PRINCIPLES OF MARXISM-LENINISM
A STUDY COURSE
By W.B. Bland.
CLASS FIVE : THE PARTY OF THE WORKING CLASS
1. WHAT IS REFORMISM?
The trend in the labour movement which seeks to limit the
aims of the working class to securing piecemeal social reforms within the
framework of capitalism.
In practice, reformism rejects the concept of class
antagonism between the working class and the capitalist class, and preaches that
social reform can be brought about gradually by a policy of class collaboration
of the working class with the capitalist class.
The great majority of the leaders of the British labour
movement have long been reformist. Their practice of class collaboration has led
them to become unprincipled opponents of any militant action on the part of the
workers. Taken in conjunction with their aim of bringing about social reforms
only within capitalist society, it necessarily leads them to support such
policies as may be necessary to make capitalism function profitably. Their
resultant role as lieutenants of the capitalist class within the labour movement
is demonstrated daily.
2. WHAT IS FABIANISM?
The theoretical basis of reformism in Britain, elaborated by
intellectuals of the Fabian Society such as the sociologists Sidney and Beatrice
Webb and the author George Bernard Shaw. The name is derived fron the Roman
general Fabius Cunctator ('The Delayer'), who developed a military theory of
guerilla war against a more powerful enemy.
Fabianism holds that a capitalist society can be transformed
into a socialist society without violent opposition from the capitalst class if
the transformation is brought about in sufficiently small steps. In consequence,
any proposed social reform which arouses the violent opposition of the
capitalist class is 'too drastic' for the Fabians and must be postponed. But
since any proposed social reform which would make a serious inroad into
capitalist society would arouse the violent hostility of the capitalist class,
the logical consequence of acceptance of Fabianism is to postpone any radical
reform to the indefinite future.
3, IT IS OBVIOUS THAT THE VIEW THAT THE WORKING CLASS CAN
GAIN MORE BY PURSUING A POLICY OF CLASS COLLABORATION THAN BY PURSUING A POLICY
OF CLASS STRUGGLE IS AN ILLUSION. NEVERTHELESS, IF THE WORKING CLASS HAD MADE NO
GAINS DURING THE PERIOD OF THE DOMINANCE OF REFORMISM IN THE BRITISH LABOUR
MOVEMENT THIS ILLUSION WOULD HAVE BEEN DISCARDED LONG AGO. THE BASIS FOR THE
MAINTENANCE OF REFORMISM HAS BEEN REAL GAINS BY THE WORKING CLASS. WHAT HAS BEEN
THE SOURCE OF THESE REAL GAINS?
The first workers' organisations in Britain (before 1815)
were militant and socialist (and illega). But Britain beceme the first
industrialised country in the world -- the 'workshop of the world' -- and as a
result the British capitalist class was able, at a relatively early date, to
build up 'an Empire on which the sun never sets'! From about 1850, they began to
use a small portion of the vast super-profits flowing in from Britain's colonies
and semi-colonies to 'bribe' an upper stratum of skilled craftsmen by paying
them slightly above the value of their labour-power.
It was out of this labour aristocracy that a new kind of
trade unionism grew -- the 'New Model Unions' -- which rejected class struggle
and socialist aims and confined their activities to collective bargaining on
questions of pay, working hours, etc.
It must be said, however, that the larger portion of these
super-profits was used for the accumulation of capital, giving rise to a large
increase in productivity, in the 'degree of civilisation' existing in Britain,
and so in the value of labour- power.
The real gains accruing to the working class in Britain over
the past hundred years -- gains which have furnished the basis for the illusion
of reformism -- have been due primarily to the rise in the value of labour
power, and to the fact that the adjustment of wage-levels embodying this rise,
have, for the most part, been carried out through reformist negotiating
The real gains of the working class in Britain over the past
hundred years have thus been due indirectly to the exploitation of the working
people of the colonial-type countries by the British capitalist class.
However, despite the rise in the real wages of the British
working class over this period, the rate of exploitation of the British workers
has significantly increased. And had it not been for 'unofficial' class struggle
outside the reformist negotiating machinery, the rate of exploitation would have
increased still more.
It must be emphasised that at no time has the mass of the
British working class shared directly in colonial-type super- profits. 'Bribery'
of this kind has never affected more than a small upper sratum of the working
class, and today, after the decline of British imperialism since World War Two,
the 'labour aristocracy' consists principally of the bureaucracy of the labour
4. WE HAVE SEEN THAT A POLITICAL PARTY IS AN ORGANISATION
WHICH SERVES THE POLITICAL INTERESTS OF A SOCIAL CLASS, OR PART OF A SOCIAL
CLASS. WHAT CLASS INTERESTS ARE SERVED BY THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY?
The Consverative Party is the more-or-less open party of
British monopoly capital, of British big business. Insofar as working people are
concerned, it directs its electoral appeal primarily to working people whose
level of class consciousness is so low that they identify their interests with
those of big business and the aristocracy.
5. WHAT CLASS INTERESTS ARE SERVED BY THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS?
The Liberal Democrats stand for the maintenance of capitalist
society and are hostile to the trade unions; they thus objectively serve the
interests of monopoly capital. However, by their criticism of the Conservative
Party and of monopoly, they direct their electoral appeal to working people who,
while supporting capitalism and regarding the Labour Party as 'too extreme', are
uneasy about the development of monopoly and recognise the Conservative Party as
openly serving the interests of monopoly capital.
6. WHAT CLASS INTERESTS ARE SERVED BY THE LABOUR PARTY?
Founded ostensibly to give working people a 'voice' in Parliament, the Labour
Party was, in fact, never a party which served the interests of the working
class, for such a party needs to be a revolutionary socialist party, based on
Marxist-Leninist principles. Anti-Marxist from its inception, the Labour Party
preached the reformist theory that the state is a neutral apparatus which the
working class could use to serve its interests by gaining a majority in
Parliament. Their Fabian ideology led Labour Governments to operate along lines
calculated to make capitalism work profitably during the (infinitely long)
period of gradual piecemeal social reform.
Despite the fact, therefore, that its membership is drawn
mainly from working people and that trade unions are affiliated to it, the
Labour Party objectively serves the interests of monopoly capital. In the past,
it presented itself as a party which served the interests of working people, and
it directed its electoral appeal primarily towards working people with just
sufficient class consciousness to recognise the existence of the class struggle
and, in consequence, the need for working people to have a 'workers' party'. Its
image as a 'workers' party' enabled it, when in office, to introduce
anti-working class legislation with significantly less opposition from workers
than if such measures had been adopted by a Conservative government.
However, in the new situation following the temporary
liquidation of the international communist movement, 'New Labour', under the
leadership of Tony Blair, has felt itself able to repudiate all pretence of
being a workers' party', and claims to represent the interests of the whole
people, specifically including business.
The Labour Party forms at present the principal reserve party
of monopoly capital, a party which can safely be permitted to form a government
at times when the Conservative Party has lost electoral support.
7. WHAT CLASS INTERESTS ARE SERVED BY THE SOCIALIST LABOUR
The Socialist Labour Party, headed by miners' leader Arthur
Scargill, is a new party which has taken over the mantle of 'Old Labour' from
'New Labour'. Although its declared policies are more progresssive than those of
'New Labour', not being a Marxist- Leninist revolutionary party it cannot serve
the true interests of working people. Indeed, it can only serve to divert
working people from the true path of revolutionary socialism.
Objectively,therefore, it serves the interests of monopoly capital, and its
honest members must, sooner or later, become disillusioned in it.
8. WHAT IS REVISIONISM?
The revision of Marxism-Leninism, under the pretence of
'creatively developing it to meet changed conditions', in such a way as to
pervert it to serve the interests of a capitalist class.
The publication in 1951 of 'The British Road to Socialism' --
which preached that socialism could be established in Britain through
'parliamentary democracy' -- marked the open transition of the Communist Party
of Great Britain from Marxism-Leninism to revisionism.
After the death of Stalin in 1953, revisionism became openly
dominant in the great majority of parties which had formed the international
communist movement and, under the leadership of revisionist parties, an
essentially capitalist system was restored in the Soviet Union and in most
countres of Eastern Europe.
9. WHAT CLASS INTERESTS ARE SERVED BY THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF
The Communist Party of Britain represents a revival of the
Communist Party of Great Britain. (NOTE: After the dissolution of the CPGB, the
name was taken over by an essentially Trotsykist group). It carries forward the
revisionist policies adopted by this party and put forward in 'The British Road
In other words, having abandoned the principles of Marxism-
Leninism, it rejects the need for the working class to overthrow the capitalist
state in a socialist revolution, and preaches the illusion of a peaceful,
parliamentary road to socialism.
Since it seeks to divert working people away from organising
for socialist revolution -- the only road to socialism -- the CPB objectively
serves the interests of monopoly capital.
10. WHAT IS TROTSKYISM?
The organised presentation of policies which objectively
serve the interests of monopoly capital, disguised under a cloak of pseudo-Left,
pseudo-Marxist, phraseology. In particular, it rejects the Marxist-Leninist
principle that the socialist revolution comes to fruition at different times in
The father-figure of Trotskyism, the Russian revisionist Leon
Trotsky, fought against Lenin's policy of building a disciplined workers' party
and of building an alliance with the peasantry, fought against Lenin's and
Stalin's policy of building socialism in one country. Finally, behind the backs
of its supporters, Trotskyism collaborated with the intelligence services of
imperialist states with the aim of overthrowing the political power of the
working class in the Soviet Union.
With the triumph of revisionism in the international
communist movement and the acceptance by the revisionists of Trotskyism's
slanders against the Soviet state, Trotskyism has, in the absence of genuine
Marxist-Leninist Parties in most countries, gained some temporary successes in
influencing militant intellectuals and students.
11. IS A MARXIST-LENINIST PARTY NECESSARY TO BRING ABOUT A
Yes, it is essential.
We have seen that socialism cannot be established without the building by the
working class of a machinery of force capable of seizing political power from
and defeating the machinery of force of the capitalist class. But just as an
army cannot wage a successful war without a General Staff to lead and coordinate
its military ativity, so the 'army' of the working class cannot lead to victory
a revolutionary war against the forces of the capitalist state without its own
'General Staff' to lead it and coordinate its activity.
This vanguard oganisation of the working class cannot be a
political party of the old type of the Labour Party, which is designed for
electoral/parliamentary activity within the framework of 'parliamentary
democracy'. It must be 'a party of a new type', organised in such a way as to
enable it to fulfil its role as revolutionary vanguard of the working class. It
must be a party guided by the compass of Marxism-Leninism.
12. WHAT IS DEMOCRATIC CENTRALISM, AND WHY DO
MARXIST-LENINIST PARTIES NEED TO ORGANISE THEMSELVES ON ITS PRINCIPLE?
In order to lead an army to victory, its General Staff must
put forward a single line of action to the troops. If different generals were to
put forward different lines of action, their army would surely be defeated. A
Marxist-Leninist Party must, therefore, be based upon unity of will, and this is
obtained by means of the organisational principle of centralism: that is,
decisions of higher organs are binding upon lower organs and upon every Party
member, while decisions of majorities are binding upon minorities.
This centralism must, however, be democratic, not autocratic.
There must be freedom of discussion and criticism at all levels, the right to
send statements to higher organs, and all higher organs must be democratically
elected, directly or indirectly, by the membership. Members elect to higher
organs those of their comrades whom they believe to have the highest political
level, the highest class and Party loyalty, and they agree to accept their
leadership -- unless and until they cease to have such confidence, when the
leaders may be, and should be, removed by the same democratic process.
13. WHAT ARE 1) STRATEGY, 2) TACTICS?
Strategy is the determination of the direction of the main
blow which the working class should strive to strike at a given stage of the
Tactics is the determination of the line of action which the
working class should take in a particular immediate short-term situation.
While the aim of tactics is to win a particular battle, the
aim of strategy is to win the war.
14. WHAT IS THE LABOUR MOVEMENT?
The various mass organisations composed of working people.
The trade unions are organisations of working people in their capacity as
The cooperative societies are organisations of working people
in their capacity as consumers.
The Labour Party, the Communist Party of Britain, and the
Socialist Labour Party are organisations of working people in their capacity as
15. WHAT SHOULD BE THE RELATION OF THE MARXIST-LENINIST PARTY
TO THESE MASS ORGANISATIONS OF THE LABOUR MOVEMENT?
Although these organisations -- by reason of their
leadership, policies and dominant ideologies -- serve essentially the interests
of monopoly capital, they are composed of working people -- and of working
people of a somewhat higher political level than those who yet remain outside
the labour movement. It is these working people who are destined to change the
social system to one of socialism.
Marxist-Leninists must, therefore, work within the trade
unions and cooperative societies, where they must participate in, and strive to
win the leadership of, the day-to-day struggles of the working people. Thir aim
must be to demonstrate, by devoted and selfless struggle on bahalf of the
working people, that they are the most active fighters for their interests; to
win their confidence; and, by patient principled work, to expose the reactionary
leaders of these organisations and bring about their replacement by leaders who
are loyal to the working people.
Only if such removal proves impossible, and is seen to be
impossible by the mass of the rank-and-file (because the leaders succeed in
using their control of the organisation's machinery to prevent the operation of
internal democracy), is it correct to draw the honest rank-and-file into new
independent organisations freed from the control of the labour lieutenants of
the capitalist class.
Experience shows that the masses cannot be convinced of the
need to take the revolutionary road to socialism by means of propaganda and
agitation alone. The strategy of Marxist-Leninists must be designed to lead
these masses in their day-to-day struggles in such a way as to raise their
political consciousness as a result of their own experience in struggle, and in
the same way to win acceptance of the leadership of the Marxist-Leninist Party
among the working people as their vanguard organistion and to draw the most
politically advanced working people into the ranks of the Party.