Recently we were challenged by a comrade from Brazil,
as to why we had suggested that it was correct to support Lula in the Brazilian
elections. He argued that we were sowing illusions in Lula, and the parliamentary
process. In response however, we would argue that the best way to
expose Lula is to place him in power, where he cannot simply posture –
Lula is then faced with a “test”:
Either Lula WILL support the workers – or he WILL NOT!
Indeed within a short period of time, Lula is clearly exposing his true colours. People like Lula, are to be found in every country. They are reformists, who believe in slow reforms, through the parliamentary process.
We argue that Marxism-Leninism, does not advocate either:
Frederick Engels, watched the growth of reformism in the English
working class movement, and he expressed his view of reformists in a letter
to Friedrich Sorge in January 1893:
"The Fabians are an ambitious group here in London who have understood enough to realise the inevitability of the social revolution, but who could not possibly entrust this gigantic task to the rough proletariat alone and are therefore kind enough to set themselves at the head. Fear of the revolution is their fundamental principle. They are educated par excellence. Their socialism is municipal socialism; not the nation but the municipality is to become the owner of the means of production". This socialism of theirs is then represented as an extreme but inevitable consequence of bourgeois Liberalism, and hence follow their tactics of not decisively opposing the Liberals as adversaries but of intriguing with them, of permeating Liberalism with Socialism. …..Hence too their fanatical hatred of Marx and all of us -- because of the class struggle."
“Friedrich Engels: Letter to Friedrich Sorge, 18 January 1893; in: Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels: 'Selected Correspondence: 1846-1895; London; 1943; p. 505.
Lenin viewed these reformists equally bluntly, especially given their attitude to the First World War (See V.I.Lenin, Imperialism & The Split In Socialism"; 1916 ; Collected Works, Moscow, 1964, Vol. 23, pp. 105-20. OR at: http://gate.cruzio.com/~marx2mao/Lenin/ISS16.html
Lenin also talks of how even reformists "recognise the class struggle" , this still does not make them real Marxists:
"It is often said and written that the main point in Marx's teachings is the class struggle; but this is not true. And from this untruth very often springs the opportunist distortion of Marxism, its falsification in such a way as to make it acceptable to the bourgeoisie. For the doctrine of the class struggle was created not by Marx, but by the bourgeoisie before Marx, and generally speaking it is acceptable to the bourgeoisie. Those who recognize only the class struggle are not yet Marxists; they may be found to be still within the boundaries of bourgeois thinking and bourgeois politics. To confine Marxism to the doctrine of the class struggle means curtailing Marxism, distorting it, reducing it to something which is acceptable to the bourgeoisie. Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. ……not only all the opportunists and reformists, but all the "Kautskyites" (people who vacillate between reformism and Marxism) proved to be miserable philistines and petty-bourgeois democrats who repudiate the dictatorship of the proletariat." V. I. Lenin, The State & Revolution'; Moscow; 1980; Volume 25;
Continued on page twenty.)
; pp. 381492; Or at:
2. If Reformism is opposed to Marxism-Leninism, How do we View
Parliament and Bourgeois Elections?
Adopting either Parliamentarism or anti-parliamentarism is not a principle. Marxists like Lenin advises it as a tactic for when it is necessary to further expose bourgeois social democrats and the inability of the parliament to effect change. By waging enhanced propaganda during elections, "parliamentary cretinism" can be exposed. Lenin wrote on this when the British movement, was following Russian events. No party in Britain called itself "Communist", but four revolutionary groups tried to form one Communist Party. For Sylvia Pankhurst of the Workers Socialist Federation, parliamentarism was an obstruction to unity. Another anti-Parliamentarians, Willie Gallagher of the Scottish Workers Council, argued that the labour party and its leaders (like Henderson, Clynes) were totally corrupt, likening them to German reformists who had shot German workers (Scheidemann and Noske). The anti-Parliamentarians said that the strategy of Parliament was opportunist:
"W.Gallagher: "Any support given to parliamentarism is simply assisting to put power into the hands of our British Scheidemanns and Noskes. Henderson, Clynes and Co. are hopelessly reactionary . . . Any support to the parliamentary opportunists is simply playing into the hands of the (reactionaries). . . . What is wanted here is a sound revolutionary industrial organization, and a Communist Party working along clear, well-defined, scientific lines.". V. I. Lenin: "Left-Wing" Communism, An Infantile Disorder"; IX "Left-Wing" Communism In Great Britain"; Collected Works; Moscow 1980; 17-117; Volume 31; http://www.cruzio.com/~marx2mao/Lenin/LWC20.html#c9
Lenin replied that Willie Gallacher, was honest, but politically immature, and “just coming to communism”- that he and others were relying only on “temper” and were “damaging” the cause:
“This letter, in my opinion, excellently expresses the temper and point of view of the young Communists, or of rank-and file workers who are only just coming to Communism. … without it, it would be hopeless to expect the victory of the proletarian revolution in Great Britain. . And at the same time we must openly and frankly tell them that temper alone is not enough to lead the masses in a great revolutionary struggle, and that such and such mistakes that very loyal adherents of the cause of the revolution are about to commit, or are committing, may damage the cause of the revolution. Comrade Gallacher's letter undoubtedly betrays the germs of all the mistakes that are being committed by the German "Left" Communists and that were committed by the Russian "Left" Bolsheviks in 1908 and 1918." V. I. Lenin: "Left-Wing" Communism, An Infantile Disorder";
Of course Lenin agreed that the leaders of the labour Party were "hopelessly reactionary" (such as Arthur Henderson, J.R.Clynes, Ramsay MacDonald, Philip Snowden). But - it was because of this that they needed to be exposed. Lenin argued against Sylvia Pankhurst’s and Wille Gallachers’ "non-compromising" stance, saying that the masses had to learn from their own experience how the bourgeoisie operated; seeing that parliamentarism would not deliver the revolution would only help workers:
"The Left Communists believe that the transfer of power to the Labour Party is inevitable and admit that at present it has the support of the majority of the workers. From this they draw the strange conclusion which Comrade Sylvia Pankhurst formulates as follows:
"The Communist Party must not compromise. . . . The Communist Party must keep its doctrine pure, and its independence of reformism inviolate; its mission is to lead the way, without stopping or turning, by the direct road to the communist revolution."
On the contrary, from the fact that the majority of the workers in Great Britain still follow the lead of the British Kerenskys or Scheidemanns and have not yet had the experience of a government composed of these people,
which experience was required in Russia and Germany to secure the mass passage of the workers to Communism, it un-doubtedly follows that the British Communists should participate in parliamentary action, that they should, from within parliament, help the masses of the workers to see the results of a Henderson and Snowden government in practice, that they should help the Hendersons and Snowdens to defeat the united forces of Lloyd George and Churchill. To act otherwise would mean placing difficulties in the way of the revolution; for revolution is impossible without a change in the views of the majority of the working class, and this change is brought about by the political experience of the masses, and never by propaganda alone. "
V. I. Lenin: "Left-Wing" Communism, An Infantile Disorder"; Ibid.
Lenin saw that the British masses had not yet seen the state of affairs and were not yet willing nor ready to undertake the hazards of revolution:
(continued on page twenty-one.)
"The fundamental law of revolution… is as follows: it is not enough for revolution that the exploited and oppressed masses should understand the impossibility of living in the old way and demand changes; it is essential for revolution that the exploiters should not be able to live and rule in the old way. Only when the "lower classes " do not want the old way, and when the "upper classes" cannot carry on in the old
way -- only then can revolution triumph. This truth may be expressed in other words: revolution is impossible without a nation-wide crisis (affecting both the exploited and the exploiters). It follows that for revolution it is essential, first, that a majority of the workers (or at least a majority of the class-conscious, thinking, politically active workers) should fully understand that revolution is necessary and be ready to sacrifice their lives for it; secondly, that the ruling classes should be passing through a governmental crisis, which draws even the
most backward masses into politics (a symptom of every real revolution is a rapid, tenfold and even hundredfold increase in the number of members of the toiling and oppressed masses -- hitherto apathetic -- who are capable of waging the political struggle), weakens the government and makes it possible for the revolutionaries to overthrow it rapidly. "
V. I. Lenin: "Left-Wing" Communism, An Infantile Disorder"; Ibid.
It was precisely because conditions were rapidly maturing that Lenin insisted that the best strategy to expose British social-democracy was to join forces and combine into one Communist Party, which should then offer the Labour Party an electoral and practical block:
"If we are the party of the revolutionary class, and not a revolutionary group, if we want the masses to follow us (and unless we do, we stand the risk of remaining mere windbags), we must, firstly, help Henderson or Snowden to beat Lloyd George and Churchill (or, rather, compel the former to beat the latter, because the former are afraid of their victory !); secondly, we must help the majority of the working class to convince themselves by their own experience that we are right, that is, that the Hendersons and Snowdens are absolutely unsuitable, that they are petty bourgeois and treacherous by nature, and that their bankruptcy is inevitable; thirdly, we must bring nearer the moment when, on the basis of the disappointment of the majority of the workers in the Hendersons, it will be possible with serious chances of success to overthrow the government of the Hendersons at once. . . . . . In my opinion, the British Communists should unite their four (all very weak, and some very, very weak) parties and groups into a single Communist Party on the basis of the principles of the Third International and of obligatory participation in parliament. The Communist Party should propose a "compromise" to the Hendersons and Snowdens, an election agreement: let us together fight the alliance of Lloyd George and the Conservatives, let us divide the parliamentary seats in proportion to the number of votes cast by the workers for the Labour Party and for the Communist Party (not at the elections, but in a special vote)," V. I. Lenin: "Left-Wing" Communism, An Infantile Disorder"; Ibid.
But Lenin insisted that it was essential for this tactic – that "the Communist Party .. retain complete liberty of agitation, propaganda and political activity. Without this latter condition, of course, we cannot agree to a bloc, for it would be treachery" :
"The Communist Party should propose a "compromise" to the Hendersons and Snowdens, an election agreement: let us together fight the alliance of Lloyd George and the Conservatives, let us divide the parliamentary seats in proportion to the number of votes cast by the workers for the Labour Party
and for the Communist Party (not at the elections, but in a special vote), and let us retain complete liberty of agitation, propaganda and political activity. Without this latter condition, of course, we cannot agree to a bloc, for it would be treachery; the British Communists must absolutely insist on and secure complete liberty to expose the Hendersons and the Snowdens in the same way as (for fifteen years, 1903-17) the Russian Bolsheviks insisted on and secured it in relation to the Russian Hendersons and Snowdens, i.e., the Mensheviks." V. I. Lenin: "Left-Wing" Communism, An Infantile Disorder"; Ibid.
Under these circumstances, the Communist Party could not lose whether or not the Social-Democrats accepted:
"If the Hendersons and the Snowdens accept a bloc on these terms, we shall be the gainers, because the number of parliamentary seats is of no importance to us; we are not out for seats…….. we shall carry our agitation among the masses .. . . . . . . If the Hendersons and the Snowdens reject a bloc with the Communists, the Communists will gain immediately as regards winning the sympathy of the masses and discrediting the Hendersons and Snowdens; and if as a result we do lose a few parliamentary seats, it is a matter of no
importance to us. …… Comrades Sylvia Pankhurst and Gallacher are mistaken in thinking that this is a betrayal of Communism, or a renunciation of the struggle against the social traitors. On the contrary, the cause of communist
(continued on page twenty-two.)
revolution would undoubtedly gain by it. "
V. I. Lenin: "Left-Wing" Communism, An Infantile Disorder"; Ibid.
2) Is this Just of Relevance to Britain?
Lenin stressed that this was of international significance and not just of British relevance, as shown from his advice to the American party, where a similar discussion took place regarding the USA:
"But the leftism of the Workers Party had to be overcome. Lenin
had been urging the British CP to join the Labour Party at the Comintern
Second Congress. Lenin discussed this with Louis C Fraina (USA), who argued
against him. This was consistent with the American Party's view. But at
the Third Comintern Congress, Lenin again raised the issue, this time meeting
with the entire American delegation.
(Draper; T; "American Communism and Soviet Russia"; New York; 1986; p. 32).
Lenin's advice applied to the USA The Farmers and Labourers’ Party
(FLP) had called for the nationalisation of all public utilities, basic
industries, natural resources, and banking and credit systems, and for
workers participation in industry. In the climate of intense victimisation
of workers, the call by the FLP to a Conference for the Progressive Political
Action for February 1922 acquired major significance. But the Communists
were not invited, partly because the CP first program had made clear to
even their own sympathisers, a reluctance to get involved. They proclaimed
"There can be no compromise either with Labourism or reactionary Socialism". (See Draper; Ibid; p. 31).