(from Communist Voice #25, Nov. 27, 2000)
by Majdur Travail
. The following article was e-mailed to Communist Voice on Oct. 1, 2000, and is a revised form
of an article sent on Sept. 20, 2000. Our view, that the RCP's problems are connected to their
adherence to Maoism, follows. A web site with more views by Majdur Travail, and articles
concerning the Maoist movement, can be found at
Proletarians of all counties, Unite!
"For dialectical philosophy nothing is final, absolute, sacred. It reveals the transitory character of everything and in everything; nothing can endure before it except the uninterrupted process of becoming and of passing away, of endless ascendancy from the lower to the higher."-- Frederick Engels
The Problem Enumerated
. (1) The RCP-USA draws inappropriate lines of struggle and has an inability to maintain a clear and consistent line of demarcation between the exploiter and the exploited and fails to unify the Proletariat on this basis. (Opportunism).
. (a) the RCP-USA commits oppression and exploitation of certain sections of the working-class, namely gays, and plays different sections of the working-class against one another, e.g., blacks vs. whites, blacks vs. gays, etc.
. (b) has opposition to spontaneous worker and other domestic liberation struggles, i.e., opposition to strikes and gay pride -- the largest grass-roots event in the United States.
. (c) the comparison of oppressed ethnic sections of the Proletariat and the establishment of a hierarchy of the oppressed, which causes the Proletariat to struggle against itself, become divided and disorganized.
. (2) The RCP-USA exhibits a low theoretical level of Socialism, faulty reasoning, immature polemics, e.g. "I don't want to hear this shit anymore: Black people don't have to work another single day for you bloodsuckers! Let's put it that way." (1) and the eclectic vacillation between revolutionary theories of "general crisis theory," "protracted peoples war," "United Front under the Leadership of the Proletariat," and the "Proletarian Vanguard." (Revisionist Eclectic Economism).
. (3) Opposition to worker's revindication, Unions, and worker movements in general in favor of supporting struggles bases solely on race, sex, nationality, or religion. (Opportunism).
. (4) The RCP-USA makes absolutist either/or predictions which fail to take place, e.g. either the world will be destroyed or the RCP-USA will save it, exemplified by the slogan "No More World War Three!" and "Revolution in the 80's, Go for it!" (Opportunism).
. (5) The RCP-USA by itself and through its sub-body CoRIM (Committee of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement) has exhibited hegemonic tendencies, competes with other Left parties, and is preoccupied with gaining authority and obtaining money (Opportunism and Hegemonic Exploitation).
. (6) The RCP-USA lacks an intelligentsia, is anti-intellectual, condemns classical philosophers,
Hegel, (2) and anyone who has studied them (including Marx and Lenin insofar as they were
Classicists, has institutionalized ignorance (hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil).
The Problem Explained
. The RCP-USA draws inappropriate dividing lines within the Proletariat, such as gay/straight, black/white, latino/white, Asian/white, man/woman, which are Opportunistic, e.g.,
. "As for homosexuality, this too, is perpetuated and fostered by the decay of capitalism, especially as it sinks into deeper crisis. This is particularly the case because of the distorted, oppressive man-woman relations capitalism promotes. Once the proletariat is in power, no one will be discriminated against in jobs, housing and the like merely on the basis of being a homosexual. But at the same time education will be conducted through out society on the ideology behind homosexuality and its material roots in exploiting society, and struggle will be waged to eliminate it and reform homosexuals." (3)
. The dividing line for Communists is the dividing line between exploiter/exploited. Communists do not draw lines of struggle black/white, gay/straight, man/woman, because these lines are recognized as tools of the Bourgeoisie and are used to keep the Proletariat divided and disorganized. The Proletariat is exploited and is, therefore, oppressed that is the principle that unifies the Proletariat. (4) The Bourgeoisie, on the basis of being black, oppresses Blacks only in so far as this form of political oppression facilitates economic exploitation. If one is oppressed politically then one is also exploited economically. That's the way slavery worked. Racism is simply not the axis that turns socialist struggle. We must never forget that Socialism takes Capital and the Communist Manifesto as its point of departure. While ethnic struggles are indeed very important to the ICM, it is necessary that they be united under an overall line. This, incidentally means that they must necessarily be divided along class lines as well. Capital and the Communist Manifesto treat the worker as worker and the capitalist as capitalist, we must never concede this principle. (5)
. From what the RCP-USA has said above, not only are we to glean their assertion that homosexuals are the class-enemies of the Proletariat, but also that homosexuality is caused by capitalism and, furthermore, that gay liberation is to be seen as a harbinger of socialist revolution. It is clear the Bob Avakian, and the students of Avakian Thought, hate gays and wish to eliminate them, but it is entirely opportunistic for them to bind up the very existence of gays with capitalism and tie the success of socialist revolution with their elimination. The opportunist employs "reaction" and calls it "socialism" whenever it's "convenient" to further their personal or political aims. The assertion the RCP-USA makes here is an inflammatory equivocation. While it is true that "gay politics" of today is completely reformist and does not even approach "trade union consciousness" and contains elements from all political classes, from Proletariat to petty-Bourgeois to Bourgeois, so do all other petty-Bourgeois social movements. Yet no Socialist has ever suggested the elimination of an entire ethnic group on the grounds that petty-Bourgeois politics was the thing that united it.
. Not only does the assertion that race, sex, and national origin are appropriate axes on which to
turn the struggle for socialism divide and disorganize the Proletariat, it rests on faulty logic.
Since they all begin will a fallacy of composition. Proceeding from the parts to the whole or
whole to a part frequently leads to the wrong conclusions, synecdoche. Certainly, one would not
name a black person who is bourgeois a proletarian and a white person who is proletariat,
bourgeois, any more that one would call a black person white on the basis that their teeth are
white. To do so causes bitter conflict within the Proletariat and tends to drive progressive
individuals into temporary states of backwardness, because they are angry that their own pain
was neither understood nor recognized. (6) The literature of the RCP-USA riddled with genetic
fallacies, fallacies of composition and fallacies of equivocation.
Students of Avakian Thought
. Some activists in the ICM (International Communist Movement) downplay the importance of the anti-gay line propounded by the RCP-USA by saying, "Its unfortunate, because it obscures deeper problems with their overall line." The anti-gay line does not, however, obscure the deeper problems in Avakian Thought it, rather, upon closer investigation, reveals them. They reveal Bob Avakian's inability to reason and expose his infantile personality. The anti-gay line may indeed be an appropriate point of departure for investigating Bob Avakian's circumambages, petitio principii, (7) and lowbrow socialism.
. For instance, in the 1980's Bob Avakian published a political line which said, "Revolution in the 80's, Go for it! No more World War Three!" Aside from its sophomoric rendering, this opportunistic catch-word was ritualistically repeated by his followers (and still is). The 1980's, however, came and went, as did the 1990's, and now its already the year 2000. People have begun asking questions, such as, "What happened to the revolution?"
. In order to answer this question the RCP-USA published an apologetic called Notes on Political Economy. In this document, the RCP-USA maintains that capitalism went through a "spiral-conjunctural motion" and became "Imperialism" at which point there was a "conjuncture" which allowed socialist revolutions to take place in the USSR and China, etc. But now, after the counter-revolution in the USSR and in China, capitalism has embarked on another "upward spiral" and has turned into what we have today. What capitalism has turned into is not fully explained. It just referred to as "an advanced stage of Imperialism."
"Certainly, monopoly under capitalism can never completely . . . eliminate competition in the world market (and this, by the way, is one of the reasons why the theory of ultra-imperialism is so absurd.)" (8)
. Nonetheless, whatever the RCP-USA claims capitalism has turned into, it hasn't, according to them, reached the next "conjuncture" that would allow world revolution to break out and concludes that "capitalism is not in a general state of crisis."
. "For these reasons, we do not think it is correct to characterize the overall situation faced by the imperialists today as one of 'crisis' . . . The world system is not in an overall sense in a state of crisis." (9)
. This statement is left hanging at the end, but is supposed to be the reason the RCP-USA couldn't "go for it" in the 1980's, since the question "What happened to the revolution?" was the antecedent for the entire apologetic (they call it a dialectic, but I'm sure students of Avakian Thought don't know the difference between an apologetic, polemic, forensic, apodeictic, panegyric, or dialectic).
. As we begin to peel back the layers, we also begin to see the bigger problems that the anti-gay line allegedly obscures. The problem is that Bob Avakian, and the students of Avakian Thought, have a low-level of theoretical understanding of Marxism, a lack of intelligentsia, are ritualistically dogmatic, and are unable to utilize advanced Marxists and give them appropriate work -- like editing their newspaper, establishing their overall political line, and running the Party. The RCP-USA looks more like Ivanovo-Voznesensk's "one hundred fools" than V.I. Lenin's "one dozen wise men." In order to render this argument plain, I shall examine the argument presented inNotes on Political Economy.
. The unstated, and underlying, presupposition of the argument presented in Notes on Political Economy is that there is a critical time, a "conjuncture," wherein socialist revolution is possible, but at no other time, and if this opportunity is missed then the Proletariat must wait for the next "conjuncture" when "capitalism is in a general state of crisis" in order to "go for it" and make socialist revolution. This political line is already revealed in the anti-gay line published some twenty years earlier where it says, "is perpetuated and fostered by the decay of capitalism, especially as it sinks deeper into crisis." According to Avakian Thought propounded in the early 1980's, the critical "conjuncture" would be "World War Three" -- a nuclear war -- and would take place under the Reagan Presidency unless, of course, it was prevented by the RCP-USA -- who would be the Proletarian Vanguard and would lead the Proletariat to the seizure of power in the United States. Not only did "World War Three" not take place, nor did the RCP-USA lead the Proletariat to power, but the USSR collapsed and the United States assumed an unprecedented global hegemony and continued to be the chief protagonist in imperialist wars.
. The main point of this is not so much that the RCP-USA made absolutist predictions and overestimated their own role in the world; that they falsely predicted World War Three, and failed to predict the collapse of the USSR, but it is that the RCP-USA predicated its science of revolution upon the theory that there is a critical time when revolution can take place and that capitalism must be in a "general state of crisis" in order for revolution to occur. In short, the RCP-USA claims that they cannot "go for it," because the is an "absence of conditions" for socialist revolution, because capitalism is not in a state of "general crisis."
. "First, there must be a serious crisis in society and in government. a revolutionary crisis in that, is a fundamentally and qualitatively different way than in "normal times," the masses of people -- the masses of proletarians but also people broadly in other strata -- have begun to call into question the right and the ability of the ruling class to rule . . . Besides a serious crisis in society and in the government, there must also be mass upheaval and rebellion, among the basic proletariat and other oppressed people in society, including among the middle strata. And there must be a vanguard party capable of turning the mass upheaval and rebellion into an organized insurrection." (10)
. This is called the "general crisis theory" which has as its corollary the principle of "mass uprising." The general crisis theory says, very simply, that
"there will be a general crisis in capitalism that will shake its institutions to their foundations wherein the masses will be so disillusioned with capitalism that they will spontaneously rise-up, in mass, and seize power. And that socialist revolution can only take place during this period."
. Aside from their eclectic deviation from Mao Tse-tung's theory of "protracted peoples war," by their own reference to organized insurrection, Bob Avakian propounds the "general crisis theory" and establishes it as the RCP-USA's overall line as short-lived as it may be. Mao Tse-tung rejected the "general crisis theory" in favor of his own theory called "protracted peoples war." It was, incidentally, rejected by the Vietcong as well in favor of "protracted peoples war." The "general crisis theory" was also opposed by V.I. Lenin,
"The facts given above show that the assertion about "absence of conditions" is diametrically opposed to the truth . . . the Economists seek to shift the blame entirely upon the "absence of conditions." (11)
. According to V.I. Lenin the reason socialist revolution had not taken place was because of "Lack of training of the majority of revolutionaries", for socialist revolution was caused by a combination of professional revolutionaries and the class political consciousness of the Proletariat. Lenin claimed that the Proletariat could only attain trade union consciousness on its own and that bourgeois intellectuals needed to teach socialism to the Proletariat. This tends to say that the "psychological conditions" of the Proletariat, i.e., their relative class-consciousness guided by professional revolutionaries would cause revolution.
"By their social status the founders of modern scientific socialism, Marx and Engels, themselves belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia . . . Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without." (12)Mao said, "Recruit Large Numbers of Intellectuals," (13) "Revolutionaries should be able to think, should be able to analyze the conditions under which old methods of struggle could be used, and not simply to repeat certain slogans." (14)
. Under Lenin's rubric, the Proletariat "spontaneously" takes up it fight against the employers and the government, i.e., "mass uprising," but only develops "trade union consciousness" and can go no further. (15) Com. Lenin calls this "Economism" because it is a purely economic point of view that only seeks petty "reforms" such as higher wages, free elections, less discrimination. This "mass uprising" as a result of a "general crisis of capitalism" is completely reformist and does not seek socialist revolution. The RCP-USA is eclectic on this issue. It says three different things will bring about socialist revolution and deploys each different one when it is convenient to do so.
. In one moment, the RCP-USA couldn't "go for it in the 80's" because of the "absence of conditions". There was no "general crisis of capitalism" and consequently no "mass uprising," because World War Three did not happen. In the next moment, the RCP-USA can't "go for it" because they need to initiate a "protracted peoples war." This can't be done because of the "absence of conditions" because the is no "general crisis of capitalism" and consequently no "mass uprising." Nevertheless, they still believe they are the Proletarian Vanguard, a group of professional revolutionaries, who are teaching socialism the working class.
. However, neither Mao nor Lenin predicates a Vanguard Party's ability to lead a revolution on
the general crisis theory. Both say that the Party acts as a vanguard, but Mao says that a
revolutionary army if founded in the countryside and the country surrounds the cities until the
conquest of power and Lenin says it begins with an insurrection in the cities! Neither theory says
that capitalism must be in a general crisis and both oppose the spontaneous "mass uprising." Both
predicate the prospect for a revolution on the consciousness of the working class and the skill of
the Proletarian Vanguard, i.e., primarily on psychological conditions and political line. (16) It is
true that Lenin writes about the inevitability of crisis in capitalism and calls Imperialism
"capitalism in decay". He also says that the spontaneity of the uprisings caused by a "crisis" can
not lead to socialist revolution. The RCP-USA is pursuing a "wait and see" strategy. If American
capitalism enters into a financial crisis and the masses spontaneously take to the streets, the
RCP-USA will, then, step out of the shadows and say it was behind everything from the
beginning. Apparently Bob Avakian will then return, riding high, and assume power.
Loss of Materialism; Loss of Objectivity
. Some 10 years after publishing the anti-gay line, Bob Avakian abandon's materialism altogether and slips into pre-Hegelian idealism. He was severely criticized by the MPP (Peru People Movement) and organ of the PCP (Communist Party of Peru-Sendero Luminoso) by saying "Continue to Crush the Revisionist Right-Opportunist Line (ROL)" and called the RCP-USA a "headless party" for their statements.
"Not long ago I received a bunch of video tapes, and one of them included the TV show "In Living Color." Besides finding this show interesting in general, I kept running the tape back to the theme song, a rap by Heavy D and the Boyz. I couldn't help it -- some of the lines in this rap were really getting at something. Check it out:
"And how would ya feel/knowing prejudice was obsolete/and all mankind/danced to the exact beat/and at night it was safe/to walk down the street?/Everybody here is equally kind./What's mine is yours,/and/what's yours is mine."
"I'm pretty sure Heavy D didn't think of it exactly this way, but the fact is that these lines have much to do with the answer to that big question: What is communism -- what will communist society be like? A lot of what it will be like has a lot to do with things talked about in those lines from "In Living Color."
. Socialism does not say "what is yours is mine, mine yours." Socialism says that each person has the right to the fruit of their own labour. Socialism does not socialize personal items, but begins with the collective ownership of the means of production. (17) Bob Avakian continues with his musing.
". . . And this got me to thinking back to another song: `Imagine,' which was written and recorded by John Lennon
"Imagine there's no heaven./It's easy if you try./No hell below us,/above us only sky/Imagine all the people/living for today./Ah, imagine there's no countries./It isn't hard to do./Nothing to kill or die for/and no religion too./Imagine all the people,/living life in peace. /You, you may say I'm a dreamer./But I'm not the only one./I hope some day you'll join us/and the world will be as one. /Imagine no possessions./I wonder if you can./No need for greed or hunger/a brotherhood of man./Imagine all the people, sharing all the world. /You may say I'm a dreamer./But I'm not the only one./I hope some day you'll join us./And the world will live as one."
"there is a lot we can share with his `imaginings' and `dreaming' in this song. In fact, we can carry this further and get a sense of a more clear and more full picture of what communist society will really be like by doing some `imagining' of our own." (18)
. It has been said that in a confocal of ellipses, the inner ellipse is the most eccentric one. I didn't
have to quote the whole song, but neither did he. If John Lennon was writing his line in the
1970's and Heavy D was in the 1980's, Rage against the Machine is writing it today. (19) The
PCP-Sendero Luminoso made an even more serious accusation against Bob Avakian and the
CoRIM for shutting down the International Campaign to Defend the Life of Chairman Gonzalo
for over a year after Montesino's faked a video tape which allegedly showed Chairman Gonzalo
calling for an end to the Peoples War. A two line struggle developed within the PCP with the
MPP faction coming out on top saying "if its true that Chairman Gonzalo has called for an end to
the Peoples War, why can't the press and Chairman Gonzalo's team speak with him directly?"
But this was not enough for Bob Avakian who pulled the rug out from under him on the grounds
that the CoRIM needed to "do some investigating." (20)
RCP-USA's Great Reversals
. After all the years of perpetuating the anti-gay line, and coming under increasing pressure criticism for it, the RCP-USA reveals its opportunism again by publishing an article on the Murder of Mathew Shepherd (21) which provoked a large demonstration in New York City some 10,000 persons strong. The article, however, says very little about gay rights, but cynically twists his murder in order to use it as a springboard to proffer their line against the passage of Hate Crimes laws. The RCP-USA says, in effect, "its really a shame that Mathew Shepherd was murdered because the 'capitalist faggots' (22) will use it to put Hate Crimes legislation on the books." In this article the Bob Avakian talks out of both sides of face and shows his true colors when he said,
"The outrage over Mathew's murder is so strong that even these creepy rightists had to denounce the killing." (23)
. Bob Avakian must have been speaking about himself. How the RCP-USA can survive as a political party with such great reversals in political line boggles the mind. (24) We can, however, be sure
"that every more or less new question, every more or less unexpected and unforeseen turn of events, even though it changes the basic line of development only to an insignificant degree and only for the briefest period, will always inevitably give rise to one variety of revisionism or another." (25)
Reaffirm Our Principles
. Communists must remember that the fundamental goal of communism is to eliminate
oppression and exploitation and to create a raceless, classless, sexless society and that these goals
are achieved by (1) the seizure of power by the International Proletariat, (2) the establishment of
an all-around Dictatorship of the Proletariat, (3) the expropriation of the wealth of the ruling
class, the Bourgeoisie, (4) the socialization of the means of production (5) and the transformation
of the social relations that rest on them (6) the advancement of society towards Communism.
(1) Bob Avakian, Revolutionary Worker #896, March 2, 1997. (Return to text)
(2) "Without German philosophy, which preceded it, particularly that of Hegel, German scientific Socialism - the only socialism that has ever existed - would never have come into being." V.I. Lenin, "What is to be Done?" (Text)
(3) New Programme and New Constitution of the RCP-USA, RCP Publications. May 1, 1981. (Text)
(4) "The contest between the capitalist and the wage-labourer dates back to the very origin of capital.", Karl Marx,Capital, Modern Library, N.Y., 1906, p. 466. (Text)
(5) "Do not allow any bargaining over principles, do not make theoretical "concessions." V.I. Lenin, , p. 35. (Text)
(6) Cf. Frederick Engels, Condition of the Working Class in England. "History discloses no tragedy more horrible than the extinction of the English handloom weavers, an extinction that was widespread over several decades, and finally sealed in 1838 ... the English cotton machinery produced an acute effect in India. ..`The misery hardly finds a parallel in the history of commerce. The bones of the cotton-weavers are bleaching the plains of India'," Karl Marx, Capital, p. 471. (Text)
(7) Lit. "few principles," but usually defined as "circular reasoning" -- where the premise and the conclusion are the same. (Text)
(8) V.I. Lenin, "Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism", Lenin: On Politics and Revolution, Pegasus, N.Y., 1968, p. 141. Notes on Political Economy; CC, RCP,USA, 1998. (Text)
(9) Notes on Political Economy, CC, RCP,USA, 1998. (Text)
(10) Bob Avakian, "Revolutionary Crisis, Revolutionary Preparation", Revolutionary Worker #906, May 11, 1997. (Text)
(11) V.I. Lenin, , p. 41 n. 9. (Text)
(12) V.I. Lenin, , p. 40. (Text)
(13) Mao Tse-tung, Selected Works, Foreign Language Press, Peking, Vol. II, p.301. (Text)
(14) .V.I. Lenin, "Against Boycott", Marx Engels, Marxism, Progress publishers, Moscow, 1973, p. 202. (Text)
(15) "The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness, i.e., the conviction that it is necessary to combine in unions to fight the employers." V.I. Lenin, "", Lenin on Politics and Revolution, p. 40. (Text)
(16) "The correctness or otherwise of the ideological and political line decides everything. When the Party's line is correct, then everything will come its way. If it has no followers, then it can have followers; if it has no guns, then it can have guns; if it has no political power, then it can have political power. If its line is not correct, even what it has it loses."- Mao Tse-tung. (Text)
(17) "We communists have been reproached with the desire of abolishing the right of personally acquiring property as the fruit of man's labor ... Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property! ... There is no need to abolish that; the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it, and is still destroying it daily." Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto, International Publishers, N.Y. 1994, p. 23. (Text)
(18) Bob Avakian, "Communism: Imagine ... In Living Color," Revolutionary Worker, #592, February 10,1991.
(19) "There were many dreamers, some of them geniuses, who thought that it was only necessary to convince the rulers and governing classes of the injustice of the contemporary social order, and it would then be easy to establish peace and general well being on earth. They dreamt of socialism without struggle...they taught the working class to know itself and be conscious of itself, and they substituted science for dreams.", V.I. Lenin, "Frederick Engels," Marx, Engels, Marxism. (Text)
(20) See: "Continue Crushing the Revisionist Right Opportunist Line," Red Sun, MPP 1999 http://www.maoism.org. (Text)
(21) "The Death of Matthew Shepherd: Murder in a Murderous Climate," Revolutionary Worker #979, October 25, 1998. (Text)
(22) Bob Avakian used to call people "capitalist faggots," see: Trotskyism and Maoism in the United States and France, A. Blenden Fields. (Text)
(23) Ibid. (Text)
(24) "The aim of reaction is to make people forget the forms of struggle, the forms of organization, and the ideas and slogans." V.I. Lenin, "Against Boycott," Marx Engels, Marxism, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1973, p. 200. (Text)
(25) V.I. Lenin, "Marxism and Revisionism," Marx, Engels, Marxism, p. 215. (Text)
September 25, 2000
Dear Majdur Travail,
. Thank you for taking the time to work up your views on the RCP and for sending them to us. I haven't followed much RCP literature recently, being more familiar with RCP from back in the days of the "Revolutionary Union" through the formation of the RCP to about 5 or 6 years ago. The Communist Voice comes out of activists who were in the Marxist-Leninist Party, and who refused to lay down the banner of anti-revisionist communism when the MLP dissolved in 1993. In the days when it was still vigorous, the MLP had waged a series of struggles against the opportunist line of the RCP. From the end of the 60s to the end, we had watched the development of the RCP out of the Revolutionary Union. We had seen it first oppose the idea of building an anti-revisionist party and the idea of carrying out openly communist work among the masses, to its declaration of a party, and its eventual switch to apocalyptic appeals for revolution. We had seen that certain features of the line of the RU/RCP had changed, but that a number of its general features remained. These included the resistance to serious theoretical training of its base. It also vacillates between pandering to the backwardness of those sections of the masses which it wants to appeal to, and denouncing a good deal of the working masses. It also never appreciated the importance of the fight against opportunism.
. In general, I found your comments very interesting and in accord with some of the things I have noted over the years. I have taken a while to reply because I was pondering your remarks, and also trying to recall the general features of the RCP which we had seen over the years.
. I think you are right that the RCP has a good deal of problems dealing with the gay/straight, black/white, etc. divisions. But I would formulate the issue somewhat differently than you do in your remarks.
. The struggle against the oppression of blacks. latinos, etc. is quite important for forging the unity of the proletariat. I don't think that these struggles can override the class struggle. But the RCP has stumbled over how to carry out this struggle. It doesn't know how to develop an independent communist line for this struggle.
. For example, in the early days, the RU simply worshipped the Black Panthers. There was
indeed a substantial section of very oppressed black youth who rallied around the Black Panthers,
and who declared themselves for socialism and revolution. But the Black Panthers were also part
of a radical petty-bourgeois nationalist movement (in terms of politics) that had major trouble
with its political line. It was necessary to unite with the political motion among the black masses,
to oppose the bloody repression against the Panthers, and to rally the workers as a whole in
defense of the black people, and to do this maintaining an independent viewpoint. The RU
couldn't do this. The idea of combining the utmost support for the struggle against the oppression
of the black masses with communist independence of petty-bourgeois nationalism was foreign to
them. They didn't just look to ways to carry out the fight against wrong ideas in a way that would
be intelligible to the masses and not sectarian. Instead they trailed the Panthers and tried to
simply cash in on the popularity of the Panthers among various white student and youth activists.
. This wasn't a question of putting the issue of the struggle against the oppression of the black people over the overall struggle. It was more a question that they were incapable of knowing how, while supporting the positive motion of the masses, to wage a struggle against opportunism inside a movement.
. Thus a few years later, they made what would appear to be the opposite mistake, if one thought their mistake was paying too much attention to the black movement. At the time of the development of racist anti-busing movement, the RU/RCP had substantial connections with some sections of the overall working class. At this point, they didn't put too much emphasis into fighting the racist anti-busing movement. Instead, they opposed the struggle against the anti-busing movement, and sought to prove that such a struggle was a diversion from the class struggle, that it was playing into the hands of the ruling class etc. They became hysterical about "forced busing" and pandered to the backward sections of the masses. This was disgusting.
. What seems to be in common between these two positions is their inability to stand up for an independent stand. One day they bow before radical petty-bourgeois nationalism, and the next before the confusion that existed among some sections of the working masses about the busing issue.
. Today they probably mainly denounce a good deal of the working masses in the name of revolution and the name of fighting the oppression of the specially oppressed sections of the masses, or the real proletariat, or whatever. But this isn't a sign of real revolutionary fervor. At the same time as they denounce the working masses, they seek links with the liberal and social-democratic forces and with various academic strata through toning down their line, as they did for years with "Refuse and Resist" (I'm not sure what happened to this organization in the last few years).
. The struggle against the oppression of the black peoples, latinos, etc. is not a diversion from the class struggle, but the communist policy towards this struggle is radically different from that of liberals, petty-bourgeois nationalists and others. We have to know how to formulate this difference.
. Similarly the oppression of gays is an important political issue, and it helps the unity of the proletariat for it to oppose this oppression, and it helps the proletariat gain political knowledge for it to do so. But on this case, the RU has, in a sense, duplicated its stand on the "anti-busing movement". No doubt, this stand on the gay question has created a good deal of outrage, as did their stand on the racist and fascist anti-busing movement. Their inability to properly define communist work on political questions leads them to vacillate between pandering to those political forces they want to make alliances with, and to denouncing various sections of the masses and putting themselves into opposition to them.
. On another issue, with respect to their world war hysteria and their frivolous appeals for revolution, you present quite a sharp exposure of the RCP. This is also an aspect of their work which we have seen repeatedly. For example, in the past, they sometimes used appeals against World War III to attempt to build together coalitions of various liberal, social-democratic or other political forces. I found an article from the MLP's journal The Workers' Advocate (June 1, 1985) denouncing "the RCP's `new road to the future': Packaging the liberal politics of despair as a radical struggle against World War III". It pointed out how under shiny appeals to have "No Business As Usual Day", to "do something for real" to "Act to Prevent World War III" the RCP was actually seeking to unite with various liberal forces, and the "Revolutionary Worker" promoted the writings of various liberal professors and even theology scholars. The RCP didn't seek to show the connection between the class struggle and the fight against imperialism and war; it didn't seek to push forward the struggle against the opportunist forces blocking the anti-imperialist struggle; it sought instead to build coalitions with these forces.
. Of course, when the RCP appeals to certain youth and other disaffected forces, it puts on a more revolutionary edge to its anti-war posturing. But it is more revolutionary only in that it screeches about "revolution". It doesn't carry out actual revolutionary work, which is much different than screeches about revolution. We are living through a period where the mass movements are very far down, and where there is a profound organizational and theoretical crisis in the left. The RCP has no idea of what revolutionary work consists of in this period. It isn't a matter of pretending that revolution is around the corner; this is play-acting. Real revolutionary work means facing with one's eyes open the current situation, and then persisting in the necessary work. It means working hard to deal with the crises facing the left; it means fighting hard to keep some contact -- contact on a communist basis -- with the proletariat and the mass struggles; and so forth. It means not hiding the crisis of the left from the masses, but drawing as many people in to dealing with this crisis as possible. It means not covering over the real situation in the world with false optimism, but teaching activists how to deal with this situation in a sober and determined fashion.
. You raise the question of the objective conditions for revolution. But even though the RCP raises this matter as a feeble excuse, there really are objective conditions needed for a revolution. Lenin, in his writings at the outbreak of World War I, discussed the issue of the "revolutionary crisis". And in other writings, he discussed some issues about what to do when there isn't such a revolutionary crisis. Yes, there are always conditions for revolutionary work, that is true. And as Lenin pointed out in What Is To Be Done?, there are always conditions for raising political issues (and not just trade-unionist issues) among the masses. But the tasks of revolutionary work do change depending on whether the conditions for an uprising exist, or don't exist. Social revolution does not break out because of the desire of a party or even of a class. There has to be a revolutionary situation. But a revolutionary party will never be able to utilize such a situation unless it knows how to carry out revolutionary work under all conditions.
. Moving on to a different (although related) topic, one of the sharp issues today is that of the theoretical crisis facing the left. I think that your complaints against the RCP's attitude to the intelligentsia are probably an attempt to characterize RCP's resistance to dealing seriously with the theoretical struggle. Avakian writes his long, incomprehensible speeches, but, as you correctly note, that doesn't mean that RCP takes theoretical matters seriously. The RCP has two problems on this score: it advocates seriously mistaken theories, and it doesn't take the theoretical training of its base -- or of the masses -- seriously.
. The problem isn't that the RCP doesn't have or want contacts with the intelligentsia. Unless things have changed a lot in the last few years, the RCP has many contacts with the intelligentsia, and also chases the intelligentsia. The RCP originated from the youth and student movement, and it also has sought to attract various academics (such as through "Refuse and Resist" several years back, and -- if I recall right -- at times in direct promotion of these people in Revolutionary Worker). But having connections with the intelligentsia is not the same thing as taking theory seriously. And indeed, the RCP has watered down its political agitation for the sake of its contacts with the academics and intelligentsia, and this is not right.
. So the problem is that there won't be "advanced Marxists" unless we carry through the struggle against revisionism, clarify the nature of the state-capitalist economies, provide a critical summation of the last century of the revolutionary movements, etc. The general intelligentsia isn't going to do it for us. The revolutionary activists are going to have to do it. We are going to have to develop the theory within ourselves, and to develop enough organization to allow us to pursue the theoretical struggle. For example, the Communist Voice is devoted to this struggle.
. But behind many of the RCP's problems is another issue. This is that their line is seriously compromised by Maoism. Their problem isn't that they depart from Maoism, but that Maoism is one of the reasons that they have been led astray.
. Consider for example the "three world's theory". Above I discussed some aspects of the RU/RCP's wrong stands concerning the black/white issues etc. But there is another factor involved. That is "three worldism". The three worlds theory took a number of different forms, but in all cases it obscured the class struggle in the third world. It obstructed proletarian internationalism between the proletariat of the imperialist countries and that of the Third world countries, because it sought to turn the socialist movement into cheerleaders for oppressive third world regimes. It was often linked with wrong stands towards the unity of the different nationalities in the proletarian movement in the imperialist countries. Insofar as that the RCP, while it vacillates between various positions, generally is stuck at denouncing the general working masses, this is a manifestation of the three worlds theory.
. Back in the late 70s, when there was a good deal of struggle among activists over the "three worlds theory", the RCP opposed some of the most blatant interpretations of the the three world's theory, such as "striking the main blow against Soviet social imperialism", as advocated by Michael Klonsky's old "CP(M-L)". But the RCP never could disentangle themselves from the three worlds theory altogether. Their problem was that they knew that Mao was involved with the three world's theory, so they equivocated about the three worlds theory. Yet the three world's theory negated the Marxist-Leninist analysis of the class struggle around the world, undermined any revolutionary analysis of what should be done in third world countries, and so forth. And today, the "three worlds theory" still exists as a spectre haunting them, in the form of their denunciation of the general class struggle.
. But the three worlds theory itself is simply one aspect of the issue of Maoism itself. For example, today one of the main issues in the left is the assessment of the state-capitalist regimes. The Trotskyists, social-democrats, old-time pro-Soviet revisionists, and others have their eyes closed to the lessons of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the various East European regimes. Nor do they grasp the lessons of the increasing transition of the remaining state-capitalist regimes towards market capitalism -- instead they simply laud any resistance by the old "dinosaurs" of state-capitalism to this or that market reform as a sign of "socialist" resistance. Whatever criticisms they have of the political regime in the old state-capitalist regimes, they still long after the days when these regimes existed. Instead of using the collapse of these regimes to step up the criticism of revisionism, there is a wave of nostalgia for these regimes as never before. Along with this is support for state-capitalism a variety of forms.
. Yet Marxism-Leninism will never again be a banner of a vigorous world proletarian movement unless it not only draws lines of demarcation with these regimes, but in fact takes the lead in clarifying the nature of these regimes. There can be no real idea of what socialism is, without separating it from what existed in these regimes.
. Maoism does not provide an answer to this. Its analysis of the Soviet Union is mistaken. It did denounce Khrushchovism, however inadequately, but it couldn't deal with the economic continuity between Stalinism and Khrushchovism. There is no great economic divide between the Stalin and Khrushchov era in the Soviet Union. We have studied the economic structure of the Soviet Union in these periods, and it is clear that the same state-capitalist ruling class exists, and the same class relations. The anarchy of production typical of capitalism existed under the veneer of Stalinist central planning, as under Khrushchovite central planning.
. In fact, Maoism has no real analysis of revisionist state-capitalism. It doesn't understand how the new ruling classes arose in the state-capitalist countries, thus leading to the mistaken assertion that this occurred mainly due to cultural issues. But how could Maoism deal with the state-capitalist economic base of revisionism and of Stalinism? The Chinese revolution itself -- while important an event on a world scale in undermining colonialism, eliminating the most backward oppressive forces in China, and encouraging struggle elsewhere -- ended up not with socialism, but with the development of a new state-capitalism.
. The RCP says that the Mao-led Cultural Revolution fought against the capitalist roaders. But this just isn't true. Mao had no serious analysis of state-capitalism, nor of what the difference between state-capitalism and socialism in China would be. Moreover, Mao helped suppress the proletarian left (which is not the "gang of four") which had arisen in the early days of the Cultural Revolution. We have posted an article on this aspect of the Cultural Revolution on the CV web site. We have also posted a couple of articles on certain aspects of the economics of People's China.
. So much for now. I hope to hear from you again, both concerning the RCP and concerning what relation their stands have to issue of Maoism itself.
. The following is the latest installment of the running exchange between ZN and CV's Mark that has been carried in previous issues of CV.
19 June 2000
Dear Communist Voice --
. My idea of Realpolitik is nothing like you describe. I look at the balance of power. I see the awesome power of the imperialist capitalist West, especially the US, England, & France. I see these countries interfering in the Third World every day, especially in Latin America, Africa, & the Muslim world. I see the latter three areas as the current hot-beds of revolutionary ferment. I see tepid leftist trends in the US. I see the former Stalinist bloc going through various changes, mostly meandering. I see the masses revolting in Latin America, in Africa, in the Muslim world. I don't see the masses revolting in the US or in the former Stalinist bloc. I try to do everything I can to turn attention toward nurturing & educating revolution in Latin America, in Africa, in the Muslim world. But what do I see? A US left obsessing over a currently stagnating former Stalinist bloc, constantly advocating the overthrow of the Russian government, the Chinese government, the Cuban government, to masses who are not so inclined at this time. Don't we have a capitalist "free press," a NY Times, etc, for that? You see, I AM a Leninist. I Do look to see where the masses ARE ripe for revolution, & THAT'S where I turn my attention as a propagandist. Why is this so incomprehensible to you?
. I AM NOT driven to support one or another dominant force. However, I am not inclined to try to tip the balance of power even further in the direction of the US, England, & France, by pointing out the imperfections of those few powers who still have the will to resist them. As I said, I ignored Chechnya until they invaded Dagestan. The world does not need a NEW group of expansionist gangsters. Things are chaotic enough already. So I am happy to see Russia nip the Chechen imperialism in the bud, just as I was happy to see NATO nip Serb expansionism in the bud. I don't worry about the purity of Russia's or NATO's conscience or motives in these matters. I leave that to the priests & confessors
-- THAT is Realpolitik!
. Meanwhile, if ANYTHING is to be done in the US at this time, it must be in accordance with Lenin's Infantile Disorder essay. Apparently, therefore, I need a copy of this work, that I may quote it chapter & verse, as I do with the Manifesto. These two works are probably the most relevant socialist classics for the US at this time. If you can tell me where I can get an inexpensive copy of Infantile Disorder (preferably in Spanish), please do.
. As for my own practice of the Infantile disorder idea, I myself constantly criticize the Democrats, I advocated the Canada-style single payer health insurance plan, I advocated that US workers actually make the Labor party a reality, I advocate a government bank & government insurance in all areas, I criticized Mitterrand's anti-democratic imperialism in Algeria, I criticized Jospin's privatization of AirFrance, I criticized Blair's attempt to rig the London mayoral election. In short, I do understand & practice Lenin's Infantile Disorder idea.
. If U.S. leftists are going to stop blabbering pointlessly, as Lenin said in Infantile Disorder, the Labor party is still a good idea. Meanwhile the socially liberal side of libertarianism should be supported. Buchanan is a socially conservative quasi-nazi, in no way a libertarian. THIS is the worst part of Cockburn's betrayal. The libertarians should be encouraged to get a REAL libertarian, such as Gov. Johnson of New Mexico, to challenge Buchanan for the Reform party presidential nomination. Any rational effort to stop fascistic mentalities like Buchanan is in accordance with the Infantile Disorder idea.
, While I disagree with your political approach in this and previous letters, I think the issues you have raised merit discussion. For example, in previous letters we have debated the nature of the ruling parties and states in China, Cuba and the former Soviet Union. Your attitude was to support these forces with some misgivings, while I pointed out that the revolutionary days of these institutions ended long ago and that the workers in these countries face the daunting task of reconstructing their own revolutionary class organizations independent of the ruling party/state machinery. We have also dealt with whether state intervention and social programs under capitalism are "socialist," as you say, or whether one can support various reforms under capitalism while drawing a clear distinction between such reforms and Marxist socialism, where the workers run society, as I contend. We also discussed the question of social-democracy, which you see as a safeguard against fascism. You hold that the social-democrats who do bad things aren't really social-democrats. In contrast, I pointed out that since social-democracy is based on class collaborationist myths, it is no accident that social-democratic politicians have a marked tendency of capitulation to the right-wing. In your letter of June 19, you continue on another theme from our previous correspondence which is closely related to the above issues. This theme is what might be called your underlying political rationale, namely "realpolitics" which you, mistakenly in my opinion, describe as consistent with Leninism.
I think your latest letter confirms exactly what I said in my previous correspondence about your. self-proclaimed "realpolitics." I had said:
". . . You have called your views 'realpolitics.' From what I can see, the gist of this realpolitics is this: 1) the only realistic course against the capitalist status-quo is to find something to support among the political forces that are already strong, no matter how corrupt; and 2) since we generally don't encounter ready-made powerful revolutionary trends today, activists should, for now, ignore the tasks necessary to establish a new revolutionary working-class trend."
. You say this is nothing like your idea of "realpolitics." Let's see. You support:
1) Russian imperialism (for crushing the Chechens),
2) NATO imperialism (for crushing the Serbs),
3) Unnamed "powers" (for opposing Western imperialism),
4) correcting the "balance of power" between the capitalist states,
5) disregarding the motives of the capitalist bullies (that's for "priests and confessors"),
6) avoiding criticism (public, at least) of the market capitalist regime in Russia, and the state-capitalist regimes in China and Cuba (in the name of "educating" the masses in the third world!!),
7) the "libertarian" Governor Johnson of New Mexico (because the extreme free-market libertarians are the antidote to Pat Buchanan),
8) the social-democrats (because they oppose the free-market capitalists).
. No matter what the problem, you find the solution in supporting one corrupt force against another. Are weaker powers challenging the powerful imperialists? Have the big imperialists put them down. Are the big imperialists getting too strong? Support the weaker capitalist reactionaries. Don't bother analyzing the motives of such forces, just hop on one or another chauvinist bandwagon. Meanwhile, you don't even hint at the need to rebuild the class organization of the workers. The revolutionary working class trend is generally very weak today, and so you see no point in laying stress on overcoming this. Rather you find it easier to latch on to any rotten trend, even the big imperialists, as the supposed solution to the problems faced by the masses. This is not educating the masses, but deceiving them. This is not helping rescue the masses, but assuring that they never stand on their own two feet against the bourgeois class forces. It is ignoring that whatever contradictions exist among the liberals, social-democrats and right-wingers, they are united in keeping the masses chained to the bourgeoisie. If you think that such an approach has something in common with Leninism, you are sadly mistaken.
. This brings us to the issue of Lenin's Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder. In your last letter you emphasized the need to learn from this work. I agree. No doubt Lenin recognized that there are certain situations where it is necessary to participate in common activity with a social-democratic force having mass support. Evaluating just when such tactics will actually assist the proletariat is something that has to be carefully weighed. But even in such circumstances, Lenin's work emphasizes that: 1) the idea of such tactics is not to promote faith in the social-democrats but to allow the masses under the influence of social-democracy to learn about their treachery from the experience of struggle; and 2) that for the workers to learn from this experience, there must be frank and open exposure of what the social-democrats are up to. In carrying out united front tactics in this spirit, Lenin gave the colorful analogy that such "support" to the social-democrats would be analogous to the support the rope gives to a hanged man. Thus, he argues that the point of united front politics is to expose the social-democrats (like the Labor Party in Britain in the early 1920s).
. Unfortunately you basically argued that the lesson to be learned from this work, as expressed in your February 2000 letter, is "it IS necessary to promote mild socialism [by which you mean social-democracy, for example -- Mark] in countries not ready for revolutionary socialism" such as the U.S. I pointed out that Lenin says just the opposite. I also pointed out how, in contrast to your previous letter's request that we not publicly criticize "mainstream" politics in today's anti-WTO movement, Lenin emphasized the need for freely criticizing the opportunist political trends. I quoted briefly from "Left-Wing Communism" to back up my assertions. You protest that you yourself have criticisms of the Democrats, Tony Blair, Mitterrand in France, etc. But according to your last letter, criticism should not be made public, that is, in front of the masses. If you have changed your mind on this, that would be a step forward. However, there still remains the question of the content of that criticism. Lenin's tactics were based on telling the truth about what to expect from the various non-proletarian trends so as to rally the masses around revolutionary proletarian politics. Your idea is to rally the masses around the rotten trends, albeit with some criticisms. True, where there is some large-scale revolutionary movement already in existence, you support that. But where that doesn't exist, and that is most places these days, you see no point in creating the groundwork for the existence of such a trend, but rather just fall in line behind some force which you yourself characterize as corrupt but don't want to see effectively criticized in public.
. In closing, I note that in your latest letter you don't bother to deal with any of my analysis of what Left-wing communism actually says. Rather you say that you would like to get hold of a copy of this work so you can quote chapter and verse from it. At the end of this letter I will give you help in getting a copy of this work. But I must admit I am surprised that one so confident in his assessment of this work could not muster up a reply of any kind to the points and supporting quotes that I called attention to concerning Lenin's article, except to assert without any proof that you are right.
Mark, for Communist Voice
. P.S.: Unfortunately, we don't have any extra pamphlets of "Left-wing communism". It's likely available from any number of left-wing groups, such as the Trotskyist SWP (The Militant). It's also in the 3-volume Selected Worksof Lenin (vol. 3). A good library is likely to carry this. If all else fails, I can xerox a copy and send it to you at cost.
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000
. I've been reading a lot of your articles on the net and I find your analysis of revisionism very enlightening and original. I do have a few questions for you. Based on what is said in your article (CV vol.3 #1 March 1997) reviewing Samir Amin's book and I quote " Marx and Engels saw socialism as being primarily a question for the most industrially developed societies, and Lenin, before the Bolshevik Revolution, held that Russia could not hope to carry out the transition to socialism unless it was assisted by revolutions in the advanced industrial societies. Only after it became apparent that such revolutions would not take place did Lenin consider the manner in which an industrially backward society with a large peasant population might carry out the transition to socialism", shouldn 't you then start your criticism of revisionism with Lenin instead of Stalin? Wasn't it Lenin who abandoned the marxist view of socialism being an international phenomenon in favor of a more immediate goal of trying to build socialism in one country even though it would be a practically impossible task, being surrounded by international capitalism? Not only was Russia a backward peasant country, but the masses though opposed to tsarist oppression were not yet ready for socialism. The Constituent Assembly elections in the aftermath of the Revolution proved. The bolsheviks dissolved the Assembly and established the one-party dictatorship. Lenin instituted the NEP, a program for building capitalism, not socialism. Even though it was construed as a transitory policy, it turned out to be the basis on which Stalin built his policy of rapid industrialization of the economy under a one-party system, without democratic control by the working class.
. Socialism cannot be built in one country, even a highly advanced one. It has to be an
international undertaking. The working class must be in control of the means of production and
distribution. And it cannot be done without democracy and mass participation. I agree
revisionism should be combated, but I think we should go to the very beginning of the Russian
Revolution and openly and honestly examine the errors committed by the bolshevik party under
not just Stalin's but also Lenin's leadership.
. Thank you for your attention to the CV website.
. As to your comments about the errors under Lenin's leadership, it seems that you regard the Bolshevik revolution itself as this error, based on the view that socialism cannot be built in one country, that the plan for NEP simply meant building capitalism, the results of the Constituent Assembly elections, and the question of how industrially advanced a country has to be to have a socialist revolution. I trust I have not misunderstood what you are saying (in which case I will welcome being corrected), but I will deal with these points in order to continue discussion between us.
. Apparently your idea is that, if the whole world goes to socialism at one time, there will be no need for transitional economies (such as was attempted under NEP) nor for any emergency measures in the fight against the counterrevolution. I don't agree with this.
. I believe that historically, reducing the question of revolutionary tactics and strategy to the assertion that socialism is impossible in one country, has proved a mistake. For example, just about all Trotskyists argue that the essence of Stalin's errors was building socialism in one country. But the majority of them then proceed to argue that the state-capitalist regime built up under Stalinism was a workers' regime, or "postcapitalist", etc. It turns out that their supposedly profound criticism that socialism couldn't be built in one country means very little. For example, take Ernest Mandel. In his "Marxist Economic Theory, he argues vehemently that the Stalinist regime wasn't socialist. But it turns out that he believes that it was "postcapitalist" anyway, and that this postcapitalism was worthy of defense. So this whole "profound" argument ended up as a quibble -- there can't be "socialism in one country", but there can be "postcapitalism in one country". Stalin shouldn't have called it socialist, but if he had called it "postcapitalist", then he would have been right (according to Mandel) about what it was economically.
. In fact, it is highly unlikely that revolution will take place simultaneously around the world. Even an insurrection in one country, which is the closest thing to a simultaneous revolution in an extended area, often takes time to really transform the entire country. It is unlikely that the whole world will proceed in lockstep towards socialism. Even in a profound world crisis, it is most likely that there will be an extended period before the world victory of the revolution. In this period, there will be one or more countries embarking on socialist revolution, while others are ruled by embittered bourgeois regimes, and perhaps still others are ruled by regimes which may stand between the contending forces politically.
. What will be done in this period? Should we simply close our eyes to these problems?
. Let's look at just one aspect of these problems. You denounce NEP as building capitalism. Actually, NEP was an attempt at building a transitional economy. Unless one considers view that a socialist revolution will immediately institute a classless, moneyless economy (and globally, no less), one will have to consider the issue of what the transition towards full socialism will look like. I would be interested if you put forward your ideas on this. On a historical level, if one examines the ideas concerning socialism and revolution that prevailed prior to the Bolshevik revolution, you will find that there was little definite about the transitional economy. (One symptom of this is the dearth of ideas concerning the economic transition to their favorite utopia in such popular socialistic novels of the time as Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward and William Morris's News from Nowhere.) As far as I can tell, the most explicit picture drawn in the 2nd International prior to the Bolshevik Revolution is given in Kautsky's lecture "The Day After the Revolution" (part of his pamphlet The Social Revolution). He tries to imagine what steps the proletariat would have to take (not according to some theory, but according to economic necessity) after it seizes political power. He succeeds in anticipating a number of the steps various revolutions in the 20th century actually took, but he wrongly identifies such steps as the achievement of socialism itself. He thus ends up with a mixed economy -- with a predominant state sector, and with money and commodity production -- which he tries to portray as socialist. He has not clear idea of the difference between a transitional economy and socialism -- at most, he regards that socialism itself goes through changes, which is true enough, but only part of the story.
. Lenin, between the February and October revolutions in 1917, turned to the issue of what steps would the proletariat be forced to take after it seized political power -- steps forced by the need to overcome the economic crisis, and not by some doctrinaire idea. At this point, he stressed that these steps were not socialism itself, although they coldn't be taken if there was fear of moving towards socialism. After the seizure of power in October 1917, the revolutionary government proceeded on a path of gradual transition. But the onset of the Cvil War, as well as the break away of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries from the Soviet government, gave rise to attempts to go to socialism directly ("War Communism"). NEP was a recognition that "War Communism" was untenable, and it brought back the issue of developing a transition towards socialism. It turns out that one of the most important features of the Bolshevik revolution, one of the legacies it left, was raising the issue of (but not answering all questions about) the transitional economy. The experience of the revolution, including the attempt to go to socialism directly ("War Communism"), helped bring forward the idea of the need for a transitional economy. Despite the ultimate failure of NEP, this idea is valid.
. NEP failed in that the working class -- politically exhausted and deciminated by the Civil War, foreign intervention, and extreme economic hardship -- became more and more passive, a revolutionary working class/peasant alliance was never restored, the revolution died, a bureaucratic form of rule developed and grew into the Stalinist state-capitalist system consolidated in the 30s. It was not NEP that gave rise to the death of the revolution, but the exhaustion of the revolutionary class forces that doomed NEP.
. You raise that socialism requires that "the working class must be in control of the means of production and control". Of course, you have seen that all the articles in CV are based on this. We stress that the fundamental problem with the Stalinist economies isn't a wrong technical method of calculation, but the oppression of the working class. The development of a new bourgeois class under Stalinism, and the running of the state sector according to the interests of that class, resulted in the anarchy of production in the state sector. So long as the workers aren't steadily increasing their actual ability to run production, both at the enterprise level and at the overall level, the various ills of the state-capitalist system are inevitable, no matter what planning techniques are used. So we fully agree that a socialist revolution, and the subsequent building of a transitional economy in the process of proceeding towards towards socialism, requires mass participation, and the development of a rule that is truly democratic in a new way. This was what the Bolshevik revolution attempted, during the period in which it was still alive. You seem to present that the October revolution itself was a violation of the will of the masses. That simply isn't true.
. This letter is too long already, and I don't won't go into the Constituent Assembly elections in detail. But Lenin gave a good analysis of what they showed. Suffice it for the moment to say that that at the time of the October revolution, the Soviet government was no doubt supported by a majority of the working masses. However, the revolution was bled white by the years of Civil War and foreign intervention; the proletariat's capacity to lead the country was shattered; and the worker/peasant alliance also shattered.
. You raise that the revolution took place in a single country. Actually, it took place in a country of massive size, at a time when capitalism was going through a world crisis that continued in one form or another until somewhat after World War II.
. You raise that the country wasn't sufficiently economically advanced. Indeed, the revolution took place in an industrially backward country with a peasant majority. Nevertheless, this country had a definite economic and industrial weight and had one of the most politically active working classes in the world. The course of development of the Russian revolutionary movement gave reason to believe that the peasantry might ally with the working class, as it did for some time, and that it might still not be as attached to individual property in land as peasants elsewhere in other stages of economic development. Moreover, the issue arises of what is necessary to begin a transition towards socialism, not to achieve a classless society immediately (as mentioned above, Lenin's writings between February and October 1917 raise the issue of a transitionary process). Combined with this, was the need to overthrow the old bourgeoisie and landlords if there was to be radical change in Russia. There was every reason for the working class to make a revolution in October 1917. However, it could be raised that the social nature of the revolution was not at all clear, an issue that will undoubtedly give rise to sharp differences of opinion. The issue arises of a better characterization of the type of system that exists after the overthrow of the old exploiters and before the development of a viable transitional regime (but while the masses still hold powers). But at the same time, it was mainly the October revolution that led the communist movement into a closer examination of the social content of revolutions.
. It is also true that the Bolsheviks never confronted the issue of what to do if the revolution was ebbing fatally, and the proletarian power no longer maintainable. They assumed that it was capitulationism to give up this power under any circumstances. Even Lenin, who generally considered a wide range of possibilities in his articles, never considered the issue of what to do when the regime could no longer be considered as that of the masses. How much of a personal error of Lenin's it is depends on how far one thinks the situation had deteriorated by the time of his death in 1924. But from the point of view of theory, the key issue here is that the question wasn't dealt with by the Bolsheviks or even Lenin. (Nor by Trotsky, who assumed that, so long as state property was maintained, the regime was still, economically, a proletarian regime. Indeed, his denunciation of "socialism in one country" neatly sidesteps this issue.)
. We in CVO submit everything, including Lenin's theories and the Bolshevik Revolution itself, to a critical analysis. We don't believe that anti-revisionism is simply a matter of reiterating the old formulas, but of summing up the experience of the last century and advancing theory. But so far, this analysis indicates that Lenin's legacy is very different from that of Stalin. It also discredits various of the fashionable prescriptions for what was wrong with Stalinist theory. It turns out that the general framework of Lenin's views is quite important to the anti-revisionist standpoint.
. I would welcome hearing more about your views.
Last modified: October 15, 2001.