On the so called emerging subjects. Validity of the revolutionary character of the working class and its Vanguard Party

  • 01/07/14 12.03

The role of the working class

Since its making scientific socialism distinguished itself from other theories identifying within the existing society a social force called to bury capitalism and to erect a new society. This social force was the working class. Since the first Marxists works, since the first manuscripts, for example The situation of the Working Class in EnglandThe Communist Manifest or Principles of Communism “the main thing in Marx and Engels’ doctrine was the clarification of the historic role of the proletariat as creator of a socialist society”.i

Marx and Engels based these assertions in a deep analysis of capitalist economy. What are the conditions, characteristics and qualities fulfilled by the working class to be called to carry out this role?

In first place it is the most exploited class in capitalist society. Their life conditions are determined by the fact that their existence, joys and sorrows, life and death depend exclusively on the sale of their labor force to capitalist and of the conditions of this sale given by market fluctuations. This life conditions, this vital interest propels them to constantly fight to death with the capitalist class, this turns the proletariat into the most consequent and firm adversary of the capitalist system.

This is not purely an empirical observation; it is based in the discovery of the surplus value theory, which conserves full validity. The present outbreak of the capitalist economic crisis of overproduction and over accumulation has come to destroy the last delusions of those who thought that in economy the sphere of circulation could develop independently of the sphere of production and the laws that govern it.

In second place in that the working class is linked to the development of the productive forces. As workers, they have no links to the past of production, with the remnants of past productive systems, but with the development and the future of production.

This means, in countercurrent of many assessments, that the material development of capitalism, great industry, does not threaten the existence of the proletariat as a class, it does not destroy their positions in society; it impels the numeric growth of the workers and widens their role in social life.

It is methodologically groundless to take a very short period of time to make assessments over the disappearance of the proletariat. The law of proletarization of the population shows its impressive reach when we analyze capitalism as a whole. For example, in the mid XIX century in the United States the working class, workers and their families, constituted less than 6% of the population, in Germany it raised no more than 3%, at mid XX century this cipher had grown up to half the population in both cases. Nowadays, according to ILO figures, at a global scale, the class of the workers disposed of means of production and that sell their labor force in exchange for a salary has oscillated since the 80’s around 65% of the population.

This means that the interests and aspirations of the working class coincide with the general orientation of the development of the productive forces. The level of development achieved by the productive forces requires the suppression of the private property over the means of production. In fact this is announced by the relative suppression of private property over the concentrated and centralized means under the very framework of capitalism since the rise of anonymous societies and monopolies.ii Lacking all private property over the means of production the working class can’t have great esteem for it. Rather, private property over the means of production is the basis for the exploitation of the worker by the capitalist, which is why its suppression and substitution by social property is the only way the working class has for emancipating itself.

The fact that besides this the working class counted with qualities, derived from its position in production, which were regarded as indispensable for a revolutionary labor did not escape to the masters of scientific socialism.

For example, we have talked already about its constant growing number, the proletarian movement – said Marx & Engels in the Communist Manifestois the independent movement of the huge majority in interest of the huge majority.

But it is not only about an aspect of quantity, also the own bourgeoisie when concentrating means of production gathers thousands of workers under the roof of its factories, ordinarily located in poles of capital concentration, that is, the large cities. Thus the proletariat overcomes dispersion and Isolation. As problems of the subjective order are surpassed and the level of class consciousness rises, the workers can unite and organize better than any other class.

This concentration of the working class is independent of certain temporal developments. There can be periods of time and countries in which a section of the capitalist opts for decentralization or sectioning of the productive process. This obeys generally to conditions under which it is convenient to capture new surplus value through this way, or also, to disperse temporally the working class and difficult its organization when the sacrifice is deemed necessary. However this option is reverted after a time, the general process shows that the tendency of capital is towards concentration. This is witnessed by the uninterrupted growth of monopolies, the fact that an ever greater percentage of the working class works directly for them and its reflection on the uninterrupted growth of urban concentrations.

Moreover the working class is the class that is most ready, out of its own conditions, for organization. The work in the great enterprises accustoms the worker to the spirit of collectivism, to a sever discipline, to joint actions and to solidarity. For example Engels talks about this stringent discipline, with the adjective of military, in The situation of the Working Class in England, Lenin underlines in his Notebooks on Imperialism how the capitalist accustom the working class to an extraordinary precision in each movement. And all this before the vigilance and control that the new information and telecommunication technologies allow!

Of all the oppressed classes, the working class is the most capable of developing its consciousness and accepting a scientific ideology. The advance of industry has required of ever more educated workers. The handling of the valuable and complex machines in which production is sustained today requires a high degree of scientific preparation and a cultural level much higher than preceding stadiums of economic formations.

It is the sum of all this historic and economic conditions which turn the working class in the most militant and revolutionary class of society. These historic and economic conditions keep full force in our days.

Theories that question the role of the working class

Vladimir Ilich Lenin wrote in 1913 that “The main thing in Marx’s doctrine is to have placed in clear the universal historic role of the proletariat as creator of the socialist society”iii, it is not strange that many anticommunist theories, regardless of the fact that they may wrap up with partial aspects of Marxism, aim their critic to this very question.

Marxism-Leninism as the scientific theory of the working class has its three sources and its three constituting parts; vindicating only one of them is incomplete. In this way there are those, for example, that say that was is valid is the critic to capital, but deny the role of the working class, of revolution, of the proletarian dictatorship; in general it has been over a century since revisionism has tried to dissection it, but they are above all focused on denying the important question of political action, of the transforming practice, reducing Marxism to a “critical theory” under the founding that the working class, the proletariat lost force, that it did not manifest itself as a revolutionary force, that it integrated into the system.

In the decades of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s of the XX century, H. Marcuse, A. Gorz, and others alluded to the aging of Marxism and chanted a “goodbye to the proletariat”. As sociologist of bourgeois and petite bourgeois ideology they grouped their arguments contrasting them with the tendencies of the moment, that is, they did not realize their studies with a materialist conception of history, but with basis in partial aspects of reality.

A first aspect of their arguments consisted in that the working class in the countries of most developed capitalism, of the imperialist centers reached good levels of life and that in consequence its consciousness became conservative, defensive of status quo and without interest in revolutions, and that its vanguard role came to be occupied by the students, and the movements of African-Asian liberation.

It is convenient to say that at the end of Second World War the role of the USSR and of the communist –the building of a socialist field and the possibilities to advance in this direction in France and Italy- forced capitalism to the temporary measure of Welfare State with the purpose of restraining the rise of struggles of the working class and its communist parties. We do not deny the fact that in the countries located in the apex of the imperialist pyramid, but also in those intermediate countries, as a result from the exceeding surplus obtained from the exploitation of international labor the so called working class aristocracy is reinforced, which we fight, however it is a topic of very different nature to characterize the whole of the working class as adjourned to the system based in its exploitation.

Such positions showed its temporary character in first place because the welfare state in the capitalist restructuration gave way to the destruction of the conquests of the working class and in all countries without any exception the epicenter of anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggle is the struggle of the working class.

Another aspect was confronting the interests of the workers, with the theories of its division into white, blue and gray collars; that is the question of the categories in the world of labor, the specialization or what we call the division of labor. The specific role in production and even the wage differences under capitalism do not put in question the role of the working class as producer of surplus value. What is true is that the role of the Communist Party, the exterior agent that introduces consciousness to the class has a bigger responsibility in the ideological front to show to the worker, regardless of the positions he occupies in the productive process, his responsibilities in face of domination and surplus value extraction by the class of the bourgeoisie.

Changes in the world of labor

In the same sequence, and based in the science-technical revolution, the bourgeois and petite bourgeois ideologist value automatization and robotization of productive process as the numeric decrease of the working class and even as “the end of labor”. It is above all in the setting that follows the counterrevolution in the USSR and the socialist field that this theory is raised directly from the ideological centers of capital, through spokespersons like J. Rifkin, alluding for example that the service sectors did not form part of the working class and taking automatization in production to its utopist extreme and the extinction of proletariat, however as proved in The Capital, machines do not produce additional value, only the unpaid labor of the working class generates surplus value, which is in what the bourgeoisie sustain themselves for the existence of capitalism. It is important to precise that such position was diffused at the same time that the attacks on the necessity of the Party.

The changes observed in the world of labor have been argued for this same questioning. These changes include but are not limited to the so called tertiarization, outsourcing, off shoring, the return of piecework, etc. Each change in the organization of the world of labor, each new tendency always stirred up the same arguments of the like, already FordismTaylorismToyotismjust in time work, sweat shops, just to quote a few brought not only the strengthening of the centrality of the working class in the productive process, but also the ideological attack on part of the bourgeois thought.

Many of these observations are unilateral. For example delocalization effectively seems to leave a state of social desolation in certain regions, but this has its contrary process in a higher concentration, a higher industrial development in another region, more attractive for capital, which is in accordance to the cardinal law of maximum profit. For a local observer industry disappears, but when observed at a global scale the contrary takes place, there is an increase of the number of people working for a wage in any activity related with industry, although under new forms.

Regarding tertiarization and the relative decrease of the industrial working class in relation with other sectors and layers of the workers in general, it would be convenient in first place to revise the statistics. Bourgeois statistics categorize not fixed on scientific class criteria, it mixtures everything. What is most obvious is the insistence of bourgeois statistic offices to include, for example, telecommunications, transport, warehouse work and energy in the so called service sector.

In second place regarding services, it is convenient to remember the figure of the collective worker conceptualized by Marx in The Capital, since the advent of manufacture it suffices to participate in a fraction of the labor required to create commodities to take a place in the productive process. Many of the jobs included as services are provided to industries under the figure of subcontracting, for example the case of janitoring or cleaning, repairs, industrial canteens, etc. They cannot be included just like that under the area of “services” adding them artificially to labor realized in commerce, unproductive labor, etc.

Reminding the ILO statistics already mentioned, it doesn’t seem that growth in the service sector be done at expense of the industrial working class, growth in this sector in general obeys to the continuing destruction of classes bonded to the countryside, the destruction of small owners and the middle layers of society. This does not suppose a diminishing of the working class due to its smaller number in comparison to these workers, this supposes a proletarization and a rapprochement of these to the working class, a higher capacity to influence and mobilize.

These and other changes in the world of labor do not alter the role played by the working class. They do suppose, however, special problems and challenges for trade union organization and Party labor, etc.

The bottom of this matter is that as long as capital exists it cannot destroy the social force on which it depends to multiply itself. Surplus value cannot be generated nor captured without productive labor, without the working class. One thing is to do the correct assessment that the bourgeoisie develops productive forces to produce more with less workers and a completely different thing is to talk about the disappearing or loss of the role played by the working class in class struggle.

The so called “emerging subjects”

Although it is important to confront bourgeois and petite bourgeois theories we must not overlook certain theories that emerged in the framework of the counterrevolution, that had their peak in the decade of the 90’s, that were the sustain for alter-globalization and expression in the World Social Forum.

We are dealing with positions spurred in Europe by groups associated to social democracy and in Latin America by a post socialist left. An exit to the ideological crisis of the revolutionary forces is sought from a supposed left vision, with the following approaches: assuming the theses of the bourgeoisie over the substitution of the working class as historic subject they vindicate the so called emerging subjects: indigenous, women, ecologist, and sexual minorities. Evidently to adjust to such notions the political party of the working class, the vanguard organization is no longer needs and its place –according to them- is taken by the social movements, by horizontality, by NGO’s. In their logic struggle for the overthrowing of capitalism, for power is not only unnecessary, but also reprehensible. In common with other theories openly bourgeois they have two elements: denial of the role of the working class and attack against the class party, the Communist Party and other struggle instruments as trade unions and other class associative forms.

It is necessary to stop in an idea that reinforces ideological eclecticism and that allows that anti working class positions be nested. “Creative” intellectuals that calling themselves Marxists have accused Marxism of eurocentralism and put the accent on the so called specificities, above generalities.

They point out that the working class seen as a growing force by Marx was something specific of England at the end of the XIX century and that it is not applicable to Latin America, least in the XXI century. They over dimension poverty as a creating factor for subjective conditions, “povertism” is their flag.

They call for a mixture of Marxism with other political ideas and disqualify class party as an obsolete instrument. Deep under is a vision in which generality is subordinate to particularity, to specificity, to the “originality”; the case being the accent put on “Latin American specificity” that gives place to utopist, mystic proposals, that turn, for giving an example, the indigenous question and the struggle for natural resources into a matter of “magical thought”, of connection to ancestral forces.

Social movements, derivations and limits. Petite bourgeoisie takes the lead.

These theories that revise the role of the working class gathered strength with the triumph of counterrevolution in the Soviet Union and the socialist field. Counterrevolution, the loss of state-power by the working class, forced a general withdrawal of the working class in the whole world and in many cases to temporal disorganization or complete liquidation of its vanguard organizations. . It has to be said, however, that there were Communist Parties and sections of the working class which resisted and struggled, which created difficulties for an even greater advancement in the plans of large capital. For example, the WFTU and other anti-imperialist fronts regrouped thanks to the communist’s action

Following the general tendency of capitalism to centralization and concentration, monopolies passed to occupy with full force the new markets opened by the layers of petite bourgeoisie, specially the market of informatics technology, of self-service sales, certain sectors of agricultural production, of food preparation, etc. Naturally the petite bourgeoisie felt threatened, it politically radicalized itself and mobilized. Although from a social point of view it started a process of proletarization, ideologically it wrapped itself with the aforementioned positions

On the one hand we observe an increase in the anticommunist campaigns, the disorganization of large sections of workers, the liquidation of the vanguard parties, all of which creates difficulties for the positions of the working class. On the other hand we find the massive diffusing of the theoretical elaborations which promote confusion, a redoubling in the activism of the middle strata, etc., in short the strengthening of petite bourgeois positions. The result of the confluence of these factors led in many countries to the hegemony of petite bourgeoisie in the direction of social and popular movements in the immediate period after counterrevolution.

When abandoning scientific positions, the critic and attack against capitalism was dealt as a matter of will, for example, it was propose to transform it through changes in the sphere of consume or in the sphere of circulation. The scientific conception of class struggle was abandoned in favor a struggle against globalization, etc.

Petite bourgeoisie, at the lead of the popular movement, has no revolutionary objectives, it does not see in the economical situation that acts as a spring for its mobilization revolutionary possibilities, it rather pleads for a step back in history to a previous state of things.

True unhappy masses were rallied by these leaderships that failed, however, to link the economic and social aspects with the political aspect, with the question of power taking.

Petite bourgeoisie is a layer of population whose fortune, life and death, depend in many cases of their individual efforts, of a tiny aspect of the world that does not take them to consider social reality as a whole. In the organizing level the matter is not to conform powerful organizations that can overthrow their enemy, but of a movement with loose, weak and informal bonds among its members, big organizations are “monsters” that “choke personality”. In the discourse lever they are not ruled by orientations based on the movement laws of the social-economic capitalist formation, but on fashions such as alter-globalization, counter-globalization, post capitalism, the “indignant”, etc.

To this we have to add an overestimation of the technical aspects of political problems. The thesis of the 2.0 revolution, for example, that takes as decisive the technology used in the means of communication. What matters is not the organized nucleus that emits the messages, that decides the slogan, nor the class in which it seeks to influence, what determines the success of an action is the use per se of the mobile phone messages, twitterfacebook, etc. The tools turn to fetishes.

An evaluation of the success or failure of such politics was not done, the movement was everything. To set out anything that questioned this consensus received as an answer the isolation of the general movement.

It is not a surprise that the struggles led by the petite bourgeoisie during this period were scarce and of limited reach. . It is the actual put into practice and failure of the “emerging subjects” theories.

Even the most serious of the struggles of this period could not triumph without the concurrence of the decisive social force, the working class. Because of their lack of interest or capacity to organize and rally the working class, the most serious of the struggles of this period tried to violently destabilize the circulation of commodities, to impede the realization of capital cycle through converging maneuvers. Being attacked at various fronts, bourgeois State could always count on snatching back the initiative as long as its industrial army, the proletariat, continued to produce surplus value. It has been a common image to see in any part of the world the militarized police launching tear gasses to disperse the popular masses from the neuralgic centers of the communication and transport channels.

Petite bourgeoisie results a highly unsteady and volatile layer. Disappointed by a defeat it would retire to the field of fantasy or indifference. To the period of mobilization would follow a dramatic reflux.

When the masses attend to the calls of these activist they see themselves seized by spontaneism. Popular masses are immensely creative, and this creativity is not inhibited but rather propelled when given clear and precise orientations, which is precisely what this leadership does not do. A limitation is presented in the discourse as a virtue of the movement, of horizontality, etc.

Petite bourgeoisie as a leadership of the popular struggles in the period has failed, which does not mean that it does not persist, driven by the declining of its living conditions, trying to rally the peoples under its own flags. Monopolies could in the absolute majority of the cases realize it objectives.

The people of Mexico count with painful examples of these limits and these derivations. The continuance and put in practice of these positions have led to hundreds of groups and numerous organizations that vindicate themselves as revolutionaries to the worshiping of spontaneity. Hey do not trace as an objective the introduction of theory to the movement, they do not arise the question of organizing working class by production centers nor organizing from there the counteroffensive, etc. They cannot offer popular movements the alliance with the working class, the change of the correlation of forces for the overthrow, etc., in fact they can offer little more than cheerleading action. Example of how the Mexican State has crushed popular movement as dissociated from working class movement is the APPO (Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca).

If these positions subsist in our country it is because the alternative has been shown in a deficient manner. The Communist Party assumes its responsibility and doubles its insistence in the ideological front. There must be accompaniment of the movements that oppose capital, monopoly and imperialism, but there must not be ideological concessions. Only with strength in theory and persistence in working for the rise of the working class – Trade Union movement in Mexico can we offer a beneficial alliance for the people and a way out of the crisis that will point to the overthrow.

Fortunately we assist at the regrouping of the working class and its parties, process that however has to be looked after for its possible reversibility

Need for the Revolutionary Party of the working class, the Communist Party.

Summing up we could say that in the ideological front the sociological bourgeois theories about the end of the working class are associated to come up with the unavailability of the class party, that is to say the Communist Party.

In the class struggle, already in the ideological, political or economical terrain, the proletariat to constitute itself as a class requires of its general staff, of its vanguard that with the theory of Marxism-Leninism leads every step, every concrete action in the framework of a strategy for the overthrow of capitalism and that has clearness on the program of socialism-communism, which is only possible vindicating and extracting conclusions from the experience of socialist construction during the XX century.

The works of the classics of Marxism-Leninism show that because of its role in production workers are the revolutionary force capable of burying capitalism, given the condition that they constitute into class, that is to say they acquire consciousness. Lenin in What is to be done?” explains the forms of consciousness and bases this way the party of new type.In name of modernity the new reformist emerged from the ranks of the communist movement renounce totally to the characteristics of the Leninist theory of organization, and to the essence of the communist program which is the proletarian dictatorship.

Without democratic centralism the new type party is impossible, and against it are the critics focused.

The suggested substitute is the movement, without structure, amorphous, without strategic coherence, without discipline, without program, “up to date”, reviving Bernstein’s thesis.

The Communist Party is the party of the working class, the vanguard detachment that in the social-class conflict signals the way, that shows when it is necessary to pass on offensive, when to pass on defensive, that is one step ahead of the swerves in struggle equipped by the materialist conception of history, raising the necessary slogans for each concrete situation and without leaving the strategic framework which is rupture of the capitalist relations, overthrowing of the bourgeoisie, constructions of working class power and socialism-communism.

The Communist Party is capable of carrying out its objectives on the condition of ideological, programmatic and organic unity, struggle for internal cohesion and purging of anything that takes away its unity. The Communist Party, vanguard of the working class, must not lose sight of the fight against opportunism and for preserving, regardless of the situation, class criteria.


The Party and the anti-monopoly, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist alliance

The working class is the only revolutionary class to the end, however it is also true that imperialism drags large strata and sectors of society to the dynamic of the contradiction between capital and labor. “The increase of taxes, the commoditization of public services, the advance of imperialist aggressiveness, the policy of subsuming the countryside to monopoly, the political defense of the extraordinary surplus value rate of the monopolies, the inter-imperialist treaties and their consequences, the manifestations of capitalist barbarism, the accelerated degradation of the ecosystem, the cancelling of social and democratic conquest, etc., are matters that affect other layers of the people.”iv

We have consolidated from the beginning that other layers that come into conflict with the interest of big capital cannot overthrow it without the concurrence of the working class and that their leadership over the general struggle must be questioned. Likewise the proletariat could very unlikely triumph or even hold power if it were isolated from the rest of the workers and the popular strata, if it does not achieve the adhesion or neutrality of several layers, if it does not block the bourgeoisie’s attempt in mobilizing them. What we are trying to establish is that an objective basis for an alliance between these strata and the working class exist, an anti-monopoly, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist alliance.

Working over such base acquires more relevance in moments of crisis, when contradictions are sharpened, when the interest of each class is revealed and where the collisions of the class struggle allow a rapid political understanding.

However it is not feasible for spontaneity to form an alliance of this nature, it cannot be produced without preparation. It is an alliance to crush the power of a dominant class and to seize power for another one, for the working class. The revolutionary party of the working class is the only political formation that can forge such an alliance since it has both the capacity to analyze in each moment the dislocations and abrupt turns in the whole of class struggle and also the ability to translate this analysis into adequate orientations for the working class. Orientations that lead to show before the rest of the popular strata the convenience and necessity of its leadership, that rallies them towards an effective intervention in the people’s struggle in general. Whatever organizing form this alliance against capitalism adopts it can only be pushed to the very end, to overthrow, with the existence of a strong Communist Party.

Whoever wants to see soon the funeral of capitalism should recognize the urgent need to regroup the gravediggers, he must know that fighting for strengthening the Communist Party is the best guarantee for seeing such day to come.



*Diego Torres is  Member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Mexico, International Relations Secretary

i V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Soviet Edition, Tome XVIII, pg. 544

iiK. Marx, Capital, Tome 3, 5th Section, Chapter 27, Mexican Edition – Fondo de Cultura Económica.

iii Lenin, Vladimir Ilich; Historic vicissitudes in the doctrine of Karl Marx; in Selected Works in 12 Tomes, Tome V; Soviet Edition, 1976

iv Theses for the 4th Congress of the Communist Party of Mexico, 2.8 F), “Imperialism, Capitalist International Restructuring, the so called globalization, the crisis of the system”.