Some characteristics of opportunism in America

Opportunism, reformism and revisionism now seek, with a renewed discourse, their old ambitions of disengaging the working class and its communist parties from Marxism’s fundamentals, from the revolutionary struggle against capitalism, from the principles of dictatorship of the proletariat; from the revolutionary mission that working class and its vanguard, the communist party, are set to play in the socialist revolution and in the construction of socialism-communism.

There is an important lesson embedded in the battle against opportunism and the Second International’s degeneration, fought by Bolsheviks and other Marxists united into the “Zimmerwald Left”, Spartacists in Germany and from many other parties, currents and groups that gathered under the Third International, the Commintern.

Historically, opportunism aimed to deform, corrupt, cheapen and domesticate Marxism, putting it under direct attack, distorting the classics, stooping even to the gross mutilation of writings [1] to present versions that could be useful to those policies of gradualism, parliamentarism, coexistence with capitalism and abandonment of the struggle. Opportunism led parties of the Second International to a capitulating position and then became criminally complicit with imperialism during WWI; it served directly as a repressive machinery of capital against the German revolution and was responsible for Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht’s assassination.

Every rank-and-file of opportunism rallied against the Great October Socialist Revolution and aided counter-revolution in its endeavor to bring down the Soviet Power of workers and peasants, justifying the imperialist intervention, the sanitary siege.

Experience has shown that the fight against opportunism, reformism and revisionism is one of great ideological importance, because it is a life-and-death issue for the existence of the working class party, for the proletarian revolution and for the construction of Workers’ Power. Vladimir Ilich Lenin insisted in several of his works that the fight for socialism is incomplete without the fight against opportunism, and this was a feature of identity for the new parties formed by the Commintern, as several of their documents show, where a constant and implacable battle against the “bourgeoisie’s assistants” is proclaimed, and the necessity of total and absolute dissociation from reformism is acknowledged “because without this, a consequent communist policy is impossible[2]; otherwise -he warned-, the Third International would end up resembling the defunct Second International.

This ideological frontline cannot be considered temporary, finished or reduced to a past stage of the communist movement’s history.

Opportunism is an auxiliary force of bourgeoisie in delaying the ascending process of class struggle, containing the revolutionary tide and promoting counter-revolution, but we must not underestimate that its action is permanent in every period, yet with increasing dangerousness when it becomes possible that, due to capital’s cycle, conditions for the radicalization of consciousness among the working class appear. Right now in Europe and in America, opportunism is a fundamental support for imperialism, even receiving funding from corporations for political activities, NGO’s, ideological activities and most of all for promoting alternative forms of capitalist management “with a humane face”. Such is the role of the European Left Party, to which the Forum of Sao Paulo [3] gets ominously closer every day, in spite of a rhetoric that criticizes neoliberal management and promotes welfare public policies [4].

Opportunism’s expressions occur in two levels today. First, as an undermining attempt on the inside of communist and workers parties, to deprive them of their identity elements, their revolutionary characteristics, so they end up being formally communist parties, but social democrats in fact, mutating into opportunistic organizations. Secondly, it lies in the promotion of groups overtly showing this nature, formed by ex-communists, Maoists, Trotskyists, social democrats, such as the Left Bloc in Portugal or SYRIZA in Greece.

The ideological front against opportunism is an imperative; to neglect it, underestimate it or overlook it will lead communist parties to their annihilation. The Communist Party of México, for example, embraced browderism just as some other parties in Latin America did. As we know, the Communist Party USA was on the brink of disintegration with this attempt to transform it into an “association”, some sort of “ideological club”. In México, this was the model for the Socialist League into which the Communist Party should dilute. The Colombian, Cuban and Dominican parties changed their names, subscribing that trend. The Communist Party of Mexico dissolved its cells within manufacturing industries and trade unions, and provisionally resigned to democratic centralism, besides changing its name from Communist Party of México to Mexican Communist Party; in addition to having inflicted severe wounds to its Leninist structure, policies of coexistence with some bourgeois sectors then called “nationalist” and “progressive” were adopted, and the revolutionary road to take power was renounced. The Letter from J. Duclos and the criticism from other parties caused reactions of militant regrouping among the communists to prevent their disintegration and rebuild their parties.

In later documents [5] the CPM acknowledged that renouncement of browderism was only a formality and this influenced the following years, because there was no resisting reaction to some policies of opportunistic orientation that were promoted starting at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, such as the so called “nationalistic road” to socialism, and the possibility of a non-violent way to power, that were adopted not as an exception but as a generalization for the communist movement, based on the French and Italian parties’ policies.

The CPM was thus infiltrated and it started to corrode until its disintegration, in 1981, to mutate first into a socialist party and then into the Party of Democratic Revolution (which is affiliated to the International Socialist, an sponsor of Keynesian management and a repressor of workers’ and popular movements), in reality a party of the dominant class yet presented by propaganda and media as the left party in México. The difficult conditions to rebuild the CPM and the level of political development of working class within this struggle proved that the goal in eliminating the CPM during the 80’s was to inflict a devastating blow to the proletarian movement, holding it back for decades.

So current is this subject that right now in the US the Communist Party is facing a similar problem to the one enveloped by Earl Browder, where the opportunistic faction led by Sam Webb, the Party’s President, is proposing a platform to remove its characteristics, to eliminate it and turn it into an auxiliary force for the Democratic Party. This platform contains many of the elements advanced by euro-communism, by the same process that led the CPM to its elimination and now is corroding other communist parties as well, including some in America.

We insist on the importance of fighting against those opportunistic tendencies; furthermore, enunciating the features that is presenting in America will show how, besides some specific properties, they are general to international opportunism.

General and specifics and the deviation implied on emphasizing particularities.

Marxism-Leninism, ideological ground for our communist parties, the revolutionary theory of the working class, is sustained on Dialectic Materialism, Historic Materialism and Political Economy. It seeks to extract what is more general to reality by studying historical developments, production modes, class struggle, and social regularities, the laws that rule change and revolution.

Particularities, specifics, should be taken into account thus creatively enriching Marxism-Leninism; however they cannot be determinant on approaches, on analysis.

With the argument of withdrawing from dogmatism and from alienated analysis of reality, a call to crossbreed Marxism is made, repeating the academicism’s critique that assume as its goal to dissociate Engels from Mark and Lenin from Marx. Some parties in Latin America –and precisely the Communist Party USA is considering it right now- are withdrawing themselves from Leninism, which, they state, applies only to particularities in Russia and to another historical period. In reality, this represents renouncing Marxism’s revolutionary stances, and it is untenable from a theoretical point of view. It is also a source of political deviations that lead to “movementism” and denaturalize the Party’s purpose and the working class’ role.

The so called latin-americanization (tropicalization) of Marxism has a lot in common with previous corrupting operations, such as Santiago Carrillo and the euro-communists, and the “western Marxism”. Since it openly rejects Dialectic Materialism and dictatorship of the working class, it directs an attack against the history of communist parties.

It is remarkable that some communist parties are assimilated uncritically to those positions and they promote them, for example, when embracing distribution of “Ocean Sur” Publishing, of trotskyist origin, whose catalogue is predominantly composed of works that attack the socialism built during the 20th century and disseminate criticism of Marxist-Leninism calling it “the Soviet State ideology”, all this concealed under the promotional publishing of materials related to the Cuban Revolution.

Some essential elements of Dialectic Materialism, such as philosophical atheism, are avoided, under the influence of currents like the liberation theology.

From the same source comes the argument of Marxism being Eurocentric; but the eclectic hybridization with a mystical guise results in raising latinoamericanism as a tour de force.

There is no interest in re-editing the Classics, only in spreading these modern deformities, whose creators would be placed among folklore if contained within college faculty, but in fact they exert significant influence in the core of some communist parties. Weakness in the ideological front, and a limited development of research and scientific theoretical works from a classist point of view, have taken several communist parties by surprise with this ideological smuggling of those who attack Marxism posing as Marxists. Not too long ago, we had an example of this with the case of H. Dieterich, one of the ideologues of the “21st Century’s socialism”, who used to be featured in several communist publications.

Ideological deviations, eclecticism, unjustified emphasis on specificity, are at the heart of new revisions of Marxism.

Another negative element is the one that leaves aside all the general laws of revolution, appealing to the “originality” of previous and current social developments. A basic premise of the international communist movement, proven since the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution, is the character of the era, which we identify as the era of imperialism and proletarian revolutions, the era of transition from capitalism to socialism; we consider that the temporary prevalence of counter-revolution does not alter this basic premise.

Programmatically, opportunism introduces a debate and a strategy about this transition that offset the tasks of the working class and its communist party. What is the argument? Mainly after the victory of the Chinese Revolution, Mao Tse Tung’s statement about bourgeoisie’s inner contradictions and the existence of a “nationalistic sector” of it in direct antagonism with imperialism was generally accepted. In such approach, this nationalist bourgeoisie becomes a strategic ally of the working class in the anti-imperialist struggle to reach its programmatic objective, to break up the chains of dependence from North American imperialism. There are considerations around the causes of this dependence: some have the wrong notion that colonialism is identifiable to feudal or semi-feudal relationships; others sustain the characterization of a distorted or incomplete capitalism, which poses a series of questions for Marxism-Leninism, classist politics and, again, the tasks for the communist parties.

First of all, those questions relating to the capitalist relationships development show that the positioning around dependence is not dialectic. Processes of accumulation, concentration and centralization lead to the appearance of monopolies, which end up prevailing on the economy and politics notwithstanding borders or nationality. What then arise are inter-dependent relationships that confront monopolies on one side and the working class on the other, that is, the capital-vs.-labor contradiction. Let’s explain.

Those in México who argue that the main task is to conquest independence from the US and work towards a multi-classist alliance with interested bourgeois sectors, forget that what they called nationalistic bourgeoisie is formed today by monopolies that are already part of the imperialist structure, that export capital and exploit workers in several countries [6]. Some of these Mexican-based monopolies are predominant throughout the entire continent and even operate inside the US (as is the case in telecomm and some mining industries).

The fight for independence conceived in this way will be no more than the effort to reach a new form of capitalism management with quite fictitious allies.

It is also incomplete the assessment stating that imperialism is only the US. Imperialism is the capitalism of monopolies, and it truly has the US at its core, but also the European Union, and every action of monopolies and inter-state relationships. Let’s take as example the South of the continent, where monopolistic expansion is a reality. Or Mercosur, which is an alliance between states of capitalistic nature, that establishes tighter interdependent relationships with the EU day by day. [7]

This conception of alliances with sectors of the bourgeoisie has been renamed lately as “progressive”, and several communist parties collaborate with them, forming governments that do not hide their dominant-class nature and practice policies that benefit monopolies’ outrageous profits, having Brazil as an evident example.

In this collaborationist policy, the role of the working class and the communist parties that partake in it, becomes subordinate; it is a risky situation since class independence and party’s autonomy cease to be tasks with the highest priority, their unrelenting duty; they cease to be militant organizations and become associations of affiliates with socialism as a distant option, and by setting up a long-term intermediate stage these organizations are placed under class collaboration, under social pacts and within a parliamentary containment which is functional to progressiveness, again, a form of capitalistic management.

Developments in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia pose a different problem, in face of which some parties position themselves renouncing the Marxist theory of State. The Venezuelan social process is very important; however it is not yet a revolution. How could this process, where no new State arose, be called a revolution? Where the former State was not demolished and remained as the governing structure? Where the means of production have not been socialized and primary and secondary economy sectors have not been advanced? We know it is an alternative plagued with conflict and tensions, where a definite course is yet to be resolved, where middle class positions prevail, and ever under attack funded by monopolies. And we do not take a neutral position; we place ourselves in solidarity with the vanguards’ forces, the Communist Party of Venezuela among them. However, it is inaccurate and incorrect to promote this process as the route to follow, calling “revolution” to something quite not there yet.

The assault upon socialism built during the 20th century, an argumentation of opportunism

One of the distinctive characteristics of opportunism is its attack on the experience of socialist construction in the USSR and other counties, vilified using postulates taken from Trotskyism and anti-communism.

In the absence of objective conditions for socialism, just as Kautsky did in his time, opportunists support their criticism in purported anti-democratic and burocratic tendencies, attacking the planning of economy and proposing the coexistence of different types of property and mercantile relationships as well.

All the artillery gathered by capital is presented in new versions. Some communist parties confront this situation, others avoid the subject and some others adhere to these positions. That is the reason why several communist parties assimilated, not only as propaganda but as a programmatic postulate the concept of “socialism of the 21st century”, which is an expression against the socialist revolution and the work of communists.

These elements of opportunism in our continent are not disconnected, and although they do not express themselves coherently or neatly, sometimes trying to blend in to Marxism-Leninism, they place the communist movement in front of serious challenges.

Even the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB) exhibited some traits of belligerent opportunism during the last Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties, held in Athens on December, 2011 when euphemistically stated that partaking of communists in progressive governments is a demonstration of maturity, and criticizing it was a sectarian position, distant from the masses; the collaboration between classes would be then appropriate, while class independence and communist party’s autonomy would be wrongful. A shift of the CPoB towards opportunistic positions is evident.

In a very general assessment, capitalist relationships prevail in America –with the exception of Cuba-, notwithstanding that there still are pre-capitalist relationships in rural areas in some countries. The antagonism between capital and labor is clear and there is an increasing proletarization of the middle layers. Like everywhere else in the world, capitalism’s historical limits set an undeferable objective for the working class: the fight to overthrow the bourgeois power and to build socialism-communism. Opportunism as a shock force of capital is trying to prevent it. It is necessary that communist parties remain alert and permanently fight against it.

[1] For example “Introduction to class struggle in France” 1895 by F. Engels

[2] As in “Requirements to enter the International Communist”, composed by Lenin for the Commintern Second World Congress.

[3] An objective ground for this is a greater inter-dependence between Mercosur and the European Union, the increase in economic relationships.

[4] Anti-neoliberalism questions some forms of capitalism management, however its alternative proposal is not necessarily anti-capitalist, socialist-communist, but in many cases for other types of managements, like Keynesianism, as the progressive developments in Argentine, Uruguay and Brazil show.

[5] “Internal struggle in the Party during the years of 1939 to 1948". Main characteristics” Central Committee of the Communist Party of Mexico.

[6] For example América Móvil, Industrial Minera México, Cemex, Grupo Bimbo.

[7] No hay que desdeñar que el llamado “progresismo” predominante en el Foro de Sao Paulo y además gobernante en Brasil, Argentina y Uruguay, es el que empuja la internacionalización del Foro de Sao Paulo sobre todo con base en fuertes vínculos con el Partido de la Izquierda Europea.