter sums up its criticisms thus:

In sum, the depths of the ideological and political deterioration of the Party, which results in no small way from the refusal to take a clear stand between Mao Tsetung Thought and revisionism, have become truly alarming: – The class nature of the regime you were fighting was lost sight of, the necessity to smash the entire repressive apparatus increasingly downplayed, bourgeois-democratic notions of ’modern-day republics’ were promoted, as wrong conceptions of the path and goal of the revolution have come to the fore; – The proletariat has been progressively subordinated to other class forces, imperialist puppets are promoted as ’progressives’ and ’reformists’ and one of the original strengths of the CPP, that of rallying the peasants in a genuine people’s war as the main force for revolution, is increasingly put on a par (or even subordinated to) united action with bourgeois strata in the cities; – Imperialist countries are treated as socialist ones, dependent countries as independent revolutionary regimes, and eventually the necessity or possibility of completely rupturing with imperialism begins to give way to ’practical’ plans to come to terms with imperialism, possibly under the banner of the ’necessity’ of Soviet aid.

A little over a year has passed since the RIM letter was produced, and it should be quite clear by now that, far from heading for “outright capitulation”, the CPP remains in the vanguard of what the US identifies as the fastest growing insurgent movement in the world. Its commitment is unwavering.

RIM’s analysis was plainly wrong. Marxist-Leninists have always recognized that the workers and peasants cannot take political power by peaceful means: the oppressing classes invariably use violence to deny that desirable option to them. Therefore, a Marxist-Leninist party has to develop a strategy which involves, at some point, a mass armed revolutionary seizure of power. But a party of the working class is duty bound to seek the line of advance which is least costly to the masses in terms of lost lives, injuries and material destruction.

Hence the importance of forging alliances – even conditional, temporary ones – with all who can be united against the main enemy. This brings added strength to the revolutionary forces and weakens the power of the reactionary forces. It is stupid to do anything else.

When a revolutionary party seeks to build alliances, it must expect to make concessions to the non-proletarian classes and strata, which have interests which diverge from or even conflict with those of the working class.

They cannot be expected to enter into any alliance without having solid in return. The revolutionary party must be ready to offer concessions and guarantees, but must be careful not to surrender its independence, and not to betray the fundamental interests of the masses.

The art of making such alliances lies in determining what has to be given to establish the alliance, while not losing grasp of the’ necessity of retaining both the leading role of the revolutionary party and the essential elements of power (primarily the revolutionary armed forces) in the hands of the working people.

The CPP has proved to be a party with a very sophisticated strategy and tactics for revolution. From the early ’70s, it saw the target of revolution as being “the US-Marcos dictatorship”. This never meant that it was forgetting elements of the oppressing classes who were not grouped around Marcos, or that it was failing to take a class stand.

US imperialism dominates the Philippines economy; the USA equips the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and plays a major role in training its officer corps; it has two massive bases in the Philippines and other military installations.

The machinery of the Marcos dictatorship included the AFP and the state bureaucracy. In focusing the target of the revolution on the-US-Marcos dictatorship, the CPP maximised the scope for building alliances; at the same time, taking into consideration exactly what was being targeted (not just Marcos as an individual, but the whole state order which made up the dictatorship) it is clear that it was striking at the lynchpin and core of the entire system of class and national oppression in the Philippines.

Aquino has now stepped into Marcos’ shoes, and one day, when her usefulness is at an end, she will no doubt be replaced in her turn. When the revolution does win out, employing a similar approach to that used against Marcos, it should be quite clear that, even though elements of the present ruling classes, which took an anti-dictatorship position, still retain some power and influence, the dominant position in the Philippines will then be held by the workers and peasants. They can then transform Filipino society as they wish. When the Marcos regime was overthrown, and Aquino took office, the revolutionary forces were faced with a very difficult position. As the anti-Marcos movement had gained momentum, the US had swung its backing behind Aquino. It was clear what role it wished her to play. Aquino promised democracy, land reform, liberalisation of legislation affecting the unions, and the removal of the US bases when the agreement concerning them runs out in 1992. Her first cabinet included a minority of liberal figures (including the Labour minister) whose commitment to democracy and pro-people reform was never in doubt.

Most of the workers and peasants had little or no confidence that Aquino offered them anything better than Marcos. But large sections of the middle strata who had been drawn towards the National Democratic Front during the anti-Marcos struggle be1ieved that Aquino could offer a real improvement.

If the CPP and National Democratic Front (NDF – the united front in which the CPP works, and which RIM disregards) had taken the course which RIM evidently thought was right – i.e. to say that nothing had changed and the armed struggle would go on regardless – then they would have risked losing an important section of their a1lies, which would have meant a grave setback for the revolution.

The CPP and NDF that to get what they could out of the new situation in the people’s interests without providing openings for the new regime and the AFP to split and undermine the revolutionary alliance or the legal popular movements (of which RIM does not take any account, despising legal work in a country like the Philippines, even when undertaken by radical bodies like the First of May Movement (KMU), the independent labour federation, or GABRIELA, the federation of Women’s organizations, both of which mobilise hundreds of thousands of people).

The NDF accordingly decided that the New People’s Army should restrict its operations to defensive ones while the possibilities of achieving anything with the new regime were explored. Eventually, a ceasefire was also agreed.

The NDF proclaimed its willingness to conduct serious negotiations with Aquino, but at the same time, set out the minimum it required if the ceasefire was to become permanent. It also insisted that the NPA would not give up its guns as part of the ceasefire. In the event, the Aquino government showed that it was incapable of agreeing to the minimal reforms which the NDF called for: it basically sought the surrender of the revolutionary forces. The ceasefire ended without any agreement being reached, and the revolutionary war continued with renewed force.

By its stand between Aquino’s election victory and the end of the ceasefire, the NDF allowed the Aquino government every chance to show its true character and ensured that the alliances built during the Marcos era were preserved.

During the ceasefire period, NDF 1eaders took full advantage of the opportunities they had to give interviews to the legal press and to have a dialogue with legal opposition forces. The ceasefire also enhanced the international standing of the NDF: the fact that the Aquino regime felt the need to negotiate with it only underlined its strength – a point not lost on the Marcos loyalists.

A genuine revolutionary party must be strict in adhering to its principles, but be extremely flexible in the strategy and tactics by which it works for revolution. The CPP is such a party. RIM’s criticisms merely reveal its dogmatism, its inability to analyse a concrete situation, the shallowness of its grasp of Marxism- Leninism, which leaves it incapable of either developing a multi- layered strategy for fighting for the destruction of imperialism or understanding such a strategy when others have one.

In 1936, Lu Xun, the great Chinese revolutionary writer, received a letter concerning the policy of the Chinese Communist Party. The letter said of the communists:

They have made a volte-face, abandoned their class stand issued new declarations and sent representatives to negotiate with the bureaucrats, politicians and warlords, including those who slaughtered the masses, in order to form a ’united front’ with them. They have put away their own banner and confused the people’s minds, making the masses believe that all those bureaucrats, politicians and executioners are national revolutionaries who will resist Japan too. The result can only be to deliver the revolutionary masses into the hands of those executioners for further slaughter.

This letter was written by a representative of the Chinese Trotskyists. It is not accidental that RIM’s criticisms of the CPP should seem like an echo of it. Lu Xun responded sharply to this letter, commenting:

Your ’theory’ is certainly much loftier than that of Mao Zedong; yours is high in the sky, while his is simply on the ground. But admirable as is such loftiness, it will unfortunately be just the thing welcomed by the Japanese aggressors. Hence I fear that it will drop from the sky, and when it does it may land on the filthiest place on earth. (Exchange of Letters from Lu Xun, Selected Works Volume 4, pages 279-282 (FLP, Beijing))

Who was right? China achieved its liberation thirteen years after this exchange took place. The practice of the Communist Party of the Philippines has already shown how unjustified the criticisms of RIM were. The revolution is now at a stage when the first steps to establish a Provisional Revolutionary Government are already being taken.

Faced with the threat of rapidly escalating US intervention in order to hold back the NDF’s advance, the Philippines’ revolution needs solidarity, not the denunciation of organisations which cannot recognise a revolution if it does not fit in with their own rigid formulae.