Combat Intellectualism to Transform the Class Stand of the CFB(ML)!

First Published: Revolution No. 2, October 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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“Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses however this distinctive feature’, it has simplified the class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: bourgeoisie and’ proletariat.” (Marx and Engels. ’The Manifesto of the Communist Party’ Peking edition, p 33)

Marx and Engels, the founders of scientific socialism summed up the essential feature of the class struggle under capitalism in these words. Over one hundred years later, the two great hostile camps are still in conflict. The means of production are concentrated in still fewer hands, and the power of the bourgeoisie is backed up by the increasing power of state repression. The proletariat, the only productive class in society, is subjected to exploitation which the bourgeoisie is forced to intensify by means of drives for increased productivity, redundancies and increasing measures to cut living standards. But the epoch of the bourgeoisie has, since the beginning of this century, reached its highest stage – the stage of imperialism – which as Lenin pointed out is the “eve of the proletarian revolution”. As the crisis of imperialism intensifies its parasitic character is revealed more clearly. Its yoke gets heavier and the struggle between the classes is intensified. The imperialist bourgeoisies throughout the world are deeply threatened by the rising militancy of the proletariat, and oppressed nations struggling for Liberation from imperialism. Revolution is the main trend in the world today.

The contradictions of imperialism also affect other strata. Since the early stages of capitalist development, the middle strata, petty bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia have been transformed. Maryland Engels, writing of an earlier stage of capitalist development described the position of the petty bourgeoisie in the following words:

“The lower strata of the middle class – the small tradespeople, shopkeepers and retired tradespeople generally, the handicraftsmen and ’peasants – all these sink gradually into the proletariat, partly because their diminutive capital does not suffice for the scale on which modern industry is carried on, and is swamped in the competition with the large capitalists, partly because their specialised skill is rendered worthless by new methods of production.” (ibid. p 42-43)

The crisis of imperialism also affects the intelligentsia who do mental work. Quick to grasp new ideas, a section of this stratum has often historically grasped the scientific aspect of Marxism-Leninism, and seen that bourgeois ideology is incapable of offering solutions to the contradictions of capitalism. The intelligentsia has furnished leaders of the workers’ movement, for example Marx and Lenin. In the “Communist Manifesto”, (p 46), Marx and Engels described the period when ’’the process of dissolution going on within the whole range of society assumes such a violent glaring character” that the ranks of the proletariat are joined by “a portion of the bourgeois ideologists who have raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the historical movement as a whole.”

This happens because these sections of the intelligentsia ’comprehend theoretically’. But neither the contradictions between monopoly capital and the petty bourgeoisie, nor the scientific understanding of the intelligentsia is enough to make them revolutionary. The workers leaders who came from the intelligentsia, like Marx and Lenin did so because they grasped the need to take the stand of the proletariat. Marx and Engels add, immediately after the last passage quoted:

“...of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class. The other classes decay and finally disappear in the face of modern industry; the proletariat is its special and essential product.” (ibid. p 46)


This is one of the key points that has been grasped as a result of ideological struggle in the CFB(ML) – ”the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class.” The struggle to deepen our grasp remains the central struggle. In all the articles of this issue of ’Revolution’ this struggle is placed at the centre. In particular the article criticising our founding documents “The Working Class Grows Strong By Fighting Errors Within Its Ranks” points out the errors that arose from the failure to grasp this point. It also argues that this was no accident or oversight. It was one aspect of the error of intellectualism, the ideology of the intelligentsia being imported into the young revolutionary movement. Although progress has been made in combating this trend, intellectualism is the principal ideological error in the CFB(ML). In order to carry through the struggle against intellectualism, to take our stand with the working class and not with the intelligentsia, we must grasp more firmly the fact that intellectualism is a mode of thinking stamped with the brand of the intelligentsia. It is with this in mind that the article by Enver Hoxha is being reprinted.


In his article, Enver Hoxha shows clearly how intellectualism emerged with class society and developed alongside it. Taking ancient Greece as an example he shows the connection between intellectualism and idealism – the view that the ideas in our heads are primary over practical reality. This belief rested on the separation in class society between manual and mental activity. This division of labour corresponded in ancient society to the division into classes, into labourers and slaves on the one hand and rulers and their priests and philosophers on the other.

Under capitalism the development of the forces of production means that the intelligentsia is a much larger stratum than earlier periods. Bajram Abdiu, in an article called “the Intelligentsia and its Present Day Role” says:

“In the capitalist countries there is a continual growth in the section of the intelligentsia which does not own any means of production and which is employed for wages by private or state capitalist enterprises. Thus, for example, in the United States in 1969 this section accounted for about 88% of the total number of intellectuals, in Britain in 1951 it represented 87.7%, in France in 1954 it represented 85.6% and in Japan in 1960 about 97%”. (Reprinted from ’Albania Today’ in the Communist Unity Association (ML) pamphlet “Is There a Middle Stratum?” p 4-5)

But because this intelligentsia has grown in size, and its role is transformed, because it has become largely a wage earning group, this does not mean that it has become part of the proletariat. Abdiu criticises bourgeois ideologists, and especially the revisionists in the Soviet Union for arguing this. To quote Abdiu again:

“Marxism views the intelligentsia as a large group of people mainly engaged in mental work, in the organisation and management of work .and production of the affairs of state and society, who engage in creative work and not in manual work or merely carrying out instructions. The intelligentsia constitutes a specific “social stratum and not a class in itself because, unlike the classes, it has no independent relation of its own to the means of production, it stems from and it is formed by, various classes and in every historically given social system it mainly serves the class in power.” (ibid p 5)

At the same time the intelligentsia is not a homogeneous mass, in general it assists the bourgeoisie to exploit the working masses and it is also paid by the bourgeoisie out of the value created by the working class.

As it has grown in size it has also become more diverse. Communists must draw clear distinctions between different categories and strata of the intelligentsia. Abdiu describes these as:

“.. the upper strata which is closest to the bourgeoisie and takes part jointly with it in the exploitation of the proletariatů the middle and lower strata, which are connected with, and are closer to, the proletariat than the bourgeoisie.” (ibid p 7)

Communists must distinguish between for example judges, senior civil servants, senior managers and engineers who take part jointly in the exploitation of the proletariat and school teachers and technicians in the factory or laboratory who are closer to the working class in living standards and sometimes in working conditions.

It is mainly from these sections (the middle and lower intelligentsia) that some elements will be won to progressive positions, and some will enter the workers movement. Especially in periods of acute class struggle, some members of the intelligentsia will have grasped theoretically the need to overthrow capitalism, whereas others, particularly from the lower strata who are in daily contact with the masses, will have begun” to understand from a more practical aspect. These factors will drive some members of the intelligentsia into the ranks of the proletarian movement.

But it is at this point that Communists must be absolutely clear on the nature of the intelligentsia as a stratum, and must grasp that the proletariat alone is the really revolutionary class. The class position of the intelligentsia is still different from that of-the proletariat. It continually gives rise to intellectualism, which can be transferred wholesale into the movement if not guarded against.

As Hoxha shows, the class position of the intellectual continually gives rise to intellectualism. Intellectuals are prone to vacillation and to the illusion of individualism because, in Hoxha’s words:

“The abstraction, the division of mental from manual work means that he is not in contact with things, but with their symbols”. (E. Hoxha. ”On the Intellectuals”. P 2)

Because of this the intellectuals believe that they stand above classes and that problems can be solved through theory alone. This is the key link between the class position of intellectuals, and the ideology of intellectualism. When intellectuals enter the communist movement these errors must be boldly and patiently combated. It is only through struggle that intellectuals can begin to take up a firm proletarian class stand. And it is only with leadership from the proletariat that such a struggle can take place

“Lenin says that the stratum of intellectuals is characterised by its individualism, by its inability to organise itself and by instability. The proletariat should take them by the hand, and teach them the dangers of anarchic individualism, because individualism makes them hesitate, vacillate and so on.” (ibid. p 22)


Through struggle, the CFB(ML) has begun to grasp the task of struggling against intellectualism. In summing up the experience of the Third Conference, the article ’Build the Revolutionary Communist Party to Lead the Revolution’ pointed out:

“As a result of the campaign against intellectualism all comrades, both those from the working class and those from intellectual backgrounds have united in striving to take an open, conscious proletarian stand, to write and speak simply and clearly, to study, in order to apply in practice and to decide on realistic tasks and carry them through to the end.” (Revolution 1, p 12).

This was possible because comrades began to grasp that the revolutionary Communist Party must be a party of the working class, not of the intelligentsia. Tit is also important to grasp that this will be a protracted struggle. As Mao points out:

“... a thorough change in world outlook takes a very long time, and we should work patiently and not be impetuous. ” (’The Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People’ in Selected Readings, p 45-8)

The world outlook of the intellectuals must be remoulded. They must be taken in hand by working-class comrades, whose strongest weapon is ideological struggle. Examples of intellectualist errors must be boldly criticised and self-criticisms made when they occur. But as Mao says, the struggle will be a protracted and should be a patient one. Recognizing this fact, the CFB(ML) has doubled the period of candidate membership for members of the intelligentsia. This is explicitly to give time for each Comrades to begin to remould their outlook under the leadership of the organisation.

This is not to argue that some comrades from the working class will not be free of intellectualist errors. The history of the CFB(ML) itself provides examples of comrades from solid working, class backgrounds, who perhaps because of incorrect leadership in the past, fell into intellectualism and even embraced it enthusiastically in their search for a clear line. In general however, we must recognise that it is the class position of the intelligentsia that gives rise to intellectualism, and measures must be taken to combat this.

Ideological struggle is a potent weapon, but it is not sufficient on its own. Ideological education must be constantly carried out. It is necessary to study the question of intellectualism, especially the article by Enver Hoxha, to gain a deeper grasp of the class nature of intellectualism. It is also necessary to apply the lessons of study to practice, and to show how the struggle against intellectualism must run through every aspect of our work. In relation to the fight for democratic centralism, we must show that revolutionary discipline combined with proletarian democracy is an essential weapon for the working class in its fight against the bourgeoisie, and that petty bourgeois anarchic individualism, if not checked will destroy the revolutionary movement.

In their style of living, communists struggle to adopt the style of ’plain living and hard struggle’ particularly with comrades from the higher intelligentsia who are used to a privileged standard of living, and whose contact with symbols instead of things makes them forget how much physical toil is needed for the working class to earn their wages.

It is necessary to educate comrades from the intelligentsia to integrate with the masses. Integration with the masses is the key to actively remoulding the world outlook of the intelligentsia. Mao is absolutely correct when he says:

“The intellectuals often tend, to be subjective and individualistic, impractical in-their thinking and irresolute in action until they have thrown themselves heart and soul into mass revolutionary struggles, or made up their minds to serve the interests of the masses and become one with them.” (Quotations, p 292)

In struggling for this, not only class stand, but also class position is important. In fact Mao argues that the thorough change of class stand is only possible on the basis of change in class position. To ’integrate with the masses means that comrades from the intelligentsia, (especially those from the higher intelligentsia), should take jobs which are closer to the working class. It will also be necessary to win conviction for some comrades from the intelligentsia to enter directly the work of building bases.

As the article “Build Communist Bases in the Working Class” (p 23) points out, the decision to concentrate all our forces on the industrial working class is a further blow against intellectualism. It is in this way that the-principal error within the organisation, the error of intellectualism, will be overthrown. This is not to argue that it will be defeated forever. Bourgeois ideological errors will reappear as long as the material basis for them exists. Examples from the socialist countries (where struggle is still needed to prevent the restoration of capitalism, proves this fact. But by struggling to achieve the central mass work task, the building of communist bases, we will begin to have what Mao calls ’a real grasp of Marxism’.

“In order to have a real grasp of Marxism, one must learn it not only from books, but mainly through class struggle, through practical work and close contact with the masses of workers and peasants. When in addition to reading sane Marxist books our intellectuals have gained some understanding through their own practical work, we will all be speaking the same language,...if that happens, all of us will certainly work much better.” (Quotations, p 312)

Intellectualism is founded on the separation of manual from mental work. It comprises a number of ideas and methods of work which are typical of the intelligentsia, and which prevent them from quickly taking up a bold proletarian class stand. These are vacillations which is typical of the strata caught between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat; idealism, which makes the intellectual think that he is not prompted by any class interest, and that everything is subject to his judgment; opportunism, based on the belief that contradictions can be solved by intellectual consideration; and individualism, based on the fact that the intellectual’s “means of production are his personal knowledge, his personal convictions and personal qualities”. (Hoxha. P 22) All these illusions are incompatible with the fighting tasks of the proletariat. When they arise in the Marxist-Leninist movement they must be combated.

The proletariat has three main weapons with which to combat intellectualism. These are active ideological struggle, ideological education, and integration of intellectuals with the working class. Through ideological struggle incorrect ideas can be rectified if Marxist-Leninists examine their thinking and work, and carry out criticism and self-criticism to expose mistakes and promote what is good. Criticism of intellectualist errors must be done seriously, but must also follow the principles of “learning from past mistakes to avoid future ones, and curing the sickness to save the patient.” Alongside ideological struggle, comrades from an intellectual background must be educated. What Mao said about Chinese intellectuals is applicable to intellectuals who are coming towards Marxism-Leninism at this stage in Britain:

“They have had some Marxist educationů But the majority still have a long way to go before they can completely replace the bourgeois world outlook with the proletarian world outlook. Some people have read a few Marxist books and think themselves quite learned, but what they have read has not penetrated, has not struck root in their minds so that they do not know how to use it and their class feelings remain of old. Others are very conceited and having learned some book phrases think themselves terrific and are very cocky; but whenever a storm blows up, they take a stand very different from that, of the workers and the majority of the peasants. They waiver while the latter stand firm, they equivocate while the latter are forthright. Hence it is wrong to assume that people who educate others no longer need to be educated and no longer need to study”. (’Speech at the CPC National Conference on Propaganda Work’. Selected Readings, p 484).

The aim of struggle and education is to improve the work of Communists, to make them better fighters against the bourgeoisie. To achieve this aim ideological struggle and education should he consolidated by practical integration with the working class. In the last analysis this is the true test of whether an intellectual is truly revolutionary or not:

“In the final analysis, the dividing line between revolutionary intellectuals and non-revolutionary or counter-revolutionary intellectuals is whether or not they are willing to integrate themselves with the workers and peasants and actually do so. Ultimately it is this alone, and not professions of faith in the Three Principles or in Marxism, that distinguishes one from the other. A true revolutionary must be one who is willing to integrate himself with the workers and peasants and actually does so.” (’The May 4th Movement,’ Selected Works, Vol. 2, p 238)