Binary scheme of democracy and centralism/reply

Sat Apr 13 22:17:17 MDT 2002

Reply to Comrade
Psychiatric Department
Komaki municipal hospitaly

Your article on democratic centralism was fine.  My view on Comrade Stalin is
understood. Comrade Stalin was of course the embodiment of the finest
qualities of the revolutionary; a revolutionary Marxist theoretician and
strategist of extraordinary insight; of peasant stock laboring under
extraordinary conditions. Comrade Stalin's ability to convey to the
proletarian masses a general line of march and wage the conscious battle for
implementation of line and policy is without peer. Without the iron will of
Stalin, the Soviet proletariat could hardly withstand the assault of world
imperialism and hostiles class forces inside the Soviet Union for fifteen
years much less the fascist troops of German imperialism - the advanced
assault contingency of European reaction.

Stalin's personality is historical and sacred. His very name strikes animal
passion in the petty bourgeois radicals, fleeing the discipline of the
proletarian party and demanding to endlessly debate policy until their
individual ego is satisfied. Stalin appears in history as a model for
revolutionaries, as a mentor for the wavering and middle strata and terror
for the class enemy. Comrade Stalin has to his personal credit the
unprecedented spread of the writings of Marx, Engels and Lenin on a planetary
basis and fighting the planetary battle to train generations of Bolsheviks.
With the unbelievably selfless and loyal Molotov (Hammer) by his side,
Comrade Stalin (Steel) - absolutely devoid of the egoism of the petty
bourgeois intellectual, lived the standard for the proletariat revolutionary
and established the benchmark for revolution-ism.

Stalin of course led the defeat of the "slaveholders" rebellion in Soviet
history and systematically suppressed all types of capital rebellion no
matter what their ideological and political guise. "We are Jacobins on the
side of the proletariat" - those words of Lenin certainly must be well known
by all those who now seek to present Lenin in the grab of Jesus the Christ.
What can one say of Marxist who understands nothing of the content of Lenin's
speech "On the Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Power?" It is not at all
surprising if in this critical situation of which Lenin speaks, the measures
taken by the Bolshevik party led by Stalin had an extreme and unusual
character. The economic battlefront was almost more hazardous and in every
way more complex than the problems of the civil war.

Only an organization of steel, only the greatest political clarity and the
strict centralization and discipline of labor could save the Socialist
Revolution after its confirmation. Attention must be called to class
relationships in Russia and the border regions. The possibility of the
success of the proletarian revolution in Russia was assured when at a given
moment the petty bourgeoisie, after having assessed the position of the
middle bourgeoisie as useless for carrying out vital immediate tasks,
tottered to the side of the proletariat, thoroughly aware of its own
political impotence. Precisely "tottered" - that is Lenin's term. But like a
feeble man who becomes strong in a moment of danger, and once the danger is
past begins to boast about how he helped to achieve the victory, the petty
bourgeoisie at the moment of the overthrow of tsarism and the big bourgeoisie
immediately became both strong and reactionary. At the same time, because of
its cowardice it understood the victory of Socialism only in terms of idyllic
support of Russia by insurrectionary Europe and this was expressed in the
Soviet party as a theory of so-called permanent revolution. When hope of
"world" revolution was lost or rather ebbed, at the moment when it became
evident that Socialism would have to be built by the efforts of the Soviet
people themselves, the last revolutionary spirit of the petty bourgeois
ideologist died without leaving a trace, and their links with the Bolsheviks
were broken.

The German Revolution did not contribute to the victory of the proletariat.
On the contrary, it aided the victory of the bourgeoisie, and this put an end
to hopes for the long awaited direct revolutionary support from Europe. The
impossible had to be undertaken, but Bolshevikism is formed in the crucible
of impossibility.  Half measures - NEP (New Economic Policy) rescued the
country from starvation but could not solve the fundamental question posed by
the need to build heavy machine industry - the industrial infrastructure,
without which Socialism was a pipe dream and could not be achieved. The
material base of Socialist construction had to be agriculture. The country's
transition to that course was hindered by many difficulties, political,
cultural as well as organizational.

Then significant and acute suspicions emerged. Wailing cries were heard
clamoring for the preservation of at least one sector from revolutionary
conquest to serve as a base for capitulation to European imperialism.
Accusations of "extremism" were levied against the Bolsheviks - in short,
that marked the beginning of the usual absurdities, which are always, and
everywhere used by the petty bourgeoisie to camouflage its cowardice.

Without question the best weapon for the petty bourgeoisie at the time was
the demand for "democracy," the "right to speak to the masses." The radical
petty bourgeoisie of today - flirting with a bourgeois form of Marxism,
should recall that it was Lenin not Stalin, which was the promoter of the
famous decision of the 10th Party Congress, which condemned all factions in
the Party. In a formal sense this most certainly was a violation of democracy
or a "binary scheme" that separated democracy from centralism.

The petty bourgeois radicals cannot understand the situation that arose at
the 15th Party Congress and why such great power was concentrated in the
hands of Stalin. The opposition demanded a simple exchange of opinion and
demanded a "democratic" attitude be adopted towards their right to express
themselves. The opposition was shouted down and the party members screamed
"Long Live Stalin!" This was not the defeat of democracy but the confirmation
of proletarian democracy. The party members have the right to demand that a
political faction shut up. Stalin was followed because it was at this
Congress that the question of building Socialism in one country was raised
for the first time, firmly and with absolute clarity. Stalin formulated the
historic resolution concerning the placing of agriculture on the rails of
Socialist construction and then led the industrialization of the country.
Revolutionaries in America may perhaps gain insight into their own history by
considering this question from the standpoint of the aftermath of the Civil
War of 1865. The party members voted for Stalin's plan because it made sense
and was the only way out for one who wanted to build socialism and not
surrender to the imperial bourgeoisie.

Stalin's Report, "The Growing Crisis of World Capitalism and the External
Situation of the U.S.S.R.," (excerpt from the Political Report of the Central
Committee to the Fifteenth Congress, 1927) outlines his detailed anaylsis of
the emerging transition to the war front on the part of imperialism, and
later his "Industrialization of the Country and the Right Deviation," leaves
no doubt as to his clarity on the questions of the day.

The party and the people placed their confidence in Stalin. To the mass of
proletarians the world over, the idea that the leader should not be obeyed
and followed is obscene, and under military conditions not following orders
spell instant destruction. The reason we vote for the leaders is to follow a
line of march at every stage in the development of the class struggle. Only
the petty bourgeois phrasemongers flee from the relentless pace and
discipline of the unyielding assembly line - centralism. Actually, a small
section of the most privileged workers cannot stand the monotony of the
assembly line - centralism.

Everyone who calls him or herself a Marxist understands that we regard
democracy, like all social phenomenon, in a historical and concrete manner.
In backwards Russia proletarian democracy was expressed as the greatest
centralization of power and the carrying out of orders. The proletariat
established the centralization of power in the face of mortal danger, in the
conditions of the most violent class struggle, for the same purpose that
discipline is used on the military front. Why shouldn't confidence be placed
in a leader you elect, who held in his hands the fate of the revolutionary
army?  It is fairly clear to anyone with proletarian logic - yes, proletarian
logic and proletarian ideology, that behind the phrase mongering mask of the
petty bourgeois is nothing more than bourgeois individualism and even the
attempt to guarantee the possibility of desertion to the enemy.

It was Lenin who said, the Bolsheviks would have to pay for their cultural
backwardness and ignorance in different way. Thus, the Budyenyist and racial
petty bourgeois of yesterday upon becoming Secretary of the Regional
Committee of the Party could not by himself decide on the general plan for
solving political and economic problems. The real power was legally
concentrated in the hands of those with knowledge, the revolutionary
experience and authority. Was that correct from the standpoint of socialist
idealism or the "democratic ideas" of the factionalist? Let us assume it was
incorrect. On what guidelines from life could those who wanted to build
socialism have had?

There was no misunderstanding of democratic centralism, but rather a
historically concrete situation. The petty bourgeois likes to throw words
around like their opponents are incapable of sound judgment. But what of the
petty bourgeois radical intellectuals who cannot understand the simply logic
of genuine social evolution, much less the applied dialectic of development,
shifting and yes, sharpening of the class struggle with ever quantitative
completion of the stages in the development of the industrial infrastructure.
The petty bourgeois ideologist who could not grasp applied dialectics went
through the inevitable political evolution from an impediment to
revolutionary progressive to enemy. Such was Leon Trotsky's fate - from petty
bourgeois ideologist, whose politics Lenin repeatedly criticized as being
petty bourgeois, to enemy of the Soviet proletariat. Besides the petty
bourgeois radicals wants to be more holy than the Pope, more democratic than
the popular masses themselves, who long before they became "democrats in
office" had already decided the question as to whether it was necessary to
have leaders for the class war,and whether these leaders should be followed
and obeyed.

The petty bourgeois radicals are wiling to accept centralism in theory, but
never in practice. To build socialism with the human resources we actually
possess is what Illyich (Lenin) taught. The Bolsheviks led by comrade Stalin,
simply concretized his teachings. The block of "Rights and Trotskyites" went
the way of history because they were politically wrong on the most
fundamental of questions; incapable of correcting mistakes like Bolsheviks -
who never claimed infallibility and commit thousands of errors as the result
of millions of actions. From a "prophet armed to unarmed to outcast" is the
inevitable evolution of the middle. This "educated" petty bourgeois
ideologists cannot and could not understand elementary social evolution
because they are the living embodiment not only of the extreme individualism
of the middle, but of the weaknesses, which exist within the proletariat as
well. The liquidation of the right wing petty bourgeois ideologist became
inevitable under Soviet conditions. That was proletarian democracy.

It is fairly easy to understand a physical reaction resulting from a physical
attack. This matter of understanding motion and movement becomes more complex
in the class struggle in which a particular political act or policy may not
have any direct result until many years later. What is required is an
understanding of the dialectic of the class struggle; the dialectic of
stages, boundaries, quantitative and qualitative reconfiguration, class
motion and how this is expressed as a body politic. To build industry in the
Soviet Union required an incredible human exertion and unbelievable
hardships. Wasn't Stalin correct when he said, "That is what we must do or we
will be crushed"?

The Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries attempted to sabotage the policy
of industrialization, along with the Trotskyites and block of "Rights."  They
screeched that agriculture was being sacrificed to industry and likened the
policy of industrialization to fascistic. In reality they wanted the Russian
peasant to submit to fascist enslavement, because they could not grasp the
inner logic and outcome of the policy they advocated; why policy is converted
into a specific line of march or its impact a decade or two later. Stalin
attacked the main body of petty bourgeois ideologists who tried to hide
behind the mantel of the Bolsheviks. This was the meaning of "the famous
Moscow Trials," where Stalin in fact ridded the Soviet Union of Hitler's
"fifth Column."  The Trotskyites and block of "Rights" attempted to overthrow
Stalin's government and reaped the whirlwind. This was the affirmation of
proletarian democracy.

What class did Stalin represent as expressed in his policy, if not the
working class? What class did "the Trotskyites and block of "Rights"
represent as expressed in their program and policy statements if not a form
of capital - which is obvious to anyone that reads the literature from the
period in question. The idea that any of these men stood detached from social
life, class and strata is an invention from the mind of the petty bourgeois
intellectual, who would immediately grasp his decaying class position with
the recognition of the class struggle in the concrete. The idea that an
individual man could led a multinational state by the nose on the basis of
personality is a political projection that certifies one for the insane
asylum. But then there are those who consider the Soviet proletariat stupid,
which insults a thousand years or more of inheritance.

Proletarian logic and applied dialectics is more than a notion and requires
training in the politics of the class struggle. To better understand how much
time and effort Stalin devoted to the problem of the evolution of fascism one
must study and grasp his economic policy of industrialization on the one hand
and fascism as a social phenomenon on the other. Fascism as a social
phenomenon was the direct reaction of the European bourgeoisie to the October
Revolution, not simply the German workers movement. Fascism as a world
anti-historical force originated in the Southern states of America, including
its ideological structure.

In reality they - Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries along with the
Trotskyites and block of "Right," wanted the Russian peasant to submit to
fascist enslavement, because they could not grasp the inner logic and outcome
of the policy they advocated; why policy is converted into a specific line of
march or its impact a decade or two later. The centralization of leadership
and authority away from the hands of the cowardly petty bourgeois was the
affirmation of proletarian democracy no matter how much they scream bloody
murder about the waves of Red Terror unleashed in the Soviet Union. The tanks
under whose wheels the bones of the fascist was crushed were forged on the
basis of the Stalinist policy of strict centralization of authority and
industrialization. Democracy was the right of everyone to implement the
policy without haste. Those who fought the policy were crushed by the
dictatorship of the proletariat - the Stalinist government.

The blood toll paid by the Soviet proletariat in suppressing the inevitable
rebellion of capital and stabilizing the wavering of the petty bourgeoisie
while waging the propaganda war on a planetary basis against world capital
consecrates the earth. The blood of our class and peoples also consecrates
the earth. The extraordinary conditions faced by Stalin have a rough
equivalent in continental America during the time frame following the Civil
War in America, up to the defeat of the Reconstruction governments. The
radicals from the last period have not sufficiently understood the
Reconstruction governments formed as the result of the revolutionary war
waged against the slaveholders.

The slaveholder's rebellion defeated the revolutionary and working class
movement unleashed by the Civil war in American history and extended the
horrible bloodletting of capital.  Very little in the social conditions of
the "southern masses" changed between the late 1890s until roughly 1940. We
proletarians paid a horrible toll that is still being paid and felt today
throughout the world in the manifestation of USNA aggressive imperialism.

Comrade MIYACHI TATSUO, you state:

 "From the viewpoint of Stalinism the content of centralization of power is
not considered as a pair of centralization of leadership and
decentralization of responsibility, but only centralization of leadership
has been put forward. Centralism is considered only as " command from above"
and democracy becomes a mere means in pursuit of this. Thus the leadership
becomes something irrelevant to the Party, i.e. bureaucratic, administrative
direction (commands). And the party organization itself can be made up from
the binary scheme of democracy and centralism."

This of course is more than less the typical ideological position of the
Trotskyites and block of "Rights" who felt the heavy hand of Stalin, without
clarification and being made concrete. "Centralization of leadership and
decentralization of responsibility" is the hallmark of Stalin's leadership.
The petty bourgeois intellectual as personification of the  "middle strata"
who flees from the iron discipline of organization and cannot adhere to the
line of march of the proletarian revolution, cannot conceive of democracy as
centralization - the right of every member of a party of the new type to
carry out the line uninhibited by fear, doubt and the vacillation of the
petty bourgeoisie as strata, with its insatiable demand to "be heard."

Nevertheless it is true that a tendency emerges to view democratic centralism
as "the binary scheme of democracy and centralism," - two mechanically
separate parts of a process, on the part of new members to a revolutionary
organization. The industrial proletarians have a spontaneous tendency to
enforce their ideas and work methods in a manner that tends to defeat or
inhibit the very democracy needed for the rapid and smooth transmission of
information and activity.

It is necessary to separate the question of the domination of the bureaucracy
- a very real domination, the evolution of the caricature of the bourgeoisie
in the Soviet Union, and the militarization of Soviet society from the
question of the historic significance of Lenin's conception of a "party of a
new type" and why in practice centralism is "absolute" and democracy relative
in its shape or in the language of proletarian communist, "conditional."

The reason for such a separation is my particular views that the government,
Soviets, economic, social, cultural organizations and in addition to the
aforementioned, all kinds of auxiliary organizations to "the party" are not
party organizations and operate on another basis even when the center of
gravity in the life of a country is highly militarized.

Then it is my point of view that bureaucracy and organizational centralism
are not identical in scope, with bureaucracy being conditioned by the
environment generated of the basis of the technical factors of production,
i.e. bureaucracy as social phenomenon in the life of all class society and
given definition on the basis of that, which is peculiar to very technical
developments in a mode of production.

In the communist movement in American the principles of organization
pioneered by Comrade Lenin and later codified into orthodoxy under Comrade
Stalin's leadership was first published as, "The Communist Party: A Manual on
Organization," by J Peters in the 1930s. Back in the early 1970s many of us
saw a need to begin the process of educating a section of advanced workers -
who lacked a conception of any form of organization "higher" than a trade
union, in Lenin's conception and Stalin's legacy. Our west coast section
republished J. Peters Manual (Proletarian Publishers San Francisco 1975) as
the first step in educating the advanced workers in a different form of

For us during this period of history centralism above all meant that the
general line of our organization was binding on all members. Unlike Stalin's
Party, our organizations and comrades outside the old centers of slavery in
the South did not exist as militarized units or have a need for a form of
organization that emerges as a response to military engagement or terrorist

Comrades in the Deep South operated somewhat differently and as fate would
have matters I was afforded an opportunity to work in the "black belt" of the
South - so named for the soil, for several years. This was during the late
70s period and early 80s during the time of the Atlanta Child murders and
what was called the case of the Tchula 7 in the heart of the old slaveholding
area of Mississippi - 25 minutes outside of Jackson Mississippi. This was
also during the time of the police riots in New Orleans, Louisiana and the
political period in our history that would later be called the "Reagan
Revolution."  In the South centralism was expressed vastly different than say
in Detroit. The core of our organization resembled what in America would be
called a "secret society" in the deep South and in the border regions - like
Atlanta, Georgia, a semi-secret society.

In Detroit during this period of time we conducted public "Vote Communist
Campaigns" and such an occurrence was out of the question for the South. In
the South this was the period of time when several communist were murdered in
North Carolina. In Michigan all of our leading positions of responsibility
was filled by open election. Slates or groups of comrades could not run
together as a distinct caucus because we voted that no caucuses or factions
could be formed in our organization. A faction meant an organization internal
to the group with a distinct or deviant program, a distinct printing
apparatus not under the specific authority of the locally elected responsible
body and or a group of people who conducted meetings outside the horizontal
and vertical lines of authority for purposes of forcing their political
projections on the group.

Disagreements with the general line of our group was expected by members but
had no consequence provided one did not form a faction to organize members in
opposition to the general line. For example, some comrades simply had a
different understanding of the evolution of the South and did not believe it
to be an area colonized by Wall Street. As a general rule most workers
recruited had no opposition to anything in our group because most were just
being exposed to a body of politics attempting to unravel American history.
Thus, comrades with a different point of view on the colonial-question could
not publish their view for distribution throughout the organization or attach
the name of the organization to such literature. Those who believed the
"Southern Question" was simply a question of "race hate" could not publish
their views in the organization or as literature passed out to the workers.
What comrades said in their daily activity was not very important because
once a person is recruited into the organization they are exposed to and
given the organizations literature. Centralism was the demand that the line
of the party was binding on all its members.

There were very strict guidelines about discussing the activity of the
organization outside the organization or discussing the personal affairs of
members. For example a person could not demand that the organization take
discipline against a comrade with arrearage on child support payments. Nor
could anyone discuss a person's tax returns for example. A person could not
be expelled for racial slurs, but would be confronted in their unit. Our
policy was that there would be no public trials for white chauvinist or
bourgeois nationalist errors or male supremacist errors. Violence and cutting
off a person while talking were considered serious offenses that would get
you expelled very quickly, and provoke a serious response to ensure any
violent acts would be discontinued.

Democracy meant that every comrade had access to all the organization had to
offer as a political group and to the highest reaches of the organization
without having to go through local or regional authority. However, everyone
was told this was not a something to be toyed with, but no party leader could
block anyone from the "party" "central committee members" or the Chairperson.
We spoke of the organization resembling the wheel on a bicycle with the
spokes holding the center of the rime in place. One could find their way from
the outer edge of the rim to the center without organizational impediments.

Although the principle of party organization outlined in J. Peters manual was
applied everywhere, in Detroit the organization tended to be very strict and
resemble the working of the industrial plants. This did not just include the
factory unit or what communist call a fraction, but units amongst the
intelligencia, in hospitals and schools. Centralism was always "more
fundamental" and there was no organizational methods to "loosen" comrade up.

"Centralism is the principle of the party organization,
which determines the party organization and works at any time and place as
long as it should be a Party of Communists. It should not be understood in
the limit of the national specialty of Russia or the historical period of
Lenin. Only the forms or the way in which centralism is accomplished can be
changed to the various historical conditions."

Or a league of communist and class conscious workers that serves as the
center of gravity - nucleus or leadership, in the organization.

"From the above-mentioned, it becomes clear that centralism should be an
essential principle of organization on one hand, and that inner-party
democracy is a changeable form determined by the conditions of the time.
What required to us is to bury the binary scheme of "Democracy or
Centralism" and return to the Lenin's principle."

Melvin P.

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