These three conditions are the basis for a revolutionary leadership to be built and exercised. Once these conditions have been sufficiently developed, this leadership can be exercised in its organised form, the disciplined party. We have emphasised that thes6 conditions are inseparable and must be simultaneously developed. One task is primary at this stage, however. That is the task of applying Marxist theory to Britain, conducting analysis and developing a revolutionary political line.
To make this statement meaningful, it la necessary to more specifically outline the limits of our present understanding of British society and isolate the most important problems to be resolved.
We have the fundamental analysis of capitalism by Marx and the analysis of the final, moribund stage of capitalism, imperialism, by Lenin. Britain is a monopoly capitalist, imperialist state where the contradiction between the capitalist relations of production and the highly developed, centralised means of production is extremely intense. The fundamental opposition of the objective class interests of the proletariat and the monopoly capitalist class can only be resolved by working class victory and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Britain is over-ripe for socialism.
Imperialism has converted the colonies from a reserve of capitalism into allies of the working class. The national liberation struggles are today in the fore-front of the world struggle against imperialism. The Chinese revolution and the theoretical developments of Marxism-Leninism by Mao Tsetung have revealed the nature of such struggles and their place in the international proletarian revolution.
In the home countries of imperialism, no such successful application of Marxism-Leninism has been made. The parties of the Third International in the imperialist countries have almost everywhere become revisionist, bourgeois parties. In no imperialist state has a really strong, correctly oriented revolutionary movement or party yet developed. No imperialist state has been overthrown by a proletarian revolution.
Bourgeois ideologists and Marxists infected by bourgeois ideology claim that this failure is the inevitable result of objective conditions. They say that Marx’s analysis of capitalism no longer applies, that capitalism has been able to solve its contradictions and that the working class has been able to raise its standard of living and no longer has any revolutionary potential. In the period of the post-war ’boom’ in imperialist economies this view was frequently and loudly expressed, with the growing crisis it is even harder to make this sound convincing, but it remains extremely prevalent. It finds one form in the revisionist doctrine of ’the peaceful road to socialism’, which holds that the revolutionary line’ of Marxism no longer applies since capitalism has “become capable of peaceful transition”. Another form is the ’new left’ theories of Marcuse and others who hold that the working class has become reactionary and that the revolutionary force is petty bourgeois students or intellectuals.
The exploitation and oppression of the working class has never ceased, the need for socialism has never disappeared and the working class remains the revolutionary class. With the present crisis, the internal contradictions in imperialism are growing more intense. The fact that for several decades imperialism was able to have economic expansion and even prosperity at home may partially explain why no decisive revolutionary situations developed and why there was no great mass upsurge, but it cannot explain the almost total collapse of any core of revolutionary leadership.
The political and economic conditions of imperialism, in particular the obtaining of super-profits from the exploitation of colonies and the greatly increased state control of the economy have produced important changes in the balance of class forces in imperialist states. In terms of theory, it is the failure to analyse these changes correctly which has permitted opportunism to triumph for so long in the working class movement.
Marx analysed the inevitable crisis and collapse of the capitalist system. Imperialism, state monopoly capitalism, has not escaped this inevitable collapse but has delayed it, laying the basis for even more devastating and total collapse. Lenin began the analysis of the differences between the imperialist economic and political system and the earlier stages of capitalism. His analysis must be further developed to a higher understanding of the internal contradictions in imperialism. How have imperialist economies survived, and what is the nature of the growing international crisis?
Competitive developing capitalism found bourgeois democracy, parliamentarism, to be the most effective means of exercising bourgeois class power. Parliamentary democracy remains the form of the British bourgeois state. The way in which it is used, with the greatly increased contradiction, and alienation of the state, in imperialist society, has important new features. Imperialism, the final, decadent stage of capitalism, has no progressive features and is totally reactionary in its economic, ideological and political role. The nature of imperialism and its growing crisis makes fascism, rule by open violence by the most reactionary sections of the reactionary’ class, an ever-present danger. In the most ’democratic’ imperialist societies, the state possesses and uses monstrous powers of manipulation and coercion.
Our analysis must therefore expose fully the nature of the changes in the exercise of imperialist state powers the growth of the military and bureaucracy, the use of political parties, particularly social-democratic parties; the control and use of trades unions; the manipulation of education, information and entertainment media. The forms and means of spreading imperialist ideology, racism, big-power chauvinism and all forms of reactionary ideas, require our close attention. The imperialist economic system and its ideological and political super-structure developed out of competitive capitalism where all its features were present in undeveloped form. Serious errors are the result of failing to analyse these features in their fully developed, most reactionary form. Our world is filled with ideas and institutions-like social democracy, the Labour Party or certain trades Union organisations which in their beginning were for the most part progressive, but are now totally tools of imperialism.
Most important and fundamental to any strategy for revolution is our analysis of classes, what are the reliable forces for revolution? What are the wavering forces to be won over or neutralized? What are the consistently reactionary forces to be isolated and destroyed? What are the political and organisational representatives of these forces? Our analysis must also determine the relative strengths and weaknesses of the bourgeois and proletarian camps and how the situation is changing.
To conduct such an analysis, a deep understanding of the economic and political system as it has historically developed is required. British imperialism in its internal nature as a capitalist, exploitative system and its external nature as an imperialist predator oppressing and exploiting weaker nations is the framework in which the shifting balance of class forces operates.
The imperialist system, the propping-up of the whole British economy by the super-exploitation of colonies and neo-colonies and the merger between monopoly capital and the state in controlling the economy, has laid the material foundation for the increased stratification of the population of Britain and of the working class in particular. Precisely as Marx predicted, capitalism has developed into monopoly with real economic and political power passing into fewer and fewer hands. The vast majority of the- people have no ownership of any means of production and must sell their labour-power to capitalism. Running contrary to this trend is the reverse trend of increased stratification brought about by imperialism.
In the ranks of the working class is a stratum bought off by a small share in imperialist super-profits: the labour aristocracy. This labour aristocracy, its nature and role, must be fully examined. Only in this way can we obtain an understanding of the various social-democratic, ’working class’ leaders, the reactionary trades union bureaucrats and the solid control of whole sections of the working class movement by reformism and social-chauvinism. The relationship between various economic struggles and the basic class interests of the proletariat can only be understood in this light.
For a strong revolutionary movement we must base ourselves firmly on the poorest, most oppressed sections of the working class. In our analysis or our practice the contradiction between sections of the working class cannot be ignored or denied. Contradictions among the people do not disappear if we pretend that they are not there. The unifying of class forces for revolution requires understanding, and correctly dealing with, such contradictions.
Another stratum has grown in numbers and importance in imperialist society. This is the so-called ’middle class’, the intelligentsia, the technical, scientific and managerial elite. This stratum does not own any means of production arid is comprised of hired servants of capitalism. However, in not engaging in productive work, in their relationship to the productive process as planners or supervisors and in their social status and way of life, this stratum is predominantly petty bourgeois. To refer to this stratum as a part of the working class is certainly incorrect and must lead to great strategic error. On the other hand, the origins and connections of many sections of “this stratum are proletarian and those of others are thoroughly bourgeois and reactionary, and the contradictions in imperialist society affect different sections in different ways.
There is no independent class stand possible for this stratum, as with the classical petty bourgeoisie of small traders and proprietors, and they must support either the bourgeoisie or the proletariat. Our analysis must unravel the varied interests of groups within this stratum and their political role.
In general, we must conduct a class analysis which reveals the contradictions internal to the proletariat, the petty bourgeoisie and the small and big capitalists and the various intermediate strata as well as the contradictions between these classes. The revisionists, Trotskyists and many ’Marxist-Leninists are happy with a superficial ’analysis’. They regard all wage-earners as working class, unhappily dominated at present by wrong or weak leadership. Capitalists are a homogeneous group represented solely by the Tory party. That is roughly the picture they present. The line of the CPB(M-L) of “two classes only” in Britain is a complete failure to break, in essence, with revisionism. Such a denial of the fundamental nature of imperialist society is as anti-Marxist as the ultra-‘left’ view that the wholes working class is a labour aristocracy, or has ceased to exist in imperialist Britain.
Theoretically, opportunism thrives on confusing or perverting a Marxist analysis. We must smash opportunism by exposing the political ’left’-wing servants of capitalism as well as those of the ’right’. We must define the most reliable revolutionary forces in order to know where to concentrate our work and How to work. Contradictions among the people can only be resolved if they are recognised and understood. Correct strategy depends on understanding contradictions among the enemy and among wavering forces. All these considerations reveal the fundamental importance of a class analysis.
The most pressing theoretical tasks, therefore, are to analyse the internal economic features of modern British imperialism and the shifting balance of class forces arising from this material base. While the relationship of imperialism to its colonies and the mounting struggles for national liberation are of fundamental importance, on this question we have a profound and penetrating analysis available to us. The great teachings of Mao Tsetung on the nature and development of these contradictions must be thoroughly studied. But for the internal contradictions particular to Britain we have no such complete guide. That is why the analysis of these internal contradictions must be our greatest concern.
Other theoretical problems are urgent, such as the imminence of the danger of fascism, the significance of Britain’s entry into the Common Market, the national question with respect to England, Scotland, Wales and particularly the Irish struggle for reunification and independence. All such problems, however, require this basic economic and class analysis for complete resolution. This is not to deny that they should be given immediate attention, but only to stress the limitations of such work in the absence of the more fundamental analysis.