Archive for the ‘politics’ Category



It is the very nature of every capitalist to extract profit from the unpaid labor power of the working class and preserve their private property. This is the essense of capitalism. In contrast, it is also the very nature of every working class to demand fare, just and humane wages equal to the work he/she labored.

Can the working class (employee) expect fare, just and humane wages equal to the work he/she labored from the capitalist (employer)? The answer is absolutely NO! It will be against the class character and nature of capitalism to provide fare, just and humane wages equal to the work labored by every working class. The god of every capitalist is “profit” and “labor power” is the altar of sacrifice.

Surplus value is a concept used famously by Karl Marx in his critique of political economy, although he did not himself invent the term but he developed its concept. It refers roughly to the new value created by the unpaid labour of the worker upon the value of his labour power, which is freely appropriated by the capitalist and is the base of the profit, thus being the primary basis for capital accumulation.

Surplus labor and Exploitation

Exploitation occurs when those appropriating surplus labour — whether in the form of surplus-value, surplus product or direct surplus labour — are different than those performing surplus labour. Just as there are attempts to force more work out of the workers, there are also attempts at resistance to exploitation, e.g. strike action, union campaigns, living wage campaigns, go-slows, refusal to perform tasks not contracted for, threatening to leave employment for another job if that is a real possibility, etc. Critical variables in determining the total surplus labour performed are:

  • the length of the working day (and week): in other words, the total amount of time worked over a regular period
  • the intensity of work
  • the productiveness of the work (which also depends on the technologies used)
  • the subsistence level for workers
  • the position of strength or weakness of employers and employees
  • the level of unemployment and job vacancies.

Surplus labor in capitalist society

In feudal society, it was often quite clear how many days a serf or peasant worked for himself or herself (necessary labour), and how many days s/he worked for his or her lord (surplus labour). On this important distinction between a corvée and a capitalist economy, Lenin writes:

Necessary labour and surplus-labour (i. e., the labour that pays for the maintenance of the worker and the labour that yields unpaid surplus-value to the capitalist) are combined in the single process of labour in the factory, in a single working day at the factory, etc. The situation is different in the corvée economy. Here, too, there is necessary labour and surplus-labour, just as there is in the system of slavery. But these two kinds of labour are separated in time and space. The serf peasant works three days for his lord and three days for himself. He works for his lord on the latter’s land or on the production of grain for him. For himself he works on allotted land, producing for himself and for his family the grain that is necessary for maintaining labour-power for the landlord.

Under capitalism, the distinction between necessary labour and surplus labour however becomes obscured by the nature of the market transactions involved. Most people are legally free agents who can buy and sell labour on the basis of more or less equal access to markets, and an equal opportunity to better their lot in competition with others. Yet, owners of substantial property assets enter the market with an advantage over propertyless people who simply have to sell their labour to survive. It gives property owners the power to command the surplus labour of others. When the wage contract is signed, it appears that the employee is paid for the hours that he works, but at the same time, Marx argues, the worker adds an amount of value on the job in excess of the value of his wage/salary: he performs surplus labour.

In hiring an employee, the employer thus not only incurs a cost (the wage-bill, based on hours worked) but also reaps a benefit, namely the extra value the employee creates (the surplus product of labour) beyond the value of what it costs to hire him or her. This benefit, Marx argues, shows up in the form of gross profit income after deduction of costs, but the only real evidence that surplus labour is the cause of it, is that the value of output produced is higher than the value of inputs used to produce it. The economic relation of necessary and surplus labour has therefore become hidden, and the division of enterprise revenues between wages, profits and taxes seems to become a purely distributional issue; just how exactly that new value originated, could be theorised about in all sorts of ways (see factors of production and surplus value).

Only Class Struggle can free the working class from the yoke of capitalism

Lenin explains class struggle as the seizure of political power. The immediate aim of the working class is to capture the bourgeois political power through force as Lenin said that “major questions in the life of nations are settled only by force” and impose workers rule in governance and ultimately on the process build socialism.

Only through concerted class conscious class struggle can liberate the working class from the yoke of poverty and exploitation.

We will know that the working class has reached certain level of class consciousness when they 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.

Lenin said:  “The fact that the working class participates in the political struggle and even in the political revolution does not in itself make its politics a Social-Democratic politics”

Can it be confined to the propaganda of working class hostility to the ruling elite? It is not enough to explain to the workers that they are politically oppressed. Agitation must be conducted with regard to every concrete example of this oppression. Inasmuch that this oppression affects the most diverse classes of society, inasmuch as it manifests itself in the most varied spheres of life and activity-vocational, civic, personal, family, religious, scientific, etc. The revolutionary party must therefore conduct political exposures. It must lead the struggle of the working class not only for better terms for the sale of the labor-power but for the abolition of the social system that compels the propertyless to sell themselves to the rich. The revolutionary party represents the working class not in its relation to a given group of employers alone but in its relation to all classes of modern society and to the state as an organized political force. The party must not allow the organization of “economic exposures” to become the predominant part of their activities. The party must take up actively the political education of the working class and the development of its political consciousness.

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.

Let us return, however to our thesis. We said that the party must “go among all classes of the population” as theoreticians, as propagandists, as agitators, and as organizers. No one doubts that the theoretical work of the party should aim at studying all the specific features of the social and political condition of the various classes.

Organization of workers and organization of revolutionaries– it is the task of the party to conduct political exposures among workers organizations and develop their consciousness and their activities to become revolutionaries in words and deeds. The organization of the revolutionaries must consist first and foremost of people who make revolutionary activity their profession.   

Lenin said:  “Give us an organization of revolutionaries, and we will overturn Russia”

Men must have organized with definite means and act strictly in accordance with their ideology as Marx said that “ideology is essentially incapable of achieving anything if an ideology is to be materialized there must be men using practical forces. In other words, if an ideology to be put into practice, there must be organization, a revolutionary organization with people who make revolutionary activity their profession and performing revolutionary activities. We must have a committee of professional revolutionaries.  Unless and until the working class will elevate their consciousness and organization into revolutionary one, there will be no palpable results in their struggle.

Unless the masses are organized, wrote Lenin. The proletariat is nothing. Organized- it is everything. Organization means unity of action, unity in practical operations. But every action is valuable, of course, only because and insofar as it serves to push things forward and not backward. Organization not based on principle is meaningless, and in practice convert the workers into a miserable appendage of the bourgeoisie in power.

Let us now proceed to the more specific content on how to conduct “political exposures” among the masses.

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”

 The content:

  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

Who will train the working class to respond to all tyranny, oppression, violence and abuse from a revolutionary point of view?

This is the task of every professing revolutionary party on the assumption that the party is the advance detachment of conscious working class. The formation of a workers’ political party (revolutionary party) was necessary in order to combat powerful tendencies towards fragmentation and to establish the independence of the proletariat as a class. Indeed Marx often suggests that the workers cannot be regarded as a class in the full sense of the word until they have created their own distinct party. Thus we find in The Communist Manifesto that the ‘organization of the proletarians into a class and consequently into a political party, is continually upset again by the competition between the workers themselves’, and in the decision of the London Conference (1871) of the First International that ‘the proletariat can act as a class only by constituting itself a distinct political party’.

There are two basic themes in Lenin’s theory of the party: first, the absolutely independent organization of the advance workers, rigidly upholding the overall interests of the working class and all the exploited and the ultimate aim of international socialist revolution; second, the closest possible relationship with the mass of workers maintained by providing practical leadership in every struggle involving the workers or affecting their interests. The former means fixed adherence to principle, a willingness to accept, for a period, the position of a tiny and apparently isolated minority, and the waging of an unrelenting struggle within the working class against all manifestations of opportunism. The latter means extreme tactical flexibility and the ability to exploit every avenue to maintain contact with the masses.

These two elements are not separate but dialectically interconnected and mutually dependent. Without firm principles and disciplined organization the party will either be unable to execute the necessary abrupt tactical turns or will be derailed by them. Without deep involvement in the struggle of the working class the party will be unable to forge and maintain its discipline and will become subject to the pressure of alien classes. Unless the day-to-day struggle of the working class is linked to the ultimate aim of the overthrow of capitalism it will fail in its purpose. Unless the party can relate the ultimate aim to immediate struggles, it will degenerate into a useless sect. The more developed the spontaneous activity of the workers, the more it demands conscious revolutionary organization on pain of catastrophic defeat. But revolutionary organization cannot be maintained and renewed unless it receives the infusion of fresh blood from the spontaneous revolt of the masses. The revolutionary character of the party is not something to be claimed and professed but something to be proven in theory and practice.

Unless the working class take over the bourgeois run state, impose their rule and abolish the capitalist private property, all their hopes for reforms, fare, just and humane wages and system change are mere wasteful thinking!

Engels said:  “As long as the capitalist mode of production continues to exist, it is folly to hope for an isolated solution of the housing question or of any other social question affecting the fate of the workers. The solution lies in the abolition of the capitalist mode of production and the appropriation of all the means of life and labor by the working class itself” (Housing Question).


Ang Konspitaroryal Na Sistema Ng Pamumuno: Ugat ng Pagkasira ng Dinamismo ng Organisasyon!

Ang ganitong Konspiratoryal na sistema ng pamumuno ay makikita sa panahon ng election ng mga open legal na organisasyon ng kilusang masa. Dinidiktahan ang mga botante kung sino ang iboboto at kahit tapos na ang election, yong mga lehitimong namumuno ay hindi tunay na namumuno. Hindi lamang ito nangyayari sa mga open legal na organisasyon ng kilusang masa kundi nangyayari din ito sa mga conferences at congress ng rebolusyonaryong kilusan o partido.

Ano ang masamang epekto ng ganitong konspiratoryal na sistemang nagtatayo tayo ng sikretong paralel na liderato sa hayag na pamunuan ng mga organisasyong masa na mula’t sapol ay siya nating praktika sa gawaing masa at siyang oryentasyon ng pagbubuo ng sangay at grupo ng Partido?

Unang-una na, sinisira nito ang dinamismo ng organisasyong masa at kumpyansa sa sarili ng lehitimong liderato nila. Kapag nasira ang dinamismo’t kumpyansa sa sarili ng isang organisasyon at ng kanyang pamunuan, mawawalan ito ng inisyatiba’t diskarte, tutubuan ng burokratismo at magiging mekanikal sa labanan. Sa bandang huli, ang organisasyon mismo ang masisira kung hindi ito makakaalpas sa ganitong sistema. Di ba’t ganito sa paglaon ang nangyayari sa mga organisasyong nilukuban ng ating sikretong konspiratoryal na pamumuno?

Isipin na lang natin kung sa ating organisasyon ito mangyari-ang sikretong magtayo ang isang konspiratoryal na grupo ng paralel na liderato sa lehitimong pamunuan ng Partido sa anumang antas. Ang tawag natin dito’y paksyunalismo at alam natin kung anong pinsala ang ibubunga nito.

Paramihin natin ang ganitong pangyayari sa lahat ng unyon, sa lahat ng organisasyon na tinayuan natin ng konspiratoryal na mga sangay at grupo ng Partido na umaaktong sikretong paralel na liderato sa lehitimong hayag na pamunuan ng masa , at maipali-liwanag natin sa ating sarili kung bakit kulang na kulang sa dinamismo, sa inisyatiba, sa ispontanismo ang kilusang masa, ang mga pakikibakang masa.

Kung kapos ng dinamismo, inisyatiba at ispontanismo ang mga pakikibakang masa, ang kabuuan ng kilusang masa, imposibleng sumiklab ang isang tunay na rebolusyon. Ang ganitong mga katangian ang kailangang taglayin ng kilusang masa para ito ang umako sa higanteng tungkuling pukawin, organisahin at pakilusin ang milyun-milyong masa. Isang higanteng tungkuling imposibleng balikatin ng isang sikretong organisasyon.

Ang pagsulong ng rebolusyon ay hindi isang sikretong bagay na bubulaga na lamang sa kaaway. Hindi ito sumusulong nang di nararamdaman ng buong lipunan. Ito’y isang hayag na bagay dahil ang saligang behikulo ng pagsulong nito ay ang kilusang masa, ang mga pakikibakang masa. Imposibleng sumulong ito nang hindi nakasakay sa rebolusyonaryong ispontanismo ng masa dahil ang rebolusyon ay hindi isang konspiratoryal na pangyayaring pinapakulo ng isang sikretong partido at sumusulong alinsunod sa isang preparadong plano.

Ikalawa, kung ang pakikibakang masa ang saligang paraan ng pagsusulong ng rebolusyonaryong kilusan, hindi maaring lingid sa masa ang tunay na liderato nito-sa batayang antas man o sa pambansang saklaw. Hindi maaring ang lideratong ito ay walang lehitimong katangian sa pananaw ng masa. Imposibleng totohanang sumulong ito sa pamamagitan ng mga papet na lider o mga prenteng organisasyong lahat ay palihim na pinagagalaw ng isang sikretong organisasyong hindi kinikilala ng masa.

Alin lang sa dalawa: Umaktong mga tunay na lider ang mga kinikilalang lider ng masa, ang lehitimong pamunuan ng kanilang mga organisasyon. O hayagang kilalanin ng masa ang liderato ng sikretong organisasyon ng Partido, manalig sila sa ating direktang pamumuno.

Huwag tayong magtaka, kung gayon, kung bakit ang ating mga pakikibakang masa ay kapos ng ispontayo’t dinamikong katangian dahil kapos ito ng mga lider na lubos na kinikilala at hindi lang simpleng kilala ng masa. Dahil ang mga lider mismong ito ay wala ring kumpyansa sa kanilang liderato dahil alam nilang wala naman talaga sa kanila ang awtoridad na pamunuan ang masa kundi nasa kamay ng tinatawag na “kilusang lihim”.

Tayo ang “kilusang masang” may kakayahang magmobilisa ng ilampung libo sa isang konsentradong mobilisasyon. Ngunit aminin natin ang totoo. Ang ating full mobilization ay hindi resulta ng pwersa ng panawagan ng isang hayag na sentrong organisasyon kundi resulta ng pwersa ng patakaran ng sikretong organisasyon.

Hindi pa tayo nakakarating sa antas na sa pwersa lang ng pananawagan ng ating mga lider at organisasyong masa ay kikilos na ang kanilang kasapian dahil mismo sila ay hindi kikilos nang walang hudyat at udyok mula sa “kilusang lihim”.

Tama ang magtayo ng sikretong organisasyon ng Partido. Pero hindi ito dapat mangahulugan, bilang kalakaran, ng sikretong pamumuno sa hayag na pakikibakang masa, sa ligal na mga organisasyong masa, laluna sa batayang antas. Ito ang saligang punto, ang unang punto sa ating reorganisasyon.

Bakit tama ang magtayo ng sikretong organisasyon ng Partido? Paano iwawasto ang kamalian ng konspiratoryal na pamumuno ng sikretong organisasyon ng Partido?

Dapat manatiling sikreto ang pagkakaorganisa ng Partido kahit, sa isang banda’y itinatakwil na natin ang istratehiya ng matagalang digma, at sa kabilang banda’y, binibitag tayo ng kaaway na lumantad at magligal.

Ang tinutukoy nating sikreto ay ang Partido bilang organisasyon, ang kanyang entidad bilang Partido. Ibig sabihin, maaring may tukoy ang kaaway na mga hayag na lider at myebro ng Partido. Katunayan, may mga pagkakataong kailangang may magpakilalang mga aktibong Komunista sa publiko. Ngunit ang katayuan ng Partido bilang organisasyon, ang panloob na operasyon, ang kalakhan ng kasapian, ang mga organo’t yunit nito ay dapat manatiling sikreto at ipailalim sa isang teknikal na sistema ng kilusang lihim.

Isang pangunahing konsiderasyon o batayan ng pananatiling sikreto ng Partido ay ang pagkilala sa pakana ng kaaway sa likod ng ligalisasyon. Ang ligalisasyong ito, saan man tingnan, ay patibong para durugin ang Partido. Ang estadong burges sa Pilipinas at ang mga galamay nito ay nananatiling pasista ang tunay na katangian. Nilalaro lang nila ang anino ng demokrasyang burges. Kung hindi man ganap na masugpo ang kilusang komunista sa bansa sa mapanupil nitong mga batas, lagi itong nakahandang pasikutan at balewalain ang sariling mga batas at bumaling sa iligal na paraan. Wala pang nakatayong masasandigang mga institusyon ng demokrasyang burges sa Pilipinas-at ang mga kondisyong panlipunan at pampulitika ay hindi pa umiiral para mangyari ito-upang masabing magkakaruon ng katuturan ang ligalisasyon ng tunay na rebolusyonaryong proletaryong partido sa bansa.

Karugtong ng konsiderasyong ito, at mas esensyal na konsiderasyon batay sa umiiral na sitwasyon, ay ang usapin ng porma ng pakikibaka. Mas libre ang kamay ng Partido na gamitin ang buong arsenal ng rebolusyonaryong taktika kung mananatili itong sikreto. Sa kalagayang hindi lang palsipikado kundi atrasado ang demokrasyang burges sa bansa at pasista ang katangian ng reaksyonaryong estado, ang ligal at parlamentaryong larangan ng pakikibaka ay nananatiling lubhang makipot para sa rebolusyonaryong pakikibaka.

Hindi epektibong maipaglalaban at maipagtatanggol ang kapakanan ng uring manggagawa at ng malawak na masa, at mapalalakas at maisusulong ang rebolusyonaryong kilusan kung hindi mahusay na mapagkokombina ang iba’t ibang porma ng pakikibaka. Ang armadong larangan ng pakikibaka ay dapat patuloy na panghawakan at dapat kilalanin na bahagi na ito ng kabuuang obhetibong kompleksyon ng rebolusyonaryong pakikibaka sa lungsod at kanayunan ng bansa.

Ang pakikibakang masa ang saligang porma ng pagsusulong ng rebolusyonaryong kilusan ngunit dapat kombinasyunan ito ng parlamentaryo at armadong mga porma ng pakikibaka. Ang pangunahing layunin ng parlamentaryo at armadong pakikibaka ay isulong ang pakikibakang masa habang ang pagsusulong ng pakikibakang masa ay dapat sumaklaw sa mga larangang armado at parlamentaryo.

Magagawa at malulubos lamang ng Partido ang ganitong pleksibilidad sa taktika kung ito’y mananatiling sikretong organisasyong iligal. Sa ganitong batayan, nananatiling bentahe para sa rebolusyonaryong kilusan ang manatili ang Partido sa ganitong katayuan o porma ng pagkakaorganisa.

Kailangang maliwanag na maintindihan ang katumpakan at rasyunal na panatilihin ang sikretong iligal na organisasyon ng Partido, at dapat istriktong gamitin ito na batayan ng pagkakaisa. Ngunit kasabay nito, kailangang reorganisahin ang sikretong makinarya nito sa lungsod para iwasto ang maling sistema ng sikretong konspiratoryal na pamumuno ng mga organisasyon ng Partido laluna sa batayang antas. Ang saligang problemang ito ay hindi lamang usapin ng reoryentasyon kundi ng reorganisasyon ng mga istruktura ng Partido.

Ang Pampulitikang Pamumuno ng Partido

Bago tayo dumiretso sa diskusyon sa organisasyonal na mga hakbang para iwasto ang sistema ng konspiratoryal na pamumuno ng Partido, mahalagang ikawing natin ang problemang ito sa konsepto ng pampulitikang pamumuno. Magkadugtong ang mga usaping ito at mas maililinaw ang ating reorganisasyon kung iintindihin sa ganitong konteksto. Ang problema ng konspiratoryal na sistema ng pamumuno ay mahigpit na konektado sa problema ng banggardistang istilo na kapwa umusbong bunga ng bulgarisadong konsepto ng sikretong pag-oorganisa ng Partido at boluntaristang pagsusulong ng rebolusyon.

Kung wastong panatilihing sikreto ang organisasyon ng Partido, at kung ang pangunahing rasyunal ng pagbubuo ng Partido ay para sa pampulitikang pamumuno – paano mangyayaring mali ang konspiratoryal na paraan ng pamumuno, paano maiiwasang mamuno ang Partido sa paraang konspiratoryal kung ito’y nananatiling sikreto?

Ang kasagutan dito’y nasa tamang pag-intindi natin sa kahulugan ng pampulitikang pamumuno ng Partido, sa kahulugan ng talibang papel ng rebolusyonaryong partido ng proletaryado, at sa papel ng mga yunit at myembro ng Partido sa tungkuling ito ng pamumuno.

Ano ba ang ibig sabihin ng pampulitikang pamumuno ng Partido at para bang napakahirap isiping magagawa ito ng isang sikretong organisasyon nang di sa paraang konspiratoryal? Ang ginagampanan bang pangunahing gawain sa pamumuno ng mga sangay at grupo ng Partido, o kahit ng mga komite at kawanihan ng Partido sa iba’t ibang antas ay pamumunong pampulitika?

Ang tamang kahulugan ng pampulitikang pamumuno ng proletaryong rebolusyonaryong partido ay ang sumusunod:

Una. Ang pagmumulat, pag-oorganisa at pagpapakilos sa masa sa rebolusyonaryong pulitika ng Partido, ang pagpapatagos nito sa mga organisasyon, lider at pakikibaka ng masa. Ang pulitikang ito’y ang rebolusyonaryong pakikibaka para sa sosyalismo, ang rebolusyonaryong linya ng Partido sa pakikibaka para sa demokrasya, at ang makauring paninindigan ng Partido sa iba’t ibang usapin ng lipunan, ng proletaryado, at ng mamamayan.

Ikalawa. Ang pagbibigay ng rebolusyonaryong direksyon sa pagsulong ng mga pakikibakang masa, ang pagbabalangkas ng mga tamang taktika’t islogan para matiyak na sumusulong ito sa nasabing direksyon, at ang pagbaka sa mga maling tunguhing pampulitika at pang-ideolohiya na dumidiskaril sa direksyong ito.

Kung ito ang ibig sabihin ng pampulitikang pamumuno ng Partido, ito ba’y epektibong maisasakatuparan sa pamamagitan ng konspiratoryal na paraan ng pamumuno na gaya ng ginagawa ng mga sangay at grupo ng Partido at paano ito ginagawa sa sikretong paraan?

Sa konspiratoryal na paraan ng pamumuno, ang tinutukoy natin ay ang praktika ng pagbubuo ng sikretong paralel na liderato na gaya ng ginagawa ng mga sangay at grupo ng Partido sa mga ligal na organisasyong masa.

Iba ito sa tinutukoy ni Lenin na konspiratoryal na organisasyon ng Partido na ang tungkulin ay bigyan ng rebolusyonaryong direksyon at plano ang ispontanyong kilusang masa at obligadong gumalaw sa konspiratoryal na paraan dahil ito’y iligal at sikreto.

Ang esensyal na punto ng pagkakaiba ay hindi isang paralel na organisasyon o liderato ang konspiratoryal na organisasyong tinutukoy ni Lenin na sikretong humahalili sa lehitimong liderato ng mga organisasyon at pakikibakang masa kundi ito’y isang taliba at abanteng organisasyong di maikukumpara sa iba, at samakatwid, walang sikretong hinahalinhan sa ganitong kahulugan. Kung mayruon man itong inaagawan ng pampulitikang liderato-at hindi ito makakaaktong proletaryong taliba kung hindi mang-aagaw ng liderato-ito’y liderato ng mga katunggaling uri, ang pampulitikang impluwensya ng mga burgesyang liberal at mga demokratang petiburges sa hanay ng masang proletaryo.

Dagdag rito, ang konspiratoryal na organisasyon ni Lenin ay hindi umaagaw ng liderato sa konspiratoryal na paraan kundi sa paraan ng matinding tagisang pang-ideolohiya at hayagang pampulitikang pakikibaka. Nakapamuno ang Bolshevik sa rebolusyong Ruso dahil sa walang tigil nitong paglalantad sa kalikasan ng mga karibal na partidong burges at petiburges at walang pagod na rebolusyonaryong pagmumulat ng masang anakpawis.

Sa madaling salita, ang pagiging konspiratoryal ng organisasyong Bolshevik ay sa punto lamang ng pagiging sikreto nito at sa pagbabalangkas ng plano ng pagsulong ng rebolusyong Ruso. Konspiratoryal ang Partidong Bolshevik sa puntong ito’y isang sikretong organisasyong taliba pero hayag ang makauring pamumuno sa rebolusyon. Hindi ito isang konspirador na organisasyon sa negatibong kahulugang namumuno sa likod ng walang malay na mamamayan.

Hindi natin maituturing na ang isang unyon ay nasa ilalim ng pampulitikang pamumuno ng Partido kung ang nilalaman ng pamumunong ito ay lingid sa kanilang kaalaman. Hindi natin maituturing na ito’y pampulitikang pamumuno kung hindi ito namamalayan ng pamunuan at kasapian ng unyon, hindi abot ng kanilang kamulatang pampulitika.

Ibig sabihin, ang pampulitikang pamumuno ng Partido, una sa lahat, ay pagmumulat sa masa sa rebolusyonaryong pulitika ng Partido. Ang pamumunong pampulitikang ito ay di dapat mangahulugang hinahalinhan ng sikretong sangay ng Partido ang lehitimong liderato ng unyon sa pamumuno sa masang manggagawa sa pabrika kundi iminumulat ang pamunuan at ang kanilang kasapian sa rebolusyo-naryong pulitika ng Partido at pinauunlad sila bilang mga sosyalistang lider at unyonista kundi man mga Komunistang elemento.

Hindi natin masasabing nasa pampulitikang pamumuno ng Partido. sa pamamagitan ng sangay sa pabrika, ang isang unyon kung ang pamunuan at kasapian nito ay di mulat sa ating rebolusyonaryong pulitika. Kung mulat naman ang pamunuan ng unyon sa pulitika ng Partido, para saan pa ang magtayo tayo ng sikretong lideratong paralel sa lehitimong liderato ng unyon, isang sikretong lideratong siyang tunay na namumuno sa unyon.

Hindi natin sinasabing hindi na kailangang magtayo ng sikretong organisasyon ng Partido. May kardinal na importansya ang mayruong malakas na sikretong organisasyon ang Partido sa pinakamaraming pabrika.

Pero hindi para magsilbing sikretong liderato sa pabrika sa kalagayang mulat sa rebolusyonaryong pulitika ang pamunuan ng unyon. Kung di naman mulat sa rebolusyonaryong pulitika ang pamunuan ng unyon, narito ang pangangailangan sa pampulitikang pamumuno ng Partido.

Ang pampulitikang pamumunong ito ay walang ibang kahulugan kundi ang imulat ang pamunuan sa pulitika ng Partido o imulat ang kasapian para ihalal sa pamunuan ang pinakamahuhusay na Komunista at sosyalistang elemento ng unyon.

Ito ang pampulitikang tungkulin ng Partido sa pabrika-hindi ang konspiratoryal na mamuno sa unyon sa pamamagitan ng sangay o grupo ng Partido-at tanging sa ganitong paraan maisasakatuparan ang pampulitikang pamumuno ng Partido sa pabrika. Kaya nga’t sinasabi ni Lenin na ang unyon ang transmission belt ng Partido sa masang manggagawa at sisirain natin ang unyon kung ang Partido sa pabrika ay magiging konspirador na organisasyon sa likod ng pamunuan ng unyon. Ang pampulitikang pamumuno ng Partido sa unyon ay pagpapaunlad ng rebolusyonaryong kamulatan ng unyon at hindi ang umaktong sikretong pamunuan nito.

Kahit ang pagpapasunod natin sa mga organisasyong masa sa rebolusyonaryong direksyon, taktika at planong binabalangkas ng namumunong mga komite ng Partido ay hindi natin epektibong maisasakatuparan kung konspiratoryal ang ating sistema ng pamumuno sa batayang antas. Upang malawakang gumalaw ang masang kasapian ng mga organisasyong masa, kailangang mahigpit ang kanilang pagkilala sa kanilang pamunuan at mataas ang kanilang kamulatang pampulitika.

Ibig sabihin, kailangang yakapin ng mga lehitimong lider ng masa ang rebolusyonaryong linya ng Partido. Kailangang ikampanya nila ito sa buong organisasyon. Kailangang may kamulatan ang kanilang kasapian upang sumunod sa kanilang panawagan. Sa madaling salita, ang susi sa pampulitikang pamumuno ng Partido ay ang kamulatang pampulitika ng mga organisasyong masa at hindi ang sikretong akuin ng Partido ang pamumuno sa mga organisasyong ito.

Katunayan, ang pinakamahusay, ay sadya’t hayagang kilalanin ng mga organisasyong masa-ng pamunuan at kasapian-ang rebolusyonaryong Partido. Sikreto ang ating organisasyon pero hindi sikretong namumuno sa masa. Ito ang tunay na kaparaanan at katibayan ng pampulitikang pamumuno ng Partido.

Totoong binabalangkas ng mga komite ng Partido ang rebolusyonaryong direksyon, taktika at plano nang lingid sa masa, nang lingid sa mga organisasyong masa, nang lingid hindi lamang sa mga lider masa kundi mismo sa buong organisasyon ng Partido. Pero ito’y simpleng sistema ng sikretong operasyon ng isang iligal na organisasyong rebolusyonaryo.

Gayunman, ang pagpapalaganap at pagsasakatuparan nito ay magagawa lang kung malalim ang impluwensya ng Partido sa masa. Muli, ang lideratong ito ay kumporme sa pangkalahatang antas pampulitika ng masa. Maaabot lang ng Partido ang masa upang itaas ang kanilang kamulatan sa pamamagitan ng kanilang mga lider at organisasyon.

Sa madaling salita, ang buong usapin ng pampulitikang pamumuno ng Partido ay mahigpit na nakasalalay sa tamang pangangalaga sa mga organisasyong masa. Narito ang krusyal at kardinal na importansya ng pagwawasto sa konspiratoryal na istilo ng pamumuno. Ang sistemang ito ay sumisira at hindi nagpapaunlad sa mga organisasyong masa.

Sa antas ng teorya ay kabisadong-kabisado natin ang prinsipyong ito laluna’t aral tayo sa Maoistang linyang masa. Ngunit bakit sa mahaba nating praktika ay nakilala tayo sa reputasyong konspirador na organisasyon na kumukubabaw sa mga ligal na samahan at pakikibakang masa. Bakit sinasalaula natin ang demokratikong mga proseso at sariling dinamismo’t integridad ng mga ligal na organisasyong masa?

Mauugat ito sa arogansya ng banggardismo at sa boluntaristang konsepto ng Maoistang rebolusyon na walang pagpapahalaga sa dinamismo ng kilusang masa at ispontanyong sangkap ng rebolusyonaryong pakikibaka.

(SOURCE: Taken partly from the writings of Popoy Lagman On Reorganization)


Capitalism and unemployment — a Marxist view
By Graham Matthews

With the looming downturn, the federal government expects that a further 300,000 people will be on the unemployment line by the middle of 2010. It expects that the unemployment rate will reach around 7%, around 800,000 people. Others have predicted unemployment could reach as high as 9%.

Yet even in the recent “boom” times, unemployment failed to fall below 4.5%. And this figure discounts everyone who works at least one hour a week and the so-called “discouraged” job seekers who don’t register for unemployment benefits. The real figure for those wanting to find work and unable to is actually much larger.

There is an old joke that the only thing worse than being exploited by capitalism is not being exploited by capitalism.

Being shut out of the paid work force under capitalism is to be shunted into a precarious low-income regime of government harassment, social exclusion and often poor health and self-esteem.

It’s not a choice that many make voluntarily. And of course the situation is more dire outside the relative security of advanced industrialised countries, where unemployment often leads to malnutrition and even starvation.

According to economist Robert Gottliebsen, writing in the January 27 Business Spectator, research by the Roy Morgan group reveals that total unemployment and underemployment in Australia at December 2008 was around 1.5 million — or 13.2% of the work force. The situation will get even worse on a world scale as the global downturn takes effect, Gottliebsen argued.

Is there something about this system — capitalism — that maintains permanent unemployment? Is there something that we can do about it?

Karl Marx, who along with his collaborator Friedrick Engels gave the struggle for socialism a scientific basis in the 19th century, believed that capitalism needed unemployment: the very workings of capitalist production for profit created unemployment, even in the best of economic times.

Marx argued in Capital, his major work on political economy, that capitalists are always in competition with one another to create larger profits. The main way that they compete is by lowering their costs, largely by increasing labour productivity. A key way to do this is to replace variable capital (living labor) with fixed capital (machines).

Because the purpose of capitalist production is to maximize profit, whenever new technology is introduced it usually means a cut in jobs. This is because the capitalist can make as much (or more) than before, with fewer workers.

“It is the absolute interest of every capitalist to press a given quantity of labor out of a smaller, rather than a greater number of laborers, if the cost is about the same”, Marx said.

As productivity increases, bosses can use fewer workers to produce more. “Surplus” workers are made redundant.

However, Marx argued, capitalist production is not just a one-way street. While new technology can displace workers from one industry, new industries are continually being developed. Workers are continually being re-employed and then “set free”.

Although it may rise or fall, unemployment itself is a permanent feature of capitalism.

“The greater the social wealth … and, therefore, also the absolute mass of the proletariat and the productiveness of its labor, the greater is the industrial reserve army [i.e. the unemployed]”, Marx said. “The relative mass of the industrial reserve army increases therefore with the potential energy of wealth.”

The unemployed are more than just a permanent “reserve army of labor” on which capital may call, however. They also serve capital by placing a permanent pressure on the wages of those who are employed, encouraging them to work harder for less, at pain of losing their job to someone else.

“Taking them as a whole, the general movements of wages are exclusively regulated by the expansion and contraction of the industrial reserve army, and these again correspond to the periodic changes of the industrial cycle”, Marx said.

Those threatened with either a pay cut or losing their job as the global downturn bites, will know what Marx meant.

Capitalism has unleashed the massive productive potential of humanity. It has socialized production, unlocking the possibility of a better world — one based on the power of society-wide organization and cooperation.

Such immense productive power — if placed under the control of workers and communities — could solve the world’s crises. Global warming, hunger, over-work and unemployment could all be things of the past, but not while production remains geared to profit alone.

Marx believed that working people had both the right and the ability to run society better. In order to do so, however, first they had to take political power from the capitalists and use it to reorganize production in a socially useful way.


We turn now to a discussion of the various techniques of mass leadership from the Marxist perspective, with particular attention to the mass line.

Methods and Techniques of Leadership of the Masses

Since leadership is necessary, and important, methods of leadership are necessary and important. Mao said this explicitly: “Methods of leadership are very important. To avoid mistakes, one must pay attention to these methods and strengthen leadership.” He explained that “To lead means not only to decide general and specific policies but also to devise correct methods of work.” And indeed the importance of methods of leadership was a constant theme for Mao. Years earlier he wrote

It is not enough to set tasks; we must also solve the problem of the methods for carrying them out. If our task is to cross a river, we cannot cross it without a bridge or a boat. Unless the bridge or boat problem is solved, it is idle to speak of crossing the river. Unless the problem of method is solved, talk about the task is useless.

There are lots of methods and techniques of leadership, many of which are appropriately used by the proletarian party. The mass line is just one such method, albeit the most important single method of leadership for Marxists.

Not only is the mass line the most important single method of leadership, it is the overall method. Other methods are subsidiary to it. Many of the other methods find employment directly within the mass line. But even if they do not, they are still subsidiary in the sense that they are secondary to this primary leadership method.

Only a few of the great many leadership methods and techniques will be discussed here. Implicit in Marxism are many more. And, indeed, there is no set number of leadership methods; more can always be discovered. This is simply a corollary of the more general observation: there is no set number of ways of achieving your goals; more can always be discovered.

So let us then begin a survey of some of the many methods of proletarian leadership. These methods may be divided into various groups based on their specific focus or immediate goal. The mass line itself is a method relevant to most or all of these goals, so I will not mention it explicitly each time.

First are the leadership methods and techniques focusing on how to bring the masses into motion. These include such techniques as:
1) The single spark method.
2) Direct encouragement of mass initiative.
3) Suppression of those who attempt to hold the masses back.
4) Uniting with the relatively small number of advanced and active elements among the masses in order to win over the intermediate and backward.

Second, leadership techniques focusing on achieving victory in a struggle. These include such techniques as:
1) Concentrating ones forces (especially when on the offensive).
2) Dispersing ones forces (especially when on the defensive).
3) Preparing for battle thoroughly.

Third, leadership techniques focusing on coming up with new ideas. These include:
1) Encouraging democracy within the ranks of the people and the proletarian party.
2) Social experimentation.

Fourth, leadership techniques focusing on appraising existing lines and policies. Included here are:
1) Seeking truth from facts.
2) Experimentation, again.

Fifth, leadership techniques focusing on clearing up confusions. These include:
1) Combining the general with the particular, and the use of models and examples.
2) Emphasizing close investigations.

Sixth, leadership techniques focusing on ordering priorities. These include:
1) Working according to a plan.
2) The use of directives from the center.
3) Learning to handle more than one task at a time.

Seventh, leadership techniques focusing on questions of timing. Such principles as:
1) Seize the time. (Do not miss opportunities when they are ripe.)
2) Bide your time. (Do not act rashly; wait until conditions are ripe.)

Eighth, leadership techniques focusing on making the most out of every situation. For example, the principle of “advancing through each battle”.

More such techniques and principles could be enumerated, but I think the basic point is clear: There are many leadership techniques and principles based on a wide variety of specific leadership tasks.

The Single Spark Method

                  From a little spark bursts a mighty flame. (Dante Alighieri)

There is one method of leadership which, while still subordinate to the mass line, is especially important: the “single spark method”. Sometimes this method (or something very similar) is called “the method of combining the general with the particular”.

The following three excerpts all come from the same important essay in which Mao outlined the mass line in detail for the first time:

In any task, if no general and widespread call is issued, the broad masses cannot be mobilized for action. But if persons in leading positions confine themselves to a general call—if they do not personally, in some of the organizations, go deeply and concretely into the work called for, make a break-through at some single point, gain experience and use this experience for guiding other units—then they will have no way of testing the correctness or of enriching the content of their general call, and there is the danger that nothing may come of it.No one in a leading position is competent to give general guidance to all the units unless he derives concrete experience from particular individuals and events in particular subordinate units. This method must be promoted everywhere so that leading cadres at all levels learn to apply it.The concept of a correct relationship between the leading group and the masses in an organization or in a struggle, the concept that correct ideas on the part of the leadership can only be “from the masses, to the masses”, and the concept that the general call must be combined with particular guidance when the leadership’s ideas are being put into practice—these concepts must be propagated everywhere during the present rectification movement in order to correct the mistaken viewpoints among our cadres on these questions.

I think these three small quotes explain quite adequately what Mao meant by the method of combining the general with the particular. “A single spark can start a prairie fire” is an old Chinese saying that Mao appropriated for a famous 1930 essay. The “single spark” corresponds to the “particular”, the breakthrough at a single point, and the “prairie fire” corresponds to the general call and its result.

The “single spark method” is really the same thing as the method of combining the general with the particular, but it focuses more on the aspect of “breaking through at a single point”, and does not explicitly mention the need to issue a general call (which is also important). The ‘single spark method’, however, is definitely a more evocative name. Unfortunately the comparative one-sidedness of the name has especially appealed to those (like the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee—the legal wing and social-democratic successor of the Weather Underground terrorist group)—who like to downplay the necessity for revolutionary action by the broad masses.

Implicit in the single spark method is the idea that people often learn best through the example of others. Or, looking at it the other way around, it is often more difficult to convince a section of the masses to initiate action than it is to convince broader sections to follow the first group to move.

But it is important to note here that the single spark method is designed to educate and enlighten not only the masses about how to proceed in general (based on an example held up for them to emulate), but—perhaps even more importantly—to educate the leaders about how to lead in general, about how to issue a general call, and how to guide the wider movement based on their specific knowledge and experience locally. And it is in this respect that the single spark method is most intimately a part of the mass line method of leadership.

The Mass Line as a Method of Leadership

A small mind is obstinate.
A great mind can lead and be led

Occasionally in reading the more superficial comments of revisionists or openly bourgeois writers about the mass line you will find that some of them are not even aware that the mass line is not really a “line”, but a method, and specifically a method of leadership. This sort of thing is especially jarring from the Chinese revisionists, who one would think would at least know that elementary fact about the mass line—even if they can’t truly understand or accept the theory.

Mao explained very clearly that the mass line is a method of leadership, right from the very beginning of his explication of it. In passages I already quoted he says that “In all the practical work of our Party, all correct leadership is necessarily ‘from the masses, to the masses” and described the mass line as “the basic method of leadership”.

But while all real Maoists, at least, know that the mass line is a method of leadership, some of them may nevertheless fail to understand how profound a method it is.

It is important to understand, for example, that the mass line is not simply a method of leading the masses, it is also a method of leading the leaders in their leadership of the masses. The mass line, properly understood, is not just a method employed by the leaders to lead the masses, it is also a method employed by the masses to lead the leaders. The mass line is a method not only for changing the masses and society, but also a method of first changing the leaders so that they can change the masses and society. The mass line is not only a method of teaching the masses, but also a method of first teaching the leaders so that they know how and what to teach the masses.

If someone were to view the mass line as simply a means of changing society (but not the masses), or as simply a means of changing the masses (but not the leadership)—they would be wrong. The mass line is a tool for changing society, revolutionizing society through the process of first changing the leadership and then changing the masses. If the leadership does not recognize that the goal of the mass line is to first change itself, its own ideas, then it does not understand the mass line, and will be completely unable to use it successfully.

Thus while it is the leadership which formally uses the mass line tool, in a deeper sense the tool is wielded jointly by the leadership and the masses in order to change each other. It is both the leadership itself and the masses which are the target of the tool. It is wrong, undialectical and bourgeois, to view the leaders as standing above and outside the process of learning, or to view them as standing above and outside the process of change.

How the Party Achieves Leadership of the Masses

There are a number of important principles which stand behind the party’s leadership of the masses, and explain how it is possible for the party to achieve such leadership.

The first principle is that the art of leadership must be learned, and that the party must understand this and be aware that it is possible to learn how to lead the masses.

Political parties often simply assume that they know how to lead the masses. Whenever the masses “inexplicably” fail to follow their leadership, the tendency is always to come up with excuses, such as “the objective situation”. When have you ever heard a party frankly admit that it does not know how to lead? And yet, to outsiders, it is often glaringly obvious. Looking at the new communist parties formed after the Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin said “In many countries we have not even learned how to assume the leadership.”

The first thing here is to recognize that at the beginning we do not know how to lead the masses very well, if at all. The second thing is to recognize that we must learn how, through study and through revolutionary mass practice. And the third thing is to have confidence that we will be able to learn, and will be able to lead. As Mao said, in the Chinese context, “We must have faith… that the Party is capable of leading the peasants…” This is part of what it means to be a revolutionary optimist. It is part of what it means to have faith in the masses, and faith in the party.

The second basic principle is that leadership must be real, not in name only. The party must truly seek to lead the masses, must actually provide leadership. It must promulgate lines, policies, instructions, recommendations, advice, information, and the like. One might think that all this would be obvious, but amazingly enough there are many political groups, of all stripes, that subjectively want to lead the masses, but do not really attempt to do so.

I vividly remember how difficult it was to get any leadership, any suggestions and guidance about what I should do personally to help advance the revolution, from the primitive organizations active around 1970. I wanted to follow, they wanted to lead, but they couldn’t and didn’t lead very much. It was very frustrating all around! In those days (and I am afraid it may still be true today) if you wanted to become a serious revolutionary, you had to be very determined; in many cases you almost had to force your way in on the action.

It all too frequently happens that revolutionaries want the masses to come forward, but don’t know what to do when they do step forward looking for leadership. The party itself is often unprepared to lead the masses. In 1902 Lenin remarked that

Anyone who really carries on his revolutionary work in conjunction with the class struggle of the proletariat very well knows, sees and feels what vast numbers of immediate and direct demands of the proletariat (and of the sections of the people capable of supporting the latter) remain unsatisfied. He knows that in very many places, throughout vast areas, the working people are literally straining to go into action, and that their ardor runs to waste because of the scarcity of literature and leadership, the lack of forces and means in the revolutionary organizations.

Stalin addresses many of these same issues:

The masses cannot respect the party if it gives up leadership, if it ceases to lead. The masses themselves want to be led, and they are looking for firm leadership. But the masses want leadership to be not formal, not on paper, but effective and comprehensible to them. Precisely for that reason it is necessary patiently to explain the aims and objects, the directives and instructions of the Party and the Soviet government. Leadership must not be given up; neither must it be relaxed. On the contrary, it must be strengthened. But if it is to be strengthened, it must be made more flexible, and the Party must arm itself with the utmost sensitiveness to the requirements of the masses.

The third principle, a corollary of the second, is that the party must not lag behind the masses. In the real world the parody, “Wait for me, I’m your leader!”, is all too often essentially true.

Lenin talked a lot about “the lag of the leaders… behind the spontaneous upsurge of the masses”, and Mao also frequently campaigned against this tendency: “In short, the leadership should never lag behind the mass movement. Yet, as things stand now, it is the mass movement which is running ahead, while the leadership cannot keep pace with it. This state of affairs must change.”

If the party is not to lag behind the masses, it must be “proactive”, rather than reactive. It must not only formulate lines and policies, it must take these lines and policies to the masses. Mao frequently complained that some people in the Party seem to think “that it is enough for the leaders alone to know the Party’s policies and that there is no need for the masses to know them.” And he added,

To be good at translating the Party’s policy into action of the masses, to be good at getting not only the leading cadres but also the broad masses to understand and master every movement and every struggle we launch—this is an art of Marxist-Leninist leadership. It is also the dividing line that determines whether or not we make mistakes in our work.

But if the party should not lag behind the masses, neither should it get too far out ahead of them. This is our fourth basic principle.

Stalin, who as the years went by was more and more guilty of this sin himself, nevertheless forcefully attacked this tendency in his writings:

The opposition is right when it says that the Party must go forward. That is an ordinary Marxist precept, and there cannot be any real Communist Party if it is not adhered to. But that is only part of the truth. The whole truth is that the Party must not only go forward, but must also secure the following of the vast masses. To go forward without securing the following of the vast masses means in fact to break away from the movement. To go forward, breaking away from the rear-guard, without being able to secure the following of the rear-guard, means to make a leap ahead that can prevent the advance of the masses for some time. The essence of Leninist leadership is precisely that the vanguard should be able to secure the following of the rear-guard, that the vanguard should go forward without breaking away from the masses. But in order that the vanguard should not break away from the masses, in order that the vanguard should really secure the following of the vast masses, a decisive condition is needed, namely, that the masses themselves should be convinced through their own experience that the instructions, directives and slogans issued by the vanguard are correct.The misfortune of the opposition is that it does not accept this simple Leninist rule for leading the vast masses, that it does not understand that the Party alone, an advanced group alone, without the support of the vast masses, cannot make a revolution, that, in the final analysis, a revolution “is made” by the vast masses of the working people.

Not only is it possible to “break away from the masses”, and get out too far ahead of them, it is possible for a young party to start out “too far ahead of them”, if it refuses to connect up its revolutionary work with the existing struggles of the masses.

The fifth principle of proletarian leadership is that leadership cannot be imposed on the masses. It must be voluntarily accepted and, better yet, actively sought out and welcomed by the masses. As Mao expressed it,

Leadership is neither a slogan to be shouted from morning till night nor an arrogant demand for obedience; it consists rather in using the Party’s correct policies and the example we set by our own work to convince and educate people outside the Party so that they willingly accept our proposals.

Our sixth principle, closely related to the fifth, is that proletarian leadership should not be bureaucratic. Again, Mao expressed it well:

…we must not be bureaucratic in our methods of mobilizing the masses. Bureaucratic leadership cannot be tolerated in economic construction any more than in any other branch of our revolutionary work. The ugly evil of bureaucracy, which no comrade likes, must be thrown into the cesspit. The methods which all comrades should prefer are those that appeal to the masses, i.e., those which are welcomed by all workers and peasants.

The next principle of proletarian leadership is that it must actually benefit the masses. Mao put it this way:

The leading class and the leading party must fulfill two conditions in order to exercise their leadership of the classes, strata, political parties and people’s organizations which are being led:
(a) Lead those who are led (allies) to wage resolute struggles against the common enemy and achieve victories;(b) Bring material benefits to those who are led or at least not damage their interests and at the same time give them political education.Without both these conditions, or with only one, leadership cannot be realized.

Of course it is true that sometimes we must lead the masses along a course which, while in their long term interests, will create difficulties for them in the short run. But whenever this is the case we must make sure the masses understand this from the beginning, and prepare themselves for the temporary sacrifices. Our leadership will fail if we try to lead the masses along a path which calls for excessive (even if temporary) sacrifices on their part, or sacrifices which they are unprepared for or unwilling to make.

The next principle is that leadership must be based on the experience of the masses. As Stalin put it,

What does leadership mean when the policy of the Party is correct and the correct relations between the vanguard and the class are not upset?
Leadership under these circumstances means the ability to convince the masses of the correctness of the Party’s policy; the ability to put forward and to carry out such slogans as bring the masses to the Party’s positions and help them to realize through their own experience the correctness of the Party’s policy; the ability to raise the masses to the Party’s level of political consciousness, and thus secure the support of the masses and their readiness for the decisive struggle.

The next principle is that mass leadership is closely connected with the question of mass organization. To lead effectively there must be an organizational apparatus. Of course the leaders, the proletarian party, must be organized; but beyond that, the masses cannot be effectively led unless they themselves (and not just their vanguard) are organized. Lenin remarked that the Soviets constituted “an apparatus by means of which the vanguard of the oppressed classes can elevate, train, educate, and lead the entire vast mass of these classes…”

On the other hand, one of the chief goals of proletarian leadership is to advance proletarian organization:

The Social-Democratic [communist] Party, as the conscious exponent of the working-class movement, aims at the complete liberation of the toiling masses from every form of oppression and exploitation. The achievement of this objective—the abolition of private property in the means of production and the creation of the socialist society—calls for a very high development of the productive forces of capitalism and a high degree of organization of the working class. (Lenin)

Thus organization and leadership are dialectically related. Leadership is necessary to advance mass organization, and mass organization is necessary for truly effective leadership. The pessimist sees this as a catch-22 situation; the optimist as a recognition of the possibilities for positive feedback and accelerating advances in both proletarian leadership and organization.

The last principle I’ll mention here, one that sums up several of the principles just mentioned, is that leadership must be knowledgeable. Marx emphasized the importance of knowledgeable leadership when he said:

To conquer political power has therefore become the great duty of the working classes…. One element of success they possess—numbers; but numbers weigh only in the balance, if united by combination and led by knowledge.

If leadership is not knowledgeable in all these areas, then it must learn. Which brings us full circle to the first principle of proletarian leadership mentioned above.

The Evil of Commandism

Commandism is simply the technique of getting people to do things by just ordering them to do it, rather than by explaining why they should do it, and convincing them to do it of their own free will. It should be apparent from all that has gone before that commandism is antithetical to genuinely Marxist leadership, and is a bourgeois technique of “leadership” if anything is.

But is issuing commands always wrong? Don’t there need to be commands and directives from the party center down to each branch and each comrade? How can we work efficiently if we have to explain everything at length and argue over every little directive? Or consider the Red Army: How on earth can we go into battle if there are no “commanders” authorized to issue commands to the rank-and-file soldiers (whether they are Party members or not)?

Well, let’s not go crazy here! I think even most anarchists would agree that revolutionary armies need to have commanders, and in battle (at least) these commanders have the right and duty to issue commands to the troops.

Issuing commands, and even enforcing them through various forms of discipline is not necessarily commandism! What then are the circumstances when it does become commandism? This is mostly a matter of common sense, but we might list a few central principles here:
1) With few exceptions, commands are only appropriate and justified within voluntary organizations. In other words, when you voluntarily join a party, a mass organization, a revolutionary army, or voluntarily apply for a job at a factory (at least in socialist or communist society!), you thereby commit yourself to work cooperatively and follow reasonable orders from the leaders.
2) Even within voluntary organizations, however, commands are only appropriate where circumstances warrant. In general this means two kinds of situations:
a) small or routine matters. (Even in socialist society, it would normally be ridiculous to yell “commandism!” if the foreman at your factory tells you to help unload a truck; it is the job of the foreman to direct the work.)
b) emergency or desperate situations, or in the midst of battle.
3) In general, the bigger, more serious, and more important the issue, the less justified it is to simply issue commands rather than use democratic persuasion, provided there is time for this.

The overall principle in voluntary organizations is just that the method of democratic persuasion should be used as much as is reasonably possible, especially where important issues are at stake, and where emergencies or battle-conditions do not dictate otherwise.

Since commands are normally only appropriate within voluntary organizations, the party and its members are seldom, if ever, justified in ordering the masses in general to do things—even if, as should always be the case, these things are actually in the real interests of the masses. Party members have voluntarily joined the party, but the broad masses have not, and are not subject to its discipline.

Mao constantly campaigned against commandism, and in the strongest terms: “Marxists have always held that the cause of the proletariat must depend on the masses of the people and that Communists must use the democratic method of persuasion and education when working among the laboring people and must on no account resort to commandism or coercion.”

However, in the very next sentence Mao added that “The Chinese Communist Party faithfully adheres to this Marxist-Leninist principle.” Here, regretfully, I must somewhat disagree—many party members and cadres, both in the period before the 1949 seizure of power and more often in the socialist period afterwards, did sometimes resort to commandism in their relationships with the masses. The official line of the CPC was certainly opposed to this, and Mao for his part, did everything he could to oppose commandism. But it certainly existed to some extent anyway. (Fortunately parties do not need to be totally perfect in order to advance the revolution, and overall the CPC used the correct methods during the Maoist period.)

The fact of the matter is that commandism is a constant danger, and a constant temptation to any party that seeks to lead the masses. Not to see this, not to arm the party against it, and not to campaign against the bourgeois evil of commandism when it does arise, is to facilitate its cancerous growth and destructiveness. Moreover, you must also constantly promote the democratic, mass-line method of leadership, if there is to be any alternative available to commandism.

Commandism, of course, is most easily fallen into, and becomes one of the greatest dangers for the revolution, after the seizure of power—when the party is the “ruling party”. But even before the revolutionary seizure of power, commandism is possible. As soon as a party gains any respect and authority among the masses it also unfortunately gains the possibility of abusing that authority and losing that respect through commandism. This is something to think about very seriously indeed.

Willing Followers Are Not Enough!

We totally reject commandism and insist that the masses must follow the Party of their own free will. But that is not enough! Certain methods which can sometimes create willing followers (in the short run anyway) are bourgeois and must on no account be used.

One such method is trickery. Here’s a little item from the logician Raymond Smullyan showing how trickery can force people to do things “voluntarily”:

[This] reminds me of a cute joke or trick which someone once played on me: He said, “I bet I can make you open your fist”. I said “okay”, and I made a fist. He said, “No, no, thumb inside!” I naïvely opened my fist, put my thumb inside and reclosed my fist. He said “There, you have opened it!” This trick really works; I have tried it on dozens and have not failed yet! Try it sometime!

Well that’s just a silly example, of course, but it is true that people are constantly being tricked by the ruling class. Back in 1964, when I was an ignorant liberal, I was tricked into voting for Lyndon Johnson for President because the Democrats portrayed themselves as the party of peace, as opposed to Goldwater and the Republicans. Naturally, the first thing Johnson did was escalate the small Vietnam conflict into a major war. Recall also Wilson’s campaign slogan in 1916: “He kept us out of war.” Once re-elected, his administration plunged the country into the first imperialist world war. Virtually every bourgeois election is some sort of trick on the masses.

Using trickery or lies to get people to do things “willingly” is really no better than ordering them to do things unwillingly. Both are despicable and bourgeois techniques. But even this recognition is not enough!

Smullyan, who is a Taoist of sorts, says the Taoist way is to “force” people to “voluntarily” obey. And he adds that “The whole idea of Taoistic politics is that the Sage-Ruler influences the people to voluntarily do that which is good for them.” But as you can see, this is an arrogant, elitist stance, which assumes that the “Sage-Ruler” is above the people, and always knows what is best for them. Furthermore, it suggests that manipulating people, or even outright tricking them, is ok as long as it is for the “people’s own good.” In the (nominally) Marxist milieu the revisionists hold similar opinions.

The Maoist view, which is really quite different than this, is that there is only one legitimate way to get the people to do things: by patiently and honestly explaining to them what is in their own interests. We must not command them to do things, but neither must we lie to them or trick them in order to get them to “voluntarily” do things. Only when people have the real truth of the situation available to them will their choice of action be voluntary in the full sense of the term.

Our goal is not to get people to “obey” the Party—whether “voluntarily” or otherwise—but, instead, to get them to make up their own minds what to do on the basis of sufficient and truthful information. The Party does seek to lead the masses, and the masses themselves seek this kind of leadership. But leading people is not a matter of getting them to “obey” you. Only hopelessly bourgeois minds think so.

Furthermore, no group is fit to lead a larger mass if it is not itself a part of that larger mass, sharing the same fundamental interests. No group is fit to lead if it is incapable of continually learning from the larger mass its goals, desires, moods, and its ideas about how to proceed. Although it may sound a bit extreme to say so, I really believe that all leadership without the mass line is ultimately illegitimate, and we must reject it no matter how willing the followers might be.

Where Do Individual Leaders Come From?

According to many people there are “born leaders”, or “natural leaders”. Against this view is the old aphorism, “leaders are made, not born”. So what is the Marxist view here? While we of course recognize that human beings have a biological component (in part genetic) to their makeup, we deny that it is dominant in their social behavior, let alone all-controlling. We say there are no “natural leaders” or “born leaders”. This is especially the case in proletarian politics. Somebody with a domineering kind of personality, for example, is not in our view a “natural leader”.

In 1946 Mao was asked by a reporter, “Do you consider Chiang Kai-shek the ‘natural leader’ of the Chinese people?” He responded, “There is no such thing in the world as a ‘natural leader’.” And you can indeed see from this example how the notion of “natural leaders” is employed by reactionaries for their own sinister purposes.

Individual revolutionary leaders are not “born”, they are in truth made. It is primarily the experience of mass struggle which makes such leaders, both individually and as a group: “A leading group that is genuinely united and is linked with the masses can gradually be formed only in the process of mass struggle, and not in isolation from it.” (Mao)

But while revolutionary leaders are molded primarily through the experience of mass struggle, there is also an element of Marxist education and training involved. First, you cannot become an effective revolutionary leader without being educated in the science of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, both generally, and with regard to specific leadership techniques such as the mass line. And second, you must have opportunities to gather leadership experience. When learning how to do anything you will at first be awkward and inept; but with time, and the help and criticism of comrades and the masses, you will learn how it is done.

The party can, and must, expedite the training of more leaders of the masses, especially (but not exclusively) from the ranks of the proletariat itself. Lenin said that “the masses will never learn to conduct the political struggle until we help to train leaders for this struggle, both from among the enlightened workers and from among the intellectuals.”

There is always a shortage of good leaders, certainly during the early stages of a revolutionary process. In 1902 Lenin wrote that

The critical, transitional state of our movement in this respect may be formulated as follows: There are no people—yet there is a mass of people. There is a mass of people, because the working class and increasingly varied social strata, year after year, produce from their ranks an increasing number of discontented people who desire to protest, who are ready to render all the assistance they can in the struggle against absolutism, the intolerableness of which, though not yet recognized by all, is more and more acutely sensed by increasing masses of the people. At the same time, we have no people, because we have no leaders, no political leaders, no talented organizers capable of arranging extensive and at the same time uniform and harmonious work that would employ all forces, even the most inconsiderable.

There is a mass of people, but a shortage of people… In such a situation, the shortage can only be made up from the mass. Not only must leaders come from the masses themselves, it is primarily the masses who create their leaders, even their greatest leaders, as Bob Avakian has pointed out:

In a fundamental way it is the masses who “make” great revolutionary leaders. It is the revolutionary struggle of the masses which brings forward its leaders. Leaders do, in turn, play a very significant role in the revolutionary struggle of the masses. But they can only play a positive role, and in the final analysis can only be of any real significance, if they continue to stand with, and in a fundamental sense in the midst of, the struggle of the masses and on that basis lead it forward. In this era, in the most thoroughgoing and radical revolution in history, the proletarian revolution, that means they play their role by applying the science of Marxism-Leninism to both learn from and guide the struggle. In this way they can and do exert a tremendous influence on the movement of the masses and can actually accelerate the inevitable revolutionary process (just as they can retard it through errors and deviations from Marxism-Leninism).

I sometimes think that Bob Avakian himself has forgotten these words, but to me they ring true as ever, and sound quintessentially Maoist. That one sentence especially bears repeating and re-emphasis today: Leaders “can only play a positive role, and in the final analysis can only be of any real significance, if they continue to stand with, and in a fundamental sense in the midst of, the struggle of the masses and on that basis lead it forward.” There is nothing that can be said about revolutionary leadership that is more important than that.

In a similar vein, I would like to quote a brief passage from the 1976 RCP pamphlet on the mass line that exactly expresses my point of view:

The Party must pay special attention to uniting with and raising the level of advanced workers not yet Party members, who continually come forward in these struggles as leaders. These workers are potentially a key link, a lever, to join the Party with the life and struggles of the class as a whole. In order for the Party to learn and grow, and in order for the movement of the masses to advance, the Party must train the advanced workers in the science of revolution, including the application of the mass line. And it must train them not apart from, but in the course of actually leading the struggle of the broad masses.

Given the crying need for more leaders, for a whole party of leaders, it is sad to note the existence of certain bourgeois careerist types within revolutionary organizations, who try to keep the necessary leadership training and experience away from others in order to exalt their own status. No genuine Marxist party or organization should tolerate people like that.

The Masses Must Evaluate Their Would-Be Leaders

There are lots of people who seek to lead the masses. They range all the way from the most sincere and capable individuals who truly have the interests of the masses at heart, and who truly can help lead the masses to victory, to all sorts of charlatans and phonies, to completely bourgeois individuals who are downright enemies of the people but who hide the fact and portray themselves as the masses’ best friends and saviors. And there are all sorts of would-be leaders in between these extremes.

Since it cannot be immediately obvious to everyone, and certainly not immediately obvious to the broad masses, who their real friends are, and who their best leaders are, all the contenders for leadership—both parties and individuals—must be thoroughly and continuously evaluated. Each party and individual can help evaluate all the rest. But in the end, the decisions are up to the masses. The masses themselves must evaluate and select their leaders.

Since it is up to the masses to choose, those who have the real interests of the masses at heart must constantly help to educate them about how to make the appropriate choice. Bob Avakian provides a fine example in the following:

…in evaluating different leadership and different people who put themselves forward as leaders and the different programs that they put forward as the thing that masses of people should take up as their own, people should evaluate what interests do these programs and these leaders really represent, serve, and fight for. What kind of world do they present as necessary and desirable? And very specifically, do they say that the present system can and must be overthrown and that the present world must be radically transformed—and will their line and program really lead to this? It’s necessary for people to dig down and evaluate what people who put themselves forward as leaders are actually saying about these very fundamental questions, and what the programs they put forward for people to follow will actually lead to in terms of these very basic questions.

There is one danger for the proletarian party to be aware of here, and to learn to avoid like the plague: Since the party knows it must be evaluated by the masses, since it wants to secure the following of the masses, and since it therefore appropriately seeks to present the party to the masses in a good light, there is a tendency to exaggerate to the masses—and even openly lie to them—about just how good the party is. There is a tendency to hide the weaknesses of the party (it’s small size at the beginning of the struggle, for example, or its inexperience). There is a tendency to hide mistakes, instead of owning up to them. There is a tendency to proclaim the party as infallible, like the Pope, to pretend it already has all the answers, and to go on tiresomely about how “correct” it is.

The funny thing about such boastful exaggerations and misrepresentations is that they almost always backfire. The Pope gets nothing but derision and sneers among non-Catholics for his claims of infallibility. In the long run, it is always better to level with the masses, rather than to foster a suspicion and mistrust of the party in their minds. Just as with individuals, the masses will respect a party all the more if it levels with them, owns up to its mistakes and shows it is genuinely trying to correct them. They will respect the party all the more if they see the party seriously trying to learn more about how to lead the masses and advance their interests (i.e., seriously promoting the mass line).

All these tendencies to misrepresent things or lie to the masses are bourgeois to the core. It is the philosophy of the bourgeois newspaper which remarked cynically: “Leader: One who never permits his followers to discover that he is as dumb as they are. Real revolutionary leaders, intent on using the mass line, should rather bend over backwards to make it clear to the rest of the party and the masses that the masses know many things which the leaders need to learn from them. That is the Maoist way.

The Role of Leadership Must Not Be Exaggerated

This whole book is about proletarian leadership, in one way or another, so of course I think leadership is important. It is in fact critical and indispensable for revolution. But it is time now for a bit of counterpoint. There are some respects in which the role of leadership can be exaggerated.

It is wrong, for example, to stress the importance of leadership in opposition to the role of the masses. Mao put it this way:

Our cause depends on the many for its success and the few play only a limited role. While the few, that is, the leaders and cadres, play a role that should be recognized, it is not a role of signal importance. The role of signal importance is played by the masses. The correct relationship between the cadres and the masses is such that, necessary as the cadres are, it is the masses who do the actual work, with the cadres giving leadership, a role which should not be exaggerated.

It is also wrong to stress the importance of leadership in opposition to the mass line. Mao speaks in many places of the severe limitations of leaders who do not employ the mass line.

Politics must follow the mass line. It will not do to rely on leaders alone. How can the leaders do so much? The leaders can cope with only a fraction of everything, good and bad. Consequently, everybody must be mobilized to share the responsibility, to speak up, to encourage other people, and to criticize other people. Everyone has a pair of eyes and a mouth and he must be allowed to see and speak up. Democracy means allowing the masses to manage their own affairs. Here are two ways: one is to depend on a few individuals and the other is to mobilize the masses to manage affairs. Our politics is mass politics….
An active leader followed by inactive masses will not do.

A vivid illustration of this, which is at the same time an excellent illustration of the application of the mass line, was provided by Mao on an earlier occasion:

After three years we have won a great victory in the war to resist U.S. aggression and aid Korea. It has now come to a halt.
To what was this victory due? Just now fellow members [of the Central People’s Government Council] put it down to correct leadership. Leadership is one factor; nothing can succeed without correct leadership. But we won mainly because ours was a people’s war, the whole nation gave it support and the people of China and Korea fought shoulder to shoulder….
Just now you all mentioned the factor of leadership. In my view, leadership is one factor, the most important factor is the contribution of ideas by the masses. Our cadres and soldiers thought up all sorts of ways to fight the enemy. Let me give one example. In the first month of the war our losses in trucks were tremendous. What was to be done? While the leadership devised counter-measures, we relied mainly on the masses to come up with ideas. Over ten thousand people were posted on both sides of the highway to fire signal shots to warn of approaching enemy planes. On hearing these signals, our drivers would dodge or find places in which to hide their trucks. In the meantime the roads were widened and many new ones built so that trucks could run in both directions unimpeded. Thus the losses in trucks dropped from 40 per cent at the beginning to less than 1 per cent. Later on, underground storehouses and even underground auditoriums were built. While enemy bombs fell from overhead, we went on with our meetings underground. When they picture the Korean battle field, people living in Peking feel it must have been very dangerous. True, there was danger, but it was not so terrible as long as everyone contributed ideas.
Our experience is that reliance on the people together with a fairly correct leadership enables us to defeat a better-equipped enemy with our inferior equipment.

Leadership, like everything else in the world, must not be considered an absolute. It must be viewed dialectically. No better dialectical summation of leadership exists than this:

However active the leading group may be, its activity will amount to fruitless effort by a handful of people unless combined with the activity of the masses. On the other hand, if the masses alone are active without a strong leading group to organize their activity properly, such activity cannot be sustained for long, or carried forward in the right direction, or raised to a high level. (Mao)


There are also units of the enemy armed forces, elements from within the enemy army and police, who are won over at decisive moments to side with the revolution. It is a vital task to work within the enemy forces, to agitate and politicize soldiers, police, vigilantes and other auxiliary forces of the enemy, in order to show them who the true enemy is, and thus render them ineffective for the purposes of the state. Some sections will be neutralized, while others will be won over. Those who are won over to the side of the revolution bring their arms with them and become part of the revolutionary army.

Lenin also saw very clearly that the revolution could not be victorious unless at least a section of the army (government troops) went over to the side of the revolutionaries. But to achieve this, the government soldiers must be convinced of the readiness of the workers to seize victory even at the cost of their own lives.

Have we seen this subjective condition in the Philippines from a materialist point of view the readiness of the workers (mass movement) to seize political power even at the cost of their lives? This kind of “readiness” takes a long process of agitation, propaganda and education and only a serious leadership with correct political line can truly lead the working class into “real politics and real class struggle” onward capturing political power.

 Lenin pointed out how insurrection to be successful: 

  1. Insurrection must rely not upon conspiracy and not upon a party, but upon the advanced class
  2. Insurrection must rely upon a revolutionary upsurge of the people
  3. Insurrection must rely upon the turning point in the history of the growing revolution when the activity of the advanced ranks of the people is at its height, and when the vacillations in the ranks of the enemy and in the ranks of the weak, half-hearted and irresolute friends of the revolution are strongest.

Lenin said: “To the Marxist it is indisputable that a revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation; furthermore, it is not every revolutionary situation that leads to revolution. What, generally speaking, are the symptoms of a revolutionary situation? We shall certainly not be mistaken if we indicate the following three major symptoms:

  • When it is impossible for the ruling classes to maintain their rule without any change; when there is a crisis, in one form or another, among the ‘upper classes’, a crisis in the policy of the ruling class, leading to a fissure through which the discontent and indignation of the oppressed classes burst forth. For a revolution to take place, it is usually insufficient for ‘the lower classes not to want’ to live in the old way; it is also necessary that ‘the upper classes should be unable’ to live in the old way
  • When the suffering and want of the oppressed classes have grown more acute than usual
  • When, as a consequence of the above causes, there is a considerable increase in the activity of the masses, who uncomplainingly allow themselves to be robbed in ‘peace time’, but, in turbulent times, are drawn both by all the circumstances of the crisis and by the ‘upper classes’ themselves into independent historical action.

Without these objective changes, which are independent of the will, not only of individual groups and parties but also even of individual classes, a revolution, as a general rule, is impossible. The totality of all these objective changes is called a revolutionary situation. Why was that? It was because not every revolutionary situation gives rise to a revolution; revolution arises only out of a situation in which the above-mentioned objective changes are accompanied by a subjective change, namely, the ability of the revolutionary class to take revolutionary mass action strong enough to break (or dislocate) the old government, which never, not even in a period of crisis, ‘falls’, if it is not toppled over.

History has shown that a revolutionary situation will persist for as long as a ruling class is unable to resolve its contradictions. But a successful revolution according to Lenin is dependent on subjective factors – the mood of the masses, their confidence in the revolutionary movement, and its organizational ability to lead them out of the current impasse to the seizure of power.

  • The mood of the masses? What is their mood?
  • The confidence of the masses in the revolutionary movement?
  • The organizational ability of the revolutionary movement to lead the masses OUT of the current impasse TO the seizure of political power?

The above factors that Lenin mentioned must be take into serious consideration by any serious revolutionary parties if it wants to push for system change.

When we speak of subjective conditions, we are referring to the presence of revolutionary organization and its ability to organize and lead the masses in all forms of struggle. The subjective factor is organization. It is the existence of a revolutionary party or movement, which is capable of providing the correct strategic and tactical guidance, having created the forces and means to carry out the tasks of the struggle. This includes also the political and military readiness of the advanced masses, which become part of the revolutionary army.

Remember this says Lenin: “When the masses fight with stones, it shows the absence of revolutionary organs”.

The Seizure of Power: Policy Positions?

There are extremely few policy positions on how power is to be seized and this is central to the problem. For, unless we have a clear vision on how power is to be seized, we cannot effectively address the question of what type of organs are required for such a task. We cannot effectively address the subjective tasks. What is demanded is a vision of how power is to be seized and a plan for the building of the forces and means to do it. This vision and this plan must be clearly understood by all activists and revolutionary cadres, within the terms of their tasks and responsibilities, so that all have a clear and common understanding of their own role within the machinery of struggle.

If the Left are not serious about seizure of political power and victory then they are just wasting time, resources and lives in this political circus. The leadership of the Left is in vacuum, if not ideologically and politically bankrupt. It is maybe time for the Left to reorganize their leadership, rectify their errors and go back to what Marx, Lenin and Engels teaches as guide.

Lenin said:

 “Of course, unless the revolution assumes a mass character and affects the troops (government forces), there can be no question of serious struggle. That we must work among the troops goes without saying. But we must not imagine that they will come over to our side at one stroke, as a result of persuasion or their own convictions”.

History has proven many times in different countries and even in the Philippine situation in EDSA 1 & 2 where people’s protest assumed a mass character (hundreds of thousands to millions) which again proved the veracity of Lenin’s theory that government troops cannot side with the protesting people as a result of “persuasion or their conviction” (and conspiracy) and it is only when the military saw hundreds of thousands to millions (mass character) where they can be persuaded to side with the people.

In what condition the Left call for insurrection?– Lenin made it clear that once the masses are roused to revolution and are ready to act, it is only then that the party must call for insurrection and explain to the masses the practical steps necessary for its success. The questions we will then ask: Are the masses now roused to revolution? Are they now ready to act? These major questions mentioned by Lenin are the prerequisites before we could call for insurrection. The intensification of agitation, propaganda and education will help prepare the masses for such momentous struggle.

Working among the government troops is one of the many necessary ingredients in preparing for insurrection but as Lenin said we must not imagine that the government military force will come over the side of the revolution at one knock as a result of our persuasion or their own conviction. Unless the revolution assumes a mass character, it is only then that the politics of the military are affected. A mass character is not a “token-token mobilization”. It must assume tens of thousands or millions of class conscious masses determined to overthrow the ruling class at once by all means.

Lenin said:

“The passive Mensheviks never understood the role of active preparation for an uprising. The old Blanquist putschists spoke only of the technical side of the insurrection, abstracting it completely from the general mass movement, from the daily life of the masses, from their organization and class consciousness”

Lenin boldly criticized the error of Mensheviks for they spoke of insurrection divorced from the general mass movement, divorced from the daily mood of the masses, divorced from the organization of the masses and divorced from the class consciousness of the masses.

  1. Where is the general mass movement in the Philippines?
  2. What is the daily mood of the masses?
  3. Where is the organization of the masses?
  4. What is now the level of class consciousness of the masses?
  5. Are the Left serious about seizure of political power at all cost or this is just part of their “show of force” (organizational posturing/propaganda only) and no interest of capturing power into their hands independent from any bourgeois party or opposition party?

Lenin said that the slogan of insurrection is a watchword for deciding the issue by material force, which can only be military force. This slogan should not be put forward until the general prerequisites for revolution have matured, until the masses have definitely shown that they have been aroused and are ready to act, until the external circumstances have led to an open crisis.

An Uprising Can and Should Be Timed?

Can the working-class movement be timed? No, it cannot; for that movement is made up of thousands of separate acts arising from a revolution in social relations. Can a strike be timed? It can … despite the fact that every strike is the result of a revolution in social relations. When can a strike be timed? When the organization or group calling it has influence among the masses of the workers involved and is able correctly to gauge the moment when discontent and resentment among them are mounting.

Lenin said that if a strike needs a resolute leadership to plan actions and to time them, the need is even greater in the case of an armed insurrection. Only a seriously committed revolutionary party is capable of leading a genuine insurrection of the masses, for the masses differentiate clearly between a vacillating and a resolute leadership.

The revolutionary character of of any left group is not determined by mere “confession and proclamation” but by actual and concrete practice, not only in the past but throughout its record. According to Ernest Mandel, it is the working class and the masses that will say and determine whether an organization carries the revolutionary character or not.

Lenin describes the conditions that made possible the victory of the revolution:

“First, by the class-consciousness of the proletarian vanguard and by its devotion to the revolution, by its tenacity, self-sacrifice and heroism;

“Second, by its ability to link up, maintain the closest contact, and – if you wish – merge, in certain measure, with the broadest masses of the working people – primarily with the proletariat, but also with the non-proletarian masses of working people; and

“Third, by the correctness of the political leadership exercised by this vanguard, by the correctness of its political strategy and tactics, provided the broad masses have seen, from their own experience, that they are correct.

“Without these conditions, discipline in a revolutionary party really capable of being the party of the advanced class, whose mission it is to overthrow the bourgeoisie and transform the whole of society, cannot be achieved. Without these conditions, all attempts to establish discipline inevitably fall flat and end up in phrasemongering and clowning. On the other hand, these conditions cannot emerge at once. They are created only by prolonged effort and hard-won experience.

Lenin emphasizes that it is not enough to have leadership by the proletariat(i.e. working class), but the decisive phase of the revolution involves all social classes and must engage “millions and tens of millions” of people: “(1) all the class forces hostile to us have become sufficiently entangled, are sufficiently at loggerheads with each other, have sufficiently weakened themselves in a struggle which is beyond their strength; (2) all the vacillating and unstable, intermediate elements—the petty bourgeoisie and the petty-bourgeois democrats, as distinct from the bourgeoisie —have sufficiently exposed themselves in the eyes of the people, have sufficiently disgraced themselves through their practical bankruptcy, and (3) among the proletariat, a mass sentiment favouring the most determined, bold and dedicated revolutionary action against the bourgeoisie has emerged and begun to grow vigorously. Then revolution is indeed ripe.”

Lenin concludes that: “History as a whole, and the history of revolutions in particular, is always richer in content, more varied, more multiform, more lively and ingenious than is imagined by even the best parties, the most class-conscious vanguards of the most advanced classes . Two very important practical conclusions follow from this: first, that in order to accomplish its task the revolutionary class must be able to master all forms or aspects of social activity without exception (completing after the capture of political power — sometimes at great risk and with very great danger—what it did not complete before the capture of power); second, that the revolutionary class must be prepared for the most rapid and brusque replacement of one form by another.”

Almost a century later, Lenin’s analysis remains essential for the strategy and tactics of revolutionary  organization and leadership.


Corruption is build-in in a capitalist system

It becomes a political comedy to hear from some leaders of the progressive left that Pres. Noynoy Aquino can eradicate corruption and poverty in the Philippines without overthrowing the capitalist system. This shows the very low level of theoretical understanding of Marxism-Leninism, if not being eaten by opportunism and reformism.

When everything is a commodity, why wouldn’t power be up for sale?

It is very basic in the study of Marxism that when everything is a commodity not only in the economic spheres, so with the political life of the country, and therefore, political power is also for sale. This can be reflected on the huge money spent before, during and after election to bribe the people and in return, the politicians regained their spending and profited more through their pork barrel, maintenance and other operating expenses (MOE) and other means as revealed by Sen. Miriam Defensor.

Each senator gets P150 million in pork every year; there are 24 senators. Each  congressman gets P70 million a year; there are 250 of them. Chairmen and members of the Senate and House committees on Finance and Appropriations get much, much more. So go do the arithmetic and you will have an idea of how many billions of pesos of the people’s taxes are lost to the pork barrel system alone, money that should have been spent instead for services to the people and alleviate poverty, money that should have been funneled back in services to the people who slaved for and paid them.

It is so easy to end the pork barrel system. It is the Executive Department that prepares the annual budget and sends it to Congress. The legislature cannot appropriate funds for projects not in the President’s original budget proposal. So all the President has to do is not include in his budget proposal funds for pork. But year in and year out, Malacañang includes lump sums for such innocent-sounding appropriations as Priority Development Assistance Fund and Countrywide Development Fund. That is only the principal pork barrel fund. There are still congressional insertions in the budgets of most departments. The insertions provide that hundreds of millions of pesos of the budget are set aside for the projects of certain legislators. The pork barrel is the President’s way of bribing legislators to do what he wants.

One of the principal causes of corruption is the pork barrel, that part of the people’s money surreptitiously set aside for their projects, half of which they steal. During GMA administration she got P800 million pork barrel every year and now, Pres. Noynoy Aquino got P1 billion pork barrel every year. The mayors, all councilors from municipal to City to provincial, congressmen, senators and the President have their own pork barrels, one of the major sources of corruption. They capitalized certain amount during campaign period and when seated in power, they regained their capital expenses and profited more (bureaucrat capitalism).

Major political corruption scandals have recently made headlines in tri-media around the country. The increased attention to the issue raises important questions: Are politics getting more corrupt? Or have such scandals existed throughout all era of politics in the Philippines? Is it a matter of an individual abused or built-in in the system itself?

Political corruption is institutional

Political corruption has existed in every era of Philippine political life. Even when a few “bad apples” are punished for their crimes, legions of lobbyists for some of the biggest and most powerful corporations still dominate nearly every aspect of Philippine politics.

Bad apples in a basket of rotten fruit

Clearly, the source of the corruption is not in the individual perpetrators found guilty of a crime, but rather the nature of the system itself (capitalism itself). With such interconnection existing between private corporations and the government, how could one not expect the interests of “national security” and profit-making to become one and the same?

Politics, like all else under capitalism, becomes commodities. Those with political power and influence sell their favors to the highest bidders. Most corruption is sanctified by law: campaign contributions, corporate lobbyism, coveted corporate positions doled out to former and present state officials. The rest is swept under the rug—the not-so-secret stuff everyone in the ruling circles knows but no one talks about, until something becomes too big to hide.

As long as the banks (like World Banks, International Monetary Fund) and big corporations hold the keys to power in all the major institutions of the Philippine government, these same relationships between politics and private business and the associated corruption will continue unabated. Social classes begets social privileges for those who haves in life and deprives those who have not in life and social privileges for those who are in power begets corruption.

Class analysis and class ideology

President Noynoy Aquino and his members of the cabinet (Executive Branch) together with the vast of senators and congressmen (Legislative Branch) along with the Courts (Judicial Branch) falls under the category of the ruling class- they all represents the bourgeoisie and Pres. Noynoy as the chief executive of the ruling class. Pres. Noynoy cannot betray his very own class and the class interest of the bourgeoisie he represents otherwise he sides with the interest of the working class because there are only two great classes that are opposing, in contradiction antagonistically and no remedy for reconciliation as what Marx said that history is a history of class struggle.

“Marx said: Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other — bourgeoisie and proletariat.”

Lenin also said that there is no third ideology that mankind has ever created and that there are only two opposing ideologies: the bourgeois ideology versus the working class ideology, the reactionary and the revolutionary. Now, where does Pres. Noynoy stands for? As the chief executive of the current government, the State does not stand in neutrality neither act as mediator. The state is a product of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms, special bodies of armed men, prisons, etc and an instrument for the exploitation of the oppressed class.

In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole? The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mold the proletarian movement. The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only:

(1) In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality.

(2) In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.

The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the lines of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.

Class struggle: Concerted , Collective and Conscious Class Struggle

According to Marx: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.Freeman and slave, patrician and plebian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.

What is this forcible overthrow means? Some reformists say that it could mean election or any peaceful form of overthrowing the government. Is this true? To answer this question, Let us go back to what Lenin said:

“Outbreaks— demonstrations—street fighting—units of a revolutionary army—such are the stages in the development of the popular uprising. Now at last we have reached the final stage. This does not mean, of course, that the movement in its entirety has advanced to this new and higher stage. No, there is still a good deal of backwardness in the movement; in the Odessa events there are unmistakable signs of old-time rioting. But it does mean that the advance waves of the elemental flood have already reached the very threshold of the absolutist “stronghold”. It does mean that the advanced representatives of the popular masses have themselves arrived, not as a result of theoretical reasoning, but under the impact of the growing movement, at new and higher tasks of the struggle, the final struggle against the enemy of the Russian people. The autocracy has done everything to prepare this struggle. For years it has provoked the people to an armed struggle with its troops, and now it is reaping what it sowed. The units of the revolutionary army are springing up out of the army itself. The task of these units is to proclaim the insurrection, to give the masses military leadership, as essential in civil war as in any other war; to create strong points for the open   mass struggle; to spread the uprising to neighboring districts; to establish complete political freedom, if only at first in a small part of the country; to embark on the revolutionary transformation of the decayed absolutist system; and to give full scope to the revolutionary creative activity of the masses, who participate but little in this activity in time of peace, but who come to the forefront in revolutionary epochs. Only by clearly understanding these new tasks, only by posing them boldly and broadly, can the units of the revolutionary army win complete victory and become the strong points of a revolutionary government. And a revolutionary government is as vitally essential at the present stage of the popular uprising as a revolutionary army. The revolutionary army is needed for military struggle and for military leadership of the masses against the remnants of the military forces of the autocracy. The revolutionary army is needed because great historical issues can be re solved only by force, and, in modern struggle, the organization of force means military organization. Besides the remnants of the autocracy’s military forces there are the military forces of the neighboring states for whose support the tottering Russian Government is already begging, of which later ( Lenin: The Revolutionary Army and the Revolutionary Government).

The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: Formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat. In all these movements they bring to the front, as the leading question in each, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time.

No Marxist in his right mind will tell the Filipino people that Pres. Noynoy can improve the standard of living of the working class by helping Pres. Noynoy pushing his agenda or slogan “kung wlang corrupt walang mahirap”.  Class struggle is the prime mover of social development and only through a concerted, collective and conscious class struggle of the working class can turn the system upside down. This is very important and basic to Marxism-Leninism. Red letter activities (rallies) does not fall under class struggle in its essense. It does not make the working class politically conscious. Such activities (red calendar) are superficial. The kind of revolution the working class must fight for until their last breath is socialist revolution and therefore, it will be a working class struggle (the class line). Unlike the CPP-NPA that wages bourgeois democratic revolution (people’s struggle) which is populace line with no class imprint. Class struggle is the key prime mover for system change and social development.

The importance of class struggle: it defines the ideology of the class, its form of organization and its class complete independence, it defines the class enemy and the direction (strategy) of the  struggle. One of the major reasons why Edsa people power 1,2,3 did not result into working class positioning in governance was because they integrated with the other faction of the ruling class and forgot their complete class independence and their mission in capturing political power and establishing their class rule. The history of working class movement  has proven this error in many countries.

The policy of class complete independence and the working class movement

Marx and Engels mercilessly unmasked the cowardly, counter-revolutionary role of the bourgeoisie, and emphasized the need for the workers to maintain a “policy of complete class independence”, not only from the bourgeois liberals, but also from the vacillating petty bourgeois democrats.

Plekhanov said:

“…The practical task of the class-conscious elements in the working-class movement is to point out to the proletariat its mistake, and to explain to it how risky is the game called armed uprising. We must value the support of the non-proletarian opposition parties, and not repel them by tactless actions” (Lenin on Insurrection).

Many times Lenin criticized Plekhanov for his idea that the working class must not antagonize the other section of the ruling class-the opposition faction and that tactical alliance with the opposition was beneficial to the working class. This idea of Plekhanov is denounced many times by Lenin.

Stalinist bureaucracy instead of pursuing a revolutionary policy based on class independence, as Lenin had always advocated, they proposed an alliance of the Communist Parties with the “national progressive bourgeoisie” (and if there was not one easily at hand, they were quite prepared to invent it) to carry through the democratic revolution, and afterwards, later on, in the far distant future, when the country had developed a fully fledged capitalist economy, fight for socialism. This policy on non-complete independence of the working class and alliance with the liberal bourgeoisie and the national progressive bourgeoisie that the Stalinist bureaucracy made according to Lenin was a complete break with Leninism and a return to the old discredited position of Menshevism. The same error committed by the Menscheviks is what is happening now in the Philippine Left movement both the RA camp and the RJ.

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.

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)

If we do not seek social revolution then independent political organization of the working class is not required, which is why those that seek only the reform of capitalism or believe capitalism can be turned into socialism through piecemeal change inevitably enter into deals and coalitions with capitalist parties. To those that believe revolution is not required or at least not on the historical agenda we will limit ourselves to one remark.  Reforms of capitalism, no matter how extensive, (and leaving out how they might be won without actually threatening revolution), leave workers as wage-slaves, as producers of profit for capitalists; inevitably leaving them political slaves as well.  Anyone with the remotest interest in socialism will not find it hard to appreciate that a class that leaves itself economically exploited, that has its daily life under the supervision and control of the capitalist class, and of the capitalist state, will never have the power to remove inequality and insecurity or their causes.  It is for this reason that Marx also said that ‘The working class is revolutionary or it is nothing.’

The liberal bourgeoisie grant reforms with one hand, and with the other always take them back, reduce them to nought, use them to enslave the workers, to divide them into separate groups and perpetuate wage-slavery. For that reason reformism, even when quite sincere, in practice becomes a weapon by means of which the bourgeoisie corrupt and weaken the workers. The experience of all countries shows that the workers who put their trust in the reformists are always fooled.

And conversely, workers who have assimilated Marx’s theory, i.e., realized the inevitability of wage-slavery so long as capitalist rule remains, will not be fooled by any bourgeois reforms. Understanding that where capitalism continued to exist reforms cannot be either enduring or far-reaching, the workers fight for better conditions and use them to intensify the fight against wage-slavery. The reformists try to divide and deceive the workers, to divert them from the class struggle by petty concessions. But the workers, having seen through the falsity of reformism, utilize reforms to develop and broaden their class struggle.

The stronger reformist influence is among the workers the weaker they are, the greater their dependence on the bourgeoisie, and the easier it is for the bourgeoisie to nullify reforms by various subterfuges. The more independent the working-class movement, the deeper and broader its aims, and the freer it is from reformist narrowness the easier it is for the workers to retain and utilize improvements.

This reformist will derail the political consciousness of the working class and divert the struggle from revolution to reformism. They will deceive the masses with their promises that their so-called tactical allies in bureaucracy can bring change or better life and that what the working class can do is just “support and go with the program” of the reactionary government instead of class struggle. Mass movement for reformist became a game, a source of money making at the expense of the masses in the streets, a red letter calendar activities and at the end, the working class become tired until they will lost their faith in the revolution.

Resourcing: Alliance building or expropriation?

As many times said that politically, organizationally and ideologically, the working class has no allies vis-a-vis struggle for seizure of political power onward building socialism. Only in a bourgeois democratic revolution such alliances between some section of national bourgeoisie, liberal democrats, peasants and working class can be done.

The resources the revolutionary working class can get from the bourgeoisie and their big corporations (monetary or any kind) must not fall under the category of alliance building but expropriation. During the time of Lenin he organized an armed group to carry the task of expropriation for funding sourcing of the revolutionary activities of the Bolshevik. The working class cannot and must not be used as instruments to suppress the other poor sectors for the interest of the bourgeoisie. This is betrayal of working class nature and mission.


So what was the alternative?  I have argued that any alternative should have been informed by the task of advancing the independent organization of the working class with the understanding that ‘the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves’ (Marx Provisional rules of the First International).

Let us not be eaten by reformism and opportunism tendencies. Straight to the point: Reformism or revolution? There is only one road for social development and that is class struggle. The reformist might argued that “the present objective condition does not warrant a direct confrontation between the capitalist-run state and the working class”, again, much more that the revolutionary working class must engage into more intensive and aggressive agitation and propaganda against the state.


Marxism and the State – Part One
Written by Alan Woods
Saturday, 28 August 2010


The question of the State in capitalist society is of key importance for Marxists. We do not see it as an impartial arbiter standing above society. The fundamental essence of every state, with its “armed bodies of men”, police, courts and other trappings is that it serves the interests of one class in society, in the case of capitalism, the capitalist class. Here we start publication of a three-part article on the State by Alan Woods.


Marxism sets out from the idea that “force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one,” that the state consists ultimately of armed bodies of men, that it is an instrument of the ruling class for the oppression of other classes. We have never at any time denied that the working class, in moving to transform society will inevitably encounter the resistance of the possessing classes or that this resistance can under certain conditions result in civil war.


The state, in the last analysis, consists of armed bodies of men. Photo by philippe leroyer on Flickr.


Without the aid of the reformists, Stalinists and the trade union leaders, it would not be possible to maintain the capitalist system for any length of time. This is an important idea which we have to stress continually. The leaders of the trade unions and reformist parties in all countries have colossal power in their hands—far greater than at any other time in history. But as Trotsky explains, the labour bureaucracy is the most conservative force in society. They use their authority to support the capitalist system. That is why Trotsky said that in the last analysis, the crisis of humanity was reduced to a crisis of leadership of the proletariat.

The development of the productive forces has brought about a considerable increase in the relative weight of the working class within society. For all their heroism, the proletarian uprisings of the 19th century were in effect condemned to isolation and defeat as a result of the overwhelming preponderance of the peasantry and of the urban petite bourgeoisie, which gave a colossal advantage to the state apparatus of the ruling class. The uprising which led to the “Paris Commune” of 1871 fell victim to just these circumstances, and to make matters worse, the weakness of the Commune was compounded by a number of very serious shortcomings on the part of the leadership.

In the course of the century now coming to a close, the socialist revolution could have been accomplished many times over. And if, apart from the 1917 revolution against the tsarist empire, the working class has nowhere succeeded in achieving and holding onto power for any length of time, the explanation is to be found not in the level of development of the productive forces nor in the resulting balance of forces between the contending classes, but essentially in the political bankruptcy of the leadership of the workers’ organisations.

The socialist revolution has been delayed by the reformist degeneration of the leadership of the working class. But this has meant that the material foundation of the future socialist society (the general level of development of productive capacity and technique) which the working class in power will inherit from capitalism will be on an incomparably higher level than that which the Bolsheviks inherited from tsarism in 1917, or than that which the British, French, or German workers would have inherited had they succeeded in taking power in the 1920s or 1930s.

Together with the development of the means of production, there has been a sharp decline in small-scale ownership. The control of the economy has been concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, with a corresponding increase in the size of the working class. In France, for instance, at the time of the 1936 revolutionary crisis, half of the population earned its living from agriculture, whereas today the rural population is only 6% of the population as a whole. The wage-earning class has grown not only in numbers, but also in terms of its potential for struggle. A properly organised general strike under modern conditions would bring the economy of a given country to a complete standstill, particularly in the more economically developed areas of the world. The decisive question is that of the leadership and of the degree of preparation of the working class, both organisationally and politically.

What general conclusions can be drawn from what has been said above? Firstly, we can say that the increased level of urbanisation and the ever-higher degree of technical sophistication of industry means that the working class will find itself in a generally more favourable position at the outset of the revolution than was the case in the past. Secondly, as a general rule it can be said that the stronger the revolutionary party, the greater its success in rallying the working class to its programme and in winning the sympathy of the rank-and-file of the armed forces, then the more swiftly will it overcome the resistance of the ruling class and the less violence and loss of life will occur.

A peaceful transformation of society would be entirely possible if the trade union and reformist leaders were prepared to use the colossal power in their hands to change society. If the workers leaders did not do this, then there could be rivers of blood, and this would entirely be the responsibility of the reformist leaders.

As a matter of fact, as we shall see, the workers could have taken power in France, Italy, Spain, Britain and Germany, many times in the course of the last seven decades, if there had been a revolutionary party capable of performing this task. Many revolutionary opportunities have been lost through the betrayals of reformism and Stalinism. The working class may have to pay in blood for these crimes of the leadership. It all depends on the class balance of forces nationally and internationally, and above all on our ability to win over the decisive sections of the working class to the program of Marxism.

We have never at any time denied the possibility of violence and civil war under certain conditions. But, as against the bourgeois and the reformists who always try to frighten the workers with the spectre of violence and civil war, and the sects who lose no opportunity to advertise their enthusiasm for “bloody revolution,” thereby rendering a great service to the bourgeois and the reformists, we insist that we stand for a peaceful transformation of society, and place all the blame for any violence on the shoulders of the ruling class and the reformist leaders.

We make it absolutely clear that we are in favour of a peaceful transformation of society, that we are prepared to fight for such a transformation, but at the same time we warn that the ruling class will fight to defend its power and privileges. This is the traditional position of Marxism, which has been expounded hundreds of times in the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, and in the writings and speeches of the IMT.

Dialectics or formalism?

The basic position was outlined in State and Revolution, where Lenin writes:

“Marx’s idea is that the working class must break up, smash the ‘ready-made state machinery,’ and not confine itself merely to laying hold of it.”

Marx explained that the working class cannot simply base itself on the existing state power, but must overthrow and destroy it. That is ABC for a Marxist. But after the ABC, there are other letters in the alphabet. In State and Revolution, Lenin castigated the reformists for presenting the socialist revolution as a slow, gradual, peaceful change. But the same Lenin was capable of asserting in 1920 that in Britain, because of the enormous power of the proletariat and its organisations, it would be entirely possible to carry through the socialist transformation peacefully, and even through parliament, provided the trade unions and Labour Party were led by Marxists.

Lenin’s position on the revolution was concrete and dialectical, not formalistic and abstract. Lenin approached the revolution in the light of the concrete historical conditions prevailing in each country. Of course, the basic tasks of the proletariat remain the same in all countries. It is necessary for the working class to constitute itself as a class in and for itself, to possess a revolutionary party with a correct Marxist leadership; it is necessary to overcome the resistance of the exploiters; to smash the state, and so on.

Yet such general considerations, while perfectly valid and correct, do not at all exhaust the question of the concrete forms and stages by which the revolution will unfold, far less the specific tactics which must be pursued. These cannot be learned by rote like recipes from a revolutionary cookbook. Such a manual does not exist, and, if it did, would do more harm than good to those who attempted to use it.

The conditions in which the revolution unfolds will differ from one country to another, and from one period to another. That is obvious. And it is also obvious that the specific tactics of the revolutionary party will also differ according to these conditions. Such questions as the specific weight of the proletariat in the population, its relations to other classes, the strength of its organisations, its experience, cultural level, national traditions and temperament, all enter into the equation.

Above all, the decisive factor is the strength and maturity of the subjective factor—the revolutionary party and its leadership (although even this observation is not of absolute validity; there have been cases where the revolution has been carried out—though not consolidated—without a revolutionary party, as in the Paris Commune, Hungary 1956, or Venezuela today). This is the key question. But exactly how the party is built, and above all how it gains leadership of the mass movement is the most decisive question of all. We shall see later how the Bolshevik Party became the decisive factor in 1917, with what tactics and with what slogans.

The basic ideas of Marxism are the same as a hundred years ago. But our task is not to repeat half-digested ideas like a parrot, but to develop ideas creatively, and above all to be able to apply them to the living movement of the proletariat and its organisations. The latter do not exist outside of time and space. If we are not to become a sterile sect, but really to sink roots in the mass organisations, it is necessary to set out from the real labour movement and the working class as it has been historically conditioned at a given moment in time. This was always the method of the great Marxist thinkers of the past, as we will show.

How Marx and Engels posed the question

Basing themselves on the experience of the Paris Commune, Marx and Engels pointed out that:

“…One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., that ‘the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes’…” (Preface to the 1872 German edition of the Communist Manifesto.)

These are elementary propositions for any Marxist. But Marxism is not merely the repetition of basic ideas, no matter how correct. If this were the case, every petty sectarian would be as great a Marxist as Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky put together. It is necessary to deepen and extend theory in the light of experience. This method can be seen in the writings of Marx and Engels, whose views on the state evolved over a period of decades.

From the very outset, the founders of scientific socialism were very careful in how they approached the question of violence, realising not only the danger of the proletariat being drawn into premature uprisings and adventures, but that a clumsy presentation of this question would be a propaganda gift to the enemies of Communism. Thus, in the first programmatic statement of Marxism, The Principles of Communism, Engels expresses himself very cautiously:

Question 16: Will it be possible to bring about the abolition of private property by peaceful means?

Answer: It is to be desired that this could happen, and the Communists certainly would be the last to resist it. The Communists know only too well that conspiracies are not only futile but even harmful. They know only too well that revolutions are not made deliberately and arbitrarily, but are everywhere and at all times the essential outcome of circumstances quite independent of the will and the leadership of particular parties and entire classes. But they likewise perceive that the development of the proletariat is in nearly every civilised country forcibly suppressed, and that thereby the opponents of the Communists are tending in every way to promote revolution. Should the oppressed proletariat in the end be goaded into a revolution, we Communists will then defend the cause of the proletarians by deed as well as we do now by word.” (Engels, Principles of Communism, Marx and Engels Selected Works, Vol. I, p. 89.)

At the end of his life, Engels reconsidered the question of revolutionary tactics in a famous preface to Marx’s The Class Struggles in France. Engel’s words were later used by the leaders of the German Social Democracy in an attempt to justify their reformist policies. However, even the most superficial reading of these lines shows that Engels did not reject the notion of insurrection, but was only warning against adventurism, ill-timed uprisings and conspiracies by minorities (“Blanquism”):

“The time of surprise attacks, of revolutions carried through by small conscious minorities at the head of masses lacking consciousness is past. Where it is a question of a complete transformation of the social organisation, the masses themselves must also be in on it, must themselves already have grasped what is at stake, what they are fighting for, body and soul. The history of the last fifty years has taught us that. But in order that the masses may understand what is to be done, long, persistent work is required, and it is just this work that we are now pursuing, and with a success which drives the enemy to despair.” (F. Engels, Introduction to Karl Marx’s The Class Struggles in France 1848 to 1850, in K. Marx and F. Engels’ Collected Works, Vol. 27, p. 520.)

What is important to grasp here is Engels’ insistence on the need for the revolutionary party to win the masses, as the prior condition to carrying out the revolutionary transformation of society. This requires a more or less lengthy preparatory period of patient propaganda, agitation and organisation, utilising all kinds of work, including trade union and parliamentary work, in order to win over the widest layers of the working class. This is a subject we shall return to.

Under certain conditions, Marx and Engels did not rule out the possibility of a peaceful transfer of power to the proletariat, although, at the time, they believed that the only country where conditions existed for this perspective was Britain.

In the Preface to the 1886 English edition of Capital, Engels writes:

“Surely, at such a moment, the voice ought to be heard of a man whose whole theory is the result of a life-long study of the economic history and condition of England, and whom that study led to the conclusion that, at least in Europe, England is the only country where the inevitable social revolution might be effected entirely by peaceful and legal means,” although he added that Marx “hardly expected the English ruling classes to submit, without a ‘pro-slavery rebellion’ to this peaceful and legal revolution.” (Capital, Vol. I, p. 17.)

In 1918, Lenin wrote an interesting article entitled Left Wing Childishness and the Petit-Bourgeois Mentality, which contains a most profound appraisal of the position of Marx and Engels in relation to the tactics of the proletariat in the socialist revolution. Let us bear in mind that this is the same Lenin who one year earlier wrote State and Revolution. Lenin drew attention to the fact that Marx and Engels, at a certain moment, considered that in Britain the opportunity existed of winning socialism peacefully, and even of the workers “buying out” the bourgeois. While pointing out that the circumstances in Britain had changed (as we will explain in a moment), Lenin here makes a more general point, specifically answering Bukharin and the “Left Communists” who argued that it was impermissible in principle to suggest that it was possible for a workers’ state to “buy out” the bourgeois:

“Marx said: under certain circumstances the workers will not at all refuse to buy out the bourgeois. Marx did not tie his hands—or those of the future leaders of the socialist revolution—as to the forms, ways and means of bringing about the revolution, since he understood perfectly well that a host of new problems would then arise, that the whole situation would change in the course of the revolution, that it would change frequently and considerably in the course of revolution.” (Lenin, On Britain, pp. 355-6.)

Marx on Britain


The military caste in the epoch of imperialism is much stronger than it was in the early stages of the development of Capitalism in Britain. Photo by Tiffini M. Jones


Why did Marx single out Britain as the one country where a peaceful revolution was possible? The reason given by Lenin which is most frequently cited is the fact that, at that stage, Britain was “still the model of a purely capitalist country, but without a military clique and, to a considerable degree, without a bureaucracy. Hence, Marx excluded Britain, where a revolution, even a people’s revolution, then seemed possible, and indeed was possible without the preliminary condition of destroying the ‘ready-made’ state machinery.” (Ibid., p. 352.)

As a result of certain historical peculiarities (an island power which did not require a big standing army but maintained its domination of Europe by a combination of naval power and the policy of “divide and rule”) the state in Britain was weaker than in other European countries, where the absence of such natural defences created the necessity for large standing armies, with all the attendant evils of bureaucracy and militarism. Marx was writing at a time when British capitalism was still in its progressive phase of development, before the rise of imperialism and monopoly capitalism. Lenin explains that, by 1917, Marx’s distinction was no longer valid, since, in the epoch of imperialist decay, the state in both Britain and the USA was basically the same as in the other developed capitalist countries.

Nevertheless, the underdeveloped character of the state, and the relative weakness of the military-bureaucratic caste was only one element in Marx’s opinion that a peaceful transformation might have been possible in 19th century Britain. But it was by no means the only reason. The strength of the British working class and its organisations was one of the main reasons which made Marx think that the workers might take power peacefully, although he was careful to add that the ruling class could organise a “slave holders’ rebellion” to try to overthrow the workers’ government.

In the above-mentioned article, Lenin goes on to specify what were concrete reasons which made Marx and Engels consider the idea of a peaceful revolution to be possible in Britain:

“The submission of the capitalists to the workers in Britain could then have been secured by the following circumstances: 1) the complete predominance of the workers, the proletarians, among the population owing to the absence of a peasantry (in Britain in the seventies there were signs fostering the hope that socialism would make exceedingly rapid progress among the rural workers); 2) the excellent state of trade union organisation of the proletariat (at that time Britain was the leading country in this respect); 3) the relatively high cultural level of the proletariat trained by the century-old development of political liberty; 4) the long habit of Britain’s excellently organised capitalists—at that time they were the best organised capitalists in the world (now they have lost that primacy to the Germans)—of settling political and economic problems by compromise. It was these conditions that enabled the idea to arise then that the peaceful submission of Britain’s capitalists to its workers was possible.” (Lenin, “Left” Childishness and the petty-bourgeois mentality, ibid., pp.356-7.)

These lines show very clearly that, in Lenin’s view, the question under discussion is not at all limited to the historical peculiarities of the state in 19th century Britain. He explains that the basic conditions that gave rise to the possibility of a peaceful transformation of society flowed from the exceptionally favourable class balance of forces, which in turn was a result of the fact that Britain at that time was the only country in the world where capitalist industry had developed to the full extent.

If it is true that the British state is now more similar to the state in other capitalist countries, it is no less true that the development of the productive forces over the last 100 years, and especially since 1945, has meant an enormous strengthening of the working class everywhere. This means that the class balance of forces has been transformed, greatly to the advantage of the proletariat. In Marx’s day, the working class was a majority of society only in Britain. At the present time, the proletariat is the decisive majority of society in every advanced capitalist country, whereas the mass social reserves of reaction, especially the peasantry have been largely whittled away. This has very great consequences for the future prospects of the socialist revolution, above all in the advanced countries of capitalism.

The Class Balance of Forces

The disappearance of the peasantry in France and other countries is a fact of the first order of importance in weakening the mass social reserves of reaction. Let us recall that the peasantry formed the backbone of Bonapartist and, to some extent, fascist reaction in the past. Does this fact, in and of itself, guarantee that reaction is off the agenda? Not at all.

As a matter of fact, even in Britain, where the working class has constituted the overwhelming majority of the population for more than a hundred years, and where the peasantry does not exist, there would be the possibility of Bonapartist reaction, probably under the guise of some kind of royalist-Bonapartist coup (although the Monarchy nowadays is not the force it once was, nevertheless it still has considerable reserves of support among backward layers of the population) if the working class fails to transform society. And this is even more true of countries like Italy, Spain and Greece, where the extreme weakness of capitalism is expressed in a deepening political crisis and continual instability.

Class Programme

How do we expose the danger of reaction to the advanced workers and youth? It is necessary to warn the workers and youth of the threat of reaction. Above all, it is necessary to arm the cadres with a clear understanding of fascism and Bonapartism. A Bonapartist regime would be unstable, and probably would not last more than a few years. Nevertheless, the experience of Chile, Greece, and Argentina shows that such a regime would represent a nightmare for the working class. The ‘democratic’ bourgeois would not hesitate to unleash the fascist gangs against the workers’ organisations, or to use murder, torture and all kinds of intimidation in order to defend their class rule.

However, it is necessary to maintain a sense of proportion. The shrill hysteria of the sects, for whom fascism is always ‘just round the corner’ merely miseducates the minority of workers and youth who are unfortunate enough to fall under their influence. They have no understanding of fascism—or anything else. They do not take into account the nature of the present period, the real class balance of forces, or the interests of the bourgeois.

The blind alley of capitalism tends to drive sections of the petit bourgeois and lumpen proletariat insane. Under certain conditions, they can support the working class, when the latter shows in action that it is prepared to put itself forward as the real Master of society. But if the working class is paralysed by its leaders, these layers can swing towards reaction.

The steady increase in racist attacks in all countries is a reflection of the impasse of capitalism, and the frenzied reaction of layers of demoralised lumpens. During the period of economic upswing, capitalism needed large numbers of immigrants as cheap labour. Now they act as scapegoats for the crisis of capitalism.

It goes without saying that Marxists must be at the forefront of the struggle against racism. But the fight against racism is a CLASS STRUGGLE, not a racial struggle. The interests of the black, Asian, Turkish and Arab workers are the same as their white brothers and sisters. This must be hammered home at all times. Nothing is more injurious to the cause of the struggle against racism than attempts to split workers along racial lines.

At the same time, we must explain, as Trotsky explained, that the fight against fascism is a physical fight. There is no question of passively accepting fascist assaults on immigrants. Defence forces must be organised. But on a CLASS basis. Attempts to set up defence groups based on immigrants or racial minorities in isolation from the rest of the working class merely play into the hands of the racists, as does the idea that only immigrants must lead the movement against racism. We must fight for the setting up of joint defence committees of black and white workers, through the shop stewards committees, trades councils, trade unions, etc.

It is necessary to link the struggle against racism and fascism with the perspective of the socialist transformation of society. Without this, even the election of a socialist government will not solve the problem. On the contrary, the policies of the labour leaders, aimed at conciliating the bourgeois, will only serve to aggravate the crisis and prepare the way for reaction. A policy of counter-reforms will further alienate the petit bourgeois, and even drive sections of them into the arms of the fascists.

When the ruling class can no longer hold the working class in check by ‘normal’ means, they will not hesitate to call in the military. More correctly, they will TRY to move in the direction of a military dictatorship. The way to this would be prepared by a move towards parliamentary Bonapartism, like the regimes of Von Papen and Schleicher in Germany before Hitler.

If the Marxist tendency were strong enough, it would be necessary to wage an energetic campaign for a united front of workers’ parties and organisations to prevent this from happening.

The entire situation is different to the period between the two world wars. Then, the fascists had massive social reserves in the peasantry and the petit-bourgeoisie, including the students. Now all that has changed. The working class is a thousand times stronger, the peasantry has all but disappeared, and large sections of the white-collar workers—teachers, civil servants, bank workers, etc.—have drawn much closer to the proletariat.

Under these circumstances, the bourgeoisie will have to think twice before moving towards an open dictatorship. If the labour movement were armed with genuine socialist policies, such a move could end in the total overthrow of bourgeois rule.

Lenin explained that one of the features of a pre-revolutionary situation is a ferment in the middle layers of society. Driven to despair by the crisis of capitalism the petit bourgeoisie thrashes about in all directions, looking for a way out.

If the working class and its organisations gave a bold lead, the petit bourgeois masses would swing behind it. But in the absence of such a lead, the middle layers can swing in all kinds of directions. At the present time, the ferment in the petit bourgeoisie in Europe reflects itself in all kinds of reactionary phenomena—the Northern League, Berlusconi, the MSI, Le Pen, the German Republicans, the Austrian Freedom Party, and so on.

However, once the working class begins to move, all that can change very quickly. Especially if the right comes to power, and their programme is put to the test, their base in the petit bourgeoisie will evaporate very quickly.

The existence of these reactionary movements is the price we have to pay for the failure of the Socialist and ‘Communist’ leaders to take power in the past. The only way to ensure that the road to reaction is blocked in the future is by waging a relentless struggle to win over the advanced workers and youth to a genuine socialist programme, and through them, the masses.

Lenin and “defencism”

The difference between abstract politics and the dialectical method is shown by the evolution of Lenin’s position on revolutionary tactics in the period 1914 to 1917. In August 1914, the split in the 2nd International created an entirely new situation. In the light of the unprecedented betrayal of the Social Democracy, it was necessary to regroup and re-educate the small and isolated forces of Marxism internationally. Lenin in this period laid heavy emphasis on the basic principles of revolutionary internationalism, above all the impossibility of returning to the old International, and implacable opposition to all forms of patriotism (revolutionary defeatism). In order to combat the doubts and vacillations of the Bolshevik leaders, Lenin gave the sharpest possible expression to these ideas, such as “turn the imperialist war into civil war,” and “the defeat of one’s own bourgeoisie is the lesser evil.” It is arguable that, on occasion, he exaggerated. It would not be the first time that, in order to “straighten the stick,” Lenin bent it too far in the other direction. On the fundamental issues, there is no doubt whatever that Lenin was right. But unless we understand his method, not just what he wrote but why he wrote it, we can end in a complete mess.


There is no doubt whatever that Lenin was right in the position he took during the war but it is necessary to understand his method – not just what he wrote but why he wrote it.


Ultra-left and sectarian groups always repeat Lenin’s words without understanding a single line. They take his writings on war as something absolute, outside of time and space. They do not understand that, at this time, Lenin was not writing for the masses, but for a tiny handful of cadres in a given historical context. Unless we understand this, we can make a fundamental mistake. In order to combat chauvinism, and stress the impossibility of any reconciliation with the Social Democracy, and particularly its left wing (Kautsky and the “centre”), Lenin used some formulations which were undoubtedly exaggerated. Such exaggerations, for example, led him to characterise Trotsky’s position as “centrism” which was entirely incorrect. Endless confusions have arisen from the one sided interpretation of Lenin’s position of this period.

When Lenin returned to Russia after March 1917, he fundamentally modified his position. Not that his opposition to the imperialist war was any less, or his opposition to social chauvinism any less implacable. He continued to be vigilant with regard to any backsliding on the part of the Bolshevik leaders on the question of the war. But here it was no longer a question of theory, but of the living movement of the masses. Lenin’s position after March 1917 bore little resemblance to the slogans he had advanced earlier. He saw that, in the concrete circumstances, the mass of the workers and peasants had illusions in “the defence of the Revolution,” as they understood it. It was absolutely necessary to take this into account, if the Bolsheviks were to connect to the real mood of the masses. If Lenin had maintained the old position, it would have been merely doctrinaire. It would have entirely cut the Bolsheviks off from the real movement of the workers and peasants. Only hopeless sectarians and doctrinaires could fail to see the difference.

In a speech to the delegates of the Bolshevik faction of the Soviets, Lenin explained:

“The masses approach this question not from the theoretical but from a practical point of viewpoint. Our mistake lies in our theoretical approach. The class conscious proletariat may consent to a revolutionary war that actually overthrows revolutionary defencism. Before the representatives of the soldiers the matter must be put in a practical way, otherwise nothing will come of it. We are not at all pacifists. The fundamental question is: Which class is waging the war? The capitalist class, tied to the banks cannot wage any but an imperialist war. The working class can. (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 20, p. 96.)

As a matter of fact, the slogans of “revolutionary defeatism” played no role in preparing the masses for the October revolution. Not “the defeat of Russia is the lesser evil” but “Peace, Bread and Land” and “All power to the Soviets” were the rallying cry of the Bolsheviks which led to the victory of the October insurrection. We will examine the concrete content of these slogans later.

The point is that without flexible tactics which take into account the real level of consciousness of the workers’ movement, it is impossible to win over the masses. But before it is possible to speak of the conquest of power, it is first necessary to conquer the masses. Without this, all talk of the insurrection, overthrowing the state, inevitable civil war, revolutionary violence, military preparations and all the rest becomes mere chattering.

“Every vegetable has its season.” There is a time and place for every slogan. It is characteristic of the sectarian psychology to imagine that slogans stand outside time and place. Since, for them, politics is a matter of small circles with no contact with the real world, the outlook of the masses is a matter of indifference. The situation is radically different with a genuine Marxist tendency which strives to win over the masses, beginning with the advanced layers.

When Lenin returned to Russia, a section of the Bolshevik Party, under the influence of impatience, wanted to move too far ahead of the class. Echoing the ultra-lefts and anarchists, they raised the revolutionary slogan “Down with the Provisional government.” This was the slogan of insurrection. What attitude did Lenin take? He completely opposed it. Why? Because such a slogan did not at all correspond to the real stage the movement was at. Lenin, who was a revolutionary to the fingertips, nevertheless implacably opposed this slogan, and instead oriented the Party towards the conquest of the masses with the slogan “patiently explain.”

Is this not another example of the abandonment of the revolutionary position of the violent seizure of power? Was it not Lenin’s duty to advocate civil war? As a matter of fact, so far from advocating it, at a certain point Lenin even denounced those who claimed that he stood for civil war. He quite correctly denied that the Bolsheviks stood for violence, and placed full responsibility for violence on the shoulders of the ruling class. This did not at all suit the ultra-lefts who failed to understand that nine tenths of the task of the socialist revolution is the work of winning over the masses by propaganda, agitation, explanation and organisation. Without this, all talk of civil war and insurrection boils down to one of two things—either the kind of empty chattering characteristic of bar room socialists, or else irresponsible adventurism, or, in the scientific terminology of Marxism, Blanquism.

Here is what Lenin has to say on the subject:

To speak of civil war before people have come to realise the need for it is undoubtedly to fall into Blanquism.” (CW, Vol. 21, p. 43, International Publishers, New York, 1929, our emphasis.)

Not the Bolsheviks, but the bourgeoisie and their reformist allies constantly raised the spectre of violence and civil war. How did Lenin react? Did he give “fearless” revolutionary speeches, taking up the gauntlet and throwing it back into the enemy’s face? Did he openly talk about the inevitability of civil war? On the contrary, he repeatedly denied any suggestion that the Bolsheviks advocated violence. On April 25 he protested in Pravda against “dark insinuations” of “Minister Nekrasov” about “the preaching of violence” by the Bolsheviks:

“Mr. minister, worthy member of the ‘People’s Freedom Party,’ you are lying. It is Mr. Guchov who preaches violence when he threatens to punish the soldiers for removing the authorities. It is the Russkaia Volia, the progrom newspaper of the progrom ‘republicans’ and friendly to you that preaches violence.

“The Pravda and its followers do not preach violence. On the contrary, they declare most clearly, precisely, and definitely, that our main work should at present be concentrated on explaining to the proletarian masses their proletarian problems, as distinguished from the problems of the petty bourgeoisie which has succumbed to chauvinist poison.” (Lenin: Collected Works, vol. XX, Book 1, p. 171.)

On May 4 the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks passed a resolution written by Lenin. The aim of the resolution was to restrain the Petrograd local leadership which was running ahead of events. It aimed to put the responsibility for any violence on the Provisional Government and its supporters, and to accuse the “capitalist minority of reluctance to submit to the will of the majority.” Here are the two paragraphs from the resolution:

“1. Party agitators and speakers must refute the despicable lies of the capitalist papers and of the papers supporting the capitalists to the effect that we threaten with civil war. This is a despicable lie, for at the present moment, when the capitalists and their government cannot and dare not use violence against the masses, when the mass of soldiers and workers freely expresses its will, freely elects and replaces all public officers, — at such a moment any thought of civil war is naive, senseless, monstrous; at such a moment there must be full compliance with the will of the majority of the population and free criticism of this will by the dissatisfied minority; should violence be resorted to, the responsibility will fall on the Provisional Government and its supporters.

“2. The government of the capitalists and its newspapers, by their noisy denunciation of the alleged civil war, are only trying to conceal the reluctance of the capitalists, who admittedly constitute an insignificant minority of the people, to submit to the will of the majority.” (Collected Works, vol. XX, Book 1, p. 245.)

Lenin understood that the working class learns from experience, especially the experience of great events. The only way in which a small revolutionary tendency can gain the ear of the masses is by following the course of events shoulder to shoulder with the masses, participating in the day to day struggle as it unfolds, advancing slogans which correspond to the real stage of the movement, and patiently explaining the need for a complete transformation of society as the only way out.

Shrill calls to insurrection and civil war will not win over the masses, or even the advanced layer, but only repel them. As we see from the above, this is true even in the middle of a Revolution. It is a hundred times more true at the present time, when the question of the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism is far from being uppermost in the minds of even the most advanced workers. On the contrary, it is necessary to put the onus for violence and civil war on the shoulders of the reformist leaders who have it in their hands to take power peacefully and, by their refusal to do so, make bloodshed inevitable.

“All Power to the Soviets”

Everyone knows that this was the central slogan of Lenin and Trotsky in 1917. But very few people have understood the real content of this slogan. What, concretely, was the meaning of the slogan “All power to the soviets?” Civil war? Insurrection? The seizure of power by the Bolsheviks? Far from it. The Bolsheviks were in a minority in the soviets, which were dominated by the reformist parties, the SRs and Mensheviks. The central task was not the seizure of power, but winning over the majority who had illusions in the reformists.

The Bolsheviks based their “patient explanation” on the idea, constantly reiterated in the writings and speeches of Lenin from March right up to the eve of the October insurrection that the reformist leaders should take power into their own hands, that this would guarantee a peaceful transformation of society, that the Bolsheviks were wholeheartedly in favour of this, and that, if the reformist leaders were to take power, the Bolsheviks would limit themselves to the peaceful struggle for a majority inside the soviets.

Here are a couple of examples of how Lenin put the question (there are many more):

Apparently, not all the supporters of the slogan ‘All Power Must Be Transferred to the Soviets’ have given adequate though to the fact that it was a slogan for peaceful progress of the revolution—peaceful not only in the sense that nobody, no class, no force of any importance, would then (between February 27 and July 4) have been able to resist and prevent the transfer of power to the Soviets. That is not all. Peaceful development would then have been possible, even in the sense that the struggle of classes and parties within the Soviets could have assumed a most peaceful and painless form, provided full state power had passed to the Soviets in good time.” (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 25, p. 184, our emphasis)

“No other condition would, I think, be advanced by the Bolsheviks, who would be confident that really full freedom of propaganda and the immediate realisation of a new democracy in the composition of the Soviets (new elections to them) and in their functioning would in themselves secure a peaceful forward movement of the revolution, a peaceful outcome of the party strife within the Soviets.

“Perhaps this is already impossible? Perhaps. But if there is even one chance in a hundred, the attempt at realising such a possibility would still be worthwhile.” (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. XXI, book I, pp. 153-4.)

“Our business is to help do everything possible to secure the ‘last’ chance for a peaceful development of the revolution, to help this by presenting our programme, by making clear its general, national character, its absolute harmony with the interests and demands of an enormous majority of the population.” (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. XXI, book I, p. 257.)

“Having seized power, the Soviet could still at present—and that is probably their last chance—secure a peaceful development of the revolution, peaceful elections of the deputies by the people, a peaceful struggle of the parties inside the Soviets, a testing of the programmes of various parties in practice, a peaceful passing of power from one party to another.” (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. XXI, book I, pp. 263-64.)

And here is how Trotsky sums up the position in The History of the Russian Revolution:

“The transfer of power to the Soviets meant, in its immediate sense, a transfer of power to the Compromisers. That might have been accomplished peacefully, by way of a simple dismissal of the bourgeois government, which had survived only on the good will of the Compromisers and the relics of the confidence in them of the masses. The dictatorship of the workers and soldiers had been a fact since the 27th of February. But the workers and soldiers were not to the point necessary aware of that fact. They had confided the power to the Compromisers, who in their turn had passed it over to the bourgeois. The calculations of the Bolsheviks on a peaceful development of the revolution rested, not on the hope that the bourgeois would voluntarily turn over the power to the workers and soldiers, but that the workers and soldiers would in good season prevent the Compromisers from surrendering the power to the bourgeois.

“The concentration of the power in the soviets under a regime of soviet democracy, would have opened before the Bolsheviks a complete opportunity to become a majority in the soviet, and consequently to create a government on the basis of their program. For this end an armed insurrection would have been unnecessary. The interchange of power between the parties could have been accomplished peacefully. All the efforts of the party from April to July had been directed towards making possible a peaceful development of the revolution through the soviet. ‘Patiently explain’—that had been the key to the Bolshevik policy.” (Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, Vol. II, pp. 312-3, our emphasis.)

But maybe Lenin and Trotsky were only bluffing? Maybe they only put forward the idea of a peaceful transition in order to gain popularity with the workers, making allowance for their reformist pacifist illusions? To imagine such a thing would be not to understand anything of the method of Lenin and Trotsky, based on fearless revolutionary honesty. In his testimony before the Dewey Commission, Trotsky puts this very clearly: “I believe that the Marxist, the revolutionary, policy in general is a very simple policy: ‘Speak out what is! Don’t lie! Tell the truth!’ It is a very simple policy.” (The Case of Leon Trotsky, p. 384.)

The Bolshevik Party did not have two different programmes, one for the educated few and one for the “ignorant” workers. Lenin and Trotsky always told the truth to the working class, even when this was bitter and unpalatable. If in 1917, that is in the midst of a revolution, when the question of power was poised point blank, they insisted in the idea that a peaceful transformation was possible (not “theoretically” but actually possible), on condition only that the reformist leaders took decisive action, it could only be because this was actually the case. And so it was. Had the soviet leadership acted decisively, the revolution would have taken place peacefully, without civil war, because they had the support of the overwhelming majority of society. In pointing this simple fact out to the workers and peasants, Lenin and Trotsky were not telling lies, or abandoning the Marxist theory of the state, but merely saying what was obviously true to the mass of workers and peasants.

Lenin maintained this position up until July, when he changed it. Why? Because of the cowardice of the Mensheviks and SRs who refused to take power, the initiative inevitably passed to the reaction. Behind the shirt-tails of the Russian popular front (the Provisional Government) the ruling class was regrouping and preparing its revenge. The result was the reaction of the “July Days.”

On the basis of the July raids, Lenin drew the conclusion that a peaceful outcome was now impossible, that civil war was inevitable, and that it was necessary for the party to place insurrection on the order of the day immediately. As a matter of fact, Lenin was mistaken, as Trotsky points out in The History of the Russian Revolution. Lenin, who was in hiding in Finland, later admitted that he was out of touch. The real reason for his stand was his fear that Kamenev, Zinoviev and Stalin would vacillate and not proceed to prepare to take power. In this he was not mistaken. It is a law that, as the date of the insurrection approaches, the leadership of the revolutionary party comes under extreme pressure from alien classes, and a section begins to vacillate.

“Patiently explain”

However, Trotsky’s position was undoubtedly correct. He understood the need to continue the work of winning over the soviets right up to the moment of the insurrection, and even proposed (against Lenin’s opposition) that the date of the insurrection should be postponed to coincide with the congress of soviets where the Bolsheviks would win the majority. Thus, even in the course of an insurrection itself, the question of legality, far from being relegated to an unimportant position, assumes a crucial role in winning over the more inert layers of the masses.

By bringing out the contradiction between the words and deeds of the reformist leaders, the Bolsheviks prepared the way to winning over the decisive majority in the soviets, and also in the army (which was also represented in the soviets). This was the real way in which the Bolshevik Party prepared for insurrection in 1917, not by talking about it, but by actually penetrating the masses and their organisations with flexible tactics and slogans which really corresponded to the demands of the situation, and connected with the consciousness of the masses, not lifeless abstractions learned by rote from a revolutionary cookbook.

The only reason why a peaceful revolution was not immediately achieved in Russia was because of the cowardice and treachery of the reformist leaders in the soviets, as Lenin and Trotsky explained a hundred times.

Unless and until the revolutionary party wins the masses, it is pointless and counterproductive to place the emphasis on the alleged inevitability of violence and civil war. This was never the method of the great Marxist thinkers in the past, but was always a characteristic of the ultra left sects on the fringes of the labour movement, who live in a “revolutionary” dream world all of their own, which bears no relation to the real world. In this hothouse, shut away from reality, small groups can while away the time endlessly debating the “insurrection” and mentally “preparing” themselves for the “inevitability of civil war” while the real task of building the revolutionary organisation entirely escapes them.

In what way does a Marxist tendency concretely prepare for power? By winning over the masses. In what way can this task be achieved? By working out a programme of transitional demands which, setting out from the real situation of society and the objective needs of the working class and the youth, links the immediate demands to the central idea of expropriating the capitalists and transforming society. As Lenin and Trotsky explained many times nine-tenths of the task of revolution consists precisely in this. Unless this fact is grasped, all talk about armed struggle, “military preparations” and civil war is reduced to irresponsible demagogy.

As we have pointed out, when the Bolsheviks were a small minority in the soviets, which were entirely dominated by the reformist parties, the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries who were striving for an alliance with the bourgeoisie, they did not play with insurrection, but stressed the need to win a majority in the soviets (“patiently explain”). The workers and peasants trusted the reformist leaders then as now. The Bolsheviks had to take this fact as their starting point. And so do we.

So long as they were in a minority, Lenin and Trotsky did their utmost to restrain the workers and soldiers, to avoid a premature confrontation with the state. All their emphasis was on peaceful agitation and propaganda. For example, Lenin opposed an armed demonstration in June. For their pains, Lenin and Trotsky incurred the anger of sections of the workers who had moved a bit too far ahead of the class. They were accused of opportunism for not pushing the question of armed insurrection into the foreground.

To such criticism, they merely shrugged their shoulders. They understood that the most pressing task was to win over the majority of the workers and soldiers who remained under the influence of the Mensheviks and SRs. By skilful and flexible tactics, the Bolsheviks succeeded in gaining the majority in the soviets in the months before October. That, and that alone, explains the relatively peaceful character of the October insurrection. The reason was not primarily military, but the fact that nine-tenths of the work had already been accomplished beforehand.