What better time then today to reprint William Dunne’s classic critique of Browderism and Popular Frontism?-Signalfire.
The Lessons of the Communist Manifesto as Seen by Lenin
“The Chief and Fundamental Point in the Marxist Theory of the State”
“Finally, the Parliamentary Republic found itself compelled, in its struggle against the revolution, along with its repressive measures, to increase the resources and the centralization of the State. Every revolution brought this machine to greater perfection instead of breaking it up. The political parties, which alternately struggled for supremacy, looked upon the capture of this gigantic governmental structure as the principal spoils of victory.” (Lenin – quoting from ‘The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte’, in ‘The State and Revolution’ – The emphasis is Lenin’s Page 135 – Vanguard Press Edition of Imperialism – The State, etc. – 1933)
“The revolution” against which the forces of American capitalism and its militarists are being mobilized is as yet, in decisive development, outside of the United States itself. But, so far as the rest of the above text is concerned, Marx’s words describe the political situation in our country today and the imperialist adventures of its ruling class and government with startling accuracy although he was writing of the bourgeois revolutions of the first half of the last century.
Is this question of the class character of government and the all-important part it plays in the conduct of the national economy and the division of its product among the various orders of society a practical question for the American working class? Is it of primary importance that a Communist Party must regard this as the key question in its work in the ranks of the class whose interests it represents and in all working class organizations during all periods but especially in those periods of the highest interest in all political questions, i.e. national election campaigns?
Lenin thought so. He was so much convinced of its primary importance that two of his major works are devoted almost exclusively to this question, destroying with his encyclopedic knowledge of class relationships and their political expression in this imperialist epoch gained by study, mastery of the Marxist dialectics and participation, all evasions and distortions with which the bourgeoisie and their class opportunists and bureaucrats had tried to conceal the revolutionary essence of Marxist science whose groundwork was laid and made accessible to the working class and its leadership in the Communist Manifesto, November, 1847.
Two of these major works – “Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism” and “The State and Revolution” – have been concealed and distorted so far as their principal teachings are concerned, by the leadership of the CPUSA for more than a decade. They have been treated in much the same way in our country as the social-democratic leadership of the Second International treated the Communist [Manifesto], Engels’ and Marx’s commentaries on it, relative to its historical background and development, “The Critique of the Gotha Program”, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”, “The Civil War in France”, etc.
In other words, these great works of Lenin have not been made the property of the CP membership and the American working class except in such frivolous and distorted and even contemptuous form as to be detrimental instead of helpful. The lack of this sure guidance is a major factor, creating confusion instead of clarity, making the working class and its organizations easier prey to reaction instead of uniting it and making it able to secure allies, Negro and white, from the propertyless city population and that of the agricultural areas.
We ask our readers to keep in mind that Lenin wrote the following preface to “The State and Revolution” in August, 1917, more than a year before the end of the First World War and some four months before the Russian working class, “organized as the ruling class” headed by its Communist Party, in alliance with the peasantry, established the Socialist State in the former Czarist Empire.
In this third year since the formal end of the Second World War in the world crisis of capitalist imperialism, the major theses of Lenin contained in this preface apply with thousandfold emphasis and make it possible to judge more clearly the depths of appeasement and defeatism to which the leadership of the CPUSA has sunk in this dominant imperialist nation, dragging the labor movement with it!
“The question of the State is acquiring at the present a particular importance, both theoretical and practical.
“The Imperialist war has greatly accelerated and intensified the transformation of monopolist capitalism into State-monopoly capitalism. The monstrous oppression of the laboring masses by the State – which is identifying itself ever more intimately with the all-powerful capitalist combines – is becoming more and more terrible. The foremost countries are being converted … into military labor prisons for the workers”. (The Taft-Hartley law and the destructive […] – restrictions on Civil rights – increasing militarization […])
“The incredible miseries and horrors of the protracted war are making the position of the masses unbearable and increasing their indignation.
“It is clear that an international proletarian revolution is preparing.” (War is “protracted” by continued imperialist aggressions (American financed) in China, Greece, Palestine, Burma, Indo-China, Malaya, Africa).
“The question, therefore, of its relations to the State is acquiring a practical importance”. (Lenin then pays his compliments to the opportunist leaders of the Second International: …”these ‘leaders of Socialism’ distinguish themselves by a base, servile adaptation to the interests not only of ‘their’ national bourgeoisie, but also of ‘their’ State….”)
“The struggle for the emancipation of the laboring masses from the oppression of the bourgeoisie in general, and the Imperialist bourgeoisie in particular, cannot be separated from a struggle against the opportunist superstitions concerning the State”. (our emphasis).
“We, first of all, survey the teachings of Marx and Engels on the State, dwelling particularly fully on the forgotten parts (in the case of the Party leadership in America we must say the buried parts – WFD) and on those aspects of their teachings which the opportunists have distorted. We then analyze specially the chief representative of these pervertors, Karl Kautsky (1889-1914), who has suffered such a pitiful political bankruptcy during the present war. Finally, we bring forward the most important results of the experiences of the Russian revolutions of 1905, and particularly of 1917.
“This last revolution is evidently completing at the present time (beginning of August, 1917), the first stage of its development; but in general the whole of this revolution can only be looked upon as a link in the chain of Socialist proletarian revolutions which will result from the imperialist war”. (31 years later these “Socialist revolutions” have grown in number and scope – WFD).
“The question of the relation of a Proletarian Socialist [revolution to] the State is, therefore, not only of practical political importance, [but is] an urgent need of the day, being concerned with the elucidation for the masses of what they will have to do for their liberation from the yoke of Capitalism in the very near future”. (our emphasis).
Since 1935-36 (a period of some twelve years) this major thesis of Lenin’s was at first gradually smothered by the revisionist Browder leadership and then buried with the dissolution of the Party carried through as a sort of Walpurgis night in reverse as a funeral ceremony. Neither was it resurrected by the Dennis-Williamson-Stachel-Gates-Weiss-Thompson leadership for which Foster contributed his Kautskyan prayers as a prelude to the revisionist chain of events. This leadership tried only to “resurrect the Roosevelt policies” i.e. Kautsky’s “progressive imperialism” which never existed.
These events were climaxed in August and September 1947, by the official categorical repudiation of Socialism “as an issue in our country today” by this leadership accompanied and justified by the expressly stated theory of spontaneity and the rejection of the Marxist-Leninist concept of capitalist government as the dictatorship of the capitalist class. In this way the basis was laid for the subsequent integration of the CPUSA into the Wallace party of “progressive capitalism”, i.e. the political dissolution of the “re-constituted” CPUSA as the alleged party of proletarian Socialism in this decisive Presidential election year was accomplished.
The American Expression of Kautskyism in Action
The Conciliation of Right Opportunism and Revisionists by the Call for War Against Left
“… England and America, the greatest and last representatives of Anglo-Saxon ‘liberty’ in the sense of absence of the militarism and bureaucracy, have today completely rolled down into the dirty, bloody morass of military-bureaucratic institutions common to all Europe, subordinating all else to themselves, crushing all else under themselves. To-day, both in England and in America the ‘preliminary conditions of any real people’s revolution’ is the break-up, the shattering of the ‘available ready machinery of the State’ (Marx) (perfected in those countries … up to the ‘European,’ general imperialist standard).
“Secondly, this extremely pregnant remark of Marx is worth particular attention in that it states that the destruction of the military and bureaucratic machinery of the State is the ‘preliminary condition of any real people’s revolution.’ (Lenin’s own emphasis.) This idea of a ‘people’s’ revolution seems strange on Marx’s lips. And the … Mensheviks … who wish to be considered Marxists, might possibly consider such an expression a slip of the tongue. They have reduced Marxism to such a state of meagre ‘liberal’ distortion that nothing exists for them beyond the distinction between capitalist and proletarian revolutions; and even that distinction becomes for them a lifeless doctrine”. (The State and Revolution – Page 145-46).
We have in our country, on the 100th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto the spectacle of a leadership of a Party calling itself Communist which is splattering the political landscape with phrases falsely characterizing as a “people’s party”, a “broad people’s democratic coalition”, etc., a weak third capitalist party for purposes of opportunist deception!
One, to convince workers that this Wallace-for-President party is a “real people’s” party and worthy of their most self-sacrificing support. Two, to conceal from the working class that a “real people’s” party in the United States in this period must have a predominantly working class character and a revolutionary, anti-capitalist program and purpose.
Not only has the idea of a “real people’s revolution” been made a “lifeless doctrine” by the present CP but it has been buried.
It is this double deception that is accountable for the recent ravages in the labor movement made by Wall Street and its government’s anti-democratic offensive. This economic and political offensive is aided immeasurably by this deadly deception. The popular democratic, anti-fascist opinion in our country is likewise comp[…] since, unwilling to conduct a struggle against the bureaucratic mil[itary dictatorship] of monopoly capitalism in its present bourgeois-democratic form, this leadership has no program whatever for directing the attention of the working class to its main enemy and organizing for its effective struggle against it on a popular basis. That is, it opposes the creation of a “real people’s” revolutionary movement.
Clearly stated, this means that the opportunist leadership of the CPUSA has accepted – and does not go beyond – the description of its own form of government as genuinely democratic purveyed by the propagandists of the 60 Wall Street families and in its proposals for mitigation of the evils of monopoly capitalism, does not go beyond those of the middle class whose idea of “a change of government” is that of a mere “reshuffling of posts” by which displaced middle class bureaucrats are again in governmental favor.
It is consequently impossible, for the class conscious section of the working class to give forthright allegiance to such a program and party. This form of opportunism inevitably gives the hegemony of the movements which express popular resentment and opposition to the extortions of the capitalist class and its government to “liberal” capitalists and middle class reformists for whose verbal sympathy the working class is supposed to be deeply grateful.
“The development, perfection, strengthening of the bureaucratic and military apparatus has been going on during all those bourgeois revolutions of which Europe has seen so many since the decay of feudalism.
“In particular, the lower middle classes are attracted to the side of the capitalists and to their allegiance, largely by means of this very apparatus, which provides the upper section of the peasantry, artisans and tradesmen with a number of comparatively comfortable, quiet and respectable posts, and thereby raises their holders above the general mass”. (In our country it is the middle class intelligentsia and professionals who like to think of these posts as their private preserve.)
Since 1932-33, corresponding with the worst economic crisis in the [history] of our country, the seizure of power by the Nazis in Germany and […] of the Fascist Axis on the background of the crisis of the world capitalist-imperialist system, there has been taking place precisely that “perfection and strengthening of the bureaucratic and military apparatus” which is today so pronounced. It began with the immense increase in the civilian bureaucracy under the prewar New Deal but during and since the war period this civilian bureaucracy has been subordinated to the enormously strengthened military machine with consequent “re-shuffling of posts”.
Under Roosevelt there was also a continuous process of “re-shuffling” of bureaucratic posts. But under Truman there was a more complete re-shuffling in which were retained in their posts only bureaucrats closest to the inner circles of monopoly capitalism of whom there were many in the New Deal’s most decisive administrative agencies despite eloquent denials by its would-be resurrectors.
It was the inclusion of thousands of liberal middle class personnel in the various departments and agencies of the Roosevelt administration which gave it its semblance of popular government while no single measure which lessened substantially the stranglehold of the monopolies on the economic life of the country was ever enacted. On the contrary, the finance-capitalist class extended and tightened its hold on our country as we have seen.
The New Deal itself was the greatest re-shuffling of government posts ever seen in an imperialist country. The class composition of the government organs became middle class but its class character and role remained that of monopoly capitalism with the middle class bureaucrats carrying out their historical role of concealing this decisive fact from the working class. But – not even those labor union officials unquestionably supporters of the capitalist system were given any important government posts in the New Deal setup. Never did it have even a reformist labor composition – as in England.
The opportunist leadership of the CPUSA took up enthusiastically its share of the task of maintaining capitalist ideology in the labor movement. It became integrated into the government bureaucracy so that criticism of […] program and insistence on its essential monopoly capitalist character was treated as anti-communist treason by this leadership. They distorted, ridiculed and concealed from the Party membership and the working class the decisive teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin on this aspect of the capitalist dictatorship and the methods by which it is administered in bourgeois-democratic countries such as the United States. Writing of this general trend in the “more advanced nations” Lenin said:
“We shall see that the same process has been going on more slowly, in more varied forms, on a much wider field. One the one hand, there has been a development of ‘parliamentary government’ not only in the republican countries … but also in the monarchies…. On the other hand, there has been the struggle for power of the various middle and lower middle class parties distributing and re-distributing the ‘plunder’ of official appointments, the foundations of capitalist society remaining all the while unchanged. Finally, there has been the perfecting and strengthening of the ‘Executive’ and of its bureaucratic and military apparatus”. (It was under the Roosevelt New Deal that this “general trend” took on concrete organizational features unprecedented in the previous history of the US).
“There can be no doubt that these are the general features of the latest stage in the evolution of capitalist States generally….”
“Imperialism in particular, the era of financial capital, the era of gigantic capitalist monopolies, the era of the transformation of simple trust-capitalism into State trust-capitalism, shows an unprecedented strengthening of the ‘State’ and an unheard of development of its bureaucratic and military apparatus, side by side with the increase of oppression of the proletariat, alike in the monarchical and the freest republican countries”. (Lenin – The State and Revolution – Page 139-140 – Lenin’s emphasis).
This, then, is the process characteristic of the imperialist period in all capitalist governments – and nowhere more marked than in our own. This was [the] main feature of the New Deal and not the “democratization” and […] government claimed for by its beneficiaries among the […] aristocracy and bureaucracy – including the leadership of the CPUSA.
It is clear that the Fascist state form has its political genesis in the enormous governmental machines developed in the bourgeois-democratic countries since the abolition of the feudal system but particularly since the First World War.
“But,” wrote Lenin, “the longer the process of re-shuffling of posts goes on among the various capitalist and middle class parties … the more clearly the oppressed classes, with the proletariat at their head, begin to realize the irreconcilable opposition of their interests to the whole (Lenin’s emphasis) of capitalist society. Hence arises the necessity for the bourgeois parties, even for the most democratic and ‘revolutionary democratic’ sections, (our emphasis) to increase their repressive measures against the revolutionary proletariat, to strengthen the machinery of repression, that is, the power of the State. Such a course of events compels the revolution ‘to concentrate all the forces of destruction’ (Marx) against the State, and to regard the problem as one not of perfecting the machinery of the State, but of breaking up and annihilating it”. (The State and Revolution – Pages 137-138 – last two emphases are Lenin’s).
One can say with assurance also, on the basis of the historical record in our country since the blossoming of the New Deal into full flower in 1935-36 and the subsequent integration of the CPUSA into the labor bureaucracy and the Democratic party, that such surrender of all independence and political integrity by the leadership was a major factor in delaying the realization by the working class that their organizations should be prepared to resist and defeat the “repressive measures” which would be inevitably resorted to by the imperialist rulers as soon as the Second World War failed to solve the chronic crisis of capitalist-imperialism whose solution was sought just as vainly in the First World War for re-division of the world.
The “most democratic” and most “friendly to labor” of the two main capitalist parties was one whose “bureaucratic and military apparatus” acclaimed by the CPUSA leadership as benevolent and “progressive” delivered the postwar attacks [on] the trade unions, living standards and civil rights of the working populations in both periods – the Democratic Party.
But this incurable opportunist clique has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. The body of organized labor lies bleeding from a thousand wounds inflicted by the “bureaucratic and military apparatus” of the “most democratic” party – with the enthusiastic support of its “rival”. The CPUSA leadership has now given its allegiance and forthright support to another “most democratic” collection of former government bureaucrats who lost out in the “re-shuffling” of posts. These opportunists of the CP do not even hint for the benefit of the American working class that the time is here, when world imperialist hegemony and expeditionary wars and preparation for a third World War on the world’s working peoples is the admitted program of Wall Street and its government, to put forward elementary democratic demands – to place the imprint of the working class on the popular struggle against the dictatorship of the monopoly capitalists – to tell the American working class that a “real people’s revolution” is the only way this program can be defeated.
Lenin’s Teachings on the Commune and Democracy
“The People” and Democracy – The Commune and People’s Democracy – Opportunist Cowardice on this Question and its Evil Results
Let us keep in mind that the following analysis by Lenin of the writings of Marx and Engels dealing with the Paris Commune and the relationship of class forces, and his conclusions, far from being of merely historical interest as the right opportunists conclude and as their utterances and actions prove they thus conclude, apply with special force to the present stage of the class struggle in our country.
They apply with special force in connection with “people’s parties” and “people’s government” since in our country the working class population is an absolute majority when considered from the standpoint of the class com[position], i.e. of economic status – propertyless wage earners and their […] we should say for the sake of complete clarity that we must not confuse class composition with class alignments.
Our purpose is to clear away the opportunist road blocks which bar the way to the rapid changing of class alignments in America!
For this purpose the question of the State and “people’s parties” and “people’s governments”, or “real people’s revolutions” is of paramount importance!
Lenin made a distinction between middle class revolutions and “people’s revolutions” and made this distinction unmistakable. Speaking of the various social upheavals of the first decade of our century (Portugal, Turkey, Russia, 1905) he characterizes them as middle class: But neither Portugal’s nor Turkey’s was a “people’s revolution” Lenin concluded, “inasmuch as the mass of the people, the enormous majority, does not make its appearance actively … with its own economic and political demands …. On the other hand, the Russian middle class revolution of 1905-07, although it presented no such ‘brilliant’ successes as at times fell to the lot of the Portuguese and Turkish revolutions, was undoubtedly a ‘real people’s’ revolution, since the masses of the people, the majority, the lowest social ‘depths’ … rose up independently, impressed on all the course of the revolution the stamp of their demands, their attempts to build up a new order on their own lines in place of the old shattered order”.
To broadcast talk of “a people’s party” without consideration for such elementary conditions for its organization and program as set forth plainly in the above quotation is deception of the grossest kind. This kind of deliberate deception by itself precludes any possibility of the American working class – the majority – impressing on middle class led political movements “their attempts to build up a new order on their own lines….”
Of what value to the fundamental interests, the Socialist interests, of the American working class majority, and the special interests of millions of doubly exploited and oppressed Negro people, the great mass of them propertyless agrar[ian] workers, is a party which proposes merely a certain “re-shuffling” of […] personnel and makes no attack at all on the economic basis of their inferior position in our society?
The relatively late and slower development of the bureaucratic-military machinery of government in our country has tended, it is true to some extent, to obscure its class character. Yet today when this delay is being compensated for by the most rapid centralization and extension of the powers of the government ever witnessed in a bourgeois-democratic country, the CP leadership concentrates attention on “the two party system” of government – and not on the system itself and the monopoly capitalist class and its middle class administrators (Lilienthal, etc.) who are militarizing our national economy, the working class and its organizations with the deceptive slogan of “national security”.
The American working class and its allies are confronted with a far different political situation than were the working classes of Italy and Germany in the period 1920-1933. The consolidation and extension of the bureaucratic-military machine has been carried out here not by a demagogic Fascist party attracting workers and middle class people from the bourgeois-feudal-clerical parties but by the traditional parties of American capitalism.
After January, 1949, this process may be accelerated by the one party (Republican) about whose role as the party of monopoly capitalism par excellence there can be and is no serious doubt in popular circles. The organized section of the American working class, and millions of other working people, realize in one way or another, that this is a political party of a class whose monopoly capitalist masters are implacably hostile to the economic and social needs of working people and to their organizations. The Republican party cannot and does not indulge in the demagogy of “the friends of labor”.
It is here that the desertion of the Socialist class struggle by the CP leadership appears clearly in its true nature – gross opportunist sabotage of the class struggle in its present manifestations in our country by flat denial [that] Socialism is an issue in our country today.
Belatedly, the CP leadership realized that its mechanical transference of the European Fascist pattern to our country was indefensible. It was impossible to picture the Democratic party in the North and the Republican party nationally as Fascist parties with any plausibility. But, determined to avoid at all costs any fundamental attack on the monopoly capitalist-imperialist system (confining their propaganda to criticism of its more atrocious methods (just as the Wallace Taylor Progressive Party does)) they conjured up a formula which permitted them to continue to avoid all reference to the Socialist class struggle and continue their appeasement of monopoly capitalism and its middle class apologists.
This most recent opportunist formula was obviously worked out by this leadership after study of a chapter titled “Fascist Imperialism and ‘Democratic’ Imperialism – Opportunist, Sectarian Deception Aids Main Enemy: Monopoly Capitalism” in a booklet published early in 1947 under the title “The Struggle Against Opportunism in the Labor Movement – For a Socialist United States”. The chapter referred to exposed and destroyed the theoretical basis of the appeasement policy of the CP leadership based on the premise that “monopoly capitalism today automatically generates fascism”, and its corollary that the imminent emergence of a fascist state form in the United States and only certain fascist “circles” constituted the main danger – not the system of monopoly capitalism and its present government form of bourgeois-democratic dictatorship.
The conclusion from this formula was that the ideological and political preparation of the American working class for the struggle for political power and Socialism, and even Socialism versus capitalism in the abstract, were destructive of the united front of all “democratic” forces. The CPUSA and all workers it could influence were therefore committed to support of candidates of the “most progressive” of the two capitalist parties – the Democratic party.