First Published: Revolution, Vol. 3, No.1, February 1978
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Due to the splitting activities of those in the international Communist movement who are not seriously interested in preserving unity in the face of the enemy, some differences in the movement have been brought into the open. This was not the wish of the RCLB nor is it the wish of the majority of the movement. Nevertheless we can remain silent no longer, when lies, slanders and vile rumours are being spread about the Communist Party of China – the staunchest supporter and defender of the world revolution – and when a serious ’left’ opportunist line is being spread on the international situation; a line which tries to disarm the working class and oppressed peoples and nations in their struggle against superpower hegemonism and imperialism.
The differences in the movement centre around Chairman Mao’s great theory of the differentiation of the three worlds. Some people are making disgraceful attacks on Chairman Mao and on Mao Tsetung Thought by saying that this theory ignores “socialism as a system”, that it calls “on the world proletariat not to fight, not to rise in socialist revolution” and that its supporters are calling for “unity with one superpower against the other”. These people go so far as to refer to those who propagate this theory as “traitors and renegades” and call the theory itself “counterrevolutionary”.
We shall leave it to others to endeavour to raise Marxism to a new level in invective. In this article we shall merely point out that those who attack the theory of the three worlds are doing the two superpowers, especially the Soviet Union, a great service, irrespective of their subjective desires, because they are trying to confuse the working class as to who are their enemies and who are their friends on a world scale.
The view of the RCLB is that Chairman Mao’s great theory of the differentiation of the three worlds provides an extremely clear orientation in international class struggle. It is a theory which is fully in conformity with objective reality and it shines a bright light on the extremely complicated road to eventual success in the world-wide proletarian revolution. The theory has been brilliantly propagated in the ’People’s Daily’ editorial of 1st November 1977 ’Chairman Mao’s Theory of the Differentiation of the Three Worlds is a Major Contribution to Marxism-Leninism’. We do not intend to elaborate on the points made in this article. The purpose of this article is two-fold: to criticise the serious errors being made by those pushing the ’left’ opportunist line on the international situation; and to continue and deepen exposure and criticism of the revisionist Birch, the Chairman of the CPB(M-L).
Towards the end of last year the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) published a pamphlet on the international situation entitled ’Britain in the World 1977’. Although not signed, the vague, elusive and inconsequential style of the article bears the unmistakable hallmark of Birch, the revisionist leader of the CPB(M-L). The views of others in the movement pushing the incorrect line, although they contain serious errors, are still nevertheless recognisably based on Marxism-Leninism. This is not the case with Birch. With this pamphlet Birch has finally gone over from the camp of Marxism to the camp of revisionism, from the proletariat to the bourgeoisie. His pamphlet is a grotesque travesty of Marxism which fundamentally revises Marxism on such questions as war, the national question and strategy and tactics. We do not intend anymore to deal leniently with Birch; the contradiction with him is a contradiction with the enemy, not among the people.
Without exception, all those Parties and so-called ’Parties’ who are pushing the ’left’ opportunist line are practising idealism and metaphysics, not dialectical materialism. All of them proceed, not from the objective world in which we live, but from the world in which they wish to live. A world in which revolutionary purists can indulge their petty-bourgeois revolutionary phrasemongering, and not have to face up to the reality of an extremely complicated world in which there are main enemies, secondary enemies, firm allies, vacillating allies, contradictions among the enemies, in the revolutionary ranks and so on. The class struggle internationally is extremely complicated and it needs careful study to properly analyse the various class forces in the world. This the super-revolutionaries are not prepared to do – as Chairman Mao said “dogmatists are lazy-bones”.
Many years ago, in the ’Communist Manifesto’, Marx and Engels stated a fundamental principle of materialism, that Communists “...do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement,” (Peking ed. P. 47) and that the theoretical conclusions of Communists “...merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from an historical movement going on under our very eyes.” (p 48) These few words are a powerful weapon against idealism and dogmatism and warn us that our theory, line and policies must as closely as possible reflect objective reality if they are to correctly lead our struggle. The history of the international Communist movement is filled with examples of those who refused to recognise this profound truth and who instead proceeded from the fantastic reflections of reality in their minds, who started from abstractions, not reality, who attempted to impose their subjectively conceived view of the world onto reality and who thereby came to grief. Trotsky clung to his erroneous views on socialism in the Soviet Union and was ignominiously rejected by the Soviet working class. Likewise Wang Ming led the Chinese revolution to disastrous setbacks until he was overthrown. Mao Tsetung summed up much of this experience when he said in 1941:
Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin have taught us that it is necessary to study conditions conscientiously and to proceed from objective reality and not from subjective wishes; but many of our comrades act in direct violation of this truth. (’Reform Our Study’. Selected Readings, p.200).
This basic method, of drawing theoretical conclusions from the objectively existing facts, guided by the principles of Marxism-Leninism, and not of attempting to impose subjectively conceived views on the world, the Communist Party of China has succinctly characterised as ’seeking truth from facts’. Let’s seek truth from facts in the world today!
A major difference between the Marxist and the dogmatist lines on the international situation is on the two superpowers – are the Soviet Union and the United States equal enemies, or is the Soviet Union the more dangerous superpower and the most dangerous source of war? The dogmatists say the former and in their arguments for this view revise Marxism.
Birch says “the question of ’which is the weaker USSR or USA?’ inevitably leads to alliance with one of the other.” Leaving aside the astounding idealism that to ask a question inevitably leads to a particular course of action, the implicit view here is that both superpowers are equally strong. Elsewhere Birch refers to “the pretext that the USSR is the greater danger”.
The ’People’s Daily’ article of 1st November 1977 has comprehensively shown that the Soviet Union is the more dangerous superpower and the biggest source of war. Here we shall just look at two particular aspects of this question which all the ’1eft’ opportunists and Birch in particular both ignore. We shall also deal with their slanders against the CPC.
The headquarters of the incorrect line says:
Any imperialism, from its very nature, is always a savage enemy of the proletarian revolution. Therefore, to divide imperialisms into more or less dangerous, from the strategic point of view of the world revolution is wrong.
This is an astonishing piece of dogmatism and metaphysics – because all imperialism is a savage enemy (undoubtedly true) – we shouldn’t decide which is the more dangerous. Presumably a man confronted with two bandits, one armed with a machine gun and another with a revolver, should decide both are equally dangerous! We wonder what would happen to this noble spirit?
Throughout his shambling and incoherent narrative Birch never once looks at concrete facts, but contents himself with sly rhetoric and vague innuendo, hoping that these will pass for concrete analysis. None of those peddling the view that both superpowers are equally dangerous actually does look at any facts, and all content themselves with abstractions and generalisations in the true spirit of dogmatism.
The Soviet Union’s conventional armed forces are double those of the United States (e.g. it has 19,000 tanks against the US’s 7,00o) and it has 400 more strategic nuclear weapon carriers than the United States. It has vastly more armoured cars, field guns and other items of conventional weaponry. It is rapidly approaching the US in nuclear weapons also. Soviet military expenditure has been rising at an annual rate of 4-5% and it accounts for 12-15% of its GNP, compared to the US’s 6%. Soviet military spending in 1976 was $127 billion compared to the US’s $102.7 billion (24% more).
Which superpower has occupied Angola? Which superpower attempted to invade Zaire? Which superpower is stirring up trouble in the Horn of Africa? Which superpower is illegally occupying part of Norway’s Svalbaard Islands?
All these facts may be most unpalatable but they are part of the basis in material reality of the line that the Soviet Union is the more dangerous superpower and the most dangerous source of war. Theoretically they confirm Stalin’s view that the struggle for a re-division of the world among the imperialist great powers is “...a struggle waged with particular fury by new financial groups and powers seeking a ’place in the sun ’ against the old groups and powers, which cling tenaciously to what they have seized.” (’Foundations of Leninism’. Peking ed. P. 5) and Lenin’s that such powers are “...even more rapacious, even more predatory”. (quoted in ’People’s Daily’ editorial, p. 34).
Such powers are even more predatory because of the uneven development of capitalism. The Soviet Union is a latecomer to imperialism and in consequence found the world already largely divided among the existing great powers, in particular the US superpower. It is therefore impelled to challenge the existing division of the world, and will inevitably use any means it is able, including an aggressive and predatory war, to do so. Those who deny that the Soviet Union is the more dangerous superpower and the most dangerous source of war are objectively denying Lenin’s teachings on imperialism and war.
Of course the United States still seeks world hegemony, no-one is denying this, but the question is one of political and military clout. The US superpower is overstretched and on the decline, its position as head of the imperialist countries is being challenged by the ravenous newcomer, the Soviet Union. The United States is in the position today that Britain was in during the 1930’s,’when it was being challenged by Germany.
This overall view is distorted by Birch as calling for an “alliance” with the United States against the Soviet Union. Others have said “they claim that the US is allegedly no longer warmongering” and that this line calls “...for unity with one superpower against another”. These are vile slanders!
The CPC have clearly said “The two hegemonist powers.... are the common enemies of the people of the world” and also “each superpower sets exclusive world hegemony as its goal and to this end makes frantic preparations for a new world war.” As for relying on the US, the CPC has also said:
Undoubtedly the people of each particular region can decide which superpower or imperialist country poses the immediate threat to them according to their own specific conditions. (’People’s Daily’ editorial of 1st November).
The RCLB too has clearly stated “US imperialism is still a dangerous and vicious power...” and “..we must oppose the continuing alliance of the British imperialist bourgeoisie with US imperialism”, and that in the event of an inter-superpower war in Europe ”we would be for the defeat of our own bourgeoisie if it took us into such an inter-imperialist war.” (’Manifesto of the RCLB’). This is the common position of those Marxist-Leninist Parties and organisations who support Chairman Mao’s theory of the differentiation of the three worlds.
This style of arguing of the ’left’ opportunists, and the new revisionists like Birch, of erecting Aunt Sallies and then knocking them down, has nothing to do with honest polemic between Marxists; it is rather the bourgeois style of throwing enough mud in the hope that some will stick. Well, the people of the world will see through this vulgar phi 1istine style and see which line and which Parties truly represent their interests.
The dialectics of history were such that the theoretical victory of Marxism obliged its enemies to disguise themselves as Marxists. (’Lenin and the Struggle Against Revisionism’ FLPH Peking, p. 1).
A further reason why the Soviet Union is the more dangerous superpower is that it pretends to be socialist. Although the people of the world are gradually seeing through the Soviet Union’s mask of socialism, and we can have confidence that it will be fully exposed in the long term, it would be most dangerous to under-rate this feature of the Soviet Union in the short-term.
Although the majority of those peddling the ’left’ opportunist line seriously underestimate the importance of this question, they do at least recognise that it exists. Birch though says “we do not use the words ’social-imperialism’ to confuse the issue” and goes on to say “furthermore we have never referred to the USSR of the new revisionists as social-imperialism”. Here Birch completely parts company with the international Communist movement – but Birch has never been deterred by that! Here Birch revises the theoretical and political line of the movement on a crucial question. It is essential that we grasp that it is those who disguise themselves as Marxists who are the most dangerous enemies of the working class. Lenin firmly pointed out:
Opportunism is our principal enemy. Opportunism in the upper ranks of the working class movement is bourgeois socialism, not proletarian socialism. It has been shown in practice that working class activists who follow the opportunist trend are better defenders of the bourgeoisie than the bourgeoisie themselves. (Selected Works, Vol. 3. p. 462).
The main aspect of the Soviet Union is that it is social-imperialist, but it is also revisionist. Revisionism is the most dangerous form of opportunism; it is opportunism dressed up as Marxism. The Soviet Union is the headquarters of international reaction, it is rampaging round the world extending its empire and influence daily – all under the guise of ’Marxism’. Particularly in national liberation struggles it capitalises on its past and styles itself the ’natural ally’ of the oppressed peoples and nations. How does Birch think that the Soviet Union managed to sneak in at the back door in Angola, except by using the false mask of socialism? The Angolan people are now learning the bitter truth the hard way!
Birch says he doesn’t use the term ’social-imperialism’ so as “not to confuse the issue”. This really is standing things on their heads –it is precisely not to confuse the issue that we must use the term. It is to educate people about the difference between real Marxism and sham Marxism that we must use it. Birch is just throwing sand in the eyes of the people and trying to stop them perceiving the true nature of their mortal enemy.
Because Birch doesn’t grasp this fundamental aspect of the nature of revisionism it leads him to try to reverse the correct verdict of the international Communist movement of 1968 (after the invasion of Czechoslovakia) that the Soviet Union is social-imperialist. In doing this Birch has gone over to the camp of the enemy, joined the side of the Soviet Union (irrespective of his subjective wishes) and is a renegade from Marxism.
The revisionist Birch and those who push the ’left’ opportunist line on the international situation, in not recognising that the Soviet Union is the more dangerous superpower and the most dangerous source of war, are playing the Soviet Union’s game for it. Instead of leading the people of the world in dealing the primary blow at the most dangerous enemy, they try to get them to dissipate their forces by striking out equally in all directions and thus weaken the blow at the primary target. Brezhnev must be rubbing his hands with glee!
Not only do Birch and the rest want to strike equal blows at the Soviet Union and the United States, they also want to strike equally heavy blows at the second-rate imperialist powers of the second world. This is the height of absurdity and is most reactionary.
The attitude of Birch to these countries is typical of his refusal to ’seek truth from facts’. Again he proceeds from blind and arrogant idealism and ignores the real world which assails his senses every day. Again Birch outstrips his mentors in idealism and dogmatism by denying that there is such a thing as a superpower.
“Are there two superpowers? some circumstantial evidence is very strong” he rhetorically asks. His conclusion is “There is but one superpower, the proletariat, and that is the superlative power above all others”. This is mere pseudo-revolutionary phrase-mongering! Of course the proletariat is the “superlative power” in the sense that its historic destiny is to overthrow imperialism, but in the meantime the proletariat must take its enemies seriously. Birch thinks that the proletariat can defeat imperialism by loudly shouting revolutionary slogans, and like all dogmatists he wants to fight all enemies at once.
What does Birch mean by “circumstantial evidence”? Looking at the reality of the world (not at its grotesque reflection in Birch’s mind) we can only assume he is referring to facts which do not correspond to his subjectively preconceived ideas. The value of industrial output in both the Soviet Union and the United States outstrips that of West Germany, France and Britain combined. In military expenditure both the Soviet Union and the United States far exceed the whole of western Europe, Japan and Canada combined.
While both superpowers have military bases around the world and are trying to extend them, hardly any European country has such bases outside Europe. One of the few exceptions, Britain, is having to close down its bases rapidly. In Britain ten years ago a vigorous debate was carried on about a military presence ’east of Suez’ – today no one seriously argues for such a policy. The British imperialists have had to reconcile themselves to being very much a second-rate power. To take one vivid example – in Europe the USSR has 895,000 ground troops, the US 625,000 (under NATO command) and Britain (the largest European military power) only 175,000! No doubt many British imperialists nurse a secret desire to rule the waves again but the simple fact is that they no longer have the military clout to do so.
Which countries are contending for world hegemony? Only the superpowers. In southern Africa for instance, despite the fact that ’Rhodesia’ is officially a British colony and that Britain still has substantial economic interests there, it is US imperialism which is calling the shots. In the middle east, formerly the stamping ground of Britain and France, only the superpowers have substantial influence. Throughout the world, the old imperialist powers of Europe and Japan have been muscled out by the superpowers. Today, only the superpowers have the military, political and economic clout to contend for world hegemony.
We are not saying that the second world countries like Britain are not imperialist, we are saying that they are secondary enemies compared to the two superpowers. The second world countries, whilst exploiting and oppressing the third world countries, are themselves subject to superpower exploitation, control and threat – that is why they have a dual nature. This dual nature exists not only in the strict theoretical sense in which everything has a dual nature, but in a real political sense. The second world countries’ dual nature can be made use of in international class struggle. Because these countries are subject to superpower exploitation and oppression they can be won over as temporary allies, even if very unstable ones, in the contemporary international class struggle.
We are not saying either that the working class of the second world countries should give up the internal class struggle against the monopoly capitalist bourgeoisie, or that those third world countries and people oppressed by second world countries should cease struggling against them, as the ’left’ opportunists slander.
On the contrary – the primary aspect of most second world countries is their imperialist nature and therefore the primary aspect of relations with them (at this stage) is struggle. But we can also unite with them against the superpowers, because both the people of the world and the second world countries have it in common that they are, to one degree or another, oppressed and exploited by the superpowers.
Although the headquarters of the incorrect line recognises in theory that the superpowers exist, in practice this recognition breaks down, because it recognises no significant difference between the first and second worlds. This line preaches that the second world countries “have no essential difference...from the two superpowers...” and that “It is anti-Marxist to preach unity with the allegedly weaker imperialism to oppose the stronger ...”
As Chairman Mao said “dogmatists reject middle elements”. They do this because they practice metaphysics and “approach Marxism from a metaphysical point of view and regard it as something rigid”. (’Speech at CPC National Conference on Propaganda Work’. Selected Readings, p. 497). They therefore cannot see the dual nature of things. In any revolutionary struggle it is essential to make a strict analysis and differentiation of the forces involved. ...we must decide who are the principal and secondary enemies; who are the main and leading revolutionary forces, what middle elements there are and on what basis they can be united with.
In the colonial and neo-colonial countries the workers’ movement has fought for decades against the Trotskyite dogmatists who insist that only the proletariat is revolutionary, and that all other strata and classes, including even the peasants, are reactionary. When this line was put into practice by Wang Ming in China it led to a catastrophic defeat in which over 80% of the revolutionary forces were either killed, captured or dispersed. In opposition to this the correct line is to build the broadest possible united front – workers, peasants, petty bourgeoisie, national bourgeoisie and even some patriotic kings and princes – against the main enemy, foreign imperialism. This is the line which successfully led the revolutions in China, Korea, Vietnam, Kampuchea and Laos.
These principles are entirely in conformity with Lenin’s view that:
The more powerful enemy can be vanquished only by exerting the utmost effort, and without fail, most thoroughly, carefully, attentively and skillfully using every, even the smallest ’rift’ among the enemies, of every antagonism of interest among the bourgeoisie of the various countries and among the various groups or types of bourgeoisie within the various countries, and also by taking advantage of every, even the smallest, opportunity of gaining a mass ally, even though this ally be temporary, vacillating, unstable and conditional. Those who fail to understand this, fail to understand even a particle of Marxism or of scientific, modern socialism in general, Those who have not proved by deeds over a fairly considerable period of time, and in fairly varied political situations, their ability to apply this truth in practice have not yet learned to assist the revolutionary class in its struggle to emancipate all toiling humanity from the exploiters. (’“Left-Wing” Communism, an Infantile Disorder’. Peking ed., p.57)
Today, we must use these principles to build the broadest possible united front against the principal enemies on a world scale, the two superpowers. A brilliant earlier example of the use of these principles is Mao Tsetung’s differentiation of imperialism in 1941 in the period of China’s war of resistance against Japan. Mao said:
The Communist Party opposes all imperialism, but we make a distinction between Japanese imperialism which is now committing aggression against China and the imperialist powers which are not doing so now, between German and Italian imperialism which are allies of Japan and have recognised “Manehukug” and British and US imperialism which are opposed to Japan, and between the Britain and the United States of yesterday which followed a Munich policy in the Far East and undermined China’ resistance to Japan, and the Britain and the United States of today which have abandoned this policy and are now in favour of China’s resistance. (’On Policy’. Selected Works. Vol. 2, p. 443)
Mao pointed out that the purpose of this policy is “...make use of contradictions, win over the many, oppose the few and crush our enemies one by one.” If we don’t differentiate our enemies, if we insist on treating them all the same, if we don’t struggle with secondary enemies to stand up more against the main enemies, then all we will do is to drive them more into the hands of the superpowers, swell the enemy camp, isolate our ranks and condemn the revolution to failure. As a concrete and specific example, when the British and other European governments struggle to build up defence forces independent of the US, should we be opposed or indifferent to this? Or should we support it? The former course helps the superpowers by driving the second world countries into their arms. The latter course drives a wedge between the superpowers and the second world and expands the united front.
Only those intoxicated by their own pseudo-revolutionary claptrap can fail to see that the latter course is correct!
In history there have been numerous wars which, in spite of all the horrors, atrocities, distress and suffering that inevitably accompany all wars, were progressive, i.e., benefitted the development of mankind by helping to destroy the exceptionally harmful and reactionary institutions (for example, autocracy or serfdom), the most barbarous despotisms in Europe (Turkish and Russian). Lenin – ’Socialism and War’. Reprinted in ’Lenin on War and Peace’. Peking ed., p4-5)
A war waged by a western European country in defence of national independence against the Soviet Union would be the type described by Lenin above:ie., a just and progressive war. It would be a just war because it would be a war directed against the attempts of the Soviet Union, the headquarters of international reaction, to achieve world hegemony. Stalin pointed out that it is correct to support those national movements which “...tend to weaken, to overthrow imperialism...” (’Foundations of Leninism’. Peking ed. P. 74). Although the countries of western Europe are themselves imperialist, they would, in fighting for national independence against the superpowers, be, willy-hilly and irrespective of the their subjective wishes, fighting against the most concentrated form ,f imperialism, and thereby helping to bring about the final and complete collapse of imperialism.
It is quite dogmatic, in the current international situation, to say that a second world imperialist power cannot fight a just war. By way of analogy, we would point out that Marx and Engels in the 1840s supported the national movement of the Poles and Hungarians, even though that movement was in favour of capitalism. They did this because those movements were directed against the headquarters of reaction, Tsarism.
Today, such is the concentration of imperialism residing in the superpowers, that it is almost entirely the superpowers who are keeping the edifice of imperialism intact. Only the two superpowers are capable of struggling for world hegemony. In these circumstances if Britain were to be invaded by a superpower should we fight for a united front to repel the invader and wage a war of national independence? Or should we try to fight both the superpowers and our ’own’ bourgeoisie.
The latter is the viewpoint of the ’left’ opportunist line. The headquarters of this line says that it is “anti-Marxist” to unite with a weaker imperialism against a superpower and says of the second world that “...it is true that the countries of this ’world’ have definite contradictions with the two superpowers, but they are contradictions of an inter-imperialist character”. It is true that the contradictions between the first and second world countries are of an imperialist nature, but this is missing the whole point. What we must do is establish which are primary and which are secondary enemies, deal the main blow against the main enemy and, if possible, use the contradictions between our enemies in order to effect a temporary alliance with the secondary enemy to defeat the main enemy. Was it anti-Marxist for the proletariat to unite with the bourgeoisie in Britain in the great antifascist war of 1941-45? Was it anti-Marxist for the CPC to advocate the temporary setting aside of differences with the United States and Britain to concentrate on the defeat of Japan? Judging from practice it was definitely not anti-Marxist. In this period Hitlerite fascism was defeated and one third of the world became socialist!
Birch says we must turn a war with the Soviet Union into “a civil war”. What he is saying is that we must fight both the headquarters of international reaction and a second-rate bourgeoisie which would be opposed to it. Such a line is the grossest kind of dogmatism and metaphysics. It exactly resembles the view of those Trotskyites in Europe in the anti-fascist war who called on the workers and people to fight both the fascists and that section of the bourgeoisie who were prepared to fight the fascists. Small wonder that the French resistance treated these people in the same way that they treated open collaborators and quislings!
This line, if implemented, would lead to disastrous defeat for the working class, to the subjugation of western Europe by the Soviet Union, to the enslavement of many third world countries by the Soviet Union and thereby immeasurably strengthen international reaction. As Engels observed of earlier ’leftism’ “the socialist movement in Europe would be kaput for twenty years”.
We are living today in the epoch of the world-wide transition to socialism and the final collapse of imperialism. This no one will deny. But the actual course of struggle for the world-wide victory of socialism is extremely complex. It is simply not possible for the proletariat to forge straight ahead to the socialist revolution, ignoring other classes and other struggles and contradictions. For example; in the period 1941-45 the working class had first to defeat Hitlerite fascism; in the colonial and neo-colonial countries the working class has to ally with the broad mass of the people to defeat foreign imperialism in the national-democratic revolution before going onto the stage of the socialist revolution.
The headquarters of the incorrect line says though:
When Marxist-Leninists speak about the world...they judge, first and foremost from the social-economic order existing in various countries...
This is a grossly dogmatic statement – Marxist-Leninists judge countries and revolutionary movements in the first place according to the objectively existing class struggle and the part that a country or movement is playing in that struggle. To judge in the first place on the “social-economic order” prevailing in a given country gives little concrete guidance to the international proletariat. On this basis we would have to conclude that the contemporary struggle of the Egyptian and Sudanese people against the Soviet Union is not progressive, simply because the bourgeoisie has state power in those countries. Similarly, we would have to assume that only countries like China and Albania, where the working class hold state power, can play a progressive role in the world. What the ’left’ opportunists are saying is that only those struggles which have as their objective the attainment or defence of socialism are revolutionary. This line attempts to reverse the correct verdicts of the international Communist movement on Khrushchev and Trotsky.
The ’leftist’ line views the contradiction between socialism and imperialism as the principal contradiction in the world today. But in reality where is the focus of contradictions in the contemporary world? The various types of contradiction: in the world today are concentrated in Asia, Africa and Latin America – at present particularly in Africa. The centre of world revolution shifted from Europe to the colonial and semi-colonial countries in the years after the first world war with the defeat of proletarian revolution in Europe and the emergence of mass revolutionary movements in the East. It is simply absurd nonsense to say that “The objective conditions are becoming ever more favourable for the revolution in the developed capitalist countries. There the proletarian revolution is now a problem taken up for solution.” Today the proletariat in the West is at the stage of accumulating strength. The class struggle in the West is not at a revolutionary stage – undoubtedly one day it will be, and it may well be that the centre of world revolution will shift back to Europe. But as far as today is concerned –where have the great revolutionary movements occurred and where are they occurring still? In China, in Indo-China and to today in Africa. Those who oppose this view side with Khrushchev! The CPSU said of an alleged new theory of the CPC in 1963:
...according to which the chief contradiction of our time is not, we are told, between socialism and imperialism, but between the national liberation movement and imperialism. In the Chinese comrades ’ opinion, the decisive force – in the battle against imperialism is not the world socialist system, and not the international class struggle, but again, we are told, the national liberation movement. (’Polemic on the General Line of the International Communist Movement,’ p. 201).
The identity of views on this question between the Soviet revisionist renegade clique and the ’left’ opportunists is truly striking. And, just as the views of the CPSU contained in the quote above are a slander on the CPC, so is the line of the ’left’ opportunists that the theory of the three worlds “liquidates socialism as a system”. Of course the contradiction between socialism and imperialism and between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, are acute today – they are two of the fundamental contradictions in the world today. But here we are concerned not with fundamental contradictions or with the principal contradiction, but with the focus of contradictions in the contemporary world, which undoubtedly lies in the third world.
Here we must stress that although the struggles of the third world peoples and countries are national in form, they are revolutionary in character; they are a component part of the world-wide socialist revolution. As Mao said “In the final analysis, national struggle is a matter of class struggle”. The struggle of the third world is striking mighty blows against imperialism, especially the two superpowers, and is shaking the whole edifice of imperialism -before too long it will come crashing to the ground. These are questions which were settled long ago in the struggles with Trotsky and Khrushchev.
Prior to Lenin the national question was regarded as a question of reforms. It was Lenin who put forward the thesis that the proletariat of the advanced countries must give unswerving support to the struggle for national liberation and that in turn the national question was no longer a mere struggle for national independence but had become part of the struggle for world-wide proletarian revolution. As Stalin put it:
Leninism has proved, and the imperialist war and the revolution in Russia have confirmed, that the national question can be solved only in connection with and on the basis of the proletarian revolution, and that the road to victory of the revolution in the West lies though the revolutionary alliance with the liberation movement of the colonies and dependent countries against imperialism. The national question is a part of the general question of the proletarian revolution, a part of the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat. (’Foundations of Leninism’, Peking ed., p. 73).
The super-revolutionaries pose the question differently, they say:
Marxism-Leninism teaches us that the national question must always be seen as subsidiary to the cause of the revolution.
This line simply doesn’t grasp that most national struggles in the colonial and neo-colonial countries in the era of imperialism are revolutionary – instead it one-sidedly counterposes “the national question” to the “cause of the revolution. But in fact any national movement directed against imperialism is revolutionary.
To quote Stalin again:
The revolutionary character of a national movement under the conditions of imperialist oppression does not necessarily presuppose the existence of proletarian elements in the movement, the existence of a revolutionary or a republican programme, the existence of a democratic basis of the movement. (’Foundations of Leninism’, Peking ed., p. 75)
We agree with the ’left’ opportunists when they say that Marxist-Leninists “support every movement...directed against imperialism...”. It is the neo-trotskyites who do not. These people say:
...to speak in general terms about the so-called ’third world’ as the main force of the struggle against imperialism and the revolution as the supporters of the theory of the ’three worlds ’ are doing, without making any distinction between the genuine anti-imperialist and revolutionary forces and the pro-imperialist, reactionary and fascist forces in power in a number of the developing countries, means a flagrant departure from the teachings of Marxism-Leninism and to preach typically opportunist views.
It is quite true that distinctions must be made between different third world countries. They are not a homogenous whole and some third world governments and ruling classes are reactionary agents of imperialism. But what all third world countries have in common, irrespective of their internal class character, is that they are exploited and oppressed by imperialism, and are therefore objectively capable of playing a progressive role against imperialism and the superpowers. This is why we must uphold the third world countries and people as, in general, the main force in the worldwide struggle against the superpowers. Even the Shah of Iran then, to the extent that he struggles for a fair price for oil against imperialism, is playing a revolutionary role.
On this question the super-revolutionaries are playing the game of the Soviet Union for it. It is the social-imperialists who try to split the ranks of the third world countries by labelling some as ’progressive’ and others as ’reactionary’. Some third world countries are reactionary, but this is determined not by their social system, as the social-imperialists and the ’left’ opportunists would have us believe, but by their capitulation to foreign imperialism. As we have said all third world countries are exploited and oppressed by imperialism. To take the subordinate and particular aspect (that some of them are reactionary) and propagate that as the main aspect –which in particular the super-revolutionaries do – is to play into the hands of the Soviet Union, which says that those countries which support it are ’progressive’ and that those which do not are ’reactionary’. Here again there is identity of views between the social-imperialists and the ’left’ opportunists.
It is true that struggles against imperialism can only be carried out in a consistent and ultimately successful way if they are led by the proletariat, but this must in no way blind us to the fact these struggles are inherently revolutionary. It is also true that internal enemies like the Shah of Iran, who is in the main an agent of imperialism, must be fought against, but again this must in no way blind us to the fact that the main enemy in countries like Iran is the external enemy of imperialism, not domestic reaction.
Lenin and Stalin consistently opposed Trotsky’s ’left’ opportunist theory of ’Permanent Revolution’, which denied that revolution had to go through stages; and proved in revolutionary practice that to try to proceed at once to the socialist stage without passing through the democratic stage could only result in failure. This is again a question of isolating the main enemy – feudal autocracy in Russia, feudal survivals supported by foreign imperialism in China – and uniting all who can be united against the main enemy.
On the question of the revolution in China, Stalin argued:
...the present revolution in China is a combination of two streams of the revolutionary movement - the movement against feudal survivals and the movement against imperialism. The bourgeois-democratic revolution in China is a combination of the struggle against feudal survivals and the struggle against imperialism. (’On the Opposition’, Peking ed., p. 700).
In opposition Trotsky peddled the view that:
The formula of the democratic revolution has hopelessly outlived its usefulness...the third Chinese revolution, despite the great backwardness of China...will not have even such a six-month period as the October Revolution had...but will be compelled from the very outset to effect the most decisive shake-up and abolition of bourgeois property in city and village. (’The Third International After Lenin’. P. 56).
When the Trotskyite Li Li-san was general secretary of the CPC and implemented Trotsky’s line, the revolution was led to disastrous defeat. Under the influence of the “three left lines” in China from 1927 to 1935 all but one of more than a dozen revolutionary base areas were lost. In 1940 Mao summed up much of this history by referring to ”a few Trotskyites whom, brandishing their pens like lances, are tilting in all directions and creating bedlam”. He further summed up the correct line for the Chinese revolution in these words:
It is correct and in accord with the Marxist theory of revolutionary development to say of the two revolutionary stages that the first provides the conditions for the second and that the two must be consecutive, without allowing any intervening stage of bourgeois dictatorship. However, it is a Utopian view rejected by true revolutionaries to say that the democratic revolution does not have a specific task and period of its own but can be merged and accomplished simultaneously with another task, i.e., the socialist task. (’On New Democracy’, Selected Works, Vol. 2, p. 360).
Until recently this view was universally accepted in the international Communist movement. But now the neo-Trotskyites argue that “if you speak of the perspectives of the proletarian revolution in the countries of the so-called ’third world’, this is allegedly Blanquism, Trotskyism and the passing over of stages”. Well comrades, it is Trotskyism to say that the stage of the revolution in the third world is that of the socialist revolution. The fact that most countries have won formal independence does not in the least mean that the task of the proletariat in these countries is socialist revolution. These countries are still bitterly oppressed by foreign imperialism, especially the two superpowers, and the task of the proletariat in those countries is to lead the broad masses of the people in struggle against imperialism and their local agents. Can the proletariat of Malaya speak of socialist revolution now? Of Chile? Of Tanzania? To raise the slogan now of socialist revolution in these countries is a serious ’left’ opportunist error, which, as Mao said “...will drive the millions upon millions of the masses, this mighty army, over to the enemy’s side, which will certainly win his acclaim.”
Birch and the CPB(M-L) have consistently propagated a right opportunist social-chauvinist line on imperialism, particularly on British imperialism. They completely fail to recognise, either in words or deeds, that Britain is an imperialist country. Today, the ’left’ opportunist current in the international Communist movement has provided them with a ’left’ cloak to cover up the same right opportunism. Despite Birch’s revolutionary posturing his bankruptcy on this question remains. Despite Birch’s accusations that the theory of the three worlds follows the line of Bernstein and the Second International, it is he who shamelessly fails to struggle against imperialism and opportunism, it is Birch who has totally betrayed the struggle of the oppressed peoples and nations and who has sold out to British imperialism and the superpowers.
The so-called ’programme’ of the CPB(M-L) ’The British Working Class and its Party’ said, in its April 1971 edition:
The different forms and different degrees of exploitation and poverty in the industrialised imperialist countries and the non-industrialised colonies should blind no-one to the fact that in essence they are the same wherever encountered.
This line attempts to conceal the fact that the colonial, semi-colonial and neo-colonial countries are subject to the imperialist domination of the western monopoly capitalist countries. This is the reason why they are economically backward and underdeveloped. To say that the form of exploitation and oppression in the imperialist countries and in the colonies is ”in essence...the same” is nothing less than revisionism. It is to deny one of the fundamental features of imperialism – the oppression of the whole world by a handful of great powers. In imperialist countries exploitation takes the form of the appropriation of surplus value from the “proletariat by the bourgeoisie. In the colonies it takes the form of exploitation of the whole nation by foreign imperialism through the export of capital, unequal trading, plunder and robbery of natural resources and so on; all carried out through political and military bullying, even to the extent of military invasion and occupation. To say these two forms of exploitation are the same is nothing less than a scandalous and shameful apology for imperialism.
In contrast to the CPB(M-L)’s view, Lenin says:
Imperialism is the progressing oppression of the nations of the world by a handful of Great Powers. It is an epoch of wars among these powers for the extension and consolidation of national oppression; it is the epoch of the deception of the masses of the people by the hypocritical social-patriots, i.e., people who under the pretext of ’freedom of nations’ and ’rights of nations to self-determination’ and ’defence of the fatherland’, justify and defend the oppression of a majority of the world’s nations by the Great Powers. (’Lenin on Imperialism’ FLPH Peking, p. 37).
The CPB(M-L) without doubt come under the category of those who “defend the oppression of a majority of the world’s nations.” The CPB(M-L) has no faith in the British working class and thinks it has to lie to the working class to gain its leadership. It is afraid that if it tells the truth about British imperialism – that the British imperialists and a small number of people benefit from imperialist oppression of the third world – it will receive no support. In doing this it serves only the bourgeoisie who deny the existence of imperialist oppression.
In Birch’s report to the 4th Congress of the CPB(M-L) he says, referring to the economic crisis in Britain:
In terms of raw materials there is no overall shortage. Such raw materials as we lack are available in the world in exchange for the products that we are best at producing.
We are a manufacturing nation; the working up of raw materials into finished goods, has long been the basis of our cultural identity and material welfare, there is no other course compatible with life in Britain.
These statements could have been uttered by the most shameless and rabid pro-imperialist bourgeois politician. Birch’s statements are a monstrous and disgusting attempt to cover up the imperialist relations of exploitation and oppression which exist between Britain and the third world countries. Britain is a developed industrial country which forces third world countries to sell it raw materials cheaply, and which it forces to buy manufactured goods dearly. In the very first place Britain became an industrial nation on the basis of wealth accumulated in the running of a bloody empire built of colonial exploitation, slavery and wars of conquest. All this Birch despicably covers up as “the basis of our cultural identity and material welfare”.
In stark contrast to this Lenin refers to the basis of the cultural level of the imperialist countries in the following terms:
...the advanced countries have been creating their culture by the opportunity they have of living at the expense of billions of oppressed people...the capitalists of these countries obtain a great deal more than they would have been able to in the shape of profits resulting from the robbery of the workers in their own countries. (’Speech to the Second Congress of the Communist International’, Selected Works, Vol.3, p. 449).
The line of the CPB(M-L) on imperialism is the same stinking social chauvinism of the ’C’PGB who also gloss over and embellish imperialism because they have the same utter contempt for the working class. A thoroughgoing and consistent struggle to educate the working class on the fundamental features of imperialism and to help the working class see that their only real interest lies in consistent support for the struggles of the third world against imperialism, is necessary to ensure the eventual victory of the socialist revolution in Britain. As Stalin bluntly put it:
Without such a struggle, the education of the working class of the ruling nations in the spirit of true internationalism, in the spirit of closer relations with the toiling masses of the dependent countries and colonies, in the spirit of real preparation for the proletarian revolution, is inconceivable. (’Foundations of Leninism’, Peking ed., p. 79).
Because the CPB(M-L) have no faith in the revolutionary potential of the British working class they try to fool the working class into thinking that it is possible to have a socialist revolution in Britain without fighting against British imperialism abroad. Their line is no different from that of Callaghan, Orme, Allaun, Heffer or McLennan or any other bourgeois working class politician. In Lenin’s well-known words:
They omit, obliterate and distort the revolutionary side of this teaching (Marxism), its revolutionary soul. They push to the foreground and extol what is or seems acceptable to the bourgeoisie. (’State and Revolution’, Peking ed., p.8)
Over the years many organisations have tried to struggle with the CPB(M-L). Six years ago, the Marxist-Leninist Workers Association published an all-round criticism of them entitled ’Economism or Revolution?’ which, among many other points, made some of the criticisms above. The CPB(M-L) totally ignored this criticism. They have also failed to reply to the lengthy criticism of them in ’Revolution’ vol. I, no. 3 published a year ago. As far as we know the CPB(M-L) have never replied to a criticism from the movement.
Such is Birch’s monumental arrogance that he has a stated policy of never reading the publications of other organisations. This arrogance is such that he leaves himself no way of correcting his mistakes. One of the main reasons why Birch and the CPB(M-L) make such gross subjectivist errors is that they rely only on themselves, not on the masses. As Nieh Jung-chen recently said:
Objective reality is exceedingly rich in content and very complex; if we want to understand the objective world correctly, we must rely on the practice and wisdom of the masses. The wisdom of any individual is always limited whereas that of the masses is inexhaustible. It is far, far from enough to rely on the experience of a few leaders. (’Peking Review’. 18.II.1977. p. 7)
Because of Birch’s arrogance he has inevitably persisted in his errors, refused to listen to criticism, dug in his heels and thus degenerated to such an extent that he is no longer part of the movement.
Although Birch now covers himself with left-sounding phrases such as “Our duty in Britain, national and international, is the crushing of capitalism here and British Imperialism abroad, especially the ending of the aggressive imperialist occupation of Ireland”, he still practices social chauvinism on the two fundamental matters of supporting struggles for national liberation and of fighting opportunism.
Birch denies even the existence of the third world, he attacks all third world governments, and not once in his recent pamphlet is there a mention of the struggle of the oppressed peoples and nations against imperialism, the most acute revolutionary movement of the present. Even in the quote above about the struggle for national independence in Ireland, Birch’s line is that British imperialist oppression of Ireland will be ended by the British working class, not by the Irish people/
Birch asks “Are the countries of Somalia and Ethiopia, countries with stone-age development and twenty first century weapons donated by kind imperialists, engaged in a bloody war with each other in the third world? In both countries there has been drought, starvation and death when their imperialist supporters provided little or no help.” He asks this question in order to pour scorn on the fact that the third world is the main force in contemporary international class struggle. But in so doing he reveals his own contemptible covering up of imperialism.
Why are countries like Ethiopia and Somalia backward? (We’ll leave aside the racism and chauvinism implicit in the remark “stone-age development”). Because of imperialism. Why do imperialists provide weapons? To split the ranks of the third world in order to divide and rule! Birch passes the question off as one of “imperialist supporters”, as though the local ruling class are the main enemy. This is turning things on their head and implies that the third world governments are mainly responsible for “drought, starvation, and death”. Birch joins company with all the imperialists, opportunists, pious parsons and others who try to pull the wool over the eyes of the working class on the real cause of all these things – imperialist oppression of the third world.
The CPB(M-L) put the same line. The ’Worker’ of 18.7.77 said, referring to third world governments, “the rulers try to divert the attention of the masses from the real cause of their poverty by pointing to the older capitalist nations and trying to squeeze more money out of them”. This line actually denies that the “real cause of their poverty” is imperialism. Here again there is complete identity of views between the CPB(M-L) and the ’C’PGB.
Elsewhere in his pamphlet Birch says “The working class allies itself with none other than the working class” and refers to the proletariat as ”the only revolutionary force...”. This line revises the line of the worker-peasant alliance (once again lining up with Trotsky), the line of a united front against imperialism and the question of winning over even the most unstable allies; but its most glaring and contemptible crime is that it denies that the struggle of the oppressed peoples and nations is a component part of the world-ride proletarian revolution. Birch’s narrowness of outlook, which can see only the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat in the west, and which totally ignores the revolutionary struggle of the oppressed peoples and nations is identical with the national chauvinism of the old leaders of the Second International, whose view was described by Stalin as follows:
Formerly, the national question was usually confined to a narrow circle of questions, concerning; primarily, ’civilised’ nationalities. The Irish, the Hungarians, the Poles, the Finns, the Serbs, and several other European nationalities - that was the circle of unequal peoples in whose destinies the leaders of the Second International were interested. The scores and hundreds of millions of Asiatic and African peoples who are suffering national oppression in its most savage and cruel form usually remained outside of their field of vision. They hesitated to put white and black, ’civilised’ and ’uncivilised on the same plane. Two or three meaningless, lukewarm resolutions, which carefully evaded the question of liberating the colonies – that was all the leaders of the Second International could boast of. Now we can say that this duplicity and half-heartedness in dealing with the national question has been brought to an end... Leninism laid bare this crying incongruity, broke down the wall between whites and blacks, between Europeans and Asiatics, between the ’civilised’ and ’uncivilised’ slaves of imperialism, and thus linked the national question with the question of the colonies. The national question was thereby transformed from a particular and internal state problem into a general and international problem, into a world problem of emancipating the oppressed peoples in the dependent countries and colonies from the yoke of imperialism. (’Foundations of Leninism’, Peking ed., p. 70-71).
As on many other questions Birch tries to turn things on their heads, to turn black into white by ascribing to others his chauvinism, his parochialism, his narrowness, his betrayal of proletarian internationalism. He says that those propagating the correct line of the international situation are inviting the movement to “...form a second international after the pattern of Millerand and Bernstein...”. But it is in fact Birch who is following the example of Millerand and Bernstein. To quote Lenin on this question:
The weight of emphasis in the internationalist education of the workers in the oppressing countries must necessarily consist in their advocating and upholding freedom for secession for oppressed countries. It is our right and duty to treat every Social-Democrat of an oppressing nation who fails to conduct such propaganda as an imperialist and a scoundrel. (Quoted in ’Foundations of Leninism’, Peking ed., p. 80).
The CPB(M-L) have never had the slightest understanding of the inseparable connection between imperialism and opportunism. In its ’programme’, the only mention of this question is to pose the question “Why is the oldest and most experienced proletariat so lacking in political acumen?” It makes however not the slightest attempt to answer the question. Now they have degenerated so far that Birch actually denies that the basis of opportunism lies in imperialism. In his pamphlet he says:
The definition of a third world is based on the theory that the greater the under-development the greater the potential for revolution, that the man with the ox is more militant, a greater force for change than the one who has passed that stage.
As usual Birch replaces polemic by absurd distortions – no-one is claiming that revolutionary potential is decided by whether or not one has an ox. The view of the international Communist movement has always been that which is concisely summed up in the slogan ‘where there is oppression, there is resistance’ and, in general, the greater the oppression, the greater the resistance. What is Birch’s explanation for the fact that the era of imperialism is the era in which the focus of the revolutionary movement has shifted from the developed capitalist countries to the third world? Why does Birch think revolution occurred in Russia, not in Britain? Why is it that the. great revolutionary movements of today are occurring in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and not in Europe, the USA, Canada, or Japan? It is simply because the people of the third world are these most bitterly exploited and oppressed by imperialism and are therefore at present the most revolutionary. On the other hand, the working class of the developed capitalist countries, although they too are exploited and oppressed by imperialism, have a much higher cultural level that those of the East, are ideologically and politically led by the opportunist agents of the bourgeoisie* and are therefore, whilst fighting back against imperialism, not yet in general possessed of revolutionary consciousness.
This is not Birch’s view though. He goes on from denying these simple facts to revising the fundamental teachings of Leninism on imperialism and opportunism. Imperialism, by internationalising capital and its consequent receipt of superprofits, has been able to postpone the inevitable socialist revolution in the west for decades. Superprofits and other means of imperialist robbery have prolonged the economic life of capitalism and also enabled the imperialist bourgeoisie to foster opportunism. In Lenin’s famous words:
The receipt of high monopoly profits by the capitalists in one of the numerous branches of industry, in one of the numerous countries, etc., makes it economically possible for them to bribe certain sections of the workers, and win them to the side of the bourgeoisie in a given industry or given nation, against all others. The intensification of antagonism between imperialist nations for the division of the world increases this striving. And so there is created that bond between imperialism and opportunism, which revealed itself first and most closely in England... (’Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism’, Peking ed., p. 152).
Birch’s line though is that “It is a false premise that the undeveloped, less privileged, ’more’ exploited are more prone to progress, to revolution.” This line is entirely consistent with the long-standing practice of the CPB(M-L) which has completely failed to give a lead to the working class on the nature of opportunism and its social and economic roots. It is true, as Birch says, that “all exploited are potentially...revolutionary”, but this misses the crucial point - who are actually the most revolutionary at this time, and why are some, who are potentially revolutionary, not so in practice at this stage?
We have already pointed out one reason – the generally higher cultural level of the working class in the west – but another reason is the strength of the opportunists in the working class movement in the west. The working class is led ideologically, politically and organisationally by the opportunists in the Labour Party and ’C’PGB and, to some extent, by the Trotskyites. The Labour Party still gets mass working class support, albeit considerably declining support, at elections. The mass organisations of the working class, the trade unions, are led by opportunists of various hues. Most shop steward committees and trade union branches are led by the opportunists. In these circumstances one of the fundamental questions of Party-building and revolution is an unrelenting campaign to fully expose and discredit these traitors and agents of the bourgeoisie in the eyes of the workers. Yet in issue after issue of ’The Worker’ there is scarcely a mention of the opportunists. Even in the 1976 Congress document, opportunism is mentioned only in passing once or twice.
The bourgeoisie themselves recognise clearly enough the importance to them of imperialism (even if they won’t admit it publicly). In ’Imperialism’ Lenin tells of the words of Cecil Rhodes:
I was in the East End of London yesterday and attended a meeting of the unemployed. I listened to the wild speeches, which were just a cry for ’bread’, ’bread’, and on my way home I pondered over the scene and I became more than ever convinced of the importance of imperialism.. .The Empire, as I have always said, is a bread and butter question. If you want to avoid civil war, you must become imperialists. (Peking ed., pp 93-94).
Birch portrays himself as an indomitable fighter against imperialism – in reality he is a revolutionary charlatan. Lenin referred to Rhodes’ defence of imperialism as ”crude and cynical”, but says of him, in comparison to the opportunists that Rhodes was a “somewhat more honest social-chauvinist”. Rhodes was certainly more honest than Birch! We have shown how Birch fails to support those fighting against imperialism in the third world and how he fails to struggle against the opportunist agents of imperialism in the working class movement. So crucial is this struggle that Lenin bluntly said “...the fight against imperialism is a sham and a humbug unless it is inseparably bound up with the fight against opportunism.” (’Imperialism’, Peking ed., p. 153).
It is scarcely surprising that Birch does not struggle against opportunism, since he himself is an integral part of one of the biggest social props of British imperialism – the stratum of union leaders and officials. People like Scanlon, Jones and Bassnett are his cronies and companions-in-crime. Lenin vividly pointed out the role of these people in ’Imperialism’:
Obviously, out of such enormous superprofits...it is possible to bribe the labour leaders and the upper stratum of the labour aristocracy — This stratum of bourgeoisified workers, or the ’labour aristocracy’, who are quite philistine in their mode of life, in the size of their earnings and in their entire outlook is the...principal social (not military) prop of the bourgeoisie. For they are the real agents of the bourgeoisie in the working class movement, the labour lieutenants of capital, real channels of reformism and chauvinism. In the civil war between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie they inevitably, and in no small numbers, take the side of the bourgeoisie... (Peking ed., pp. 9-10).
Today, the labour aristocracy as such is not a significant section of the working class, but the labour leaders continue to play their treacherous role. Birch, like the rest Of them, has “taken the side of the bourgeoisie”, he is a “labour lieutenant of capital”. Some three years ago Birch became a member of the TUC general council which has played such an important part in propping up the rotting capitalist system and tying the hands of the working class movement. Birch gained his position, not through being elected by class-conscious workers, but, like the rest of these traitors, on the basis of Buggins’ turn. Birch has completely failed to expose the stinking and rotten role of the general council to the working class. Not once has he gone to the working class, taken them into his confidence, never solicited their opinions, never exposed a single one of the general council’s rotten schemes. Birch plays a similar role in the executive committee of the AUEW. His recent betrayals in selling out the strikes at Heathrow and the ’Daily Express’ need no further comment from us. Some workers in Liverpool recently passed the verdict of the working class on Birch: over his name on a CPB(M-L) poster advertising a public meeting, many of them wrote ’scab’.
Birch is indeed a scab, traitor and renegade to the working class!
The ’left’ opportunists are also practising the most disgraceful splittism by bringing differences into the open and by trying to split the ranks of the international proletariat by spreading lies and scurrilous rumours about the Communist Party of China.
It is perfectly natural that there should be differences in the international Communist movement. These should be resolved through comradely exchanges; where they cannot, differences should be reserved in the spirit of seeking common ground. Over a period of time practice will show who is right and who is wrong.
What is quite incorrect is to bring differences into the open in the face of the enemy and to subjectively elevate the importance of one’s own view in such a way as to cause splits. It is essential to concentrate our fire on the main enemies, the Soviet Union, the United States and modern revisionism and not start hitting out wildly in all directions, particularly at those within our own ranks.
From this point of view the open polemic that was launched by some people over a year ago cannot be regarded as a serious style of work; it is rather a sectarian style of work which splits our ranks and aids the enemy. However, now that differences are in the open it would be incorrect for us to ignore the serious opportunism that is being propagated. In the case of Birch we would in any event have made these sharp criticisms, as these are on crucial questions of rebuilding the Party in Britain.
Even more serious are the lies being peddled in some quarters about the CPC and the rumours being spread that China has gone revisionist. The attitude that one takes towards China, the greatest socialist country of our time, is a fundamental line of demarcation with opportunism. In particular the attitude that one takes towards the life or death struggle of the Party, working class and people against the ’gang of four’ is crucial.
The time is long since past when it was possible to be still considering the evidence on the ’gang of four’. The evidence is overwhelming that they were a bunch of ultra-rightist, revisionist and reactionary conspirators who tried to usurp Party and State power in order to overthrow socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat; and restore capitalism and establish a fascist dictatorship. Those leaders who are still not taking a clear-cut stand in support of the Party Central Committee headed by Chairman Hua are objectively supporters of the ’gang of four’ and therefore of the international bourgeoisie. They are aiding and abetting the attacks of imperialism and revisionism on the great socialist Peoples’ Republic of China. This is no mere theoretical question: China is the world revolutionary base area of the international proletariat and the oppressed peoples and nations, a centre of ideological, political and material support for the world revolution; its very existence denies one third of humanity to the imperialists and therefore immeasurably weakens imperialism.
What is the attitude of the CPB(M-L) on this question? Although they haven’t the guts to come out and say so openly, it is clear that they regard Chairman Hua and the rest of the CPC leadership as revisionist. They have published nothing in support of the victory over the ’gang of four’ in their paper, they have had only one public meeting on China in London in the past year and they have stopped selling ’Peking Review’ in their shop. All this is clear evidence that they support the ’gang of four’. This is scarcely surprising given the common ideological foundation of idealism and metaphysics of both the ’gang of four’ and the proponents of the ’left’ opportunist line on the international situation. If those peddling this line don’t change their ways, they too, like the ’gang of four’, will be struck down by the people.
In criticising the opportunist errors of the CPB(M-L) we must narrow the target of attack and strictly differentiate between the majority of the members of the CPB(M-L) who sincerely want revolution, and Birch himself. We must have firm conviction that the majority of the members of the CPB(M-L) are good, will eventually see through Birch’s revisionism and overthrow him.
What of Birch himself? The evidence is overwhelming that Birch is incorrigible. His overweening arrogance, insensitivity and utter contempt for the views and criticisms of others are a byword in the movement. Because over a period of years, Birch has dug in his heels and refused to change, he has degenerated from someone who was merely making serious opportunist errors to a full-blown revisionist, an agent of the bourgeoisie in the ranks of the working class movement.
For all practical considerations we must assume that Birch cannot change. We urge those in the CPB(M-L) who have been criticising his errors to intensify their criticism, to demand that Birch makes a thorough self-criticism and change his ways. Birch will almost certainly refuse to do so, in which case the honest members of the CPB(M-L) must start a struggle to expel him from the CPB(M-L) or, if this is not a serious possibility, to leave the CPB(M-L) and join the growing numbers of comrades who are building the Party on the basis of the correct ideological and political line.
In summary we must criticise the ’left’ opportunist line for the following serious errors:
1. Errors of subjectivism, idealism and dogmatism in not seeking truth from facts.
2. errors of metaphysics in their analysis of enemies and friends on a world scale.
3. Errors of revisionism and Trotskyism on the national question in the era of imperialism.
4. Errors of splittism in bringing differences into the open and attacking the Communist Party of China and the Peoples’ Republic of China.
In addition we must say that Birch and the CPB(M-L) are guilty of the grossest social-chauvinism and revise Lenin’s fundamental teachings on imperialism and opportunism.
These are serious errors which, if persisted in and taken up by the masses, will play into the hands of social-imperialism and modern revisionism and lead to disastrous defeat for the international proletariat. We are confident however that the mass of workers and oppressed peoples and nations will see through the revolutionary posturing of the proponents of the ’left’ opportunist line, see clearly its ultra-right reactionary essence, and more closely rally round the correct line and leadership to build the broadest possible international united front against superpower hegemonism.