Marxism Develops in Struggle against Reformism and Anarchism
“Teacher training camps should be organized” directed the Bardhaman cadre convention, “maybe on linguistic/zonal basis so that we have sufficient teachers to run the district schools.” This was felt necessary for regularising and standardising Party education at middle and lower levels. The first such camp was held in Jehanabad, Bihar, on 14-16 November. 33 comrades selected as teachers for district level schools to be held in Bihar and Jharkhand participated. After some brief introductory remarks by Arindam Sen, central education department (CED) members Ramjatan Sharma, Arindam Sen, Lalbahadur Singh and Pradeep Jha introduced and led discussions on the following five topics:
· Basics of Marxism
· Party Programme and Tactics
· Principles of Communist Organisation and Party Constitution
· Party History
· Marxist Policy and Viewpoints
Similar camps will be organised in Chennai at the end of this month for teachers from South Indian states and in early December at Kolkata for those from East and Northeast India, to be followed soon by one in Delhi for North Indian states.
Below we reproduce some excerpts from the study materials for the first topic.
Reformism originated with
the Fabian Society in England (founded in 1884 with leading intellectuals like Sydney and Beatrice Webb, Ramsay MacDonald and Bernard Shaw) and then spread to the rest of Europe. Basically, reformism holds that capitalism can be transformed into socialism by a series of gradual changes, without any qualitative rupture, that is, without a revolution. When by the end of the 19th-century pre-Marxian reformism was more or less defeated by the Marxian doctrine in the working class movement, it reappeared on the soil of Marxism itself as amendments to Marxism, as revisionism. The father of revisionism was a one-time orthodox Marxist, Bernstein, whose catch-phrase “the movement is everything, the ultimate aim is nothing” was diametrically opposed to the declaration of the Communist Manifesto that in the movement of the present communists always represent and take care of the future of that movement. Lenin defined the substance of revisionism in the following words:
“To determine its conduct from case to case, to adapt itself to the events of the day and to the chopping and changing of petty politics, to forget the primary interests of the proletariat and the basic features of the whole capitalist system, of all capitalist evolution, to sacrifice these primary interests for the sake of real or assumed advantages of the moment — such is the policy of revisionism. ... every more or less ‘new’ question, every more or less unexpected and unforeseen turn of events,... will always inevitably give rise to one variety of revisionism or another.”
Anarchism, by contrast, negates or neglects the role of protracted mass political work as a condition for the attainment of a revolutionary goal, say seizure of power or abolition of the state. Among its first and most influential proponents was Russia’s Bakunin, an opponent of Marx in the First International. His theory was that abolition of the bourgeois state was the immediate task, which the workers were to carry out not by forming a workers’ party, not by political struggle, but by ‘direct action’. The anarchists fail to understand that the abolition of the state belongs to a future historical stage, which can only be reached through the dictatorship of the proletariat. One variant of this trend is syndicalism or anarcho-syndicalism, which holds that workers can capture factories and seize power through trade unions without a disciplined proletarian party. Lenin brought out the political characteristics of anarchism very clearly in the following words:
“Anarchism is bourgeois individualism in reverse…. Anarchism is a product of despair. [It is the] psychology of the unsettled intellectual or the vagabond and not of the proletarian … Failure to understand the class struggle of the proletariat. Absurd negation of politics in bourgeois society. …Failure to understand the role of the organisation and the education of the workers. …Panaceas consisting of one-sided, disconnected means. …Subordination of the working class to bourgeois politics in the guise of negation of politics.” (Anarchism and Socialism CW Vol.5, pp327-328)
Reformism/revisionism and anarchism/left phrase-mongering constitute a unity of opposites: they unite in their opposition to revolutionary Marxism and in given conditions tend to transform into each other. Lenin pointed out this connection very precisely when he wrote, “... in practice the anarchists’ phrase-mongering converts them into the crudest accomplices of opportunism, into the reverse side of opportunism.”
“Bourgeois ideologists, liberals and democrats, not understanding Marxism, … are constantly jumping from one futile extreme to another.... Both anarcho-syndicalism and reformism must be regarded as the direct product of this bourgeois world-outlook and its influence. They seize upon one aspect of the labour movement, elevate one-sidedness to a theory, and declare mutually exclusive those tendencies or features of this movement that are a specific peculiarity of a given period, of given conditions of working-class activity. But real life, real history, includes these different tendencies, just as life and development in nature include both slow evolution and the rapid leaps, breaks in continuity.
The revisionists regard as phrase mongering all arguments about “leaps” and about the working class movement being antagonistic in principle to the whole of the old society. They regard reforms as a partial realisation of socialism. The anarcho-syndicalists reject “petty work”, especially the utilisation of the parliamentary platform. In practice, the latter tactics amount to waiting for “great days” along with an inability to master the forces which create great events. Both of them hinder the thing that is most important and most urgent, namely, to unite the workers in big, powerful and properly functioning organisations, capable of functioning well under all circumstances, permeated with the spirit of the class struggle, clearly realising their aims and trained in the true Marxist world-outlook.”
The inevitability of the emergence and re-emergence of right and left opportunist tendencies in the proletarian movements of all countries is determined by their class roots in the broad strata of petty bourgeoisie or small proprietors who live in close, organic association with the proletariat and from whose ranks a steady stream joins the ranks of the proletariat and its party. It is only natural, therefore, that in every country the correct line of communist movement develops only in course of the continuous ideological struggle against what we may call “revisionism from the right” and “revisionism from the left”.
Summing up the entire experience up to 1920, Lenin wrote in ‘Left-Wing’ Communism — an Infantile Disorder that Bolshevism developed, gained strength and became steeled in struggle against two “enemies within the working class movement”. One was right opportunism or Menshivism — “the principal enemy” — and this side of the story has been fairly well-known throughout the world. Much less known was the relentless fight “against petty bourgeois revolutionism, which smacks of anarchism… the petty proprietor, the small master … who, under capitalism, always suffers oppression and very frequently a most acute and rapid deterioration in his conditions of life, and even ruin, easily goes to revolutionary extremes, but is incapable of perseverance, organisation, discipline and steadfastness. A petty bourgeois driven to frenzy by the horrors of capitalism is a social phenomenon which, like anarchism, is characteristic of all capitalist countries. The instability of such revolutionism, its barrenness, and its tendency to turn rapidly into submission, apathy, phantasms, and even at frenzied infatuation with one bourgeois fad or another — all this is common knowledge.”
In China, too, Mao Zedong’s correct political line developed in course of continuous struggle against right and ‘left’ deviations. And in this country as well as in Russia, both these maladies — with the former posing the main danger in an overall sense — continued to appear even after revolution in ever newer forms. This was only to be expected, for the petty bourgeoisie still constituted an important segment of society and its class outlook frequently infiltrated into the party. Moreover, the representatives of old ruling classes — which were ousted but not completely eliminated — tried to influence party policy through various channels like the bureaucracy.
In the Soviet Union, “the struggle on two fronts, against the ‘Lefts’, who represent petty bourgeois radicalism, and against the Rights who represent petty bourgeois liberalism” — as Stalin put it (collected Works of Stalin, volume 12, page 372) — went on throughout the decades of socialist construction. After the death of Stalin, right revisionism consolidated itself in the party leadership and thus gained control of the state machinery too. The Khruschov revisionist clique declared that dictatorship of the proletariat had become redundant in the Soviet Union, which had become a “state of the whole people”. This was a total renunciation of the fundamental ideological positions of Marxism Leninism, which holds that the state, so long as it exists, has to be a dictatorship of one class to hold down another, (i.e., in a modern society it can exist only as at dictatorship of the bourgeoisie or that of the proletariat) and when this dictatorship becomes redundant the state itself also becomes redundant and withers away (see Chapter II). In politics, the revisionists preached a doctrine of “three peacefuls” — peaceful coexistence of socialism and imperialism, peaceful competition between the two camps and peaceful transition to socialism (in pre-revolutionary societies) via the parliamentary path. This implied renunciation of the struggle against imperialism on a world scale and rejection of revolutionary movement against ruling classes at national levels.
The Communist Party of China launched a veritable ideological war on this modern revisionism, exposing Khruschev as a disciple of Bernstein and Kautsky. In continuation of this struggle and in an attempt to prevent such right revisionist takeover in China, Mao Zedong launched what has come to be known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. He correctly identified the danger of capitalist restoration under the auspices of revisionist capitalist roaders in the communist party in power; he drew attention to the most pertinent ideological problems of building socialism, particularly in backward countries; but his method of solving these through the GPCR drifted along the opposite, i.e., ‘left’ deviation. Ultimately it proved counter-productive, with the ultra-left “gang of four” capturing power in the party. Thus a grave ‘left’ deviation occurred in course of fighting the right. Another well-known instance of anarchist blunder born of petty bourgeois impetuosity was the Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea. Here even money and commodity exchange were sought to be abolished in an over-hasty attempt to eradicate all vestiges of capitalism and build a communist economy in a backward society, while all opposition was brutally crushed in the name of exercising the dictatorship of the proletariat.
To return to Mao’s struggle against Khruschev revisionism, it engulfed the international communist movement in a “Great Debate” in early and mid-sixties, and this had its repercussions in our country too. Those who opposed Soviet revisionism organised themselves as the CPI(M). But the leadership of the new party refused to consistently uphold Mao Zedong thought and, in the name of maintaining “equidistance” from the Russian and Chinese lines, slipped into a centrist or neo-revisionist position. Revolutionary communists within the CPI(M) therefore had to launch a bitter struggle against this revisionism too, which exposed its reactionary kernel when it came to power in West Bengal as a partner of the UF. In a situation of open rebellion of the oppressed peasantry under the leadership of revolutionary communists — who in due course organised themselves as the CPI(ML) — the CPI(M) in power sided fully with the reactionary classes. Thus began its metamorphosis into social democracy, a process that benefited enormously from the subsequent collapse of the immediate revolutionary challenge and reached a higher, more manifest phase after 1977.
The whole experience of the past 29 years, the present hobnobbing of the Buddhadev Bhattacharya government with the Salims and Tatas, the NGOs and international lending agencies, the role of the CPI and CPI(M) as indirect partners of the ruling UPA and the thorough “updating” of the CPI(M)’s programme and policies at the national level mostly under the impact of the West Bengal practice — all this is well-known. And all this reveals to us the utter bankruptcy of revisionism turned social democracy even when it enjoys only a share of state power in just one province (or a few provinces) and aspires for a bigger presence in the central power structure. For a classic case of social democracy in full control of state power, look at the Tony Blair government in the UK — the enemy of working people in that country and internationally the most servile accomplice of US imperialism. It is interesting to note that this ‘Labour Party’ woes its origin to the Fabian Society, the mother of reformism as a distinct political trend. It thus represents the entire historic trajectory of reformism growing to revisionism to social democracy, and in this field our homegrown CPI(M) too is setting another world record, albeit in another context.
In concluding this section, let us recall Lenin’s brilliant observation that anarchism is not infrequently a kind of penalty for the opportunist sins of the working class movement (‘Left Wing’ Communism). In our country we have witnessed this law operating in two different, typical ways. First, directly: the rise of ‘left’ petty bourgeois revolutionism at the party centre under Ranadive in 1948-50 as a reaction to the preceding long spell of tailism in the name of unity with the Congress against British imperialism; the trends of infantile leftism that had crept into the first phase of the CPI(ML) movement as an outburst against right revisionism of the CPI and the CPI(M); the hardened and well-entrenched (as distinct from “infantile”) Maoist current today which thrives as an anarcho-militarist answer to the prevalent parliamentary cretinism of the official Left. Second, and more important, in an opposite way: treading along the parliamentary path since 1952 as the only viable alternative to Ranadive’s playing with insurrection; the full flourish of social democracy after the colossal miscarriage of the first revolutionary upsurge following Naxalbari; the post-setback liquidationism in the ML movement justifying itself as a correction of some ‘left’ deviations.
This dual experience enjoins on us to develop our revolutionary praxis in course of a long-drawn battle against right opportunism (especially in its centrist garb) as the main danger in the left movement in general and against ‘left’ sectarianism or anarcho-militarism as the main deviation in the Naxalite or ML movement in particular.