Manual for Revolutionary Leaders
Chapter 1: Generation of Revolutionaries
Plunder and war continue to spread across the world. They are stuff of past and present history. The greater the material product of society the greater the plunder; the larger the stock of productive forces the more extensive the destruction.
It is not the task of this manual to examine the plunder or the destruction, but to treat contemporary forms of resisting them. Among forms of resistance only two will be examined: a form which has become established as the modern model of revolution, and resistance which takes the form of a continually changing response to continually developing productive forces.
It is the task of the manual to apply the twentieth century model of revolution to the conditions created by the development of productive forces. By its successes this model has proved itself the quintessence of revolutionary political activity in modern times. Its processes have so far been limited to conditions characterized by a low level of development of productive forces. At a high level of development of productive forces, responses to the dominant social order take the form of attempts of individuals to realize their self-powers, their capacities, to the level made possible by social development. Social relations that have played out their historical role come into conflict with the possibilities opened up by the productive forces. Suddenly people who have come on the scene, who have become disenchanted with the entire system, who have become disillusioned over the system and who are ready now and willing to do something about it. The possibilities of the productive forces cease to be the subject of prayer, the promised land to which a savior will someday lead mankind.
The attempt of individuals to realize their self-powers to the level made possible by contemporary productive forces is a threat to the stability of the dominant social order, which tries to purge itself of rebellious elements. However, in spite of the repressive character of the social context in which they appear, at a high level of development productive forces, rebellious responses to the social order do not avail themselves of the modern model of revolution. The attempt of individuals to live at the contemporary level of development of the productive forces does not give rise to activities consistent with the quintessence of revolutionary political practice, namely to revolutionary organizational ideology, leadership and the struggle for State power. On the contrary, distinct moves in the opposite direction can be observed.
Although the aim of the manual is to apply the modern model revolution to conditions of highly developed productive forces, a brief overview of responses which move outside the boundaries of this model will be given because these responses are themselves the field out of which leaders emerge, and because the field itself becomes a raw material which leaders attempt to shape and transform.
Responses to the social order have been conditioned by the available means for human development and by the form of the dominant social relations. In modern times, the material instruments as well as the social relations have served a specific historical function: the accumulation of Capital. The period of accumulation of Capital consists of an expanded reproduction of productive forces accompanied by a constant reproduction of social relations. At a low level of development of productive forces, the means of survival are scarce, there is little surplus and society is constrained by this material scarcity to expend its productive energy ensuring its survival. Productive activity is forced labor. It is enforced by a security apparatus whose level of development corresponds to the possibilities of the productive forces. Producers create an industrial technology which eliminates the material necessity for forced labor while reproducing the social conditions of forced labor. Productive forces which eliminate the material conditions of scarcity become social instruments for the maintenance of scarcity. Paucity ceases to be a function of nature and becomes a function of social relations.
It is said that the strength of the Ottoman Empire resided in a peculiar social relation. Children of victimized communities were kid-napped by an occupying army. The children were taken abroad, given military training, and a generation later they returned to their own communities as the occupying army. A similar but more refined characterizes the process of accumulation of Capital. It takes two distinct forms, depending on the two different historical sources of accumulated Capital: pre-capitalist communities and capitalism’s own wage laborers.
The Empire of Capital attacks pre-capitalist forms of productive activity, peasant economies, and transforms them into sources of primitive accumulation, into external and internal colonies of capitalism. Crude Ottoman methods of coercion are abandoned, not for moral reasons, but because refined capitalist methods prove historically more effective. Brute force gives way to the more civilized form of economic coercion. Kidnapping takes the more humane form of alienation, or sale, of the surplus product of the pre-capitalist community. The return of the children as a foreign occupying army takes the subtler form of a return of the alienated surplus product in the shape of foreign Capital, a foreign administration, a foreign army, plus an assortment of educators and missionaries. The bewildered invaded community cannot possibly recognize its alienated surplus product in the transformed shape in which it returns, incorporated in Capital, administration and army, even in the weapons, teachers and priests.
The other, predominant, and proper capitalist form of accumulation supercedes the peculiar institution of the Ottoman Empire as a method for turning the life of a community against itself. In this type of Capital accumulation, kidnapping takes the unremarkable form of a normal, uneventful capitalist working day. During the regular course of an average day, what is alienated by the producer is not a child; it is the producer’s own self, the productive power, the producer’s labor. This productive power, this living activity materialized in products of labor, does not return to the community of producers in the form of a foreign occupying power. On the contrary, it surrounds the producer from birth to death. It is the environment. It is home, work, play, and the spaces in between. The producer’s estranged activity turns against the producer in the form of the dominant institutions of modern social life: the State, commodity production and the division of labor. The communities occupied by the Ottoman army reproduced the next generation of oppressors in the act of reproducing themselves. The wage laborers of capitalism reproduce the State, commodity production and the division of labor in the act of reproducing themselves.
The two different forms of capital accumulation — estrangement of pre-capitalist producers’ surplus product, and estrangement of industrial workers’ labor — have led to two different historical situations for the human beings who are the sources of this accumulation. In one case the producer is excluded from the contemporary level of humanity, in the other the producer is deprived of human self-powers.
In the case of a pre-capitalist community transformed into a source of accumulation of Capital, a colony, the stable and comforting harmony of the traditional ways is destroyed, but not replaced. The colonized is severed from the form of humanity that had previously corresponded to a pre-industrial level of productive forces — a form of humanity made coherent and meaningful by the reenactment of cycles of social activity which responded to natural cycles: seasons, births, ages and deaths. The accumulation of Capital destroys the static harmony of the community without making the community dynamic. It destroys the necessity of the cycles of social activity without removing the dependence on nature. It destroys a harmonious, ceremonialized, mythologically justified struggle for survival mitigated by traditional feasts and familiar festivals, and leaves behind an anachronistic, hard, no longer justified, unmitigated struggle for survival. The oppression of the colonized does not lie in the destruction of the previous form of social relations: this form becomes a local anachronism at the moment when the productive forces of humanity make its transcendence possible. The oppression lies in the exclusion of the colonized from the humanity made possible by the development of productive forces; the oppression is experienced in the gap between the colonized and the “humanity” of the colonizer. The magnitude of the gap between the colonized and the colonizer is determined by the extent to which the colonized are deprived of the productive forces available to the colonizer. In other words, the smaller the Capital of the colonized community and the greater the exclusion from contemporary productive forces, the greater the gap between the situation of the colonized and the “humanity” of the colonizer.
On the other hand, in the case of the industrial workers integrally tied to the contemporary productive forces, the greater the social fund of accumulated Capital, the embodied labor stored in means of production, the greater the power of the social class that controls the accumulated Capital, the productive forces that confront the producer is the property of another class. The portion of expended living labor not necessary for the survival of that labor, the surplus labor, takes the form of Capital, the form of a material force that turns on the producer as the power of another class, as an alien force. Thus the greater the power of the productive forces, the product of labor, the greater the power of Capital, the power of the class that rules, the smaller the power of producers over the product of their labor, their self-powers in the environment their labor creates.
Labor power is estranged under duress; it is sold in exchange for a living wage; its estrangement is a condition for survival. In the form of Capital, the estranged power is appropriated by a class which, by “owning” it, personifies it. The power conferred on this class by the simple formality of “ownership” is the power to decide, and to order or decree, everything that is done with the productive forces which it personifies. Since what is done with these productive forces determines the shape of the environment in which contemporary human beings live and the activities in which they engage, the power of the class that personifies Capital is virtually absolute.
The powers estranged by the producers and personified by the rulers are divided and subdivided. Specific powers are delegated to specific offices or departments. The occupants of the offices are representatives in a representative democracy; leaders, heads or chiefs elsewhere where. Whether they reach the office by election, appointment or conquest, they wield the specific powers delegated to the specific office; they personify a specific fragment of the power estranged by society.
Among the personifications, embodiments, representatives of society’s estranged powers, by far the most important is the hierarchy of offices collectively known as the State. The State is the personification of the power of community, the estranged power of individuals to decide collectively the methods, means and purpose of their social activity. It is the specific office of the State to use all available means to ensure that the power of community remains estranged.
Since the productive power of society is estranged by producers, appropriated by another class, and represented by “persons” who occupy the offices to which the power is delegated, it appears to the producers that it is not the producers but the personifications who produce. This is an appearance, a hallucination, but it is difficult for one to see through the hallucinations of one’s own age, since one is born into them. In an earlier age, when it was said that France conquered Burgundy in a field, the real event was a military encounter between two armies recruited from among the populations of France and Burgundy, but the statement described the encounter between two individuals, the personification of France and the personification of Burgundy. In other words, it appears that the capacities, the powers, are not in the individuals who wield them, but in the personifications.
This hallucination could not arise if the assumed power of the personification rested on brute force, on coercion. If the power of the personification had rested on brute force in the case of France’s conquest of Burgundy, the history of the earlier period would have been remarkable since, in order to conquer the Duke, the King would first have had to conquer France — one individual against a multitude of peasants. If this had been the case, the King’s conquest of the peasants would have been so much more spectacular than his conquest of the Duke that the latter event would not have reached the history books.
But in this case the King would have had to be described in terms of his own self-powers, however great these might have been, and not as a personification, as a King, as France.
The power of the personification lies precisely in the hallucination, and not in the individual who occupies the office. Certain words pronounced by a specific individual are not a statement of policy or a declaration of war unless that individual is seen as the authority who has the right to state policy and declare war; the words of this individual cannot have consequences unless other human beings submit to this authority and consider it their duty to obey. The personification is able to wield the power delegated to a specific office only when the legitimacy of the office is accepted. Legitimacy is not a property possessed by the office or by the specific occupant of the office. Legitimacy is a property conferred on the office and its personage by all other individuals.
Although many of the commands of a personification are enforced by violent means, the granting of legitimacy is not the result of coercion. If the power of a personification rested on violence alone, the personification would not need to be legitimate to realize its commands. Furthermore, if the physical power of an individual was great enough to enable the individual to enforce commands, the individual would not need to personify estranged social powers. Violence accompanies the power wielded by a personification, but does not make the personification legitimate. The office and its personage become legitimate only when the authority of the office and its occupant is internalized by all other individuals. By accepting the legitimacy of an office to wield a specific social power, individuals abdicate their own power over that part of social life. As soon as individuals abdicate this power, the office to which the power is abdicated becomes an “authority” which has the “right” to wield that power; an individual who does not abdicate the power becomes a “criminal” who has no “right” to wield it; all others are obedient, “good,” and “law-abiding citizens” to the extent that they exert no power over that part of social activity. The abdication is not a historical event that took place at a specific time in the past; it is a daily event that takes place every time people submit to authority.
By transforming the productive power of society into an alienable commodity, into labor sold for a wage, capitalism extended the personification of estranged power into all realms of social life. As soon as an individual consents to sell productive energy for a given sum of money, this sum of money becomes the “equivalent” of the productive energy, the money possesses the potency of the productive energy. Money becomes the representative of productive power, instruments of production, and product. As soon as all individuals consent to sell their productive energy, money becomes the universal representative of society’s productive power. It is at this point that society’s productive forces become Capital, which is only another name for the power of productive forces represented by a given sum of money. And as soon as the productive forces take the form of Capital, possessors of large sums of money are Capitalists, personifications of the productive power represented by their sum of money, personifications of society’s productive forces. It is the sale of productive power that makes money the universal historical agent. At this point cities are built and destroyed, environments are transformed, history is made, by the spending of sums of money. At this point individuals or even communities have abdicated their power to build environments which suit them. Only investors, personifications of all social building, whose power resides in the creative potency of their money, are able to construct environments.
By abdicating their power of community to the State and their productive power to Capital, human beings alienate virtually all their golf-powers. Furthermore, by internalizing the power of the personifications by conferring on them the legitimacy of Authority, human beings simultaneously internalize their own powerlessness. Every act which lies within the sphere of influence of a personification is out of bounds for on individual. Individuals not only view the wielding of their own powers over the environment as illegitimate, morally wrong; they come feel themselves unable to wield these powers: the personifications are able to do everything; the individual is unable to do anything.
This much is common knowledge. However, it is a peculiarity of modern social life that the precise opposite is also common knowledge. In other words, it is obvious to everyone that these totally powerless individuals are the very same individuals who do the building, the transporting, the operating, the repairing, the thinking. Under the rule of personified powers, individuals simultaneously engage in productive activity and do not engage in it, or rather, it is the productive individuals who do the producing and at the same time it is not the productive individuals who do the producing. This paradox is the great wonder of the Western world; it is Europe’s singular contribution to world culture. The paradox resides in the fact that, as soon as individuals abdicate their self-powers to personifications of these powers, the individuals fall victim to the personifications; they become instruments, or media, through which the powers of the personifications are exercised. Thus it is possible for the same individuals to poison the air during the working day and to breathe the poisoned air while resting at night, since it is not these individuals who poison the air; it is General Motor. Thus it is possible for the same individuals to produce weapons in peace time and to slaughter each other with the weapons in war time, since it is not these individuals who produce the weapons or fight the wars; the weapons are produced by General Dynamics and the war is fought by General Eisenhower, Field Marshal Rommel and Marshal Stalin.
However, the creation of universal powerlessness is not capitalism’s only historical accomplishment. The other side of the picture is a truly representative democracy in which each individual is able to participate in at least a fragment of the personified power of society. This democracy is made possible by two characteristics of the universal representative of society’s productive power: it is liquid, and thus can flow from hand to hand regardless of rank or social office, and it is infinitely divisible, enabling everyone to have it. Thus while everyone is deprived of self-powers over the social environment, no one is excluded from a share in the personified powers.
This is not the case with the powers of an office. For example, a “good electrician” is one who does no more and no less than precisely what is assigned to the office, or craft, of “electricians.” The accomplishment of a “good electrician” is under no circumstances the unique result of a particular encounter of a specific individual with given instruments. The “job” is the standard result expected from that office. Any other “good electrician” would accomplish exactly the same result. In other words, the powers reside in the office; the individual is merely a more or less efficient instrument of the office. Furthermore, to the extent that a human being becomes one with an office, identifies the powers of the self with the powers of the office, to that extent the human being becomes a personification of certain social powers and negates herself or himself as a human being. An individual who becomes what “we electricians,” “we doctors” or “we teachers” are, becomes a thing which responds in a specific standard manner, which performs its special expected routine, whenever it is activated by money. This internalization of personified powers is the cement that holds together the social relations.
During the course of Capital accumulation, there has been a recurring interest in the production of robots, and remarkably successful prototypes have been designed and produced. A robot is a machine whose behavior is similar to that of a human being who internalizes the division of labor. Like the human being who has been elevated to an expert or a professional, the robot possesses a specific virtue or potency, a special field in which its powers are developed to the level required by the task to which it is assigned. Like the expert, the robot is able to execute perfectly the powers of its specific office. The robot is able to evaluate whether it finds itself in one or another of a given set of situations, to choose the approach suitable to the given situation, and to correct itself if it errs. If the robot has the ability to evaluate, choose, and correct itself, these abilities are part of the instructions programmed into it when it was produced. In other words, these powers are not the robot’s own, but the programmer’s. The robot has no self-powers; it has no “self.” In any given situation the robot’s behavior takes the form of one of several pre-determined and therefore expected behaviors. Therefore the robot is an ideal component for an efficient division of labor. It is the model of an ideal citizen in a representative democracy. If it did not possess certain striking limitations, the robot would undoubtedly have replaced the human being as the New Man of industrial society.
Unfortunately for the society of personified powers, the robot’s limitations are not mere technological shortcomings; they are part of the robot’s very nature, so to speak. It has already been shown that industrial, strictly modern productive activity is characterized by the fact that human beings are simultaneously engaged in it and not engaged in it. With robots, this ambiguity would disappear: human beings would not be engaged in productive activity. However, the disappearance of the ambiguity could lead to the disappearance of industrial society itself, since the system of represented powers rests precisely on this ambiguity. Social life in an industrial epoch does not consist of a predicted sequence of expected situations, but of an unexpected sequence of unimagined situations. It is precisely the human ability to invent original approaches to unforeseen problems that is counted on to make the system function efficiently and predictably. This can be illustrated with the example of a traffic jam in the warehouse district of Manhattan. There are times on weekday afternoons when a large area of narrow streets becomes completely blocked with trucks, buses, cabs and cars standing one or two inches apart in a grid where all exists are barred. The normal flow of laborers and commodities comes to a complete standstill. Drivers are unable to continue to their destinations or to return to their places of origin: they are locked in place. Under present circumstances, the combined ingenuity of the human drivers is required to invent an exit out of an unexpected cul de sac, since every major traffic jam is historically unique. However, In the case of automated drivers, the trucks, buses, taxis and cars would have to be air-lifted out of Manhattan, an event which would only be followed by a yet more spectacular jam at the bridges when the automations try once again to reach their pre-determined destinations. If the automated drivers are programmed to activate another set of automatons in cases of traffic jams, for example an automated traffic police, the bottleneck could reach proportions which are unimaginable under present circumstances; it could lead to a complete standstill of all industrial activity.
Thus the individuals who are in daily contact with the dynamic elements of society, the constantly changing productive forces, are expected to be automatic and imaginative at the same time. For example, the drivers cited earlier are expected to exercise no more and no less than the powers of their specific office: the transportation of given goods to pre-determined destinations. However, precisely in the course of exercising the powers of their office, precisely while doing what “we drivers” have always done, these individuals are also expected to exercise their own self-powers, to do what “we drivers” have never done. Under present circumstances, namely when truck drivers are also human beings, it would not be normal, even for transport programmers, to expect a driver and a loaded truck to disappear only to be discovered months later locked in a newly built low-clearance tunnel. A “good driver” is not expected to have an imagination while exercising the powers of the office, an imagination which would explore the potential destinations and uses of the products in the truck. Yet the same driver is expected to have an imagination while exercising these powers in order to cope with unprogrammed and therefore unexpected detours, bottlenecks and breakdowns. This duality, this only partial negation of the worker’s self-powers, is of course the source of continual turbulence in an otherwise stable system, a fact which explains the recurring interest in robots. The fact that human powers — desire, ingenuity, whim, caprice — remain necessary in an otherwise efficient system daily and hourly reintroduces the possibility that goods will not reach their pre-determined destinations.
Because of their closeness to means of production, their daily contact with society’s dynamic productive forces, the producers of Capital, of society’s personified power, are not in fact the ideal prototypes of modern society. These individuals cannot perfectly internalize the powers of their offices since, in the daily exercise of these powers, they are forced to transcend them.
The internalization of personified powers is best exhibited by Individuals whose daily activity separates them from the social means of production, who do not have daily contact with society’s productive forces. This generalization probably applies to most societies. For example, in a feudal society, it is not artisans who illustrate a stable and complete type of feudal human being. In daily contact with changing productive forces, artisans change their approaches, and therefore their behavior, their “type.” It is rather the members of the feudal ideological establishment, clerics, the intellectuals of the period, who are complete feudal “types,” who perfectly embody the dominant behavior of the age.
In modern society, complete types, perfect embodiments of the ruling behavior, can be found in activities which are physically separated from society’s productive forces, which are geographically quarantined: the activities of artists, independent “professionals,” full-time political organizers, and particularly the activities of members of the political and educational hierarchies. It is among these individuals that the internalization of personified powers takes its most acute form. When an individual “becomes” a plumber or a lathe operator, namely when an individual internalizes the powers of the office of plumbers or lathe operators, that individual internalizes the forms of behavior characteristic of the office, but not the thoughts and feelings, the entire “self,” so to speak, of the office. The thoughts and feelings, the self, are presumed to remain the individual’s own, and are even required during the exercise of the powers of the office, as was shown earlier. Therefore what “we plumbers feel” or what “we lathe-operators think” cannot have authority, and is therefore irrelevant, because thoughts and feelings are not among the powers of these offices. In other words, “we plumbers” install pipes in ways pre-determined by the office of plumbers, but “we plumbers” cannot think or feel in ways pre-determined by the office of plumbers.
The limitation of the powers of an office to forms of external behavior does not encumber the offices of the ideological establishment. When an individual internalizes the powers of an ideological office, the individual’s entire self is absorbed by the office. For example, what “We Economists think” is considered relevant, it is authoritative, it is licensed and certified by the office of economists. In this realm of social activity, the powers of offices extend to thoughts and feelings.
Thus, “We Sociologists think,” “We Lawyers think,” “We Situationists think” the thoughts of the office. Thus, “We Teachers feel,” and “We Artists experience” the official emotions socially, ally delegated to these offices. This is what makes the intellectual a complete type. The self-powers of such an individual are synonymous with the powers of all office, and thus a given individual is in all respects identical to all the other individuals who personify the powers of the given office.
Although the total immersion of an individual in an office is an acute mental disorder, as will be shown below, it is frequently experienced as a social privilege, as a form of well-being. This is not a case of being meek in order to be exalted; it is not a case of deferred enjoyment, of present suffering for the sake of future exaltation, of self-estrangement as a means to a later reappropriation of self-powers. On the contrary, this subjective experience of well-being, this “self-satisfaction,” is completely gratuitous; it has no human motivation. The experience of being privileged is itself lodged, not in the individual, but in the office. The “self-satisfaction” is characteristic of the given office.
This phenomenon of a total negation of self-powers accompanied by an internalized official self-satisfaction is extremely widespread among members of the academic establishment, formerly known as clerics, later as clerks, in France known as functionaries of the State, and known in the United States as professors. A professor is a clerk or functionary whose specific office it is to profess the thoughts of a given profession. In the past, at a lower level of personification of social powers, a similar functionary was said to profess the thoughts of a given school, or to read the conceptions of a given area of knowledge; this left open the possibility that, on another day, the same individual could profess the thoughts of another school, or read the conceptions of another area of knowledge. However, at the present level of personification, the individual is, or embodies, a given school of thought or area of knowledge. For example, a given functionary is a Sociologist, Economist, Anthropologist, Physicist. Furthermore, this is all the individual is, in exactly the same way that a chair is all that a chair is. An Economist cannot become an Anthropologist without ceasing to be what he was, any more than a chair can become a table without ceasing to be a chair, without first being decomposed into lumber and nails.
The individuals who occupy the offices of the academic establishment collectively personify the entire spiritual life of modern industrial society. The type of behavior which can be expected in these individuals has been illustrated by an experiment carried out at a major U.S. university. The “subjects” of the experiment were modern intellectuals. The experiment contained a random sample of individuals picked from among those who consider themselves, and are, military physicists, philosophers, mathematicians specializing in nuclear war, musicologists, specialists in the social-psychology of concentration camps, historians, price theorists, as well as aspirants to these offices. The “subject” of the experiment, the professor, is shown a room equipped with an electric chair. He is told that a “pupil” will be strapped to the chair during the course of the experiment. He is also told that the experiment is about “learning theory.” Neither of these statements is in fact true; they are designed to elicit the behavior the professor would exhibit if the situation were real. In actual fact the experiment is merely a game, so to speak, and not the serious business of government, riot-control or war. Therefore no “pupil” is actually strapped to the chair. Furthermore, the experiment is not about “learning theory” but about the behavior of the “subjects” of the experiment. The professor is then led to another room, from which he is to give the “pupil” a “test.” He reads a question into a microphone and hears the “pupil’s” answer over a speaker. In front of the professor is a panel of buttons; labels identify the amount of voltage administered to the “pupil” by each button. The panel goes as high as 450 volts, and buttons corresponding, to the highest voltages are marked “caution, severe pain.” Every time he hears a wrong answer, the professor is to push a button corresponding to a higher level of voltage which passes ‘through the “pupil.” As the voltage increases, the “pupil” pleads and protests: “Let me out. I have a bad heart...” The professor listens to the speaker, waits for wrong answers, and continues to increase the voltage.
It might be wondered what would happen to this planet if the people Plato called Philosopher-Kings, the most conscious members of society, had the power to make ultimate decisions. It might be asked what future humanity would have if this depended on whether or not a modern Philosopher-King, a ten-to-thirty-thousand a year man, a cultured intellectual, pushed the last button, perhaps as part of a “pacification program,” or as part of an experiment in “learning theory.” In the experiment described above, 63% of the professors, two out of three intellectuals, pushed the last button.
It is noteworthy that the “subjects” of this experiment are in fact objects in all respects except, perhaps, in appearance. The alienation of human powers takes its most acute form among the representatives of modern spiritual life. The personification of an intellectual office, of a department of knowledge, possesses a specific virtue or potency, a special field in which its powers are developed to the level required by the task to which it is assigned. It is able to articulate perfectly the thoughts of its specific office. It is able to evaluate whether it finds itself in front of one or another of a given set of problems, to choose the approach suitable to the given problem, and to correct itself if it errs. However, when it evaluates, chooses, or corrects itself, it is not exerting its own powers but the powers of the office: its forms of evaluation, choice and self-correction are integral parts of the program in which it was instructed. The powers of a living human being are precisely what it lacks. In the face of social productive forces, it waits for instructions. The products of human labor are an alien world to it, and it therefore lacks both the human imagination and the will to appropriate these forces as instruments for self-expression. In the face of a human being, furthermore one who protests and pleads with its “innermost human self,” its “moral core,” it reveals itself to be an inanimate object in which there is no sense of community with human beings, a machine which totally lacks the rudimentary species-solidarity without which the human being could not have survived until today.
Personifications of social power seem to animate the world. Only expected, official activity is experienced as real activity. The unofficial projects of an individual human being seem to happen in a social vacuum, cut off from the real life of humanity; they are pastimes, hobbies, wastes of time; they are experienced as empty intervals of inactivity. Estranged power of community — the State, government — is experienced as the only real community. Estranged productive power — Capital, money — is experienced as the only real productive agent. Personified power is internalized as the only form of human power. In other words, generations of human beings on all parts of the globe are convinced that State offices fight wars, that money works, that inanimate objects animate social activity. Without the aid of hallucinatory drugs, several generations of human beings experience a hallucination. Furthermore, it is not known that these individuals are more prone to hallucinations than earlier generations. The hallucination, the impression that personified power is the only form of human power, cannot easily be explained in terms of the individual psychology of generations of human beings. However, the hallucination can be explained in terms of the social relations these individuals are born into. Although money, either as paper or as coin, has not in fact been seen to build, produce, repair, speak, or entertain itself, it is in fact through the mediation of money that producers relate to each other and to the productive forces. Although a State office has not in fact been seen fighting wars or building roads, it is only through the mediation of an office that wars are fought and roads are built. The impression that the representatives, the personifications of human powers actually perform social activities is a hallucination. However, it is not a hallucination but a fact of modern life that individuals relate to each other and to the material environment only through the mediation of personified powers. Although the money and the offices do not possess social powers, they are universally accepted as equivalents or substitutes for the social powers. Money is not labor power or productive forces, but is accepted as their equivalent. The State is not the community of individuals which it rules, but is accepted as the equivalent of the community. Although money or social offices do not perform society’s activities, social activities can only take place through them. Since individuals are social, namely human beings, only to the extent that they take part in social activity, and since they can engage in social activity only by wielding the dominant forms of social power represented by money and wielded by offices, individuals become social beings by estranging their human self-powers and by wielding the estranged human powers represented by money and wielded by offices. As a result individuals are social, human beings, only in an inverted form, as wielders of personified powers.
It is not only the individual’s social existence — being in the world as more than a do-nothing and a nobody — but also the individual’s social importance — who or what one is in the world — that is determined by the personified power the individual wields. The unequal social importance of individuals is a direct result of representative democracy. In terms of physical and mental endowment, one individual may be twice as powerful as another, perhaps even three times as powerful, but not a million times more powerful. This imaginary possibility becomes a reality only when money becomes a representative of human productive powers and when the State substitutes itself for the community. Although it is physically impossible for one individual to wield the powers of millions, this is precisely what is possible with represented power. When money is accepted as equivalent to the productive powers of individuals, a few possessors of large sums of money are able to invest, or wield, the productive power of millions of people. When the State is accepted as the equivalent of the community, a single individual can speak for and decide for the entire community. Although the self-powers of individuals cannot be concentrated in one individual, the estranged powers can be concentrated. When the estranged powers are concentrated in Capital and the State, as embodiments, representatives of these powers, it not only becomes possible for one individual to be a million times more powerful than another, but for every individual to be more or less important than another. The so-called physical and mental inequality of human beings is small compared to the social inequality that results when their estranged unequal powers are reallocated among them in varying quantities of socially equivalent units. The democracy of represented powers is hierarchically arranged. The fragment of personified social power delegated to one individual is less than the fragment delegated to individuals on a higher rung, and more than the fragment of those on a lower rung. The more one has, the more one represents.
From this it does not follow that the more one represents the more one is. This is yet another illusion created by the fact that individuals relate to each other through the mediation of personified powers. Just as it appears that Capital and State offices perform activities which are in fact performed by human beings, it also appears that individuals who possess Capital or occupy high State offices are endowed with special capacities and powers, that they are more than other individuals. This hallucination is no longer experienced universally, largely because capitalists, the modern beneficiaries of this illusion, debunked it irreparably during their long struggle against feudal forms of personified power. When it was discovered that the magnitude of the monarch’s power directly depended on the productive activity of those he ruled, and not on personal endowments bestowed on the monarch by St. Peter, the average monarch, though he might represent a great deal, was seen to be very little: perhaps an amateur golf player.... However, the capitalists shrewdly threw dust in people’s eyes; while debunking feudal forms of personified power, they quietly installed their own. When the dust settled it slowly became apparent that the new form extended further than the old: to the innermost depths of the individual, to the most distant regions of the world. The power represented by an individual’s Capital reflects an individual’s self-powers as little as a nobleman’s title reflects his personal abilities, but the capitalist, little though he might be, represents not only the power of community, but also the productive power, the living creative energy, of every individual within his fief.
Capitalists were great critics of personified power when that power was based on family titles and divine rights. They were archenemies of the State when it was feudal. They were muckrakers of the plunder and social waste which consolidated the personified power of feudal lords. Early capitalists had a vantage point from which they could expose forever the feudal gap between the development of productive forces and the form of the social relations. As opposed to the high born whose power depended on social plunder and ceremonial waste, the power of early capitalists depended on the productive forces, and the growth of their power depended, not on plunder and waste, but on the further development of society’s productive forces. Capitalism contemptuously kicked the corpse of its predecessor into a historical hole, designating it as a dark age, a pre-history of humanity. Athena, goddess of reason, had triumphed at last; enlightenment and clarity were re-born after a long sleep, an unexplained amnesia. Never again would plunder and war be means to social power; never again would greatness coincide with the destruction of society’s productive forces. The new social relation, Capital, could not possibly lead to a rift between the productive forces and the social relations, since Capital is itself the productive forces. Yet for all that, capitalism was not exempted from the fate of its predecessors. From its very origin, Capital was also a form of personified power, the power of money — a fact which made it possible for early capitalists to lend their support to dying feudal powers during the brief historical moment before their final demise. As a form of personified power — as a personification of the productive power estranged by the creators of the productive forces — Capital enjoyed years of progress, in fact several centuries of glorious unfettered development, while it traveled inflexibly back to the very spot on which its predecessor had died un-mourned. Despite all its youthful inventiveness, exploits and ambitions, in its decrepitude it cannot even avoid looking like its predecessor. Capital did not bury its predecessor. Capitalism found it necessary to revive the ghost of its arch-enemy, to reconstitute the personified power of community, the State, and finally to magnify this power beyond all feudal dreams by enriching it with the productive power personified by Capital.
The social relations of capitalism become as dislodged from the productive forces as all earlier forms of personified social power. It is true that the magnitude of social Capital depends on the level of development of the productive forces, but this fact alone does not eliminate the family resemblance of capitalism with social orders like that of the Egyptian Pharaoh or the Chinese Emperor. The magnitude of the social power personified by the Pharaoh also depended on the level of development of productive forces. The main modern difference is that the Pharaoh did not know that the magnitude of the taxes which paid for the palace, the Pharaoh and the tax collectors depended on the level of development of Egyptian agriculture, whereas capitalism commemorates its connection with productive activity in museums which preserve souvenirs of the industrial revolution. What the museums commemorate is a Golden Age. The magnitude of social Capital, namely its dependence on the development of productive forces, began losing its central importance from the moment when Capital achieved absolute hegemony over all social activity. As capitalism grows old, its history becomes less the history of technological breakthroughs engineered by investors, and more the familiar history of princes and kings, pretenders and impostors. In an age when the State broadcasts its journey to the moon, society’s productive forces have once again become instruments for the construction of pyramids.
Unfortunately for capitalism, the productive forces did not stand still when it reached middle age. The development of productive forces which ushered Capital into world history retained its dynamic. While the wielders of estranged productive power become increasingly disconnected from the productive forces, while they immerse themselves increasingly in “events” within the hierarchy of personified power, they fail to notice that they are being deceived. Their own central activity, the accumulation of Capital, leads to an unexpected and irreversible result: it exempts over half the population from productive activity, and the number keeps growing. The mass exemptions from productive activity are accompanied by a proliferation of offices that wield estranged social power. The exempted are absorbed by offices as quickly as possible. The result is a unique historical phenomenon. The personifications of estranged productive power outnumber the producers who estrange it. Another historically singular result of the continued development of the productive forces is that the relative social importance of producers and those exempted from production, once known as a Leisure Class, become reversed. Behind appearances that become increasingly difficult to maintain, the real power of a productive worker is significantly larger than the personified power of an average office. Furthermore, every increase in the power of the productive forces enlarges the power of the producer as well as the bottom rung of the hierarchy of offices, further decreasing the relative power of each office.
The growing rift between society’s productive forces and the form of the social relations is accompanied by a growth of acute mental disorders among the wielders of personified powers, especially in the offices of the ideological establishment. Extremely articulate, highly educated and very cultured individuals engage increasingly in activities which, if performed by a working man, would lead to his commitment to a mental hospital for life, with universal approval. It is hard to find peasants or workers who spend years devising methods to derail trains, who develop plastics that will burn while sticking to the skin of a human being, who concoct poisons for a town’s water supply, who design concentration camps for people they consider threats to their Country’s security, who devote their lives to growing germs which can annihilate a year’s harvest. State officials consider a working man deranged if he shoots his foreman. It is not among workers, but among Chemists and Physicists, Sociologists and Economists, that the concentration camps are designed, that the burning plastic jellies are invented, the germs and poisons developed, the calculated slaughters patiently devised. These people are not considered deranged; each is considered an expert in a field. They are not committed to insane asylums; they are lodged in each other’s company in cities which are built by the estranged power of producers but are geographically removed from the centers of production. They are among the best lodged, best fed and best entertained members of modern society. Yet their behavior exhibits a complete dissociation between their apparently human powers of perception and the inhuman consequences of their actions. Like the one-year old child who blows up a house by turning on the oven gas without lighting the oven fire, these seeming adults continue to grin and play, remaining completely innocent of their own deeds. The childlike innocence, the helplessness in the face of productive instruments combined with a meticulous rationality and calculated scheming when the same individual operates the same instruments by remote control — in short, the mental derangement of these individuals, is a direct consequence of the dislocation of personified productive power from the productive process where it originates. An ancient foot soldier was perfectly aware of the human consequence of running a spear through another human being; a technician who pushes a button that releases a bomb could grasp the significance of his act only if his own home town were annihilated by a bomb; the mild mannered University of Michigan Professor who calmly defines the enemies to international security, who devotes his life to the development of model concentration camps, who passionlessly and objectively explores the possibilities of jellies that burn on living flesh — the Professor, unlike the footsoldier or the technician, is merely theorizing, experimenting with vials, calculating the slopes of lines on graphs.
The mental disorders that take root among the wielders of personified social power are further aggravated by the lack of species solidarity that accompanies the internalization of the behavior, thoughts and feelings of an office. The officers of the ideological establishment increasingly become the self-less thinking machines, the robots who were once thought of as possible productive workers. But the ideological officials are not as efficient as robots were thought to be by those who believed that machines, not human beings, created the productive forces. Like the monks who calmly inscribed spheres within spheres while the Church collapsed around them, the ideological superstructure loses contact with its social base. The scientific method and cold objectivity of the thinking machine are developed symptoms of a lack of empathy with human beings which leads to a profound inability to understand them. This inability in turn leads to coldly and scientifically designed policies and measures which are completely out of touch with the social situation for which they are designed. The measures lose their social, namely human, frame of reference; they are the calm and carefully pre-meditated designs of a maniac, a deranged robot, a mechanical monster that has slipped out of human control and begins destroying human beings helter-skelter with a mechanical indifference which, among animate beings, would characterize only a deity or an ape.
In general, responses to a social order are conditioned by the level of development of the productive forces and by the form of the social relations. However, in specific instances the weight of the productive forces or the social relations in conditioning an individual’s response depends on the individual’s daily activity within the social division of labor. The further an individual’s daily social activity is removed from society’s productive forces, the less the individual’s response is conditioned by the level of development of the productive forces, the more it is conditioned by the social relations. This is why the modern First and Second Estates, the officials of the governmental and ideological establishments, cannot view the productive forces as potential means to the development of their human powers, but only as threats to their personified powers. Among the wielders of society’s powers, responses to the social order take the form of attempts to further consolidate the hierarchy of personified power accompanied by attempts to obstruct the further development of the productive forces.
When personified productive power becomes dislodged from its source in the productive process, it loses its historical function, becomes an end in itself, and acquires an ahistorical dynamic of its own. Social power ceases to refer to society’s productive forces. Capitalism’s brief digression from the normal histories of civilizations comes to an end. Social power is once again a category that would be recognized by the Emperors, Pharaohs and Sultans of old: it once again refers to rungs in the hierarchy of personified power. However, because of its brief journey to the underworld of productive forces, the hierarchy of personified power became not only unbalanced but also irreparably unwieldy. The Sultan would fail to grasp one feature of the modern Sultanate: the best wine in the world has been watered down to the point of being tasteless; the number of officials has been allowed to exceed the number of slaves; personified power, the very essence of human existence, has been diluted. At a historical point when it is already too late, officials for whom the Sultan’s power is the form and substance of human power attempt to regain lost ground. At a time when the powers of average offices become as infinitely divisible as money, only the consolidated power of the entire hierarchy seems to retain its former grandeur. Yet every attempt to concentrate the watered wine leads to a further watering down. Economists familiar with the stories of kings who coined money when the State treasury reached bankruptcy fail to notice that the treasury of personified power is bankrupt. A poor man who became a millionaire in worthless dollars would not be likely to acquire the impression of having become a rich man. Yet an individual who internalizes the powers of a poor office, for example one who wields the authority that “We Anthropologists” are competent to wield, acquires the impression of gaining stature when the office is enlarged to “We Scientists.” Furthermore when the size of the office increases to “We Americans” or “We Germans,” the power wielded by a single official is watered down to a level corresponding to money that has become worthless per unit. Yet in respectable and cultured centers the office of “We Americans” is experienced as a personal power, particularly if the entire magnitude of the hierarchy’s power is personified by “Our Leader.”
The continuing development of society’s productive forces becomes a fetter to the social relations. Accompanied as this development is by further exemptions from productive activity, it obstructs the consolidation and concentration of personified social power. The personifications of Capital renounce their initial historical task. The gross, materialistic activity of transforming surplus labor into Capital is replaced by lofty spiritual aims: Order, Greatness, Honor. These tasks can no longer be left to the untrammeled functioning of the law of value, to what Economists call supply and demand, to unregulated competition among independent enterprisers at uncontrolled markets. The current historical tasks of Capital are the proper tasks of government; they can only be carried out by the central office of society’s Capital, the personification of all estranged human powers, the State. For the sake of stability and order, the development of productive forces must be controlled, obstructed, reversed. The cornucopia of technological progress ceases to give rise to hopes and increasingly spreads vague fears. Behind the productive forces slouches a rough beast, its hour come round at last, ready to loose mere anarchy upon the world. The temporal and spiritual powers of this world hide their terror-stricken grimaces under the masks of complacent grins provided by their offices. Physically removed from the productive forces and the producers, infrequent foreign tourists in the ghettos of the central cities, occasional official visitors to the productive plants, the suburban owners, managers and coordinators are menaced by the producers’ access to the instruments for their potential development. Geographical segregation from the producers transforms an initial malaise, a vague insecurity, into a fear of physical violence and finally into a fear of contamination. The “heads” of the production process are severed from the body; the pinnacle of history’s most developed form of cranium system becomes deranged. Removed by too many mystifications from the perception that it is the estranged power of the producers that the officials personify, the representatives of society’s estranged productive power become preoccupied with quarantining themselves yet further from the producers. Under their official masks of complacent calm and childlike innocence, they throw themselves feverishly into the research and development of means of repression, they preside over a proliferation of offices whose single task is to police the producers, further regimenting themselves in the process.
In the regions where the accumulation of Capital began, social relations turn from forms of development of productive forces into their fetters. However, it is erroneous to draw general conclusions from a localized event. No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed. In the current situation over half of humanity has been excluded from the material benefits created by the accumulation of Capital and from the social privileges lodged in offices that personify the powers of accumulated Capital. This fact should have moderated the somewhat provincial optimism of those who noticed that Capital had returned to the threshold of the grave where its predecessors lay stone dead. It returned, but not to leap straight in; numerous last breaths remained to it, because Capital had not been provincial. By spreading its world market over the entire globe, it did not discover a fountain of perpetual youth, but it did succeed in prolonging its period of decrepitude.
Even while they become fetters to the further development of productive forces in the regions where the accumulation of Capital has turned against itself, the dominant social relations are forms of development of the same productive forces in regions where the accumulation of Capital is only beginning. The last stage of capitalism is indeed imperialism, world conquest, the inclusion of all humanity under the hegemony of Capital. The last stage, like the first, is an expansion of a specific social form of development of productive forces: it entails the transformation of productive activity into estranged activity, or labor, the materialization of this estranged activity in productive forces, the identification of the productive forces with a conventionally established equivalent, Capital, and the concentration of Capital in the social offices to which the productive activity is estranged. The expansion of Capital has always entailed an expanded reproduction of a historical form of social relations. Unlike the imperialism of Rome, the imperialism of Capital does not consist of a colonization which plunders the treasuries of vanquished potentates, levies taxes on peasants, and enslaves some of the colonized; it consists of the transformation of the daily activity of pre-capitalist societies into the reproduction of estranged labor and its personification, Capital. The last stage of capitalist development is the stage when the social relations of estranged labor and Capital are universalized. It is the period of Capital’s last expansion, the period when all the productive forces for which there is room in this social order are developed.
The last stage of capitalist expansion does not coincide with colonization. The identification of the imperialism of Capital with colonization has a historical importance of its own, and will be treated later. The actual expansion of the social relations of estranged labor and Capital coincided with colonization only during early stages of capitalist development. Colonization, like religion, the family and the State, is a pre-capitalist social form, a survival from earlier days, which capitalism adapted to its own purposes, not only during the last stage of capitalist expansion but also during the first. Piracy, enclosures and trading companies do not make their historical appearance for the first time in the late nineteenth century; these forms of empire building make their historical debut as much as four centuries earlier, during a period none would call the last stage of capitalist development, when they do in fact serve as instruments for the geographical expansion of the social relations of Capital. By the end of the nineteenth century colonization no longer coincided with the expansion of the social relations of estranged labor and Capital. Like the State, only much earlier, colonization became dislodged from the historical tasks for which capitalism initially used it, acquired an ahistorical dynamic of its own, and became an obstruction, a fetter to the further development of Capital.
During the early stages of capitalist development, the peasants of England and western Europe were forcefully deprived of their previous social activity, their form of human existence, and transformed into sources of primitive accumulation of Capital. However, the colonized peasants were not left suspended in this Limbo, this in-between condition when they are no longer what they were but are not yet what they’ve started to become. During this early period, colonization served its capitalist purpose. The process was completed. Primitive accumulation gave way to proper Capital accumulation. Limbo gave way to a new social order. The colonized became wage laborers who estranged their living activity in productive forces, and some among them became officials who personified the estranged productive power. The colonized were absorbed by the social relations of estranged labor and Capital. The empire of Capital expanded.
This is precisely the process that does not accompany colonization during the last stages of capitalist development. The colonized are deprived of their previous social order, their previous form of humanity, and are transformed into sources of primitive accumulation. And they are left suspended in this Limbo. The process is not completed. Primitive accumulation does not give way to proper Capital accumulation. No longer integrated in a pre-capitalist social order, the colonized do not acquire the social relations of Capital. Colonization ceases to serve the capitalist purpose of expanding the social relations of estranged labor and Capital; it ceases to be a social form of development of productive forces. It is no longer the empire of Capital that expands, but a type of empire much older than Capital, an empire like Rome’s, the empire of England, France, the United States.
During the period of capitalism’s decrepitude, when its engagement with dynastic affairs all but replaces its historical character as a form of development of productive forces, colonization does not expand the social relations of Capital but the power of dynasties. It is not through colonization that the productive forces for which there is room in the dominant social order are developed. What expands is not Capital but ‘western civilization,’ a salad in which pre-capitalist prejudices and superstitions are combined with feudal forms of State power and spiced with commodities that embody estranged labor. Serving this salad to everyone in the world is experienced by English officials as a civilizing mission entrusted by destiny to tall, light-haired, pink-skinned Protestant Christians. Topped with French dressing the same salad becomes ’ French Civilization’ and by the time it is made in USA it is a complete and all-exclusive Way of Life. If an English gentleman had announced this civilizing mission only a short historical moment earlier, he would have been dismissed as a charlatan or an idiot; his pretensions would at best have provoked amusement; perhaps his mission would have been understood and pitied as a delusion of grandeur needed by a pathetic and unsuccessful English merchant who peddled industrially produced Indian cloth to the peasants and artisans of agrarian England. Yet after a few centuries of accumulation of Capital, the delusion becomes a comprehensive Weltanschauung, and the deluded merchant becomes a civilizing colonizer. Contrary to a widely held view, this pretension does not in itself constitute racism. It becomes racism only when it is internalized by the colonized, when the salad called “western civilization” is digested. Forcing the colonized to digest this salad becomes the great historical task of colonization during latter-day capitalism.
Ignorant of the sources of the colonizer’s power precisely because the social relations of Capital are, and remain, unknown to them, the colonized acquire the illusion that they’ve been hit by a natural catastrophe. This was also true of the colonized peasants of England and Europe, but the illusion was dispelled as soon as they entered mines and factories and became harnessed to the process that created the power. But for the colonized peasants of later days, the foreign occupying army, administration, language, culture and religion are attributes of an alien being whose sources of power remain a mystery. And it is precisely the mysterious origin of the colonizer’s power, namely the absence of capitalist development among the colonized, that leaves the colonized no choice but to internalize the delusions of the colonizer, to become what the colonizer would have them be. Comparing themselves to this alien being with its mysterious powers, the colonized do not see themselves merely as inferior human beings, but as a different species. For the difference between colonizer and colonized is not subtle, spiritual, intangible; it is gross, glaring and visible — it is the difference between an adobe and cow dung hovel and a steel and concrete skyscraper, between a mule and a jet. The difference is far too visible to be ignored; the innermost depths of the human being cry out for an explanation. An explanation as gross as the mysterious difference in power puts an end to the mystery. The visible difference in power between the colonizer and the colonized is explained in terms of every visible human feature not covered by clothing: hair, eyes, skin and nose. When the difference in features is not visible enough, language, religion and toilet training are added. The explanation becomes the special concern of a new social science, Anthropology, the Science of Man, which is assigned the task of discovering and cataloguing every visible difference among human beings, and even invisible differences. By the time this much has been accomplished, the development of productive forces among the colonized would only undermine the achievements of colonization. To the colonizer of latter-day capitalism, “native capitalism” is a meaningless combination of words with opposite meanings; it is neither the aim nor the outcome of colonization. Furthermore even if such an absurdity were possible it would merely lead to another absurdity, namely to the absurd possibility that the colonized would colonize each other and might even colonize the colonizer.
Colonization is not part of the last stage of capitalist development because it is no longer even a form of capitalist development. However, the identification of colonization with the last expansion of capitalism marks the beginning of the last phase of capitalist development. The identification of capitalism with a pre-capitalist social form which did not in the end serve to expand the social relations of capitalism becomes a historical precondition for the completion of the process which was begun and then blocked by colonization. The identification of the power of Capital with the power of the colonizer reduces capitalism from a system of social relations to a consortium of dynasties. Capitalism becomes synonymous with “western civilization.” This reduction becomes the foundation for the construction of the modern model of anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist revolution.
During the historical demise of feudalism, when capitalists had already established their power over society’s productive forces but continued to internalize the authority of feudal forms of power, champions of capitalism appeared among officials of the feudal hierarchy and among aspirants to feudal forms of personified power. Kings, princes, priests and popes, as well as pretenders to all these offices, became advocates and protectors of bankers, traders, outfitters and other equally low-born members of the Third Estate. The modest and enterprising townspeople gained a social recognition which nearly equaled their social power, and in exchange they became the main support of the local monarch, nobleman or prelate. The feudal lord granted “his own” burghers rights and privileges which did not in fact exist in the feudal structure of power. The frugal and hardworking burghers, concerned more with financial matters than with matters of State, were granted the right to free labor by liberal landlords who held on to their serfs; they were granted the principle of inviolability of contracts by sovereigns who observed contracts only when this was a means to more important ends; they were granted the sanctity of property from the once-upon-a-time heroes whose code of honor rested on the power to plunder. In exchange for the services rendered to them by these champions of the people during the last moments of feudalism’s existence, early capitalists became so dependent on the political, military and ideological offices of feudal society that this brief historical experience left an indelible mark on the entire subsequent development of the capitalist class. Long after they had established undisputed hegemony over society’s productive forces, the representatives of this class exhibited anxieties and insecurities bordering on paranoia whenever they were not backed up by strong-armed feudal protectors, technologically equipped feudal armies and modern survivals of the Church.
During the senile period of capitalism, when one-time forms of accumulation of Capital lose their initial historical function, champions of the colonized appear among officials of the ideological establishment and among aspirants to modern forms of personified power. Economists, philosophers, policemen, managers, as well as aspirants to all these offices, become servants and spokesmen of the colonized. Unlike the feudal champions of the bourgeoisie, the modern champions of the colonized consider themselves members of the oppressed class. In order to do this they find it necessary to overturn capitalist forms of social status and to reintroduce class distinctions based on social origin. Capitalism had abolished such distinctions and had replaced them with class distinctions based on social activity, on one’s relation to the productive forces. It becomes necessary to overturn the capitalist standard if such social categories as “working class intellectuals” and “proletarian generals” are to become meaningful again. These progressive sectors of modern society grant the colonized the right to the products of their labor and the principle that the producers control the forces of production. In addition to these political rights, the colonized acquire economic development. They cease to be perpetual sources of primitive accumulation and at last become proper sources of accumulation of Capital, industrial laborers. The process which was initiated by colonization moves to its completion. Its modern agency is the State.
Imperialism, the last stage of capitalist development, the expansion of the social relations of estranged labor and Capital to every part of the world, is initiated by the seizure of State power in regions where colonization had blocked the further development of productive forces. The original historical sequence of this form of development of productive forces is reversed. Originally the capitalist form had not sprung into existence fully armed at the historical moment when the vanguard of the capitalist class seized State power. Direct control of the State, the central personification of social Capital, did not become historically possible until the capitalist class had established its power over the rest of society. However, the more developed the State apparatus becomes in the regions where the accumulation of Capital originated, the less the historical sequence of development of these regions needs to be recapitulated, and the more the last phase in the original regions becomes the first phase in the new regions. It becomes possible to institute the central relations of Capital accumulation directly by means of State power, without recapitulating the historical development of capitalism, just as, after the development of mechanized agriculture, it becomes possible to plough virgin lands with tractors, without recapitulating the historical development of agriculture. The State becomes the historical agency through which the colonized are liberated from the Limbo of perpetual primitive accumulation. Through the mediation of the State, the daily activity of formerly colonized populations at last acquires the social form of estranged labor. The modern model of revolution bridges the gap between the colonized and the humanity of the colonizer.
The State, the estranged power of community against the feudal form of which capitalism had originally asserted its existence and which became the concentrated personification of Capital only after the victory of capitalism over feudal forms of State, now becomes the initiator of the process of estrangement of productive power. Because their social power was originally developed in opposition to feudal forms of State power, early personifications of Capital had distinguished themselves from State officials. This distinction now becomes archaic. In the newly developing regions which pass through an anti-imperialist revolution, there are no capitalists; the individual personifications of social Capital are State officials who, in terms of social origin and political philosophy, are proletarians. At the historical moment when the productive forces of society make possible the universal development of human powers, the hierarchy of represented powers becomes universalized.
The seizure and consolidation of the estranged power of community, the State, has become the form of development of productive forces in conditions where to perform their historical earlier forms of Capital accumulation ceased task. Military, administrative and ideological activities — defense, organization, theory — become modern forms of revolutionary activity, archetypes of political engagement, synonyms of radicalism and movement. However, responses to the social order are not limited to these forms, they are not conditioned solely by the dominant form of the social relations but also by the level of development of the productive forces. The weight of the productive forces or the social relations in conditioning an individual’s response depends on the individual’s daily activity within the social division of labor. The less an individual’s daily activity is removed from the productive forces, the more the individual’s response is conditioned by the level of development of the productive forces. This is why the modern model of revolutionary activity has been successfully applied mainly among those who are not in daily contact with contemporary productive forces. At a high level of development of productive forces, responses to the social order have not been conducive to the application of the modern revolutionary model, they have not given rise to leadership and the struggle for State power, or even to minimally defined revolutionary organizations. On the contrary, distinct moves in the opposite direction can be observed. Historical time is running out on the modern archetype of coherent political engagement. The less people are excluded from the contemporary productive forces, the greater the social fund of accumulated Capital in which their labor is materialized, the smaller their need for the social relations that forced the accumulation of the productive forces.
The continuing development of productive forces creates the material conditions for new and unknown social relations — relations which are already in the process of formation in the old society but which cannot mature until they burst the fetters of the dominant social order. The consciousness of an epoch reflects only the dominant forms of social relations, although these are not the only forms. The hegemony of the dominant forms is restricted and sometimes challenged by survivals or even by renaissances of earlier forms, and it is undermined by new forms which develop under the protection of the dominant forms. The new forms are only buds; they are embryonic forms, and not forms of social relations in a full sense. They are neglected by consciousness, not because they are embryonic, nor because their magnitude or importance are negligible, but because the consciousness of an epoch is designed to reflect only the dominant forms. However, at the heart of the production process itself, where the accumulated productive forces are created, the dominant forms of social activity do not exhaust the possibilities of contemporary human existence. The ambiguity at the heart of the production of Capital, the ambiguity of activity that simultaneously consists of producers activating things and things activating producers, shatters the hegemony of the dominant form. Because of the dynamic character of the productive forces, producers must respond to continually changing circumstances. If they are not to be stamped, crushed or ground, producers are constantly forced to remain “on the ball;” unlike the colonized, they cannot imagine that the personified power of the official is the only form of human power, and unlike the official, they cannot renounce their self-powers and immerse themselves in the powers personified by the office.
It is precisely at the heart of the production process that the automatic individual is least developed. The illusion that production consists of things animating things is created by capitalist staging, lighting and sound effects, and it causes audiences to misconceive the nature of productive activity. It has not in fact been practicable to replace the human producer with a machine whose behavior is pre-determined. The social scientists looking for the robots who operate the technology, the machines that run the machines, have been surprised to find unruly, undisciplined human beings. The scientists have in general been disappointed. At the very center of the sophisticated mechanism that has become synonymous with efficiency itself stands an unpredictable and intractable demon. It turns out that the speed of the assembly line depends on whether or not individuals agree to perform the number of motions programmed. The magnitude of the product depends to an increasing extent on the quantity of the product workers take home in their lunch boxes, if not in trucks. The quality of the sophisticated product depends on the willingness of qualified workers to desist from making unsupervisable changes in minute measurements and adjustments. The continued existence of the directors, programmers, foremen and guards depends on the willingness of producers to continue returning to their jobs. The power of the producer to determine the shape of the material and social environment is not a distant dream but a daily fact.
If the producers appear unruly even to themselves it is because they continue to internalize the prevailing rules. While they cannot avoid exercising their own self-powers in situations which demand them, and do not always desist from exercising them in situations which do not demand them, producers continue to internalize official power as the only legitimate power and to experience their own power as illegitimate. If the consciousness of human beings determined their social existence, the hegemony of the dominant social relations would remain secure. However, if it is social existence that determines consciousness, then the modern social order rests on a foundation as secure as the rocks of ages of social orders that have long been defunct. Capitalism itself developed its peculiar forms of social power with a consciousness that was unfavorable to this development. The forerunner of the capitalist, the merchant, could not acknowledge the existence of his activity, even to himself, since he appeared to himself as a pious and useful member of a community in which his special callings, usury and extortion, were officially branded as sins. Yet even while he internalized the authoritative negation of his activity, the merchant continued to practice his increasingly profitable calling in a situation where the powers of authorities, of monarch, nobility and Church, increasingly depended on the fruit of the merchant’s sin, on money. When the merchant’s activity of buying and selling was combined with the artisan’s commodity production, money became Capital and the merchant became a personification of means of production, a capitalist — centuries before the development of economics, middle class morality, or the modern State. Without political representation in the monarchy or the feudal estate, and with a consciousness cemented to the morality of the Church, upholding the temporal and spiritual powers materially as well as spiritually, condemning the sins of usury and extortion with an overly zealous piety, early capitalists nevertheless accumulated a social power which restricted and finally challenged the ruling spiritual and temporal powers. Only then did usury become banking and extortion, marketing. What developed within feudalism was not a consciousness, an ideology, or even an organized revolutionary movement, but rather a practice, a form of social behavior which undermined and ultimately overthrew the piety, the gallantry and the sovereignty of the earlier form.
Contemporary producers develop the power of the productive forces, the means for the universal development of human capacities, with a consciousness unfavorable to this development. Just as the feudal merchants viewed the profits of trade, not as means for accumulating social productive forces but as means for purchasing estates and titles, a means for acquiring the prevailing forms of social Power, contemporary producers view the productive forces, not as means for the universal development of human capacities, but as means for earning money, as means for acquiring the fetish to which human capacities are sacrificed. Just as the early traders bankers and Outfitters demanded capitalist forms Of social Power from their own feudal lords, contemporary producers demand their own Powers from their own States. However, just as the feudal authorities could not grant Powers that did not in fact exist within feudalism, the State cannot grant the very Powers whose negation is a precondition for its existence. Producers cannot acknowledge their Power over the productive forces, even to themselves, since they still appear to themselves as free and law-abiding citizens of a representative democracy in which the public wielding of this power is illegal and immoral. They experience the appropriation of their own product as stealing and their direct regulation of production as sabotage, as criminal acts. They continue to internalize the authority of the class to which they estrange their productive power, and thus to reproduce the power of this class.
Yet even while they internalize the negation of their own power, producers continue to enlarge this power in a situation where the power of the authorities depends on the experience, imagination and ingenuity of the producers. With their consciousness cemented to the automobiles, suburban homes and Sunday outings of State and corporate clerical staffs, supporting the personified power of these officials materially as well as spiritually, condemning the criminality of rioting and stealing with an overly zealous devotion to private property, contemporary producers nevertheless accumulate productive forces that restrict and challenge the ruling temporal and spiritual powers. What develops under the hegemony of the dominant form of behavior, at the centers of production of Capital, is not a consciousness, an ideology, or even an organized revolutionary movement, but rather a practice, a form of social behavior that undermines the dominant form. Every act of theft and sabotage, every illegitimate expression of the producer’s power, eats away the legitimacy of the dominant authorities. Self-denial continues to lie at the heart of self-realization, but the rise of the second is synchronous with the decline of the first.
Feudal rulers built their most sumptuous palaces, fought their most glorious wars, and completed the philosophical Summa of their natural and eternal order on the eve of its demise. Modern rulers realize their most spectacular technological feats, fight their greatest imperial wars, and reach the highest levels of their scientific understanding, precisely at the historical moment when the cranium of Capital becomes deranged. During the period of Capital’ s last expansion, the period when all the productive forces for which there is room in this social order are in the process of being completed, individuals begin to relate to each other and to the material environment without the mediation of personifications. Things begin to fall apart. New forms through which producers re-appropriate fragments of estranged productive power appear with increasing frequency, and forms of appropriating the entire productive apparatus begin to appear. While the consciousness of producers remains cemented to personified power, the reappropriation of estranged productive powers increasingly turns the personifications of these estranged powers into hollow shells. It is not in the conscious use of the producers that the potentialities of the productive forces are reflected, but only in their social practice. The only potentialities reflected by consciousness are the potentialities of the productive forces that have been historically realized: Capital and the State. What cannot be reflected by consciousness is what happens when individuals re-appropriate their self-powers, when they cease to estrange the power of community to the State and productive power to Capital. It can at most be known what can no longer happen. It can no longer appear to individuals that personifications of their own estranged powers animate social activity. As soon as they cease to internalize the power of the personifications, human beings remove the legitimacy of Authority and simultaneously rid themselves of their own powerlessness. The cement that holds together the social relations begins to crack. The power to shape the environment in which human beings live and the activities in which they engage, the power to decide what is done with the productive forces, is removed from the offices that personify the power of community and the power of productive forces. The attempt of individuals to realize their self-powers to the level made possible by contemporary productive forces moves outside the boundaries of the modern model of revolutionary activity; it moves outside the boundaries of personified power. The continually changing response to continually developing productive forces moves without pre-determined forms of social activity toward chaos, without well ordered and regularized forms of social power toward anarchy.
Chapter 2: Rise to Leadership
The continually changing response to continually developing, productive forces moves without leadership toward chaos and anarchy.
Rebellions are spontaneous and undirected — That is, they are closer to being riots than they are to being insurrections. Rage fades and is replaced by that much-deplored “carnival atmosphere”. This is very serious for at least two reasons. One, that the development of leadership in the struggle is fundamental to victory. It is as necessary as it is difficult for the working class to bring forth leaders from its ranks who stay with the people and sum up the experience of struggle, learning from mistakes to refine the tactics and strategy of the struggle. There is a contradiction between leadership and the people, but this contradiction has to be resolved by supervision of leadership by the people and by their criticism — it cannot be glossed over simply by an anti-leadership neurosis; rather it needs patient and prolonged training of leaders through the many twists and turns, the victories and setbacks, of the mass movement. Secondly, an anti-leadership policy will not really prevent the creation of leaders; it will only guarantee that the leadership is always superficial and quixotic. Without leaders developing over a long period of struggle, there can be no theoretical growth, and every struggle is ad hoc — unrelated to past or future development — and the strategy and tactics of victory remain undiscovered. Organizational leadership must run fast to keep up with the troops. That leadership seeks to accomplish this is a positive development, though merely though merely trying to keep up with the followers is not a political virtue.
What develops under the hegemony of the dominant form of behavior, at the centers of production of Capital, is not a consciousness, an ideology, or even an organized revolutionary movement, but rather a practice. Marx was clear about the fact that revolutionary consciousness did not rise spontaneously among the Workers, but had to be imported from the outside, chiefly by intellectuals — Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without — it is also unlikely that a revolutionary party will develop strictly as a result struggles of the working class. Mere spontaneity will never suffice. It is not possible for U.S. workers, in their great majority, to join the fight unless their class consciousness is heightened through the political work of revolutionaries. The notion of control and the idea of community are central to the radical program; however, people will not naturally organize to gain control and create community unless radicals describe the possibilities. To create a new generation of radicals means to be the arena in which they, as individuals, can grow to become that new generation. The socialist movement must be able to define and articulate the goals of the immediate post-revolutionary period because these goals cannot be developed through spontaneous activity.
The potentialities of the productive forces which are reflected by revolutionary consciousness are the potentialities that have been historically realized. The world revolutionary movement has produced a body of ideas drawn from objective reality and tested in political struggle.
Neither that experience nor its language should be rejected out of hand. Those phrases are laden with the historical experience of the revolutionary socialist movement. Every revolution is different, because every country has a different history and different sets of conditions. But some revolutionary principles are valid beyond the bounds of particular countries. In short, the function of a revolutionary is to understand the direction and ‘laws of motion’ of society in order to change it. All great movements, whether they be of religious or of political character, have to ascribe their enormous successes only to the realization and to the
application of these Principles, but especially all durable successes are unthinkable without considering these laws.
The key issue is the development of consciousness, confidence and leadership. However, at a high level of development of productive forces, responses to the social order have not been conducive to the application of the modern revolutionary model, they have not given rise to leadership and the struggle for state power, or even to minimally defined revolutionary organizations. That is slow and difficult when you are working with people who are not radical intellectuals. We need to come to grips with our historic function. Our contribution to the general popular movement is that
we name the system;
we explain why the capitalist system needs wars of intervention to survive;
we point to the necessity of a revolutionary transfer of power in all capitalist institutions;
we discuss openly the road to power, including the shape of the alternative society we wish to build,
we build our independent forms of organization which can present our views.
To make a revolution in the U.S. you can’t be just good guys who want to relate to people. You need a correct analysis. There is a role for leadership, for those best able to foresee the course of events, to articulate the general principles of a movement — The task of building a revolutionary alternative in the heart of the empire is not an easy one. It means the presentation of a clear alternative which can win the vast majority of the American people to our side. Part of that task is proving to them that we have a new life to offer and a new future to build. We become increasingly the only people who have political, economic, social or human answers to the questions that are increasingly going to confront the great masses of students, the great mass of middle class and professional people, the mass of poor and working people. The success of the revolution depends to a great degree upon the quality of the revolutionary leadership.
Revolutionary theory is not spontaneously generated by political practice. Considerable human effort is required, particularly the efforts of those immediately Involved in political work. Waiting for theory somehow to emerge from the grass roots (or descend from the heavens) amounts to little more than an anti-theoretical copout. Administrative and ideological activities — organization and theory — are the modern forms of revolutionary activity, archetypes of political engagement, synonyms of radicalism and movement. The duty of the revolutionary historian is to keep alive a relevant revolutionary tradition, and to tell us what went wrong in the past so that old mistakes need not be repeated — Revolutionary theory is not the source of truth, but an approximation of reality serving as a guide to action. This can be clarified by an analogy. A roadmap can be seen as an analytical description of a given historical reality — the transportation network in a given geographical area at a certain time. It also serves as a guide to action; you can use it to get from one place to another without getting lost. There are times when the only protection available to a nascent revolutionary movement is the ability to stay one step ahead of its class enemy — through its understanding of the dialectics of its own development to foresee and thus hasten the transition to new forms of action. These tasks can no longer be left to spontaneity, to the undirected activity of independent individuals. The current historical tasks are the proper tasks of leadership, organization, ideology. An organizer’s ability to sustain his work over seemingly unrewarding periods often rests on his having a developed ideological perspective. If in all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside-down as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of objects on the retina does from their physical life-process. Ideology, then, should not be a mechanical thing — but flexible, able to change with conditions: and the product of study, analysis, and re-analysis of the actual situation. This is what needs to be done — the development of an analysis and theory to give us a basis for understanding what is happening in society, why it Is happening, and what are the best methods to bring about change. We must begin to talk about short and long term strategy and the development of a political theory on which to base our actions.
Very few activists besides utter neophytes and a few sundry anarchists doubt the eventual need for a Radical Ideology. If none were evolved, what strategy could ever be worked out for social change? How could we tell people the ‘why’ of our activism? Most important, what real alternative could we offer to those, present and future, who are fed up with the emasculation and depravity of the present system? — Underlying all our work should be the intensification and growth of the consciousness of unfreedorn and the desire for liberation among millions of ordinary Americans. Our job is to destroy the false consciousness of the U.S. middle-class ethos, to remedy the failure of most Americans to perceive their situations in terms of oppressive class relationships. Radicals should seek to develop programs and activity that increase people’s awareness and build a vision of a better society. People up to now have always formed a concept of man, and then won freedom for themselves to the extent that was necessary to realize this concept; the measure of freedom that they achieved was determined each time by their idea of the ideal of man at the time. People must find their way out of the restricted perspectives imposed by their condition and toward the light of overview, of understanding. It is necessary to begin the theoretical work on which such a movement can be based.
We have to expose the American forms of alienation from the dominant values and ideas of corporate society, and translate these into class struggle terms so that — the idea, the conception of the people in question about their real practice, is transformed into the sole determining, active force which controls and determines their practice. What we need to be doing at this stage of the game is building radical or revolutionary consciousness. Hitherto men have constantly made up for themselves false conceptions dons about themselves, about what they are and what they ought to be. They have arranged their relationships according to their ideas of God, of normal man, etc. The phantoms of their brains have got out of their hands. They, the creators, have bowed down before their creations. Let us liberate them from the chimaeras, the ideas, dogmas, imaginary beings under the yoke of which they are pining away. Let us revolt against the rule of thoughts. Let us teach men to exchange these imaginations for thoughts which correspond to the essence of man; to take up a critical attitude toward them; to knock them out of their heads, and existing reality will collapse. There is no socialist perspective for our country without the clear understanding that a socialist-conscious working class is an essential precondition for fundamental changes in the social relations. Consciousness can be important in bringing about new material conditions that might be more conducive to more basic and far-reaching social change. Life is determined by consciousness, not consciousness by life. The struggle for mass democracy against the illusions of representative government and benevolent bureaucracy cannot be abandoned if the transition from reform to revolution in popular consciousness is to be secured. Since the New Left considers conceptions, thoughts, ideas, in fact all the products of consciousness, to which they attribute an independent existence, as the real chains of men (just as the Old Left declared them the true bonds of human society) it is evident that the New Left has to fight only against these illusions of that consciousness. Since, according to their theory, the relationships of men, all their doings, their chains and their limitations are products of their consciousness, the New Left logically puts to men the moral postulate of exchanging their present consciousness for human, critical or revolutionary consciousness, and thus of removing their limitations. This demand to change consciousness amounts to a demand to interpret reality in another way, i.e., to recognize it by means of another interpretation.
Strategy can no longer be based on material demands alone. Rather, it must be based on a more encompassing projection of the social and economic alternatives to the status quo. Briefly, we propose a strategy that posits, on the one hand, a critique of the reality of meaningless jobs, manipulated consumption and growing mal-distribution of wealth, and on the other hand, a vision of the liberating potential of a fully automated, fully communist society. The point here is not that the vanguard shall realize the impossibility of preserving the old order of things and the inevitability of its overthrow. The point is that the masses, the millions, shall understand this inevitability. But the masses can understand this only from their own experience. We must devise mass Programs which have meaning and make people more radical. The march can best be used if it is seen as a tactic to involve people more extensively in the movement; the demonstration don as a tool for organizing. The task is to enable the vast masses to realize from their own experience the inevitability of the overthrow of the old regime, to promote such methods of struggle and forms of organization as will make it easier for the masses to learn from experience to recognize the correctness of the revolutionary slogans. The alternative to liberalism is showing people the necessity to join our struggle — involving people in experiences which develop a new understanding of the society which denies them opportunities and fights; and which will open possibilities for more insurgent activity in the future. This requires connecting the immediate local issues with the major political issues so that people have something worth fighting for. We must confront the questions of power and violence head-on to initiate a level of tactics sufficient to generate concern and recognition of our seriousness — through a serious national program designed to eliminate gaps in political consciousness. Although we recognize value in the publicity our movement receives in the commercial media, since all publicity, even negative, at least gets part of the message across and to that degree is propagandistic, we also understand the very distinct limitations. In spite of the fact that we expect to get screwed by any and all parts of the establishment press system it is possible to use TV coverage to the advantage of the movement. We must see films, hear radio programs, and read newspapers produced by people whose interests, experiences, and objectives are roughly similar to our own. Unless this common understanding is established between audience and producer, we will continue to have a dangerously partial and distorted idea of the way things are. The existence of constituencies of people with radical consciousness would be important in using those conditions for democratic and revolutionary ideals.
There exist incredible opportunities to build Power out of the rebellions if organizers can find ways to reach leadership that is drawn from the snipers, the gang cats, and looters. Hundreds of People who get a ‘piece of the action’ were never involved in organization but are now searching for next steps. They will flock to or organized activity that is directed towards gaining permanent bases new legitimacy Power. They can speak with a within the community and beyond because of the potential power we all know they have. The ghetto rebellion constitutes a new source of power which makes possible new organizing. Despite the fierce response of the Establishment, we should not permit ourselves to be placed on the defensive. We should recognize that repression itself will bring us new allies offended by the erosion of accustomed freedom, and that the urgent task of our movement is to work directly with those who have rebelled. If any such movement is to succeed, it must develop a long-range perspective that will aid in building a constituency.
For us being a revolutionary means working to build radical constituencies acting in their own self-interest. This is the basis, the possibility, for creating major social change here in America, and providing breathing room for revolutionary movements around the world. But the beginning constituency for such a movement is among those who have no real organization to define them politically. We see two general types of potential constituencies that should be analyzed and explored as potential components in a new radical coalition, or ideological center. First are class or social groupings: students, industrial workers, urban poor whites and working poor, the aged. The second type of constituencies are those built around issues or areas of social concern. Workers and lower middle class people are the groups that need to be ‘radicalized’ and brought around to our viewpoint. Why is it important for professional radicals to consider these people? — The most sublime theoretical insight has no value and no purpose unless the leader moves the masses toward it. Pragmatically, the reasons are very clear: They are the common Americans, and without at least their support we cannot build a democratic movement. We do not know that all, or any, of these groups will be sources of radical consciousness. Certainly they will not be if left to chance. Before such groups are abandoned to continued manipulation and use as producers or consumers in our welfare state, we should at least examine the possibilities for organizing them and developing a radical consciousness among them.
The problems the middle class faces are distinguished by alienation, powerlessness, psychological repression, and their being manipulated by forces which too often seem (but never really are) impersonal. The key concept here, I think, is powerlessness and the lack of a feeling of integrity of one’s self. Our task is to organize these people around these issues for two reasons. First, because to a great extent they are the future society — the wave of the future, if you will — and we believe in changing the lives of everyone, and in participatory democracy for everyone. Second, because that is the social class or psychological pattern from which we come and which we best understand. The social importance of students is increasing at a much greater rate than indicated simply by their numerical growth. In our highly industrialized society, the rate of scientific knowledge and technological innovation is growing at a logarithmic rate. These statistics not only demonstrate the present (absolute) growth of the new working class (the new, highly-educated, technical state) but also demonstrates that the rate of growth in this direction is rapidly increasing. The powers of average offices become as infinitely divisible as money. Students, in that they will by and large constitute this new working class are becoming the most structurally relevant and necessary component of the productive processes of modern American capitalism. There is a student movement. Something is afoot on the nation’s campuses. What can we do with it? The purpose of student confrontation is to force the administration to make ‘blunders’ which can be used to move students into action. Educational work, petition campaigns, dorm canvassing, films, rallies, demonstrations, a pie in the face of the director, a disruption — all are important in raising critical issues. Once the students are organized, connections are pointed out between campus issues and the revolutionary ideology. Questions concerning the nature of the university and society are asked, and we are present to supply some answers. In this manner, through radical education, we begin to build a movement including others like ourselves who better understand America.
Radicals have the responsibility to explore the possibilities for the development of mass radical consciousness and attempt its organization among several Other groups in the society. For the activist concerned with organizing a massive opposition movement, draft counseling really has two purposes: to reach people and politicize them. We must not simply act and react (becoming slaves to spontaneity). We must build a movement which sees the draft as one part of its perspective, a movement which can alter our own political effectiveness by organization and strategy and our understanding by analysis and education, a movement which sees the draft in relation to both larger and smaller problems. At that point draft counseling becomes an effective tool for a resistance movement. The issue of the draft suggests a whole range of possibilities for direct action. The induction center is an ideal and logical focus for discussion, leafleting, picketing, rallies, teach-ins, and general disruption. Furthermore, our experience has indicated that the point of pre-induction physicals and/or induction is a time when inductees are most open and receptive to critical discussions of the draft, the war, and U.S. foreign policy in general. Draft resistance (among other issues) is certainly a relevant political program. Its implications, in forms of developing radical consciousness and reaching into vital constituencies go far beyond the issue of the war and the draft themselves. We must learn how to organize the victims of the war around a program. We must encourage people whose distaste for military service has not been transferred to broader forms of political protest or acts of resistance to engage in those acts. Whether the military operates on or off the campus should not be the primary focus of our concern. What is more important is the kind of consciousness raised in the process of the struggle.
Other battlefields we have chosen as organizers, and organizers of organizers, are the communities of the under-America: cities and towns and rural spreads where people live materially deprived, politically alienated and used, and victimized by social and economic institutions beyond their comprehension and reach. Working with people around their own self interests is important because it creates consciousness and an understanding of power relationships. In addition to touching people’s moral sensibilities, the issue should appeal to their self-interests. The approach is one of helping people, with clothes, food, problems concerning the police, welfare, housing, employment or schools. At the same time, however, questions about the nature of problems, the structure and control of the society are raised. Organizers concentrate on specific issues or individual problems, in an effort to raise questions about the overall society, and in the hope that by helping people out they would start to trust the organization. Included in this organizing should be organizing of poor communities in terms of their own exploitation. The poor know they are poor and don’t like it. Hence they can be organized to demand an end to poverty and the construction of a decent social order. The idea is for radical organizers to create local movements of poor people by raising those issues most salient, day-to-day, to the people concerned. As for the reputed marginality of slum institutions: it is not a question of which elements of the American system are central and which auxiliary, but a question of which elements are at this point in time most vulnerable to the movement that lies within our means. In fact, the critics who make these points are unable to recommend any more promising direction. The point is what aspects of American economic and political life give organizing and educational space to radicals. Jobs are not the best issue around which to organize. The continuing development of society’s productive forces has become a fetter to the social relations sought by radical organizers. Therefore organizers turn to the more-or-less permanent underclass whose abrasive contacts with the ruling elites are less at the point of production than outside it. The key importance of Appalachia as an area for organizing is its character as a technological backwater, and the consequent gap between the promise of opportunity and Appalachia’s ugly reality. When the rhetorical glow fades and we stand judged by our own lights, as activists, this is how, so far, we must be judged: as organizers of the poor.
We may as yet know little about building a resistance or liberation movement — the one thing about which we can be certain is that it grows when individuals stand up and say ‘No’ the moment repression occurs. Protests are valuable only insofar as they advance the process of creating radical cadres and of politicizing. An essential ingredient is a demand which will probably be denied. This type of politics weighs the value of campaigns by their success in building a movement with a radical analysis of society and a strategy for changing it. If our community activity is to have any real value, we have to relate to issues within a radical perspective. This means radical leadership and politics no matter how small the beginning. Some can relate to that, and those are the people with whom we will be working. The problem is how to engage in a struggle around reforms in such a way as to develop revolutionary class consciousness. Surely, one does not make a revolution without offending people. The question is whether we have the political capital that enables us to afford this cost right now. Part of the process of developing a strategy is learning the crucial lessons of the movement’s past, understanding its failures and successes in the light of several criteria: Did the strategic line build the movement — that is, were new people recruited for organized struggle, did many others accept left leadership, — was the enemy weakened, were the class relations hidden behind slogans unmasked? While we share the same reasons for political involvement as all the new left groups, this burning moral thing, we have adopted a realistic means of changing society.
The old methods of work and forms of action fail to capture the imaginations of the constituencies we are trying to reach. Why advocate an intermediate strategy, a transitional analysis of how we should fight? Primarily because of the character of the times. Should we continue demonstrations and teach-ins? Organize the poor? Fight for student power? Organize within the working class? Resist the draft? Run radical candidates in the elections? Turn the hippies into Provos? The answer to all these questions is ‘Yes.’ (No little doubt remains that America needs to be fundamentally changed.) We need to move from protest to resistance, to dig in for the long haul; to become full-time, radical, sustained, relevant. In short, we need to make a revolution. Had we been organized along continuous lines since our beginning, we may not have lost 100,000 members over the years. With the political situation in America today we cannot afford to lose people because we do not treat their needs organizationally. On this point, at least, Mao is relevant to our movement. There can be no revolution without a revolutionary organization. We should be leading large numbers of young people on the campuses and in the streets In struggles that focus on fighting for power. If modern history demonstrates little else it is the absolute need for a broad, anti-imperialist and anti-racist organization of the radical left, a grouping which would develop a long-range strategy for taking power in America and would devise tactics within such a strategic context — tactics, needless to say, which would not always be dictated by the vicissitudes of the day. Clearly the missing ingredient is a broad, radical organization which would include many thousands of individuals and some organizations of the left who are isolated or so fractured as to have no impact. The organization we have in mind would provide independent radicals with a base to work from, a grouping within which to find revolutionary relevance. Since we are far from the answers which must be attained before being in a position to say, ‘we have the theory, the practice, the strategy, the tactic,’ we do not envision a revolutionary party at this point But we can envision an anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist organization, at first containing many already existing elements of the left, broadening to include a diversity of Americans — workers, students, blacks, minorities, the poor. Although it is hardly likely all independent radicals would fit comfortably into a multi-issue movement, we are convinced a great many could do so with ease — and profit for the movement for revolutionary change. It should be understood that a resistance movement is by no means a coherent and consistent totality. It is not a revolutionary party, nor does it see itself as such. A resistance strategy would emphasize constituency organizing as a prior and transitional phase to organizing for struggle as a class. However, all one’s efforts would be predicated on the eventual necessity of linking various constituencies in common struggles against the common enemy — waging a self-conscious class struggle. On the other hand, when organizing within a constituency, an intermediate strategy would attempt to engage people in struggles around issues aimed at certain specific goals. First, issues should be chosen that clearly reveal the corporations and the government as the enemy. Any issue around which we organize a national program should be seen and felt as a critical problem by a great number of ordinary people. The issues should enable us to broaden and/or deepen our base in the student, poor, and/or working class communities.
Should we not recognize that almost no one In the Movement has a constituency or ‘base’ off the campus, almost no one belongs to a community which has mandated leadership to him? and that hence the patient building of regional structures from below remains our first task? The peculiarity of a resistance movement is to combine fife-and-death struggle with reaching out to new constituencies. An organization which claims to speak for the needs of a community must speak in the tone of that community. To be effective the organizer can and must minimize certain traits that make it easy for new acquaintances in the neighborhood to write the organizer off — a kook or hippy (a label bestowed for many ways of being different other than just hair style or clothes). There will be many things in common, many pleasures, hardships and achievements shared between the ‘radical organizer’ and the radicalized or organized, but it will not happen overnight. Very simply, it takes time, care, thinking, re-thinking, a lot of feeling silly, ignorant, lonely, isolated, and self-conscious to grow into a community and have a whole lot of people know you and trust you. Our activities and our ideas in meetings with other community groups raise movement questions about the direction that community organizing should take. The questions asked by the better new left tacticians are: Did the action (and its tactics) expose power? Were the activists divided from their constituents? Did the action achieve a conscious polarization between the enemy and the constituency? Was the enemy’s authority and respect in the eyes of those we want to reach decreased? Was ours increased? Were other groups which might be our future allies alienated from the action? Neutral? Turned on? Was sufficient propaganda work done prior to the action? Did our constituency grow, either in numbers or in depth of radical understanding? Did the action enhance our ability to be seen as an alternative force for change?
If we are serious about Power, we must recognize that organization is necessary not only to assist people, but to organize around and give political content to all the alternatives. —Style and methods of organizing must always flow out of ideology and political strategy. If we don’t keep that clearly in mind, we’ll tend toward reformism or mere populism. —New Left resistance federations in urban and regional areas across the country would solve many of our problems of isolation, communication, coordination and the need for collective forms of work. One could find the discipline of collective work concurrently with the autonomy of a federated form. If certain organizers or their constituents find irrelevant or disagree with a certain program or action on agreed on by others within the structure, they simply do not associate themselves with it Since the structure is transitional rather than permanent, the whole apparatus would at some time dissolve itself with many of its constituent parts forming the basis of a revolutionary party. At this early stage, the organization exists primarily to exchange information between groups and individuals already engaged in organizing. Our eventual goal is to assist in creating a revolutionary mass organization with a working class perspective which will at the appropriate time join with similar organizations to forge a revolutionary party in this country. To move toward this goal, we must form collectives organized around a revolutionary program and series of demands. What kind of relationships should exist between the collectives? At first the relationship will involve little more than exchange of information and expert experience, and perhaps some joint regional political activity when it seems useful. Eventually, however, the collectives should relate to each other on the basis of democratic centralism.
I have tended to regard national demonstrations as relatively insignificant in comparison to the task of creating permanent local organization. I see us moving from strong local projects to regional structures to some kind of functional equivalent to a radical national party. A new kind of organizer and a new kind of project must be supported: an organizer who reinforces existing organizers, a project the purpose of which is to serve existing projects. There is a need for city, county, and regional institutions which create an atmosphere sensitive to the needs of organizers, help them to break down their mutual isolation, enlarge the range of alternative strategies and programs, and encourage organizers collectively to come to grips with their problems; for example, a union of organizers. Besides providing organizers a common forum to share problems and techniques, the union spawns other institutions. One, a school for community organizers, represents a collective attempt to respond to the critical shortage of effective organizers. As organization develops, not only do the tasks of the administration become more difficult and more complicated, but, further, its duties become enlarged and specialized to such a degree that it is no longer possible to take them all in at a single glance. In a rapidly progressive movement, it is not only the growth in the number of duties, but also the higher quality of these, which imposes a more extensive differentiation of function. The rearguard, in a sense, is just as important as the vanguard and should not be seen as a caboose or as a group of lesser or inferior people. In any guerrilla war the rearguard is as important as the vanguard, and the rearguard in this case is the people who do the door to door organizing, the explaining, the interpretation through writing, speaking, appearances before the mass media.
It should be clear that the aim of the resistance strategy is to transform itself into a class-conscious revolutionary socialist movement — a state of things in which relationships become independent of individuals, in which the personal relationships of individuals are subordinated to general class relationships. Students, teachers, factory workers, welfare recipients, case-workers, migrant workers and tenants are only a few examples of the constituencies open to creating a base of resistance and radical struggle within the institutions of power in this society. How are we to transform today’s radical movement into a revolutionary movement? History shows that revolutionary movements are successful only when they are guided by highly-organized well-disciplined revolutionary parties. History also shows that revolutionary parties are only successful when there are revolutionary masses. The people need the party and the party needs the people: neither can succeed without the other. Every movement with great aims has anxiously to watch that it may not lose connection with the great masses. It has to examine every question primarily from this point of view and to make decisions in this direction. Further, it has to avoid everything that could diminish or even weaken its ability to influence the masses; perhaps not for ‘demagogic’ reasons, no, but because of the simple realization that without the enormous power of the masses of a people no great idea, no matter how sublime and lofty it may appear, is realizable.
Usually people who are brought political awareness initially through a confrontation with the System sink into political inactivity because there is no organization into which they can be integrated which has a total analysis of America. The further an individual’s daily activity is removed from society’s productive forces, the less the individual’s response depends on the level of development of the productive forces, the more it depends on organization, leadership and ideology. The left cannot effectively operate without a coherent ideology capable of explaining our own country. From this ideology should flow a program of action to build a constituency capable of forming an alliance with the most radical sections. The degree of unified class consciousness among the oppressed necessary for engaging in organizing efforts based on a revolutionary class analysis does not yet exist. The anti-imperialist organization we envision would see as one of its major functions the development of radical political consciousness on a broad scale. This means that independent radical forces would have to deal with socialist political theory and elevate theory to the respectable position to which it is entitled. Without a theory of social change events are perceived in a vacuum, unrelated to other events. The socialist movement must struggle against those things that continue to divide the proletariat. Who are our friends and who are our enemies? This is the question of fundamental importance to the revolution. What is needed is a theory of imperialism. It is part of the genius of a great leader to make adversaries of different fields appear as always belonging to one category only, because to weak and unstable characters the knowledge that there are various enemies will lead only too easily to incipient doubts as to their own cause. Proceeding from this assumption, the logical starting point for any discussion of American foreign policy is the classical Marxist interpretation of imperialism, as formulated by Lenin in 1916. The principal contradiction in the world today is that between U.S. imperialism and the nations it oppresses. The name of the system we live within is imperialistic monopoly capitalism. We have labeled the official rhetoric of that system ‘corporate liberalism.’ U.S. imperialistic ventures have served to radicalize the dissenters. It is essential to translate ‘anti-draft consciousness’ into an understanding of the social and political manifestations of imperialism. The function of a revolutionary in a pre-revolutionary period is to move people into action, to raise their revolutionary and class consciousness, to move them into new forms of action based on a new consciousness. For to lead means: to be able to move masses. Here we need to be clear: dogmatism is not a matter of rigidly and aggressively fighting for a particular political analysis or position. The efficiency of the truly national leader consists primarily in preventing the division of the attention of a people, and always in concentrating it on a single enemy. This is both necessary and often helpful in developing a correct understanding of contested political problems within a mass organization. The base-building approach argues that before militant action can be taken, lots of educational work and organizing should be done to get the majority on our side. Then we should hit hard. The more uniformly the fighting will of a people is put into action, the greater will be the magnetic force of the movement and the more powerful the impetus of the blow.
Unless the movement seeks to elevate the political consciousness of the mass of its supporters, it faces the continual danger of the withering away of numbers when the moral basis of protest has been undermined. If a movement has the intention of pulling down a world and of building a new one in its place, then there must be absolute clarity about the following points in the ranks of its own leaders: Every movement, at first, will have to divide the human material it has won into two great groups: into followers and members. The central theoretical task of revolutionary collectives is to analyze the economic and political status of U.S. classes and their attitudes toward the revolution. If a significant movement is to be built it must be around a coalition large enough, at least in theory, to contest for political power. Every group of potential allies should be explored. Programs of action should be developed to facilitate connections between the various components, including the poor, when they become sufficiently conscious to engage in explicitly political action. The key to social change in America is a concrete examination of the forms of oppression which are specific to this country. Because the goals of a socialist movement in advanced industrial capitalism are to redefine the purpose of production, to develop new social relations, they require deep understanding of the needs of various sectors of the proletariat.
The job of radicals is to find leaders, and help make them radical. The task of propaganda is to attract followers, the task of organization to win members. These should accept a collective discipline, carry out criticism and self criticism of their political work, and apply the most advanced revolutionary concepts to all their common efforts. A follower of a movement is one who declares himself in agreement with its aims; a member is one who fights for it. As followership demands only a passive appreciation of an idea, while membership demands an active presentation and defense, there will be ten followers for every one or two members at most. The follower is inclined to like a movement by its propaganda. The member is induced by the organization to help personally towards acquiring new followers who then, in turn, can be trained to become members. The new role is made explicit by calling for members to develop themselves as organizers of a mass movement for change. Therefore propaganda will have to see to it that untiringly an idea wins followers, while the organization has to watch most sharply that from the followers only the most valuable ones are made members. The members have to develop a greater political consciousness and sophistication if they are to help provide leadership to the movement. By doing this, we hope to move toward the development of a revolutionary party. We encourage revolutionaries in other areas to build collectives for this purpose.
The anti-theoretical and pragmatic period of the movement’s development — the idea of libertarian socialism which requires small, autonomous councils ‘doing their own thing’ without centralized controls — has ended. During that time many organizers believed that revolutionary theory would ‘grow out of’ practical struggles. Those projects that remain and go forward are no longer experimental ‘projects’ but organizations with roots in their communities, a substantial measure of local support, and a fairly stable kernel of hard-core community people who share a radical analysis with the ex-students. Mass meetings provide a place for new people to come and be organized (initially, at least) into cells. A second place for organizing new people and providing a positive presence are external educational meetings which deal with a wide range of subjects. The answers constitute ammunition. Most of the speakers need money for travel expenses and some want honorariums. These needs are created by the level of development of the productive forces and by the form of the social relations. In specific instances the weight of the productive forces or the social relations in conditioning an individual’s needs depends on the individual’s daily activity within the social division of labor. Don’t be turned off by these facts. It is not difficult to get most schools to pay honorariums to speakers sponsored by campus groups, so don’t be hesitant in asking. At any speech, large audience or small, someone should pass the hat. For as soon as the distribution of labor comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a shepherd, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood. Money collected from cocktail parties and hat-passing can be used to pay for publicity, travel expenses and/or saved for future speaker expenses. Division of labor only becomes truly such from the moment when a division of material and Mental labor appears. Our legitimacy as revolutionaries need not depend on our ability to create lasting organizations in communities which we set out to organize. Instead, we should be content for the time being to create close-knit organizations of movement people which can reach out to new individuals and create more organizers in these communities. The cell structure leads, then, to three effects: the formation of democratic chapter structures with a leadership totally responsive to a constituency; a constituency which is politically sophisticated in both theory and practice; and an organizational form which can function in a non-target vacuum and which likewise provides for the more or less total involvement of chapter people in political struggle on a long-term basis. The only limit to participation in the total democracy of the revolutionary organization is the recognition and self-appropriation of the coherence of its critique by all its members. Such an organization needs a common view of the existing society, common programmatic demands (or at least complementary ones), a common vision of a new form of social organization designed to satisfy human needs.
Organizing in factories, neighborhoods, prisons, high schools, day-labor centers, and the army is generally aimed at doing three things: building consciousness, planting the seeds of organization, and beginning to build cadre. All of these developments combine to Point us in a Particular direction. They Point toward the creation of different organizational forms than we now employ. They indicate the necessity for developing cadre organization, a mass a base — and theory as pre-requisite for both. Without such organization we shall be rapidly isolated, and anarchism and opportunism will be the only alternatives for the next period. All that exists in between will be crushed. We have bits and pieces of a theory of society and of an analysis of our contemporary situation. But we lack a synthesis adequate to the organizing of a mass revolutionary party. So the present period must be viewed as a time of building bridges to workers and other strata. It is a period of education and agitation, to secure the left’s position in mass movements — to build an organization that can build mass consciousness and prepare the way for fundamental, necessary changes. What the U.S. left has never been able to do is to build a revolutionary organization that can put its ideologies into practice. The ideological officials are not as efficient as they were thought to be. The ideological superstructure loses contact with its base. One of the challenges to organizers is how the enormous energy and numbers of people who are opposed to the war can be directed towards building organization which has permanency, power end radical posture. About majority support: We need to analyze comparatively the resistance movements which took power. The next historical stage which develops in the next 5 to 10 years out of what will be a blossoming movement at that time is the necessity to move from a Protest to a new Political Party. A party that completely severs from the two capitalist parties and provides a socialist alternative to the American scene. At this point we should not just confine ourselves to talk of building a movement — but also of integrating this with our perspective of building a party which will give meaning and coherence to the grassroots organizing we must do day by day. It is important that we begin to talk in terms of 5, 10, 15 years because that is the time and energy it will take to build a revolutionary movement and socialist political party able to take power in America. We have begun to reach a period when this can be done only with coordinated, national, cadre organization. —In such a movement, the hard, unromantic work of organizing people as radicals would become as important as periodic demonstrations. Members of this movement would define themselves as organizers — whether on the job, in schools, the army or communities. Propaganda, therefore, needs not to rack its brain about the importance of each individual it enlightens, about his ability, achievements, and understanding of his character, while the organization has most carefully to collect from the masses of these elements those who really make possible the victory of the movement. In a sense, we are at the beginning of a new era; we are changing from a militant minority to a political force drawing its strength from a variety of social groups. It is increasingly clear that to make the revolution we must share the socialist goal of developing a shared revolutionary consciousness and a sustained movement (organization) embodying that consciousness.
Participatory democracy is no solution for the problems of a large, complex society. Democratic assemblies are particularly ill-equipped to receive and utilize complex information in an efficient or even useful way. While we oppose anarchism ideologically, and consider that, all in all, it does a disservice to the revolution and objectively aids the enemy, we are not alarmed by it. It has picked up no base in the working class, so that its harm is minimized. And even in the student movement, most activists are past that stage, and are searching for concrete answers to what they recognize as the protracted nature of the struggle. The healthy development of the movement over the last decade indicates the growing capability to overcome error and, through struggle, achieve a more correct strategy and tactics, and a higher level of theory. If the small and scattered movement of today can become a mass revolutionary party, unity between the best elements of Old and New Left is ultimately assured. It is no surprise that there is a great deal of romantic anti-leadership sentiment, though the majority consistently vote for a national organization with a national program and leadership. People have a pretty good idea of some of the things they want, but whether they are willing to work out the means to achieve their ends is another matter altogether, especially if it becomes apparent that they can be assisted by people more knowledgeable and experienced than themselves. Hence the need for delegation, for the system in which delegates represent the mass and carry out its will. Most people at most times are willing to delegate authority to someone who they believe shares their views and who is competent at putting them into practice. The failure of the left in the last 100 years to unite the majority of the population in a successful struggle for socialism and the success of the capitalist class in maintaining its power and extending its ideological hegemony have been due to the errors of socialist leadership and to the powerful resources and cleverness of the ruling leadership. The fact that we have often had irresponsible political leadership is not necessarily an adequate reason for attacking the idea of leadership itself. The leadership is represented by the central committee (or steering committee) which is formed by electing one member of each cell to the committee. The Central Committee has two primary tasks: first, to function as a decision-making body in emergency situations and to serve as an information channeling center between cells. The coordinating function gives continuity to cell operation. In some cases, it may be the Central Committee’s task to suggest things for cells to do, like catching up with other cells. The decision-making process within the cell structure would probably best be named participatory democratic centralism.
In a polemic against Proudhon, Louis Blanc asked whether it is possible for millions of human beings to carry on their affairs without accepting what the pettiest man of business finds necessary, the intermediation of representatives. He answered his own question by saying that one who declares direct action on this scale to be possible is a fool, and that one who denies its possibility need not be an absolute opponent of the idea of the state. If we took seriously the task of imagining how we, had we the power, would manufacture automobiles and settle priorities concerning allocation of resources and synthesize local and national decision-making, I believe it would help us find our way through current organizational dilemmas. And it might just help to persuade other Americans that we are capable of governing. We are now a major campaign issue and we must see ourselves accordingly. Leadership articulates the goals of the revolution, the methods by which those goals will be attained, while at the same time embodying the ideals of the revolution itself. What would be the meaning of all leader genius and of all leader impetus unless the brainy theorist were to establish the goals for the human struggle? The combination of theorist, organizer, and leader in one person is the rarest thing to be found on this globe; this combination makes the great man. A revolution cannot surpass the quality of its leadership. The most sublime theoretical insight has no value and no purpose unless the leader moves the masses towards it. Those upon whom the revolutionary leadership falls assume an awesome responsibility. The office of the leader is experienced as a personal power, particularly the entire magnitude of the organization is personified by the leader. The words and actions of the revolutionary leader must always advance the revolutionary consciousness and revolutionary effectiveness of the people. As the organization grows, its history becomes less the history of anarchic rebellion, and more the familiar history of the party and the leader. To coin a phrase, ‘our day will come.’ But it will only come when a great amount of the population see us and themselves as part of a serious alternative to existing American institutions. That will be our second coming. One of the key problems of a revolutionary movement in a situation that at best is pre-revolutionary becomes that of our rhetoric versus the reality that we are nowhere near taking power anywhere. (Not to mention united goals, strategy and tactics.) We speak as a new American left, committed to the achievement of political power in our time. We seek political power so that men may at last prevail over the arrangements of society in which a few control the destinies of all.
An organization of socialist intellectuals is historically incomplete. By right it should be a section of a party in alliance with other forces including working-class organizations. The organization must represent not only the power of community, but also productive power, living creative energy. Our base is so small that all working people must be considered potential allies. Although there are individuals and groups in the United States playing a revolutionary role, there is no revolutionary party which actually has its base among working people. The most valuable lesson for us is that our real allies will always be in the rank-and-file, and among the unorganized workers. Committed to a Marxist position, we should give ourselves all the room possible to make our developing ideology responsive to the needs of the people. We come on hard about our politics, telling guys that the organization is interested in workers taking power, the right of workers to control the production process of the state. Power comes to the people when we have done our work to get the people ready to take it. It is therefore the primary revolutionary duty of the people of the U.S. to build a militant united front against U.S. imperialism. The main force and leader of the united front must be the working class. We will never be able to destroy U.S. imperialism unless the proletariat is brought solidly into the anti-imperialist movement. We grant that their condition will have to deteriorate much farther before that will happen on a large scale, but we must be laying the political groundwork now for that possibility if it is ever to be actualized. Learn from the people, serve the people, become one with the people.
We will build a socialist U.S.A., with all power in the hands of the working people and their allies; build a revolutionary organization with the participation and support of millions of working men and women as well as those students, artists and intellectuals who will join with the working class to end the profit system. Marx and Lenin both contended that working-class consciousness was measured by the degree of hegemony of revolutionary socialist parties over the majority of workers. The working class is absolutely necessary in order seriously to challenge capitalist power. Recognizing just how far this class is from political consciousness, it would seem wise first to develop a base among constituents already in motion. We think it necessary for individuals with a revolutionary perspective to form collectives which link up with working people and serve their class interests. The opportunity is that we will see that the liberation movement has succeeded in infusing its energy into the labor movement, and has thus created a force in embryo which, if we understand how to relate to it, can serve as the real base for the transformation of the character of the whole Labor movement in our country, an indispensable prerequisite for making the Revolution. Although our work is with the working class, we recognize the crucial importance of a revolutionary student movement and of linking this movement up with the working class. Our experience has shown that this can be done and that far from retarding the development of revolutionary struggle and ideology among workers, it can help to push that development forward. Just as on campus we must do the hard work of base-building, so radicals in factories will develop an anti-imperialist base through day-to-day struggles. The point is to develop a student movement rooted in struggles against the ways Imperialism oppresses students, increasingly pro-working class, more and more consciously allied with workers in a struggle. The student movement is in a position to begin carrying anti-imperialist ideology to the working class. On-the-job organizing begins in a variety of ways. Some organizers simply take jobs in strategically chosen factories. Once on the job, among the blue-collar industrial working class, they work to engage themselves in and eventually lead struggles. Yet going into the shops requires discipline, a strong sense of goals, and adjustment to boring, repetitive and often dangerous work. It would be foolish to expect that workers will be open to the same actions which attracted middle class college hippies, but their interests can be made into political issues. Working-class youth do not have the options of dropping out of work or of remaining permanent students. But if they can be socialized into a new ideology, the makings of a radical industrial working class is both theoretically and practically possible. If nothing else is gained, many workers learn to respect the students. Out of wildcats emerges a cadre of revolutionary workers who see their role as organizers laying the ground work for a mass-based working class movement. Bringing young working people into the new left would change the ‘middle class’ character of the movement. This expanded and more class-conscious movement could then be a critical political force, not only on the campus but in the community and trade union struggles as well. A few categories change. Very few activists talk about organizing ‘the poor.’ The discussion shifts to ‘the working class’ (or ‘the underclass/ the unemployed or underemployed sector of the working class). The term ‘middle class’ likewise becomes taboo and is replaced by a variety of conceptual categories such as ‘new working class,’ ‘university trained workers’ and ‘radicals in the professions.’
As with all institutions in class society, the class that holds state power determines the nature of that institution. We want to lead workers and their allies in overthrowing the bourgeois state that controls, exploits, and takes our people’s lives, and we say so openly. We want socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat in order to destroy and bury imperialism. True revolution in America is concerned with running this country and having programs to turn over the wealth and resources of the U.S. to the creative energies of the masses of the people. And until we are able to see ourselves, or some of us, governing this nation and having the capacity and the skills to do it, then no one else will either. As a form of personified power, the Movement finds it necessary to reconstitute the personified power of community, the State, and to magnify this power by enriching it with productive power. Many are becoming conscious of the need to transform the protest movement into a revolutionary movement — a movement that would be more than a thorn in the side of the ruling class, a movement capable of destroying that class and creating a new society, a movement that is not primitive, fragmented and directionless, but one guided by a revolutionary party based on Marxist-Leninist principles. Marxist-Leninist principles are phrases laden with the historical experience of revolutionary parties based on Marxist-Leninist principles. These principles do not belong to the period when scientific communism was being evolved, the period when Marx wrote his works on alienation, division of labor, commodity production and ideology, the period when Marx wrote that “the conditions of life which different generations find in existence decide whether or not the periodically recurring revolutionary convulsion will be strong enough to overthrow the basis of the entire existing system. And if these material elements of a complete revolution are not present (namely, on the one hand, the existing productive forces, on the other the formation of a revolutionary mass which revolts not only against separate conditions of society up till then but against the very ‘production of life’ till then, the ‘total activity’ on which it was based), then, as far as practical development is concerned, it is absolutely immaterial whether the idea of this revolution has been expressed a hundred times already, as the history of communism proves.” These early works only represent an important stage in the development of the philosophical and theoretical foundations of the Marxist party, — they come before the fully mature works of Marx and Engels. The Marxist-Leninist principles are based exclusively on the fully mature works, which treat Imperialism as the Last Stage of Capitalism, which deal with Revolutionary Ideology, and which point out the necessity and historic inevitability of the party’s seizure of state power. These fully mature works are the source of the phrases laden with historical experience that constitute Marxism-Leninism; they provide the foundation for the insight that conditions are never premature for a revolutionary party, if it has the right political and organizational strategy. These conditions for the development of a revolutionary party in this country are the main ‘conditions’ for winning. A popular radical party should be organized in this country with a distinct anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist point of view.
As the peoples of the world increasingly seize the initiative in their global confrontation with U.S. imperialism, the ability of monopoly capitalism to resolve Its contradictions with the U.S. working class becomes progressively limited, setting the stage for the seizure of state power by the working class. Perhaps the central problem of Marxists in the 20th century, from Lenin’s time to the present, is how to make a revolution when the historical Marxist revolutionary force, the working class, is clearly not a revolutionary agent. There could not yet be revolutionary consciousness among the workers. This consciousness could only be brought to them from without. The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness. Look at organized labor: it is still a force in the society, although probably a reactionary one. We cannot end racism, capitalism, colonialism and imperialism unless state power is In the hands of those people who understand that the wealth, the total wealth of any country and the world, belongs to all people. Those who understand can speak for and decide for the entire community only when the state is accepted as the equivalent of the community. Unless liberation movements from the very beginning are dedicated to socialist principles or evolve into movements with socialist principles while the fighting is going on, we cannot assume that those who fight will assume state power and implement decisions that appropriate the wealth of countries for the entire people.
The control and use of the wealth of the Empire for the people of the whole world is also in the interests of the vast majority of the people in this country. The most important aspect to grasp and grasp firmly is the vanguard role played by oppressed peoples in general and the most oppressed sectors of the international working class in particular. —The principal contradiction in the world today is that between U.S. imperialism and the nations it oppresses. The sharpest blows against U.S. imperialism are being dealt by the nationally oppressed peoples of Asia, Africa, Latin America and within the U.S. The Liberation Fronts are a vanguard force that is leading this struggle. The role of others is to join with the vanguard. It is possible and necessary to build an anti-imperialist, working class movement in the mother country,, a movement that allies with and provides material aid to all oppressed people of the world. The main task for our organization is to unite the struggles of oppressed and exploited people. The anti-imperialist movement must serve the people. Only in this way can we bring the mass of people in this country to oppose U.S. aggression and fascist repression. The struggle for women’s liberation represents a major and integral part of the overall movement for the defeat of U.S. monopoly capitalism and its replacement by a socialist America. Within the revolutionary movement, the women’s liberation struggle will be led by working women. Combine this with the special oppression of black and brown women, the relation of their oppression to the oppression of white women and whether a ‘united front of all women’ can be formed. First, while all women are oppressed by all men, cutting across class and national lines, the principal oppression of black and brown women is their oppression as black or brown people. Thus, before there can be unity among all women, black, brown and white, in the struggle against male supremacy, white women have to establish as a first principle of unity the struggle against white supremacy and the repudiation of the white-skin privilege. And more. We must build struggles not only because they are the way to build our own movement, but also because they are the only concrete way to relate to the vanguard struggles of black and brown people in this country, and of colonized people throughout the world.
The sharpest struggles in the world today are those of the oppressed nations against imperialism and for national liberation. A nation is an irreducible plural. The liberation of a nation is a known social relation. Within this country the sharpest struggle is that of the colony for its liberation, it is a struggle which by its very nature is anti-imperialist and increasingly anti-capitalist. Within the liberation movement the vanguard force is the Party. Its development of an essentially correct program for the community, and its ability to organize around this program has brought it to this leadership. The fundamental reason for the success of the Party is that it has a correct analysis of American society. The power of wealth will thus be overthrown and replaced by the power of the people, led by the working class, led by a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary party.
Unite with real friends against real enemies!
U.S. Get out of the colony, recognize the Party!
End fascist repression of the oppressed communities!
Free all political prisoners!
Support for liberation!
Free the leader and all political prisoners!
No more surtax!
Independence for the colony!
Solidarity with the conspiracy!
Learn from the people,
Serve the people,
Become one with the people!
As Lenin writes, a revolutionary party can be formed as soon as a revolutionary line has been developed. But not before. The time has come for conscious application of energy toward the development of that line. Now. Without it, the despair of many in the movement will increasingly be felt in the separation of politics from struggle. Militancy without politics will move us away from the conscious direction of our movement. To have a unified centralized organization it is necessary to have a common revolutionary theory which explains, at least generally, the nature of our revolutionary tasks and how to accomplish them. It must be a set of ideas which have been tested and developed in the practice of resolving the important contradictions in our work. In order for this fighting force to grow from an agitational movement to a movement capable of destroying imperialism, it is essential that the movement develop an international ideology which holds as its essential principles the fight against anti-communism, the fight against white supremacy and male supremacy, and the fight for the key role of the proletariat. One of the most glaring deficiencies is the gulf between leadership and membership, a circumstance which creates a danger that even if a theoretically correct revolutionary communist ideology is developed on the national level, there may be no membership to put it into practice. Putting forward our politics in an aggressive way is the only way to organize the masses of people in this country. Only by challenging the consciousness of the people could we ever develop a movement capable of helping topple the imperialist state. The most striking success of the revolution of a view of life will always be won whenever the new view of life is, if possible, taught to all people, and, if necessary, is later forced upon them. In every really great revolutionary movement propaganda will first have to spread the idea of this movement. That means, it will untiringly try to make clear to the others the new train of thought, to draw them over to its own ground, or at least to make them doubtful of their own previous conviction. Since the propagation of a doctrine — that means this propaganda — has to have a backbone, the doctrine will have to give itself a solid organization. The organization receives its members from the followers in general won by propaganda. The latter will grow the more quickly, the more intensively propaganda is carried out, and the latter in turn is able to work the better, the stronger and the more vigorous the organization is that stands behind it. In addition to exchanging information, the organization will focus on two areas: study and action. A steering committee prepares a reading list and several study plans for use as each area needs focusing on the works of Marx, Lenin and Mao. ’Politics’ — revolutionary socialist politics — becomes a question of using the right words. It is not enough that one be outraged and passionate and effective: one must also cite the correct texts.
Ideologies, whether bourgeois or proletarian, serve the interests of their respective classes, but that is as far as the similarity goes. Proletarian ideology, Marxism-Leninism, is true social science; it is both partisan and, at the same time, an objective, true reflection of the real social process. It cannot become a new exploiting class, and it has, therefore, no interests which are ultimately directed against any section of society. Its ideology must be ‘objectively true’ or it cannot liberate itself. Hereby the following realization must never leave us: since the so-called program of the movement is certainly absolutely correct in its final aims, but as in its formulation it had to take psychological momenta into consideration, there can well arise, in the course of time, the conviction that in individual instances perhaps certain leading propositions should be framed differently, or should receive a better formulation. But every attempt in this direction has, in most cases, catastrophic effects. For thereby something that should stand unshakably firm is given free to discussion which, once a single point is deprived of its faithful, dogmatic determination, does not result immediately in a new, better, and above all a uniform determination, but which will rather lead to never-ending debates and to general confusion. In such a case there remains always the reflection of what is better: a new, more fortunate formulation which causes a dispute within the movement, or a form which at the moment is perhaps not the best one, but presents an organism that in itself is complete, unshakable and entirely uniform. Every examination will show that the latter is preferable. —You cannot eliminate even one basic assumption, one substantial part of this philosophy of Marxism (it is as if it were a solid block of steel) without abandoning objective truth, without falling into the arms of the bourgeois-reactionary falsehood. With a doctrine that in great lines is actually correct, it is less harmful to retain a formulation, even if in reality it were no longer quite up to date, than to deliver, by its correction, to general discussion and all its most evil consequences, a principle of the movement that so far has been looked upon as made of granite. This is impossible above all as long as the movement itself is still fighting for victory. For how does one think to fill people with blind faith in the correctness of a doctrine if by continued changes in its outward construction one spreads uncertainty and doubt? This is the secret of philosophical language, in which thoughts in the form of words have their own content. The point here is not that the vanguard shall realize the impossibility of preserving the old order of things and the inevitability of its overthrow. The point is that the masses, the millions, shall understand this inevitability. But the masses can understand this only from their own experience. Therefore, if, in order to lead a view of life to victory, we have to transform it into a fighting movement, the program of the movement has logically to consider the human material that it has at its disposal. As immovable as the final aims and the leading ideas must be, just as ingenious and psychologically correct must the method be, by which the propaganda program is orientated at the souls of those without whose help the most sublime idea would forever remain only an idea. If the people’s idea wants to proceed to a clear success from the unclear intentions of today, then it has to single out certain leading principles from its large world of thought, principles which, according to their nature and contents, are suitable for obligating a broad mass of people, namely, that mass which alone guarantees the fight for this idea. This is the mass of workers.
We must build a movement oriented toward power. Revolution is a power struggle, and we must develop that understanding among people from the beginning. A major focus in our work is the pigs, because they tie together the various struggles around the state as the enemy, and thus point to the need for a movement oriented toward power to defeat it. For this reason, the program of the movement is summed up in a few articles. They are destined primarily to give the man in the street a rough picture of the movement’s intentions. They are in a way of speaking a political creed which on the one hand campaigns for the movement and which on the other hand is suited for uniting and welding together those who have been attracted by a generally acknowledged obligation. The task is to enable the vast masses to realize from their own experience the inevitability of the overthrow of the old regime, to promote such methods of struggle and forms of organization as will make it easier for the masses to learn from experience to recognize the correctness of the revolutionary slogans. What we try to do is take stuff like Marx and Lenin and try to translate it into street language: Super-Pig-Capitalist-Imperialist-United States! People’s Solidarity Forever! Unite with real friends against real enemies! Maybe they can’t catch what Marx is saying, but when one of us runs it down to them, they can dig on dialectical materialism. The question arises, what are these masses? It has already been shown that a general sentiment of indifference towards the management of its own affairs is natural to the crowd, even when organized to form political parties. The very composition of the mass is such as to render it unable to resist the power of an order of leaders aware of its own strength. Great theorists are only in the rarest cases great organizers, and the greatness of the theorist and the program-maker lies primarily in the recognition and in the establishment of abstractly correct laws, while the organizer has to be primarily a psychologist. The organizer possesses this specific virtue or potency, this special field in which his powers are developed to the level required by the task to which he is assigned. He is able to articulate perfectly the thoughts of the movement. He is able to evaluate whether he finds himself in front of one or another of a given set of constituencies, to choose the approach suitable to the given constituency, and to correct himself if he errs. When he evaluates, chooses or corrects himself, he is not exerting his own powers but the powers of his office: his forms of evaluation, choice and self-correction are integral parts of the party program. He has to take man as he is, and for this reason he must know him. He must not over valuate him just as he must not underestimate him in the mass. On the contrary, he must try to take account of the weakness and of the bestiality equally, so that, all factors considered, he will create a formation which as a living organism is filled with the strongest and most constant force, and is thus suitable for carrying an idea and paving its way to success.
It is a fact of everyday experience that enormous public meetings commonly carry resolutions by acclamation or by, general assent, whilst these same assemblies, if divided into small sections, say of fifty persons each, would be much more guarded in their assent. The very process of massing into a movement contributes to a sense of personal power and thereby makes possible further steps in the organizing and focusing of the aggregate power. The individual disappears in the multitude, and therewith disappears also personality and sense of responsibility. Personifications of social power seem to animate the world. Only expected, official activity is experienced as real activity. The unofficial projects of an individual human being seem to happen in a social vacuum, cut off from the real life of humanity; they are experienced as empty Intervals of inactivity. Estranged power is experienced as the only real community. Personified power is internalized as the only form of human power. The mass meeting is necessary if only for the reason that in it the individual, who in becoming an adherent to a new movement feels lonely and is easily seized with the fear of being alone, receives for the first time the picture of a greater community, something that has a strengthening and encouraging effect on most people. The same man, in the frame of a company or a battalion, surrounded by all his comrades, would set out on an attack with a lighter heart than he would if left entirely to himself. In the crowd he always feels a little sheltered even if in reality a thousand reasons would speak against it. The community of the great demonstration, however, strengthens not only the individual, but it also unites and helps in creating esprit de corps. The man who, as the first representative of a new doctrine, is exposed to serious oppression in his enterprise or his workshop, urgently needs that strengthening that lies in the conviction of being a member and a fighter of a great embracing body. But he only received the impression of this corporation at the first common mass demonstration. If he steps for the first time out of his small workshop or out of the big enterprise, in which he feels very small, into the mass meeting and is now surrounded by thousands and thousands of people with the same conviction, if while looking around he is carried away by the powerful effect of the suggestive intoxication and the enthusiasm of three or four thousand others, if the visible success and the approval of thousands confirm the correctness of the new doctrine in his mind and waken for the first time the doubt about the truth of his previous conviction — then he himself succumbs to the magic influence of what we call mass suggestion. The will, the longing, but also the force of thousands accumulates in every individual. The man who comes to such a meeting doubting and hesitating, leaves it confirmed in his mind: he has become the member of a community. When an organization is rooted in the needs of the people, attacks on that organization or on its leaders are understood and resisted as a more visible form of the daily oppression of the entire people. Thus the mass defense of the Party can be viewed as an opportunity to unite fragments around support of the group which is in the vanguard. As the movement recognizes the enemy and the serious terms of the struggle, we view our own defense as part of the people’s defense — a fight for survival. We continue to speak about repression on and exploitation, all the time relating that back to the repression of the Party and oppression of the people. Repression, thus, can be turned around and used as an offense, as, for example, in the slogan: Free the 21, Jail the real criminals. People understand the symbolism in the attack and identify with it because of their own desires, often latent, to strike back. This is in symbolic miniature form the dynamic of militant action by a vanguard and then mass identification. It is not a hallucination but a fact of modern life that individuals relate to each other and to the material environment through the mediation of personified powers. It becomes clear that setbacks to the vanguard are tremendous setbacks to the people’s movement as a whole.
There is a burning need for a revolutionary socialist party which has absorbed the key lessons. The fundamental political question of the day is: which class is to hold state power, how is it to achieve it, and what ideology will guarantee victory. There is a general consensus amongst us that what comes next is the creation of a functional equivalent to a revolutionary party, or to say the same thing differently, the creation of a long-term strategy for achieving a socialist America which disciplines and coordinates the work of individuals and local groups. We must take seriously the job of helping to build the party which both represents the interests of the proletariat and has a mass base among the proletariat — a governmental party, that is to say, a party which, organized itself like a government on a small scale, hopes some day to assume the reins of government upon the large scale. The revolutionary political party is a state within the state, pursuing the avowed aim of destroying the existing state in order to substitute for it a social order of a fundamentally different character. The primary reason for such an organization is our responsibility as radicals and as revolutionaries to organize for the overthrow of the capitalist system and to replace capitalism with a socialist system.
We recognize the need for organized armed struggle against the power of the state, and assume the responsibilities of revolutionaries in the preparation of that struggle. The movement can play a role in the development of the party by fighting anti-communism, developing communist ideology, and taking communist ideology to the mass of the people. —The people must be armed, organized and under the direction of a revolutionary party serving the working class. The Movement must lead to the effective organization needed to survive and to create another battlefield of the revolution. A revolution is a war; when the movement in this country can defend itself militarily against total repression it will be part of the revolutionary war. Out of this movement, revolutionary cadre must develop which will aid the development of the vanguard party necessary to lead the struggle for socialism. This will require a cadre organization, effective secrecy, self-reliance among the cadres, and an integrated relationship with the active mass-based movement. Most important, there must be the same revolutionary mass base mentioned earlier, or (better) revolutionary mass movement. It is clear that without this there can’t be the practical experience to know whether or not a theory, or a leader, is any good at all. Without practical revolutionary activity on a mass scale the party could not test and develop new ideas and draw conclusions with enough surety behind them to consistently base its survival on them. Especially, no revolutionary party could possibly survive without relying on the active support and participation of masses of people. The revolutionary principle must be that the majority of the American people can be won to the revolution — not suddenly, but if they can be brought to see an alternative to their layers of privilege. Propaganda tries to force a doctrine upon an entire people; organization embraces in its frame only those who for psychological reasons do not threaten to become a brake to a further spreading of the idea. Propaganda works on the community in the sense of an idea and it makes it ripe for the time of the victory of this idea, while the organization conquers victory by the permanent, organic and fighting union of those followers who appear able and willing to lead the fight for victory. That principle must not be obscured by a smug and incredibly elitist assumption that the movement is already the revolution — an assumption which contains contempt for the people who are presumably to fight a people’s war. When propaganda has filled a whole people with an idea, the organization, with the help of a handful of people, can draw the consequences.
In carrying out propaganda and trying to move the struggle to a higher level we are guided by Mao’s strategic advice: The masses in any given place are generally composed of three parts, the relatively active, the intermediate, and the relatively backward. Great respect must be paid, not only to new members, but also to possible adherents, to those who in Germany are termed mitlaufer, in Italy simpatizzanti, in Holland geestverwanten, and in England sympathizers. The leaders must therefore be skilled in uniting the small number of active elements around the leadership and must rely on them to raise the level of the intermediate elements and to win over the backward elements. Propaganda and organization — that means followers and members — have thus a definite mutual relationship. The better propaganda has been working, the smaller may be the organization, and the greater the number of followers is, the more modest can be the number of members, and vice versa: the worse propaganda is, the greater must and will be the organization, and the smaller the host of followers of a movement remains, the greater must be the number of members, if it still wishes to count on success at all. Our strategy is to carry on propaganda that will help unite the greatest number of forces against imperialist companies, while at the same time, appealing especially to the more advanced workers. The first task of propaganda is the winning of people for the future organization; the first task of the organization is the winning of people for the continuation of propaganda. The task of revolutionaries is twofold: spread the anti-imperialist movement to the working class, and develop Marxist-Leninist cadre who can integrate with the most exploited sector of the working class, the industrial proletariat. In both these ways, the movement can aid in the development of a revolutionary united front against imperialism, led by the working class, and of a vanguard Party based on the most oppressed and exploited. The second task of propaganda is the destruction of the existing condition and the permeation of this condition with the new doctrine, while the second task of the organization must be the fight for power, so that by it, it will achieve the final success of the doctrine. This will involve organizers consciously organizing among the lowest tracked. It will involve organizers consciously developing bases in communities. And it will involve disciplined cadre entering the armed forces and work places as organizers. The victory of an idea will be the more possible the more extensively propaganda works on the people in their entirety, and the more exclusive, the stricter, and stiffer the organization is which carries out the fight in practice. From this ensues the fact that the number of followers cannot be too great, whereas the number of members can more easily be too large than too small. Real revolutionaries have a sense of true discipline combined with gentleness and enormous toughness. They are about a revolution which can give more of what is noble to their people. This call to a sense of honor and to the highest moral principles is the source of their invincible strength. The followership is rooted only in recognition membership, in the courage to present personally, and to spread further what has been recognized. Recognition in its passive form corresponds to the majority of humankind, which is inert and cowardly. Membership requires an effective mind and thus corresponds only to the minority of men. Thus the strategy of the Movement for developing an active mass base, tying the city-wide fights to community and city-wide anti-pig movement, and for building a party eventually out of this motion, fits with the winning the revolution, builds a movement world strategy for oriented toward power, and becomes one division of the International Liberation Army, while its battlefields are added to those which will dismember and dispose of U.S. Imperialism. Long live the victory of people’s war!
It has been remarked that in the lower stages of civilization tyranny is dominant. Freedoms and privileges, and among these latter the privilege of taking part in the direction of public affairs, are at first restricted to the few. Democracy cannot come into existence until there is attained a subsequent and more highly developed stage of social life. Recent times have been characterized by the gradual extension of these privileges to a widening circle. This is what we know as the era of democracy. Originally the chief is merely the servant of the mass: “We are camels to be ridden upon by the people.” The organization is based upon the absolute equality of all its members. At the outset, the attempt is made to depart as little as possible from pure democracy by subordinating the delegates altogether to the will of the mass, by tying them hand and foot: “Why do you come to us? Why don’t you ask the people? They’re the ones that are making this movement. We can’t speak for them.” Nominally, and according to the letter of the rules, all the acts of the leaders are subject to the ever vigilant criticism of the rank and file: “The revolutionary collective serves the working people: both their immediate and long term interests, it does this by linking up with them, learning from them, fighting in their ranks for better conditions or in resistance to an attack upon them.” But in actual fact, as the organization increases in size, this control becomes purely fictitious. In working with these guys, and with the workers as a whole, we try to keep in mind Mao’s basic instruction on how to become one with the people without getting lost among them. We may observe that as democracy continues to develop, a backwash sets in. With the advance of organization — by helping to develop a more advanced revolutionary theory for the advancement of the struggle to a higher stage — democracy tends to decline. Democratic evolution has a parabolic course. At the present time, at any rate as far as party life is concerned, democracy is in the descending phase. To win a war with an enemy as highly organized and centralized as the imperialists requires a (clandestine) organization of revolutionaries, having also a unified general staff, that is, combined with discipline under one centralized leadership. Thus the leaders, who were at first no more than the executive organs of the collective will, soon emancipate themselves from the mass and become independent of its control. There is one enemy, monopoly capitalism, and to defeat it we need a unified ‘general staff’. It is indisputable that this is a matter of technical and practical necessity. It is the inevitable product of the very principle of organization. Not even the most radical wing of the various socialist parties raises any objection to this evolution, the contention being that democracy is only a form of organization and that where it ceases to be possible to harmonize democracy with organization, it is better to abandon the former than the latter. Organization, since it is the only means of attaining the ends of socialism, is considered to comprise within itself the revolutionary content of the party, and this essential content must never be sacrificed for the sake of form. It may be enunciated as a general rule that the increase in the power of the leaders is directly proportional with the extension of the organization.
The principle of division of labor coming more and more into operation, executive authority undergoes division and subdivision. There is thus constituted a rigorously defined organization. The individual becomes a more or less efficient instrument of the organization. The army itself is the working class, defined in terms appropriate to advanced industrial society. This class alone has the power to transform this society. The key to its organization is the party, which represents the ideological alternative to capitalism. In this way there is constructed a powerful and complicated edifice. Initiative and capacity for decision thus become what may be called a professional specialty, whilst for the rank and file is left the passive virtue of discipline. The strength of a political party lies by no means in a mentality, as great and as independent as possible, of the individual members, but rather in the disciplined obedience with which its members follow their intellectual leadership. The ability of the working class of the U.S. to carry the struggle against U.S. imperialism through to the end and win its own freedom depends on its recognition that the U.S. is one thing and the nations oppressed by it are another, and its ability to link up its struggles with those of the oppressed peoples. The organization and its leaders become legitimate only when the authority of the organization is internalized by all other individuals. The mechanism of the organization, while conferring a solidity of structure, induces serious changes in the organized mass, completely inverting the respective position of the leaders and the led. As a result of organization, every party or professional union becomes divided into a minority of directors and a majority of directed. As soon as individuals delegate their self-powers to the organization, the individuals become instruments or media through which the powers of the organization are exercised. The decisive factor is the leadership proper. If two bodies of troops baffle one another, not that will be victorious in which each individual received the highest strategic training, but that which has the most superior leaders and at the same time the best disciplined, blindly obedient, best drilled troop. In order to establish this, U.S. workers must adopt as their own the slogan of the right to self-determination for the nations oppressed by U.S. imperialism, which means the right to secession and the formation of an independent national state. Correct strategy is based on an understanding of the class nature of this society; on an understanding that the sharpest struggles against the ruling class are being waged by the oppressed nations against U.S. imperialism, and that all our actions must flow from our identity as part of an international struggle against U.S. imperialism. The Party will win and we will support whatever they want us to do. We owe them our best effort because as long as they fight they give us an example of the best and most passionate all over the earth.
The technical specialization that inevitably results from all extensive organization renders necessary what is called expert leadership. Because war is political, political tasks — the international communist revolution — must guide it. Therefore the centralized organization of revolutionaries must be a political organization as well as military, what is generally called a ‘Marxist-Leninist’ party. Consequently the power of determination comes to be considered one of the specific attributes of leadership, and is gradually withdrawn from the masses to be concentrated in the hands of the leaders alone. The Marxist-Leninist Party is the general staff of the working class struggle. The individuals who occupy the offices of the Marxist-Leninist Party collectively personify the entire spiritual life of modern industrial society. The whole of historical development consists in those theoretical abstractions which originate in the heads of all the revolutionary leaders of the age, and since it is impossible to put all these heads together and induce them to take counsel and register their votes, there must of necessity be one central head, the spearhead, in a word the speculative unity of all these heads, the leader. The organization applies Marxism-Leninism, as it has developed through Mao, to the concrete situation within the United States, in order to prepare the conditions for the liberation of working people and mankind.
The triumph of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union in 1917 was the beginning of the end of world imperialism. The fight for smashing the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and the establishing of the dictatorship of the proletariat, is what distinguishes communists from others who may claim the honor of being communist. This battle is the essence of Marxism-Leninism — which class will hold state power? When imperialism is defeated in the U.S., it is replaced by socialism — nothing else. One revolution, one replacement process, one seizure of state power — the anti-imperialist revolution and the socialist revolution, one and the same stage. The recognition of class struggle leads inevitably to the recognition of the necessity for violent revolution and the political rule of the working class. The organized repressive violence of the state is met with the organized revolutionary violence of the people. Power to the people!
The new democratic revolution and new democratic state consist of a united front — an alliance of all revolutionary classes that can be united against imperialism, including the patriotic bourgeoisie but led by the working class. It is the task of the revolutionary party of the working class, guided by Marxism-Leninism, to lead the people to victory. The party is neither a social unity nor an economic unity. It Is based upon its program. In theory this program may be the expression of the interests of a particular class. In practice, however, anyone may join the party, whether his interests coincide or not with the principles enunciated in the party program. The socialist party is the ideological representative of the proletariat This, however, does not make It a class organism. From the social point of view it is a mixture of classes, being composed of elements fulfilling diverse functions in the economic process. But since the program has a class origin, an ostensible social unity is thereby conferred upon the party. All socialists as such, whatever their economic position in private life, admit in theory the absolute pre-eminence of one great class, the proletariat. Those non-proletarians affiliated to the party, and those who are but partial proletarians, ‘adopt the outlook of the working class, and recognize this class as predominant’. The internalization of the party program is best exhibited by individuals whose daily activity separates them from the social means of production, who do not have daily contact with society’s productive forces. It is tacitly presupposed that those members of the party who do not belong to the class which the party represents will renounce their personal interests whenever these conflict with the interests of the proletarian class. On principle, the heterogeneous elements will subordinate themselves to the ‘Idea’ of a class to which they themselves do not belong. In practice, the acceptance of the program does not suffice to abolish the conflict of interests between capital and labor.
The tasks of the national democratic revolution can be fulfilled only through long and tortuous struggles. In the struggle against imperialism and its lackeys, it is necessary to rally all anti-imperialist patriotic forces, including the national bourgeoisie and all patriotic personages. All those patriotic personages from among the bourgeoisie and other exploiting classes who join the anti-imperialist struggle play a progressive historical role; they are not tolerated by imperialism but welcomed by the proletariat. It was Lenin who first advanced the need, and carried out the policy of bribing the petty bourgeois group of administrators, technicians and specialists to work for socialism. Or as Mao put it, ‘In wars of national liberation, patriotism is applied internationalism.’ The principle at stake is socialist internationalism. Revolutionaries in oppressor nations especially must uphold the principle of equality among nations and the right of self-determination and full equal rights of nationally oppressed peoples. They do this particularly among the working class of the oppressor nation, as the precondition for international proletarian unity and as the key weapon in the struggle against opportunism in the ranks of the working class. On the other hand, revolutionaries in oppressed nations have the obligation of struggling against and isolating reactionary nationalism in their ranks, while supporting progressive nationalism. They must fight for solidarity with other oppressed nations and class solidarity with the working class of the oppressor nations. We commence from the concept of the Nation, which is for us a fact which cannot be cancelled or surmounted. We are therefore antithetic to all the internationalisms. The dream of a great humanity is founded on a Utopia and not upon reality. Nothing gives us the authority to affirm that the millennium of universal brotherhood is imminent. In spite of the dreams of the Internationale, when the great hours strike — Patria o muerte! — those who deny their country die for it. Starting from the Nation, we arrive at the State, which is the government in its tangible expression. But we are the State: by means of a process we wish to identify the Nation with the State. The revolutionary is characterized by an analysis of the state, which differs from the radical’s view of the ‘power structure,’ which differs from the liberal’s notion of the ‘power elite,’ and posits the seizure and maintenance of that power as necessary to destroy it. This differentiation of consciousness is fundamental to every political question we face. It is not the nation which generates the state; that is an antiquated naturalistic concept. Rather it is the state which creates the nation, conferring volition and therefore real life on a people made aware of their moral unity. Indeed, it is the state which, as the expression of a universal ethical will, creates the right to national independence. In wars of national liberation patriotism is applied internationalism To be a revolutionary nationalist, you must of necessity be a socialist. This distinction became even more important after the victory of socialism in several countries, which changed the nature of national and class relationships all over the world and particularly underlined the importance of national liberation struggles in colonized countries. Before the victory of socialism Marxists considered anti-imperialist, national-democratic revolutions in oppressed nations as part of the bourgeois revolution, although they supported many of them as progressive. The victory of socialism ushered in a new era. Anti-colonial, national-democratic revolutions are now seen as part of the new world revolution, the proletarian socialist revolution. The link between national-democratic revolutions and socialist revolutions in oppressed nations was developed in its clearest form by Mao Tse-tung’s theory of the ‘new democratic’ revolution and by the example of the Chinese revolution itself. It is a movement diametrically opposed to the elitist idea that only leaders are smart enough or interested enough to accept full revolutionary conclusions. It is a movement built on the basis of faith in the masses of people. The first foundation for forming authority is always offered by popularity. However, an authority that is based solely on this foundation is still extremely weak, unstable and vacillating. Any supporter of such an authority, resting purely on popularity, must therefore endeavor to improve and to safeguard this authority by creating power. In power, therefore, that means in force, we see the second foundation of all authority. This is far more stable, more secure, but not always more vigorous than the first one. If popularity and force unite, and if thus combined they are able to last over a certain period of time, then an authority on an even more solid basis can arise, the authority of tradition. If finally popularity, force and tradition combine, an authority may be looked upon as unshakable.
Capitalist society, divided into classes, has need of the state as an organization of the ruling class, whose purpose is to maintain the capitalist system of production in its own interest in order to effect the continued exploitation of the proletariat. Hence, the strategic goal of the U.S. proletariat can only be to destroy the bourgeoisie and replace it by the dictatorship of the proletariat, as the pre-condition for building socialism. The U.S. working class with its allies from other classes, together constituting a vast majority of the people and led by a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary party smashes the existing state apparatus (in fact a dictatorship of the monopoly capitalist class) and sets up its own form of state: the dictatorship of the proletariat. Generated to overthrow the centralized power of the state, starting from the idea that the working class need merely secure a sufficiently vast and solid organization in order to triumph over the organization of the state, the party of the workers has ended by acquiring a vigorous centralization of its own, based upon the same cardinal principles of authority and discipline. The proletariat is the class which has the power to defeat the imperialists, to carry the fight through to the establishment of socialism and to guard against the resurgence of capitalism. It is the only class which in ending its own exploitation ends the exploitation of all classes. The proletariat leads with a party that represents the interests of the proletariat and has a mass base among the proletariat — a Marxist-Leninist party. To put the matter less euphemistically, there exists a dictatorship in the hands of those leaders who have been sufficiently astute and sufficiently powerful to grasp the sceptre of dominion in the name of socialism, and to wrest it from the hands of the expiring bourgeois society. Revolutionary warfare or armed struggle resulting in state power is the logical, inevitable, answer to the political, social, and economic situation which confronts us. The solution to our problem is total control of the politico-military apparatus of this country. We do not have the luxury of an alternative, for we are faced with dire necessity. Everything for the State; nothing against the State; nothing outside the State. The People’s Liberation Army triumphantly sets up the People’s Revolutionary Government, proving that it can be done here in Amerika — establishing a people’s party and a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Political organization leads to power.
The key is the party, which represents the ideological alternative to capitalism. The Party Is the mirror of the new society. The Party represents the politics of modernization. In order for the U.S. proletariat to play its historic role, it is led by a party of revolutionaries, organized on the basis of democratic centralism, guided by the science of the proletariat, the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. The party is able to apply these teachings to the specific conditions of the U.S. in order to import class consciousness into the spontaneous struggles of the proletariat. No political party can possibly lead a great revolutionary movement to victory unless it possesses revolutionary theory and a knowledge of history and has a profound grasp of the practical movement. Lenin fashioned concrete principles for the nature and functioning of the vanguard party as a disciplined detachment of the proletariat, practicing criticism and self criticism. In the land where the dictatorship of the proletariat is in force, no important political or organizational problem is ever decided by our councils and other mass organizations without directives from our party. In this sense, we may say that the dictatorship of the proletariat is substantially the dictatorship of the party, as the force that effectively guides the proletariat. Socialism means political power in the hands of oppressed people. We who constitute the vanguard social force in this country possess the necessary governmental machinery to express our needs and aspirations.
The organization of the idea, that means the movement, has to embrace only so many people as are absolutely necessary for the occupation of the nerve centers of the State involved. To have a centralized party requires a centralized leadership tested in practice, specific individuals with the understanding and the ability to unify and guide the movement in the face of new problems and be right most of the time. The leadership develops the organizational forms that have made the people and their armed forces the most invincible fighters against imperialism. The leader knows when to seize an opportunity and when to forego an advantage. He has a long view of the struggle that can help him set priorities for a current moment. His is also the ability to separate a ‘main enemy’ from a future or past one and often make them hostile to each other to the advantage of the people. Most important, he builds a cadre of men who share those beliefs and principles and who are the new helmsmen. Therefore, it is very necessary that out of pure instinct of self-preservation the movement — as soon as it is crowned by success — immediately limits the admission of members, and further carries out the enlarging of its organization only with the utmost caution and after the most thorough examination. Only by this will it be able to preserve the nucleus of the movement unspoilt, fresh and sound. The Party is part of the working class, namely, its most advanced, class-conscious, and therefore most revolutionary part. It has to see to it that solely this nucleus continues to lead the movement, that means directs the propaganda which is to lead to its general recognition and which, as the incorporator of power, carries out those actions which are necessary for the practical realization of its ideas. The Party is formed of the best, most intelligent, self-sacrificing and far-seeing workers. The Party is the organized political lever by means of which the more advanced part of the working class leads all the proletarian and semi-proletarian mass in the right direction. By internalizing the power of the party, by conferring on it the legitimacy of authority, human beings simultaneously internalize their own powerlessness. Every act which lies within the sphere of influence of the party is out of bounds for an individual. Individuals not only view the wielding of their own powers over the environment as illegitimate; they come to feel themselves unable to wield these powers: the party is able to do everything, the individual is unable to do anything. Only a cadre form of organization can maintain the discipline necessary for political work under present conditions while simultaneously developing creative new approaches to struggle. Out of the basic stock of the old movement, the party has to fill not only all the most important positions of the conquered structure, but also to form the entire leadership. And this has to be continued until the previous principles and doctrines of the party have become the foundation and the content of the new State. Exactly that is what Lenin called for in What is to be Done? (a centralized party of professional revolutionaries and anti-autocratic agitation among all classes). Now it is manifest that the concept of dictatorship is the direct antithesis of the concept democracy. The dictatorship of the proletariat, whose theoretical foundations were,, laid by Marx and Lenin, rapidly becomes a dictatorship of the top group of the Party leadership. Leadership depends upon what we may term the psychology of organization itself, that is to say, upon the tactical and technical necessities which result from the consolidation of every disciplined political aggregate. A revolutionary (read negation of the negation) understands not only the pattern of social oppression, and recognizes the evil, but also has defined more carefully the way to overcome it.
The power of the Marxist-Leninist theory lies in the fact that it enables the Party to find the right orientation in any situation, to understand the inner connection of current events, to foresee their course and to perceive not only how and in what direction they are developing in the present, but how and in what direction they are bound to develop in the future. Before key decisions are made the best minds in the organization are brought together. The same can be said of the deputies who are elected to the Supreme Council, and take part in its sessions. They attend the sessions and make speeches on problems which have previously been posed and decided on by Party circles. Their mission is to support the powers that be and use their eloquence in applying the decisions in their territorial or professional spheres. Top decisions and organizational objectives are made in close cooperation with all important organization members. Every branch of labor is directed by the most skilled worker, who himself takes part in it, and in the realm of enjoyment every branch is guided by the merriest member, who him-self participates in the enjoyment But as society is undivided and possesses only one mind, the whole system is regulated and governed by one man — and he is the wisest, the most virtuous and the most blissful. Mao Tse-tung occupies the same relation to the revolutionary movement that Lenin did In his day: Defender of the revolutionary essence of Marxism-Leninism, and Leader in summing up the revolutionary experience and developing the military, political, economic and ideological strategy that finishes off world imperialism. Every movement of world importance exists in the head of some chosen being, and the fate of the world depends on whether this head, which has made all wisdom its own private property, is or is not mortally wounded by some realistic stone before it has had time to make its revelation. The Party, guided by the thought of Comrade Mao Tse-tung, is the center of world revolution. This is true not because I say so, but because hundreds of millions the world over say so.
This status of the leading stratum finds its expression in the revival of the system of the nomenclatura — that is, the establishment of lists of selected individuals, invested with the supreme confidence of the Party; for whom are reserved all responsible positions in the Party and the State. To the extent that an individual becomes one with an office, identifies the powers of the self with the powers of the office, to that extent the individual becomes a personification of certain social powers. The preponderant elements of the movement, the men who lead and nourish it, end by undergoing a gradual detachment from the masses, and are attracted within the orbit of the ‘political class.’ On the one hand there are ordinary employees, members of the Party, who are not invested with any power, who govern nothing and nobody, who cannot give orders or make decisions which have the force of law. On the other hand, there are functionaries who are invested with authority and who rule enterprises, institutions, whole branches of the economy, politics, culture, daily life and the State itself in its internal and external relations — not to speak of the Party which directs and organizes all these. They can give orders and make decisions which have the force of law. They form the ruling stratum of this socialist society, which leads every domain of life and monopolizes the totality of power. A portrait of the Leader adorns every government office and industrial enterprise. Marx and Lenin both contended that working-class consciousness was measured by the degree of hegemony of revolutionary socialist parties over the majority of workers.
Without a revolutionary vanguard, capitalism may gain a new lease on life by default. —This implies real confidence in people. The revolutionary vanguard is able to analyze objective conditions correctly, engages in revolutionary as well as parliamentary politics and is able to lead workers to the left. These phenomena would seem to prove beyond dispute that society cannot exist without a ‘dominant’ or ‘political’ class, and that the ruling class, whilst its elements are subject to a frequent partial renewal, nevertheless constitutes the only factor of sufficiently durable efficacy in the history of human development. According to this view, the government, or, if the phrase be preferred, the state, cannot be anything other than the organization of a minority. It is the aim of this minority to impose upon the rest of society a ‘legal order.’ The state is the personification of the power of community, the estranged power of individuals to decide collectively the methods, means and purpose of their social activity. It is the specific office of the state to use all available means to ensure that the power of community remains estranged. As with streams and their sources, it is axiomatic that the political level of a movement cannot rise above that of its leadership, in this case, the radical vanguard. It devolves upon them to educate and organize, to instill class consciousness in the others and to bring them to life, so to speak, in the political-historical sense, as a self-conscious part of the class struggle. The majority is thus permanently incapable of self-government. Even when the discontent of the masses culminates in a successful attempt to deprive the bourgeoisie of power, this is after all effected only in appearance; always and necessarily there springs from the masses a new organized minority which raises itself to the rank of a governing class. The power conferred on the vanguard is the power to decide, and to order or decree, everything that is done with the productive forces which it personifies. Since what is done with these productive forces determines the shape of the environment in which contemporary human beings live and the activities in which they engage, the power of the vanguard is virtually absolute. Thus the majority of human beings, in a condition of eternal tutelage, are predestined by tragic necessity to submit to the dominion of a small minority, and must be content to constitute the pedestal of a vanguard. In all times, in all phases of development, in all branches of human activity, there have been leaders.
The program for revolutionary administration has three equally important aspects: Political — in order to spell out the aims and methods of the struggle; Economic — in order to meet people’s material needs; Military — in order that the gains can be protected against hostile forces. Both anarchism and opportunism are characteristics of this transitional period. They are two sides of the same coin, polar expressions for the same misunderstanding of the nature of the state. Theophrastus noted long ago that the strongest desire of men who have attained to leadership in a popularly governed state is not so much the acquirement of personal wealth as the gradual establishment of their own sovereignty at the expense of popular sovereignty. This fixation of social activity, this consolidation of what we ourselves produce into an objective power above us, growing out of our control, thwarting our expectations, bringing to naught our calculations, is one of the chief factors in historical development up till now. The anarchists, who by definition have no Organization, have no people that are reliable enough as far as the mass of the people are concerned to replace the government. The anarchists are unable to offer a structural program to replace the government. The anarchists feel they can just go from state to non-state, from a capitalist state to a “communist society where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, where society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.” So pervasive is this bourgeois notion of individualism that most of the workers have not experienced collective work. In this country the anarchists seem to feel that if they just express themselves individually and tend to ignore the limitations imposed on them, without leadership and without discipline they can oppose the very disciplined, organized, reactionary state. This is not true. They will be oppressed as long as imperialism exists. You cannot oppose a system such as this without organization that’s even more disciplined and dedicated than the structure you’re opposing. World history is made by minorities whenever their numerical minority incorporates the majority of will and determination. Socialists might conquer, but not socialism, which would perish in the moment of its adherents’ triumph. We are tempted to speak of this process as a tragicomedy in which the masses are content to devote all their energies to effecting a change of masters.
The organization of the Party takes the place of the Party itself, the Central Committee takes the place of the organization; and finally the leader takes the place of the Central Committee. The Bureau makes political decisions, moves in a political way, and moves for victory, and it would be insane for anyone to expect leadership to organize around mandates and drop their own politics. The principle that one vanguard inevitably succeeds to another, and the law deduced from that principle that leadership is, as it were, a preordained form of the common life of great social aggregates, far from conflicting with or replacing the materialist conception of history, completes that conception and reinforces it. There is no essential contradiction between the doctrine that history is the record of a continued series of class struggles and the doctrine that class struggles invariably culminate in the creation of new vanguards which undergo fusion with the old. History must, therefore, always be written according to an extraneous standard; the real production of life is primeval history, while the truly historical is separated from ordinary life, something extra-superterrestrial. With this the relation of man to nature is excluded from history and hence the antithesis of nature and history is created. The exponents of this conception of history have consequently been able to see in history the actions of princes and States.
To be good at translating the Party’s policy into actions of the masses, to be good at getting not only the leading cadres but also the broad masses to understand and master every movement we launch — to be good at making the ideas of the ruling class the ruling ideas — this is an art of Marxist-Leninist leadership. —The class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas, hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance. In order for the Party to succeed at this task it will take tremendous self-consciousness and discipline from the membership. The Party is a disciplined organization in expecting members to participate in study and self-defense and be responsible to the organization for carrying out decisions made by the entire body. From the very beginning, it is important to introduce blind discipline into our meetings and absolutely to safeguard the authority of the meeting’s leaders. The Party can no longer have a double standard, making major political demands outside its ranks which are not only not supported, but attacked by persons within its ranks. The existence of that contradiction within hamstrings the organization. While the battle remains to be fought out across the country the organization should now be able to move forward in the fight against imperialism.
We must be able to distinguish between bureaucracy and administration. Successful revolutionary struggle depends to a large extent on good administration — on better organizational ability and a superior use of intelligence. If it is true that important decision-making should be concentrated, then the execution of those decisions should be decentralized. The division of labor, which we already saw above as one of the chief forces of history up till now, manifests itself also in the ruling class as the division of mental and material labor, so that inside this class one part appears as the thinkers of the class (its active, conceptive ideologists), while the others’ attitude to these ideas is more passive and receptive. —The development of revolutionary Marxist-Leninist-Maoist collective formations which undertake the application of the lessons of our work Is the responsibility of every revolutionary. Those collectives which prove themselves in practice to have the correct understanding contribute to the unified revolutionary party. As soon as revolutionaries acquire correct understanding, those who do not possess correct understanding become counter-revolutionaries. The acquisition of correct understanding is not a historical event; it takes place whenever Individuals contribute to the unified revolutionary party.
Yesterday’s dreams are today’s revolutionary laws. The Party has full control over state power. After long investigations and criticism sessions, party members are nominated by their co-workers. The party itself makes the final choice. Party members hold practically all leadership positions. There is one indisputed leader of the Party and the country. The Central Committee makes basic policy decisions according to their understanding of what the people want, and the economic and political necessities of the country. As a state designed to end the exploitation of man by man and representing for the first time a majority class in society, it differs from all other states, which perpetuated the exploitation of man by man and were based on the rule of a small minority divorced from production and living off the labor of others. The class making the revolution appears from the very start, if only because it is opposed to a class, not as a class but as the representative of the whole of society. The notion of the representation of popular interests is an illusion engendered by a false illumination, is an effect of a mirage. Out of this very contradiction between the interest of the individual ,and that of the community, the latter takes an independent form as the State, divorced from the real interests of individual and community, and at the same time as an illusory communal life, always based, however, on the real ties existing in every family and tribal conglomeration, and especially on the classes, already determined by the division of labor, which in every such mass of men separate out, and of which one dominates all the others.
Yet it might happen that the centralization in the hands of a few leaders is no more than a tactical method — (‘We are not raising a banner and saying, “Follow us!” We want to join with others to create an instrument that will not be our plaything, or anyone else’s plaything, but a useful tool for the people.’) — a tactical method adopted to effect the speedier overthrow of the adversary, — that the leaders fulfill the purely provisional function of educating the masses for the revolution,’ and that organization is after all no more than a means employed. This development would conflict with the nature of the party, with the endeavor to organize the masses upon the vastest scale imaginable. Nothing could be more anti-scientific than the supposition that as soon as socialists have gained possession of governmental power it will suffice for the masses to exert a little control over their leaders to secure that the interests of these leaders shall coincide perfectly with the interests of the led. In the State, personal freedom exists only for the individuals who develop within the relationships of the vanguard, and only insofar as they are individuals of this class. However, the other side of the picture is a truly revolutionary democracy in which each individual is able to participate in at least a fragment of the personified power of society. This democracy is made possible by two characteristics of the universal representative of society’s productive power: it is liquid, and thus can flow from hand to hand regardless of rank or social office, and it is infinitely divisible, enabling everyone to have it. Thus while everyone is deprived of self powers over the social environment, no one is excluded from a share in the personified powers.
The Party’s struggle is the people’s struggle. Each new vanguard which puts itself in the place of one ruling before it, is compelled, merely in order to carry through its aim to represent its interest as the common interest of all the members of society, that is, expressed in ideal form: it has to giveiIts ideas the form of universality, and represent them as the only rational, universally valid ones. This vanguard with its ‘nomenclature leadership’ governs the country not through the Councils, but through the Party institutions: the Central Committee, the regional committees, district and area committees and their departments. All these state institutions are called Workers’ Councils and are assumed to be Councils, but the power exercised by them is ‘Council power’ only by virtue of the fact that those who lead these Institutions, the representatives of the top echelons of the Party leadership, are simultaneously also deputies of the Councils which have been elected by the whole population in ‘direct, secret and equal’ elections. But all of them were put in to their positions no not by the population, no not by the social organizations of the people, not by the public opinion of the working people, but internally through Party leadership channels. The population is obliged, however, to support them and vote for them. What the individual can no longer do, the Party can do. And what the individual can no longer do includes everything that has become the prerogative of a special office: a profession, a specialized field, a discipline, a qualification, a license. This combination of concentration and decentralization does not solve all organizational problems. But it emphasizes base-building and fresh thinking and moves our groups beyond hollow bureaucratic shells. The social power, the multiplied productive force, which arises through the co-operation of different individuals as it is determined by the division of labor, appears to these individuals, since their co-operation is not voluntary but has come about naturally, not as their own united power, but as an alien force existing outside them, of the origin and goal of which they are ignorant, which they thus cannot control, which on the contrary passes through a peculiar series of phases and stages independent of the will and the action of man, nay even being the prime governor of these. Wage laborers reproduce the state, commodity production and the division of labor in the very act of reproducing themselves. ’Workers’ Council power’ exists therefore in our country in the sense that the Party leaders govern the country in the name of the Workers’ Councils.
It is not enough merely to destroy the institutions of monopoly capitalism. Pernicious ideas — (“The aim of the revolution is the well-being of the greatest number; therefore, if this goal has not been achieved, if the people have not found the better life that they were seeking, then the revolution is not over, even though those who want only to substitute their own rule for somebody else’s say that it is over, as you would expect them to. If the revolution is really over, then it has been nothing but a great crime.) — pernicious ideas and habits engrained in the culture, after centuries of life under capitalism, must be struggled against, defeated and struggled against once more. To do otherwise — for the people to relax their vigilance — is to surrender the people’s revolution to the control of class enemies in whatever guise. To say that ‘all nationalism is reactionary’ — (“It is, incidentally, true of every nation that obstinate nationalism is now to be found only among the bourgeoisie and their writers.”) — is objectively to ally with imperialism in opposition to the struggles of the oppressed nations. One of the most disastrous consequences of the political line of this faction has been their refusal to join in and build a united front against imperialism’s aggression. Disastrous for several reasons, the most basic being failure to understand the tactics and responsibilities of socialist internationalism, the responsibility to fight for the leading role of the anti-imperialist working class organizations. Here is the poison that makes their ideas so dangerous and serves the ends of everything standing in the way of revolutionary nationalism and the triumph of people’s liberation struggles around the world: “Communism is only possible as the act of sovereign populations ‘all at once’ and simultaneously, which presupposes the universal development of productive forces and the world intercourse bound up with communism. The proletariat can thus only exist world-historically, just as communism, its activity, can only have a ‘world historical’ existence — existence of individuals which is directly linked up with world history.” This denial of the class struggle has led and will lead them time and time again to oppose the people. This is a strategy of imperialists and their miserable tools, not of revolutionaries. The theoretical basis for the expulsion of this faction has its roots in the difference between the statements above. Some may think it is a small matter or a technical point, — it is not. For what a revolutionary movement holds to be the ‘Principal contradiction in the world today’ determines not only the direction and content of its theoretical work, but shapes all aspects of its program, organization and practical activity. It determines how one assesses and relates to revolutionary struggles, both international and local. The collective understands that it has a primary responsibility to the Bureau, that its job is the implementation of those politics. And the people who don’t believe that, or can’t understand that, are fired, because we’re building a movement of revolutionaries, and we have to do that in a coherent way. The revolutionary movement, the liberation struggle, the working class, and the whole international struggle against imperialism wins a victory and takes a step forward by expelling from the organization all members of the faction and all others who share their betrayal of the struggle of the Party. This action is a direct outcome and consequence of the great advances made on all fronts against imperialism. We expel factions from our organization because we can not tolerate within our organization those who in practice work against that struggle to which we are trying to win people. In regional and local struggles we must begin to take the same attitude.
Proletarian ideology, Marxism-Leninism, is true social science. The bourgeoisie needs to infuse into the ‘radical’ movement, the working class, and the Marxist-Leninist Party: contempt for theory, pragmatism, anarchism, revisionism, corruption of individuals, bombastic left phrase-mongering, and bourgeois liberal reformism. This contempt, pragmatism, anarchism, revisionism, corruption, bombast and left phrase-mongering describes revolutionary leaders in the following terms: “The idealistic Dalai Lamas have this much in common with their real counterpart: they would like to persuade themselves that the world from which they derive their subsistence could not continue without their holy excrement. As idealistic folly is put into practice, its malevolent nature is apparent: its monkish lust for power, its religious fanaticism, its charlatanry, its pietistic hypocrisy, its unctuous deceit. Miracles are the asses’ bridge leading from the kingdom of the idea to practice.” Those spreading such lies, for the purpose of creating splits within the anti-imperialist movement thus weakening the world revolutionary movement, must be seen as enemies of that movement and working objectively in the interests of the imperialists. Anarchism inhibits the development of coherent ideology. One of the most vital principles of anarchism, a principle which distinguishes it from all revolutionary ideology, is its empiric view “that differences of brain and of intellectual capacity do not imply any differences whatsoever in the nature of the stomach and of physical needs; therefore, the false tenet, based upon existing circumstances, ‘to each according to his abilities,’ must be changed, insofar as it relates to enjoyment in its narrower sense, into the tenet, ‘to each according to his need’ ; in other words, a different form of activity, of labor, does not justify inequality, confers no privileges in respect of possession and enjoyment. The prophet cannot admit this; for the privileges, the advantages of his station, the feeling that he is one of the elect, these are the very stimulus of the prophet.” Thus the anarchists’ ‘anti-elitism’ easily degenerates into opposition to the development of leaders, into an anti-leadership neurosis. The anarchists feel they can just go from state to non-state; they feel that “the proletarians, if they are to assert themselves as individuals, will have to abolish the very condition of their existence hitherto (which has, moreover, been that of all society up to the present) namely, labor. Thus they find themselves directly opposed to the form in which, hitherto, the individuals of whom society consists, have given themselves collective expression, that is, the State. In order, therefore, to assert themselves as individuals, they must overthrow the State.” This is an attempt to destroy the faith and respect which the revolutionary leadership has earned from the people. To perpetrate such lies in an attempt to divide the struggle is counter-revolutionary at best, and can only serve the interests of world imperialism. The Party exemplifies proletarian discipline, what they call democracy is in reality ultra democracy, practiced by anarchist, cultural nationalist, capitalist and all other counter-revolutionaries. The mass will never rule except in abstracto. Leadership articulates the goals of the revolution, the methods by which these goals will be attained, while at the same time embodying the ideals of the revolution itself. Secrecy assures this leadership isolation from the external world and stability internally, So that its personnel can be sheltered from accidents, fluctuations or intrusions deriving from uncontrolled or unreliable elements.
But there exists yet another danger. The leader-ship of the socialist party may fall into the hands of persons whose practical tendencies are in opposition with the program of the working class, so that the labor movement will be utilized for the service of interests diametrically opposed to those of the proletariat. How can we let the mass movement against imperialism fall under such elements? We can’t. We won’t. We will not place our fate in the hands of ‘leaders’ who ignore the mass of working people and who pursue a line guaranteed to exclude proletarian organizations and individuals from even participating, much less leading the anti-imperialist movement. We cannot follow ‘leaders’ who bend every effort toward preventing the development of that movement —Every effort would be made to eliminate potentially ‘disruptive’ elements. The point is that they’re independent of the group which is in control, and because they, too, may grow in strength, they could pose a long-term, even immediate threat. A party is part of a class, its most advanced part. Several parties and, consequently, freedom for parties, can exist only in a society in which there are antagonistic classes whose interests are mutually hostile and irreconcilable. Here there are only two classes, workers and peasants, whose interests — far from being mutually hostile — are, on the contrary, friendly. Hence there is no ground for the existence of several parties, and, consequently, for freedom for these parties. The offensive mounted by capitalism against Marxism-Leninism forms the backdrop for all the reasons commonly given for opposing a Marxist-Leninist party: “We do not know the exact extent of the practical demands which the leader makes. But we do know that his doctrine is a dogma fundamental to all spiritual and temporal craving for power, a mystic veil which obscures all furtive, hypocritical pleasure-seeking, we know that it serves to extenuate any infamy and that it is the source of much mental derangement.” To say that this — anti-leadership neurosis — is counter-revolutionary is not enough, because we overuse those words. It is ‘the enemy within,’ a destructive, wrecking force within the movement that uses revolutionary phrases to confuse, misdirect and slander people working for causes that serve people’s needs. To potential revolutionaries and radicals we say beware!
The fundamental reason for the success of the Party is that it has a correct analysis of society. The country is led by an ideology which precludes and suppresses all others. The entire Press and censorship serves exclusively the Party and is in the hands of the state. You cannot eliminate even one basic assumption, one substantial part of this philosophy of Marxism (it is as if it were a solid block of steel) without abandoning objective truth, the arms of the bourgeois-reactionary falsehood. To belittle socialist ideology in any way, to deviate from it in the slightest degree means strengthening bourgeois ideology. Criticism and research are therefore lacking in the revolutionary ideology. All that may be criticized is individual facts and persons, and then only if they do not hold a high position. Criticism of the foundations of the existing social order, the principles governing the organization of power and the leadership of social life, is prohibited under threat of severe penalties.
Recognizing that imperialism is the most voracious beast that ever stalked the earth, that it is engaged in crimes of blood against humankind, and that it can only be destroyed by the people of the world picking up the sword and fighting it, we affirm the right and duty of all revolutionary peoples and classes to wage armed struggles for liberation, we commit ourselves to give concrete aid to these struggles wherever they arise, and we undertake to educate the people and prepare them and ourselves to wage a determined struggle with arms in hand to destroy imperialism in its lair. The lack of a great, new, creative idea means at all times a limitation of this fighting power. The conviction of the justification of using even the most brutal weapons is always dependent on the presence of a fanatical belief in the necessity of the victory of a revolutionary new order on this globe. A movement which does not fight for such highest aims and ideals will therefore never take the ultimate weapon. It is an important task of the movement to wage internal struggle against so-called revolutionaries who argue that “in the appropriation by the proletarians, a mass of instruments of production must be made subject to each individual, and property to all.” These so-called revolutionaries counterpose the struggle for socialism to the struggle for self-determination of oppressed people by arguing that “Modern universal intercourse can be controlled by individuals only when controlled by all. This appropriation is further determined by the manner in which it must be effected. It can only be effected through a union which by the character of the proletariat itself can only be a universal one, and through a revolution in which, on the one hand, the power of the earlier mode of production and intercourse and social organization is overthrown, and, on the other hand, there develops the universal character of the energy of the proletariat, without which the revolution cannot be accomplished; and in which, further, the proletariat rids itself of everything that still clings to it from its previous position in society. Only at this stage does self-activity coincide with material life, which corresponds to the development of individuals into complete individuals and the casting off of all natural limitations. This revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew.” These so-called revolutionaries are neither revolutionaries, nor are they struggling for socialism. All these are guilty of chauvinism which amounts to putting the interests of the ruling class ahead of the interests of the working class and the oppressed peoples of all countries. Well beat those little sissies, those little schoolboys ass if they don’t try to straighten up their politics. So we want to make that known to them and the first motherfucker that gets out of order had better stand in line for some kind of disciplinary actions from the Party. A key part of such a strategy is the building of a strong youth movement which must be in the forefront of the struggle against imperialism. The management of meetings is different with us. We do not ask anyone graciously to tolerate our lecture, and no one is guaranteed an endless discussion, but it is simply stated that we are the masters of the meeting, that consequently we have the authority, and that everyone who would dare to make only so much as one interrupting shout, will mercilessly be thrown out by the same door by which he came in. If there remains time enough and if we deem fit we allow a discussion to take place, if not, then there is no discussion, and now the speaker, party member Blank, has the floor. Our main task is to develop a youth movement which can attack the main enemy of all oppressed people. At the very beginning of our great activity I commenced the organization of a protective detachment as a supervision service that in principle consisted of young people throughout. Partly they were comrades whom I had known since my military service, others were recently won young party members who, from the very beginning, were instructed and trained to the effect that terror can be broken only by terror, — that on this earth a man who is courageous and determined has always had success on his side, — that we are fighting for a powerful idea, so great and sublime, that it very well deserves to be protected with one’s last drop of blood. They were saturated with the doctrine that once reason is silent and force has the ultimate decision, the best weapon of defense is found in the attack; and that our troop of supervisors has to be preceded by the reputation that it is not a debating club but a fighting community, determined for the utmost. The building of such a movement requires an all-out, ruthless and determined struggle against both the opportunists-revisionists who would lead the movement away from revolutionary struggle down pacifist lines, and against the populists — who would lead it away from struggle by scorning the masses.
Now that we have technically well-trained Bolshevik cadres, the role of wrecker is played not by openly alien people, but by People who possess party cards and enjoy all the rights of party members, People who have accidentally acquired party cards publicly ask, ‘Was not our original intent to give a new meaning to life? Did we not begin with a sense that bourgeois history and bourgeois interpretations of life had to be transcended? Is not the basic proposition of revolutionary socialist thought that something new is possible, desired and achievable? Did we not discover our necessary selves to be radical — then ‘revolutionary’ — because the tragic limits set for man by capitalist civilization, by capitalist society, could indeed be done away with, gone beyond? Was not the core of our revolutionary experience the discovery that a new life (within us) and a new world (with others) was concretely realizable?” Now the weakness of our people consists not in technical backwardness but in political carelessness, in blind trust of people who have accidentally acquired party cards, in the absence of check-ups on people not just on the basis of their political declarations but according to the results of their work. Now the key question for us is not the liquidation of the technical backwardness of our cadres, for this has basically already been liquidated, but the liquidation of political carelessness and political trustingness toward wreckers who have accidentally acquired party cards. The Party must take the lead in building support for the people and their revolutionary leadership and deal with all those who oppose their struggle, even if it be tendencies within our own movement, by any means necessary. Whether ‘right’ or ‘left’ in form, these Trotskyite organizations act as wreckers. They do not put the needs of the people in first place, do not serve the people, but parasitically attach themselves to people’s movements to promote their organizations at the expense of the struggle. Marxist Leninists should not be confused with wreckers. The Trotskyites and Bukharinites, that is to say, the ‘bloc of Rights and Trotskyites,’ the leading lights of which are now in the prisoners’ dock, is not a political party, a political tendency, but a band of felonious criminals, and not simply felonious criminals, but of criminals who have sold themselves to enemy intelligence services, criminals whom even ordinary felons treat as the basest, the lowest, the most contemptible, the most depraved of the depraved. It is this increasing use of state power as an instrument of war against the enemy which both perfects state power and forces us to understand the necessity of its seizure. Thereby, the young movement upholds the view that its idea can be represented spiritually, but that the protection of this representation has to be secured, if necessary, by means of physical power. Faithful to its conviction of the enormous importance of the new doctrine, it appears a matter of course that for achieving this aim no sacrifice must be too great. It is a simple question of survival for the socialist revolution and proletarian state. Anyone or anything that stands in the way, that imperils this survival, has to be pushed aside, ruthlessly if necessary. All wisdom in this world will remain futile if force does not enter its service, defending and protecting it; the mild Goddess of Peace can march only side by side with the God of War, and every great deed of this peace needs the protection and the help of force! How vividly does the idea of service dawn! Not in the calcified meaning of old hardened officials, in the service of the dead authority of a dead State, but in the living knowledge of the individual’s duty to stand up for and to devote his life to his people in its entirety, always and at any time, anywhere and in every place.
The power in possession of the working class must, in the interest of the shaping of socialism, the oppressing of class enemies and the defense against imperialism, be still more decidedly and severely exercised than it has been up to now. ‘Dictatorship’ also means the exercising of force in oppressing enemies. —It is known that all bourgeois intelligence services use methods of physical influence against the representatives of the socialist proletariat and that they use them in their most scandalous form. The question arises as to why the socialist intelligence service should be more humanitarian against the mad agents of the bourgeoisie, against the deadly enemies of the working class and the farm workers. Was there ever a government in history that was based exclusively on the consent of the people and renounced any and every use of force? A government so constituted there never was and there never will be. Consent is as changeable as the formations in the sands of the seashore. We cannot have it always. Nor can it ever be total. No government has ever existed that made all its subjects happy. Whatever solutions you happen to give to any problem whatsoever, even though you share the Divine wisdom, you would inevitably create a class of malcontents. How are you going to avoid that this discontent spread and constitute a danger for the solidarity of the State? You avoid it with force: by bringing a maximum force to bear, by employing this force inexorably whenever it is rendered necessary. Rob any government of force and leave it with only its immortal principles, and that government will be at the mercy of the first group that is organized and intent on overthrowing it. No, this is not terror, it is hardly rigor, Perhaps it is only social hygiene, national prophylactics. These individuals are taken out of circulation as the doctor removes an infected person from circulation.
The attempt of individuals to realize their self-powers to the level made possible by contemporary productive forces is a threat to the stability of the dominant social order, which tries to purge itself of the rebellious elements, because “the appropriation of these forces is itself nothing more than the development of the individual capacities corresponding to the material instruments of production. The appropriation of a totality of instruments of production is, for this very reason, the development of a totality of capacities in the individuals themselves.” The Party criticizes the conception that the class struggle’s objective includes the oppressed destroying the instrument of oppression, the state — (a conception expressed in formulations such as: “Let it come to an end at last, this great scandal that our posterity will never believe! Disappear at last, revolting distinctions between rich and poor, great and small, masters and servants, governors and governed.”) The real theoretical discovery of Stalinism is that in our age the political authority — the state — has become strong enough to reshape the social order. Stalin took over, without public acknowledgement, the fascist idea of the state as the decisive factor in terminating the class struggle and instituting a new social order controlled from the top. Stalin defined socialism not in terms of workers’ control, but as state owner-ship of the means of production combined with planning. The socialist state eliminates the exploitation of labor by taking away from the monopoly capitalists all the means of production, distribution and communication; all banks and financial institutions; and all large holdings in land and housing. The power of the state is concentrated in the hands of the top leaders of the Party. Political conditions are concealed from the working people. Neither the trade unions nor other organizations have any part whatever in the administration of production. The working people mechanically vote at the elections for the previously elected Council deputies, and the Ministers and chairmen of the executive and factory committees appointed by the Central Committee and the Regional Committees govern in the name of these deputies. The socialist state carries out democratic economic planning and guarantees the right of everyone to a secure job. It ensures basic human needs of food, clothing, housing and education. It guarantees the right of self-determination to oppressed nations — including self-governing territories if so desired. Social consciousness is dominated by official concepts which have been imposed from above and which are not subject to any critical examination. The system of democratic centralism, the basis of the life of the workers’ society, perforce has to affect also the character of its ideology: “In communist society, all means of production are common property. There are no classes and no class struggle. The consequences of class-divided society — racism, national chauvinism, male supremacy, the monogamous family based on property, etc — all have disappeared There are no wars, no armies, and no need for weapons of war, which have become historical curiosities. There are no distinctions between mental and manual work.” This ideology is offered day after day in the press and in the public declarations of the leadership and is taught to young people at the higher educational institutes and in the Party schools.
The Organization is a revolutionary vanguard, and as such we believe that the whole world must be freed. The socialist revolution must have the specific content of serving the needs and interests of the oppressed people of the whole world. We are one with all liberation struggles, we are one with all revolutionary movements, on the moon if necessary. Socialism continues to spread across the face of the earth.
Chapter 3: Seizure of State Power
Without revolutionary leadership, continually changing responses to continually developing productive forces move toward chaos. Without revolutionary organization, attempts of individuals to realize their self-powers to the level made possible by the productive forces move toward anarchy.
Under what conditions can revolutionary leadership and organization be introduced into popular struggles? Under what conditions does an organization capable of seizing State power rise and succeed? Under what conditions might such an organization fail to rise? If it should fail, what alternatives would be left for the organizers who devoted their lives to this historical task?
In the remarks and arguments that follow, I will attempt to find answers to these questions. In my desire to offer revolutionary leaders some humble testimony of my devotion, I have been unable to find anything which I hold so dear or esteem so highly as that knowledge of the deeds of great men which I have acquired through a long experience of modern events and a constant study of the past. With the utmost diligence I have long pondered and scrutinized the actions of the great, and now I offer the results. I have not sought to adorn my work with long phrases or high-sounding words or any of those superficial attractions and ornaments with which many writers seek to embellish their material, as I desire no honor for my work but such as the novelty and gravity of this subject may justly deserve. Nor will it, I trust, be deemed presumptuous on the part of a man of humble and obscure condition to attempt to discuss revolutionary leadership; for in the same way that landscape painters station themselves in the valleys in order to draw mountains or high ground, and ascend an eminence in order to get a good view of the plains, so it is necessary to be a leader to know thoroughly the nature of the people, and one of the populace to know the nature of leaders.
The present century is a period of successful seizures of State power by revolutionary leaders. A substantial part of the world’s population is experiencing the social consequences of these successes. These historical successes have created the expectation that careful imitation of the deeds of the successful leaders can lead to similar results. It must be said at the outset that this expectation may be unfounded. It may happen that careful application of similar procedures does not lead to similar results. It may happen that devoted revolutionary organizers fail to realize their goal. Aspiring revolutionary leaders may find themselves faced with a situation in which almost all of the people whose interests are served by these goals, and who should be, or even are, sympathetic to revolution, neither understand the specific tasks involved in making a revolution nor participate in achieving them.
History does not necessarily absolve all revolutionary leaders who aspire to seize State power. The fact is that the seizure of State power by a revolutionary organization may fail. In the face of the concrete possibility of failure, it becomes necessary for revolutionary leaders to rid themselves of illusions inherited from the past, and to determine with accuracy and care the real conditions for the successful seizure of State power. The assumptions of classical revolutionary theory must be re-examined in the light of contemporary practice. We must determine whether or not the conditions described by classical revolutionary theory are historically possible, whether or not they are necessary for the rise of a revolutionary organization, whether or not they suffice to assure the success of such an organization.
The supreme condition for the seizure of State power by a revolutionary organization — a condition which has come to be regarded as self-evident, as a sine qua non — is a revolutionary situation, a revolution. According to classical revolutionary theory, such a situation is not synonymous with the rise to power of a revolutionary organization; such a situation is a precondition for the organization’s rise to power. Before examining how such a situation creates the field out of which a revolutionary organization can seize power, we will examine what this situation consists of.
According to the classics, a revolution, a real, profound, a “people’s” revolution, is the incredibly complicated and painful process of the death of the old and birth of the new social order, of the mode of life of tens of millions of people. It is set in motion by a mighty burst of creative enthusiasm that stems from the people themselves. The people and the people alone are the moving force, the creators of universal history. The masses are the real heroes. The popular masses are endowed with unlimited creative powers. They are able to organize and direct their energy to any and all the branches of human activity. They are able to deal with the task of production over its entire expanse and down to its minutest detail. According to classical revolutionary theory, such a revolution can be successfully carried out only if the majority of the population, and primarily the majority of the working people, engage in independent creative work as makers of history, and for this reason, the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself.
This independent creative work on the part of the creators of universal history is not the goal or the outcome of a revolutionary situation; according to classical revolutionary theory, this mighty burst of creative enthusiasm is the precondition for the seizure of State power by a revolutionary organization; it is the condition without which revolutionary leaders cannot succeed. According to the classics, no matter how active a group of leaders may be, their activity will amount to nothing more than the sterile efforts of a handful of individuals if it is not related to the activity of the great masses. This is why the seizure of power by revolutionary leaders must rely upon a revolutionary upsurge of the people, upon that turning point in the history of the growing revolution when the activity of the advanced ranks of the people Is at its height, and when the vacillations In the ranks of the enemy and in the ranks of the weak, half-hearted and irresolute friends of the revolution are strongest. The mighty burst of creative enthusiasm that stems from the people themselves is, according to the classics, a necessary condition for the rise and success of the revolutionary organization — and not only a necessary condition, but an indestructible wall — the masses, the millions on millions of people who support the revolution with all their heart and all their thought are a wall that no force on earth can ever destroy. Before examining whether or not a revolutionary situation as depicted by classical revolutionary theory is in fact a sufficient or even a necessary condition for the rise and success of a revolutionary organization, we must first of all ask whether or not such a situation is historically possible.
A revolutionary situation, a situation in which the majority of the working people engage in independent creative activity, is a situation of crisis for the dominant social order. The powers of the ruling authorities are sprung into the air. These powers are sprung into the air, not by the consciousness of the working people, but by their social practice. People suddenly cease to behave in accordance with the prevailing rules; they become independent and creative. The revolutionary situation consists of independent, creative acts; it consists of individual gestures of rebellion. It is known that the components of a revolutionary situation are historically possible. In fact, individual gestures of rebellion are common, everyday events in any class society. Before pondering the historical possibility of a generalized crisis, a revolutionary situation, it would undoubtedly be useful to scrutinize the Individual component of such a situation.
An individual gesture of rebellion may consist of a simple refusal to submit to an abuse. For example, an individual may refuse to be penalized for skipping a day of work without medical or other excuses.
If the penalty is reasonable, if it is the normal price paid by an Individual who skips a day of work, then the individual refuses to submit to a normal consequence of modern social life. By resisting the penalty, by acting as if she (or he) had the right to skip a day of work, as if she had the right to determine her own work schedule, this Individual challenges the legitimacy of the penalizer. By refusing to give up her right to determine her own work schedule, she challenges the right of a foreman, manager or owner to determine her schedule. Since the right to determine work schedules is part of the social power vested in these authorities, the individual’s gesture of rebellion challenges the legitimacy of this power. The individual’s gesture challenges the legitimacy of the social relations. Since this individual did not explicitly abdicate her right to determine her own work schedule to the authorities who wield this power, her refusal puts in question the origin of their legitimacy. Her refusal exposes a social relation through which the individual’s decisions are made by personages to whom the Individual never gave the power to make such decisions. The fact that she was born into a social system where the power to make such decisions is lodged in specific social personages does not establish the legitimacy of the power lodged in these personages. This merely raises the further question of why previous generations submitted to these officials. Nor does the fact that others submit to the decisions of the instituted authorities establish the legitimacy of the authorities. Their submission reproduces the power of the authorities; their submission makes it difficult for her to rebel; but their submission does not legitimize the authorities. The simple gesture of this individual even unveils the appearance that the authorities wield those decision-making powers that society’s individuals are unable to wield. By skipping a day of work she clearly confirms her ability to decide her own work schedule. In fact, she is unable to decide her own schedule only so long as she submits to the decisions of the authorities. The powers wielded by the authorities are not a response to the individual’s powerlessness, but its cause. She is unable to decide because the authorities decide, but the authorities do not decide because is not able to. Thus, though the individual’s gesture of rebellion may be ever so modest and temporary, it consists of a refusal to submit to the dominant social order; it is an independent act. This modest act simultaneously exposes the legitimacy of the dominant authorities and the complicity of the submissive individual in reproducing the power of the ruling authorities. The individual gesture of rebellion is not a consciousness or an ideology but rather a practice, a form of social behavior that undermines the dominant form. This independent act might give the individual confidence in her own decision-making powers, but it would not, in and of itself, make her particularly receptive to the services which can be offered by revolutionary organizations and leaders.
An individual gesture of rebellion, even if it challenges the dominant social order in its entirety, cannot in fact move it. The gesture of an individual, no matter how ‘radical’ or ‘revolutionary,’ is not the incredibly complicated and painful process of the death of the old and birth of the new social order, of the mode of life of tens of millions of people. Furthermore, isolated individual gestures, no matter how numerous, do not constitute the mighty burst of creative enthusiasm which, according to classical revolutionary theory, is the necessary condition for the rise of a revolutionary organization.
As a matter of fact, various types of individual rebellious gestures as well as various types of revolutionary organizations coexist with the normal functioning of the dominant social order. The coexistence of rebellious gestures with revolutionary organizations, and even the coexistence of both with the dominant social order, does not create a revolutionary situation, nor a revolution, nor the seizure of power by the revolutionary organization.
Individual gestures of rebellion, independent creative acts, may become components of a revolutionary situation. Before determining whether or not they would then constitute a ladder for the rise to power of a revolutionary organization, we must determine the historical possibility of the mighty burst of creative activity which can lead to the death of the old and birth of the new.
A revolutionary situation consists of a generalization of individual gestures of rebellion. But this does not mean that every generalization of individual gestures constitutes a revolutionary situation. For example, rebellion against parental authority is relatively widespread but does not constitute a revolutionary situation. Such an act can even lead to some kind of independence for an individual, without thereby creating any kind of social crisis. If an individual leaves his parents and moves in with an uncle, he does not become independent of parental authority; he merely sub-ordinates himself to a different wielder of the same authority. But in contemporary circumstances the individual who leaves his parents will probably refrain from moving in with uncles. He will cease to be subject to parental authority. If he is a sole offspring, his act will remove the authority of his parents. He will achieve relative Independence. But he does not create a crisis. His act does not remove parental authority from society. He can nevertheless become Independent of parental authority because the powers of parents are very restricted; the authority of specific parents is limited to their own offspring. Unlike the powers of Capital and the State, the powers of the parental office cannot be wielded by interchangeable occupants of the office on interchangeable subjects.
The individual who refuses to be penalized for skipping a day of work is in a somewhat different situation. If she is joined by others, if her rebellion becomes widespread, it could lead to some kind of social disturbance. But if she remains isolated, her alternatives will be similar to those of the individual who rebels against his parents. If she continues to skip days of work, she will probably be fired. Her first alternative might be to find work in a plant where attendance regulations are not enforced. Unlike the individual who removed the authority of his parents when he left them, she would not remove the authority of the foreman in the previous plant. Like the individual who moved in with an uncle and thus ceased to be subject to the authority of his parents, she would cease to be subject to the authority of the foreman who had penalized her. She would still be subject to the authority of officials whose powers are identical to those of the official in the first plant, even though the specific wielders of these powers are more lenient in the second plant. She would still be subject to the constraint which initially gave rise to the rebellion. Her second alternative might be to leave the realm of social activity where work schedules are enforced. This is not very easy, or very common, in a society where work schedules are almost universally enforced. But it is not impossible. She might find any number of marginal activities where there are no officials to enforce work schedules. Or, if she is so disposed, she might become an entrepreneur, in which case she would determine her own work schedule as well as that of others. Like the individual who moves away from parents without moving in with uncles, she would achieve relative independence from a specific form of social constraint. But her triumph would be somewhat of a pyrrhic victory. In order to achieve this relative independence, she would have to remove herself from all the social activities in which this constraint is enforced. Her victory would not enlarge the field of social possibilities; it would not even enlarge her own field of possibilities. If we suppose that she had been aware of the other alternatives before she chose to engage her productive energy in the activity which she is now leaving, then her victory is in fact a defeat. She does not gain the right to determine her own work schedule in her chosen field of activity. She abdicates this power to the authorities who wield it. She capitulates.
But if numerous individuals resist the punitive measures of an official, we have a new situation. For example, if numerous individuals in a given workplace simply stopped performing the operations and motions expected of them, they would not necessarily all be fired. Firing would be a likely outcome if the entire group were as replaceable as the individual who refused to comply with the official work schedule. If the group possesses certain experiences or skills, or if there is a shortage of labor, or if scabs are effectively kept out of the workplace, the group would not be easily replaceable; it would be in a situation analogous to that of a sole offspring. Just as the sole offspring can remove the authority of a parent simply by moving out from under it, this group can remove the authority of the official by ceasing to work. But if the group resumes work when the foreman or manager is replaced with a more lenient one, then their action is analogous to that of the individual who moves in with an uncle. The group removes a particular authority but fails to remove the power vested in the office. They merely replace the specific occupant of the office. Their ‘victory’ does not change the social relations, and their action does not create a revolutionary situation.
If the individuals in a specific workplace resisted, not only a decision of an official, but the powers vested in the office, they would find themselves as frustrated as the isolated individual who tried to appropriate the power to determine her own work schedule. Ruling authorities have been known to grant a great deal when a workplace is occupied, but they have not been known to give away their decision-making powers. Replaceable or not, workers who attempt to appropriate such powers are likely to find themselves in the street.
But the fact that ruling authorities have not given away their decision-making powers does not guarantee their continued possession of those powers. The fact that the underlying population has until today reproduced these powers does not guarantee that the population will continue to do so. There have been occasions, albeit rare, when an underlying population removed the powers of ruling authorities without asking for permission to do so. It has happened that all the individuals of a society have ceased to perform their expected roles, not during a Sunday or holiday when some forms of play are officially allowed, but during a weekday.
It has happened that people occupied the factories, offices, schools, transportation depots, theaters, and at all these workplaces engaged in all imaginable forms of activity except the normal ones. In such cases all normal activity grinds to a halt. Such a situation constitutes a revolutionary situation as defined by classical revolutionary theory. The orders of the ruling authorities are nowhere obeyed. The authorities lose their decision-making powers. The people, and the people alone become the moving force, the creators of universal history. The power of the ruling authorities is removed and nothing is put in its place. Such a situation presumably constitutes the field out of which a revolutionary organization may seize State power, since according to classical theory a revolution can be successfully carried out only if the majority of the population, and primarily the majority of the working people, engage in independent creative work as makers of history.
Revolutionary situations consisting of a complete work stoppage have even taken place in regions where revolutionary organizations have already seized State power. Such instances do not suggest that the revolutionary situation contributes to the revolutionary organization’s maintenance of State power. On the contrary, In a situation where play has replaced serious work in the factories, offices, schools and transport depots of a society, it is not immediately apparent that the officials of a ruling revolutionary organization would be spared the embarrassments of suddenly deposed capitalist officials. It seems, rather, that the embarrassment of revolutionary officials whose organization serves the working people would be somewhat greater than that of their capitalist counterparts who do not perform such a service.
For example, let us again examine the case of the foreman or manager who takes punitive measures against an individual who refuses to comply with the official work schedule. In normal times, when others continue to comply with the official work schedule, the manager is able to threaten the individual, fire him, expel him by force if necessary. But in a situation of universal work stoppage, prudence counsels the official not to attempt to wield his normal powers. The manager is likely to know that, even if he succeeded in entering the occupied workplace, and threatened to fire its occupants, he might be informed that he had lost this power. If in anger he tried to physically remove one or another of the occupants from ‘his’ plant, he would find himself outnumbered. The official would find himself in a situation where his powers are no greater than those of any other single individual in the occupied plant. The fact of having been the plant’s manager would no longer magnify this individual’s physical endowments. The manager is likely to find himself in the street. Although in normal times such a situation is likely to be unimaginable to most managers, in case it happens it can reasonably be expected that most managers will refrain from entering an occupied workplace, from threatening its occupants, or from attempting to remove them. The commands of a former official, like the commands of a deposed monarch, would not be executed in a situation where none submit to them. An observant official might consider it wise and prudent to pass himself off as merely one of the powerless millions until the return of better days.
If voluntary submission to the ruling authorities ceases to reproduce the normal activity of daily life, then the normal state of affairs might be reestablished by means of involuntary submission, namely by force. The deposed officials might spend their waking hours in strategy sessions with the heads of the police and the military.
Before examining the potential efficacy of the forces of law and order in such situations, it would be instructive to see if, prior to the last resort of calling in the armed forces, the revolutionary manager would have more advantageous alternatives than his capitalist counterpart. Let us assume that the first resort of the revolutionary manager is neither to vanish nor to turn directly to the armed forces of the Workers’ State. Let us imagine that the manager whose organization officially represents the interests of the working population enters the occupied workplace in order to reason with its occupants. Let us assume that the revolutionary manager is able to enter the occupied workplace, that its occupants do not externally manifest any animosity toward this representative of the working class. We might even imagine that the exchange between the former manager and the former employees is calm and reasonable, that the occupants treat the comrade manager cordially and respectfully.
In this friendly atmosphere, the former manager might begin by reminding the group that the occupation of the plant is an act which breaks the rules and regulations of the plant. One of the occupants could respond, in an equally cordial manner, that the occupants are aware of this fact, but that the rules and regulations mysteriously disappeared on the day of the occupation; they no longer describe the ways people do things; no one’s activity corresponds to the rules anymore; furthermore, comrade manager, those rules and regulations are no longer enforceable.
Becoming somewhat less cordial, the manager may try to reason with the occupants a second time. In a society where the revolutionary organization of the working class has triumphantly seized State power, he might point out, such an action is not only normal; it is perverse. These angry words need not necessarily put end to the peaceful exchange. Someone may point out, in a perfectly reasonable tone, that during a time when all the individuals society have stopped work, it is normal for this group to stop work as well; furthermore, in such a situation it would be abnormal and perverse for this group to continue working.
This statement may prove to the manager that the plant’s occupants are not willing to listen to reason, and he might lose his composure. He might, for example, threaten to fire them, to deprive them of their relation to the social means of production. But if the revolutionary manager makes such a threat he will find himself on same slippery path which led his capitalist counterpart to slide out to the street. Yet even this threat need not put an end to the friendly and cordial atmosphere of the meeting. The occupants may in fact pat their former manager on the back and give him three cheers for his courage.
If the embarrassed former manager retains enough composure be able to reflect about his situation, he might conclude that the occupants refuse to listen to him because of his relatively low status the State and the Party. They would surely be more reasonable if a much higher official explained the situation to them. For example, the manager’s supervisor, the minister or head of the branch of social activity of which this particular plant is a part, would certainly be able to impose his authority. The occupants would of course have no reason to object to the branch head’s visit. They might even look forward to it.
The exchange between the branch head and the occupants would undoubtedly be characterized by even greater geniality than a session with the manager. The branch head might, for example, introduce himself as a courageous fighter during the revolutionary war. He will undoubtedly be applauded; he might even be given a standing ovation. He might then be allowed to give a relatively long, uninterrupted speech on the important role ‘his’ branch plays in the social economy. The occupants would undoubtedly listen with interest and they might applaud again. The head might then turn to a matter at hand: ‘his’ branch clearly cannot perform its role in the present situation; all orderly procedures have come to an end; disorder has seized the upper hand; the occupation of the work aces is synonymous with chaos and anarchy. Without showing any overt hostility or disrespect for the former branch head, an occupant might explain that since the occupation of the workplaces, people have in general observed a marked decrease in acts of violence; that relations among people do not seem to lack mutual generosity and consideration; that consequently the branch head’s conception of general disorder must be based on misinformation, possibly because the branch head’s information channels have ceased functioning. As for the chaos and anarchy, another occupant might calmly point out, these words have lost their former sting; if the playful, relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere which has prevailed since the beginning of the occupations constitutes chaos and anarchy, then perhaps the state of affairs depicted by those words is not as terrible as was thought in former days.
While the branch head loosens his tie to unbutton his shirt collar, the manager might give him a “Didn’t I tell you?” glance. “Comrade workers,” the branch head might continue, “this act is nothing less than sabotage of social activity.”
“Comrade Head,” a worker might respond, “in a situation when all our fellow workers have stopped carrying on their former activities, would not our resumption of work be an act of sabotage of social activity?”
This response would convince the branch head that the bizarre description given to him by the plant manager is correct: the working people have lost their reason. If this former higher official is physically impressive, he might stand up and take a deep breath before shouting: “I am going to take immediate steps to close down this plant and to send the names of the occupants to the heads of all other branches of social activity. In that case, comrade workers, you will be forced to beg in the streets for morsels of bread.”
“But Comrade Head,” whispers a worker who sees no need to shout to the former official, “there’s no need to take steps to close the plant. It’s already closed. In fact, your whole branch is closed. And it’s no longer your branch. But if you ever did close down a plant so as to punish its workers, would not that be an act of sabotage of social activity?”
This final insult convinces the branch head that only one official in the entire society possesses a stature adequate to the matter at hand. Only one official is authoritative enough to reason with these people: the President of the Republic. Consequently, after briefing the Comrade President, the one-time manager and the former branch head introduce the Head of the Economy, the State and the Army to the assembled occupants of the plant. The working people are of course flattered and honored to be visited by such an important personage.
The President of the Republic goes straight to the point. He does not mince words. “Fellow workers! You are of course aware that this act is illegal. You are breaking the law.”
These opening words are followed by silence. None of the occupants of the plant have ever spoken publicly or even privately to such a high official. No one had ever heard such a high official contradicted in public. Several occupants appear to be ready to speak, but their lips begin to quiver, then their knees, and they remain silent. Finally one of the occupants decides to make the attempt. “Comrade President,” she says to the three officials, “we are not aware that we are breaking the law.”
The President, then the Branch Head, and finally the Manager, begin to smile. They are under the impression that in the worker’s words reason has at last begun to prevail.
“The law,” she continues, her words traveling through a sea of absolute silence, “the law: that’s not long words and sentences written on the pages of heavy books. The law is what people do, how they behave.”
The smiles abruptly end.
“When you say we’re breaking the law, Comrade President, you must be thinking of the old law, the law that existed before the occupations began. But that law is nothing more than old books now, Comrade President. That’s not how people behave now,”
As soon as the silence is broken, it becomes evident to all that it is as possible to speak to the President of the Republic as to any other individual.
“Our action was illegal by your former laws,” adds another individual, “but your authority was illegitimate.”
The one-time manager and the one-time branch head look expectantly at the former President of the Republic, while their Supervisor looks anxiously for the nearest exit. With less assurance than the first time, in fact with a noticeable quiver, he says that by not resuming work immediately, the occupants of this plant are raising their interests above the interests of the Revolution, above the Interests of Society, “nay, above the interests of the Working Class.”
“But that doesn’t stand to reason, Comrade President,” one of the occupants insists in a tone that seems to beg the President of the Republic to listen to reason. “How can our work stoppage be against the interests of the working class if the entire working class has stopped work? If we took your advice, Comrade President, if we went back to work, we would be acting against the interests of the working class.”
At this suggestion that the former President of the Republic may be opposed to the interests of the working class, the head of all officials becomes visibly agitated. “Don’t you know who I am?” he shouts at the speaker. “I am the President of the Workers’ State. Do you take me for an idiot?”
The occupants of the plant are visibly embarrassed when suggestions of laughter are distinctly heard because some individuals were unable to contain themselves.
The one-time President appears not to notice the laughter and continues shouting: “By following this perverse path, you are harming no one but yourselves!”
“If that’s the case,” someone snaps back, “why is it that the Comrade Manager, the Comrade Branch Head, and you, Comrade President, are so upset about our present activity. If we are only harming ourselves, why are you shouting, Comrade President?”
This interpretation of the former President’s behavior puts an end to the peaceful exchange. The three officials take stock of their present situation. It suddenly becomes very clear to them that there are numerous working people in the society, whereas there are only a few managers, yet fewer branch heads, and only one President of the Republic. Consequently, there’s only one way left to make the population respond to reason. The three authoritative personages move toward the nearest exit. But before leaving, the President of the Republic freezes the plant’s occupants with his last words: “Next time I’ll talk to you with words that you’re going to understand — words which come out of the barrels of guns.”
In short, the last resort of the revolutionary officials is similar to that of their capitalist counterparts: the police and the military. But the resort to armed force does not put an end to the matter.
First of all, during a time when the individuals of a society have stopped performing their normal tasks, it is not certain that the armed forces can be completely counted on. It does not take a great deal of imagination to suppose that the individuals who constitute the armed forces will not, in such a period, respond to commands as obediently and unquestioningly as in normal times. It may be that precisely at the moment when the authorities need them most, the forces of law and order will be least reliable.
Secondly, even though the armed forces may during normal times exert extreme violence against the enemies of the ruling authorities, it is not certain that the individuals who compose these armed forces will be as ready to torture and maim people in a situation where the enemies are not isolated individuals but the entire society. After all, neighbors, friends and relatives are now among the outlaws.
Thirdly, historical evidence does not clearly show that a modern army and police are able to subdue a population that is not passive. In a situation where political and military officials are shot at from every window of every house on every street, it is not immediately evident how the officers of the law could re-impose the deposed authorities short of bombing the city from the air. But such bombing could not yield the desired result, since the bombs would fall on the labor force as well as the productive facilities which constitute the basis of the power of the ruling authorities.
Fourthly, even if the military could temporarily establish a hegemony over the population on the basis of its superiority of arms, it is not certain how long they could maintain the superiority of arms if the plants where armaments are designed and produced are among the places occupied by the insurgent population — not to speak of the places which produce the materials needed for the production of weapons.
In short, it is not certain that there really is a last resort for a social order in which a comprehensive revolutionary situation develops.
It has been shown that the generalization of certain types of individual gestures of rebellion may create a revolutionary situation, a thoroughgoing crisis in which the dominant social order may risk complete extinction. But it has not yet been shown whether or not such a situation contains elements which might contribute to the seizure of State power by a revolutionary organization. All that has been shown so far is that, although such a revolutionary situation can easily be imagined, it cannot easily be imagined how such a situation could contribute to the power of a revolutionary organization that has already seized the State apparatus.
Undoubtedly revolutionary organizations that have already seized State power no longer need revolutionary situations. It seems obvious that such organizations can only lose their gains in case a revolutionary situation occurs after their victory. Undoubtedly a far more important question for revolutionary leaders is whether or not a revolutionary situation contributes to the seizure of State power by a revolutionary organization that has not already seized it. In order to explore this question it is necessary to classify revolutionary organizations by type and size, at least crudely, since in normal times Capitalist society contains a wide variety of revolutionary organizations, ranging in size and importance from small circles of acquaintances who meet once a month to governmental parties that command the votes of significant portions of a population.
We may begin our examination with the type of revolutionary organization which is best known because it is very influential and is officially designated as a revolutionary organization — an organization that officially represents the working class during normal times. This official representation usually takes the form of a complete monopoly of labor union offices, and frequently the form of representing the working class in the state apparatus itself, for example through possession of the portfolios of one or several ministries and through command of a significant parliamentary minority. In short, such an organization is the official representative of the Labor Movement, the official interpreter of workers’ demands, and the official negotiator between the working population and the ruling authorities.
The question is: does a revolutionary situation pave the way to the seizure of State power for a revolutionary organization which has established itself as an official candidate for the offices of the State apparatus, and whose parliamentary and cabinet members have already acquired direct experience in the wielding of State power? Is it self-evident that a universal stoppage of working activity of the type described earlier would pave the way for the seizure of State power by such an organization?
To explore the possibility that a universal work stoppage might end up as a victorious seizure of power by the official representatives of revolution, we might try to imagine what steps a given official of the organization might take in order to secure the organization’s revolutionary victory over the striking population.
Let us imagine, for example, that the revolutionary organizer’s field of activity is a plant similar in composition to the occupied plant described earlier, except that in this case the plant is located in a capitalist environment where the revolutionary organization has not yet seized State power. Let us suppose that the organizer is already inside the occupied plant; he might, in normal times, have been the union delegate of the workers in the plant.
It is of course to be expected that the plant’s official union delegate will use the public address system to speak to the workers assembled in the plant. On the first day of the occupation he might, for example, read congratulatory messages to the workers from the revolutionary cabinet ministers and members of parliament. He also might, on his own initiative, hail the great victory of the working class, its triumph against its class enemy, and its unparalleled courage during the struggle. And finally, he might speak of the great sacrifices the workers of this plant made during the struggle — sacrifices which have undoubtedly exhausted them mentally and physically. Consequently, since the plant’s union committee is perfectly able to hold on to the occupied factory and to take care of the necessary business, the tired workers might do well to return to their warm homes and their waiting families until the union committee announces the next general meeting.
The delegate’s conclusion will undoubtedly relieve some of the plant’s occupants and puzzle others. Those who are relieved may in fact look forward to returning to their homes and families; they may be glad that competent union officials have agreed to take care of the problems of the occupation. Those who are puzzled may also have homes and families, but their desire to leave the plant may not be great enough to overshadow certain suspicions about the delegate’s conclusion.
Let us imagine that only one of the plant’s occupants finds the words with which to express these suspicions.
“If we go home now,” she might ask, “what would happen to our act? The entire population has claimed its rights over everything. If we go home now, wouldn’t we be giving those rights away when we’ve just barely won them? And to whom — to union officials?”
Another occupant might then shout toward the speakers’ platform: “Some of us are determined to stay.”
Somewhat dismayed, the union delegate might at this point suggest a vote, immediately calling for a show of hands: “Will all those fellow workers who wish to aid the Strike Committee in the administration and coordination of the factory occupation by remaining inside the plant 24 hours a day raise their hands?”
It is to be expected that the formulation of the proposition will create some confusion. But it is conceivable that a few of the occupants will raise their hands, followed by others, until gradually the hands of all the occupants are raised. At that point the union delegate will undoubtedly back away from the microphone to hold a brief strategy session with the other union officials on the speakers’ platform, among whom there may be regional delegates as well as a national Party Secretary or a revolutionary member of parliament.
While the union officials confer, one of the plant’s occupants might shout to the platform: “Since the plant was occupied by the working people, why do we have to show our identification cards every time we leave or enter the plant?”
This question may prompt the Party Secretary to take the microphone. “The fellow worker has raised a critical problem,” the Secretary might explain. “This is the problem of security, the problem of defending the interests of the workers from their class enemies. This is the important function performed by the fellow Workers at the factory gates. They are charged with the task of preventing agents of management from entering the plant.”
Since it is difficult to make oneself heard without the microphone, those who wish to speak from the floor are forced to shout. This is why the next question someone shouts from the floor sounds like an insult hurled at the Party Secretary: “Are they fellow Workers or Party officials?”
Just as the Party Secretary is about to ignore this insult, another individual shouts from the floor: “When did the Party get the right to decide who comes into the plant? Besides, what harm could the managers do now? They no longer even have the power to decide who comes into the plant?”
The group of people on the platform look shocked when yet another individual shouts, “We don’t need the Party’s police at our gates!”
The officials look at each other as if chaos had broken loose when the occupants of the plant begin to cheer.
Following a long period of enthusiastic cheering, the district delegate calls the meeting to order. She announces that “the first item on the meeting’s agenda is the democratic election of a Strike Committee” — but before she is able to propose competent candidates the shouting begins again. “What on earth for?” shouts an occupant. “Whose agenda?” shouts another.
The following exchange, consisting of screeching shouts from the floor nearly drowned out by deafening shouts through the loudspeaker, may follow:
Microphone: The function of the Strike Committee is to hold the fort when numbers dwindle, to protect the victories won by the working population.
Floor: But we’re determined to stay! Unanimously!
Microphone: Furthermore, the Committee has the task of coordinating the strike.
Floor: What’s that if it’s not what we’re all doing already? Why should a small group of people do that?
Microphone: It is impossible for all the workers of a plant to negotiate highly technical questions with the plant managers, the owners and the State.
Floor: I’ve got news for you! They’ve got nothing left to negotiate! Who do you want to negotiate with? The managers don’t manage any more, the owners don’t own, and as for State officials, they’re nowhere to be found. (The shouter is interrupted by laughter and cheering.) Are you going to negotiate with those who are presently occupying the government buildings and the city hall? Haven’t you heard that the people occupying those buildings are dancing, playing music and putting on plays?
Microphone: Who will draw up your list of demands?
Floor: Who can grant them?
Microphone: What the working people want is —
Floor: Who gave you the right to interpret what the people want?
Floor: Those days are gone!
Floor: When did union officials get a monopoly over the public address system?
It is not obvious that such a situation creates a “power vacuum” which can be filled by the official revolutionary organization. It is not evident that such a situation would contribute to the seizure of State power by the official interpreters of the population’s demands. All that seems evident is that a revolutionary situation of a certain magnitude and momentum would not only remove powers of the ruling authorities, but also the powers which revolutionary organization had established in the unions and the government as official representative of the Labor Movement. At first glance it seems that the authority of the official revolutionaries would not carry much more weight in such a situation than the Authority of the deposed foremen, managers, owners, branch heads, or the deposed President of the Republic.
Independent creative activity can in fact lead to the death of the old social order. A mighty burst of creative enthusiasm, a Revolutionary situation, is a historical possibility. Classical theory assumed that such a situation was the necessary condition for the seizure of power by a revolutionary organization. We have not been able to verify this assumption. On the contrary, we have seen that in the special case of a revolutionary organization which has established positions of power and prestige within the ongoing social order, the assumption of classical revolutionary theory is false. A revolutionary situation in which the masses are the real heroes, in which they engage in independent creative work as makers of history, does not provide a fertile field for the growth of an already established revolutionary organization. In fact, the official revolutionary organization is swept away together with the rest of the old social order.
However, the fate of an already established revolutionary organization does not destroy the classical assumption that a revolutionary situation is the necessary condition for the growth of a revolutionary organization. Despite the fact that already established revolutionary organizations are the official representatives of revolution, despite the fact that they are almost universally regarded as the spokesmen of revolutionary classes, references to such organizations in classical revolutionary literature are extremely sparse. And the few references that can be found do not in fact treat an already established revolutionary organization as a likely candidate for the seizure of power in a situation where the old social order bursts. On the contrary, such organizations are not considered really revolutionary organizations, but part and parcel of the social order in which they have already established power. Revolutionary leaders who become officials under capitalism thereby cease to be really revolutionary leaders. The functionaries of our political organizations and trade unions are corrupted — or rather tend to be corrupted — by the conditions of capitalism and betray a tendency to become bureaucrats, i.e., privileged persons divorced from the people and standing above the people. That is the essence of bureaucracy. Furthermore, the positions attained by these revolutionary leaders within the dominant social order are not even considered real steps along the road to the seizure of power, but rather steps away from this path: Until the capitalists have been expropriated and the bourgeoisie overthrown, even proletarian functionaries will be inevitably ‘bureaucratized.’
Thus, despite its public importance, an already established revolutionary organization cannot validly serve as a test case for the classical assumption that a revolutionary situation is the preliminary condition for the rise of a revolutionary organization. Despite the fact that the established revolutionary organization is the official spokesman of revolution and stands ever-ready to seize the bureaucratic-military machine, the sparse explicit references to this type of organization in fact exclude it from the field. It is not with this aim in view that a mighty burst of creative enthusiasm stems from the people. The aim of the revolution is not, as before, to transfer the bureaucratic-military machine from one hand to another, but to smash it.
A revolutionary situation as described by classical revolutionary theory smashes the dominant social order along with all of its bureaucrats. Before turning to the case of revolutionary leaders who have not become functionaries under capitalism, the case of revolutionary organizations which have not already established power within the dominant social order, we might examine more fully the classical description of the revolutionary situation, which is a preliminary condition for the seizure of power by a revolutionary organization. Such a situation is realized by the initiative of millions, who create a democracy on their own, in their own way. The old centralized government gives way to the self government of the producers. This is the product of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economical emancipation of labor. Furthermore, according to the classics, the working people know that in order to work out their own emancipation, and along with it that higher form to which present society is irresistibly tending by its own economical agencies, they will have to pass through long struggles, through a series of historic processes, transforming circumstances and men. They have no ideals to realize, but to set free the elements of the new society with which old collapsing bourgeois society itself is pregnant. In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all. With labor emancipated, every man becomes a working man, and productive labor ceases to be a class attribute. The political rule of the producer cannot coexist with the perpetuation of his social slavery. What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces above all, is its own gravediggers.
The classical theory of revolution assumes that a social situation which corresponds to the description given above is the preliminary condition for the growth of a revolutionary organization. First of all the initiative of millions is a preliminary condition because all previous historical movements were movements of minorities whereas the proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest stratum of present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air. Without this preliminary condition, the specific project of a revolutionary organization cannot even be considered. Is it conceivable that such an organization can be created without first abolishing, destroying the state machine created by the bourgeoisie themselves? This is not conceivable in classical revolutionary theory; the precondition of any real people’s revolution is the break-up, the shattering of the ready-made state machinery. Insurrection must rely upon a revolutionary upsurge of the people. Without such an upsurge on the part of the great masses, the activity of no matter how active a group of leaders would be reduced to the sterile efforts of a handful of people. As soon as such a revolutionary upsurge takes place the revolutionary leaders must take power at once — otherwise a wave of real anarchy may become stronger than we are. And it is by classical revolutionary theory that the initiative of the independent creative activity of the producers also creates the sufficient condition for the revolutionary organization to power at once, namely that an organization which seizes the time and dares to win is bound to succeed: The entire history of the revolution proves that without the leadership of the working class the revolution fails, and that it succeeds with the leadership of the working class. The leadership of the working class means that revolutionary leaders can and must take state power into their own hands.
Furthermore, classical revolutionary theory even ventures to guarantee that once revolutionary leaders have seized State power, nothing will remove them until they have taken State power over the Whole world into their own hands: Now that the class-conscious workers have built up a party to systematically lay hold of this apparatus and set it in motion with the support of all the working and exploited people — now that these conditions exist, no power on earth can prevent the Bolsheviks, if they do not allow themselves to be scared and if they succeed in taking power, from retaining It until the triumph of the world socialist revolution.
From the standpoint of revolutionary leaders who today face the possibility of failure, it is critical to reexamine these key assumptions of the classical theory of revolution, because it is this theory and only this theory that educates the vanguard of the proletariat and makes it capable of assuming power and leading the whole people to socialism, of directing and organizing the new system, of being the teacher, the guide, the leader of all the working and exploited people in organizing their social life without the bourgeoisie and against the bourgeoisie.
Is it certain that a revolutionary organization that has no vested interest in the ruling system, that has not established posts in the Labor Movement or the government, and that cannot lose these established posts as a result of a major crisis, would be able to seize State power out of the revolutionary situation? Or might there be elements in the revolutionary situation which would obstruct the seizure of State power even by such an organization? Is the revolutionary situation a sufficient condition for the rise of such an organization in a case where the former ruling authorities are not restored?
Let us try to imagine militants of such an organization in a revolutionary situation as described by classical theory, a situation realized by the initiative of millions, who create a democracy on their own, in their own way. Let us try to imagine if such a situation might contain elements that prevent revolutionary leaders from laying hold of the State apparatus, from setting it in motion, and from retaining it until the triumph of the world socialist revolution.
We might follow the activities of such an organization’s rank and file militants in a situation where the old regime has definitively collapsed. Streets, schools, railway stations and public buildings are filled with constant motion and with the excitement that the old order has passed and a new day is about to start. For the militants of the revolutionary organization, the revolution has begun. We might try to imagine the feelings of a long-time member of the revolutionary organization as she runs toward a large group of excited people in a crowded railway station. This militant might have been a member of the organization during the dismal days when the majority of the people she spoke to, including her family and her closest non-organization friends, considered her a sectarian, a true believer, even a crackpot. She had nowhere been held in high esteem, or even taken seriously, except by other members of the organization. She had been jailed for addressing crowds at public meetings; the police had raided her apartment searching for radical literature. As she runs toward the group gathered around a newly pasted wallposter, she is in a state of near euphoria as she reflects that all the ‘extremist’ slogans of former days have become realities.
Former slogans, like ‘Let the people decide,’ ‘The streets belong the people,’ ‘Each must make the decisions that affect his or her life,’ were the organization’s main slogans during the pre-revolutionary period when the population did not have power independent of the ruling authorities. However, slogans which were once appropriate for the banners of the vanguard of the revolution cannot remain the revolutionary order of the day in a situation where these slogans have become facts of daily life. Such slogans cease to be definitions of tasks ahead and become mere descriptions of the status quo. In order not to fall behind the population but to remain ahead, the organization continues to write on its banners orders of the day which point to the tasks of the future. ‘Let the people decide’ has been replaced by ‘The time has come to build the organization of the working class.’
As the militant works her way through the crowd, she listens for statements which might serve as introductions to her presentation of the revolutionary tasks appropriate to the present stage of the struggle. However, the fervor of the discussion and her unfamiliarity with the topics discussed create difficulties for her interruption, and might cause resentment, so she waits and listens and tries to get a notion of the subject at hand.
The group appears to be arguing about the pros and cons of the newly posted proposal on the wall, the subject of which might be, for example, garbage collection. One person argues in favor of collection routes determined by each neighborhood; the next person snaps back in favor of a city-wide network of routes. The group appears to be evenly split. It seems that the issues involved on one side are that a routing system designed by neighborhoods would lead to unnecessarily inefficient routes, while the other side insists that a citywide network would strain presently available lines of communication. One speaker tries to find a compromise between the two sides by suggesting that each method should be tried, depending on preferences of people in each neighborhood. However, a proponent of city-wide collections immediately snaps back that such a compromise is a victory for the neighborhood collections, since the city-wide network could hardly be efficient if the city trucks had to skirt every neighborhood that had its own collections. The clear statement of this dilemma causes people to reflect, and the brief interval of silence is the militant’s opportunity to bring the attentive and lively group out of what to her seems like a petty frame of reference.
“Comrades,” she might say, “the tyrants have been struck down by the might of the working people. The people’s victory has begun a new stage of human development. You are discussing garbage, comrades. All the former tyrants have been thrown into the garbage cans of history! This being the case, it is time to begin the next stage of the struggle, it is time for the working class to begin organizing its own activity. Comrades, Organization is the next order of the day. The time has come to write on our banners, ‘All power to the people, All power to the Organization of the Working Class.’”
The group applauds enthusiastically, and while applauding they repeat ‘All Power to the People, All Power to the Organization!’ As she steps away from the wallposter and works her way out of the large circle of people, some individuals pat her on the back, others smile broadly as they shake her hand. But before she has reached the outer circumference of the crowd, people have already resumed the former discussion of city-wide versus neighborhood-wide garbage collections.
Although the militant of the revolutionary organization might be sympathetically received by the group in the railway station, and might even succeed in introducing to these people the slogans which express the revolutionary tasks of the next stage of struggle, from the standpoint of the organization’s establishment of a power base the hypothetical scene is inconclusive. Neither the group’s sympathy for the militant who in normal times was considered a dangerous extremist, nor their willingness to repeat the militant’s slogans, definitively demonstrate that the ground is being laid for the organization’s seizure of State power. In fact the hypothetical event suggests that, at least a group of people such as the one described in the station might revert to the problem of organizing garbage collections even after the important problem of the Organization of the Working Class has been clearly communicated to them. Such a possibility might of course result from the fact that a group of people in a railway station is not in fact a working collective. To see such an outcome would not be likely in working collectives actually engaged in productive activity, we might try to imagine the organizing efforts of a different militant of the revolutionary organization — say, for example, at a construction site where building activity is actually in progress.
In this illustration we might imagine, not a militant who drops out of the blue into a crowd of strangers, but a militant whose organizing activity is persistent and continuous. He might, for example, return to the construction site every day, and on the occasion when we observe his organizing activity he might already be known by several workers on the site. Let us assume that, in a perfectly friendly spirit, a worker once nicknamed him ‘Trotsky’ and those who had come to be acquainted with him greet him with ‘name,’ although there are no grounds for assuming that the militant’s organization is in fact a Trotskyist organization, or even oriented in that direction.
Let us assume that the fact that only a few of the construction Workers are personally acquainted with the militant is not the Militant’s fault, but is due, for example, to the very same circumstances which might explain why the individuals at this particular Workplace might already be engaged in working activity. The militant’s limited acquaintance with the individuals on the site might be due to the constantly changing composition of the working collective. Both the changing composition and the fact that productive activity is going on might be due to the peculiar role the construction site played during the height of the insurrection: when the military attacked, all construction sites became sources of materials and equipment for the construction of barricades. Since on numerous occasions the barricades had to be built on the spur of the moment, many individuals who had not been construction workers, many who had not previously even visited a construction site, were forced to learn to use the equipment and the materials in a hurry. Many of the individuals who had mastered these arts during the insurrection continued to frequent the construction sites after the insurrection, no longer to build barricades, but to build new houses, to build accommodations for travelers (the number of travelers would undoubtedly increase astronomically after a complete work stoppage and a successful popular insurrection of the nature described earlier), to build meeting places — in fact, to build all the imaginable places and structures to which individuals have a desire to devote their energies.
This peculiar condition would of course disrupt the militant’s organizing efforts. Some of the individuals with whom the militant had good talks and political exchanges may have stayed on the given construction site only for the number of hours or days it took them to master a particular technique or instrument. Others may merely have been traveling through the site, engaging in this particular project merely to become familiar with this realm of social activity, and moving on to other types of activity after their curiosity was satisfied. Yet others may temporarily have joined this particular project and then dropped out of productive activity altogether, either permanently or only for the time being. In short, we have reason to suppose that, of the individuals working at the construction site at any given time, the militant might have the best attendance record.
Let us assume that the militant continues to persevere in his organizing efforts in spite of the shifting composition of the working collective he has been assigned to organize. We might, for example, observe the militant’s organizing efforts on the day after a major meeting of the revolutionary organization, a meeting at which the guidelines of the current struggle were defined as moving from the February Revolution, which had established a Dual Power in society, to the October Revolution which would definitively establish the undisputed and uncontested rule of the Working Class. On this particular day, an individual operating the hoist and a person guiding a plank, both of whom are new to this site, seem at once amused and baffled by the militant’s reference to February and October, but neither of them stop working.
A construction worker who has just finished putting a steel beam into place from an extremely precarious position on the scaffolding overhears the comments, warmly greets ‘Trotsky,’ and climbs down from the scaffolding to relax and wipe the sweat off her forehead. She may already be well acquainted with ‘Trotsky’ because she is one of the few people who have been working on this site continually since the early days of the insurrection; like others she had learned to use the equipment during the days of the barricades, and after the defeat of the army she and a group of others had stayed at this site to design and build an experimental music hall in place of the office building that had formerly been scheduled to go up. She shakes his hand warmly while looking up toward her beam, and immediately takes up her critique of the revolutionary organization, a critique which the militant has by now heard several times.
”Won’t you ever realize, Trotsky, that the play you’re acting in ended over half a century ago?”
Part of her technique in ridiculing him comes from her persistence in calling him ‘Trotsky,’ instead of simply ‘comrade’ or ‘fellow worker,’ the designations commonly used in discussions among the militants of the revolutionary organization.
“Can’t you learn, Trotsky, that only your ‘comrades’ are in a play that started in February and ends in October? The rest of the population are writing a different play.”
The militant is of course aware of the irony in her tone. But though he knows she is someone who has not learned to take the revolutionary organization seriously, he nevertheless refuses to abandon an opportunity to score good points.
“It’s not a question of a spectacle but of the revolutionary practice of the proletariat. There can be no revolutionary practice without theory nor can there be revolutionary theory without practice. The revolutionary theory that corresponds to present conditions is expressed by the slogan: We must move from the February Revolution to the October Revolution. The practice that corresponds to present conditions is expressed by the slogan: We must form Workers’ Councils in every mine, every factory, every construction site and every military regiment. These are the fundamental tasks of the actual political situation.”
“Bravo!” she says. “But aren’t you a few historical moments too late? Now that it’s leaked out to people how many and varied their alternatives are, how will you convince them to stay in a given workplace to become a permanent Council? By telling them the old play is about to begin all over again? And how on earth will you convince people to return to military regiments so as to cast them in the familiar role of the Soldiers’ Councils? Weren’t you there, Trotsky, when half the army disbanded and defected to the armed population behind the barricades, into the houses, and onto the streets from which the remainder of the army was simply overpowered and defeated?”
The revolutionary militant is irritated by the fact that she first of all attributes to him a ‘nickname’ and then proceeds to attack him by ridiculing the military achievements of his ‘nickname.’ He nevertheless stands his ground and tries to trip the opponent with another approach.
“Surely you are aware, comrade, that the highly remarkable feature of our revolution is that it has brought about a dual power. Unless this is understood, we cannot advance.”
“Why, you must be referring to the power of the population and the power of the Revolutionary Organization, isn’t that so Trotsky?” she asks, blinking at the hoist operator who has approached to listen. “And everyone knows, Trotsky,” (she seems almost perverse in her persistent abuse of his nickname) “that since only one of the two sides understands the question of Dual Power, the conclusion of the play is already known halfway through the first act.”
“Unless this question is understood, comrade, there can be no intelligent participation in the revolution, not to speak of guidance of the revolution!”
All the individuals on the construction site have stopped working. All eyes are concentrated on the revolutionary militant. This is the first time since his organizing efforts began that he has succeeded in capturing the attention of everyone on the site. He raises his fist and yells, “All Power to the Working Class. All Power to the Workers’ Councils!”
The scene at the construction site is at least as inconclusive as scene in the railway station. Even if we assume that the individuals working at the site are as sympathetic to the organization’s slogans as the group in the railway station, the scene does not clarify just how the organizing activity of the revolutionary militant lays the ground for the seizure of State power by the organization.
The scene’s failure to clarify our question may be due, not to characteristics of the revolutionary organization, but to the assumptions we built into the situation itself. We did not actually prove, we merely assumed, that a productive activity as complex as construction might be possible in the total absence of either the dominant authorities removed from their offices by the work stoppage or a revolutionary organization’s seizure of these offices. Such an assumption may of course be illegitimate, since what is assumed is by no means self-evident. In other words, it has not been shown that, in the absence of either a Capitalist Organization at the head of society or a Revolutionary Organization at the head of society, an activity as complex as construction could nevertheless take place. After all, even if we could legitimately assume that individuals on a given construction site might be able to resume productive activity on their own, we cannot go on to assume that everything this implies would also resume ‘on its own.’ What this would imply is the resumption, in an ‘organizational vacuum,’ not only of productive activity on an isolated construction site, but also the production and transportation of construction equipment and machinery; the production and delivery of construction materials such as steel, lumber and concrete; the mining and processing of the minerals and raw materials which go into the construction materials. In short, in order to assume the possibility of construction on an isolated site, we are in fact forced to assume the possibility of productive activity in virtually all other realms of social production. This might of course explain why our central question could not be conclusively answered by the scene at the construction site.
Instead of philosophizing abstractly about the impossibility of social activity in a situation where society’s decision-making authorities have been removed but not replaced, we might enrich our understanding of numerous facets of this question by imagining a revolutionary organizer in yet another social situation. We might, for example, imagine a revolutionary organizer who poses precisely these questions during her lunch break; we might even suppose that this militant takes it for granted that social activity without a decision-making organization is simply impossible (since it is this assumption that accounts for her service and devotion to the revolutionary organization).
In pre-revolutionary days the restaurant where the militant is eating was extremely expensive and catered exclusively to wealthy patrons. At the outbreak of the insurrection it was transformed into a free, self-service neighborhood restaurant. After the battles at the barricades, newly-built neighborhood restaurants were set up on the model of the equipment, cleanliness and quality of meals in this restaurant.
Let us assume that the revolutionary militant, who eats at this restaurant daily because of the superior quality of its meals, never before asked herself about the structure of decision-making in the restaurant itself. She might simply have assumed that the restaurant had an extremely well organized staff, namely a workers’ council, as well as a council committee, namely a smaller group who coordinated and organized the well defined tasks of the various staff members. Or she might have assumed that the restaurant’s activity had simply continued to be supervised and directed by some of the pre-revolutionary managers and chefs. At any rate, at this particular lunch break she decides to find out which of the two alternatives is actually the case. She decides that, after the meal, she’ll enter the kitchen to get a full picture of the restaurant’s political structure from the manager or director.
Access to the kitchen is free to anyone. In fact, a poster next to the kitchen door specifically asks guests to visit the kitchen in order to learn one or another of the various arts of food preparation so as to be somewhat experienced when taking a turn preparing the meals. Of course the militant hadn’t ever considered spending numerous valuable hours cooking, since her organizational tasks occupied all her working hours.
Even on this occasion she isn’t entering the kitchen in response to the poster asking for volunteer cooks, but to acquaint herself with matters that might be of interest to the Party. She hesitates at the entrance, thinking of the embarrassment she might feel if she were asked to help, but she suppresses this fear and walks up to a man rolling dough. “Could you please tell me who the manager is?”
The man looks at her whimsically, bursts out laughing, and shouts to the others: “Here’s another old timer! Can anyone tell her where the manager is?”
A woman sprinkling cheese on frijoles refritos asks the militant, “Is that right, sister? Do you really want me to tell you where the manager is?”
“I’m no old timer,” the militant insists. “I’m a member of the revolutionary organization, and I’ve been a member since long before the revolution. I want to ask some important questions and I’d like to speak to the responsible person, the person in charge.”
“Go ahead and ask,” says the woman with the cheese. “We can all answer questions. If I don’t know the answer someone else may know.”
“That’s how we do everything here,” says a man who is washing dishes.
The militant’s face turns crimson and for a moment she considers running out to the street. But she manages to pull herself together. “What I want to know is,” she says, turning from one person to another, “I’d like to ask about the organization of this restaurant.”
“What about it?” asks the woman.
“Well, for example, when was the workers’ council formed, when was the Council Committee elected, how many people are on it”
“They weren’t,” says the woman.
“Those things were never formed around here as far as I know,” the woman answers.
“What do you mean?”
“Just that,” answers a man who is stirring soup. “We’ve been disabused of all that.”
“Do you mean,” the militant asks the woman with the cheese, “that the pre-revolutionary organization and staff survived in this restaurant intact?”
“I’ll tell you about the pre-revolutionary staff,” says the man with the dishes. “They had three people who washed dishes full-time and never did anything else. There were professional vegetable cleaners, a salad staff, soup specialists, two meat cutters, a full time baker, a shipping clerk with an assistant as well as a stock man, five pimps who did nothing but make arrangements, numerous professional bus boys, several staffs of waiters — meat waiters, wine waiters, as well as waiters who only bowed. None of the pre-revolutionary staff have been here since. I suppose none of those people ever want to see a restaurant again.”
“Then who coordinates production, who does the planning?”
“You mean what happened to the rest of the pre-revolutionary staff? I can tell you that too. I used to deliver meat here in those days. And I used to peek out to look at the better half. They’d come here to eat in what they called ‘their own’ restaurant. First of all there was someone they called The Investor. It was said that he passed checks to the others while he ate. One of those he passed money to was a big shot. He was ‘In Restaurants’ and in lots else besides. A scrawny little man who probably hadn’t ever touched dough was ‘In Bread.’ ‘I’m in bread,’ he’d say when he shook someone’s hand. Another one was ‘In Meats and Poultry’”
“We in the revolutionary organization know about all that,” protests the militant.
“No you don’t,” the man insists. “The one that was ‘In Restaurants,’ the one they called the Big Boss — he continued to come around when things started to change. The meals were free and no one raised a fuss about his eating here. He’d always sit all alone, and he’d stay at his table after everyone else had left. It seemed like he didn’t want to go back out to the street. Maybe he was afraid that a crowd would start chasing him shouting ‘There’s that capitalist thief — shoot him!’ One night when I was here baking he even came into the kitchen and asked if there might be something he could do. You don’t know about all that! You don’t know that the man who was ‘in Restaurants,’ the man who supposedly ‘fed thousands of people daily,’ the Big Boss as he was called — this man didn’t know how to boil an egg! Apparently all he knew was how to send checks to the bank. And when the banks closed down he didn’t know anything! I myself told him everyone would be happier if he didn’t help in the kitchen, that no one minded his eating here. He continued coming every day when the fighting was still going on, but after the army collapsed he never came back.”
The militant is visibly annoyed, and finds that these people are extremely evasive. “Frankly,” she says, “I’m not at all interested in the former, capitalist organization of this restaurant. I’ve studied the social relations and class structure of capitalism to the point where I’m sick of it! What I want to know is how this productive enterprise is organized now — who coordinates the activity, who orders the food, who plans the meals. In other words, how is this place run if not by a Workers’ Council guided by a Council Committee?”
“Sister,” says the woman, “if one of us can’t do it then it just doesn’t get done.”
“That’s no answer!” snaps the militant. “I don’t understand your motives for being so hostile to my question, for being so evasive. I’m not so stupid as to believe that a restaurant could function for a day without an organization. I happen to know what goes into a loaf of bread! A specific person has to decide how much bread is to be baked so as to know how much flour to order. At the flour mill, in turn, someone is in charge of coordinating the mill’s requirements with the agricultural authorities who supply the grain.
“The same is true of meat and vegetables — not to speak of all the fancy equipment you’ve got! It all takes coordinators, organizers, planners!”
The baker turns to her and, as if quoting a philosophical text, says slowly: “At the heart of the production process itself, where the productive forces are created, the previous forms of social activity did not exhaust the possibilities of contemporary human existence.”
“This is exasperating!” shouts the militant.
“Can you boil an egg?” asks the man stirring soup.
“You’re all lying!” she screams. “Productive activity on such a scale simply isn’t possible without regular staffs, without coordinators and organizers, without leaders. These tasks can’t be left to chance! They’re the proper tasks of an organization. For the sake of stability and order the development of the productive forces must be controlled.”
“But did you hear of anyone who starved,” the woman with the cheese shouts back, “either during the insurrection or after? Did you hear that the food stopped growing because it had lost its managers? Did you hear that all the trucks stopped running until the coming of the organizers? Did you hear that food stopped being distributed because the coordinators hadn’t arrived? Did you hear we were all so stupid that we didn’t know how to get flour from the mill to the bakery?”
“If all those things are running,” shouts the militant, “then it merely proves that there must be Councils and Committees coordinating and directing it.”
“And if they aren’t,” snaps the woman, “we’ve got to go hungry until the day they do!”
In response to this, the militant storms out of the kitchen. At the street entrance to the restaurant, she turns toward the people who are still at the tables talking. She raises her fist and shouts, angrily, “All Power to the Workers’ Councils. All Power to the Council Committees!” No one turns to look at her. People simply continue their conversations.
The scene in the restaurant still fails to clarify how a revolutionary situation lays the ground for the seizure of power by a revolutionary organization. In fact, the militant of an organization which was not an established part of the previous social or fares almost as badly as the authorities of the former social or. This may, once again, be due to the assumptions built into the scene, and thus need not alarm aspiring revolutionary leaders. The militants of all the previous scenes were presented as outsiders to the productive activity of the people they were assigned to organize. This assumption of course creates unnecessary obstacles to the successful establishment of power by the organization. If we drop this assumption, if we imagine a militant who is himself involved in the activity of his constituency, might there still be obstacles to the rise of a revolutionary organization capable of seizing power?
We might, for example, imagine an organizer who became personally involved in the productive activity of a printing plant. He might have been assigned to the plant in order to print the organization’s newspaper. Such an assignment would have been an extremely important one in the days of chaos and disorganization which immediately followed the success of the insurrection. After the fall of the old order, the revolutionary organization would undoubtedly consider it of capital importance to use all the media of communication to implant in the population the slogan ‘All Power to a Organization of the Working Class.’
Of course those early days of ‘spontaneous’ activity and revolutionary euphoria would not be the best time for the organization to find an individual ready to assume such a responsibility. Undoubtedly a large number of members would have been lost to the organization during the insurrection — individuals who took an active part in one or another ‘spontaneous’ activity and then simply stayed with the group of people with whom they had fought and worked. Let us imagine that the given militant was ready to assume the assignment because, unlike those who ran to take part in one or another ‘spontaneous’ struggle, he did not abandon himself to the anarchic activities taking place in his immediate vicinity. He waited until the organization developed a clear line, a coherent strategy — and as soon as the line was formulated after the fighting ended, he was not lost in an anarchic project like so many other former members. He was ready to respond to the organization’s call, to assume his responsibilities.
The period immediately after a successful insurrection would also not be the best time for an organizer to assume this particular assignment. This is due to the fact that printing plants, like construction sites and eating places, would have played a specific role during the insurrection itself. A large and once smooth running printing plant might well be in a state of total disarray as a result of a revolution. The organization member might find that there is no responsible person to whom he can give the newspaper articles. Furthermore there is no staff with a clearly defined division of labor to carry out the various steps necessary for printing the paper. The militant cannot easily learn on his own because there are no institutionalized teachers. Even if all the individuals in the plant on a given day considered it extremely important to print the organization’s newspaper, there are no established procedures for determining priorities. There aren’t even procedures for assigning work. This situation is a direct result of the activity which developed in the printing plant at the time of the barricades. As soon as productive activity ceased to be a source of income, almost all the former wage workers left the plant in mass and never returned. Those who replaced them had in most cases never before seen printing equipment. Since in most cases the newcomers had to disseminate information about an immediate threat, they were forced to learn on their own and in a great hurry. Some learned by leafing through manuals, some buttonholed a onetime printer to show them the essentials, and others were satisfied with barely readable results. Although hardly any of the plant’s onetime printers returned after the insurrection, most of the individuals who learned to print during the insurrection returned after the victory with less hurried and more craftsmanly projects, and usually with an intense desire to master the equipment so as to experiment with its numerous possibilities. Although the equipment was probably used to a fuller extent after the insurrection than ever before, the efficiency, order and discipline of the former work force, and also the well defined division of labor, did not return. This situation created nearly insurmountable obstacles for the militant assigned to print the organization’s paper.
Thus in addition to having to print the organization’s paper, the militant is saddled with the task of having to organize everyone else’s activity as well. When the time comes to organize Workers’ Councils in every mine, construction site and printing plant, the militant finds himself in a bizarre predicament. He is unable to gather the individuals in the plant on any given day to a meeting. This predicament is largely due to the fact that, although he is in the plant more regularly than anyone else, the unstructured nature of the teaching has prevented him from mastering any of the techniques and arts of printing. This of course affects the general appearance and readability of the organization’s newspaper. It also makes it hard for this individual to talk to others about the indispensability of meeting to organize the plant into a Workers’ Council. It’s not that people oppose such a Council. Only a few respond with comments like, “We don’t need that around here.” Most individuals simply tell the militant they’re too deeply involved in their work and urge him to hold the meeting without them. Since the response of others is generally, “I’ll meet whenever the rest meet,” the militant is left in the predicament of meeting by himself. To make matters worse, the militant suspects that several individuals think him a poor craftsman with sloppy habits and consider him an obstacle to the activities in the plant.
The first chance to organize a Workers’ Council presents itself when a group of people who did not learn to print during the insurrection come to use the plant’s equipment. Since the militant is the only one in the plant who regularly receives and welcomes visitors, the new people ask the militant to help them deal with the technical problems. This gives him a pretext for calling the more experienced individuals to a meeting. “There are people here who want to consult you about using this equipment.” Thus he succeeds in creating a meeting with the people in the plant on that particular day. The new people also give him a pretext for raising the question of organizing a Workers’ Council. “The problems raised by the new comrades cannot be dealt with in the framework of the organizational forms that currently dominate this plant. If this plant is to serve the needs of these comrades and of all the revolutionary peoples, we must all take part in sharing the responsibilities. Only a Workers’ Council provides a structure adequate to such a task.”
An individual who has printed multi-color posters since the days of the barricades announces to the new people, “I think no one here has ever turned away anyone who genuinely wanted to observe and learn.” After this announcement, she begins to leave the room.
The militant fears he may have let his single chance slip away. “Is anyone opposed to a Workers’ Council? Would those opposed raise their hands?”
No one’s hand is raised.
“Unanimously approved,” says the individual who spoke earlier, leaving the room, visibly annoyed. Others get up and return to their interrupted projects; some pause to ask the new people what specific technique they wanted to learn. Even the new people leave the room and join people engaged in one or another stage of the printing process. The militant is left alone. He succeeded. He puts a large sign outside the main entrance to the plant: “Council of Printing Workers.”
The successful formation of the Workers’ Council does not in practice improve the militant’s situation. In spite of the sign on the door, the membership of the Council varies daily and the Council never meets. The militant continues to print the organization’s newspaper all by himself, and since the quality of other people’s projects improves as they become increasingly familiar with the techniques and equipment, their attitude to his habits and standards becomes increasingly hostile. Although no one comments on the newspaper’s contents, the militant overhears numerous references to its appearance; people seem to consider it a stack of trash paper and an enormous waste of materials. Consequently when the time comes for all productive Workers’ Councils to elect delegates to Council Committees, the militant is in a worse predicament than before. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of his success in forming the Workers’ Council, he designs a new strategy. He recruits two members of the organization to join him in the plant. Actually numerous organization members wanted to join him when he made a moving speech at the Organization’s weekly meeting emphasizing the need to organize at the point of production, describing the low level of consciousness and apolitical behavior that results from a failure to do this, and calling for people who would represent a revolutionary force in this particular plant. Although he would have liked to return to the plant the following day with numerous comrades, it was decided that all but two of the volunteers should begin similar organizing activity at the point of production in other unorganized plants.
After a critique and self critique of the earlier meeting at which the Workers’ Council was formed, the three militants decide not to call for a general meeting to elect the Council Committee. Instead, they take the opportunity of joining a group of individuals who are taking a break and eating. The three militants present the case in favor of electing a Council Committee. No one seems to have a case against such an election. However, one of the individuals eating lunch, a regular user of the printing equipment and an outstanding photographer, says that since most people don’t know what such a Committee member is supposed to do, and since he’s sure most people wouldn’t be willing to devote time and energy to such a Committee, why don’t the three proponents of such a Committee simply elect themselves? That wouldn’t be democratic, objects one of the militants. Don’t worry about that, says the individual; you won’t find anyone in the plant who objects to such a procedure. And sure enough, after consulting other individuals who are using one or another instrument that day, the militants find no one opposed to this scheme and consider themselves unanimously elected to the Council Committee.
The three militants become the first regular staff in the plant since pre-revolutionary days. They receive guests, collaborate on the layout and printing of the organization’s paper (the quality of which improves somewhat), and they begin to enforce certain minimal regulations, like no-smoking rules. Their enforcement of rules is successful only among newcomers, and then only temporarily; when the newcomers join more experienced persons and learn to execute technical processes on their own, they also learn to disregard even the most minimal rules. However, even the Council Committee doesn’t last. The three-member Committee decides that, to acquire the skills needed to teach newcomers and to raise the quality of the newspaper yet higher, the two new militants are to join more experienced persons to learn halftone techniques and process color printing. In a matter of days both organization members become so involved in the processes of discovery and experimentation that each decides to remain with the work group to which she and he attached themselves. And to make matters worse for the initial militant, both become visibly hostile toward their mentor.
Our militant is again alone, and physically as well as psychologically he can no longer support his assignment. At organization meetings he regularly asks to be replaced, and on several occasions he suggests that the organization print the newspaper in another plant. He even threatens to resign from the organization. However, his resignation is undesirable in view of his service to the organization, and a public admission of his failure is undesirable because it would not serve the organization’s image. Consequently, he is promoted. In the light of his earlier election to the Council Committee, namely in the light of his proven popularity among his fellow workers, he is assigned by the organization’s leaders to present himself as the plant’s candidate for the position of delegate to the Regional Workers’ Council.
On this occasion the militant does not attempt to gather even a few individuals in a meeting. He makes it a point to talk to every individual in the plant on a particular day. He is surprised to find that people become very friendly as soon as he mentions that he intends to leave in order to become the plant’s delegate to the Regional Council. He takes their friendliness as a sign of approval, namely as a vote. Each individual nods politely as he describes the virtues of the Regional Council: it will determine priorities, coordinate all the activities of the region, allocate resources in the interests of the third world and enforce regional decisions.
Before leaving, the militant prints the slogan ‘All Power to the Regional Workers’ Council’ and posts it on various walls in the plant. A few days after his departure most of these signs are covered by other posters; of the rest all but one are torn down, and on the remaining sign the militant’s slogan is scratched out and above it is written a slogan which corresponds to an earlier stage of the organization’s struggle: ‘All Power to the Workers!’
The events in the printing plant are not very probable. Events with similarities to this sequence have occurred, but they’ve been rare events, unlikely exceptions. Yet if we grant that such events are possible at all, we are forced to draw at least one conclusion. The mere possibility of such a sequence suggests at least one consequence. The conclusion we are forced to draw is that, even in the absence of a restoration of the old order, a revolutionary situation is not a sufficient condition for the development of a revolutionary organization capable of seizing State power.
This conclusion will undoubtedly be a letdown for aspiring revolutionary leaders. But there is no reason why this conclusion should prevent prospective leaders from continuing to try. Our conclusion does not prove that failure is certain, but only that it is possible. Furthermore, the circumstances underlying the imaginary scenes we have drawn suggest that the possibility of failure is very small. First of all a revolutionary situation of the type described is a historical rarity. And secondly, the resumption of productive activity on the part of the population is an even greater rarity: in the light of all previous human history such an event has extremely low probability. Only one tentative conclusion really emerges from the scenes, namely that if such extremely unusual events are possible at all, then a revolutionary organization’s seizure of State power will not be the necessary outcome of an extended revolutionary situation.
This conclusion, however limited in scope, makes our central question problematic — namely, just how does a revolutionary situation lay the ground for the seizure of State power by a revolutionary organization? If such a situation does not necessarily lead to such an outcome, then it becomes pointless to ask how it does so. It seems that we’ve been asking: how does one milk a bull? — Or more to the point, how can we get milk out of a beer barrel? Clearly, turning the tap one way or another or even drilling holes of a certain diameter will not yield milk; the only way we’ll get milk out of a beer barrel is if we first transform it into a milk barrel. Or, with respect to our question, we should not ask how a revolutionary situation paves the path for a revolutionary organization; perhaps what we should be asking is: how must a revolutionary organization transform a revolutionary situation in order to seize power out of it. The reformulation of the question makes it clear that in the scenes drawn so far we have been trying to milk a bull.
Once it is clear that it is not the revolutionary situation, namely the population engaged in self-organized productive activity, that lays the ground for the seizure of State power, but that the revolutionary organization must lay this ground, we might proceed to study yet another possibility: are there elements in the revolutionary situation which might prevent the organization from laying this ground? To determine the possibility of such elements, we might imagine that a meeting of the Regional Workers’ Council already took place, that this Regional Council consisted of delegates from various Council Committees of printing plants, construction sites, eating places and other productive plants. Due to electoral procedures described earlier, the Regional Council would consist of all the regional members of the revolutionary organization, since the majority of the organization would be there as delegates from plants and the rest as observers. After this meeting the revolutionary organization would no longer be a mere political sect but would represent the population of an entire region; furthermore the organization’s members, unlike the militants depicted in the earlier scenes, would no longer be mere individuals with less social authority than that of the smallest customs official at a national frontier. Let us try to determine if an official delegate of such a body might fail to establish the power of the organization among the population.
Let us suppose that a food truck arrives at a garage which was transformed into a neighborhood food distribution center already during the days of the barricades. People from nearby houses gather at the garage and begin unloading baskets and boxes with fruits and vegetables. On this particular day, when the unloading has barely begun, an authoritative voice shouts: “Halt! Stop unloading the truck!”
“Who’s that dude?” asks a short, heavy man, pointing to a person dressed in a suit and an attaché case.
“Damned if I know,” answers the truck driver.
People stop unloading the truck and are hypnotized by the man in the suit, who sets his case on the tailgate of the truck, opens it, and removes a pencil and a clipboard.
“Some kind of survey?” asks the truck driver, a tall woman with a mild voice who glances over the man’s shoulder at the clipboard while speaking.
“I am the Regional Delegate for this neighborhood,” answers the man in the suit.
“Delegate for what?” asks a woman who is still holding the basket she was unloading.
“Food distribution,” answers the delegate.
“You’re what?” shouts a man who was passing boxes from the truck.
“I am here to coordinate the distribution of food,” says the delegate.
“What’s wrong with the way it’s being distributed?” asks the truck driver.
“It’s in a state of absolute chaos”, answers the delegate.
“There’s no coordination. There are no central records of resources and users. The newly constituted Regional Planning Commission lacks the very data with which to begin bookkeeping.”
“But everyone’s being fed!” shouts the man on the truck.
“Resources are being irrationally allocated,” insists the delegate. “There are constant shortages”
“You know, that’s true,” interrupts the woman with the basket. “Last week I wanted strawberries but they were gone by the time I got here.”
There is a brief silence. People are apparently thinking of other shortages.
The short heavy man breaks the silence. “Are you and your clipboard going to prevent shortages?”
“The Regional Planning Commission will from now on determine the output and assortment of agricultural production,” answers the delegate, who is trying to read the label on one of the unloaded boxes.
“The people I just got this food from didn’t mention any such outfit,” says the truck driver, reaching for the box handed to her by the man on the truck.
“I thought the farms were already growing enough to feed the entire population,” says the man on the truck, who is reaching for another box.
“There’s no plan!” shouts the delegate.
“You mean the plan’s going to grow exactly what we want? And no shortages?” asks the short heavy man.
“Your demand in one period will be taken into consideration when the plan for the next period is drafted,” explains the regional delegate. He then asks for the size and contents of the first unloaded box, information which he registers on the clipboard when a woman near the box answers. The woman then goes on to ask, “You mean if no one asks for something in the first plan period, then it won’t be available in the next period?”
“The plan does not exclude innovation!” shouts the regional delegate, apparently annoyed by a question he considers naive.
“That’s very decent,” says the man on the truck, with audible sarcasm. “Our alternatives will once again depend on the imaginations of bureaucrats.”
The woman holding the basket appears to take a serious interest in the regional delegate. “How would we know what the planners innovated, say for today’s meals?” she asks.
The delegate smiles for the first time. “A newsletter will describe the nature and use of new products, and the new items will appear on your weekly order forms.”
“Of course!” shouts the sarcastic skeptic on the truck, putting his index finger on his temple.
“What if I don’t pick up your newsletter?” asks the short heavy man.
“It will be regularly included with your weekly allotment of food,” explains the delegate.
“What else will this newsletter describe?” asks the skeptic.
“It will deal with general political, educational and cultural questions, and it will list politically relevant events, speakers and meetings.”
“Wow!” shouts the skeptic. “Now what happens if, for example, I develop some kind of persecution complex; if the notion grows on me that I’m being brainwashed; and if I refuse to have your political propaganda in the same bag with my food?”
“Neighbor, if you don’t want the newsletter,” explains the woman with the basket, who had missed out on strawberries last week, “if you don’t want the newsletter, I guess you won’t get the food.”
There is general amusement, but people stop laughing when they see the woman with the basket is not smiling. The regional delegate continues to grin.
“Is that right?” shouts the skeptic on the truck to the woman with the basket. “If I don’t want the political line I don’t eat?”
There is general uneasiness. The short heavy man tries to find a universally satisfactory solution: “Perhaps the newsletter needn’t be put into the bags. It could just as well be left on a table, and only those who like it would take a copy.”
There seems to be general agreement with this suggestion, and people begin to relax again. But the calm is definitively broken by the mild voice of the truck driver.
“Have we all gone crazy?” she asks. “We’ve just recently rid ourselves of an incredibly powerful class of rulers. We’ve just recently started to learn to make our own decisions. And are we already deciding we’re going to take orders from the first person who tells us he’s our new king?”
The people gather around the truck driver and seem to wake up from a dream. They move toward the back of the truck, form the usual relay line and resume the process of passing boxes and baskets from the truck to the tables.
The regional delegate’s grin is gone. He hurriedly packs the clipboard and pen in the attaché case and, waving the case in the air, he shouts, “In the name of the Regional Workers’ Council, I order you to stop!”
“Get out of the way, Mac; save your rap for later,” says a large man who bumps the delegate with a box.
“Do you have a regional police to enforce your orders?” asks the skeptic.
People continue unloading. The delegate attempts to block the relay line. He begins to shout, “In the name of all the victories scored by the workers’ revolution”
He is interrupted by two hefty fellows who lift him into the air and begin carrying him on their shoulders.
“All Power to the Workers!” taunts the skeptic, raising his fist.
“All Power to the Workers!” shout several of the people unloading the truck.
“You’re all counter-revolutionaries!” shouts the delegate, turning his head toward the people on the relay line. “You’ll pay for this!” he threatens, while his carriers increase the distance between the delegate and the garage. “Next time you won’t get a mere delegate from a Regional Council,” the delegate continues, by now shouting at passers-by in the street, who probably interpret the event as an instance of street theater, or perhaps as a political demonstration. “The next delegate will be appointed directly by the Central Committee of the Council of All Workers’ Councils. He’ll teach you a lesson in revolutionary discipline!” he shouts to a woman pushing a baby carriage across the street. “Behind the next delegate will stand the might of the armed population!” he shouts to a group of young people picnicking on a lawn. “I’ll return to see if you’ll scoff into the guns of the People’s Army!” He continues shouting threats to all passers-by, frequently raising his fist and repeating, “All Power to the Central Committee of the Council of All Workers’ Councils” — until his bearers reach their destination, the seat of the new government, the steps of the National Theater.
The embarrassing predicament of the Regional Delegate, perhaps possible but hardly plausible in any presently known historical circumstances, nevertheless points toward two tentative conclusions: a revolutionary situation such as the one described is not necessarily the most fertile field for the development of revolutionary leadership, and such a situation may contain elements which might prevent a revolutionary organization from transforming the situation into one suitable for the seizure of State power. It not only appears that the situation fails to thrust power on the organization’s leaders, but also that it prevents leaders from taking power. However, before regarding these conclusions as final, we might pause to examine yet another possibility. Perhaps the circumstances underlying all the hypothetical scenes presented until now unduly exaggerate the elements unfavorable to revolutionary leadership, while at the same time placing members of the revolutionary organization at particularly poor vantage points from which to realize their goal. After all, every one of the scenes depicts militants who are completely divorced from the new productive activities as well as the experimental social relations developed by the self-organized population, militants who are not only pathetically behind the times but also alien to the liberating spirit of the new social activities, militants who are almost, in a sense, reactionaries. The prominence of such circumstances in the hypothetical scenes would of course exaggerate the likelihood that a revolutionary militant might not succeed. Since such circumstances bias all the earlier scenes, we cannot as yet draw the conclusion that there is nothing at all about self-organized and independent activity that lays the ground for the success of a revolutionary organization. Nor can we as yet conclude that as soon as self-organized activity takes root among a population it will prevent the successful seizure of power by a revolutionary organization.
Therefore, before concluding that self-organized and independent creative activity is not a sufficient condition for a revolutionary organization’s success but rather for its failure, we would do well to push our question yet further. We would do well to construct a hypothetical scene which, unlike the earlier scenes, contains elements which from the very beginning of the insurrection provide a fertile field for the success of the revolutionary organization. We could start by building numerous circumstances favorable to the revolutionary organization and its members into the very structure of the scene.
We might structure the scene around a large electronics plant which, from the standpoint of the revolutionary organization, was in the vanguard of the struggle from the earliest days of the insurrection. Let us suppose that on the first day of the general strike the assembled workers of this plant took decisions which corresponded, down to the last letter, to the organization’s definition of the most urgent tasks of the day. For example, after deciding to put the plant’s technology at the service of all striking workers, the assembled electronics workers formed a Workers’ Council and democratically elected a Council Committee as well as a President of the Council Committee. Let us further suppose that the President of the Council Committee, unlike the militants described in earlier scenes, is not a professional organizer unfamiliar with the technical processes of the plant; on the contrary, she is a worker who had been employed in the electronics plant and had been a member of the revolutionary organization long before the popular uprising. And let us furthermore suppose that the general elections of the Council Committee as well as the election of the President lived up to all the criteria of fully democratic elections. First of all, everyone in the plant voted. And secondly, the criteria on the basis of which candidates were proposed were identical to criteria which are used to select a specific group of people to execute a particular task; for example, when the general assembly selected a team of researchers to develop a communications technology appropriate to the needs of the workers assembled in the plant, the individuals were selected on the basis of their knowledge and experience in this particular area. The same criteria were applied in the election of the Council Committee and the President; the fact is that members of the revolutionary organization were the only individuals among the assembled workers who had both the knowledge and the experience required for performing the roles of President and Council Committee member.
Under the leadership of its revolutionary Council Committee, and guided by its President, the electronics plant put its entire labor force and all its technology at the service of the revolutionary struggle on the barricades and in the streets. Two-way walkie-talkies were freely distributed to the population; these devices helped coordinate the struggles at different barricades, and enabled reinforcements to come to the rescue of isolated neighborhoods. All the plant’s workers personally participated in various struggles, and most of them returned to the plant in order to design and produce two-way radio sets, barricade television sets, and other electronic devices particularly suitable to the conditions of the popular insurrection. Furthermore, the Committee, and the plant’s President as well, encouraged people who had not previously worked in the plant to participate directly in the production of devices which responded to their own or their neighbors’ specific needs.
The social relations which developed in the plant during the insurrection, with the encouragement and support of the plant’s revolutionary leadership, continued to develop after the downfall of the old order. Individuals inside the plant continued to participate personally in the ‘outside’ projects for which they designed and built electronic devices, and people engaged primarily in ‘outside’ projects continued to participate in the parts of their projects which took place inside the electronics plant. Thus the plant’s workers themselves took part in activities related to food distribution, production and delivery of raw materials, and even motion pictures, while individuals engaged in any number of productive activities were continually attracted by the possibilities of the technology available in the electronics plant, and continually came to the plant to design and build experimental devices. The plant’s boundaries, the line between the plant’s ‘labor force’ and the ‘outside world,’ became unclear.
However, the electronics plant which was in the vanguard during the insurrection not only because of the establishment of progressive relations inside the plant itself, but also because of the spread of these revolutionary relations to the entire society, begins to run into some problems. When the time comes for all Workers’ Councils to elect delegates to the Regional Workers’ Council, the plant’s President finds herself in a peculiar dilemma. The Workers’ Council which had so creatively responded to the needs of the population during the height of the struggle has not actually met since the general assembly meeting where it was formed. The individuals who now compose the plant’s work groups are not the ones who composed the plant’s labor force when the Council was formed. Matters which require decision, administration and coordination are not determined by the Council Committee but are informally arranged by the work groups through personal relations between suppliers, producers and users. What’s worse, due to their engagement in outside projects, none of the Council Committee members except the President even have a regular attendance in the plant, and as a result the Committee never meets and does not, strictly speaking, function.
Even the Council’s President devotes more time and energy to experimentation and discovery than to the political tasks of the day. However, it is not because of this that, during the middle of a workday, she is summoned to appear immediately before the organization’s leaders. It is not because of the organization of the plant’s Council, but rather because of the nature of the plant’s productive activity, that the President is summoned to appear before an extraordinary session of the Central Committee of the revolutionary organization. Because she is a worker and also President of an enormous productive enterprise, the organization’s leaders treat her with a deference she has frequently found annoying; on numerous occasions she found that excessive cordiality kept them from communicating with her straightforwardly, and she was forced to guess what it was that they actually wanted from her. However, on this occasion the urgent nature of the extraordinary session is immediately explained to her. The organization’s political economist opens the session with a profound analysis of the state of communications technology since the insurrection. Only brief excerpts from his speech can be cited here:
... precisely at the historical moment when the revolutionary organization of the working class has successfully seized all the central communications networks ...
...precisely at the historical moment when the primary task of the revolutionary organization is to inform the population of the tasks ahead, to define the needs of the day, to lead and guide the march forward to ever higher forms of working class organization...
...precisely at the historical moment when the revolutionary organization of the working class most urgently needs the one-way communications media inherited by the working class from the defunct capitalist ruling class...
Comrades I — and this is the capital point — it is at this precise historical moment that the masses are abandoning one-way communications media
It is at this precise historical moment that the masses are beginning to use two-way, three-way and many-way electronic devices.
Comrades! — and this is the point of the analysis — these new devices do not only block the air waves and the television channels!
What is far more serious is that the new devices distract and mislead the working population; they prevent the clear communication of the slogans and directives regularly broadcast over the central networks.
The consequences of this chaos-breeding technology are extremely far-reaching. The continuing development of such productive forces becomes a fetter to the revolutionary social relations. This development obstructs the consolidation and concentration of power by the organization of the working class. The working class is no longer informed of the decisions made by the organization of the working class. People are uninformed of the decisions and resolutions passed by the Regional Councils. Even Party members have difficulty keeping up with the organization’s political line, with the Party’s definition of the tasks of the day...
Comrades, this precise historical moment is a moment of crisis. It is a historical situation which can only be described as a state of total chaos characterized by an alarmingly low level of production, constant shortages — in short, economic stagnation!
When the political economist finishes his moving speech, the Leader of the organization introduces the President of the electronics plant. “Comrades, in view of this lamentable state of affairs on the eve of the general and universal election of the Central Committee of the Council of All Workers’ Councils, we have invited to our session the Comrade President of the electronics enterprise which became justly famous during our glorious revolution for its distribution of walkie-talkies to the struggling workers, an enterprise which was in the vanguard of the revolutionary struggle, which provided a model of revolutionary organization to the entire working class. The Comrade will deepen our understanding of the present lamentable state of affairs, and in particular the Comrade will describe the measures which this important enterprise is taking to combat this state of affairs. Comrade President.”
The President sweats and is extremely nervous. She starts to speak in a faltering voice. “The general state of affairs described by our scholarly comrade is indeed lamentable.” She is somewhat reassured when numerous Central Committee members nod in agreement. “He has presented an extremely well documented analysis of the general state of affairs.” The members nod again. “I am not familiar with the general state of affairs,” she continues. “I can only speak of the specific situation in the electronics plant. The scholarly comrade spoke of a low level of production and of constant shortages in general. However, at the specific level which is familiar to me, namely at the electronics plant, these general shortages have not specifically manifested themselves. This is not at all a contradiction of the comrade’s analysis. I am speaking at an altogether different level of abstraction. My analysis is conditioned by my relation to the productive forces in question. The scholarly comrade’s analysis is not subject to such limitations. The further an individual’s activity is moved from the productive forces, the less the individual’s analysis is conditioned by the development of the productive forces. It is at the level of the superstructure described by the comrade that the state of affairs is indeed lamentable. However, this general condition has not manifested itself at the base. The quantity and variety of the products created in the plant is today several times higher than it was during any of the pre-revolutionary record-breaking periods, Shortages have not manifested themselves either among the inputs or among the outputs. In terms of the outputs: people have either succeeded in designing and producing precisely the products they required, or they found workers in the plant who were willing and ready to design and produce the products. As for inputs: the informal nature of the social relations among productive sectors since the revolution has made possible the establishment of direct contacts among suppliers, producers and users. Nowadays workers themselves contact suppliers of materials, and frequently the workers take part in the production of the specific materials required for a particular project. These direct contacts are often characterized by personality clashes and various forms of acrimony. However, such direct relations do prevent the production and transportation of totally inappropriate materials, which was the rule before the revolution. At the level of abstraction at which I am speaking, namely at the level of the productive activity itself, a low level of production and constant shortages characterized an earlier historical situation — a revolution in which the low production and the shortages were not due to the establishment of direct social relations among the producers, but to the absence of such relations. In this earlier historical situation, shortages resulted from the fact that initiative and decision-making were limited to a small number of planners and party officials who were in general totally divorced from the production process. Comrades, interrupt me if I am wrong. My understanding has always been that the purpose of the Organization is not to stifle the initiative and self-organization of the working population, but rather to nurse it, to help it grow strong and self-confident, to create the conditions for working people to become the masters of technology and not its slaves.”
She pauses. No one nods. There is an icy silence.
“As for the current stage of the struggle,” she continues, faltering again, “I can only assure the Comrades that I will do all that is in my power to impress my fellow workers with the importance of the coming elections of the Central Committee. I will see to it that they participate in this critical event.”
The Leader of the revolutionary organization deferentially thanks the President of the working collective of the electronics enterprise, “an enterprise which once marched in the forefront of the working class by supporting and implementing the decisions of the organization of the working class.”
The President rushes back to the group with whom she is engaged in a particularly intriguing experiment in communications technology. She is annoyed by the openly exhibited distrust of several individuals who know she has just returned from an important Party meeting. She has frequently in the past been annoyed by individuals who became nervous whenever she began talking about the organizational tasks of the day. On this particular afternoon the relevant slogan — All Power to the Central Committee of the Council of All Workers’ Councils — sticks in her throat. She is unable to speak it. The tasks of the current phase of the struggle can no longer be served by her proclamation of the slogan of the day. Perhaps those tasks cannot be realized at the only ‘level of abstraction’ with which she is familiar, namely at the point of production. Perhaps, she reflects, the realization of those tasks may have to wait until the day when the organization establishes its own State, with an efficient administration, and an army strong enough to enforce the requirements of the day. As for the remainder of this particular afternoon she abandons herself to the excitement of discovering another new form of multiple-source communications media.
We are forced to conclude that, even under very favorable circumstances, self-organized activity does not provide a fertile field for the growth and success of a revolutionary organization. Independent, self-organized social activity is not, in and of itself, a sufficient condition for the successful seizure of State power by a revolutionary organization. In fact, independent activity seems to hamper the development of such an organization. Consequently, at this point it becomes hard to imagine just what such an organization would have to do in order to seize State power out of such a situation. We can nevertheless try to visualize the organization’s attempt to do this.
For example, we might try to imagine the occasion on which the delegates of the working population are to elect the Central Committee of the Council of All Workers’ Councils. Such an event might be staged at the National Theater. This setting might be particularly appropriate for numerous reasons. For example, already during the days of the street fighting and the barricades, the National Theater might have been transformed into a continuing public forum. The semi-circular arrangement of the seats, and rows of benches placed on the stage itself, made this auditorium an ideal place for any and all individuals to address themselves to the entire audience. The doors of the theater were open, and the auditorium was crowded, at all hours of the day and night. All schools of philosophical, political, ecological and religious thought could be heard defended by proponents or downgraded by critics. Some individuals read prepared lectures; others spoke off the cuff.
On this occasion, as usual, the auditorium is crowded. An even larger crowd gathers outside the theater. The reason for this extremely large gathering is that organization members, as well as numerous people who have come for the election, add their numbers to the large evening audience which regularly takes part in the open forum. Most organization members are of course impressed by the size of the gathering, especially those who are visiting the forum for the first time, since they assume that all these people have come to observe the scheduled event, the election of the Central Committee. The fact is that most of these people do not know there is a scheduled event. Their ignorance of the event is not due to lack of preparation or inadequate publicity on the part of the revolutionary organization. On the contrary, the coming election was broadcast hourly over the central radio and television networks and the articles in the organization’s newspaper spoke of nothing else. However, the majority of the population has become attracted to new communications devices, and as a result very few people have actually heard the hourly announcements. As for newspapers — they remain on the stands despite the fact that they are now free. No one seems to read them any more; people seem more interested in artistic or technical subjects, and descriptions of unfamiliar or new branches of social activity seem to have replaced the popular magazines and mass circulation newspapers of former days. Even the organization’s members did not learn of the event from the mass media of communications; they were personally informed by other members.
The presence of this unexpectedly large crowd creates certain strategic problems for the organizers of the event. Since the public forum is a continuing 24-hour event, the auditorium is already full when the voters arrive. In view of the size of the crowd it would not be practical to ask everyone to leave. The leaders of the organization devise a strategy which, under the circumstances, appears to be the best available alternative. All of the organization’s regular People’s Marshals are given armbands with the word “Guardian” clearly printed on them, and other hefty members who are not regular Marshals are also given armbands. Some of the Guardians individually approach the people who are sitting on the benches on stage; the marshals explain that a special event is scheduled, and would these people please try to find seats in the auditorium. No one objects; some people find new seats, others leave the theater. The vacated places are then occupied by the arm-banded Marshals. Although the Guardians find themselves continually looked-at by individuals in the auditorium, no one raises a fuss. Other Guardians place themselves at the entrances to the theater, two per door. They allow only individuals with membership cards to enter the theater, explaining to others that the theater is overcrowded and that only people’s delegates who are taking part in the special event are being permitted to enter. Before long, all those who came to attend the important session of the Council of All Workers’ Councils are seated in the auditorium.
The next problem is what to do about the large gathering outside the theater. The idea of dispersing this crowd does not appeal to the organization’s leaders because a concerted attempt to do this might lead to a riot. This in turn would create bad publicity for the organization. In addition, there is no need to disperse this crowd; it would be much better to give them the opportunity to listen to the deliberations of the Council. Consequently, loudspeakers are placed on the outside walls of the theater.
The stage is now set. The leaders of the revolutionary organization file on to the stage, while the Marshals who had reserved their seats march off. The audience ceases to pay attention to an individual reading a lecture on the fertility of soils in glacial valleys, and all eyes turn to the stage.
The leader of the revolutionary organization walks with dignity to the center of the stage. “Comrades, we are assembled here as the first conference of the proletarian party, in conditions of revolution and a developing world revolution as well.”
The delegates from the Workers’ Councils and Council Committees stand. They are scattered in all parts of the auditorium. They applaud. Others remain seated, and do not applaud.
“I shall begin by referring to a speech which impressed me most. I heard a coal miner deliver a remarkable speech, without using a single bookish word, he told us how they had made the revolution. Those miners were not concerned with the question as to whether or not they should have a president. They seized the mine, and the important question to them was how to keep the cables intact so that production might not be interrupted. Then came the question of bread, which was scarce, and the miners also agreed on the method of obtaining it. Now that is a real program of the revolution, not derived from books. That is what I call really winning power locally. We are all agreed that power must be wielded by the Councils of Workers’ Deputies. But what can and should they do if power passes to them, i.e., if power is in the hands of the proletarians and semi-proletarians? This is an involved and difficult question. Speaking of the transfer of power, there is a danger — one that played a big part in previous revolutions too — namely, the danger that the revolutionary class will not know what to do with state power when it has won it. The history of revolutions gives us examples of revolutions that failed for this very reason...”
An individual in the auditorium cuts the leader short. “If those revolutions failed, it is because the workers’ responses were still conditioned by the social relations. People like you convinced them that what they wanted was State power. And then of course they didn’t know what to do with it, because there’s nothing at all they can do with it. That’s reserved for people like you. Workers who control production don’t need State power.”
“I can understand the uneducated mass of workers and soldiers naively and unconsciously believing in control,” the leader explains. “You only have to think about the fundamental aspects of control, however, to realize that such a belief is a departure from the basic principles of the class struggle. What is control? To control, you must have power.” (Numerous organization members applaud. The leader continues.) “The Conference resolves that in order to ensure all the state power passing into the hands of the Councils of Workers’ Deputies or other bodies directly expressing the will of the people, prolonged work is necessary to develop proletarian class-consciousness and to unite the urban and rural proletarians against the vacillations of the petit-bourgeoisie, for only work of this nature can guarantee real advance on the part of the whole revolutionary people. This calls for many-sided activity within the Councils of Workers’ Deputies, for work aimed at increasing the number of these Councils, consolidating their power, and welding together our Party’s proletarian Internationalist groups in the Councils.”
“Those Party groups aren’t as efficient as you make them out to be,” shouts someone in the gallery. “Their lack of empathy with other people leads to a profound inability to understand our revolutionary democracy. This inability leads them to dream up policies and measures which are completely out of touch with the social situation.”
“This is the sum and substance of our policy,” says the leader. “The whole petit-bourgeoisie is now wavering and trying to conceal this wavering behind the empty phrase about revolutionary democracy.”
The individual in the gallery interrupts again. “Next thing you’ll be telling us is that you volunteer to be our new ruler. You ideological officials are subject to acute mental disorders!”
“They all agree,” the leader says, “that the Organization will either never dare take over full state power alone, or, if they do dare, and do take power, they will not be able to retain it even for the shortest while. If anybody asserts that the question of the Organization alone taking over full state power is a totally unfeasible political question, that only a swelled-headed ‘fanatic’ of the worst kind can regard it as feasible, we refute this assertion”
“Buddy, to do that you’ll need an army,” shouts the disrupter in the gallery, “and your army’ll need an arms industry — and no one I know is about to give you what you need!”
The leader is not disturbed or even annoyed by the continued interruptions, although numerous people in the auditorium are visibly annoyed. “We are concerned now not with the ‘day’ or ‘moment’ of insurrection in the narrow sense of the word. That will be only decided by the common voice of those who are in contact with the workers, with the masses. The point is that now, at the Democratic Conference, our party has virtually its own congress, and this congress (whether it wishes to or not) must decide the fate of the revolution”
“So we’re to return to that familiar history of princes and kings, pretenders and impostors,” shouts the disrupter.
“Having appealed for decisions and not talk, for action and not resolution-writing, we must dispatch our entire group to the factories and the barracks. Their place is there, the pulse of life is there, there is the source of salvation for our revolution. There is no middle course. Delay is impossible. The revolution is dying. By putting the question in this way, by concentrating our entire group in the factories and barracks, we shall be able to determine the right moment to start the insurrection.”
“By enriching the power of the State with the power in the factories, you’ll be able to determine the right moment to start anything,” shouts the heckler in the gallery. And this time numerous other individuals stand up and shout, “Are you serious?” “What is this?”
“Of course,” explains the leader, “this is an by way of example, only to illustrate the fact that at the present moment it is impossible to remain loyal to Marxism, to remain loyal to the revolution unless insurrection is treated as an art.”
“Dictator!” shouts the heckler. “The times when The Leader can lay hold of people’s lives are gone!”
“The plea that the proletariat will not be able technically to lay hold of the state apparatus is, perhaps, the most common and most frequent,” explains the leader. “The state apparatus is primarily the standing army, the police and the bureaucracy. By saying that the proletariat will not be able technically to lay hold of this apparatus, the critics reveal their utter ignorance and their reluctance to take into account either facts or the arguments long ago cited in Bolshevik literature.”
The leader suddenly stops and looks up toward the gallery. Soon the eyes of the entire audience are turned toward the gallery. Four sturdy People’s Marshals with ‘Guardian’ armbands have entered the gallery and move toward the heckler. Two Guardians seize the heckler’s arms, two seize his legs; they raise the heckler out of his seat and carry him past stunned onlookers. While the Guardians begin to carry the heckler out of the auditorium, the leader continues speaking.
“In addition to the chiefly ‘oppressive’ apparatus — the standing army, the police and the bureaucracy — the modern state possesses an apparatus which has extremely close connections with the banks and unions, an apparatus which performs an enormous amount of accounting and registration work, if it may be expressed this way. This apparatus must not, and should not, be smashed. It must be expanded, made more comprehensive, and nation-wide. And this can be done by utilizing the achievements already made by large-scale capitalism, in the same way as the proletarian revolution can, in general, reach its goal only by utilizing these achievements.”
While speaking, the leader is constantly interrupted by shouts from the heckler as he is carried out of the auditorium. “Fanatic! You’re fifty years too late! We haven’t gained our own powers in order to give them up to you!” The shouting stops when the Guardians exit from the auditorium, close the door, and apparently carry the heckler outside the theater. There is widespread uneasiness in the audience; numerous individuals turn their heads in all directions, as if looking for an explanation. However, the leader remains perfectly calm, and continues his opening speech as if the incident that just took place had been an expected and pre-planned part of the evening’s proceedings.
“The big banks are the ‘state apparatus’ which we need to bring about socialism, and which we take ready made from capitalism; our task here is merely to lop off what capitalistically mutilates this excellent apparatus, to make it even bigger, even more democratic, even more comprehensive. Quantity will be transformed into quality. A single State Bank, the biggest of the big, with branches in every rural district, in every factory, will constitute as much as nine-tenths of the socialist apparatus. This will be countrywide book-keeping, country-wide accounting of the production and distribution of goods, this will be, so to speak, something in the nature of the skeleton of socialist society.”
The leader is interrupted again, this time from the ground floor. A large individual with unruly hair and a beard raises his hands high above his head. In a deep voice and pronouncing each word with deliberate care, he appears to be pleading with the audience. “Comrades, do you know what you have done? You, who have rid yourselves of the police, have allowed four self-appointed Guardians to remove a crank, a nuisance, a disrupter. Comrades, you have restored the power of the police, but have you considered who this police will relieve you from next? Perhaps another crank, another disrupter. Perhaps an anarchist. It so happens that I have been an anarchist since-”
While he is speaking, the four Guardians who have surrounded him seize his arms and legs.
As soon as the anarchist is silent, the leader continues his opening speech. “The Councils will introduce work-books for the whole population.”
“Mark my words!” shouts the anarchist as he is raised out of his seat.
“Every week, or other definite fixed period,” continues the leader, “they will have to get from the union a certificate to the effect that they are performing their work conscientiously; without this they will not be able to receive bread ration cards or provisions in general.”
“The entire old order will be restored in the name of socialism!” shouts the anarchist as he is carried toward the exit.
The leader continues, “The proletarian state will say: we need good organizers of banking and the amalgamation of enterprises — in this matter the capitalists have more experience, and it is easier to work with experienced people — and we need far, far more engineers, agronomists, technicians and scientifically trained specialists of every kind than were needed before. We shall give all these specialists work to which they are accustomed and which they can cope with; in all probability we shall introduce complete wage equality only gradually and shall pay these specialists higher salaries during the transition period. We shall place them under comprehensive workers’ control and we shall achieve the complete and absolute operation of the rule ‘He who does not work, neither shall he eat’. We shall not invent the organizational form of the work, but take it ready-made from capitalism — we shall take over the banks, unions, the best factories, experimental stations, academies and so forth; all that we shall have to do is to borrow the best models”
At this point at least half the audience have risen from their seats. Another individual on the ground floor begins to speak. “Fellow workers! I am not drunk. I am not a heckler. I am not an anarchist. I am a member of the Revolutionary Organization. I have been a member since long before the revolution. I am here as a Committee delegate to take part in the deliberations of the Council of All Workers’ Councils, and in the election of the Central Committee. But I cannot be a party to the proceedings that have just occurred. Such behavior is unprecedented in the practice of our organization. Today we all know where such procedures will lead. The anarchist comrade’s warning is not to be dismissed. This terrorism is initially unleashed on reactionaries. Then it is unleashed on disrupters. All anarchists are disrupters. And who comes next? After the anarchists are removed”
Numerous Guardians have started to move toward the member of the organization. However, the arm-banded Marshals are unable to reach their destination. Each Guardian is surrounded by a large group of people, who seize the Guardian’s arms, then his legs. The individual who was speaking begins to smile, then laugh. “All Power to the People!” she shouts. “All Power to the People” resounds throughout the crowded auditorium. Hundreds of people move toward the exits.
The leader, still calm, appears not to notice that his entire audience is leaving. He concludes the opening speech: “The line we have marked out is correct, and in the future we shall make every effort to achieve an organization in which there will be no Committee-men to disobey the Central Committee. We are growing, and that is as it should be with a real party.”
The auditorium is absolutely empty. At this point the organization’s Central Committee members rise from their seats and begin to file off stage. While they exit, all the Guardians enter at the ground floor and place themselves in military formation in front of the leader, who terminates his opening speech:
“I declare the All-Council Conference open. Please nominate your candidates for election to the Presiding Committee.”
As the leader speaks, a deafening ‘All Power to the People’ is heard from the outside. This is apparently the crowd’s response to the last group of people who exited from the theater. The Guardians had forgotten to turn off the loudspeakers when the proceedings became irregular, and as a result the entire sequence had been broadcast to an immense crowd that had gathered outside the theater.
In response to the leader’s opening speech of the Conference, the Guardians click their heels, raise their fists above their heads as if with one motion, and shout perfectly in unison: “All Power to the Leader!”
We have tried to visualize the revolutionary situation as described in the classical revolutionary literature, a situation where the majority of the working population engage in independent creative work as makers of history, a situation where the old centralized government gives way to the self government of the producers. We have seen numerous confirmations of the classical insight that, in such a situation, the working people know that in order to work out their own emancipation they have no ideals to realize, but to set free the elements of the new society with which the old collapsing bourgeois society itself is pregnant. We have seen that the precondition of any real people’s revolution is the break-up, the shattering of the ready-made state machinery.
However, we have not seen that when the whole superincumbent strata of official society are sprung into the air the ground is prepared for the seizure of State power by any type of revolutionary organization. On the contrary, the situation we have examined suggests precisely the opposite conclusion, namely that once the majority of the population itself suppresses its oppressors, a ‘special force’ for suppression is no longer necessary. Instead of creating the possibility for the seizure of State power, the revolutionary situation destroys this possibility. In fact, the revolutionary situation exposes the absurdity of combining the words ‘freedom’ and ‘state.’ So long as the state exists there is no freedom. When there is freedom there is no state. Furthermore, the classical revolutionary situation does not even lay the ground for transitional or new forms of State power since, if labor is emancipated and productive labor ceases to be a class attribute, and consequently if the proletariat and the revolutionary democrats do not in fact need a new state apparatus, then the Workers’ Councils lose their raison d’etre, lose their right to existence. In short, as soon as it becomes possible to speak of freedom the state as such ceases to exist and it becomes impossible to speak of the seizure of State power.
The revolutionary situation as described by the classical revolutionary theory does not create the necessary conditions for the seizure of State power by revolutionary leaders; on the contrary, we have seen that such a situation destroys the necessary conditions. This conclusion is drastic, but it should not cause undue alarm in the ranks of revolutionary leaders. The conclusion does not say that the project of revolutionary leaders is unrealizable, it merely says that the conditions described by classical revolutionary theory are not in fact the conditions for the realization of this project. It cannot in fact be stated that the project of revolutionary organizations is not historically realizable since such an assertion would fly in the face of hard historical evidence. The seizure of State power by revolutionary leaders is a proved historical possibility. The event which was classically considered to be the necessary condition for this seizure of power is also a historical possibility. All that has been shown so far is that the two events are not related to each other in the way described by classical revolutionary theory.
Our conclusion suggests that classical revolutionary theory saddles revolutionary organizers with a non sequitur, that it misinforms them about the nature of the causal relation between two events. It is extremely important for revolutionary leaders to rid themselves of this erroneous assumption about the relation between two key events, since otherwise they will misconceive the very nature of their project and as a result will almost certainly fail. To understand the magnitude of the misconception, we must try to clarify the nature of the classical assumption and to pinpoint the precise nature of the error.
Classical revolutionary theory maintains that the historical possibility of a revolutionary upsurge, the historical possibility of universal engagement in independent creative activity, is produced by the development of modern industry which cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products, and that therefore what the bourgeoisie produces is its own gravediggers. Classical revolutionary theory simultaneously maintains that it is historically possible for the leaders of a revolutionary organization to take state power into their own hands — and if they succeed in taking power, no power on earth can prevent them from retaining it. The historical possibility of the revolutionary upsurge as well as the historical possibility of the seizure of power are confirmed by social practice. However, classical revolutionary theory does not only maintain that these two events are historically possible, but that they are connected — and not merely connected in the sense that any two events in human society are connected — but that they are causally connected, that one is the necessary condition for the other, that they are two parts of one relation. It is this last proposition that is erroneous. Historical evidence confirms the possibility of revolutionary upsurges of independent creative activity; historical evidence confirms the possibility of seizures of State power; but historical evidence does not confirm the assumed causal connection between the upsurges and the seizures. In fact, the only historically confirmed connection between independent creative activity and the seizure of State power is that references to independent activity, references to the self-government of the producers, frequently appear on the banners of revolutionary organizations that seize State power. But the slogans on the banners are not the precondition for the seizure of power. In fact, we have seen that a real situation which corresponds to the situation described by the slogans does not lay the basis for the seizure of State power but destroys it. The slogans on the banners of revolutionary organizations reflect a misconception, an erroneous assumption, a serious mistake.
We have determined that the classical definition of the conditions for the seizure of State power is erroneous. Our next task is to determine the real conditions for the success of a revolutionary organization. Since the successful seizure of State power by revolutionary organizations is a historical fact, historical conditions for such an event obviously exist. We have not yet determined what those conditions are; so far we have only determined that they are not the classically assumed conditions. However, despite the fact that the real conditions were not explicitly treated by classical revolutionary theory, we can assume that they are implicit in that theory. We can even assume that revolutionary leaders who successfully took State power into their own hands profoundly understood the necessary conditions for their success, even if they did not enrich the classical revolutionary theory with their insights. We can assume that the real conditions for the seizure of power are in fact much more widespread and common than the conditions erroneously defined by the classical theory, if for no other reason than because the seizure of State power by revolutionary organizations has until today been a relatively frequent event, whereas situations of independent creative activity have been extremely rare. In fact, revolutionary organizations have so far succeeded in taking State power over a substantial proportion of the world’s population, and no power on earth has prevented them from retaining it. The seizure of State power has become a synonym of ‘revolution.’ On the other hand, the supposed condition for the seizure of power, independent creative activity by a whole population, has been such a rarity that most of the world’s population regards such a situation, not as a historical possibility, but as a slogan on the banners of successful revolutionary organizations — banners which proclaim independence, creativity, and the reappropriation of the self-powers of all by all.
Consequently, if the bourgeoisie cuts its foundation from under its feet by producing its own gravediggers, the bourgeoisie also produces the necessary conditions for the seizure of State power by revolutionary leaders. It also produces the seed of the historically realized forms of Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Our next task is to locate these seeds, to determine the precise nature of the necessary conditions for the seizure of State power.
The real conditions for the seizure of power by revolutionary organizations have been covered up by a mirage. The mirage is composed of images created by classical revolutionary theory — images of a mighty burst of creative enthusiasm that stems from the people themselves, images of the people as the moving force, the creator of universal history, the real heroes, images of the unlimited creative power of working people engaged in independent creative work as makers of history; images of the initiative of millions creating democracy on their own, in their own way — with no ideals to realize but to set free the elements of the new society, — images of the self-government of the producers, of an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.
When we try to approach the mirage, it moves further away, and while moving towards it we continue traversing endless stretches of desert sand. Yet the real conditions for the rise of revolutionary organizations do not reside in the mirage, but precisely in the desert sands from which the mirage diverts our attention. The fact is that working people engaged in independent creative activity as makers of history do not create the field for the rise of revolutionary organizations. The fact is that when working people even begin to engage in independent creative activity as makers of history, it is the seizure of State power that becomes a mirage. The fact is that the conditions for the seizure of State power reside in the sands of capitalist daily life, the sands which constitute the normal fabric of bourgeois society, and not in the mighty burst which transforms desert sands to soil and trees. The fact is that the seizure of State power precedes the mighty burst of independent creative activity because once such activity begins the conditions for the success of revolutionary organizations no longer exist.
Independent creative activity may indeed carry the seed of revolutionary organization, just as capitalism carries the seed of its overthrow — but that seed is not itself independence. Independent creative activity on the part of the working population cannot make its historical appearance without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air. It is this fact that creates the illusion that it is the independent activity that lays the ground for the seizure of State power. Yet even a superficial glance at the real situation would expose this illusion. If the revolutionary situation is realized by the initiative of millions creating democracy on their own, in their own way, if the revolutionary situation is the historical moment when the working population become makers of universal history, then where in the world is the variegated society where millions of imaginations daily create what is original, unexpected and new; where in the world are the populations who create the conditions of life on their own and in their own way? Did they renounce their independence the moment revolutionary organizations seized State power? But in this case it would not be the independence, but rather its renunciation, that paved the way to the seizure of State power. Or did the seizure of State power in fact take place before the entire working population began engaging in independent creative activity as makers of history? But in this case it could not be the independent creative activity that paved the way to the seizure of State power — since it had not yet begun.
If the conditions for the seizure of power exist only during the brief moment after the old order has been sprung Into the air but before the working population sets free the elements of the new society, then serious revolutionary leaders had better be wary of the slogans on their banners. A re-examination of passages in which the classical revolutionary theory explicitly refers to the direct conditions for the seizure of power in fact reveals that all such passages refer to the moment before the population begins to engage in independent creative activity. Furthermore, such passages insist that the conditions for the restoration of the old order and the conditions for the seizure of State power exist only during this brief moment; they suggest that the next moment, the moment when independent activity becomes generalized to the whole population, will be too late for the seizure of State power: The Bolsheviks must take power at once — otherwise a wave of real anarchy may become stronger than we are. The seizure must take place before a mighty burst of creative enthusiasm stems from the people themselves, before the population gains confidence in its unlimited creative powers, before the moment when a wave of real anarchy sweeps away the conditions necessary for the restoration of the old order, the conditions necessary for the seizure of State power.
The moment which contains the conditions for the seizure of State power, the moment on which revolutionary leaders must rely and during which they must act if they are to succeed, is not the moment when the population gains confidence in its own self-powers, in its creative capacities. On the contrary, the insurrection must rely upon that turning point in the history of the growing revolution — when the vacillations in the ranks of the weak, half-hearted and irresolute friends of the revolution are strongest. This is not a moment of self-confidence; it is the moment when the people are close to desperation, the moment when that most painful thing on earth, vacillation, has worn the people out.
The moment for the seizure of power is not a moment of independence, but of anxiety in the face of independence. It is the moment when people are on the verge of independence, when they reach the frontier between the known and the unknown, between the familiar and the new — and temporarily recoil. It is the moment when all the official authorities have been sprung into the air, but when society’s individuals have not yet actively appropriated the powers they had vested in the deposed authorities. It is the moment when only one part of the dominant social relation has been sprung into the air — the superincumbent strata; but when the other part of the same social relation, the subordination, the dependence, the helplessness — has not yet been sprung. It is the moment when the frontier between dependence and independence — precisely because it has not yet been crossed — appears to be an unbridgeable chasm. And it is precisely at this frontier, alongside the human beings who are about to cross it, alongside the true agents of the revolution, that the revolutionary frontier officials, the leaders, take their positions. In every revolution there intrude, alongside its true agents, men of a different stamp; some of them survivors of and devotees to past revolutions, without insight into the present movement, but preserving popular influence by their known honesty and courage, or by sheer force of tradition; others mere brawlers, who, by dint of repeating year after year the same set of stereotyped declarations against the government of the day, have sneaked into the reputation of revolutionists of the first water. As far as their power goes, they hamper the real action of the working class, exactly as men of that sort have hampered the full development of every previous revolution. But while hampering the real action of the working class, they pave their own way to the seizure of State power. The successful seizure of power by revolutionary leaders is assured only during the moment before the working class appropriates its powers; it is possible only because the population has not yet become independent: Our victory is assured because the people are close to desperation. It is only during the moment before confidence sets in that the leaders of a revolutionary organization have the exceptional advantage of a situation in which only our victory in the insurrection can put an end to that most painful thing on earth, vacillation, which has worn the people out.
If revolutionary leaders are to seize the moment when a breach in the social order creates the conditions for their success, they must recognize the error of classical revolutionary theory, they must free themselves of the illusion that their rise coincides with the rise of independent creative activity. If they cling to this illusion and postpone their decisive blow until the moment when independent activity begins, they may well pass up their last chance to take State power into their own hands. The moment which contains the conditions for their success is very brief, whereas the following moment a wave of real anarchy may become stronger than they are — and this wave of real anarchy may well be the beginning of a process as irreversible as the transition from hunting to agriculture. If a dependent population crossed the frontier to independence, it would remove the conditions for the restoration of the old order, it would no longer need subordination, control or managers, it would destroy the conditions for the seizure of State power by revolutionary leaders.
The preliminary conditions for the seizure of State power are not in fact conditions for the overthrow of the dominant social order, as classical revolutionary theory would have us believe, but conditions for the restoration of the dominant social order. The moment before independent creative activity begins contains the necessary conditions for both the seizure of State power and the restoration of the old order, and these conditions are in fact the same. These conditions are created by a situation in which the authorities, managers, officials and guards are already gone, but the desperation, vacillation, anxiety and fear are still there. These conditions exist only during the brief moment after the objective relations of dependence are removed, but before the subjective consequences of these relations are removed. These facts have been admitted by successful revolutionary leaders — if they had not known them they could not have succeeded. Insurrection must rely upon the vacillations in the ranks of the weak, half-hearted and irresolute. But this insight has not replaced the mighty burst of creative enthusiasm, the unlimited creative powers of the real heroes, which are carried on the banners of revolutionary organizations to this day. If the project of revolutionary organizations is to remain viable, revolutionary leaders must erase the illusions of the classics from the banners and replace them with a slogan that describes the real conditions for the successful seizure of State power: We want the socialist revolution with people as they are now, with people who cannot dispense with subordination, control and managers.
People who cannot dispense with managers after the managers have been sprung into the air are people who carry their managers within themselves, people who have internalized the officials. People who cannot dispense with control after the physical and intellectual police forces have been sprung into the air are people who have dried up their imaginations, stunted their own self-powers, people who, lacking the possibility, lost the ability to decide and move on their own. People who cannot dispense with subordination after the whole superincumbent strata of official society have been sprung into the air are human beings who do not consider themselves full human beings, who see themselves through the eyes of their ‘superiors’ as inferior, as subordinates, as slaves. For people as they are now, the absence of subordination, control and managers creates fear, anxiety, despair and desperation, it creates that most painful thing on earth, vacillation — and these are precisely the real conditions for the successful seizure of State power, for it is precisely when the people are close to desperation that Our victory is assured.
The preliminary condition for the rise of revolutionary leaders is not the independence which dispenses with the need for subordination, control and managers, but the dependence which cannot dispense with them.
The precondition for the seizure of State power is the mass psychology of dependence. The need for revolutionary organizations and leadership arises, not from self-confidence created by independent activity, but from adaptation to dependence. This need arises when an individual internalizes the superincumbent strata of official society, when an individual adapts to socially created conditions of material scarcity, when an individual submits to social relations of subordination. And the need for leadership is the greater the more the individual derives positive enjoyment from the internalizations, the adaptations, the submission. The conditions for the success of revolutionary organizations exist only during the brief moment after the population has expropriated the ruling classes, but when the population has not yet actively appropriated the productive forces, when the active appropriation of the productive forces has not yet conquered the mass psychology of dependence, the anxiety, the fear, the desperation which is the sign for the leader’s battle-cry: Our victory is assured!
The mass psychology of dependence — people who cannot dispense with subordination, control and managers — this is the real condition for the seizure of power by a revolutionary organization. Although this condition results from the various ways people adapt to the dominant social order, in normal times it cannot easily be distinguished from the routines of daily life. The mass psychology of dependence becomes visible when an extraordinary event suspends or disrupts its normal reproduction, because at such moments it gives rise to fear, anxiety and desperation.
When the guards suddenly disappear, but when people have not exercised their freedom, what strikes fear into their hearts? What drives them to the point of desperation? What causes that most painful thing on earth, vacillation, which wears the people out?
During the course of normal times, one had to rise at a given hour, to be at a given place at a given time, in order to survive. And on then survival was not assured. Even people who did as they were told were constantly being removed, excluded, deprived. One lost all desires except one: not to be deprived. One lost all projects except one: to rise at the given hour so as to be at the given place, at the given time. This project had become one’s entire habit structure, one’s personality. And one day when one is there, at the given place, the given hour — and the guard doesn’t come, and continues not to come — is it the end? Fear grips one’s heart; the daily anxiety one had learned to accept as a normal part of life gives way to desperation; one cannot dispense with the subordination, the control.
If one could not suppress all of one’s desires, if one wanted more than the common lot, where could one get more if not from the others? One had to learn the fears of this one, the weaknesses of another; one had to learn ways to protect the weak, ways to alleviate fears — and to charge for one’s services. One even had to create obstacles and hardships so as to be paid for alleviating them. One was called a cheat, a thief, an impostor — but what did it matter? One’s lot was incomparably better, one’s meals incomparably richer. One who was a cheat or a thief was better off; the designations became titles. Can all this suddenly end? Wouldn’t this sudden collapse put one’s whole being in question? If one can no longer have more, how can one be more than the common lot? No one wants people as they are now.
One had no self. One had a given place in the line, and that was all. Yet how one longed to be someone, how one longed to be recognized as someone, as more than a place in a line! And how could one earn this recognition, how could one become someone, except by submitting to tasks no one else submitted to? One was called a traitor, a scab — by whom? By selfless nobodies, by those who were nothing more than places in the line. One became indifferent to their tags, their insults. What mattered was how one was seen by those outside, how one was rewarded by the Authorities. What mattered was that one had become someone; one had gained recognition and self-esteem. What mattered was that one had become an extension of the Authorities, one had become superior to the others, the inferiors; one was no longer a self-less shadow; one’s self glowed in the light reflected by the Authorities; one learned to appreciate one’s self through the eyes of the Authorities. All this was absolutely necessary: how could one have survived without recognition, without some affirmation of one’s importance? One couldn’t; one’s adaptation was, after all, only human. And after one has effaced oneself so successfully, after one has internalized the Authorities so thoroughly that nothing else remains inside one, how can one believe even for an instant that the authorities have disappeared? One cannot stomach such a possibility. Could it mean that one has ceased to be what one is, that one has disappeared? Are the others suddenly one’s equals — and has one, after all, been nothing more than a scab? It is not vacillation that wears one out. It is hysteria. No, one cannot dispense with subordination.
Of course one was always free to make one’s own decisions, any decisions, at any time of day or night. One merely had to think them. One could decide to look into the sun or away from it, to shut one’s eyes or to open them. Every decision was permitted, so long as one rose at the given hour, so long as one was at the given place at the given time. The field for decision-making was boundless. Why should one also have wanted to decide what one had no power to decide? How could one have learned to make decisions that one never made? When to rise, where to go, what to do, how, why, with whom — these matters were never within one’s reach, one never had the ability to make such decisions. Yet one day the official decision-makers are sprung into the air. When is one to rise, where should one go, what should one do, how, why, with whom? No, one cannot dispense with managers.
One lugged stones uphill, under orders. One lugged them back down, under orders. One engaged with others in any number of projects, under orders. The projects were not created, invented; they were the normal daily routine; they were the official projects which were performed before one arrived and continued to be performed after one left. When one was not under orders, one did not engage in projects with others, one could not even conceive of projects which were not carried out under orders. Could one have imagined unofficial projects as anything other than an extension of the daily routine into one’s free hours? Could they have meant anything more than a useless waste of time and energy? When one was not engaged in official activity one did nothing. And is it the official project, the daily routine, the working day, the job, that suddenly explodes? Does one suddenly have to initiate a project with others so as not to miss a meal? Does one suddenly have to invent the content of every single minute of the living day? How is one to begin, and with whom? What is one to experience if not fear, desperation? No, one cannot dispense with managers.
Dehumanization, degradation, self-negation — these were mere words. One was not put ill at ease when these words were spoken. Why should one have been disturbed? Was it one’s fault? Had one chosen to be here? Really? Had one seen everything ‘outside’ — and then chosen to come in here, so as to degrade and dehumanize oneself? What did such words mean? After all, one did not choose to come here. One was born here. And one became whatever it was possible for one to become here. One who had never been ‘outside’, who had never been ‘humanized’, could not have become ‘dehumanized.’ How could one compare oneself to what one could have been ‘outside, when one could not even imagine an ‘outside’? One’s imagination remained ‘inside’ — it couldn’t be stretched any further. One was what one was, and that was all one could imagine oneself to be. And if everything one was is suddenly sprung into the air, is one really expected to run — where? Outside? What kind of ‘outside’? An ‘outside’ no one believes is there, an ‘outside’ that one cannot even imagine? Why should one run? What can one expect ‘outside’ other than subordination, control, managers, and men as they are ‘inside’?
Nothing was really unbearable, really unsupportable. Everything was arranged quite efficiently, everything functioned fairly well, everything was planned intelligently enough. One was in fact able to enjoy numerous moments of peace and quiet, to sleep in relative calm without being disturbed. All in all one was able to enjoy a certain comfort. In exchange for the peace, the quiet and the comfort, much was not really demanded of one. Of course one had to abide by the prevailing rules and regulations, one had to obey the laws. But one did not consider this an encroachment, an imposition; after all, everyone else abided by the same rules. This was merely normal, conventional behavior. And for this, one was rewarded with conventional recognition, conventional comforts — and above all with peace and quiet. Yet suddenly, without warning, without explanation, one is robbed of this merely average comfort. Suddenly nothing is arranged, nothing is planned. Suddenly the intelligence that had taken everything in hand explodes. Suddenly there are neither rules nor regulations nor conventional rewards — but one cannot dispense with these if one only wants to find peace and quiet, if one wants to sleep without being disturbed. No, one cannot dispense with them.
And it should be mentioned that one was able to do more than obey the laws passively. One could, if one desired, enforce the laws. In fact the authorities actively encouraged one to do this. And one’s prerogatives were nearly unlimited — not in dispensing the rewards, but in dispensing the punishments. This did not make the situation merely bearable; it made it positively enjoyable. One did not only derive joy from one’s position, one’s prestige, one’s power; one derived it most of all from inflicting the punishments. And it should be pointed out that the main punishments were not physical. It was extremely difficult to break an individual’s will by physical means. The main instruments were mental; the greatest pain was inflicted by defining, grading, and comparing the victim; by making others see the victim as an object, a thing — until at last the victim broke and became a thing to itself. So what if the whole situation suddenly explodes? Should one fear the revenge of all one’s past victims? Only if one has not been successful in breaking their will permanently. Should one fear for oneself? Perhaps, but the moment can hardly be expected to last. The new leaders will certainly not dispense with the various everything was planned intelligently enough. One was in fact able to of law enforcers ready to serve them: how else could they expect people to abide by their rules and regulations? No, the new leaders will not dispense with experienced police officers; they will need more of them; how else will they enforce their revolutionary program?
And lest it be thought that the whole experience consisted of a constant waiting, an endless boredom, it should be pointed out that opportunities for adventure, for risky and romantic undertakings, were not lacking. Furthermore, such undertakings were highly esteemed by the Authorities, and one was sumptuously rewarded. Such undertakings required the talents of a performer, the flexibility, of an acrobat and the knowledge of a philosopher. One had to ingratiate oneself with a circle of schemers, pass oneself off as one of them, push their own scheme further and further — until the authorities decided to cut the scheme short by liquidating the schemers.
Philistines called the practitioners of this vocation ‘informers,’ although ‘information experts’ would have been more appropriate for conveying the talents, the flexibility and the knowledge required for this discipline. In any case, the Philistines were quickly removed. As for this bursting into air, this explosion: it can affect only the top officials; has there ever been a revolution that dispensed with information experts? Not only one’s activities and habits, but also one’s morality was based on subordination and control. After all, one was not an animal, one could not simply allow oneself to be harnessed to the cart and whipped to run. One had to justify the submission. One did not obey for the sake of obeying. Obedience was not merely necessary or prudent. Obedience was Good. Furthermore the moral were rewarded, the immoral punished. If an individual who had not disobeyed the laws was nevertheless punished, the punishment itself proved that the individual was bad, morally depraved. If that were not the case, if the Authorities acted arbitrarily and punished individuals according to unpredictable whims, the situation would have been unbearable. One would have lived in constant fear. One could not dispense with morality. One had to assume that the Authorities punished only the bad — and for one’s peace of mind one had to see to it that the Authorities punished anyone who visibly broke a law, no matter how modestly. Only thus could the moral rest assured that they would only be rewarded. The assurance that they, the moral, would not be unjustly punished, demanded that the immoral be justly punished. Those who refused to carry out their conventional assignments had to be the ones who were materially deprived. Those who rebelled against the Authorities had to be the ones who were ostracised, excluded. Those who broke the laws had to be subjected to physical pain and incarceration. Those who tried to rise up against the Authorities had to be starved, killed, removed. How else could the law-abiding be assured that the moral would not be deprived, ostracised, tortured, jailed, or put to death? And if this’ ever happened — if the moral were tortured, jailed or killed — one had to find a scapegoat, one had to point one’s finger at a criminal whose evil presence was what made the Authorities punish the innocent. Official society may well be sprung into the air in one moment. But what of morality? That will not spring into the air until the social practice on which it is based gives way to an altogether different practice. In the meantime, one cannot dispense with the Authorities, the criminals, or the scapegoats.
The ultimate justification for submission and self-negation had been the function of the morality of ulterior aims and higher purposes. Ultimately, one never submitted, one never bowed or crawled, for the sake of the rewards. Ultimately one’s self-negation was a noble act of sacrifice and suffering; one degraded oneself for the sake of the family, for the sake of the children — so that they, too, might degrade themselves, suffer and sacrifice themselves for the sake of the Good and the Right. One cannot dispense with suffering and sacrifice, for how else can one be exalted? In the absence of a morality of ulterior aims and higher purposes, where would Law, Order and Civilization derive their justifications? Clearly, one cannot dispense with suffering and sacrifice, with submission and self-negation, with subordination, control and managers. No, we want the socialist revolution with people as they are now.
The preliminary condition for the seizure of State power by a revolutionary organization is not independent creative activity; it is fear, anxiety and desperation in the face of independent creative activity; it is the mass psychology of dependence. The moment for a seizure of State power is the moment before independent activity begins. The moment when the old order springs into the air, people do not immediately engage their unlimited creative powers, they do not immediately become the makers of history, because this requires complete break with all the muck of ages, with all past history. They are gripped by anxiety — an anxiety that could only be conquered by independent creative activity, by social practice. But the anxiety itself keeps them from acquiring the experience that could conquer the anxiety. A modest illustration might clarify this dilemma. Let us imagine the case of an individual who grew up under strict supervision, perhaps because a parent was overly protective, or, perhaps as part of a psychologist’s experiment. Let us suppose that the supervisor suddenly leaves, or dies. The individual will probably panic — the first moment. Dependence on the supervisor has become part of the individual’s very being, and the sudden absence of the supervisor drives the individual to the point of desperation. If the individual began to decide on her, or his, own, the hysteria would gradually subside; if the individual began to move independently, the anxiety would gradually disappear. However, the Doctor takes the Individual under his wing when the anxiety is at its highest point, when it is at the point of desperation and hysteria. The Doctor cures the anxiety by providing the individual with the supervision the individual could not dispense with. The revolutionary leader plays the same historical role as the Doctor in this example. The illustration clarifies a point whose importance for revolutionary leaders cannot be exaggerated. If the Doctor had arrived only a brief moment later, the individual would no longer have responded to the cure; the individual would have started to gain confidence in self-powers — desire, ability, imagination — that the individual did not know were available, because he or she had never exercised them. This is why it is so critical for the revolutionary organization to seize power precisely at the right moment. The fact is that the following moment, the moment of independence, the moment when it is already too late to administer the revolutionary cure — this second moment is never very far off. The fact is that the conquest of fear and anxiety through independent practice is a very commonplace event. The fact is that almost every child in contemporary society grows up under relatively strict supervision, and most of these individuals leave their supervisors at one or another point in their lives. If they panic, if the absence of the supervisor drives them to the point of desperation, the fact is that this anxiety only lasts for a moment — the first moment. As soon as they begin to decide on their own, to move independently, the anxiety disappears. Even entire communities are known to have panicked when important supervisors — Chiefs or Priests on whose presence the well-being of the community depended — suddenly disappeared, and the fact is that such communities are not known to have missed even one meal because of the absence of the indispensable personage. The moment is very brief.
If through social practice each individual became confident in his or her own self-powers, there would no longer be a field in which revolutionary leaders could grow and succeed. If social activity were allowed to become what each individual independently and creatively makes it, then each of society’s individuals would define the aims and purposes of social life and these aims and purposes could not be the program of a revolutionary organization. If social tasks were defined by the desires and imaginations of each, and if they were realized by the self-powers of each, then the Party could not define social tasks nor the State realize them. If society’s individuals appropriated their self-powers from the officials who represent these powers, if they snatched their decision-making powers from the personifications who embody and wield these powers in their name, then revolutionary leaders, i.e., the representatives of revolutionary proletarian internationalism, could not embody in their policy the idea that is motivating countless working people all over the world. All this is elementary. All this is simple and clear. Why replace this by some rigmarole? If we seize power today, we seize it not in opposition to the Councils but on their behalf. If we seize power tomorrow, we might have to seize it on our own behalf, in opposition to the entire working population.
The independent practice that would put an end to the mass psychology of dependence cannot take place once the organization seizes power. The seizure of power by the revolutionary organization puts an end to the anxiety and desperation which gripped the population when dependence relations were disrupted. The seizure and restoration of the State saves people from having to discover and invent the power of community after thousands of years of alienated community, of law and order, of Civilization. Fear in the face of the unfamiliar, anxiety in the face of the unknown, hysteria in the face of the inexperienced, subside in the reassuring warmth of familiar, known, experienced social relations. Aims are restored to the aimless, direction to the directionless, order to the disarrayed. The shepherd returns to sheep gone astray. People who could not dispense with subordination, control and managers are given subordination, control and managers. Conditions of scarcity are re-established for those whose whole being had been shaped in response to such conditions, together with rewards for conformity and punishments for independence. A morality of ulterior aims and higher purposes — the family, the children, and the Nation — justifies the submission required by the struggle for survival. Above all, individuals with Good Politics are assured that the authorities are just, that they punish only individuals with Bad Politics. To give assurance to the Good, scapegoats are provided by the authorities. Who are our friends and who our enemies? This is a question of fundamental importance to the revolution. The void is eliminated. Anxiety ends. The people are no longer close to desperation because we are showing the entire population a sure way out, — we demonstrate to the entire population the value of our leadership. Only our victory can put an end to that most painful thing on earth, vacillation, which has worn the people out. The people can now relax. The desires and imaginations of the people need no longer be exerted to invent relations, tasks, projects, since their self-powers have no field where they can be exercised. The goal has been realized. State power has passed into the hands of the organ of the Council of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies — the Revolutionary Military Committee, which heads the proletariat and the garrison.
The seizure of State power by the revolutionary organization responds to the needs of people who cannot dispense with subordination, control and managers. At the same time, the revolutionary organization itself needs people as they are now, people who cannot dispense with subordination. The mass psychology of dependence is the condition to which the seizure of State power responds, and also the condition which it requires.
Why, then, does classical revolutionary theory describe precisely the opposite as the condition for the seizure of State power? If the condition is dependence, why does classical theory point to independence? This seems like a paradox only if it is thought that the classical revolutionary theory is a single, unitary theory of revolution. The paradox disappears as soon as it is understood that the classical theory contains two separate and distinct theories of revolution. One is a theory of the class structure of capitalism and the conditions for its overthrow, the other is a theory of revolutionary organization and the conditions for its seizure of power. The two events are distinct; their necessary conditions are distinct. Paradox and confusion have been created by the historical treatment of one event as if it were the other, and by the treatment of the necessary conditions for one event as if they were necessary conditions for the other. Classical revolutionary theory does in fact contain a very precise description of the necessary conditions for the seizure of State power, a description which pinpoints the mass psychology of dependence as the necessary condition. But this description is couched in the language of the other theory, in the language of independence, and as a result the true import and content of this description have been obscured.
The theory of the class structure of capitalist society is not a theory of revolutionary organization. It is a theory which defines social classes, not in terms of their relation to a revolutionary organization, but in terms of their relation to society’s means of production. One class is characterized by its subordination to the other, a subordination which takes the form of alienation of all decision-making powers. The other class is characterized by its control over the first, a control which takes the form of direction and management of all of society’s activities. It is only in the frame of reference of this theory that the destruction of the dependence relation itself is the preliminary condition for revolution. A revolution can be successfully carried out only if the majority of the working population engage in independent creative activity as makers of history. Independent creative activity by the majority of the working population is the necessary as well as the sufficient condition for the overthrow of the class structure of capitalism because the proletariat, the lowest stratum of our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air.
On the other hand, the theory of revolutionary organization is not a theory of class structure. In the frame of reference of this theory, the destruction of dependence relations is not a condition for the seizure of State power by the revolutionary organization. We have already shown that the seizure of State power cannot be successfully carried out if the majority of the working population engage in independent creative activity as makers of history. We have also shown that the seizure of State power can be successfully carried out only if the majority of the working population do not engage in independent creative activity as makers of history, only if dependence relations — subordination, control and, management — remain intact. We will now show that the classical revolutionary theory contains a very precise description of the conditions for the successful seizure of power by revolutionary organizations, and that the identification of these conditions with independent creative activity is historically unfounded.
The classical theory which defines the real conditions for the revolutionary organization’s seizure of power is not the theory of class structure but the theory of class consciousness. This is a theory which defines the revolutionary class, not in terms of its relation to society’s means of production, but in terms of its relation to the revolutionary organization. According to the theory of class consciousness, individuals or social classes are revolutionary if they adhere to revolutionary ideas, to revolutionary thought, to revolutionary ideology, to the program of the revolutionary organization.
The theory of class consciousness and the theory of class structure do not have the same frame of reference. This is obscured by the fact that one theory borrows language from the other, and thus refers linguistically to the same frame of reference. But except for terminological similarities, the two theories have nothing in common. Both theories refer to the working class, the proletariat, as the revolutionary class — but the same terms do not in reality refer to the same subjects in the two theories. Those who are revolutionary according to one theory are not necessarily proletarians according to the other, and those who are proletarians according to the second theory are not necessarily revolutionary according to the first.
According to the theory of class consciousness, individuals can be considered class conscious revolutionaries even if they would not be classified as proletarians by the theory of class structure, namely in terms of their relation to society’s means of production. In fact, the most class conscious of revolutionaries, the leaders of the revolutionary organization, the representatives of revolutionary proletarian internationalism who have embodied in their policy the idea that is motivating countless working people all over the world, would not be defined as proletarians by the theory of class structure. These class conscious revolutionaries have been educated representatives of the propertied classes, intellectuals; by their social status they belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia. Furthermore, the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop... nothing more nor less than consciousness in an embryonic form. In other words, according to the theory of class consciousness, those who are conscious revolutionaries are not only themselves not members of the working class, but the working class itself cannot become fully conscious. In fact, in the theory of class consciousness, the relation of individuals to the means of production is completely irrelevant. With the theory of consciousness it is possible to characterize the proletariat as actually becoming more and more bourgeois, as prisoners of bourgeois ideology, and even as having deserted to the bourgeoisie. Such characterizations would be meaningless in the theory of class structure, since in the frame of reference of this theory a proletariat that had deserted to the bourgeoisie could only have done so by appropriating the means of production, an event that cannot take place without the whole superincumbent strata being sprung into the air.
According to the theory of consciousness, whether or not an individual or a class is revolutionary depends on the presence or absence of revolutionary consciousness in that individual or class. At first glance this appears to be a form of idealism. However, this appearance is only another result of the confusion between the theory of class structure and the theory of consciousness. It is only in appearance that the theory of consciousness maintains that revolution grows out of ideas in people’s heads. This appearance is created by using the word ‘revolution’ in the place of ‘seizure of State power,’ and the appearance is magnified into a hallucination by an intentional association of the word ‘revolution’ with the independent creative activity described by the other theory. It is only because of this intentional confusion that a bizarre sequence of non-sequiturs parades as a set of axioms ideally suited for slogans, viz. that the thoughts of the organization’s leader in people’s heads make them revolutionary, therefore also independent and creative, and that as the level of these thoughts rises, the dominant social order falls. These propositions are axioms for people who are willing and able to believe them, and belief in these propositions is in fact a sign that the believer possesses a relatively high level of consciousness. However, the theory of class consciousness has been primarily an instrument for the seizure of State power by revolutionary leaders, and only secondarily a set of articles of faith. It is the primary function of the theory that concerns us here. The primary function of the theory of consciousness has been to define for aspiring leaders the real conditions for the seizure of State power, and in defining these real conditions the theory of class consciousness has been idealistic only in appearance.
As an analysis of the conditions for the seizure of power by revolutionary leaders, the theory of class consciousness is no more idealistic than the theory of class structure. Both theories are equally materialistic. Both theories are equally about social relations. But they are not about the same social relations. The theory of class structure is about the relations between capitalists and laborers, about the conditions for the overthrow of these relations. The theory of class consciousness is about the relations between an organization and a mass, about the conditions for the organization’s seizure of power over the mass.
The theory of class consciousness defines people in terms of their thoughts instead of their practice, in terms of their ideology instead of their social relations, only in appearance. It does not define them in terms of the social relations described by the theory of class structure. But it defines them in terms of social relations nevertheless. To define social classes in terms of their ideas would require reading the minds of countless individuals; mind-reading is not in fact the method by which the class conscious are defined. In reality, the presence or absence of class consciousness is determined by the practice of an individual or a class; it is determined by the presence or absence of specific social relations. The level of an individual’s consciousness is measurable, not by the number of correct revolutionary thoughts which show on the individual’s forehead, but by the extent to which the individual is a follower of the organization, by the real, concrete activity of attending meetings and demonstrations, carrying out assignments, obeying orders. The more regularly the individual attends organization meetings and events, the more unflinchingly the individual carries out assignments, the more unquestioningly the individual obeys orders, the higher the individual’s level of consciousness. The level of consciousness of a social class is measurable, not by the number of revolutionary thoughts protruding from heads, but by the number of individuals of the class who are Party members, by the extent to which the members of a class adhere to the revolutionary organization.
Class consciousness may be an attribute of an individual or a social class. It refers to the presence or absence of ideas. But its presence or absence can only be determined by the social practice of the individual or class, by the presence or absence of concrete social relations. These social relations are specific relations between an individual and a revolutionary organization, and between a class and a revolutionary organization. The individuals who have the highest level of consciousness, the representatives of proletarian internationalism, the leaders, are not themselves members of the revolutionary class but are educated representatives of the propertied classes. The class itself is able to develop nothing more than consciousness in an embryonic form. The class depends on the leaders for its level of consciousness, its revolutionary essence, which in practice means that the revolutionary essence of the working class depends on the extent to which workers submit to the will of leaders.
The social relations behind class consciousness are social relations between leaders and followers, social relations of subordination and control. They are dependence relations. What is meant by class conscious masses is people who submit to the will of a revolutionary leader, people who cannot dispense with subordination, control and managers. Class consciousness is a euphemism for the mass psychology of dependence.
The theory of class consciousness is a theory of social relations which describes the real conditions for the seizure of State power by a revolutionary organization. It describes as necessary conditions precisely those conditions which correspond to the mass psychology of dependence. In spite of its linguistic obscurities, the theory is a very precise instrument for locating the conditions for the seizure of power, for identifying followers of the revolutionary organization, for distinguishing the revolutionary leader’s friends from the leader’s enemies — which is the question of fundamental importance to the revolution.
We have seen that the theory of class consciousness explicitly defines followership, submission, the mass psychology of dependence, and not independent creative activity, as the preliminary condition for the growth of the revolutionary organization. Once this is clear, it can also be seen that the theory of class consciousness explicitly excludes independent creative activity as a condition for the rise of revolutionary organization and leadership. It must be remembered that the theory has been of service to countless leaders who successfully seized State power, and that this service could not have been performed by a theory which systematically misguided them. The rejection of independent creative activity is so thoroughly couched in the language of the theory of class structure that it is nearly incomprehensible to the layman, but it has nevertheless been clear and explicit to astute revolutionary leaders who seriously aspired to seize power.
The rejection of the independent creative activity of the majority of the working people in a language which affirms the independent creative activity of the majority of the working people required a complete overhaul of words and concepts, an overhaul which involved nothing less than the transformation of the meanings of words and concepts into their opposites. The theory of class consciousness borrows the entire vocabulary with which the theory of class structure had characterized the bourgeoisie, the proletariat and the revolution — and it applies this entire encyclopedia of words and concepts to the field of leaders and followers, the field of revolutionary organization and revolutionary masses. It is this shift of fields that requires a complete shift of meanings. In the theory of class consciousness, bourgeoisie and proletariat are not described in terms of their relation to means of production; they are defined in terms of their relation to the revolutionary organization.
The theory of class consciousness defines the working class, the proletariat, as the revolutionary class. The words are borrowed from the analysis of class structure, but they are infused with new meanings. The theory proceeds by defining class conscious workers as revolutionary. However, since the working class itself, exclusively by its own effort, cannot become fully conscious, and therefore cannot become fully revolutionary, there is a stratum which is more conscious and more revolutionary, the vanguard of the working class, the representatives of the revolutionary proletariat. And it is also said that the representatives of the proletariat are not themselves proletarians; they are bourgeois intellectuals. At first glance the purpose of this logic is hard to understand, since it leads to the bizarre conclusion that the only truly revolutionary proletarians are educated representatives of the propertied classes, intellectuals. The same transformation of meanings takes place when the working class itself is characterized. First of all there are two types of workers, two types of proletarians, Workers who adhere to the organization, attend meetings and carry out orders, are a class conscious revolutionary mass base, and are therefore by implication independent, creative and courageous. However, workers who act on their own, creatively, independently of the initiative, guidance or direction of the revolutionary organization, are said to act spontaneously. This ‘spontaneous element’ in essence represents nothing more nor less than consciousness in an embryonic form. In other words, their consciousness is not yet born. If such workers remain independent, if they are not taken under the wing of the revolutionary organization, they will be encircled on every side with a petty-bourgeois atmosphere, which permeates and corrupts the proletariat and causes constant relapses among the proletariat into petty-bourgeois spinelessness, disunity, Individualism, and alternate moods of exaltation and dejection. Such workers may become more and more bourgeois until finally they become prisoners of bourgeois ideology and desert to the bourgeoisie. The working class, as defined by the theory of class structure, has been the majority of the population in highly developed industrial regions. However, since in these regions revolutionary organizations have not seized power, this working population has not been a class conscious revolutionary mass base; it has therefore been bourgeois, a prisoner of bourgeois ideology, and a deserter to the bourgeoisie. At first glance this logic is as bizarre as the first, and we are left with the paradoxical conclusion that the only truly revolutionary proletarians are bourgeois intellectuals, and that the proletarians themselves are by and large bourgeois.
The logic of the theory of consciousness is meaningless only if it is understood within the framework of the theory of class structure. But the logic does not lack significance. Its significance is military. The theory of consciousness does not describe relations between the social classes of capitalist society, but relations between soldiers and their commanders, relations between armies and general staffs. Although the language refers to dialectical logic, social classes, and socialist revolution, the frame of reference has nothing in common with the subject matter of German philosophy, English political economy or French socialism. It is a much older frame of reference. It is a theory of leaders and followers, friends and enemies. The language borrowed from the theory of class structure serves a moral function: its purpose in the theory of consciousness is to inspire loyalty toward the friends and hatred toward the enemies; the terms are retained solely because of their emotional suggestiveness.
Paradox and confusion disappear as soon as it becomes clear that the theory of consciousness is a theory of military relations. It is a theory of military relations among the individuals and social classes of capitalist society which were described by the theory of class structure, but the attributes of these individuals and classes have a purely military significance, since the entire purpose of the theory is to define the path toward the seizure of power by the military general staff. The revolutionary working class, the proletariat, is the army. The virtues of the revolutionary proletariat are exclusively military virtues. Its virtues are not the characteristics which the theory of class structure attributed to emancipated labor but the characteristics of a proletariat that cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, precisely the characteristics of the proletariat under capitalism. In the theory of class consciousness, the sole virtue of the revolutionary proletariat is iron discipline while at work with unquestioning obedience to the will of a single person, the leader. These proletarians are independent and creative to the extent that soldiers are. They are also courageous: their courage is indispensable, since its purpose is to establish strict, iron discipline backed up by the state power of the armed workers over the whole of society. To the extent that workers refuse to join this army voluntarily and resist being recruited, they are guilty of petty-bourgeois spinelessness, disunity, individualism, and alternate moods of exaltation and dejection. They are deserters to the bourgeoisie, deserters to the enemy camp.
Just as the characteristics of the revolutionary army — discipline and obedience — are precisely the characteristics which workers already possess under capitalism, the characteristics of the leaders are precisely the characteristics of leaders in capitalist society. But the leaders of capitalism are the bourgeoisie, the enemy. This difficulty is resolved by means of a sado-masochistic reasoning which aspiring leaders must learn to apply adeptly if they are at all serious. The reasoning begins with the observable fact that, under capitalism, the sole characteristics of the proletariat are discipline and obedience, the characteristics of the soldiers of an army, whereas the bourgeoisie are the planners, coordinators, strategists, in short the decision-makers. Since the characteristics of the vanguard of the proletariat are the ability to plan, coordinate, strategize, in short to make decisions, this vanguard cannot consist of proletarians and must consist of representatives of the propertied classes, bourgeois intellectuals. This self-conception of the leaders is degrading, since they see themselves as bedfellows of the hated enemy, the bourgeoisie. But the pain which the leaders thus inflict on themselves is alleviated by the gratifying fact that, by assuming the enemy’s attributes they also assume the enemy’s powers, the power to order, decree, legislate, and decide, the power to manage and control the subordinates whose sole attribute is their desire to obey. We must consolidate what we ourselves have won, what we ourselves have decreed, made law, discussed, planned — consolidate all this in stable forms of everyday labor discipline. This is the most difficult, but the most gratifying task.
Although the reasoning itself is solidly grounded in capitalist reality, the empirical basis for its propositions is not actually very solid. The characterization of the revolutionary leaders, the vanguard of the proletariat, as representatives of the propertied classes, as bourgeois intellectuals, requires something like a leap of the imagination. In terms of their relation to social means of production, very few of the historical revolutionary leaders have been representatives of the propertied classes, namely bourgeois. Most of them have in fact been unemployed writers and political hacks who lived on the margins of capitalist society. In terms of their relation to social wealth and property they can only be characterized as having been miserable, if not in their own revolutionary eyes, certainly in the eyes of their neighbors. In terms of their relation to productive activity they have been largely unqualified, a characteristic which they undoubtedly shared with the ruling bourgeoisie. But unlike the bourgeoisie, these marginal writers and full-time hacks did not manage or control the production process, even though they aspired to do so after the seizure of State power. Consequently their self-promotion to the status of bourgeois intellectuals already under capitalism had to disregard empirical evidence which embarrassingly pointed to their being no more than marginal workers, sub-proletarians. However, the empirical evidence is ultimately irrelevant, since the theory of class consciousness is not empirical but dialectical; its purpose is to communicate the propositions: bourgeois intellectuals are class conscious proletarians, proletarians are bourgeois, dependence is independence, submission is courage, iron discipline is emancipation, unquestioning obedience is freedom, and the seizure of State power by the vanguard of the proletariat is socialist revolution.
The working people who engage in independent creative activity as makers of history remain on the banners of revolutionary organizations. We have shown that independent creative activity is not in fact a sufficient or even a necessary condition for the rise to power of a revolutionary organization. We have also shown that the classical theory of revolutionary organization, the theory of class consciousness, does not regard independent creative activity of the working people as a condition, but rather as an obstacle to the seizure of State power. Why, then, does independent creative activity remain on the banners of revolutionary organizations? If such activity is not a means to the seizure of State power, is it the goal? If the social relations described on the banners of revolutionary organizations are not conditions for the success of revolutionary organizations, are such relations the expected outcome of the success?
Threescore years after the first successful seizure of State power by a revolutionary organization, the goal of the revolutionary organization ceases to be an enigma proclaimed by slogans on banners. The purpose of revolutionary organizations becomes concrete at the historical moment when the first successful revolutionary leader proclaims that State power has passed into the hands of the organ of the Council of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies — the Revolutionary Military Committee, which heads the proletariat and the garrison. Real, concrete historical practice makes the goal elementary, simple and clear. The historical accomplishment defines the way in which the slogans on the banners are realized. History resolves the contradiction between the independent creative activity of the working people and the seizure of State power by the leaders of a revolutionary organization. There is no longer a contradiction between two propositions, but between a proposition and a historical fact. And a proposition cannot contradict a historical fact; from the moment when State power has passed into the hands of the organ, propositions, resolutions and programs become nothing more than a verbal rigmarole. From the moment when the historical purpose of a revolutionary organization is defined by hard facts, by historical events, revolutionary organizers can let hard facts speak. It is history that speaks. It is to history that they are responsible. It is by history that they are elected. It is history that defines their goal. It is no longer an individual’s imaginings, insights or proofs that argue what is to be done, and by whom. It is history itself that makes it elementary, simple and clear that classes are led by political parties,’ that political parties are directed by more or less stable groups composed of the most authoritative, influential and experienced members, who are elected to the most responsible positions and are called leaders. All this is elementary. All this is simple and clear. Why replace this by some rigmarole? Furthermore, after threescore years of successful seizures of State power, this is something everyone knows.
The historical goal of revolutionary leaders is not some rigmarole, some slogans in a manifesto, some utopia which has never existed. The historically realized goal of the revolutionary organization is not independent creative activity by the population as agents of history. It is decision-making by the leader as head of State. It is to consolidate what we ourselves have won, what we ourselves have decreed, made law, discussed, planned — consolidate all this in stable forms of everyday labor discipline. This is the most difficult, but the most gratifying task. The goal and the most gratifying task of the revolutionary leader is to wield State power.
The wielding of State power requires the same preliminary condition as the seizure of State power. The wielding of the estranged power of community requires the renunciation, the estrangement of this power by the individuals who compose the community. The consolidation of State power requires everyday labor discipline, — it requires a population under the iron sway of the mass psychology of dependence. The most gratifying task of the revolutionary leader requires a population characterized by iron discipline while at work, a working population distinguished by unquestioning obedience to the will of a single person, the leader, while at work.
The mass psychology of dependence is the means as well as the goal of the revolutionary leader. The means, as well as the goal, is socialist revolution with people as they are now, with people who cannot dispense with subordination, control and managers. The historical possibilities of people as they are now are precisely what they are now. These possibilities are realized in stable forms of every day labor discipline characterized by subordination, control and managers. These possibilities are not discovered by working people engaged in independent creative activity as makers of history. The possibilities for making history with people as they are now are defined by what leaders can do in a situation of universal powerlessness.
Why, then, do the working people engaged in independent creative activity as makers of history remain on the banners of revolutionary organizations? The historical practice of revolutionary organizations answers this question. The historical seizure of State power by revolutionary organizations is the social practice that gives concrete meanings to the slogans on the banners; the seizure of State power becomes the historical form of the activity described by the slogans. Whatever may have been the rigmarole at the origin of the revolutionary slogans, the moment when the Leader of the Bolshevik Party becomes Head of State, all the revolutionary slogans become synonyms for the seizure of State power. Historical fact makes it indisputable for every Bolshevik that proletarian revolutionary power or Bolshevik power — is now one and the same thing. The self government of the producers, the dictatorship of the proletariat, or the dictatorship of educated representatives of the propertied classes, intellectuals — is now one and the same thing. The proletariat, the organization, or the leader — is now one and the same thing. When the State is accepted as the equivalent of the community, the leader as the equivalent of the people, a single individual can speak and decide for the entire community. Although the self-powers of individuals cannot be concentrated in one individual, the estranged powers can be. This follows from the theory of class consciousness. The class and the Party, the people and the leader, are one and the same thing because the Party is the consciousness of the class, the leader is the consciousness of the people. The leader is the mind and spirit, the head — eyes, ears and voice — of the population. The leader’s consciousness is the people’s consciousness. What the leader decides, the proletariat decides. The seizure of the State apparatus gives the leader the power to make all decisions independently and creatively, the power to make history. This decision-making power in the hands of the leader is the historical form in which the working people engage in independent creative activity as makers of history. Since the leader and the Party are the consciousness, the head, the essence of the working class, since the Party and the class is now one and the same thing, the advancement of the Party is the same as the advancement of the class.
Independent creative activity is neither the goal nor the means to the seizure of State power. The seizure of power by the leader is realized under the banner of independent creative activity. The historical accomplishment of revolutionary organizations consists of ideological rejection combined with practical realization of the dominant social relations. Revolutionary leaders must learn to combine the ‘public meeting’ democracy of the working people — turbulent, surging, overflowing its banks like a spring flood — with the iron discipline while at work, with unquestioning obedience to the will of a single person, the leader, while at work.
It is only when the goal becomes elementary, simple, and clear that the means to this goal can be defined with accuracy and precision. Since the seizure of State power by the revolutionary organization is the historical form of revolution, all means which lead to this goal are by definition revolutionary. A historical turning point when the vacillations in the ranks of the weak, half-hearted and irresolute are strongest, is a revolutionary situation. People who cannot dispense with subordination, control and managers are a revolutionary mass base. The theory of class consciousness helps revolutionary leaders recognize a revolutionary situation in order to derive power out of it; it helps revolutionary leaders recognize a potential revolutionary mass base in order to establish leadership and control over it.
A potentially revolutionary mass base consists of people whose revolutionary consciousness can be raised. The central characteristic of the potential revolutionary does not reside in a propensity to think independently, but in a propensity to think the thoughts of the revolutionary organization and its leaders. In fact, the less prone the individual is to independent thought and action and the more likely the individual is to follow the lead of the organization, the higher the individual’s revolutionary potential. In short, potential followers are potential revolutionaries. The revolutionary potential of the proletariat depends on workers’ willingness to follow the revolutionary organization with iron discipline and unquestioning obedience.
The theory of class consciousness serves aspiring leaders as an instrument for locating potential revolutionaries, potential objects for consciousness-raising. A potential revolutionary is characterized by material oppression combined with a lack of consciousness. Such an individual unconsciously experiences the material oppression as unbearable, but does not know that what is missing is revolutionary leadership. The individual’s mind is a tabula rasa on which the thoughts of revolutionary leaders are to be inscribed. When this individual becomes conscious of the indispensability of subordination to the revolutionary organization and control by the revolutionary leader, the individual becomes a conscious revolutionary.
Working people in industrially developed capitalist regions have not been ideal objects for consciousness-raising historically. Although they have on numerous occasions tried to destroy the capitalist shell in which their productive activity is contained, they have not historically demonstrated the iron discipline and unquestioning obedience of a revolutionary proletariat as defined by the theory of class consciousness. To the extent that they have moved to reappropriate their self-powers, they have moved independently and creatively, dispensing with subordination, control and managers. They have not been characterized by a propensity to follow revolutionary leaders. This is why the theory of class consciousness characterizes such workers as privileged, as a labor aristocracy, as a bourgeois proletariat alongside the bourgeoisie. The distinguishing characteristic of the theory of the labor aristocracy is that, from its standpoint, the industrial workers in the metropoles of imperialism are not merely prisoners of bourgeois ideology, — they have deserted to the bourgeoisie. Due to their relation to highly developed productive forces, these working people have achieved some degree of independence. This independence is what marks them as being aristocratic, bourgeois and privileged, because the independence is manifested in an unwillingness to follow the lead of the bourgeois intellectuals who are the vanguard of the proletariat.
The theory of class consciousness does not abandon the standpoint of the revolutionary leader; it proceeds to answer the fundamental strategic questions, who are our friends and who are our enemies, from that standpoint It locates the friends of revolutionary leaders among the people in countries oppressed by imperialism. The more oppressed these people are, the more removed from highly developed productive forces, the less likely they are to have achieved any degree of independence. In short, the more oppressed, the less privileged. And the less privileged, the more likely to become friends of revolutionary leaders. If their situation makes them helpless in the face of contemporary productive forces, this helplessness is not a disease to be cured by independent creative practice; it is the sign of their revolutionary potential.
The revolutionary potential of the oppressed, as defined by the theory of class consciousness, is directly proportional to their level of dependence. The more people are subordinated and controlled, and the less they can dispense with subordination and control, the higher their revolutionary potential. This is why the people in countries oppressed by imperialism have been a virtual cornucopia for revolutionary leaders. Submission to revolutionary leaders has made the oppressed the vanguard of the proletariat. And the leaders who have built power out of the ghettos, power out of the “native” quarters, power out of the frustrations and resentments, power out of the killings — leaders who, according to the same theory of class consciousness, themselves belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia — have been the vanguard of the vanguard.
The situation of the people in countries oppressed by imperialism has been the historical field out of which revolutionary organizations and leaders built power. This is the field which contained the necessary as well as the sufficient conditions for the seizure of State power by revolutionary organizations. Modern revolutionary theory treats the oppressed as potential revolutionaries by definition. The oppressed become conscious revolutionaries when their actions increase the power of the revolutionary Party. Those whose actions hamper the Party are by definition privileged. And those who superficially seem to be oppressed, but whose practice gives no evidence of revolutionary consciousness, are defined as lackeys of imperialism. On the basis of this elementary, simple and clear definition of the social classes in the modern world, it has been possible to define the fundamental contradiction of modern capitalism as the conflict between oppressed and oppressor nations. Within oppressor nations, aspiring revolutionary leaders have focused their attention on people who could, in one or another respect, be plausibly treated as an oppressed nation.
Oppressed nations are the revolutionary proletariat in modern revolutionary theory. They are oppressed, not because they reproduce the dominant productive forces of the ruling social order, but to the extent that they do not. They are potential revolutionaries, not because their daily activity requires independent creative acts which burst the bounds of the dominant social order, but because it does not. The proletariat of modern revolutionary theory is not located at the heart of capitalism, but at its margins. The oppressed are revolutionary proletarians, not in terms of their relation to the dominant productive forces of capitalism, but in terms of their relation to the dominant revolutionary organizations. The material situation of the oppressed is one which is expected to make them disciplined and obedient followers. It is a material situation whose known consequence has not been independent and creative decision-making, but the mass psychology of dependence. It is a situation characterized, not by the omnipresence of the productive forces which are estranged by producers in the social form of Capital, but by the general absence of such productive forces. It is the situation of people who do not yet fully engage in modern forms of social activity, who do not yet wield the dominant forms of social power represented by money and State offices. The revolutionary potential of the oppressed lies in the willingness to support, at least passively, the struggle for power of a social class whose known historical role has been to spread the modern forms of reproducing Capital. This revolutionary potential cannot take the form of independent creative activity in conditions where the material basis for the independence and creativity possible to contemporary human beings is largely missing. The revolutionary potential takes the form of a desire for the amenities available to human beings in fully developed capitalist regions. The oppressed, who do not themselves produce such amenities, imagine these products, not as products of labor, but as products of the social form of the developed capitalist regions. The oppressed are under the impression that it is the social form that creates these amenities. And it is precisely this social form that the revolutionary organization is able to provide.
The theory of the fundamental contradiction of modern capitalism, also known as the theory of imperialism, is the clearest and most succinct statement of the modern theory of revolutionary leadership. This theory adapts the classical theory of social classes to the requirements of modern revolutionary leaders. The classical theory had dealt with a system of social relations through which one individual, a producer, systematically alienated productive activity, while another individual, a capitalist, systematically appropriated the alienated activity as well as all its products. Whether or not the producer and the exploiter spoke the same language was not relevant in the classical theory, although in general they did. On the other hand, the modern theory of the fundamental contradiction does not deal with social relations among the individuals of a society, but with international relations, with relations between countries. The adaptation of the classical theory to the needs of revolutionary leaders begins by shifting the frame of reference: In order to understand the relations between classes within a given country, it is necessary to understand also the relationship of that country to other countries within the entire production sphere. An analysis of class relations requires an analysis of international relations. The analysis of international relations leads to the discovery that, unlike the privileged bourgeois proletariat of oppressor nations which alienates its labor to capitalists who speak the same language, the oppressed alienate their labor to foreign capitalists. As a result, economic development, namely the process of accumulation of Capital, does not take place in the oppressed nations; it is exported to oppressor nations. The solution to this fundamental contradiction is national liberation. The nation is liberated when its resources and productive forces are nationalized, when the nation’s productive activity is appropriated and directed by the Party of National Liberation and the National Leader. The modern theory stands the classical theory on its head. According to the modern theory, the fundamental contradiction, the central illness of the oppressed, is not capitalism; it is the absence of national capitalism. What ails the oppressed is the absence of modern forms of subordination, control and managers. The fundamental crisis of the oppressed is the crisis of leadership. The fundamental question for the oppressed is the question of State power. The illness of the oppressed is diagnosed in such a way that the cure is self-evident. The cure is modern forms of subordination, control and managers. The cure is the national leader at the helm of the State.
It has long been known that a very large number of the human beings who sacrifice their limbs and their lives to national liberation struggles, the populations who make up the mass base of the liberation army, sacrifice themselves to achieve the self government of the producers, to engage in independent creative activity as makers of history. When national leaders seize State power, these populations are rewarded with the prevailing modern forms of self-government and independence. Self-government takes the form of government by rulers who speak the national language. Independence takes the form of National Independence, government by the National Leader.
As a result of the seizure of State power by a revolutionary leader, populations who struggle for independent creative activity by self-governed producers achieve a socialist society governed by a dictatorship of the proletariat led by the Workers’ Party which follows a unitary ideology composed exclusively of the ideas of the party secretary-general based on the creative application of Marxism-Leninism. As a result of the seizure of State power, the leader personifies all the resources, all the productive forces and all the activity of the society. Personifications of social activity animate the world. Estranged power of community — the State — is experienced as the only real community. Estranged productive power — Capital — is experienced as the only real productive agent. The leader personifies the entirety of social Capital. Whatever we have, all we have built, is entirely owing to the correct leadership of comrade party secretary general. The Premier’s ideas form the basis for what we call the unitary ideology espoused by the Workers’ Party. Unitary ideology means there are no contending ideologies. The unitary ideology of the system of the party means the adoption, as the sole guiding principle, of the revolutionary ideas of comrade party secretary general, founder and leader of the party and great leader of the revolution. The leader founds and leads the party which is the vanguard of the working class and the general staff of the revolution. He is the supreme brain of the class and the heart of the party who puts forward the guiding ideas of the party as well as the strategy and tactics of the revolution. He is the center of the unity and solidarity of the working class and the entire revolutionary masses. There is no center except him. It is an indispensable need in leading socialism and communism to a final triumph to resolutely defend the leader of the revolution and form a steel-like ring around him to strictly protect and carry out his revolutionary ideas.
The historical achievement of revolutionary leaders who seized power has been to liberate the nation’s raw materials and the nation’s labor force from the imperialists, namely foreign capitalists, in order to launch an epoch of primitive accumulation of Capital by the State. The oppressed who were mobilized into the mass base that put the vanguard in power have served as the sources of the accumulated Capital. The social relations which accompanied this process had to, be social relations which responded to the historical task of primitive accumulation of Capital. The historical achievement of successful revolutionary leaders has been to organize large scale production on the basis of what capitalism has already created, establishing strict, iron discipline backed up by the state power of the armed workers. Anti-imperialist revolution has been the modern means for launching and completing the accumulation of Capital in regions which had been left stranded by the main historical trend. The historical mission of socialist revolutions has been to complete the dominant social order in space and in depth.
The historical realization of economic development, namely accumulation of Capital, involves the transfer of surplus labor from agrarian to industrial regions, from productive classes to exempted classes. It entails the unequal development of geographic and social sectors; the social and economic development of some at the expense of others. The accumulation of Capital requires and thus gives rise to social relations which lubricate and enforce it. These social relations have taken the historical form of the State, commodity production and the division of labor.
Because the accumulation of Capital began in Western Europe, and its initial agency appeared in the form of a commercial bourgeoisie, apologists for this class credited the accumulation of Capital to the institutions and ideas of this specific class. It was thought that Capital depended on entrepreneurial merchants attached to democratic political forms, an anti-religious ideology of science and enlightenment, and a social program of universal literacy. However, the launching of the primitive accumulation of Capital in Japan after 1868 demonstrated that the process could dispense with the West European bourgeoisie and with its I liberal-democratic ideology. Japanese industrialization demonstrated that the social relations required for the primitive accumulation of Capital are a strong State, universal commodity production, and the division of labor. The remaining institutions and ideas of the West European bourgeoisie were not requirements of Capital accumulation; they reflected the peculiar historical origins of the European bourgeoisie. Japanese industrialization demonstrated that democratic political forms were not a requirement of Capital accumulation but a reflection of the bourgeoisie’s struggle against feudalism. Japanese industrialization demonstrated that the anti-religious scientific ideology of the West European bourgeoisie was not a requirement of Capital accumulation but a reflection of the bourgeoisie’s struggle against the anti-commercial ideology of the Catholic Church. Japanese industrialization demonstrated that the bourgeois program of universal literacy and humanist education was not a requirement of Capital accumulation but a reflection of the bourgeoisie’s struggle against the obscurantism of Christianity. The fact is that the West European bourgeoisie itself abandoned its own initial institutions and ideas because they hampered the accumulation of Capital. Democracy undermined the authority of the State, and so the bourgeoisie detached the democratic forms from the exercise of sovereignty and reduced them to socially harmless rituals. The anti-religious ideology of science and enlightenment hampered commodity production by removing the moral justification for the sacrifice of an individual’s productive life to the service of a higher community, so the bourgeoisie resurrected religion. Universal literacy undermined the division of labor by making all branches of human knowledge available to all, so the bourgeoisie transformed literacy into an instrument for the mass production of historically unprecedented forms of ignorance.
The Bolshevik seizure of State power in 1917 confirmed the lessons learned from the Japanese restoration of the centralized State in 1868. The accumulation of Capital can dispense with the institutions and ideas of the West European bourgeoisie; what is required is the State, commodity production and the division of labor. Bourgeois democratic forms no longer hamper the authority of the State even as rituals; they have been replaced by a State which represents and embodies the entire population. The anti-religious ideology no longer hampers commodity production; labor is once again a painful sacrifice suffered for the glory of a higher community. Universal literacy no longer undermines the division of labor; it has become an instrument for inculcating reverence for the State, belief in the official ideology, and iron discipline while at work.
The historical accomplishment of seizures of State power by revolutionary organizations has been to spread the relations of Capital accumulation to regions where these relations were underdeveloped. This historical accomplishment has been carried out without the ideology of the West European bourgeoisie. The West European bourgeoisie had initiated the primitive accumulation of Capital with an ideology that reflected the historical origin of this class. Revolutionary organizations that seize power initiate the primitive accumulation of Capital with an ideology that reflects the historical origin of modern revolutionary organizations. Modern revolutionary ideology does not borrow its language from the West European bourgeoisie but from the West European working class. This ideology refers to the historical practice of primitive accumulation of Capital with the language of socialism. The language of socialism did not originate in regions where the social relations of Capital accumulation were underdeveloped. It originated in regions where the relations of Capital accumulation were most highly developed. The language of socialism originally expressed a total rejection of the social relations of Capital accumulation. It originally expressed an unmitigated opposition to subordination, control and managers, to iron discipline and unquestioning obedience. It was not originally a theory of the seizure of power by revolutionary leaders. Its original frame of reference was unambiguous: Let it come to an end at last, this great scandal that our posterity will never believe! Disappear at last, revolting distinctions between rich and poor, great and small, masters and servants, governors and governed. In the frame of reference of the original language of socialism, the social relations of Capital accumulation stunt the capacities of individuals. The universal reappropriation of every individual’s capacities is therefore the sine qua non for socialism. The word socialism does not originally refer to a state of affairs; it is a negation of the prevailing state of affairs. The word socialism is originally a synonym for what never before existed. It is originally a synonym for the unrealized potentialities of society’s productive forces, a synonym for the undeveloped capacities of human beings. It is originally a synonym for the overthrow of the social order that blocks the potentialities and stunts the capacities. It is originally a synonym for the universal development of human capacities to the level made possible by the productive forces.
Seizures of State power were achieved by revolutionary leaders in conditions characterized by a low level of development of productive forces. The historical role of the revolutionary States was to develop the productive forces by instituting relations of Capital accumulation. The unrealized potentialities of the productive forces that were realized were potentialities that had not been realized locally. The seizure of State power paved the way for the universal development of the capacities of the State to the level made possible by contemporary productive forces.
The bourgeois program of democracy, enlightenment and universal literacy did not become completely serviceable to the bourgeoisie’s historical task until it was emptied of its original content and transformed into an ideology of Capital accumulation and State power. The socialist program inherited by modern revolutionary leaders speaks of workers’ democracy, appropriation of productive activity by each, development of universal capacities — namely of the abolition of the State, commodity production, and the division of labor. This program is even less serviceable to the social relations established by the seizure of State power than the bourgeois program. But the socialist language could not be rejected because it is only this language that makes the seizure of power by revolutionary leaders a revolutionary alternative in the heart of the empire. Consequently, the language of socialism had to be completely emptied of its original content to be transformed into an ideology of Capital accumulation and State power. The transformation of socialist language into a vehicle for communicating the accumulation of Capital and the seizure of State power has been the major feat of modern revolutionary leaders. In the transformed language, the State, which had originally been a synonym for the alienation of community, becomes a synonym for the community. Commodity production, originally a synonym for alienated productive activity, becomes a synonym for the construction of socialism. The division of labor, originally a synonym for the alienation of universal human capacities, becomes a synonym for the realization of human capacities, and the specialist becomes the new socialist man.
The unique historical feat of V.I. Lenin was not to seize State power; this had been done before. Lenin’s historical feat was to describe his seizure of State power with the language of a socialist movement determined to destroy the State. The application of Lenin’s ideas to Lenin’s practice is the foundation for modern revolutionary ideology. For aspiring leaders armed with revolutionary ideas, the revolutionary ideology provides a vision of the social power historically achieved by leaders armed with revolutionary ideas. For individuals who are removed from contact with modern productive forces by the division of labor, whose only developed capacities are their revolutionary ideas, the revolutionary ideology provides a vision of total self-realization.
The revolutionary ideology refers to a historical state of affairs. It is not a negation but an affirmation. It is a description of the realized potentialities of modern productive forces. The revolutionary ideology describes the only modern social form in which all of society’s productive forces are directly at the disposal of the leader who heads the State. The revolutionary leader is the modern Prince. This is why it is urgent for aspiring leaders to understand the historical conditions which may lead them to a future which is available only to a single individual in any given period. The revolutionary ideology describes the conditions for the seizure, consolidation and maintenance of State power in the words of revolutionary leaders who seized State power. Modern revolutionary ideology consists of the autobiographies of successful revolutionary leaders. The ideas of the ruling revolutionary leaders are the ruling revolutionary ideas. The revolutionary leaders who become the ruling material force of the society in which they seize State power are at the same time its ruling intellectual force. Revolutionary leaders who have the means of material production at their disposal have control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to the ideas of the successful revolutionaries. The ruling revolutionary ideas are nothing less than the ideal expression of the material relationships at the base of the revolutionary State, the material relationships grasped as ideas, — hence of the relationships which make these leaders rulers, therefore, the ideas of their rule.
The fact that the revolutionary ideology consists of the ideas of revolutionary rulers about their own rule carries certain dangers of self-exposure. The ideology raises the consciousness of aspiring leaders, but it also raises the consciousness of individuals who do not aspire to State power. This danger is alleviated first of all by the historical law that no social form is definitively discarded before all its possibilities have been exhausted. At present the seizure of State power by revolutionary leaders has only been realized in half the world. (The other half continues to be ruled by the historical remnants of a capitalist class which has in fact merged with the State, but which has failed to develop an ideology that adequately articulates the total reconciliation of this class with its one-time archenemy.) Secondly, the danger of self-exposure is alleviated by the language in which the revolutionary ideology is communicated. Every statement is simultaneously an invocation and an instruction. For the potential follower the language invokes the historical moment when the working class takes power, a situation in which all individuals regain their estranged self-powers. To achieve this end, followers are instructed to do what other revolutionaries did: support the leader. The same statement defines the next move of the leader, but it does not inform the follower of the move of the leader. The phrases of the revolutionary ideology are understood differently, they have different meanings, for leaders and for followers.
The power to communicate double meanings was produced by the historical development of the modern revolutionary ideology. The socialist origin of the language is retained in the semantics of the revolutionary ideology, in the conventionally accepted meanings of the words. This socialist language does not directly refer to leaders or to aspirants to leadership; it refers to producers, and specifically to their reappropriation of the powers they estrange to Capital and the State. These semantic meanings are today reserved for followers. For leaders the language has an entirely different meaning, based on the historical experience of the revolutionary socialist movement This historical experience is the seizure of State power by revolutionary leaders. A language which expressed collective determination to reappropriate estranged power has become an instrument for communicating the seizure of State power. The language of the withering away of the State has become the official ideology of the State. The original meanings of the socialist words are not discarded. On the contrary, the power of modern revolutionary ideology resides in the fact that the original meanings are scrupulously retained. Self-activity, independence and freedom, Marxism, socialism and communism, the dictatorship of the proletariat and even the withering away of the State have all become vehicles for the expression of double meanings. Each term simultaneously evokes a specific phenomenon and also its opposite. Each term refers simultaneously to a universal and a particular, a plural and a singular, many and one, the people and the leader, the community and the State. Each term simultaneously communicates a thesis and its negation. The power to communicate two contradictory thoughts with the same words is what makes this ideology dialectical. When the thesis and its negation are both communicated by the same term, the two become One; they fuse; the negation becomes the embodiment of the thesis. Thus the rule of the leader is not a means to the rule of all, nor is it a symbol of the rule of all. The rule of the leader is the rule of all. The two are one. The dialectical revolutionary ideology stands bourgeois logic on its head.
Workers control production when they seize State power. This follows from the historical experience of the revolutionary socialist movement. But workers can seize State power only when leaders seize State power. This follows from the definition of the State. Therefore workers control production when leaders seize State power. The seizure of State power by the leaders is not a means to workers’ control of production; it is workers’ control. The two are one. The invocation of double thoughts is the key to revolutionary leadership and the heart of the historical experience of the revolutionary socialist movement.
In spite of the historical achievements of revolutionary organizations, this model of activity seems to be discredited among the working populations of already industrialized regions. One would think that repeated failure would discredit a model of social activity. One would not expect a history of repeated successes to contribute to the possibility of failure. But aspiring leaders should be warned that this is precisely the case. The possibility of failure is a direct result of the historical successes of the revolutionary model. These successes have been broadcast to every corner of the globe by increasingly universal means of communication. As a result of this publicity, all potential constituents, all potential members and followers of the revolutionary organization, including the poorest and most oppressed, are relatively well informed about the aims and purposes of a revolutionary vanguard.
One would think that the possibility of failure is created by the unfavorable publicity given to revolutionary organizations by capitalist propaganda. But a closer look at this publicity reveals that this is not the case. The capitalist establishment, the owners of means of production and mass media of communication, do broadcast publicity unfavorable to revolutionary organizations and leaders. Publicity experts describe communism and revolution in ways that are expected to serve the interests of the experts’ employers. Communists are depicted as enemies of culture, religion, and all the values of society. But the result of this publicity is not what the experts are paid for. Working people who have no great love for their exploiters and fewer illusions are shown that communists are enemies of their exploiters, enemies of capitalist culture, religion and all the values of the ruling society — namely that communists are champions of freedom. The effect of capitalist publicity is to make large numbers of people sympathetic to communists.
The effects of capitalist publicity are in fact negated by revolutionary propaganda. Revolutionary theorists publicize the successes of the victorious vanguards who seized power over the State, the means of production and the mass media of communication. They design this information in ways that are expected to serve the interests of the vanguard at the helm of the revolutionary State. The revolutionary propaganda points to the victories of the revolutionary State in all realms of human activity. It points to the successes of the revolutionary State in raising the consciousness of all the people, especially the consciousness of sectors of the population whose lack of sympathy for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat had made them prisoners of bourgeois ideology. During the years immediately following the seizure of power, revolutionary propaganda concentrates on the economic victories of the Socialist State, This is because the early social victories do not provide much material for favorable publicity. However, during later years, a more comprehensive picture of the Socialist State is drawn. This is because the significance of the economic victories diminishes due to unforeseen obstacles to economic development — obstacles which in some instances, have created negative rates of economic development. Consequently, the narrowly economic approach is replaced by a more universal approach. Propaganda turns to the victories of the Socialist State in realms of national engineering, national science, and the people’s arts. It depicts the victories scored in the area of psychology, particularly the applications of this science to problems of revolutionary consciousness, counter-revolutionary elements, and correct thought.
The revolutionary propaganda and the capitalist propaganda contradict each other on every point. But the result of the contradiction is not what the propagandists intend to achieve. This suggests that the sciences of psychology and mass communication are both in their infancy and still have much to learn. The effect of the revolutionary propaganda is not to create enthusiasm for the historical achievements of the Socialist State, but to create the phenomenon known in revolutionary literature as “anti-communist hysteria.” As a result of the revolutionary propaganda, potential constituents of the revolutionary organization, including the most oppressed, do not greet revolutionary leaders as liberators but as manipulators and oppressors. Despite, or rather because of half a century of victorious construction of Socialism in half the world, revolutionary leaders encounter a profound rank and file hostility to the revolutionary seizure of power. Despite, or rather because of half a century of revolutionary propaganda, aspiring leaders encounter a lower level of revolutionary consciousness than was know to exist before this half century of socialist victories began.
The fact that working people have in general become hostile to revolutionary organizers does not indicate that they no longer struggle for the self government of the producers. The low level of consciousness of contemporary working people does not indicate that they no longer attempt to engage in independent creative activity as makers of history. Their hostility and their consciousness indicate that they are unwilling to struggle for the forms of self-government and independence historically achieved by revolutionary seizures of State power. Their lack of revolutionary consciousness, namely their unwillingness to follow revolutionary leaders, does not indicate that they are no longer subject to the mass psychology of dependence. If that were the case, the capitalist as well as the socialist superincumbent strata of official society would already have been sprung into the air. Struggles for independent creative activity are still curtailed by vacillation, by lack of confidence, by anxiety in the face of the unknown. But few seem convinced that the social practice which would conquer the anxiety is the historical practice of revolutionary leaders. Very few working individuals appear to believe that the experience in which they lack self-confidence is the historical experience of the world socialist movement.
Revolutionary leaders need people who cannot dispense with subordination, control and managers in order to establish strict iron discipline backed up by the state power of the armed workers. But armed workers can dispense with subordination, control, managers, iron discipline and State power. Armed workers have not demonstrated their understanding of the revolutionary insight that what they need to make their lives complete is a revolutionary leader. In fact, struggles for independent creative activity have increasingly dispensed with revolutionary leaders. Vacillation and anxiety in the face of the unknown have been gripping the revolutionary leaders. In struggles for independent creative activity, revolutionary leaders increasingly find themselves asking for help in a world unfamiliar to them. And even when the struggles for independence lose their impetus and halt only one small step further than previous struggles, they do not in their decline set the stage for the seizure of State, power by revolutionary leaders. Failures to achieve the self-government of the producers have not paved the way for self-government by the leaders. On the contrary, populations that failed to achieve independence have preferred to step back to the dominant social order. They already know what the ruling State will grant. They also know how to get what it can grant. They do not know what the revolutionary State will grant, and they do not know if there are ways to get it. As a result, organizers armed with the ideas of revolutionary rulers have become increasingly isolated. They are becoming less and less able to reproduce the historical experience of the world socialist movement After half a century of scientific construction of Socialism, the modern revolutionary organizer finds it increasingly difficult to raise the consciousness of a potential constituent who considers the future leader a manipulator, liar, and future cop. This difficulty creates the possibility that the time for the seizure of State power may be over, that the most careful attempts to seize the time may fail.
Revolutionary leaders may fail to establish power over struggles for independent creative activity. Does this mean that the age of revolutionary leadership is over? By no means. It merely means that aspiring revolutionary leaders would be well advised to look for power elsewhere. It means that aspiring leaders would do well to locate alternative sources of power. Such alternatives are plainly visible, and latter-day revolutionary leaders have not hesitated to seize them. But a slavish attachment to revolutionary orthodoxy has kept aspiring leaders from exploiting these alternatives fully.
Inflexible devotion to the initiative of millions, creating a democracy on their own, in their own way, can lead to nothing but failure for revolutionary leaders. The independent creative activity of millions promises nothing more than extinction for revolutionary organizers. Independent activity is neither the means to the seizure of State power nor its goal. The means as well as the goal were defined by the historical experience of the world socialist movement. This historical experience has made it clear that the social relations behind revolutionary consciousness are the conditions for revolutionary leadership, and State power is the goal. These social relations are dependence relations. Dependence relations are a normal part of daily life in contemporary societies. They are a constant source of power for revolutionary leaders. Struggles for independence do not give rise to dependence relations; they put an end to them. Consequently there is absolutely no reason for aspiring leaders to wait for the masses to come knocking at their doors. The masses are not likely to come during normal times because they already have leaders; they are even less likely to come during struggles for independence when they attempt to dispense with leaders. If revolutionary leadership is not to become extinct, leaders cannot remain inflexibly devoted to bursts of creative enthusiasm which hold nothing in store for them. The alternative for revolutionary leaders is to exploit all the conditions for revolutionary leadership provided by modern society, to inject revolutionary ideology and leadership into all the normal activities of capitalist daily life.
A class conscious mass base is the solid rock on which a leader’s power rests. Mass acceptance of the leader is the proof of the class’s consciousness. The larger the mass under the hegemony of a revolutionary leader, the greater the revolutionary consciousness of the class. Every increment in the leader’s power signifies an increase in the revolutionary consciousness of the class. All means to increase the leader’s power are means to raise the consciousness of the class. Therefore all means to increase the leader’s power are revolutionary means. The conditions described by classical revolutionary theory the initiative of millions, independent creative activity — are not revolutionary means. Anxiety in the face of the unknown, vacillation in the ranks of the weak, are revolutionary means. But they are not the only means. Revolutionary leaders can no longer afford to overlook any of the means in the capitalist arsenal. Whatever advances the bearers of revolutionary consciousness is a revolutionary instrument.
Conditions for the establishment of revolutionary leadership are part of the fabric of capitalist social life. Intelligent use of these conditions requires behavior identical to that required for the seizure of the State apparatus. If the degree of sacrifice were the sole measure of a leader’s revolutionary aspirations, then nothing short of the absolute seizure of the State apparatus could live up to the leader’s expectations. But one cannot take into account only subjective factors. One must also recognize objective circumstances. And objective circumstances may be such that the absolute seizure of State power is not immediately realizable. Aspiring leaders may have to absolve their lives by establishing forms of power which, though they appear less total, are identical to the seizure of the State apparatus in terms of their consequences. There is no need to regard alternative forms of power as less rewarding than the sole duty of a revolutionary. In view of the single-minded devotion and self-sacrifice that characterize a revolutionary leader’s lifelong struggle, there is no need to designate the available alternatives as one step forward, two steps back. The classical language of dialectical materialism gives revolutionary leaders a method with which to depict the available alternatives much more dialectically, namely positively. The first step toward the re-evaluation of the contemporary situation of revolutionary leaders is to realize publicly, namely in such a way as to make constituents realize, that the great revolutionary leaders of this century were not dogmatic. The great revolutionary leaders were not Talmudists. Their relation to the revolutionary ideology was not wooden, it was not inflexible. The dialectical materialism of the great leaders has nothing in common with bourgeois rigidity. The great revolutionary leaders were above all great dialecticians. They’ve recognized that the negation of the negation always led to a new and higher level. In the style of the great revolutionary dialecticians, and in view of available alternatives, the aspiring leader may reason as follows: In case of the negation, or temporary postponement, of the victory of the revolutionary ideology which represented the first negation, the task of the revolutionary is to negate the second negation by raising the ideology to a qualitatively higher level of struggle. Since the negation of the victory is due to objective circumstances, to the imperialist last stage of capitalism which was negated by anti-imperialist ideology in the first instance, the revolutionary leader must adapt the tactics of the struggle to the changed circumstances. The leader must make it clear to his constituents that, in a period of ideological struggle, one who fails to adapt the revolutionary coherence of the ideology to the historical circumstances of the class struggle has not learned to use the materialist dialectic in a correct revolutionary manner and would do well to study this subject in the appropriate classics.
Steps which prepare for and lead to the establishment of power by a revolutionary leader constitute revolutionary movement. At every step the revolutionary consciousness of the class is raised. The revolutionary task is to raise the consciousness of as many as possible, to establish the power of the leader over as many as possible. The task of the revolutionary organization is to create the conditions for socialist revolution, to lay the ground for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, to establish the power of the revolutionary organization, to build the revolutionary establishment. The revolutionary establishment consists of the most authoritative, influential and experienced. The revolutionary establishment consists of workers and staff members, followers and leaders. The staff members, or leaders, are individuals who are able to be conscious full time because their daily activity separates them from the social means of production, because they do not have daily contact with society’s productive forces. The staff members may be artists, independent professionals, full time political organizers, and particularly politicians and academics. If the revolutionary establishment is the vanguard of the proletariat, these revolutionary intellectuals are the vanguard of the establishment, the staff members are the repositories of the revolutionary ideology. They embody the revolutionary consciousness of the working class. They are the thought of the proletariat. These intellectuals are the spearhead of the revolutionary movement. Although New Left intellectuals differ about premises and about conclusions, they are unified by one element: methodology. The methodology that unites them is dialectical materialism. Dialectical materialism is a term coined by F. Engels which was elaborated into a complete science by V.I. Lenin. The specific purpose of this science is to determine the laws governing the seizure of State power by the vanguard of the proletariat. Class consciousness, the negation of capitalism, is the key concept of the science. Class consciousness is the essence of the working class: it is what makes this class the living negation of capitalism. Revolutionary intellectuals are the bearers of class consciousness. The revolutionary establishment is the only expression of the revolutionary essence of the class. And the revolutionary leaders are the living embodiment of this essence. Revolutionary intellectuals are thus the key agents of change, the makers of history. Dialectical materialism scientifically determines that the staff members of the revolutionary establishment, also known as the cadre, are the spearhead of history. But this does not mean that every staff member is a spearhead. Revolutionary class consciousness is unitary. It is not many thoughts about many things, but a single thought about what is to be done. Each revolutionary intellectual cannot develop class consciousness on his or her own. There is only one correct theory, one correct ideology. Correct revolutionary consciousness is not the thought of this individual today and that individual tomorrow. It is the thought of the leader of the world’s working class yesterday, today and tomorrow. Every movement of world importance exists only in the head of some chosen being, and the fate of the world depends on whether this head is or is not mortally wounded by some realistic stone before it has had time to make its revelation. The whole historical development consists of those theoretical abstractions which originate in the heads of all the philosophers and ideologists of the age, and since it is impossible to put all these heads together and induce them to “take counsel and register their votes,” there must of necessity be one central head, the spearhead of all these philosophical and ideological heads, in a word, the speculative unity of all these staff members — the Leader.
The revolutionary establishment consists of relations of mutual dependence between the revolutionary staff members, or organizers, and their constituents. The organizers depend on the constituents for their power. The constituents depend on the organizers for their consciousness. In other words, a progressive division of mental and manual labor characterizes the revolutionary establishment. It is the specific task of the organizers to channel the undirected acts of their constituents into the tried and tested paths defined by the ideology and confirmed by the revolutionary experience of the world socialist movement.
Since the thought of the revolutionary leader is the essence of the working class and the key agent of history, the central problem of modern capitalism is the general absence of this thought. This absence of revolutionary consciousness characterizes labor unions, communities, professions, academies and the government itself. The absence of revolutionary leaders with anti-imperialist ideology is particularly critical in the labor unions. Without revolutionary leadership, the unions are not used to educate the workers, to implant a unitary ideology, iron discipline and unquestioning obedience to the will of the leader. The problem of the unions, however, lies not with the workers, but with the political philosophy of social democracy. By refusing to ideologically attack capitalism as a system, the union remains with a piecemeal approach, attempting to reduce issues to technical considerations thereby confusing its membership, not educating them. Establishment of revolutionary leadership over the unions would put an and to the political philosophy of social democracy, the piecemeal approach and the technical considerations.
Revolutionary leadership over the unions would eliminate the ‘anticommunist hysteria’ of the working class, since it would make revolutionary leaders important, legitimate and respectable forces in the democratic political life of the country. Revolutionary labor leaders would not be mere brokers who sell workers for the sake of the highest available wage; they would be brokers who would sell workers for the sake of anti-imperialism and socialism. In this sense, revolutionary labor leaders would officially represent the negation of capitalist social relations.
Labor unions are important. But they are only one source of power for revolutionary leaders. Victims of capitalist repression are another source of power. Ideologically correct treatment of the fear of repression can transform this fear into a powerful instrument for the establishment of revolutionary leadership. This fear has been successfully used by revolutionary leaders in numerous ways. For example, aspiring leaders have taken temporary residence in communities where police harassment is frequent. By provoking the police, the aspiring leader secured his own arrest as well as the arrest of several members of the community. The leader’s friends then organized repression conferences and campaigns to ‘Free the Revolutionary 10,’ on all occasions emphasizing the anti-imperialist ideology of the leader. The initial supporters of the conferences and campaigns are the relatives and friends of the arrested community members. Initially gathered together in response to the arrest of a friend or relative, they are soon lined up behind the slogan ‘Free the Leader.’ They are transformed into constituents. The leaders cease to be isolated. They acquire a mass base. From this initial community they move to other victims of repression, to swell their ranks. The way to fight repression is to build a mass movement of support and legal defense for the 10 in jail or facing jail for contempt of court Our responsibility in the immediate future is to increase our resistance and struggle — by any means necessary — against the government and the forces which dominate the country. We must do so in ways which will swell our ranks and broaden the support for all victims of repression, for the present movement is still too isolated. The constituents initially united to support the victims of repression become shock troops of the movement, the army of the organization. The aspiring leader ceases to be an isolated individual and becomes the spokesman of a constituency, the leader of a mass base. The leader becomes the representative of all victims of repression, the interpreter of all resistance to repression. The leader becomes a historical force.
None of the weapons in the capitalist arsenal must be overlooked. All the manipulative techniques used by the ruling class to control the underlying population can, with skill, be used against the ruling class to create constituencies, to enhance the power of the revolutionary organization, to establish the power of the leader. For the aspiring leader, that scenario is a whole interview in itself. It involves moving from strong local projects to regional structures to some kind of functional equivalent to a radical national party. The most difficult work is the organization of specific constituencies that can offer a community radical political education, power to combat effectively certain self-interest issues, a forum for people seeking new definitions for their lives and their work, and a method for relating the specific constituency to other parts of the movement. Dare we visualize — and dare we build — a movement 10, 100, or 1000 times as great as the force we now represent? Dare we shirk this responsibility? In a society of represented power, there is no reason for revolutionary leaders to shirk this responsibility. Although it is physically impossible for one individual to wield the powers of thousands, this is precisely what is possible with represented power. Although the self-powers of individuals cannot be concentrated in one individual, estranged powers can be concentrated. A single individual can speak for and decide for an entire community. Such power can be built by using a service approach analogous to the style of the old political machines. If you have a problem — clothes, food, problems concerning the police, welfare, housing, employment and schools — you can come and get help. The goal, of course, is to build a militant united front against imperialism. Whatever advances the bearers of anti-imperialist consciousness is a means to this goal. In the hands of the revolutionary leader, the style of the old political machine, and the electoral apparatus as well, become powerful instruments for shaping people into a mass base. The revolutionary leader cannot afford to reject the capitalist instruments for the establishment of represented power. The point is to use these instruments dialectically. The first response, that of liberalism on first seeing social evils, is to participate in electoral activity to change society, to make reforms. Because all that is being sought is reform, there is no contradiction in electoral participation. The second level, however, corresponding to radicalism, by negation, where evils are seen in relation to one another, involves the refusal to participate in elections, out of a recognition of the impossibility of reform. Radicalism does not yet say what is possible, however, and therefore rejects all possibilities. The third period of revolutionary consciousness involves, by further negation, participation in electoral struggle, — first, because it can best be demonstrated to people that the process is futile, through the process itself, — and second, that it is a useful forum and place where people gather and can be spoken to, and, since it is no longer believed in, it cannot compromise effectiveness. Where a radical sees the system’s strength and totality one-dimensionally, the revolutionary sees its internal contradictions and weaknesses.
As soon as leaders with revolutionary consciousness participate in electoral struggle, they will discover, through the process itself, that they can use the process even more fully to gather together people who can be spoken to. If they can establish a foothold in the electoral apparatus, they will discover that we have to work for power, because this country does not function by morality, love and nonviolence, but by power. We are determined to win political power, with the idea of moving on from there into activity that would have economic effects. With power, the masses could make or participate in making the decisions which govern their destinies, and thus create basic change in their day-to-day lives. The right to vote has to be won. All must be united so we can win political power and achieve self determination. The colonies must be liberated. People must come together to elect representatives and to force those responsible to speak to their needs. Leaders with a revolutionary ideology thus begin to exert palpable pressure for a redistribution of resources. They begin to exert palpable pressure on the federal government. Who else but the federal government has the power to create jobs, to raise income, and to build the schools and hospitals and other civic centers required for the age of decency? By these means a revolutionary organizer becomes an economic as well as a political force in the community. Further growth of the organization requires further growth of its economic power. To seize this economic power, revolutionary educators have to draft projects and proposals. Here again, any community movement faces an educational task of major proportions: to pose clear and democratically supported models of new communities within the power of the Federal Government to support and fund. Ultimately, the economic foundations of this country must be shaken. Here again, any proposed solution must be national, and will require federal action. The creation of a national party must come about. There must be reallocation of money.
The political representation of the proletariat is only one of the functions of the revolutionary establishment. An even more important function is the education of the proletariat. As high school teachers and university professors, revolutionary leaders directly raise the consciousness of working people. They thus prepare people to accept the long term plans of the revolutionary organization; they create future followers. One cannot overestimate the need for concrete alternatives to be presented to these ordinary people, Slogans (‘let the people decide,’ ‘crush American imperialism) simply don’t cut ice. We desperately need the development of short-range strategies and plans that both will foster greater radical consciousness and can be implemented, — only this will shatter their cynicism. They must realize that change is possible before accepting our long-term plans. Why is it important for professional radicals to consider these people? Pragmatically, the reasons are very clear: They are the common people, and without at least their support we cannot build a democratic mass movement. However, there is another reason for activities such as teaching in community colleges. We can draw from their experience as well as asking them to accept our vision. There is an even more important reason for professional radicals to consider these people, the proletarians. If they did not consider them, they would not be professional radicals but merely professional; they would not be revolutionary professors but merely professors; they would not serve the revolutionary establishment but the capitalist establishment. It is from this fate that the revolutionary ideology saves them. Professors for Social Action becomes a framework of community. Nationally as well as locally PSA is an arena of toil for community of spirit and the continuing tribulations stimulate a community of salvation with other concerned human beings. Without the revolutionary ideology, the Professors for Social Action would not be distinguishable from the staff members who serve industrial enterprises, the government or the military. Without the revolutionary ideology, revolutionary intellectuals would not be distinguishable from management consultants, government advisers, military researchers, professional advertisers, public relations men, or psychologists. With the ideology, they become important members of the revolutionary establishment. With revolutionary consciousness, they are able to confront the sophisticated data of their pro-imperialist colleagues with the sophisticated techniques of their fields. If the government offers to fund their researches, they do not refuse the funds, because they do not see the system’s strength and totality one-dimensionally; the revolutionary sees its internal contradictions and weaknesses. Engagement in government-supported research makes the revolutionary professor a major figure in the revolutionary establishment. First of all, the academic credentials, the numerous published articles, the importance of the professor in the field, raise the prestige of the entire movement. Secondly, the revolutionary professor’s substantial income sometimes becomes an important source of movement funds.
As for the revolutionary professor’s research, since it is no longer believed in, it cannot compromise effectiveness. The ultimate purpose of the research is to serve the revolutionary vanguard in its struggle to seize State power. The findings are not interpreted from the standpoint of capitalist ideology, but from the standpoint of revolutionary ideology. Whether the subject is the Third World, the ghetto, agriculture or genetics, the ultimate conclusion is always the same: the indispensability of revolutionary leadership. This conclusion is also the premise. Therefore, if the research is currently usable only by the class in power, this is accidental and temporary. This is not the true purpose of the research. The problems it poses cannot ultimately be solved by the fragmented ruling class currently in power. They cannot ultimately be solved until the triumph of the world socialist revolution, until the representatives of revolutionary proletarian internationalism succeed in taking power over all the working and exploited people of the world. Only then will the partial and fragmented researches be synthesized into a universal and total ideology. Only then will the true purpose of the revolutionary research be realized: the destruction of the hegemony of capitalist ideology over the minds of men and the establishment of the hegemony of revolutionary ideology. Only then will the revolutionary intellectuals in the offices of the academic establishment collectively personify the entire spiritual life of modern society.
Academic as well as non-academic professions offer aspiring leaders numerous avenues to the establishment of power. The Professions offer radicals an unusual diversity of opportunities, particularly if radical action is seen as broader in scope than merely the gathering of sufficient forces to overthrow the capitalist system in one cataclysmic operation. Four areas of action suggest themselves:
Organizing of services. The radical professional, along with his counterparts in other fields, can serve an essential role as technical consultant
Work within academic institutions and professional organizations
Research, scholarship and public education. The mental professional, in collaboration with social scientists of other disciplines, can make social change itself the target of his study
The practice of law. In a society where individuals are atomized and the community is powerless, nothing stands between the individual and the State — except the lawyer. The revolutionary lawyer can serve the essential role of mediator between revolutionary individuals and the capitalist State.
The most important avenue to power is the government itself. Government posts provide the best vantage point for the materialization of the revolutionary ideology. The revolutionary ideology defines the central crisis of modern capitalism. The fundamental contradiction of capitalism between the social nature of production and the private ownership of the means of production is revealed in the era of monopoly capitalism as a monetary and fiscal crisis. Only experts who are informed by the revolutionary ideology, only revolutionary experts, are able to deal with the fundamental contradiction, to respond to the needs of the people. Millions of people have come to realize that they are ruled by a network of bureaucracies responding not to the needs of the people they rule but to the needs of capital. There would be no monetary or fiscal crisis if people were ruled by a network responding to the needs of the people they rule. There would be no monetary or fiscal crisis in a socialist society governed by a dictatorship of the proletariat led by the Workers’ Party which follows a unitary ideology composed exclusively of the ideas of the party secretary-general based on the creative application of Marxism-Leninism to the conditions that obtain. If revolutionary fiscal experts creatively applied the ideas of the party secretary-general to the fundamental contradiction, people would no longer be ruled by institutions that are separated from the people. The people’s needs would be fulfilled because the people would no longer be clients of the ruling institutions; they would be constituents. The unfulfilled needs of millions of people cannot be met by capital. Although many of the ruling institutions claim to be representative or in some way responsible to the people that they affect, in fact they are separated from the people. The people that are affected by them are clients and not constituents. The bureaucracies are independent of the people and follow the needs and logic of capital.
There would be no fiscal crisis if workers controlled production through a democratic administration of the economy. The workers who controlled production through such an administration would realize that Whatever we have, all we have built, is entirely owing to the correct leadership of comrade party secretary-general. The consolidated power of the entire administration would regain its former grandeur. The office of the Leader would be experienced as a personal power because the Leader’s ideas would form the basis for people’s experience. The bureaucracies would no longer be independent of the people; they would no longer follow the needs and logic of Capital. They would follow the needs and logic of the ideology. Ideology is the key to the revolution and socialist construction, and the Leader is the key to ideology. The leader founds and leads the party which is the vanguard of the working class and the general staff of the revolution. He is the supreme brain of the class and the heart of the party. He is the center of the unity and solidarity of the working class and the entire revolutionary masses. There is no center except him. It is an indispensable need in leading socialism and communism to a final triumph to resolutely defend the leader of the revolution and form a steel-like ring around him to strictly protect and carry out his revolutionary ideas.
The historical experience of the revolutionary socialist move’ movement has made it clear that the Dictatorship of the Proletariat consists of the absolute dictatorship of the leader of the proletariat. In conditions where this goal has not yet been realized, every increase in the power of a revolutionary leader is a step in the right direction. Every seizure of an available form of power is a revolutionary act. The establishment of available forms of power provides leaders experience in wielding forms of personified power. And the wielding of these forms of power requires the experience they’ve already acquired as leaders of the revolutionary organization. In short, available forms of power correspond perfectly with the experience as well as the aspirations of revolutionary leaders. The experience as well as the aspirations are solidly grounded in the social relations of the ruling system. In the language of classical revolutionary theory, neither the experience nor the aspirations are utopian. They are not based on the potential powers of individuals. They are grounded in the historically given powers of individuals. They are grounded in a historical situation where some are good at handling machines, others at handling abstractions; some at thinking, others at typing — a historical situation characterized by an efficient division between the labor of decision and the labor of execution. The experience which makes revolutionary leaders confident of their ability to deal with society’s fundamental contradictions is not the experience of the producer but the experience of the official. By internalizing the powers of social offices, revolutionary leaders become personifications of social powers and cease to be mere individuals. The power to deal with the central contradiction does not reside in the individual revolutionary leader, but in the State office. The confidence of a revolutionary leader is not self-confidence in the individual’s own powers. Such self-confidence is in fact rare among revolutionary leaders due to the fact that the self-powers, the creative abilities, of a leader are in general undeveloped; the failure to develop these powers is the form of the leader’s sacrifice to the revolutionary goal. The confidence of the revolutionary leader is confidence in the ability to wield the powers of a State office. What the individual leader cannot do, the office can do. What no individual can do, the office of the central Leader can do. By internalizing the power of the Leader, individuals simultaneously internalize their own powerlessness. Every act which lies within the sphere of influence of the Leader is out of bounds for an individual. Individuals come to feel themselves unable to wield their own powers over the environment. The Leader can do everything. The individual can do nothing.
Unfortunately, even the seizure of available forms of power becomes difficult in conditions of developed productive forces. The wielding of these powers presupposes the prevalence of people who cannot dispense with subordination, control and managers, but the continuing development of society’s productive forces eliminates the indispensability of subordination, control and managers. This phenomenon is understood by the theory of revolutionary consciousness. In the terminology of this theory, the less people are oppressed, the more they are privileged; the less their consciousness is revolutionary, the more it is bourgeois. The more the primitive accumulation of Capital is in the past, the less do people need social relations instrumental to the primitive accumulation of Capital. The more developed society’s productive forces, the less do people need to be forced to develop productive forces. This phenomenon has the character of a historical law. In the language of the theory of consciousness it could be called the Law of Diminishing Revolutionary Consciousness. The law could be summarized as follows: the less people are deprived of the material consequences of subordination, control and managers, the less their need to subordinate themselves to the control of managers for the sake of these material consequences.
Diminishing revolutionary consciousness creates a crisis for revolutionary leaders. This law is undoubtedly one of the factors that accounts for the failure of revolutionary leaders to establish a classical Dictatorship of the Proletariat over an industrially developed working class. Diminishing revolutionary consciousness is not the result of errors or shortcomings of revolutionary leaders. It is a result of the development of society’s productive forces. The possibility of failure of revolutionary leaders is rooted in the contradiction between the historical level of development of the productive forces and the historical accomplishments of revolutionary organizations.
The historical accomplishment of revolutionary organizations has been to launch the primitive accumulation of Capital in regions where this development had been stunted. But the working classes of industrially developed regions already completed this historical task, under the leadership of an earlier form of revolutionary vanguard. The social relations created by Dictatorships of the Proletariat have been the modern State, developed commodity production and a sophisticated division of labor. But these are precisely the social relations that hamper and repress the further development of the industrial working class. In short, the possibility of the failure of modern socialism in the field where socialism originated — among industrial workers — is created by the historical development of socialism and of the industrial working class. At its origin socialism was a common ground, a means of discourse, for all individuals who alienate their productive activity. To the extent that slaves have a language distinct from the language of their masters, socialism was the language of those who simultaneously created and were enslaved by the State, commodity production and the division of labor. The historical accomplishment of successful revolutionary leaders has been’ to put the language of socialism at the service of the State, commodity production and the division of labor. This historical accomplishment makes it extremely difficult to re-introduce to the working class which had given birth to it, not socialism in its 19th century form of a struggle for the reappropriation of self-powers, but socialism in its historically successful form of an ideology of leadership. In conditions of developed productive forces, revolutionary leaders confront a working class which no longer needs the State, commodity production and the division of labor. It is to these workers that revolutionary leaders propose their program of State power, iron discipline and unquestioning obedience. And of course the leaders quickly discover that this privileged working class, this aristocracy of labor, this bourgeois proletariat has deserted to the bourgeoisie. These prisoners of bourgeois ideology do not embrace the revolutionary program as a daring and imaginative vision of the future; they regard it as a nightmare of the past.
In the perspective of modern revolutionary theory, the crisis of the developed proletariat is a crisis of leadership. The crisis does not reside in the extent to which workers capitulate to the prevailing conditions of production. The crisis resides in the extent to which their failure to capitulate dispenses with revolutionary organizations. The crisis resides in the fact that these workers move without the ideology, leadership and historical experience of the revolutionary vanguard. The ferment of this developed working class is not revolutionary because it lacks revolutionary consciousness; it does not take the form of mass conversion to the ideology of a revolutionary leader. It takes the form of acts rendered possible by the development of the productive forces, and a growing failure to perform acts rendered unnecessary by the level of development of the productive forces. The ferment takes the form of absenteeism, sabotage, wildcat strikes, occupations of productive plants, and even attempts to dismantle the entire social order. It takes the form of a growing resistance to State power, a growing refusal to alienate productive activity, a growing rejection of specialization. For aspiring leaders, the crisis resides in the fact that this ferment is not a response to revolutionary ideology or leadership, but to the historical level of development of society’s productive forces.
The crisis of revolutionary leadership is a result of the major historical developments of this century. While revolutionary leaders were realizing their historical accomplishments, the working class that had been considered the gravedigger of capitalism continued to dig. While revolutionary rulers were adapting the language of this class to the needs of a State about to embark on the primitive accumulation of Capital, the working class continued to create the productive forces which eliminated the need for the social relations of Capital accumulation. While revolutionary leaders continued to enlarge the sphere of State power, the working class continued to remove the historical basis of State power. As a result, the one-time vehicle for the accumulation of Capital has played out its historic role. The social relations which once lubricated the development of society’s productive forces enter their period of decline. Their sole historic role becomes to reproduce themselves, a role which they increasingly perform by hampering the further development of the productive forces. The once-dynamic agents of electrification, mechanization, industrialization become a historical anomaly. The accelerated transformation of all the material conditions of life slows down to the point when mainly the names of the dynasties and the dates of the wars change. The Age of Progress flattens out into an Egyptian millennium. The lubricant turns to sand. The one-time agent becomes a fetter.
The Pharaonic dynasties declined for three thousand years. But aspiring leaders should not interpret this fact with unwarranted optimism. It does not mean that the social conditions required for the establishment of revolutionary leadership will continue to be available for three thousand years. Unlike the Pharaonic dynasties, the ruling classes of the period of Capital accumulation sit on a dynamo which their own historical activity brought into being. This dynamo constantly threatens to cut short their period of decline. The dynamo consists of individuals who are in daily contact with the constantly changing productive forces; individuals who are expected to be simultaneously automatic and imaginative, simultaneously obedient and creative. Unlike aspiring Pharaohs, aspiring modern leaders cannot count on these workers to continue to alienate their productive powers to Capital and their power of community to the State for the next 3000 years. The duration of the Egyptian decline is only one historical instance; it does not provide a basis for certainty. Frozen history, death in life, may only be the mask of modern society, and not its real face. The mask is all that is visible because the vision of the ruling class is in every epoch the ruling vision. But there are unmistakable signs of ferment and agitation just below the still mask. Unlike the peasants of ancient Egypt, modern workers have much to gain from the appropriation of society’s productive forces.
The historical consequences of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat can only be realized in conditions where these consequences have not yet been realized. This is why the seizure of State power has succeeded mainly among people who had been deprived of the dominant historical reality of the capitalist epoch. This is why the ideology of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, of growth rates of national income, of the new Socialist Man, has appealed only to people in countries oppressed by imperialism. The ideology was accepted because it was understood to refer to the modern State, commodity production and the division of labor. The rule of the vanguard party was not understood as an end in itself but as a means toward the full realization of the dominant historical reality of the capitalist epoch. The revolutionary organization offered people deprived of the amenities of modern social life the prospect of becoming professors, factory managers and policemen.
However, in conditions where the material consequences of capitalist social relations have already been realized, revolutionary leaders with portfolios to State offices have been hard put to point to any material consequences of their victory other than their rule. The less people need social relations instrumental to the accumulation of Capital, the more must leaders create a consciousness which regards the seizure of State power by revolutionary leaders as a good in itself. In such conditions it becomes a major feat for revolutionary leaders to maintain the conviction that the conscious vanguard of the proletariat performs a critical service for the proletariat. This conviction can no longer be implanted in the proletariat itself, because of the erosive effects of the law of diminishing consciousness. This conviction nevertheless remains the cornerstone of the revolutionary ideology, since without it aspiring leaders would never subject themselves to the years of self-deprivation, to the sacrifice of desires and abilities, which their revolutionary profession demands. Without this conviction, the unquestioning devotion required by the ideology and the faithful service required by the organization would not be endured. But the conviction can no longer be communicated; one must neither lose it nor spread it; one must learn to keep it to oneself. A revolutionary leader who explicitly presented himself as the culmination, the apex, and the sole consequence of the proletariat’s struggle for socialism, would not thereby increase his stature. In conditions of developed productive forces, the revolutionary ideology cannot be made to refer to any material consequences or historical social relations, because these consequences and relations are already past necessities and present fetters. The terms of the ideology must be made to refer only to other terms of the ideology: Revolution means Socialism, Socialism means Power, Power means Revolution. The terms of the ideology must be presented as abstract truths, as parts of the Idea. Only then can the coup of a Left-Leaning General be presented as a victory of the workers’ movement The General is no longer to be considered the representative, or even the consciousness, of the workers’ movement The General believes in the Idea of the workers’ movement, and the General’s coup is therefore the victory of the Idea. Thus it becomes possible for the idea of the workers’ movement to seize State power without the workers themselves moving. In fact, this becomes the last possibility for revolutionary leaders in conditions where the workers will not move within the path historically experienced by the world socialist movement, the path to the seizure of State power. In such conditions, the independent movement of the working class, no matter how broad its sweep, no longer has interest for revolutionary leaders except as an illustration of failure. Such independent movement fails before it begins because the independence is above all independence from the idea of the seizure of State power, the central idea and experience of the world socialist movement. The Idea cannot be victorious if those struggling do not believe in it.
Revolutionary leaders who seize power in conditions of developed productive forces have to emphasize solely the idea of socialism, because in such conditions the seizure of State power can have no material consequences other than the rule of the idea. In order to lay the ground for the seizure of State power in conditions of developed productive forces, revolutionary organizers have to raise the consciousness of the revolutionary masses to a recognition of the Leader as the carrier of the idea. It was already true in countries oppressed by imperialism, it is even more true in countries not oppressed by imperialism that Ideology is the key to revolution and socialist construction and that the Leader is key to ideology. The consciousness of an already industrialized proletariat cannot be stimulated by the example of an industrialized nation. It has to be raised to an acceptance of the thought of the Leader per se. To an even greater extent than any people in countries oppressed by imperialism, working people who themselves create contemporary productive forces are made to accept the revolutionary proposition that Whatever we have, all we have built, is entirely owing to the correct leadership of the Leader. This consciousness is raised by propaganda before the revolution, and by more powerful means after the seizure of State power. Universal acceptance of this proposition is equivalent to National Liberation. Revolutionary leaders who successfully seized State power in conditions of developed productive forces were the first to define the key struggle of the contemporary era as the struggle for national liberation, National liberation is the only form of liberation that can be realized by means of the seizure of State power. It was also these revolutionary leaders who first defined the fundamental contradiction of modern capitalism as the conflict between oppressed and oppressor nations. This is the only contradiction of modern capitalism that is resolved as soon as a revolutionary leader seizes the State apparatus.
In conditions of developed productive forces, the material consequences of the seizure of State power in countries oppressed by imperialism have to be simulated. The key historical accomplishment of the world socialist movement, the primitive accumulation of Capital, does not have a real context in conditions where primitive accumulation has already been carried out, This context has to be ideologically created. It is the function of revolutionary nationalist ideology to create the context for a second primitive accumulation of Capital. The question of fundamental importance to the revolution is: Who are our friends and who are our enemies? Oppressor nations, namely inhabitants of other countries, are the enemy, and therefore the source of primitive accumulation. Once the nation’s enemies are defined, the question of fundamental importance is answered and the revolutionary program is launched. At this point it becomes necessary for revolutionary leaders to abandon the pacifism of the industrial working class whose socialist language is still being borrowed. Wars of national liberation are the sole means to national liberation. War is the only efficient instrument for liberation from oppressor nations. War is the only effective way to transform the inhabitants of other countries into sources of primitive accumulation. Consequently, the central institution required for the realization of national liberation is the national liberation army. The comradeship of those who kill together and the solidarity of those who die together replace the flabby petit-bourgeois pacifism of the industrial proletariat. A morality based on iron discipline, unquestioning obedience and boundless sacrifice replaces the petty bourgeois atmosphere which permeates and corrupts the Proletariat and causes constant relapses among the proletariat into petty-bourgeois spinelessness, disunity, individualism, and alternate moods of exaltation and dejection. The strictest centralization and discipline are required within the political party of the proletariat in order to counteract this. Without an iron party tempered in the struggle, without a party capable of watching and influencing the mood of the masses, it is impossible to conduct such a struggle successfully. The construction of a large proletarian army and a powerful socialist police, the waging of a permanent war of national liberation, and the liquidation of countless counter-revolutionaries who did not serve the people, have been the key historical accomplishments of revolutionary socialist nationalism in power. However, the seizures of power in conditions of developed productive forces have not made the repetition of this feat easier for modern revolutionary leaders. They have not counteracted the erosive effects of the law of diminishing revolutionary consciousness.
None of the forms of conscious revolutionary activity devised so far seem able to counteract the effects of the law of diminishing consciousness. In its ferment, the developed proletariat deprives itself of the direction provided by revolutionary leadership, it dispenses with the discipline provided by revolutionary organizations, and it lacks the consciousness provided by revolutionary ideology. Because of this lack of guidance, the developed proletariat fails to distinguish between its imperialist enemies and its anti-imperialist friends. If it is hostile to the discipline of capitalist production, it is equally hostile to the labor discipline required for the Construction of Socialism. If it is hostile to the authority of the capitalist State, it is equally hostile to the authority of the Socialist State. This undirected proletariat struts indifferently across the distinctions provided by revolutionary consciousness. When it takes steps to abolish capitalist commodity production, it increasingly turns first of all against its own conscious vanguard. Aspiring revolutionary leaders are left no choice but to define this proletariat as privileged, bourgeois, aristocratic, and therefore in its essence counter-revolutionary. The gulf between the developed proletariat and its conscious vanguard continues to widen. The more extensive and well known the historical accomplishments of revolutionary vanguards, the more the spontaneous activity of the proletariat is anarchic, carnivalous, undisciplined and undirected. Not only does the proletariat become increasingly deprived of the guidance of revolutionary leadership; the revolutionary vanguard becomes increasingly isolated from the proletariat. Those who respond to the social possibilities of the contemporary productive forces are not drawn to revolutionary organizations. Those who are drawn to revolutionary organizations are not drawn there by the possibilities of the productive forces. The two seem to stand on opposite sides of a historical watershed. They almost seem to live in different epochs. Where the one sees the possibility for enjoyment the other sees the necessity for sacrifice. Where the one sees the chance for play the other sees the need for discipline. Where the one experiments with the unknown, the other applies the tried and tested. Where the one develops self-powers, the other develops estranged powers. Where the one looks forward toward the self government of the producers, creating a democracy on their own, in their own way, the other looks backward toward a socialist society governed by a dictatorship of the proletariat led by the Worker’s Party which follows a unitary ideology composed exclusively of the ideas of the Leader.
The orders of the left become the last refuge for those who seek order, discipline, coherent ideology, and guidance. Only the organizations of the left are able to provide understanding in an increasingly anarchic situation. Only the organizations of the left are able to make sense of the growing chaos. Ideology is the key. The organizations of the left become the last refuge for those who would be lost without the conviction that in modern civilized countries classes are led by political parties; that political parties are directed by more or less stable groups composed of the most authoritative, influential and experienced members who are elected to the most responsible positions and are called leaders. The leader founds and leads the party which is the vanguard of the working class and the general staff of the revolution. He is the supreme brain of the class and the heart of the party. He is the center of the working class. There is no center except him. All this is elementary. All this is simple and clear. Why replace this with some rigmarole? Instead of replacing all this by some rigmarole, it is necessary to form a steel-like ring around the leader to strictly protect and carry out his revolutionary ideas. It is necessary to protect and nourish every head in which the thought of the leader takes root. Only by such means can the organizations of the left continue to serve the revolution, serve history and serve the people. Activity which nourishes and spreads the thought of the leader lays the foundation for a truly representative democracy in which each individual is able to participate in at least a fragment of the power personified by the leader. In a pre-revolutionary situation, such activity could take on the form of selling the thoughts of leaders for a small profit margin. This would make the revolutionary ideology available at low prices, and at the same time would provide an income for the revolutionary organizers spreading the ideology. The path to the seizure of State power would then by paved by small entrepreneurs. In a period of agitation and ferment such activity serves the people and responds directly to their needs. The ferment itself provides inspirations for products as well as a market for revolutionary ideas. If the ferment become an on-going and normal part of daily life, the revolutionary entrepreneurs could easily establish powerful and influential institutions devoted to the unitary ideology composed exclusively of the ideas of the Leader. But if the ferment becomes independent activity, or if it subsides, the revolutionary organizers are likely to become discouraged with the minuteness of the accomplishment compared to the greatness of the task.
In a situation where the historical experience of the revolutionary socialist movement is not what anyone wants, serving the people revolutionary ideology is not a small task. It is a Gargantuan enterprise. It requires force as well as propaganda. The task of knocking capitalist ideas out of people’s heads requires a propaganda apparatus larger than the capitalist academic community and more efficient than the capitalist advertising industry. It requires security measures which cut off counter-revolutionary anti-leadership ideas before they spread. The question of fundamental importance to revolutionary leaders is not only to define the real friends and the real enemies, but also to weed out the real enemies. Defining the real enemies is the function of the revolutionary ideology. Weeding them out is the function of guardians of the revolutionary ideology. The real enemies of revolutionary vanguards are powerful and widespread. They spread with the continuing development of the productive forces. They are in every plant, in every office, in every neighborhood. Revolutionary guardians confront them in every meeting of every group. The real enemies of revolutionary vanguards are independent workers. Their independence, their rejection of revolutionary leadership, sows the seeds of anarchy. Their rejection of revolutionary discipline creates chaos in every office and department of the revolutionary establishment. Their demands are not new to the guardians. A number of previous workers had also called for general undifferentiation of job function, abolition of serious professional technical work, the abolition of the political probation period prior to becoming a voting member of the staff, the abolition of centralized direction of production. Some have wanted to abolish any form of leadership, or ‘hierarchy’ in their terms, altogether. The guardians have discussed these and similar demands, usually grouped by their advocates under the rubric of ‘workers’ control and internal democracy’ and have democratically — at times unanimously — rejected them. The real enemies of the revolutionary vanguard are all those who reject the modern State, universal commodity production and the progressive division of labor. They are contemporary producers who reject capitalist supervision, control and managers. Their opposition to the historical accomplishments of capitalism is not new. Producers struggled against the constraints of capitalism during its entire development. In fact, craftsmen, artisans and peasants resisted the very rise of capitalism. Thus revolutionary guardians classify the contemporary enemies of capitalism together with all historical opponents of capitalism, and define the contemporary producers as petit-bourgeois craftsmen, artisans and peasants. The task of modern revolutionary ideology is to identify all opposition to capitalism with pre-capitalist opposition to capitalism. From the standpoint of pre-capitalist social forms, capitalism is progressive, and all opposition to it is reactionary, petit-bourgeois, anarcho-syndicalist, and petty capitalist at the same time. The real enemies of the revolutionary vanguard are all the present and past enemies of capitalism. The real potential for human liberation, the revolutionary vision of the future, is found by looking to capitalism. The task of the revolutionary guardians, who are today known as Marxist-Leninists or simply as Marxists, is to weed out the political ideas of workers’ self-management and control, decentralism and local autonomy, opposition to the division of labor and all forms of hierarchy. Their expression has been an undercurrent within and without working class and socialist movements from the beginnings 150 to 200 years ago, but were particularly widespread, in a variety of forms, during the earlier stages of capitalist development. This is the clue to the class character of these trends, which Marxists have described as the reaction of petit-bourgeois craftsmen, artisans and peasants to the reorganization and growth of manufacturing at the beginning of the industrial revolution. In this sense, the demand for ‘workers’ control’ or ‘self-management’ of this or that factory or workshop meant, in essence, ‘give us back the ownership of our tools.’ The demand for local autonomy’ meant a return to the exclusiveness of the guilds or the self-contained Isolation of the rural village. Opposition to the division of labor implied a return to the equality of the guilds where each individual did similar but separate work. Combined with this was the opposition to all hierarchies, a reaction to the social organization and supervision in the individual factory. As for the state, the attitude was similar to that of all petty capitalists: the less of it — and its taxes and trade regulations — the better. This hankering for the return of the old order now superceded by modern industry is why Marxists use the terms ‘reactionary’ and ‘petit bourgeois’ to characterize anarcho-syndicalism. The real potential for human liberation is found by looking to the future, not the past. The past only contains reactionary and petit-bourgeois opposition to capitalism, whereas what the future holds in store is liberation in the form of the modern State, universal commodity production, the progressive division of labor, all forms of hierarchy, and the prevailing contemporary forms of supervision, control and managers.
All the living individuals who refuse to subordinate themselves, and all the past individuals who refused to subordinate themselves to the dominant social authorities of the capitalist epoch are the real enemies of the Party of the Proletariat, and therefore, since the language of socialism is still being borrowed, they are all agents of the bourgeoisie. Whoever weakens ever so little the iron discipline of the party of the proletariat (especially during the time of its dictatorship) actually aids the bourgeoisie against the proletariat. Within the party, there must be no one lagging behind when an order is given by the leadership to ‘march forward,’ no one turning right when the order is left.’ The strictest centralization and discipline are required within the political party of the proletariat in order to counteract this. In order to weed the real enemies of the proletariat out of the organization, in order to be sure that no one is lagging behind when an order is given by the leader, a political probation period needs to be instituted. Only after this probation period can an aspiring leader become a member of the staff. If this probation period is to be at all effective, revolutionary organizations need to equip themselves with modern instruments for measuring the iron discipline and unquestioning obedience of an applicant. In order to administer the probation, it is necessary to strap the aspiring member to an appropriately wired chair. The leader administers the probation from another room. The leader reads a question into a microphone and hears the aspirant’s answer over a speaker. In response to the appropriate question, the aspirant must answer Ideology is the key to revolution and socialist construction. The answer cannot merely contain this thought. It must be stated in these words. Any alteration in the phrasing is an indication of petit bourgeois individualism. To deviate from socialist Ideology in the slightest degree means strengthening bourgeois ideology. All this is elementary. When the correct answer is The Leader is key to ideology, the aspirant deviates fatally by using ‘Dictator’ or ‘Ruler’ in the place of ‘Leader.’ In front of the probator is a panel of buttons. Labels identify the amount of voltage administered to the aspirant by each button. The panel goes as high as 450 volts, and buttons corresponding to the highest voltages are marked ‘caution, severe pain.’ These higher voltages are only applied on petit-bourgeois individualists who refuse to answer Whatever we have, all we have built, is entirely owing to the correct leadership of the Leader. Only individuals who answer this question correctly are able to become instruments or media through whom the powers of the leader can be exercised. The office of the leader becomes legitimate only when the authority of the office and its occupant is internalized by all staff members. Only individuals who accept the legitimacy of the office can become voting members of the staff.
Unfortunately, even the strictest political probation period may fail to weed out the real enemies of the revolutionary organization. Individuals who accepted the thought of the leader during the probation period may deviate from it later. To be sure that no one deviates in the slightest degree, it might be necessary to keep the organization’s membership down to five or six members. If the members of a small, closed vanguard do not engage in any practical activity, they can keep constant watch on each other. Furthermore, a miniature International whose members engage exclusively in thought can achieve the coherence required to embrace the entire world revolutionary movement. The basis for membership in such a revolutionary organization would be to appropriate, commit to memory, and on suitable occasions proclaim the thought of the most coherent member. If the appropriation of the coherence of the critique is the basis for membership, the miniature International is able to re-enact the great historical moments of the large Internationals. If the members learn to regard their membership as the only alternative to historical oblivion, all the powers of the great parties of the proletariat can be wielded on a very small scale. Even the Dictatorship of the Proletariat can be re-enacted in miniature, with purges of the incoherent, public confessions of errors, recantations of critiques of the critique, generous reinstatements, and even occasional mass expulsions of two or three members.
But if the organization consists of more than six members, and aspires to grow even larger, nothing can prevent the proliferation of enemies of revolutionary leadership short of a powerful and efficient security apparatus. In favorable circumstances this apparatus would take the form of a militia, a secret police, an army, or preferably all three combined. But we have seen that in conditions of developed productive forces, circumstances are not so favorable. Consequently other alternatives must be found. Revolutionary leaders of other countries command large liberation armies. Organizers can implant anti-imperialist consciousness among the workers by offering them the prospect of invasion from abroad. The people must be served, one way or the other. The historical situation does not leave room for flabby and sentimental alternatives. The central task of revolutionary leaders in conditions of developed productive forces is to liquidate the enemies of the proletariat’s leaders. To this end, leaders must concentrate their attention on problems of security.
If revolutionary leaders are unable to serve the people with their own security forces, they will have no choice but to turn to the available security forces. There may be no other way to deal with the petit-bourgeois atmosphere that encircles the proletariat on every side. The strictest centralization and discipline are required in order to counteract this. The required centralization and discipline are such that only the armed forces are really adequate for the task. While modern capitalism is highly organized within a given factory or industry, the relations between capitalists are characterized by the social anarchy of production. With the possible exception of the armed forces and some public utilities, the imperialist economy and state are neither centralized nor planned. Those presently in control of the State apparatus do not adequately perform the specific office of the State, which is to use all available means to ensure that the power of community remains estranged. They perform this function only inside the walls of factories, in some public utilities and in the armed forces. The aim of revolutionary leaders is to extend centralization and planning to the society at large, to merge the estranged power of producers with the estranged power of community. Only then would the State directly determine the shape of the environment in which human beings live and the activities in which they engage. This is why the working class must win political power by smashing the imperialist bureaucratized state apparatus, establish the social ownership of the productive forces and carry out centralized planning with a vengeance through a new state of its own based on the armed power of the people. The armed power of the people, namely the armed forces, will of course remain intact since they were already adequately disciplined and centralized before the working class smashed and seized the State apparatus. In the meantime, in order to protect the revolutionary establishment at this late historical hour, revolutionary leaders would be well advised to turn to the last available instruments which can serve their ends: the armed forces and the police. Military power is the key to revolution and socialist construction in a situation where every attempt of individuals to realize their self-powers to the level made possible by contemporary productive forces is a threat to the existence of the entire revolutionary establishment. A revolutionary leader should therefore have no other aim or thought, nor take up any other thing for his study, but war and its organization and discipline, for that is the only art that is necessary to one who commands. The chief cause of the loss of states Is the contempt for this art. He ought, therefore, never to let his thoughts stray from the exercise of war; and in peace he ought to practice it more than in war, which he can do in two ways: by action and by study. As to exercise for the mind, the revolutionary leader ought to read history and study the actions of eminent men, see how they acted in warfare, examine the causes of their victories and defeats in order to imitate the former and avoid the latter. Only by such means can the historical experience of the revolutionary socialist movement continue to spread across the world.
 The fact that revolutionary theory is ‘classical’ is a peculiarity of our age. But this fact is not itself more peculiar than the fact that the main proponents of revolutionary theory are rulers, or the fact that the seizure of State power is the goal of revolutionary organizations, or the fact that leaders, officials, armies and States are revolutionary.