For the Reaffirmist Group (RA), the socio-economic formation of the Philippines is semi-feudal which brings them to the tactics of the inter-classist movement. This is one of their “three magic weapons” for their bourgeois national-democratic revolution. Its concept of revolution is the Stalinist “bloc of four classes” (i.e., alliance of workers, peasants, and petty-bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie). That’s why it is part of its basic principles the tactical alliance with the faction of the ruling class. But this Maoist strategy is also practice by the anti-Maoist leftists (RJs) in the Philippines, the very reason why they always bring with them the other section of the national bourgeoisie and liberal democrats. This only means that frontism of whatever type is inherent to all leftist currents to derail the proletariat to achieve its own class consciousness
For those belonging to Rejectionist Group (RJ), the socio-economic formation of the Philippines is capitalist and therefore, there are only two camps with irreconcilable class interest and always at war, the capitalist class and the working class. The working class has no political ally as politics and economics are concerned. This is very important that we must understand! The working class has no political ally in the epoch of capitalism and making an alliance with national bourgeoisie would only derail political consciousness of the working class and betrays their immediate aim for conquest of political power.
The task of the advance of every conscious element of the revolutionary working class is to awaken, organize and mobilize the working class towards seizure of political power. But how can they awaken if they are in alliance with the section of national bourgeoisie? How can they propagate the cause of socialism if they become part of the system that oppressed them unless they are outside of the system and maintains their complete independence from the system?
How to awaken the political consciousness of the working class is the first and foremost question?
“A basic condition for the necessary expansion of political agitation is the organization of comprehensive political exposure”
“Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without, that is, only from outside the economic struggles, from outside the sphere of relations between workers and employers. The sphere from which alone it is possible to obtain this knowledge is the sphere of relationships of all classes and strata to the state and the government, the sphere of the interrelations between all classes” (Lenin, What Is To be Done?)
The development of the political consciousness of the working class is the very foremost obligation of every conscious revolutionary element of the revolutionary working class. The entire working class cannot be politically conscious on economic struggles, the very reason why Lenin said that class political consciousness must be done outside the economic. This economic struggle (like the hope for better wages, development projects, etc) will only result to unionism and reformism and ultimately, derail the class consciousness of the working class, the thing that we ought not to do neither allow to happen.
“The economic struggle merely impels the workers to realize the government’s attitude towards the working class. Consequently, however much we may try to lend the economic struggle itself a political character, we shall never be able to develop the political consciousness of the workers (to the level of Socialist political consciousness) by keeping within the framework of the economic struggle, for that framework is too narrow”…“For this reason the conception of the economic struggle as the most widely applicable means of drawing the masses into the political movement…is so extremely harmful and reactionary in its practical significance” (Lenin, What Is To be Done?)
The fact that the working class are always in the streets (rallies, demonstrations) demanding for economic reforms, better wages, etc, does not and will not make them a politically conscious working class.
“The fact that the working class participates in the political struggle and even in the political revolution does not in itself makes its politics a Social-Democratic politics”
The answer on how to educate the working class to become politically conscious is political exposures.
Political exposures and training in revolutionary activity– in no way except by means of such political exposures can the masses be trained in political consciousness and revolutionary activity. Hence, activity of this kind is one of the most important functions of the revolutionary party. For even political freedom does not in any way eliminate exposures; it merely shifts somewhat their sphere of direction. The working class consciousness cannot be genuinely political consciousness unless the workers are trained to respond to all tyranny, oppression, violence and abuse, no matter what class is affected-unless they are trained, moreover, to respond from a revolutionary point of view and no other, this is what Lenin said.
“Political exposures are as much a declaration of war against the government as economic exposures are a declaration of war against the factory owners… political exposures in themselves serve as a powerful instrument for disintegrating the system we oppose, as a means for diverting from the enemy his casual or temporary allies, as a means for spreading hostility and distrust among the permanent partners of the autocracy”
Have we trained and are we training the working class to respond to ALL tyranny, oppression, violence and abuse, no matter what class is affected? This is what political propaganda and agitation (political exposures want to achieve). For chairman Mao, to neglect this task means a sin of liberalism, one of the sicknesses of the revolution.
The task to conduct political exposures should not only be limited to few places but it must be organized nation-wide. The all-round political agitation will be conducted by a party which unites into one inseparable whole the assault on the government in the name of the entire people, the revolutionary training of the proletariat, and the safeguarding of its political independence, the guidance of the economic struggle of the working class and the utilization of all its spontaneous conflicts with its exploiters which rouse and bring into our camp increasing numbers of the proletariat and this can be carried sustainably by establishing “study circles”, propaganda leaflets and other educational forms of activity.
The consciousness of the working class cannot be genuinely class-consciousness unless the workers learn, from concrete and above all from topical, political facts and events to observe every other social class in all the manifestations of its intellectual, ethical, and political life; unless they learn to apply in practice the materialist analysis and the materialist estimate of all aspects of the life and activity of all classes, strata and groups of population. For this reason said Lenin that the conception of the economic struggle as the most widely means of drawing the masses into the political movement is so extremely harmful and reactionary in its practical significance.
In order to become politically conscious, the worker must have a clear picture in his mind of the economic nature and the social and political features the ruling class, the high state official and the “peasant”, the student and vagabond.; he must know their strong and weak points; he must grasp the meaning of all catchwords and sophisms by which each class and each stratum camouflages its selfish strivings and its real “inner working”; he must understand what interests are reflected by certain institutions and certain laws and how they are reflected. But this “clear picture” cannot be obtained from any book. It can be obtained only from living examples and from exposures that follow close upon what is going on about us at a given moment; upon what is being discussed, it whispers perhaps, by each one in his own way; upon what finds expression in such and such events, in such and such statistics, in such and such court sentences, etc. these comprehensive political exposures are an essential and fundamental condition for training the masses in revolutionary activity.
What is its content of our political exposures and how it is to be done? Let us now proceed to the more specific content on how to conduct “political exposures” among the masses.
1. The teaching of scientific socialism
2. The spreading of proper understanding of the present social and economic system, its basis and its development, the various classes, their interrelations and the role of the working class
The means of carrying the propaganda work:
1. To organize study circles among workers
2. To establish proper and secret connections between them and the Party
3. To publish and distribute working-class literature
4. To organize the receipt of correspondence from all manifestos and to distribute them
5. To train a body of experienced agitators
Lenin elaborated on what Marxists mean by ‘propaganda’ and ‘agitation’:
The socialist activities of Russian Social-Democrats [communists] consist in spreading by propaganda the teachings of scientific socialism, in spreading among the workers a proper understanding of the present social and economic system, its basis and its development, an understanding of the various classes in Russian society, of their interrelations, of the struggle between these classes, of the role of the working class in this struggle, of its attitude towards the declining and the developing classes, towards the past and the future of capitalism, an understanding of the historical task of international Social-Democracy and of the Russian working class. Inseparably connected with propaganda is agitation among the workers, which naturally comes to the forefront in the present political conditions of Russia and at the present level of development of the masses of workers. Agitation among the workers means that the Social-Democrats take part in all the spontaneous manifestations of the working-class struggle, in all the conflicts between the workers and the capitalists over the working day, wages, working conditions, etc., etc. Our task is to merge our activities with the practical, everyday questions of working-class life, to help the workers understand these questions, to draw the workers’ attention to the most important abuses, to help them formulate their demands to the employers more precisely and practically, to develop among the workers consciousness of their solidarity, consciousness of the common interests and common cause of all the Russian workers as a united working class that is part of the international army of the proletariat. To organize study circles among workers, to establish proper and secret connections between them and the central group of Social-Democrats, to publish and distribute working-class literature, to organize the receipt of correspondence from all centers of the working-class movement, to publish agitational leaflets and manifestos and to distribute them, and to train a body of experienced agitators—such, in broad outline, are the manifestations of the socialist activities of Russian Social-Democracy”
This propaganda and agitation work aims to sow distrust and hostility in the government and among allies the government. This propaganda and agitation serve as a powerful instrument for disintegrating the system we oppose,” it is a declaration of war against the state, from here we are opening the mind of the working class that there will be no genuine change that will occur in a capitalist state and the only road is socialist revolution and this can only happen when political power of the bourgeoisie is captured by the working class.
1) The questions and concerns of the masses are the starting point for effective Marxist agitation and propaganda and connect them to the bigger evil (system).
2) Effective agitation and propaganda are completely impossible if you are not close to the masses, if you are unaware of what problems they face and what their concerns are.
3) Effective agitation and propaganda are therefore next to impossible if you divorce yourself from the struggles of the masses.
The Sphere of Agitation and Propaganda – At this point an objection might be raised. Didn’t Lenin also say some things that seem to conflict with the notion that it is the questions of the masses that we must address with our agitation? Didn’t he say for example that agitation is essentially a matter of “political exposure” Doesn’t this mean that we must bring things to the attention of the masses that they are not already aware of, let alone already questioning?
It certainly means we must bring things to the attention of the masses that they are not aware of. But things that people are not aware of can in fact help to answer their existing questions and concerns. The point is to build on what people already know; to connect up what they do not know with what they do know and are concerned with, and to do it in a living, concrete way. That can only mean by presenting them with facts and explanations which truly answer the questions on their minds. When this is done correctly, they will form new questions and seek deeper explanations. This is the way that we all learn and develop. Our goal is to expand people’s knowledge, to deepen their understanding, and to broaden their concerns. But this can only be done by starting from where people are at to begin with.
In bringing some outrage of the bourgeois system to the attention of the masses we must at the same time do our best to connect this outrage up with the life of the masses we are addressing. We must always seek to show how events and circumstances that the masses were not aware of are related to their own class interests and the cause of the problems which confront them.
Well, ok, but didn’t Lenin say that our agitation and propaganda should cover not only the life of the proletariat, but of other classes as well? Shouldn’t we expose all the outrages of the present system, even those which do not directly affect the life of the proletariat? Well, yes we should. But why? Because, for one thing, these events indirectly affect the proletariat. The proletariat’s real concerns are broader than the proletariat; they encompass the broad masses. They encompass the workings of the entire capitalist system.
We are concerned in our educational work not simply with events affecting a few particular individuals among the proletariat, but with the life of the proletariat in general. We use what happens to individual people and sections of the proletariat to deepen people’s class consciousness and knowledge of the system as a whole. Events which affect other classes and strata, especially classes and strata allied to the proletariat (and hence part of the masses), can and should be used in the same way. Our goal is always to broaden the range of concern of the people and their depth of understanding of the true nature of the present system—and why we have no alternative but to replace it.
Many issues cut across class lines, affect people in different classes. The oppression of women, and racial discrimination, for example, affect even some members of the ruling class, and certainly all classes and strata making up the masses. The masses are not as insular and self-centered as they are often portrayed. They do have concern for other people, even people in other classes. And they do see themselves as part of society, with its major problems and all the questions which these problems constantly raise.
On the other hand, different people are more concerned about some particular issues than others; some people have serious questions that others do not have. In general people do tend to be most concerned with issues that most closely affect them personally. This is why agitation and propaganda must be tailored to its specific audience to be most effective. And it is why the tailoring process means more closely relating the agitation and propaganda to the specific interests, concerns, and questions of the people involved.
Lenin also said that agitation and propaganda must concern itself not just with what is happening locally or nationally, but with international events as well. How can events in distant lands be of great concern to people? A naive question indeed! Events in other countries may be far removed physically, but very close socially and politically. Vietnam was far away, but the body bags kept returning to the home towns. In today’s world many distant events illustrate very well the workings of the system that also rules and oppresses at home. There are in fact essential connections between distant events and the important concerns and questions of the people, but many of these connections are somewhat hidden and need to be brought to light.
Of course agitation and propaganda will sometimes range far a field, often discussing events far away and directly affecting people far removed from the local scene. But the goal is always to connect these events and ideas up to the life of the masses being addressed. That is the key to the success of proletarian education.
The Purpose of Agitation and Propaganda – One might think that for a revolutionary Marxist the purpose of agitation and propaganda would be completely obvious. However, I am beginning to believe that nothing at all in revolutionary theory can really be considered completely “obvious”. Somebody, somewhere, always manages to misconstrue it.
I said above that Marxists believe that the purpose of agitation and propaganda is to answer the real and pressing questions on the minds of the masses, about why things are as they are, and about how they may be changed. Of course, our answer to these questions amounts to an exposure of capitalism, and an explanation of why revolution is necessary. Thus we may also say that the primary purpose of agitation and propaganda is to raise the revolutionary consciousness of the masses.
There are, to be sure, secondary goals in our agitation and propaganda, the most important of which is to facilitate and advance the organization of the proletariat and the broad masses. Sometimes Lenin and Mao describe revolutionary consciousness and mass organization together as the primary goal of our educational work. Lenin said, for example, that “Our principal and fundamental task is to facilitate the political development and the political organization of the working class.”
And there are also other secondary (or tertiary) goals in our educational work. The raising of the revolutionary consciousness of the masses will itself lead to other results, such as more unrest among the masses, more strikes and other economic struggles, more intensive mass struggles of all kinds, more combatively on the part of the masses, and so forth. These things are all generally good, and help prepare the masses for revolution through a kind of positive feedback.
But we must be very clear that it is raising revolutionary consciousness, and mass organization, that are our main goals here. The true side effects, such as more (and more intensive) economic strikes, more mass struggle of all kinds, and even more combatively on the part of the masses in general, are well and good, but are not the main point. We should not lose our bearings and turn such secondary things into the focus of our political work. This has been done in the past, and the revolutionary movement has degenerated into a reformist movement, even if it was “militant” and/or “combative”, at first. for more on the dangers of an obsession with “combatively“.
There are many aspects to raising the revolutionary consciousness of the masses. One aspect I’ll mention immediately lies in combating the spontaneous summation of events of interest and concern to the masses. Of course such “spontaneous” summations are generally “guided” by the bourgeoisie, either directly or indirectly, and are in essence therefore usually bourgeois summations. The RCP addressed this issue in speaking of the Moody Park Rebellion in Houston on May 7, 1978:
The Party’s summation of the rebellion was definitely not what spontaneously arose from the masses, even though many of those who had participated and others were very proud of the rebellion. It was up to the conscious forces to take this summation broadly among the masses and to fight for it.
The basic purpose of agitation and propaganda remains essentially the same even after the proletarian seizure of power, and during the entire period of socialist society. Mao, speaking specifically of the peasants here, makes a remark which is more broadly true under socialism: “The basic requirement of political work is constantly to imbue the peasant masses with a socialist ideology and to criticize capitalist tendencies”.
The Central Importance of Agitation and Propaganda- Just how important is agitation and propaganda? Lenin said that “the basis and chief content of our work is to develop the political understanding of the masses.” And he also said, that “the principal content of the activity of our Party” should always be “work of political agitation, connected throughout Russia, illuminating all aspects of life, and conducted among the broadest possible strata of the masses.”
Lenin even said that:
To a great extent, the purpose of our strict separation as a distinct and independent party of the proletariat consists in the fact that we always and undeviatingly conduct this Marxist work of raising the whole working class, as far as possible, to the level of Social-Democratic [i.e., communist] consciousness, allowing no political gales, still less political changes of scenery, to turn us away from this urgent task. Without this work, political activity would inevitably degenerate into a game, because this activity acquires real importance for the proletariat only when and insofar as it arouses the mass of a definite class, wins its interest, and mobilizes it to take an active, foremost part in events. This work, as we have said, is always necessary.
But note that while Lenin is saying here that politics, and political leadership, is a “game” if not accompanied by constant Marxist educational work, he is at the same time drawing a distinction between politics (or political leadership) and educational work.
Lenin says that the core of agitational work is the political exposure of the enemy, and emphasized its importance as follows:
“A basic condition for the necessary expansion of political agitation is the organization of comprehensive political exposure. In no way except by means of such exposures can the masses be trained in political consciousness and revolutionary activity”
And later he summed this up by saying that:
We have seen that the conduct of the broadest political agitation and, consequently, of all-sided political exposures is an absolutely necessary and a paramount task of our activity, if this activity is to be truly Social-Democratic [communist].
The Party Programme is the Basis For Our Agitation and Propaganda- The world is complicated, and there are always many issues, many questions, many things which can be focused on in our agitational and propaganda work. Isn’t there some guide for Marxists as to where our work of political education should be focused? Yes, there is. The party and its ideology provide several levels of such guidance. At the most abstract level there is the general theory of Marxism-Leninism itself. At the next level is the guidance provided by the party Programme. And then there are the more specific points of guidance for our educational work that appear in the party press and in the form of directives from the party center. If, for example, the party newspaper devotes a great deal of attention to a certain issue, it is safe to assume that it should be a focus of agitational work for party members.
But for the moment, I want to discuss the middle-level of guidance here, the party Programme, and emphasize its importance. A party Programme is not something to be written and then filed away and forgotten (as with bourgeois parties). The Programme of a proletarian party is the product of an enormous amount of effort and thought, and is constructed for the purpose of guiding the work of the whole party. Of course that includes our work of political education, since that is our highest task. If the party is any good, it will have a really good Programme. And if the Programme is really good, it will be the result not only of the higher-level guidance of the theory of Marxism-Leninism, but also the extensive application of the mass line.
Speaking of the Bolshevik party Programme, Lenin said:
The special sections of our programme dealing with the questions of government, finances, and labor legislation, and with the agrarian question, provide exact and definite material to guide the entire work of every propagandist and agitator, in all its many aspects; they should enable him to particularize on our election platform in speaking before any audience, on any occasion, and on any subject.
And in answer to the confusion about the purpose of the party Programme shown by some party members, Lenin said:
Lastly, Comrade Yegorov asked the authors of the Programme what the Programme signified. Is the Programme, he asked, a conclusion drawn from our basic conceptions of the economic evolution of Russia, a scientific anticipation of the possible and inevitable result of political changes (in which case Comrade Yegorov might agree with us)? Or is our Programme a practical slogan for agitation? In that case we could not beat the record of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, and the Programme must be regarded as incorrect. I must say that I do not understand the distinction Comrade Yegorov draws. If our Programme did not meet the first condition, it would be incorrect and we could not accept it. If, however, the Programme is correct, it cannot but furnish a slogan of practical value for purposes of agitation. The contradiction between Comrade Yegorov’s two alternatives is only a seeming one; it cannot exist in fact, because a correct theoretical decision guarantees enduring success in agitation. And it is for enduring success that we are working, not in the least disconcerted by temporary reverses.
Lenin’s stand could hardly be clearer: the party Programme must guide our agitational and propaganda work. But now I see a look of discomfort and consternation forming on the brows of some of my readers…
On the one hand our agitation must be guided by the questions and concerns on the minds of the masses, and on the other hand our agitation must be guided by our Marxist theory and Programme. Is there a contradiction here? Well, actually, yes there is. But what is its nature? According to many people this contradiction is irresolvable; in other words, both things cannot be true. Right opportunists see an irresolvable contradiction here, and therefore downplay any guidance from revolutionary Marxist theory in educational work, and at the same time modify what should be a revolutionary Programme into a bourgeois-populist reformist Programme. “Left” sectarians also see an irresolvable contradiction here, focus entirely on the ultimate revolutionary goal, and therefore ignore the immediate questions on the minds of the masses that must be addressed if we are to raise their revolutionary consciousness and actually get to that revolutionary goal.
The correct positions here is that both our Marxist theory and Programme, and the questions and concerns on the minds of the masses must guide our agitation and propaganda work and that these things complement each other and interpenetrate. As I already mentioned, the party program itself should be based not only on scientific revolutionary theory but also on a concrete analysis of the overall situation and the extensive application of the class line to determine the general approach toward revolution for the broad masses and their class struggles. The additional guidance from the party center which comes from further application of the class line, and indeed the constant application of the class line by the whole party, supplements the party Programme, adjusts it somewhat over the short term, and fleshes it out on a day-to-day basis. Only if the Programme is in fundamental error in its general guidance will the further application of the mass line provide political guidance in basic opposition to it. And in that case, it is time to construct a new party Programme.
There are other important principles besides the constant application of the mass line which may sometimes seem to some people to be in opposition to the party Programme, but which cannot really be in opposition to it if the Programme is a sound, Marxist document. It is true, for example, as Mao said, that “we should teach the masses to understand their own long-term interests”, and that in fact this is a cornerstone principle of our agitation and propaganda work. But this is not in opposition to the principle that the party Programme must form the basis for our agitation and propaganda because the party Programme itself (if the party is a real proletarian party) will reflect and focus on precisely the real long-term interests of the masses.
The task of political exposures is the prime obligation of every professing revolutionary working class According to Lenin, without this work (propaganda and agitation), political activity would inevitably degenerate into a game, because this activity acquires real importance for the proletariat only when and insofar as it arouses the mass of a definite class, wins its interest, and mobilizes it to take an active, foremost part in events. This work, as we have said, is always necessary.
Now let us put this into concrete sense, those leaders belonging to progressive left who are now inside the bureaucracy of President Noynoy Aquino (the president is the chief executive of the ruling class), politically, they have lost their political independence by the time they supported Noynoy Aquino and as what Lenin has been pointing out and criticizing long time ago vis-à-vis the struggle of the working class for political power under the banner of socialist revolution.
The inter-classist movement in the Philippines is initiated by the leftist Maoist movement. This is one of their “three magic weapons” for their bourgeois national-democratic revolution. Its concept of revolution is the Stalinist “bloc of four classes” (i.e., alliance of workers, peasants, and petty-bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie). That’s why it is part of its basic principles the tactical alliance with the faction of the ruling class. But this Maoist strategy is also practice by the anti-Maoist leftists in the Philippines. This only means that frontism of whatever type is inherent to all leftist currents to derail the proletariat to achieve its own class consciousness. The very reason why for more than 40 years (4 decades), no working class revolution has been won in the Philippines is because of this inter-classist movement by both RAs and RJs.
When the proletarian movement integrates itself to the struggle of the non-proletarian classes especially with the faction of the capitalist class, it weakens itself as a class. In 1986, the relatively strong militant workers movement was weaken due to the united front policy and armed guerilla actions of the Maoist CPP. In 2001, the already weak proletarian movement was further weakened by the inter-classist “People Power” to oust Joseph Estrada. Now, once again, all factions of the bourgeoisie and the unions are calling the atomized and demoralized workers to participate in the struggles led by its class enemy.
What happened in Latin America is also what happened in 1986 and 2001 in the Philippines: “The fact that significant parts of the proletariat have been sucked into these revolts is of the greatest importance, because it marks a profound loss of class autonomy. Instead of seeing themselves as proletarians with their own interests, workers in Bolivia and Argentina saw themselves as citizens sharing common interests with the petty-bourgeois and non-exploiting strata.” (ICC, ‘Popular revolts’ in Latin America: Its class autonomy is vital to the proletariat).