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Engraving of Lenin busy studying

Economic and Philosophic Science Review

Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is the touchstone on which the real understanding and recognition of Marxism is to be tested. V. I. Lenin

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No 1293 May 26th 2006

Increasing government chaos, and mass cynicism about parliament – reflecting shaken confidence of the imperialist order as crisis warmongering runs further into the sand in the Middle East and Asia – headed-off by fake-“leftism” and ecstatic celebration of “democratic niceness” in Hugo Chávez’s popular Bolivarian revolution. Gains in Venezuela tremendous for the poor and oppressed but failure to advocate working class dictatorship is a major weakness. Efforts by Leninism to analyse these questions challenged by revived liquidationism just as the huge vacuum from parliamentary credibility collapse demands ever more urgently a new kind of leadership in the working class – namely the struggle for revolutionary Leninism

Can it be coincidence that just when the Big Lie of western “democracy and freedom”, has been forced even further onto the back foot, and the justified cynicism of ordinary masses for this fraud has left a giant vacuum even in the UK “mother of parliaments” and in the mighty US Congress “democracy”, the petty bourgeois fake-”lefts” find a slew of new ways to bolster and support it?

And even more can it be coincidence that the renegade cynicism closest to the EPSR’s efforts to build revolutionary understanding should now be advocating complete liquidation of theoretical struggle including its fight to expose such revisionist confusion and Trotskyist anti-communism?

The quagmire of difficulties and troubles that renewed western warmongering has got into, caused by growing anti-imperialist revolt worldwide and its shattering effect of these defeats on the confidence of the bourgeois political façades in Britain, the US and Europe, is teaching further deep running lessons to ordinary people about the sinister fascist machinations of imperialism as it prepares for Third World War.

But the collapsing “democratic” authority and confidence for the warmongering Blair and Bush will be endlessly patched together by the ruling class to buy more time and “legality” to obscure the steady imposition of more and more openly dictatorial rule on the masses – vital to dragoon the working class into the return to chauvinistic warmongering which capitalism urgently needs to solve its giant oncoming crisis.

Even the latest grovelling Bush-Blair apologies and commitment to “UN coordinated interventions” are only a cover for new war preparation, an extension of the “democratic” lie by which the bourgeoisie keeps the reality of its dictatorship veiled and hidden.

There has never been a more crucial moment to expose the reality of capitalist dictatorship rule, as the deliberate lying hysteria of a nonsensical “war on terror” is used to impose new censorship laws (outlawing solidarity and world conflict analysis as “glorification of terrorism” notably), new imprisonment and punishment regimes and monstrous racist hatred for “foreigners and asylum seekers” (now all branded as permanent criminals by the twisting of the Home Office incompetence row for example), and to justify nazi levels of torture, stripping away of basic rights, secret worldwide networks of prison camps, and “disappearings” of people from the streets.

Late imperialism is degenerating rapidly into direct dictatorship, sneakily hidden with spin, lies and propaganda behind the back of the working class, to stop its independent revolutionary development.

But while the growing ferment of challenges to imperialist rule, and imperialism’s own desperate need to ratchet up the worldwide warmongering atmosphere, are forcing it into increasingly barbaric attempts to suppress revolt, and rivals’ competition, making an even more savage farce of its so-called “democracy” than usual from Iraq to Afghanistan and from Palestine to Nepal (and into the heart of the metropolitan countries) there is a burst of inanities and ecstasies about the “democratic” nature of Hugo Chávez’s Venezuelan achievements and cheering on of the Nepalese middle-class “constitutional monarchy changes”, as alleged “peaceful people’s power” pushes back reaction.

These are impressive anti-imperialist movements making enormous progress, offering and to some extent already achieving, major developments in the social, educational, cultural and economic conditions of masses of poor and ordinary people and adding to the inspirational effect on South America, Asia and the whole Third World.

But much of the fake-”left’s” phony posturing and ecstatic cheering has got everything to do with emphasising the “nice side” of supposedly “peaceful development” and ignoring the harsh and brutal realities of struggle across the planet, and with covering up their craven lining-up with imperialism to “condemn” the often raw and sometimes ill-directed violence, as “terrorism”.

Such cowardly moralising will never stop this upsurge of suicide bombings, insurgent guerrilla fighting, kidnappings, assassinations and the like.

The opposite is the case.

It adds to the desperate hatreds and hostility driving the massive wave of attacks (far from isolated “individual terror”) by playing into the hands of imperialism and its fascist collective punishments, imprisonments, torture, arbitrary civilian blitzings, executions and general warmongering which are now being added to the non-stop terror and tyranny it routinely has imposed on the planet for its entire existence – holding down every challenge to its rule with utmost brutality (and incidentally training the entire planet in such methods as child hostage taking, arbitrary bombings, concentration camps, maiming, blinding, “disappearing” and plenty more).

There is no need to either advocate, cheer on, or “glorify” the utterly tragic, often innocent civilian impact such anti-imperialist fighting has. It would have no effect anyway just as moralising “condemnation” has no effect. It is simply happening, because of centuries of brutal turmoil and exploitation, and everyone knows it will continue to grow because the desperation caused by the non-stop oppression of imperialism can only continue to grow too.

But the left capitulation, tying completely with capitalism’s new nazi censorship laws, is aimed at heading all attention away from the brutal class war reality of the capitalist system, disarming the working class by endlessly re-building its illusions in “parliamentary democracy” and the alleged “peaceful road” of progressive development.

Any objective analysis of the world has to see that it is the dirty messy rebellion across the planet, especially in the Middle East, in Nepal itself and in a variety of forms throughout Asia and South America (not least the determined FARC armed revolutionary struggle in Colombia) which has – for the moment at least – driven back or blocked imperialism’s rampaging, bogging it down in a historic defeat and shattering ruling class confidence.

It is the massive upheaval, however incoherent in places, which has given space for developments like the “Bolivarian revolution” – not some “refreshment of democracy” as slimy opportunist “lefts” like Ken Livingstone pretend. He continues to give the credit to the “democracy” lie while riding the achievements for his own “left credibility”, sorely needed after careerist ducking and weaving in and out of New Labour’s monstrous warmongering service to imperialism. Just look at the slyness in this piece he writes:

...For many years people have demanded that social progress and democracy go hand in hand, and that is exactly what is now taking place in Venezuela.

...Venezuela is a state of huge oil wealth that was hitherto scarcely used to benefit the population. Now, for the first time in a country of over 25 million people, a functioning health service is being built. Seventeen million people have been given access to free healthcare for the first time in their lives. Illiteracy has been eliminated. Fifteen million people have been given access to food, medicines and other essential products at affordable prices. A quarter of a million eye operations have been financed to rescue people from blindness. These are extraordinary practical achievements.

Little wonder, then, that Chávez and his supporters have won 10 elections in eight years. These victories were achieved despite a private media largely controlled by opponents of the government. Yet Chávez’s visit has been met with absurd claims from rightwing activists that he is some kind of dictator.

The opponents of democracy are those who orchestrated a coup against Chávez, captured on film in the extraordinary documentary The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. It is a film that literally changes lives. By chance, a TV crew was in the presidential palace when the military coup of April 2002 against Chávez took place. It captured minute by minute the events that unfolded.

Anti-Chávez gunmen, in league with the coup organisers, opened fire on a pro-Chávez demonstration. As guns are commonplace in Venezuela, some in the crowd returned fire. US television stations manipulated these images by editing out the gunfire aimed at the pro- Chávez crowd to claim that anti-Chavez demonstrators had been attacked.

A million people took to the streets of Caracas to demand Chávez’s release. The moment when the army deserted the coup leaders and went over to support the demonstrators is shown on film.

It is a sign of how little David Cameron’s Conservative party has changed that London Tories are boycotting today’s meeting with Chávez. This contrasts, of course, with the Tories’ longstanding fêting of the murdering torturer General Augusto Pinochet. To justify their position they ludicrously compare Chávez to Stalin. Sometimes it is necessary to choose the lesser of two evils. Britain fought with Stalin against Hitler. But with Chávez the choice is not difficult at all. He is both carrying out a progressive programme and doing so through the mandate of the ballot box.

George Bush’s refusal to respect the choices of the Venezuelan people shows that his administration has no real interest in promoting democracy at all.

Not since the 1973 coup that brought Pinochet to power have people faced a clearer or more important international choice.

...Today Venezuela is being opposed largely on the basis of lies. We have to make sure Venezuelans have to face nothing worse. It is the duty of all people who support progress, justice and democracy to stand with Venezuela.

The biggest lie is the pretence that “democracy and progress” go hand in hand.

The lesson from the coup story is not that “democracy wins” but that “mass action” wins. But the bigger lesson is the fate of the Chilean masses in 1973, brutally and bloodily slaughtered and tortured, which is the only future to be expected if the firmest class control is not maintained. And that means a willingness to impose dictatorship of the majority.

The Venezuelan revolution (with Bolivia, Peru and other movement), remains an open question – but the danger of rejecting Leninist grasp is enormous.

When it can, imperialism will bend every rule, bribe and twist every capitalist media swamped “election”, and secretly subvert and manipulate every “popular” movement and demonstration to destroy any gains for the working class and reinstall its exploitation rule and, if that fails, back it up with violent and vicious counter-revolutionary coups, torture trained “freedom fighters”, assassinations, violent demonstrations, sabotage, invasions, blitzkrieging war and lies, lies and lies.

Since the Second World war it carried through such ruthless murderous actions on more than 400 occasions from Africa to its American “backyard” (invading and subverting the Nicaraguan revolution and tiny Grenada, endlessly plotting terrorism against Cuba, destroying by death squad terrorising regimes throughout South America, such as Guatemala and El Salvador, using scorched earth destructive civil war to prevent development in Africa such as Angola and Mozambique, fostering fraudulent freedom struggles against Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Serbia etc, backing foul fascist dictatorships from Haiti’s Ton-ton Macoutes to Suharto’s fascist-family-Robinson in Indonesia, installing gangster regimes like the Egyptian torturers, blitzing Libya, Lebanon, Somalia, Serbia, and utterly destroying Korea, and Vietnam.

If it holds off from Venezuela now it is only because there are so many accumulating simultaneous difficulties for its worldwide rule, as imperialism’s crisis threatens an ever more terrifying potential implosion (however it comes, in roaring inflation, dollar collapse, Stock market disaster, or debt disintegration, or a combination of all of this) and as the inevitable skill development its globalisation demands of workers, also creates increasing discontent.

And equally it fears the mass hostility in the world now would turn to something even worse than Chávez perhaps, if he was assassinated (as one Republican Senator recently openly called for).

It would be the utmost stupidity to pay no attention to the long historical record and its bitter murderous confirmation of Marxism, the need for the firmest working class dictatorship to defend the painfully won gains of any revolutionary move forwards, understood since the appalling slaughter of thousands of workers after the overrun of the two-month long 1871 Paris Commune.

Chávez rightly warns the working class of invasion dangers and has created peoples’ militias. But it seems illusions remain in the validity of elections.

Clear class leadership is vital to battle this non-stop subversion and fascism, requiring the longest and broadest historical world perspective. There is no shortage of experience in South America, as the EPSR analysed in 1990 (issue 536):

" The Sandinistas bitter experience raises some of the questions involved.

No matter what form capitalist crisis takes under various conditions, it can always only be resolved by proletarian revolution.

The FSLN reached that momentous conclusion with the armed overthrow of 50 years of US-backed Somoza fascism. But its grasp of Leninism did not go much further.

The key to running proletarian rule, (replacing bourgeois dictatorship), is the quality of party cadres. The greater the grasp of scientific Leninism developed by the revolution, the better the chances of the workers state defying all efforts by imperialist counter-revolution to bring it down.

Crucial to this spread of revolutionary consciousness is the correct perspective on the international balance of class forces and future world developments.

Given its coalition movement origins, a lack of an assured tactical approach to problems would occasionally not be surprising about the Sandinistas. But that confusion would have tended to be less damaging the more a consciously Leninist understanding of history had been fought for in all Nicaraguan education and propaganda.

It is not obvious that given its initial commitment to ‘pluralism’, the FSLN should or could have avoided accepting Washington’s challenge to take on bourgeois-democracy subversion at its own game or else face non-stop military destabilisation and economic sabotage.

But the greater any Sandinista illusions about how suited to capitalism’s interests was the democratic process in general, or how capable Washington’s might could be in taking advantage of Managua’s agreement to elections, - - the more likely it would be that the FSLN might badly miscalculate what the outcome would be, or hopelessly fool itself about what it thought the state of public opinion to be.

In the appalling circumstances created in Nicaragua by being constantly undermined from Washington,- some ‘electoral’ answer or other to bourgeois propaganda challenging the Sandinistas ‘legitimacy’ might have worked.

What was undoubtedly a catastrophe was to hold the kind of elections which were held, - and to lose them. And any degree to which any Sandinistas have been conned that ‘the democratic process must be accepted’ in such circumstances would make it a tragic farce as well as being a hopeless miscalculation.

Obviously the Nicaraguan revolution had no need at all to give the pro-American bourgeois reaction any opportunity whatever to recapture power at Sandinista-arranged elections (which had been denied to the Nicaraguan people for 50 years by the pro-American bourgeois reaction under Somoza, - a fascist regime imposed by US imperialist influence in the first place to thwart the original Sandino revolution.) And it only adds appalling insult to the grievous self-inflicted injury to try compensating with the deceitful notion that “at least democratic procedures have now been established”.

The imperialist bourgeoisie will know easily how to overcome that little problem if and when the time comes for Nicaraguan reaction to face any challenge about holding onto power.

In the first place, the universal suffrage-democratic republic is the ideal cover for capitalism to thrive under,- unchallenged.

Secondly, if things did get difficult (as they inevitably will eventually when initial lavish US aid runs out and the mounting worldwide capitalist crisis proves to be more than Washington can manage on an ever-widening revolutionary front line), - then there are endless temporary tricks from electoral rackets to crude military dictatorship by which reaction can, and will, hang on in the hope of better times to come.

Obviously, the Nicaraguan people can always then make another revolution. And eventually they certainly will. But what a pointless sacrifice to ignorant anti-Leninist philistinism to have to go through all the terrible suffering of the revolutionary struggle against imperialist reaction for a second time.

It is hardly likely that the FSLN will now come to its senses and declare that all ‘opinion-poll’ sampling in what remains a basically bourgeois electoral scene (surrounded by powerful imperialist influences, and with the might of bourgeois property and Catholic Church domination scarcely curbed at all) is a rotten deception on the real interests of the proletariat at this late stage in capitalism’s terminal crisis. It is therefore a bit academic to recommend such a response.

What must now be fought for is to learn the combined lessons of Cuba, Chile, Grenada, and Nicaragua (and of Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, and other earlier examples) and understand that US imperialist interests are going to have their way by one route or another and that only the firmest dictatorship of the proletariat can ever hope to hold them off. Further, it must be grasped that the final successful resolution of this permanent state-of-siege with Washington, imposed on anti-imperialist movements everywhere, does not rest in “finally defeating US imperialism once and for all” in one particular conflict, which is an illusion as the people of Indo-China have discovered. It rests in the final defeat of imperialism everywhere- by the final triumph of worldwide proletarian dictatorship.

These are the understandings which must be permanently fought for. Within such a Leninist perspective, it will be possible to join forces with broader anti-imperialist struggles in unconditional support with a view to fighting for an ever-growing level of Marxist-Leninist consciousness around every activity of the revolutionary movement.

One of the worst aspects of Sandinista naiveness (equally shared by many other revolutionary movements) has been the willingness to let consciously backward political elements control all solidarity political work on behalf of the Sandinistas in the West. These activities have not merely “concentrated on peaceful coexistence diplomacy” as is pretended. These circles of “solidarity with the revolution” (manipulating the propaganda work in the West on behalf of Nicaragua, Cuba, El Salvador’s FMLN, Vietnam, etc) are consciously hostile to the spread of revolutionary understanding (Leninism).

Tolerating such political backwardness in their name is a sad reflection on how badly the Sandinistas lagged in their own political education.

A worldwide debate on the essence of Marxist-Leninist political science is not some esoteric luxury punted out by a weird sect or two. Leninism is the vital necessity for all mankind. Or imperialism rules.

The pathetic responses by these anti-Leninist ‘solidarity’ circles at the wake held following Ortega’s electoral defeat revealed fully their appalling philistine middle-class bankruptcy.

Remarks like: “I am sure many voted for the opposition with a heavy heart”; “There is no sense in which this is a catastrophe”; “The support seemed very solid”; “The assault that this country has had to sustain would have made it quite extraordinary for the Sandinistas to survive this election”; “Obviously there have been difficulties, but they have been very open about responding to them”; “I suspect a lot of people are still Sandinista in their hearts”; etc etc, show daft sentiment disastrously dominant over serious political understanding.

Decision-making by petty bourgeois subjectivism does not at all produce the ‘caring’, ‘kind’, ‘liberal-minded’ ‘compromise’ society that its soft-in-the-head advocates posture about. Just the opposite. Such woolly-brained capitulation to bourgeois ideology’s non-stop propaganda for class-collaboration (in order to smash revolution) ends up inevitably handing power back to US imperialism’s latest stooges.

Similar international ‘left’-swamp philistinism around the Allende movement doomed the people of Chile to fascist barbarism; it seduced the indisciplined Maurice Bishop to self-destruct, abandoning the Grenada revolution; it prepared for new popular-front disasters in Chile around the Aylwin fraud (a man so anti-communist that he supported Pinochet’s coup); and now it has helped lull the Sandinistas to destruction.

Such incurable petty-bourgeois political philistinism is no ‘kindness’ at all. Anti-Leninism is a catastrophe for the international proletariat. The unstated claim in this emotional drivel about the FSLN defeat is that persistent struggle will eventually be rewarded at almost every election by a majority of votes being cast for ‘doing the right thing’, etc. This is a monstrous deception.

If American destruction of Nicaragua “would have made it extraordinary for the Sandinistas (and their ‘staggering’ achievements) to survive this election”, - then don’t hold it.

The implication that the FSLN’s goodness is bound to be rewarded at future elections is more sick than stupid, - the demented ramblings of a one-track mind which insists that ‘democracy’ is the solution to all things despite the repeated incontrovertible evidence of history that it provides no such answer, ---indicating that the ‘democracy’ label is insisted upon by many for purely class or psychological ulterior motives.

... The FSLN’s own response to its disaster reveals more of a good fighting-revolutionary pedigree but in the end is just as barren of convincing Marxist-Leninist science.

The time to make defiant speeches such as :”We shall oppose all those actions which go against the popular will” was before the curtained-booth farce (of secretly-expressed political shallowness in favour of Chamorro’s bourgeois opportunism) had done its damage, opening the door to untold reactionary torment ahead. It does not take much leadership sense to know that the policies of the US imperialist bourgeoisie mean no good in the long run for the ‘will’ of the masses everywhere (including Nicaragua) to live under cooperative world peace and harmony with planned economic possibilities for the flourishing of every family and nation on earth. ...

It took leadership for the FSLN to declare in the first place: “We’ll make a revolution”.... "

And it was flawed leadership which contributed to the loss of those gains, equally ecstatically heralded by the revisionist and opportunist fake-”lefts” delighted by its “niceness” and the chance to avoid any “difficult” talk about “dictatorship of the proletariat”.

And what does that say about the cynicism and petty bourgeois renegade hostility closest to the EPSR which is now slithering into open liquidationism – complacently declaring that there is “no need at all in the modern Internet world” for Marxist and Leninist understanding and the fight for revolutionary theory, – or any kind of party to struggle for it especially one of “middle class wankers”.

Somehow the ending of eight hundred years of capitalist class power and experience in domination and brutal suppression of all challenges, will all be overturned with common sense(!!!), the leadership “emerging osmotically from the working class” (- by blogging perhaps?).

Shamefully this sly burrowing which has been trying to sabotage and undermine 25 years of revolutionary work and achievement in understanding with this shallow nonsense, is too defeatistly self-obsessed and comfortable in its indolence to do anything other than worm around on the edge of discussion, refusing to put its case clearly in print, and explain further.

But its purpose is clear; to sabotage and destroy revolutionary confidence and the difficult, demanding and complex fight for scientific understanding – exactly when most needed.

The permanently conflict-ridden capitalist class domination is facing the greatest crisis disintegration in its entire eight hundred year historic rise to power, from its early city state and anti-feudal revolutionary beginnings to the consolidation of ever increasing world supremacy.

Only revolutionary overturn and the establishment of socialism can stop its now headlong plunge into world war, its many times repeated catastrophic and devastating “solution” to intractable overproduction problems and the relentlessly growing antagonistic monopoly competition which hold it permanently on the edge of turmoil and collapse (with seeming “boomtime” periods of prosperity the short-term, historical exception, not the rule) and which now have reached the point of catastrophic failure.

It threatens to plunge the world headlong into the war chaos already inflicted on Serbia, Iraq, and Afghanistan and being warmed up for Iran, Somalia, Sudan and any other suitable “rogue states” imperialism sees as suitable candidates as “shock and awe” victims on the way to all out inter-imperialist world war.

The strategy for imperialism’s survival is to be the Long War, being prepared by the Pentagon and US neocon circles both to suppress world revolt and intimidate any challenges from the capitalist monopoly rivals which are continuously jostling for position – and with increasing antagonism as brewing world economic crisis finally matures.

The long overdue “correction” to the huge imbalances and unevenness of capitalist development, now expressed in the historically unprecedented mounting – and utterly unrepayable multi-trillion dollar debt of the US empire is the greatest crisis which has ever faced the system.

All these material changes are central elements that will bring ripening world revolutionary potential to fruition, and no Marxist would suggest otherwise; there can be no “forcing the pace” by any amount of exhortation, propaganda, clever oratory, slick leaflets (or slicker website creation).

“Spontaneity” in uprising and rebellion against the tyranny and exploitation of the capitalism is a crucial and inevitable ingredient in the revolutionary upheavals which increasingly erupt in the system since the last century and which will eventually end the long-outdated imperialist order now hamstringing all of mankind’s rational development.

But revolutionary understanding and leadership is the vital subjective expression of the objective necessity, being imposed on humanity by this disaster, to end the system once and for all. And it needs consciously battling for.

In various forms increasing “spontaneous” hatred and hostility to the imperialist order, and the numbing poverty and exploitation grind it imposes with utmost fascist barbarity (for most of the Third World all the time and in the most “advanced” countries when it can), is now expressed in dozens of forms throughout the world, almost always condemned by the West as “terrorism” (with an immediate craven back-up chorus by fake-”left” stoogery ready with “theoretical” ways to justify a disgusting capitulation to ruling class interests), or as “manipulation” or “totalitarianism”, (depending on how far it gets in forming workers states or revolutionary organisation).

But only the deliberate coherent development of revolutionary understanding, and the struggle to draw the working class into that development, will provide the crucial conscious perspective and historical grasp that can tread through the political minefields, and contradictions of struggle against the imperialist ruling class.

The “struggle for democracy” for example, the first time the great mass of the exploited can develop and participate on equal terms, socially and economically, to build a rational society (as opposed to the total domination of capital behind the tricks, “spin”, scams and Goebbels lies of parliamentary democracy) can only be achieved, and defended, by dictatorship - the firm rule of the majority, proletarian class to suppress the reactionary minority of arrogant tricksters and scam-merchants who call the shots in capitalism, the capitalist ruling class, and all their lies, twisting and cheating domination.

And even more contradictorily, the purpose of true mass democracy can only be to do away with itself – by developing over generations a communal society of rational self-disciplined humans who no longer need discipline and control but simply the skill, together, of “administering things” as Frederick Engels said in his famous description of the withering away of the state, once the working class is in power.

But imperialism is not going simply to retreat in the face of “people’s power” and the “popular will”, or even historical inevitability, and hand over its enterprises, financial control and industry to the ordinary people, for their benefit, education and development.

Just the opposite. The further it is driven back from the ruthless exploitation which is the basis of its enormous power and wealth, the more vicious will be the plotting, intrigue and where necessary, open counter-revolutionary onslaughts to drown in blood any steps forwards by the proletarian masses. Any concessions made, even long term, are tactical feints, and strategic retreats designed only to allow the ruling class the gather strength to take it all back.

All the “steadily won” post-war reformist Labourite gains of the welfare state in Britain for example are now being dismantled or sold off cheap to the ruling class fat cats, hidden behind the “never-never, buy-now pay-later” illusions of PFI hire-purchase, mired in sleaze and lies, while the fascistisation of society and drive to warmongering proceeds apace – all by the same Labourite thread of class collaborating politics (lauded and applauded by the entire spectrum of “lefts in one way or another) which has only ever served the deeper interests of the capitalist ruling class.

They were gains only because the working class was turning to militancy and revolutionary socialism across Europe and the world at the end of the last great World War turmoil, headed off only by reformist “parliamentary” promises from Labourism and supposed parliamentary gains

With this understanding, at the core of a constantly ever developing long range historical and worldwide perspective embracing the deepest social, cultural and philosophical questions, the working class is best placed to judge strategy, tactics and programme.

It requires the constant polemical development of theory in unity and conflict with the working class via its best and most serious elements – and the exposure of the philistinism and dumbing down of capitalism as well as the multitude of misleading, anti-communist, hostile and simply stupid notions presented as “leftism” by assorted Trotskyites, Stalinists, and revisionist soft-brains.

All this is the absolute kindergarten level of revolutionary theory, fought for and understood over 100 years ago by Lenin at the foundation of Bolshevism which said the smallest working class fight should always have a perspective of the need to take power, which had to be developed outside the working class (as tested and proven in the giant historical events of the 1905 and 1917 revolutions, led by the son of minor Tsarist official, Lenin.)

It was spelled out in the seminal What is to be done:

""The Spontaneity of the Masses and the Consciousness of the Social-Democrats*

[*social-democrats was the term for communists at the time – EPSR]


. . .The strikes of the nineties revealed far greater flashes of consciousness; definite demands were advanced, the strike was carefully timed, known cases and instances in other places were discussed, etc. The revolts were simply the resistance of the oppressed, whereas the systematic strikes represented the class struggle in embryo, but only in embryo. Taken by themselves, these strikes were simply trade union struggles, not yet Social Democratic struggles. They marked the awakening antagonisms between workers and employers; but the workers, were not, and could not be, conscious of the irreconcilable antagonism of their interests to the whole of the modern political and social system, i.e., theirs was not yet Social-Democratic consciousness. In this sense, the strikes of the nineties, despite the enormous progress they represented as compared with the “revolts’, remained a purely spontaneous movement.

We have said that there could not have been Social-Democratic consciousness among the workers. It would have to be brought to them from without. The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own e?ort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness, i.e., the conviction that it is necessary to combine in unions, fight the employers, and strive to compel the government to pass necessary labour legislation, etc.[2]


[2] Trade-unionism does not exclude “politics” altogether, as some imagine. Trade unions have always conducted some political (but not Social-Democratic) agitation and struggle. We shall deal with the di?erence between trade union politics and Social-Democratic politics in the next chapter. —Lenin]


The theory of socialism, however, grew out of the philosophic, historical, and economic theories elaborated by educated representatives of the propertied classes, by intellectuals. By their social status the founders of modern scientific socialism, Marx and Engels, themselves belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia. In the very same way, in Russia, the theoretical doctrine of Social-Democracy arose altogether independently of the spontaneous growth of the working-class movement; it arose as a natural and inevitable outcome of the development of thought among the revolutionary socialist intelligentsia. In the period under discussion, the middle nineties, this doctrine not only represented the completely formulated programme of the Emancipation of Labour group, but had already won over to its side the majority of the revolutionary youth in Russia.

Hence, we had both the spontaneous awakening of the working masses, their awakening to conscious life and conscious struggle, and a revolutionary youth, armed with Social-Democratic theory and straining towards the workers. In this connection it is particularly important to state the oft-forgotten (and comparatively little-known) fact that, although the early Social-Democrats of that period zealously carried on economic agitation (being guided in this activity by the truly useful indications contained in the pamphlet On Agitation,[27] then still in manuscript), they did not regard this as their sole task. On the contrary, from the very beginning they set for Russian Social-Democracy the most far-reaching historical tasks, in general, and the task of overthrowing the autocracy, in particular.


...It is therefore highly important to establish the fact that a part (perhaps even a majority) of the Social-Democrats, active in the period of 1895-98, justly considered it possible even then, at the very beginning of the “spontaneous” movement, to come forward with a most extensive programme and a militant tactical line.[5]


[5] “In adopting a hostile attitude towards the activities of the Social-Democrats of the late nineties, Iskra ignores the absence at that time of conditions for any work other than the struggle for petty demands,” declare the Economists in their “Letter to Russian Social-Democratic Organs” (Iskra No. 12). The facts given above show that the assertion about “absence of conditions” is diametrically opposed to the truth. Not only at the end, but even in the mid-nineties, all the conditions existed for other work, besides the struggle for petty demands – all the conditions except adequate training of leaders. Instead of frankly admitting that we, the ideologists, the leaders, lacked sufficient training – the Economists seek to shift the blame entirely upon the “absence of conditions”, upon the e?ect of material environment that determines the road from which no ideologist will be able to divert the movement. What is this but slavish cringing before spontaneity, what but the infatuation of the “ideologists” with their own shortcomings? —Lenin]


Lack of training of the majority of the revolutionaries, an entirely natural phenomenon, could not have roused any particular fears. Once the tasks were correctly defined, once the energy existed for repeated attempts to fulfil them, temporary failures represented only part misfortune. Revolutionary experience and organisational skill are things that can be acquired, provided the desire is there to acquire them, provided the shortcomings are recognised, which in revolutionary activity is more than half-way towards their removal.

But what was only part misfortune became full misfortune when this consciousness began to grow dim (it was very much alive among the members of the groups mentioned), when there appeared people – and even Social -Democratic organs – that were prepared to regard shortcomings as virtues, that even tried to invent a theoretical basis for their slavish cringing before spontaneity. It is time to draw conclusions from this trend, the content of which is incorrectly and too narrowly characterised as Economism.

...The founding of Rabochaya Mysl brought Economism to the light of day, but not at one stroke. We must picture to ourselves concretely the conditions for activity and the short-lived character of the majority of the Russian study circles (a thing that is possible only for those who have themselves experienced it) in order to understand how much there was of the fortuitous in the successes and failures of the new trend in various towns, and the length of time during which neither the advocates nor the opponents of the “new” could make up their minds – and literally had no opportunity of so doing – as to whether this really expressed a distinct trend or merely the lack of training of certain individuals. For example, the first mimeographed copies of Rabochaya Mysl never reached the great majority of Social-Democrats, and if we are able to refer to the leading article in the first number, it is only because it was reproduced in an article by V. I.[32] (“Listok” Rabotnika, No. ????, p. ??, et seq.), who, of course, did not fail to extol with more zeal than reason the new paper, which was so different from the papers and projects for papers mentioned above.[6] [6] Rabocheye Dyelo, No. ??, p. ??. This is the Martynov variation of the application, which we have characterised above, of the thesis “every step of real movement is more important than a dozen programmes” to the present chaotic state of our movement. In fact, this is merely a translation into Russian of the notorious Bernsteinian sentence: “The movement is everything, the final aim is nothing.” —Lenin ]

It is well worth dwelling on this leading article because it brings out in bold relief the entire spirit of Rabochaya Mysl and Economism generally.

After stating that the arm of the “blue-coats”[7] [[7] The tsarist gendarmes wore blue uniforms.—Tr.] could never halt the progress of the working-class movement, the leading article goes on to say: “. . . The virility of the working-class movement is due to the fact that the workers themselves are at last taking their fate into their own hands, and out of the hands of the leaders”; this fundamental thesis is then developed in greater detail. Actually, the leaders (i.e.,. the Social-Democrats, the organisers of the League of Struggle) were, one might say, torn out of the hands of the workers[8] by the police; yet it is made to appear that the workers were fighting against the leaders and liberated themselves from their yoke! Instead of sounding the call to go forward towards the consolidation of the revolutionary organisation and the expansion of political activity, the call was issued for a retreat to the purely trade union struggle. It was announced that “the economic basis of the movement is eclipsed by the effort never to forget the political ideal”, and that the watchword for the working-class movement was “Struggle for economic conditions” (!) or, better still, “The workers for the workers”. It was declared that strike funds “are more valuable to the movement than a hundred other Organisations” (compare this statement made in October ????, with the polemic between the “Decembrists” and the young members in the beginning of ????), etc. Catchwords like “We must concentrate, not on the ’cream’ of the workers, but on the ’average’, mass worker”; “Politics always obediently follows economics”,[9] etc., etc., became the fashion, exercising an irresistible influence upon the masses of the youth who were attracted to the movement but who, in the majority of cases, were acquainted only with such fragments of Marxism as were expounded in legally appearing publications.

Political consciousness was completely overwhelmed by spontaneity – the spontaneity of the “Social-Democrats” who repeated Mr. V. V.’s “ideas”, the spontaneity of those workers who were carried away by the arguments that a kopek added to a ruble was worth more than any socialism or politics, and that they must “fight, knowing that they are fighting, not for the sake of some future generation, but for themselves and their children” (leader in Rabochaya Mysl, No. 1). Phrases like these have always been a favourite weapon of the West-European bourgeois, who, in their hatred for socialism, strove (like the German “Sozial-Politiker” Hirsch) to transplant English trade-unionism to their native soil and to preach to the workers that by engaging in the purely trade union struggle[10] [[10] The Germans even have a special expression, Nur-Gewerkschaftler, which means an advocate of the “pure trade union” struggle. —Lenin ] they would be fighting for themselves and for their children, and not for some future generations with some future socialism. And now the “V. V.s of Russian Social-Democracy” have set about repeating these bourgeois phrases. It is important at this point to note three circumstances that will be useful to our further analysis of contemporary differences.[11]

[11] We emphasise the word contemporary for the benefit of those who may pharisaically shrug their shoulders and say: It is easy enough to attack Rabochaya Mysl now, but is not all this ancient history? Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur (change the name and the tale is about you—Ed.) is our answer to such contemporary Pharisees, whose complete subjection to the ideas of Rabochaya Mysl will be proved further on. —Lenin

In the first place, the overwhelming of political consciousness by spontaneity, to which we referred above, also took place spontaneously. This may sound like a pun, but, alas, it is the bitter truth. It did not take place as a result of an open struggle between two diametrically opposed points of view, in which one triumphed over the other; it occurred because of the fact that an increasing number of “old” revolutionaries were “torn away” by the gendarmes and increasing numbers of “young” “V. V.s of Russian Social Democracy” appeared on the scene.

...Secondly, in the very first literary expression of Economism we observe the exceedingly curious phenomenon – highly characteristic for an understanding of all the di?erences prevailing among present-day Social Democrats – that the adherents of the “labour movement pure and simple”, worshippers of the closest “organic” contacts (Rabocheye Dyelo’s term) with the proletarian struggle, opponents of any non-worker intelligentsia (even a socialist intelligentsia), are compelled, in order to defend their positions, to resort to the arguments of the bourgeois “pure trade-unionists”. This shows that from the very outset Rabochaya Mysl began – unconsciously – to implement the programme of the Credo. This shows (something Rabocheye Dyelo cannot grasp) that all worship of the spontaneity of the working class movement, all belittling of the role of “the conscious element”, of the role of Social-Democracy, means, quite independently of whether he who belittles that role desires it or not, a strengthening of the influence of bourgeois ideology upon the workers. All those who talk about “overrating the importance of ideology”,[12] about exaggerating the role of the conscious element,[13] etc., imagine that the labour movement pure and simple can elaborate, and will elaborate, an independent ideology for itself, if only the workers “wrest their fate from the hands of the leaders”. But this is a profound mistake. To supplement what has been said above, we shall quote the following profoundly true and important words of Karl. Kautsky on the new draft programme of the Austrian Social-Democratic Party:[14]

[14] Neue Zeit, ???????, XX, I, No. ?, p. ??. The committee’s draft to which Kautsky refers was adopted by the Vienna Congress (at the end of last year) in a slightly amended form. —Lenin]

“Many of our revisionist critics believe that Marx asserted that economic development and the class struggle create, not only the conditions for socialist production, but also, and directly, the consciousness [K. K.’s italics] of its necessity. And these critics assert that England, the country most highly developed capitalistically, is more remote than any other from this consciousness Judging by the draft, one might assume that this allegedly orthodox Marxist view, which is thus refuted, was shared by the committee that drafted the Austrian programme. In the draft programme it is stated: ’The more capitalist development increases the numbers of the proletariat, the more the proletariat is compelled and becomes fit to fight against capitalism. The proletariat becomes conscious of the possibility and of the necessity for socialism. In this connection socialist consciousness appears to be a necessary and direct result of the proletarian class struggle. But this is absolutely untrue. Of course, socialism, as a doctrine, has its roots in modern economic relationships just as the class struggle of the proletariat has, and, like the latter, emerges from the struggle against the capitalist-created poverty and misery of the masses. But socialism and the class struggle arise side by side and not one out of the other; each arises under different conditions. Modern socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge. Indeed, modern economic science is as much a condition for socialist production as, say, modern technology, and the proletariat can create neither the one nor the other, no matter how much it may desire to do so; both arise out of the modern social process. The vehicle of science is not the proletariat, but the bourgeois intelligentsia [K. K.’s italics]: it was in the minds of individual members of this stratum that modern socialism originated, and it was they who communicated it to the more intellectually developed proletarians who, in their turn, introduce it into the proletarian class struggle where conditions allow that to be done. Thus, socialist consciousness is something introduced into the proletarian class struggle from without [von Aussen Hineingetragenes] and not something that arose within it spontaneously [urwüchsig]. Accordingly, the old Hainfeld programme quite rightly stated that the task of Social-Democracy is to imbue the proletariat (literally: saturate the proletariat) with the consciousness of its position and the consciousness of its task. There would be no need for this if consciousness arose of itself from the class struggle. The new draft copied this proposition from the old programme, and attached it to the proposition mentioned above. But this completely broke the. line of thought...”

Since there can be no talk of an independent ideology formulated by the working masses themselves in the process of their movement,[15] the only choice is – either bourgeois or socialist ideology. There is no middle course (for mankind has not created a “third” ideology, and, moreover, in a society torn by class antagonisms there can never be a non-class or an above-class ideology). Hence, to belittle the socialist ideology in any way, to turn aside from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology.

[15] This does not mean, of course, that the workers have no part in creating such an ideology. They take part, however, not as workers, but as socialist theoreticians, as Proudhons and Weitlings; in other words, they take part only when they are able, and to the extent that they are able, more or less, to acquire the knowledge of their age and develop that knowledge. But in order that working men may succeed in this more often, every e?ort must be made to raise the level of the consciousness of the workers in general; it is necessary that the workers do not confine themselves to the artificially restricted limits of “literature for workers” but that they learn to an increasing degree to master general literature. It would be even truer to say “are not confined”, instead of “do not confine themselves”, because the workers themselves wish to read and do read all that is written for the intelligentsia, and only a few (bad) intellectuals believe that it is enough “for workers” to be told a few things about factory conditions and to have repeated to them over and over again what has long been known. —Lenin

There is much talk of spontaneity. But the spontaneous development of the working-class movement leads to its subordination to bourgeois ideology, to its development along the lines of the Credo programme; for the spontaneous working-class movement is trade-unionism, is Nur-Gewerkschaftlerei, and trade unionism means the ideological enslavement of the workers by the bourgeoisie. Hence, our task, the task of Social-Democracy, is to combat spontaneity, to divert the working-class movement from this spontaneous, trade-unionist striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie, and to bring it under the wing of revolutionary Social Democracy. The sentence employed by the authors of the Economist letter published in Iskra, No. 12, that the efforts of the most inspired ideologists fail to divert the working-class movement from the path that is determined by the interaction of the material elements and the material environment is therefore tantamount to renouncing socialism. If these authors were capable of fearlessly, consistently, and thoroughly considering what they say, as everyone who enters the arena of literary and public activity should be, there would be nothing left for them but to “fold their useless arms over their empty breasts” and surrender the field of action to the Struves and Prokopoviches, who are dragging the working-class movement “along the line of least resistance”, i.e., along the line of bourgeois trade-unionism, or to the Zubatovs, who are dragging it along the line of clerical and gendarme “ideology”.

Let us recall the example of Germany. What was the historic service Lassalle rendered to the German working-class movement? It was that he diverted that movement from the path of progressionist trade-unionism and co-operativism towards which it had been spontaneously moving (with the benign assistance of Schulze-Delitzsch and his like). To fulfil such a task it was necessary to do something quite di?erent from talking of underrating the spontaneous element, of tactics-as-process, of the interaction between elements and environment, etc. A fierce struggle against spontaneity was necessary, and only after such a struggle, extending over many years, was it possible, for instance, to convert the working population of Berlin from a bulwark of the progressionist party into one of the finest strongholds of Social-Democracy. This struggle is by no means over even today (as might seem to those who learn the history of the German movement from Prokopovich, and its philosophy from Struve). Even now the German working class is, so to speak, split up among a number of ideologies. A section of the workers is organised in Catholic and monarchist trade unions; another section is organised in the Hirsch-Duncker[33] unions, founded by the bourgeois worshippers of English trade-unionism; the third is organised in Social-Democratic trade unions. The last-named group is immeasurably more numerous than the rest, but the Social-Democratic ideology was able to achieve this superiority, and will be able to maintain it, only in an unswerving struggle against all other ideologies.

But why, the reader will ask, does the spontaneous movement, the movement along the line of least resistance, lead to the domination of bourgeois ideology? For the simple reason that bourgeois ideology is far older in origin than socialist ideology, that it is more fully developed, and that it has at its disposal immeasurably more means of dissemination.[16]

[16] It is often said that the working class spontaneously gravitates towards socialism. This is perfectly true in the sense that socialist theory reveals the causes of the misery of the working class more profoundly and more correctly than any other theory, and for that reason the workers are able to assimilate it so easily, provided, however, this theory does not itself yield to spontaneity, provided it subordinates spontaneity to itself. Usually this is taken for granted, but it is precisely this which Rabocheye Dyelo forgets or distorts. The working class spontaneously gravitates towards socialism; nevertheless, most widespread (and continuously and diversely revived) bourgeois ideology spontaneously imposes itself upon the working class to a still greater degree.—Lenin


And the younger the socialist movement in any given country, the more vigorously it must struggle against all attempts to entrench non-socialist ideology, and the more resolutely the workers must be warned against the bad counsellors who shout against “overrating the conscious element”, etc. The authors of the Economist letter, in unison with Rabocheye Dyelo, inveigh against the intolerance that is characteristic of the infancy of the movement. To this we reply: Yes, our movement is indeed in its infancy, and in order that it may grow up faster, it must become imbued with intolerance against those who retard its growth by their subservience to spontaneity. Nothing is so ridiculous and harmful as pretending that we are “old hands” who have long ago experienced all the decisive stages of the struggle.""

The working class is 100 years older, and the experiences worldwide have taken it through many more struggles. The ideas of socialism have spread far and wide and yet still remain largely unachieved with notable partial exceptions like Vietnam, Cuba, Korea and China.

Everything and yet nothing has changed; capitalism still exists and is once more plunging towards international mayhem and war.

Huge experience has been made in building socialism, most importantly in the world’s first ever workers state of the Soviet Union and then many more as it inspired the great waves of socialist and anti-imperialist revolutionary struggles that have swept the planet before and especially after the Second World War, not least creating the powerhouse Chinese economy .

The history changing 1917 revolution and the building of the world’s first workers state the Soviet Union, proved beyond doubt that the working class has no need of a capitalist ruling class and demonstrated overwhelmingly that with socialist organisation and the fetters of capitalist profit-making thrown off, industry, technology, culture and society could make unprecedented leaps forwards, eliminating unemployment, building universal housing, creating the first free national health service, providing a rising level of education including near universal higher education, and also demonstrating an utterly different quality of social communal life (as many of the older Soviet or East European former communist state residents now sadly bemoan), a sense of security and generally increasing cooperation, without the tearing antagonism and competitive rat-race of daily mistrust and backstabbing in capitalism.

Cultural life was transformed with giant achievement made in classical music (Shostakovitch, Prokofiev) ballet, literature, film-making and art; science accelerated hugely so that a country which had started with a fraction of the industrial resources of western Europe, –(and which was three times smashed into total destruction by the First World War, the three year onslaught of the imperialist countries and White Guard reaction immediately following it, and then the devastating Nazi onslaught of 1941-45)– could put the first man in space by the early 1960s and develop a counter to the nuclear weapons that were being used by imperialism to encircle it with the threat of total destruction.

But what about the “totalitarianism”, shallow brained anti-communists will reply; life surely was tightly controlled?

And the only answer can be; not tightly enough in the end to defend the workers state, under permanent siege by imperialism (Cuba economic blockade eg). It was the dictatorship of the proletariat, in its concrete form of KGB, Soviet courts, Red Army and intelligence which countered the constant subversion, sabotage, military threats and ideological undermining of society by the capitalist west, to protect the interests and development of the huge majority of society (workers and initially peasants too).

It was the failure alongside this to understand the importance of constant open struggle for revolutionary theory and perspectives, taken on an ever wider scale into the mass of people, that emerged as Stalinist revisionism, initially simply erratically weak in grasp and understanding, leading to bureaucratic and opportunist suppression of discussion and ultimately leading to the inane and deluded liquidationist capitulation of Gorbachev to fatuous notions of “western market mechanisms” being the best way to control production and with it society.

The disastrous self-liquidation of the 70 year long workers state in 1989 was the tragic culmination of the retreats from the struggle for theory, the greatest confirmation of all of its importance.

Nothing else failed as such, least of all the slow if sometimes bureaucratically steady progress of the Soviet economy, at least until the inanities of the Gorbachev “shake-ups” and instructionalist “opening up” finally killed even the partial socialist inspiration and motivation that had been able to flourish in the better periods of Stalinist control (especially during the sacrifices of the Second World War which destroyed European Nazism).

But the “peaceful road” opportunist retreat from revolutionary perspectives as the key to all of human development, has done huge damage to socialist and anti-imperialist struggle all around the planet.

The spawning of ten dozen shades of nonsense masquerading and posturing as “left leadership”- always failing to seize the revolutionary initiative, or actively opposing it as the revisionists’ favourite Abbas is doing against the militancy of Hamas in Palestine, has left what passes for communism unappealing to the urgency of the masses’ wish to end this degenerate and bloody system forever..

And the failure to develop and spread a revolutionary perspective has fatally hobbled efforts to expose the poisonous anti-communist nature of the Trotskyite “opposition”. The clever but deeply flawed petty bourgeois understanding of its mentor onwards, has postured and strutted as “more revolutionary”, to justify endless attacks on the workers states, dressed up as supposed criticism of Stalinism but in fact out and out hostility to the dictatorship of the working class. Small wonder these groups and grouplets all line up with imperialism’s “condemning of terror” and in practice in struggle never raise the issue of revolution at all – the core of all political and philosophical grasp.

In the vacuum created by Stalinism’s long retreat and confusion (as damaging in the Middle East as anywhere) it is the Islamic leaderships in the world to which tens of millions have turned at present to carry their growing hostility to imperialism, the semi-demagoguery of Latin American “left-machismo” and various Maoist shadings.

And whatever is said about the crudeness of suicide bombing and other insurgency methods, and how there is a “better way to fight” these struggles will continue and will further hold up and stymie the US empire plans to bully the world into accepting its continuing dominance, exposing not their barbarism but that of the oppressing rulers (as in the latest US marine Iraq massacre revelations eg).

It will not yet stop the headlong plunge of the system into Third World War or be the best defence against counter-revolution.

Revolutionary Leninist understanding is a better way – with the clearest scientific understanding.

But to win the leadership of the masses it needs to be constantly fought for in discussion, polemic and study, by a party which consciously and conscientiously makes that its task, against all the buffeting and undermining constantly thrown at its science by bourgeois ideology, and most of all by the apparent, fake-”lefts” whose defeatism, hostility to actual working class rule and liquidationism continuously plays into reaction’s hands.

Don Hoskins

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