MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE  |  PRINCIPLES OF MARXISM-LENINISM

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 machinery.

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 movement.

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 PARTY?

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 BRITAIN?

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 to Socialism'.

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 different countries.

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 SOCIALIST REVOLUTION?

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 revolutionary process.

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 employees.

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 electors.

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.

   
     CLASS ONE : THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIETY

General Definitions.

     CLASS TWO : HOW CAPITALISM WORKS (Part One)

The Commodity; Money; Labour Power...

     CLASS THREE : HOW CAPITALISM WORKS (Part Two)

The accumulation of Capital; Capial and Labour; Imperialism...

     CLASS FOUR : THE STATE AND THE ROAD TO SOCIALISM

The State; Parties; Socialism; fascism...

     CLASS FIVE : THE PARTY OF THE WORKING CLASS

Reformism; Class interests; Revisionism...

     CLASS SIX : THE NATIONAL QUESTION

Nations; Proletarian Internationalism...

     CLASS SEVEN : WAR

Civil wars; just and unjust wars; wars of national liberation...

     CLASS EIGHT : HOW  SOCIALISM  WORKS

What is Socialism; its class character...