[Marxism] What kind of party do we need?
Waistline2 at aol.com
Waistline2 at aol.com
Sun Mar 22 17:54:01 MDT 2009
>> I read with interest your views on the type of new party needed. I have a
few questions I hope you can answer.
What role if any do you see for party press? Traditional newspaper? If the
party doesn’t take positions on historical questions what does it fill its
press with? What does it do when confronted with the issues of Stalin, Mao,
etc.? How would the party raise funds? What would be the practical, day-to-day
work of its members? Do you consider this model valid solely in the United
States? Do you see a need for a new international? If so, what kind of body do
you see and how would it come about? <<
I read these questions carefully. My first impulse was NOT to answer the
questions but to ask on what basis and in what social, political and economic
environment are such questions posed? Why would an individual feel that issues
of Stalin, Mao, etc., need to be confronted, by a party of a new type, in
setting its task as insurrection?
Why all this historical baggage?
Ideological groups and individuals reared on competing and hostile
ideologies can never be reconciled on the basis of ideas, only common areas of
activity. Basically the hostility of ideas comes down to the religious like belief
that ones ideas are superior to another, although the combatants dress their
ideas in all kind of theoretical axioms, political proclamations, moral
niceties and religious like oaths to the cause of proletarian revolution. The first
question to be asked is always "what is ones purpose?"
"What is it that one is seeking to accomplish?"
If the answer is the overthrow of the power of capital - (as a property
relations governing reproduction of socially necessary means of life), then you
need a strategy and outlook that can ascertain if insurrection is possible in
the here and now. If insurrection is not possible in the here and now or the
immediate future, then why set oneself a task that is unachievable as ones
reason for existence?
Strategy, be it military or political, flows from an assessment of the
objective factors and subjective capabilities. The first thing one must make is an
assessment of the objective factors in motion, such as the new machinery of
the productive forces, the wealth of society and availability of human labor;
wage rates amongst the working class and the level of intelligence of the
population; the training and general culture of the workers; the depth and
breath of ones country; the degree of crisis of capital in their country and
world wide; the direction of that sector of the population whose inner being -
existence, compels it to spontaneously move into combat with the state, etc.
Then finally, one must ask what kind of society and what kind of world can all
these social forces create?
Looking at much of the above allows the individual and group to evolve a
vision that inspires them to fight. One has to make an assessment of the
objective aspects of society and then ask the question; "what stands in between us
and our vision?" "What forces do we have to overcome?" "How is political power
organized in our country?"
"What do we have to do to achieve our vision?"
Simply stating and agreeing that the overthrow of bourgeois property
relations is desirable is only the starting point of revolutionary ideological and
moral commitment. When one answers some of the concrete questions posed above,
the conclusion is to create a political force, an organization, to undertake
the task of "over coming." It a guarantee of failure to try and create a
party apart from the immediate tasks or the "overcoming" such a group faces in
The tasks have to be connected to and express the vision. The vision is not
a dream state or something akin to science fiction/fantasy. The vision has to
arise from the country’s history and objective forces that exist today in
real time. If a group of folks fight very hard to have a vision based on society
as it exist today, while taking into account its history and traditions,
everyone can talk about the kind of party that is needed and its strategy.
The problem from my point of view is that very few groups and individuals
admit the obvious. Nobody wants to be wrong, when in fact everyone or rather
all political groupings, all the time, are always historical wrong on the scale
of history. Some groups are less wrong than others. Various groups get some
things more right than others. Worse, many individuals with decades of
seniority in the revolutionary movement, rely totally on ideological conception of
the social struggle visualized as some form of the Russian Revolutions.
Generally, such visions are no more than anarcho syndicalist conceptions of the
class struggle, papered over with Marxist slogans about state power.
The obvious should be admitted.
No one in our history has put forth a credible strategy or vision for
revolution in America. Historically, what has been agreed upon by various
ideological groups is one form or another of "Sovietism," or rather anarcho
syndicalism. Lenin approached things different. Lenin’s vision and stated goal was
insurrection. Since insurrection has been impossible as a goal in the American
communists movement, up until this point, March 22, 2009, basing an
organization upon carrying out insurrectionary task, doomed such groups to sectarianism
and abysmal failure.
Failure from the standpoint of carrying out insurrection.
The American communist movement has not been a failure from the standpoint
of transmitting to successful generations Marxist ideas and the treasure house
of Marx. To a degree this list is proof that a generation of Marxist have
remained intact. I do not accept the proposition that American Marxism has
failed. Accusing a group of people for their failure to do the impossible is
Sooner or later reality forces itself upon the individual in a way that
makes it impossible to keep speaking in ideological terms rather than reality
Our country is huge with a history of profound uneven economic development
and waves of expansion. This expansion and internal trading between regions,
has up until now blocked the formation of a nationwide class organization,
much less a nationwide class consciousness, along with all sorts of other
subjective obstructions, i.e., the color factor.
Today, we have to create a strategy for the revolution itself and then the
task of a party, and its evolution at every stage of development of the social
process becomes clear. Today Marxists are retooling their Marxism as part of
the process of discovering our path to revolution. .
Lenin did not have to create a strategy for revolution because he was born
into a gigantic revolution already unfolding in Russia; the social and
political revolution against feudalism.
Lenin was born 22 April 1870, or after the Civil War in America. What
America faced in 1870 and what Russia faced in 1870 constitutes different stages or
step on the historical ladder of social progress. This social progress is
indexed by state of development of the productive forces or the degree of
development of commodity production. Yet, many still conceive and write from the
perspective that the revolution in Russia was the passing from capitalism to
socialism, when the facts describe something very different.
The facts describe a revolution from landed property, where the primary form
of wealth is in land to industrial society and the industrial production of
the social product. In a few words, the revolution from agriculture to
industrial social relations. This fact, in my estimate is incontestable. Within
this revolutionary transformation, from agriculture to industry, representatives
of the bourgeoisie and proletariat stepped forward to take power - carry out
insurrection, on behalf of competing and hostile economic classes.
If Russia, and all its colonies were fundamentally feudal, in the sense of
the primary form of property - (the property relations, being the landed
property relations), and this society consisted of roughly 150,000 peasants and
serfs, as its fundamental class characteristic, then the seizure of political
power by the Lenin group in October 1917 cannot be called the passage from
capitalism to socialism. Lenin point of view was to carry out the bourgeois
democratic revolution under the banner of the dictatorship of the proletariat. In
the language peculiar to the Russian revolutionaries, this meant to carry
out the industrial revolution under the rule of the representatives of the
class of proletarians. Specifically, the Lenin group coined this concept as the
passing over immediately from the bourgeois revolution to the socialist
revolution. This meant industrialization under the direction of the communists.
The actual configuration of the material productive forces of Russia in 1917
was a late stage development of the manufacturing process. Sure, an
examination of railway development points to a rapid decade of expansion of
industrialization, but this expansion does not define the sum total of productive
forces in 1917 Russia. Peasant economy, meaning NOT the peasant as economy, but
a description of the productive forces welded by the peasants or manufacture,
defines 1917 Russia.
One can always insists on looking at matters as ideologists, and then define
the state of development of the productive forces on the basis of politics
rather than the material configuration of tools, instruments, machines and
energy sources. Since Lenin admit the impossibility of building socialism in
1918 Russia, we should more accurately describe the October Revolution as part
of the wave of the industrial revolution led by communists, who stated goal
was to build the material perquisites for socialism and then socialism. In 1918
the material perquisites for socialism meant industrialization of the
country, rather than the political forms through which such industrialization would
take place. The political forms means things like the Soviets as a form of
organization and constitutional laws.
Later the Soviet government would implement a set of polices to block the
development and evolution the unrestricted law of value, as an expression of
their form of industrialization. After 1928 the Soviets adopted a more than
less uniform policy to block and prevent the individual from converting wealth
possession into ownership rights of productive forces.
No one can dispute that an industrial society was built and the law of
anarchy of production, with its boom and bust cycles, did not exist in the Soviet
Union in the 1930s or more than matter up until the overthrow of the Soviet
regime in 1989/1990. How one choose to define this industrialization and the
political forms of struggle is irrelevant to the fact of industrialization
without the unrestricted law of value in operation.
The reason for the Soviet vision of revolutionary transformation in America
is more often than not, placed at the doorstep of the Third International. I
believe this to be a horrible mistake and the tendency of various forms of
political Trotskyism, which contains its own Soviet version of a vision of
revolution in America. The Soviet vision came to dominant because there was no
other vision as a path to power by the world revolutionary forces until the
Communist Party of China won the political contest. China was of course
liberated from imperial colonial bondage and the path to power by the Chinese
communists was not applicable to America. There had not arisen another verifiable
path to power for communists, other than the path of Lenin, until 1949 and the
upsurge of the colonial revolts and revolutions. These colonial paths to
power were not applicable to America.
Thus, a Soviet vision remained in force, because it made concrete the vision
of industrial society without ownership of capital as private property.
It has often been stated that a revolutionary political organization must be
the subjective expression of the objective process. If the country is not in
a revolutionary mood or experiencing revolutionary crisis of a magnitude
that places the issue of insurrection as the immediate task of the fighting
section of the proletariat, one cannot form and maintain a political organization
with broad connections - roots, in the working class, and the organization
remain an insurrectionary force.
No political organization can carry out, simultaneously two sets of actions
opposed to each other. Stated another way: if insurrection is not on the
agenda, the sum total of actions of the spontaneous movement of the workers
themselves is to reform the system in their favor and this reforming of the system
blocks and reinforces the fact that insurrection is impossible. Two examples
are worthy of mention.
When the working class and productive forces of our country were undergoing
quantitative expansion and change, and then . . . . (Then!!!), placed the
question of the industrial form of trade unions on the agenda, the communists
were rightfully in the forefront of this struggle. This struggle for the
industrial form of unionism was not an insurrectionary movement of the proletariat.
Those who led some of the struggle were advanced revolutionaries who had
studied the art of insurrection, but this in and of itself cannot make a social
movement an insurrectionary movement. Rather, the struggle was an intense
form of class struggle in the sense of the society - capital, needed to reform
the relations between classes or in simple terms, complete the passage from
the craft form of trade unionism to industrial trade unionism. Such reform
movements always call forth far sighted and gifted individuals who are won over
to Marxism, but this in itself is not proof of a revolutionary crisis of a
duration and intensity as to place the question of insurrection on the
During the period of the upsurge of the Negro Peoples Movement in the 1950s,
the goal of the movement was to end Jim Crow and allow the blacks to take
their place in American society as an equal. This was a reform movement. This
reform movement exploded as the impact of the mechanization of agriculture and
the destruction of the sharecropping system, liberating six million whites
and five million blacks from the land. These people had to go somewhere and in
the post WW II period, they went into first the Southern towns and then the
bottom of the industrial social ladder. Although the struggle against
segregation was waged non-stop since the 1890s, the quantitative development of the
productive forces - mechanization of agriculture, gave a new impetus to an
old struggle and created a new possibility to reform the system. In the
national political and ideological realm, the struggle of the Negro People
superseded the struggle for industrial unionism as the salient feature of the social
What happened in both cases is that the various political grouping on the
left that was formed to carry out these different struggles, began collapsing
and then collapsed when these movements achieved their partial goals. This
process of collapse is in itself a law of the social movement and political
organization. Expressed within the general communist movement, this law of
emergence and decay, calls forth demands and impulses for "reformulation of the
organization" or purging the groups of individuals and programs of actions
attuned to the "last period."
An organization of insurrection can only maintain itself as an
insurrectionary force in a revolutionary period and crisis, as the crisis unfolds in
stages. From this point of view a serious revolutionary organization must not only
politically express actual current social motion, it must be firmly linked
into and part of the evolution of the nation’s revolutionary movement as a
long drawn out historical process, with deep and extended periods of ebbs and
flows. It is absurd and useless to demand that an individual or group assume an
insurrectionary posture for 30 years at a time. What is going to happen is
that people get married, have children, get more or less stable employment and
raise their families. Anyone assigned to say trade union work for 30 - 40
years is going to become disoriented. Not because comrades lack revolutionary
fortitude but because the social struggle would not and did not maintain peak
levels of activity from one decade to the next.
Today, in real time we are in an era of revolution that is the passing from
industrial society to post-industrial society. We have to figure out the
strategy not for a party first and the revolution second, but for the revolution
first and then the kind of revolutionary party - insurrectionary force, can
be ascertained and consciously shaped.
Again it has to be stated that Russian society was already undergoing
revolutionary crisis and the collapse of Czarism. Lenin basically said, "damn, we
need an organization that is nationwide that can take power."
"How can be go about that task?"
The 1905 Revolution brought forth the basic form of revolutionary upsurge of
the masses in the shape of the Soviets. We have tried to no avail to adopt
Lenin’s strategic view of organization rather than his underlying premise,
which is disclosure of the revolutionary process itself.
What is the process of the American revolution or the proletarian revolution
in America? The answer cannot be creation of a revolutionary force - party,
which is an assumption revolutionaries already possess. The answer has to
The history of the American Left is replete with the bones of organizations
that sprang up around issues, declared themselves "revolutionary," but
lacking any historical continuity, died away as these partial issues were resolved.
Those groups with some historical continuity has lost members and seen their
ranks depleted from one decade to the next. This is not a bad thing but the
logic of process evolution and motion. Then certain changes take place within
the working class that renders one type of organizational form and
For instance, a decade ago I distinctly remember bemoaning the "identity
movements" on this list. I was part of bemoaning the identity character of the
movement. I do not feel the same way a decade later, after the election of
Obama - the first black president and historic in and of itself. Those who see
nothing historic or of any significance in the election of Obama are simply
stupid and there is no sense in wasting time with them. The election of Senator
Clinton as President would have been historic, because the word "historic"
means something of significance has happened to change a current or the form of
history as it had played itself out.
It seems that for some reason, I cannot adequately explain today, that the
working class as a class was and has been systematically overcoming many of
its quantitative differences or literally "dumping" all quantitative
distinctions acting as roadblocks to its unity. I felt, like most, that these
distinctions were blocks to unity, but did not connect "dumping" and "overcoming
these distinctions," as a process onto itself, with its own self contained
logic. It seems . . . Seems . . . That the partial resolution of all these
various quantitative distinctions, called identity movements a decade ago, is the
historical path of the social revolution.
Strategy for the revolution is a different approach than the strategy for a
Today, in real time, economic, political, military, social and moral forces
in the country are beginning to coalesce in such a manner as to make another
upsurge of social struggle inevitable.
I have observed the Marxism list over a period of a decade and was deeply
disappointed that the Obama candidacy was treated as just one more "damn thing"
after another and no attempt was made to understand the meaning of millions
of people breaking out of their political liturgy and taking part in open-air
rallies (OAR). The masses most certainly responded to demagogy, however no
amount of demagogy can create a mass response if the masses are not already is
a restless mood and being driven by deep economic impulses and insecurity.
Obama's oratory did not call forth this out pouring of masses. The
understanding that the masses are simply responding to demagogy is a thin analysis.
The approach to such a tremendous display of energy from all layers of the
working class is the issue, not just Obama the person. The issue was the
movement of the working class, in this environment and then the role or place of
Obama within all of this. Not some "principles" about whether or not one
should take part in bourgeois elections or vote for Obama. In a country where the
majority of the working class has a hundred year history of not voting, a
grouping of communists refusing to take part in electoral work or voting, no
matter what the ideological rationale, cannot be labeled politically wrong or
incorrect. On the other hand, those taking part in elections, for say the past
60 years are not in violation of some ideological principle bound up with
Lenin’s "class point of view." Ones organization might has a basic approach to
each of the 4 year presidential election cycles over the past 60 years, but
this hardly qualifies as having anything to do with "Lenin's class approach."
All of this is mentioned because of these two questions if
(a) "the party doesn’t take positions on historical questions what does it
fill its press with? (b) What does it do when confronted with the issues of
Stalin, Mao, etc.?"
What about the question, "what does the party attitude towards Stalin, Mao,
etc., have to do with the social struggle in America?"
Further, why not fill the party press with issues of concern to the working
class and there is no shortage of issues? The problem seems to be resistance
to fill the press with so-called reformist issues, which is a ridiculous way
of looking at the social struggle.
Nevertheless, this list is a proper place to share communists experience.
Even if one cannot break out of their narrow sectarian view that such issues
as Staling and Mao are "paramount to the revolution" why clutter ones press
with matters that have no bearing whatsoever on the objective aspects of the
revolutionary advance? The objective aspect of the revolutionary advance is
always bound up with the objective development of the productive forces. The
subjective appraisal of this advance is an appraisal outside the field of
contention over the quality and meaning of historical leaders. The subjective
appraisal deals with the thinking of the workers in ones own country; their
attitude towards political liberty and divisions amongst them; their degree of
restlessness, and so on.
In other words a sectarian group that wants to make such appraisals part of
their ideological disposition should set up a "Commission on Stalin. Mao,
etc." and issue its report rather than clutter their press with what I consider
utter nonsense and stupidity. On the other hand, a sectarian group could
limit such discussions to a theoretical journal established for such inquiry.
Here you will run into another problem; attracting individuals more interested
in ideological squabbles than organizing activity of people in the here and
now. Further, making such ideological squabbles the basis for ones ideological
disposition creates the premium conditions for political agents of the
bourgeoisie to wreck ones group and split it into competing factions. Then the
inevitable happens, the splitting of the group, the theft of its funds and
accumulated property - infrastructure, and the demoralization of many.
Theoretical Journals are a messy business. You create the dynamic within
your group for an intense struggle for control and access to the theoretical
journal and what will appear in your organization is an outline of members being
grouped in favor of different individuals writing different articles that
the individual members of the group "happen to like."
In other words, to the degree one can push theoretical disputes outside the
field of the physical organization is the degree to which the internal unity
of the group is maintained. The Internet seems to be the perfect instrument,
vehicle and arena for theoretical disputes. However, anyone raising such
disputes from the Internet into ones organization should be written up on charges
and if this behavior is repeated, expelled because they are in fact police
agents, with or without being paid a paycheck. We are not going to
fundamentally defeat the intelligence agencies but we can do things in a sober way that
compel everyone to act to aid the organization of the workers as a class.
Trust me on this, because no two individuals are ever going to have the same
point of view. Moreover, the political police understand this very well.
Rather, the communist view on the intelligence community should acknowledge
and understand that "intelligence" is loyal to no one other than itself. Thes
e people work for a paycheck - wages, and will lie through their teeth to
keep their paycheck coming in. At the end of the day, the revolutionary process
itself, is going to compels the intelligence community to play a necessary
role in bringing down the bourgeois order. Then the intelligence agencies
reemerge as part of a revolutionary America. We are going to have our own Putin's.
We are never going to defeat the intelligence agencies as such. Never. And
it is not necessary to do such because they are subject to the revolutionary
process and crisis.
We still seem to frame questions outside history.
Rise of the Scientific Communist Movement
Why not begin with the understanding that the spontaneous, objective
development of the means of production creates the social context for people to
consciously choose how to create their history. Therefore, revolutionary history
is the record of the quantitative development of the means of production and
the subjective or political response in the form of the rising and dying away
of various forms of revolutionary organizations. Revolutionary history is
not the dispute between Lenin and Martov or Stalin and Trotsky; or ones
attitude towards the defeat of the German revolution, the question of the
bureaucracy or Mao‘s China. .
The modern, scientific communist movement began and arose in correspondence
with manufacturing with its small, scattered workshops as it was replaced by
industry with its concentration of thousands of workers in giant factories.
This development was expressed by the founding of the Communist League and the
1st or Workingmen’s International. In 1848, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels
were called upon to write a manifesto for the League, which was called The
Communist Manifesto. The Communist League then became "The Communist Party," or
the party of communism.
At this stage of the founding and growth of the communists movement, our
movement was not an insurrection force or could maintain itself as an
independent political force. Why? Because it was not possible to effect a total
separation between bourgeoisie and proletariat as both faced the historical impulse
to overthrow the landed property relations and the political institutions
that stabilized this property relations: the fief or political feudalism.
The productive capacity of the industrial countries developed very rapidly.
So long as national production was restricted more than less o the national
market, the struggle between the capitalists and the workers hardened -
intensified, year by year. The communist movement grew with strikes and uprisings
by the workers. The means of production rapidly went through several
quantitative stages and the struggle between the classes subsided as the capitalists
expanded their markets by conquering the economically backward areas of the
world as the prelude to the rise of financial and industrial capitalist
Under these changed conditions the 1st International and its Communist Party
collapsed. However, the First International was formed to recreate the
historic communist movement by creating a new sector of the movement guided by the
science of society. The First International did what it was formed to do.
Engels summed this up when he wrote, "Socialism, since it has become a science,
demands that it be pursued as a science, i.e., that it be studied."
What the first International did was create the conditions and means to
alter the living social struggle by reconstructing and consolidating a new
subjective expression of the revolutionary impulse in society. These individuals
and groups won over to Marx and Engels approach to society became Marxists.
Enough for today. Sorry about the choppiness of this article but after a
couple of hours I am tired.
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