Fundamental Positions of the Workers’ Group
Because the Workers’ Group is new, and has set itself the task of developing and deepening communist theory, we do not feel it would be right or proper to approach our class and movement with a set of finished, final political principles — to say nothing about a full program. However, we do recognize the need for fundamental positions that can serve both as a basis for political unity of the Group and as a starting point for its theoretical work.
The following positions represent the beginning, based on the lessons of history and theoretical work that has been already accomplished. Over time, these positions are likely to develop, evolve and possibly even change, based on our work and discussion among others in the proletarian communist camp. In due course, they may develop into a series of finished principles and program that can fully stand up to the tests of history and the class struggle (until such a time as a new period opens that demands new development). Until then, the Workers’ Group stands on these political positions:
- Capitalism, as a social system, cannot be reformed in any meaningful way to benefit the exploited and oppressed, and no part of the system itself can be “captured” and wielded by the proletariat for its own ends. Capitalism came into existence through both the forcible exclusion of the working masses from ownership of the means of production and distribution, and the accumulation and concentration of those means into the hands of a small class of owners, the bourgeoisie. The maintenance of this system is accomplished through both the exploitation of the proletariat and the development of state institutions designed to protect and defend the exploiting classes — the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie — and their respective class interests. Like all previous social systems, capitalism has its own epochs of growth (ascendancy), maturity and decay (decline). While in its growth and maturity, reforms could be accomplished that benefited workers, as capitalism could afford such bribes; in capitalism’s decline, the ability to provide such payouts to sections of the working class as a means to stave off revolution have become far too expensive. The result is a greater reliance on the state and its mercenary bands to keep the proletariat repressed and at bey.
- The proletariat is the only really revolutionary class, in all countries throughout the world, and cannot rely on or entrust any other class, section of or even individual from another class to accomplish its historic tasks. The development of capitalism simplified the system of social (class) relations, consolidating the majority of population into two main classes: the bourgeoisie, who own almost all of the means of production and directly profit from the commodities they produce and sell, and the proletariat, who own nothing but their ability to work (their labor-power) and are forced to sell that as a commodity in exchange for the means of survival and creation of the next generation of proletarians. Positioned between the two is the petty bourgeoisie, originally a pre-capitalist formation of artisans, peasants and craftsmen, but transformed by capitalism’s growth into a class of managers, bureaucrats, cops, small business owners, independent professionals, judicial parasites, and so on. Even individuals from these classes cannot break from their social consciousness without a definitive and irreversible break from their social being, which is a years-long process.
- Capitalism can only be defeated and overthrown by the working class, organized into its own independent party and organs of rule, and guided by a program that has as its central task the seizure of power and formation of a workers’ republic, based on the rule of workers’ councils, committees and assemblies. Since the beginning of the 20th century, we have been in the epoch of decay and decline, known as imperialism. Imperialism is not a mere set of policies or category of nation-states within capitalism; it is an epoch where the countries and peoples of the entire world are interconnected and interdependent through world production and the world market, where the accumulation and expansion of capital are only really possible through war, and where exit from this world order is only possible through workers’ revolution and the overthrow of the exploiting classes. Unlike previous social systems, where all classes were drawn together against the old order and, in their actions, unconsciously reflected the program of the new ruling classes, the overthrow of capitalism by the proletariat is a conscious act that requires a high level of organization and awareness of the tasks that lie ahead.
- All wars launched by capitalism are imperialist adventures — wars between different factions or cartels of the exploiting classes to retain or to advance their positions within world capitalism. Our chief task under such conditions is to aid in the organizing of the defeat of “our own” bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie. Because imperialism is not a policy, but capitalism itself in decline, all wars of conquest, “national dignity” or other such ideologies of the exploiting classes are imperialist wars. This is true even after one or another Great Power intervenes in the conflict. At all times, communists carry on their internationalist responsibility by organizing for mass working-class action to stop “our own” exploiting classes’ ability to make war, thus precipitating its defeat (even if that results in a victory for the other side). This is different from advocating military victory or defense, in that doing so also constitutes a de facto responsibility for their chosen side’s actions, whether such advocates like it or not.
- In the epoch of imperialist decline and decay, when the petty bourgeoisie has been allowed to carry the construction of the capitalist state and system to its logical conclusions, all classes outside the proletariat stand as a single reactionary mass. Capitalism’s entry into the epoch of decay and decline, the epoch of imperialism, began a series of qualitative transformations in all areas of society. The most sweeping of these transformations was in the relationship among classes, especially the role of the petty bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie transformed them from an unstable, politically heterogeneous semi-class into a relatively stable and ideologically consistent class, based on their growing need for a layer of administrators, organizers and protectors as production grew in scope and scale. In exchange for agreeing to be a partner of the bourgeoisie at the head of production (an arrangement that allowed the bourgeoisie to retreat further from direct interaction with the proletariat and society), the petty bourgeoisie was allowed to carry the construction of the capitalist state and society to its logical conclusions, most notably through the introduction of both state-capitalist and welfare-state measures. It took time for the transformation to take place in all countries of the world, but by the latter part of the 20th century, this process had been completed.
- Alliances, coalitions and “united fronts” with the trade (business) union officials, the leaders of so-called “workers’ parties” and the “Left” — i.e., the left wing of capitalism — are unacceptable, as it would mean the subordination of the practical communist program to that of petty-bourgeois populism. The new social partnership between the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie is not an amicable one, but rather a marriage of convenience. Indeed, a result of the stabilization of the petty bourgeoisie was an intensification of its fear and hatred of both the bourgeoisie and the proletariat — the difference being that, as a stabilized class, it was no longer intellectually subordinate, and could bring its views and experiences together to coalesce into relatively independent ideological underpinnings within broader bourgeois ideology, as it could in the 19th century, but on a higher level. The ongoing antagonisms between the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie operate according to the rules of the class struggle — sometimes open, sometimes hidden, but always present. In their conflicts, the exploiting classes will often use the working class as a cudgel, battering ram or even a Trojan horse to defeat their opponent. This is accomplished through the ideology of populism. Bourgeois populism rallies the working class against technocracy, bureaucracy and the “burden” of taxation, while petty-bourgeois populism takes aim at aristocratic tendencies, “unfair” economic policies and social inequality. The latter will even use vague socialist phraseology as a mask to deceive workers into supporting their struggle. It is all designed to serve the needs of one or another of the exploiting classes, and to keep the proletariat from developing independently and using their social power to fulfill their own class interests.
- The old organizations of the proletariat, such as trade unions, “labor parties” and the like, which are led and controlled by the petty bourgeoisie, are a part of the capitalist order and represent a fifth column in the broader working-class movement. Communists are not and must not allow themselves to be seen as a part of the “Left” by the proletariat, lest it be discredited in their eyes. The transformation of social relations in the epoch of decay and the elevation of the petty bourgeoisie to a partner in reactionary capitalist rule has had severe consequences on the material conditions upon which much of the old socialist and communist programs rested. One of the key roles the petty bourgeoisie fills is that of ideological gatekeeper and policeman for the bourgeoisie. This is seen clearly through their actions in both the trade (business) unions and the ostensible political organizations of the class. Unions, which were once the first line of defense for the proletariat in its economic struggle, became integrated into the capitalist order and reorganized into a de facto police force among workers, crushing those tendencies of independent working-class activity it cannot contain, co-opt or divert. The mass social-democratic and labor parties that once represented (albeit in a distorted way) the interests of the working class on the political battlefield are now sheepdogs meant to corral the proletariat within the capitalist electoral system. The same can be said about the self-described socialist, communist and Marxist organizations of the “Left” that allow bourgeois and petty-bourgeois elements as members and leaders; they, too, have been integrated into the capitalist order and exist to manage and tamp down the independent and revolutionary aspirations of the proletariat. Indeed, virtually every movement initiated by these organizations that compose the left wing of capital acts as a shackle on the ankle of workers.
- The petty bourgeoisie, through its control of the institutions of the old organizations of the proletariat, is the primary and immediate transmission belt of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideology into the working class. It is through the petty bourgeoisie, by virtue of the position that sections of that class hold in ostensible “workers’ organizations” and “community advocacy groups,” as well as through the media, organized religion, the political system, etc., that much of the ideology of the exploiting classes is transmitted into the proletariat. Through ideological tools like patriotism and “American exceptionalism,” for example, the petty bourgeoisie swindles the working class (or, at least, sections of it) into supporting the exploiting classes’ “democracy” and participating in their elections on their terms and at the expense of any other form of political activity. Moreover, the petty bourgeoisie uses the ugliness of capitalist political intrigue to reinforce the view that only “professional” — i.e., petty-bourgeois — politicians and businessmen should run for and hold political office. Similar arguments are made in every facet of society, from politics, law and health to business, science, academia and culture. This means workers subordinating their own class interests to those of the “professionals” and abdicating their own independence and education by promoting illusions that such subordination places the exploited on an equal footing with their exploiters.
- The path forward for the proletariat, and for its communist party, is created through its own self-organization and action, in all areas of society, with the goal of an all-encompassing revolutionary workers’ movement that can carry out a workers’ communist revolution. The running thread through all of the above experiences and lessons is that a core reactionary ideological component the exploiting classes seek to reproduce in the working class is a comprehensive lack of confidence in its ability to be an independent subject and actor in society. We see this in the justifications used for the maintenance of bureaucracy, the codification of class-based divisions of labor, reliance on and deference to “professionals” and “experts,” dependence on the state and government, the promoting of bribes meant to stop independent workers’ action as “reforms,” “social gains” and “progress,” and so on. It also takes on special forms among more radical left-wing elements, such as terrorism, guerrillaism, conspiracy and reliance on coalitions and various types of “fronts” that encompass the petty bourgeoisie and even the bourgeoisie, including “anti-imperialist,” “anti-fascist” and other “united” formations. Communists reject and advocate against any subordination of the interests of the working class in the name of “unity” across class lines — whether it is for leading a single event, sharing membership in a common organization or anything in between. We reject attempts at “labor unity” under the direction of the unions, which are led by petty-bourgeois bureaucrats and officials, and instead advocate for the organization of workers’ assemblies, committees and councils with elected and recallable delegates. This means discarding the organizations of the left wing of capital and seeing them as the fifth column in the working class that they are. It means repudiating the illusion of bourgeois elections, the fig leaf of “democracy,” which is the brutal dictatorship of the exploiting classes. It means fighting against bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideology, and working for the greatest possible revolutionary unity of the proletariat. It means relying on the historic mission and revolutionary character of the proletariat, its collective social power, and its ability to directly confront and defeat the exploiting classes in the battle for the future of all humanity.
- The former USSR and Eastern European “people’s democracies” were not, and China, Cuba, North Korea, etc., are not, “socialist” or “communist,” nor were or are they “workers’ states” of one type or another. Rather, they were or are bureaucratic petty-bourgeois regimes sitting atop state-capitalist economies. The 1917 October Revolution in Russia began as a genuine attempt by the proletariat and poor peasantry to break from the world capitalist order and begin on the path toward communism. Its initial success was accompanied by a revolutionary wave that crisscrossed the globe for the next six years. However, a combination of theoretical errors by the Bolsheviks, unprincipled “compromises” made during the Civil War and the effects of failed revolutions, particularly in Germany, unraveled and overthrew proletarian power in the name of protecting the “proletarian dictatorship.” By the end of 1920, all of the elements essential for the transition from capitalism to communism were abolished and suppressed; by the summer of 1921, the Bolshevik Party itself was turned into an instrument of repression against the working class. What remained was a counterrevolutionary petty-bourgeois bureaucratic state presiding over a state-capitalist economy. When the so-called “people’s democracies” and “people’s republics” were established after the Second World War, it was this final product they duplicated. Since the collapse of the USSR and the “people’s democracies,” the few remaining such states have sought to further re-integrate themselves into the world capitalist order, with one, China, becoming the newest Great Power.
- The battle against superoppression and superexploitation is an integral task of the class struggle that must be organized and fought by communists and the revolutionary workers’ political movement as a whole. The bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie use ideological tools like nationalism, national chauvinism, revanchism, anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, homophobia/heterosexism, transphobia/cisgenderism, ageism, ableism, etc., to divide, manipulate and confuse the proletariat enough to prevent a fighting unity against such ideology — to say nothing of capitalism itself — on any mass scale. It is the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideology. It is used as much on a global scale as it is against local communities of workers, and it is used by the exploiting classes of both the oppressors and the oppressed to maintain their social positions at the expense of the exploited and oppressed. Communists oppose all tendencies that seek to prevent, shatter or suppress the unity of the proletariat with any part of this reactionary tool, regardless of whether it is used by the exploiters from the oppressor or the oppressed. We consider the fight for unity against the use of this powerful ideological weapon a central part of the workers’ class struggle. Special attention must be given to the use of nationalism and national chauvinism by the exploiters from the oppressed communities, especially through calls for “community control” or “self-determination,” which, in addition to being counterposed to the demands of superoppressed workers (and supported by their class brethren of the Left), are little more than cynical maneuvers meant to renegotiate their share of the superexploitation pie to their benefit.
- Immigration brings the proletarians of all countries closer together, allowing for a greater fighting unity against all attempts to superexploit foreign-born workers and pit them against their fellow, “native” workers. The epoch of imperialism, capitalism in its decline and decay, with its system of world production and the world market, has only reaffirmed the view that the proletariat has no “homeland” or country it can truly call its own. Immigration is a natural byproduct of the concentration and mobility of capital and world production, the inequality of conditions of life within and between countries, and the horrors of war that fuel capitalist society’s growth. As a result, working-class immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, through their interactions with “native” workers, enrich the experience of all of the proletariat, add to its collective knowledge of the class struggle and raise its consciousness about what is happening in the world around them — all three things the exploiting classes want to prevent. So, they take a dual approach: on the one hand, isolating and marginalizing immigrant workers in their jobs and communities as much as possible; on the other hand, using a strict immigration control regime to make sure there are just enough foreign-born workers to continue production at needed levels. Communists oppose capitalism’s restrictions on immigration, just as we oppose the exploiting classes’ arbitrary restrictions on and sabotage of production in the name of “profitability” and “staying competitive.” Further, we believe that only through united working-class action, involving both foreign-born and “native” workers, and crossing international borders, can our class stop the efforts of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie to superexploit immigrant workers and drive down the conditions of life of all proletarians.
- The emancipation of the proletariat must and can only be conquered by the workers themselves, through their own conscious, international and internationalist movement, not through a self-seeking party hungry for power and “leading” workers like cattle to the slaughter. It is our overarching task as communists to establish the subjective conditions where a worldwide proletarian revolution can take place. This starts with the revival of the global proletarian communist movement. Such work requires: first, ongoing theoretical and programmatic clarification of historic and current material conditions, as well as the development of the international working-class movement, past and present, and of its methods and goals; second, organized political intervention at all levels, especially the international level, to help build independent workers’ action and grow the movement, based on clear principles and a program derived from the work of the first point; third, unity of genuine proletarian communists to found an international proletarian communist party with well-organized sections composed of proletarians in every country. This party would be a part of the most forward-looking and organized elements of the working class, i.e., its vanguard. The proletarian communist party does not have for itself the goals of “organizing” (read: managing) the proletariat or taking power as the party, but rather it has the goal of providing a political leadership that the working class can take and make their own, and march forward. Any self-described “socialist,” “Marxist” or “communist” who would seek to lead like a Moses into a “revolutionary future” can just as easily (and deceptively) lead those same workers out of it.
- Communist theory and philosophy — the methodology of Marxism — is not a finished “science,” but a means of analyzing and understanding the many changes that take place in this world, including those not seen in the days of Marx or Engels, and it is our responsibility to take up this work and move forward. Communist theory is not holy writ to be held up by learned academics and reified “theoreticians” as the next Word of God, but rather it is the means by which all proletarians can understand the world around them and develop answers to the questions that vex us as a class. It is meant to be honestly debated, rooted in real-world experience and carried out with an eye toward moving forward toward our own self-liberation. For the communists of the Workers’ Group, part of our central activity will be engaging in discussion and exploration of those parts of the methodology of Marxism that have to be approached anew or were inadequately approached in the past. This includes greater in-depth discussion about the changes in class relations in the epoch of imperialism, but also other historical questions, such as the role of bureaucracy and institutions in the period of the transition from capitalism to communism, and the broader economic question of the crisis of accumulation in the decline and decay of capitalism on a global-historic scale.