Please note that the organization Unity & Struggle referred to here is a U.S. organization that has no relation to the international journal of the same name
Dear Unity & Struggle,
We are sending this letter primarily in response to the Letter to Organizations (printed in Unity & Struggle, December, 1996), but also based on some limited acquaintance with your literature and practical activity.
First, we are glad to see that you correctly uphold Stalin as a great Marxist-Leninist. As we know, the attack on Stalin by the Khrushchev revisionists in 1956 was the beginning of their all-round open attack on Marxism-Leninism. It coincided with their open repudiation of the dictatorship of the proletariat, saying that the Soviet Union had become a "state of the whole people," and their open repudiation of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union as a vanguard party of the working class, saying it had become a "party of the whole people."
We also have seen that you take a serious attitude towards Marxist-Leninist theory, including the study of some of Stalin's works. A correct grasp of theory and its use as a guide to practice is essential in developing the revolutionary struggle in the U.S.
In this context we would like to lay out first and foremost our serious disagreement with one of your main positions raised in the Letter to Organizations and elsewhere. This is your call to "focus on the revolutionary democratic struggle" "to fight for the democratic dictatorship of the working class in alliance with the farmers, democratic petty bourgeoisie and national revolutionary movements," that this is the "scientific next step in the struggle for socialism." Clarity on the character of the revolution in the U.S. is crucial to forming a genuine communist party of the working class.
We are living under bourgeois democracy, which is in fact the dictatorship of the capitalist class. The bourgeois democratic revolution in the U.S. as a whole took place over 200 years ago, a fact which the capitalists distort by trumpeting it as a "pure democracy," a "democracy for all." In the South of the U.S., chattel slavery was overthrown in the Civil War over 130 years ago, leading to the development of an oppressed African-American nation in the Black Belt. Even there, the bourgeois democratic reforms in response to the civil rights movement of the 1960s completed the extension of bourgeois democracy to the country as a whole, while in no way eliminating the character of the African American nation as an oppressed nation in the Black Belt nor lessening the oppression of the African American minority in the rest of the country.
One of the chief tasks of proletarian revolutionaries today is to expose the fraudulent claims of the bourgeoisie and its apologists that the U.S. is a democracy for all, and to show that it is actually a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. In doing so, we must point out that the goal of our socialist revolutionary struggle is to smash this bourgeois dictatorship's repressive state apparatus and replace it with the only real alternative, the dictatorship of the proletariat, as the transition to classless society, communism. Any attempt to introduce an intermediate stage of revolutionary democratic dictatorship in an advanced capitalist country such as the United States is false and can only lead to reformist conclusions.
We take as an example of such conclusions the demand for a "Civilian Police Complaint Review Board," that you raise in the pamphlet "Stop Killer Cops!" and other places. The continuing acts of police terror: murders, beatings and daily harassment, particularly but not only against the oppressed nationalities, have led to continual outbreaks of mass resistance in this country. It is no accident that the majority of urban insurrections in the U.S. since the 1960s have been in response to such acts of police terror. These acts, and the repression against these insurrections, have done much to expose the brutal nature of the U.S. state machine as a dictatorship of the capitalists.
It is the task of genuine Marxist-Leninists, in the course of demands for the arrest, trial, conviction and maximum imprisonment of these cops, and in attempting to give political and other leadership to the response of the masses, to bring out clearly the nature of this capitalist dictatorship. A demand for a civilian police review board can only serve the opposite end, to spread illusions that the state machine can be reformed to somehow serve the people. In New York City, former Mayor David Dinkins established such a civilian police complaint review board sever years ago, in response to mass upsurges against police terror. As the recent murders of Kevin Cedeno, Nathaniel Gaines, Anthony Baez and many others show, this has had no effect on ameliorating police terror. Of course, the claim can be made that this is not a real civilian review board, that its members are not elected, etc. But this only drags one further into the reformist swamp of calling for a better, more democratic state apparatus.
We do not reject other kinds of demands for democratic reforms, such as the restoration of a locally elected school board, especially when its removal was accompanied by the firing of hundreds of teachers and other school workers. But such a demand is qualitatively different from the call to reform the bourgeoisie's armed tools of repression, the police.
Calling for socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat as the immediate task (not in the sense that it can be accomplished tomorrow, but meaning that there are no intermediate stages of revolution in the U.S.) does not in any way mean that we should ignore democratic tasks, or that we should neglect a minimum program. But we see these tasks as part of the proletarian socialist revolution, as helping to develop the consciousness and organization of the proletariat to carry it out, and not as an intervening stage of revolutionary democracy. One of the key democratic tasks is the right of oppressed nations to self-determination including secession, for the African-American nation and other oppressed nations. Of course, if a revolutionary struggle for an independent African-American state in the Black Belt were to break out, separate from a socialist revolution in the country as a whole, and even in a struggle not led by socialists, we would give it full support. But this is not the same as calling for a separate, metaphysical stage of revolutionary democracy. In the U.S. today, real majority rule can only mean rule by the real majority, the working class, i.e. it can only mean the dictatorship of the proletariat.
We can not ignore the fact that there are attempts to distort the historical approach of Marxist-Leninists on this question. The Letter to Organizations states that: "both the Russian and Chinese Revolutions were bourgeois democratic revolutions but under the leadership of Communist parties." This is not correct. China was a semi-feudal, semi-colonial country, and the revolution that triumphed in 1949 with the overthrow of the Chiang Kai-shek regime and his imperialist backers (except in Taiwan Province) was a democratic revolution headed by the Communist Party of China as a first stage towards socialist revolution. But the Russian Revolution, i.e the Bolshevik revolution that triumphed in October 1917 was a socialist revolution. Of course, since Russia had been a tsarist autocracy, the Bolsheviks called first for the overthrow of the tsar and the establishment of a democratic republic, but once that was accomplished in February of 1917 they called for a socialist revolution.
Lenin makes these stages quite clear, in his Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution (written in 1905), when he says (end of chapter 10): "The time will come when the struggle against the Russian autocracy will end and the period of democratic revolution will be over in Russia;... When that time comes we shall attend directly to the question of the socialist dictatorship of the proletariat." Stalin makes essentially the same point, in Foundations of Leninism, Chapter VII on Strategy and Tactics, in the section on the three stages of the Russian Revolution. It should be clear that we in the United States are living under a bourgeois democratic dictatorship, not something like a tsarist autocracy.
Lenin even goes directly to the point of the question of the tasks of the revolution in the United States, when he says: "what is most interesting, of course, is to dwell not so much on these American-Russian parallels... as on the fundamental features of the British and American working-class movements. These features are: the absence of any big, nation-wide democratic tasks facing the proletariat;... the most firmly established democratic systems were under discussion, and these confronted the proletariat with purely socialist tasks." (Preface to the Russian Translation of Letters by Johannes Becker, Joseph Dietzgen, Frederick Engels, Karl Marx, and Others to Friederich Sorge and Others, written in 1907.)
One final point, raised in some of your other material, is the question of a united front against fascism. In 1935, at its Seventh Congress, The Communist International correctly called for a united front to defeat fascism, which was then in power in several major imperialist countries (Germany, Italy and Japan). This period came to an end with the military defeat of these powers in World War II. The call by the Communist Party USA to continue this united front after the war under the slogan of "Revive the Roosevelt Coalition" was a hallmark of its revisionism, that it continued to put forward a policy of Browderism without Browder.
Yes, there is certainly intensified reaction going on today, both within the U.S. and on a world scale. But it is wrong to confuse this intensified reaction with fascism, which is a qualitatively different state form of bourgeois dictatorship. Lenin clearly pointed out in Imperialism, the Highest Form of Capitalism that: "the specific political features of imperialism are reaction all along the line and increased national oppression." (Chapter IX: The Critique of Imperialism.) This intensified reaction is part of the system of imperialism, monopoly capitalism. It still does not justify another stage in the revolutionary movement in the U.S. today short of socialism.
We hope this clarifies our position. We would appreciate your response. We hope for continued interchange of views and activities in the on-going struggle to develop a genuine Marxist-Leninist party in the United States.
From Unity & Struggle
We, the members of Unity & Struggle Newspaper editorial committee, send this letter to initiate a more productive relationship between revolutionary organizations and activists. The present domestic and international situation confirm that, since the overthrow of the USSR, there has been a distinct and dangerous rise of neo-fascist forces around the world.
In the U.S. this is obvious. Since there is no broadly acknowledged revolutionary center for the anti-imperialist movement or the Communist movement, we want to send an invitation to many forces that have been involved with the struggle against imperialism, in various forms. We do not agree with these organizations completely, but we know that there must be a greater unity among revolutionary forces. We must turn back the rising tide of fascism, provide leadership for the democratic revolutionary struggles in the U.S., build the revolutionary democratic movement, a Democratic Workers Party, and, as the basis and catalyst for these, a Communist center that can win the advanced to Communism and build a US Communist Party.
We have phrased these tasks in this fashion because we think, at this time, and in the context of the United States and oppressed North American Nations, that the line Revolutionaries Unite! is our first task: to draw together a broad united front of Revolutionary organizations and activists, create principles of unity to unite a cross section of the most advanced forces, create a center for Democratic Revolutionary movement, Unite Marxist-Leninists in that same front, and win the advanced to Communism in the step by step process of building a U.S. Communist party.
We put forward this line because we believe that in the US. there are not only Marxist-Leninists who are fighting imperialism and working to build the party of the Pro-letariat, but many Revolutionaries from the National and Anti-Imperialist movements who are not Marxist-Leninists.
We think that, in the struggle for socialism, what has been missing in the U.S. is the focus on the revolutionary democratic struggle, the need to fight for the democratic dictatorship of the working class in alliance with the farmers, democratic petty bourgeoisie, and national revolutionary movements.
This struggle is a struggle for MAJORITY RULE, i.e., the rule over U.S. society of the democratic classes, a United Front government of those classes, led by the multinational working class, as the mass foundation and scientific next step in the struggle for socialism.
Too often US activists do not understand that both the Russian and Chinese Revolutions were bourgeois democratic revolutions but under the leadership of Communist parties.
Both Lenin and Mao taught continuously that the only way the path to socialism could be sustained was through a cultural revolution that could maintain the revolutionary focus of the people led by the working class and its Communist Party, thus to finally overthrow the bourgeoisie, and step by step, to paraphrase Marx, eliminate capitalist society.
Anyone who is really familiar with the writings of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, must realize that what came to be the Communist Party began as a broad alliance or united front of various "revolutionary" organizations. Through open struggle before the masses, and consistent revolutionary participation in the mass democratic struggle, not as tails, but as theoretical, political, and organizational leaders, they went through stage after stage, struggling, splitting, uniting, until a critical mass of revolutionary unity was reached. Then complete assimilation into the revolutionary democratic struggles of the working class and the broad masses of people of all classes who were exploited by imperialism was reached, and the revolutionary struggle itself could be advanced to higher, more intense and productive stages.
1. Oppose imperialism & monopoly capitalism in its various forms (i.e., neo-colonialism);
2. oppose national oppression and racism, the oppression of women; support all genuinely democratic struggles;
3. oppose the exploitation of all peoples;
4. support the struggle for Revolutionary or Peoples Democracy and the Democratic Dictatorship of Workers and Farmers and democratic petty bourgeoisie led by the working class as the next stage of the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism;
5. put together principles of unity that would be the basis for such a Revolutionary Unity;
6. unite to build a broad national newspaper reflecting the nature of the United Front of Revolutionaries, in which each organization and trend would be able to express their views on all topics and themes, and put forward their ideological and political lines, with the constant dialogue and polemic such a form must permit;
7. it is our view that propaganda and agitation in the reciprocating forms are the chief activity of Revolutionaries during this period. We especially hold that the struggle to build a new superstructure, that will oppose rising fascism, push for the democratic dictatorship of MAJORITY RULE, is the key to moving the whole movement ahead now.
It is critical in this reactionary period that the minimum democratic program for the revolutionary movement to be put forward sharply, since it is often neglected by Revolutionaries. At the same time the maximum program for socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat must also be put forward as the expressed leadership of the Revolutionary class.
The minimum program for Peoples' Democracy is far more advanced than those things that pass for democracy in the U.S. This program must be at the core of our call for MAJORITY RULE, i.e., the democratic dictatorship of the working class in alliance with the farmers, democratic petty bourgeoisie, and national liberation movements.
We ask first for a response from your organization. Then we will contact everyone and set up a meeting time and place and move to the next step.
This is only a partial and superficial statement of our views on this matter, but we feel it should be enough to move the process forward.
U&S Editorial Board
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