[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 
real life. 
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 
nationwide agenda. 

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 
reside elsewhere.  

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  
composition useless. 
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. 

**************Feeling the pinch at the grocery store?  Make dinner for $10 or 
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