By James Thompson
Here are two quotes from two leaders of our movement, Gus Hall and Joseph Stalin, which, although dated, may provide some insight into the current status of the class struggle. Of course, as a reminder, the class struggle refers to the struggle of the interests of the working class against the interests of capital. Marx teaches us that the interests of the working class and capital are irreconcilable. Let’s start with a quote from Joseph Stalin which appears in Volume 12 of his Collected Works starting on page 17 of The right deviation in the CPSU(B):
“It would be ridiculous to think that the stabilization of capitalism has remained unchanged. Still more ridiculous would it be to assert that the stabilization is gaining in strength, that it is becoming secure. As a matter of fact, capitalist stabilization is being undermined and shaken month by month and day by day. The intensification of the struggle for foreign markets and raw materials, the growth of armaments, the growing antagonism between America and Britain, the gross of socialism in the USSR, the swing to the Left of the working class in the capitalist countries, the wave of strikes and class conflicts in the European countries, the growing revolutionary movement in the colonies, including India, the growth of communism in all countries of the world-all these are facts which indicate beyond a doubt that the elements of a new revolutionary upsurge are accumulating in the capitalist countries.
Hence the task of intensifying the fight against Social-Democracy, and, above all, against its “Left” wing, as being the social buttress of capitalism.
Hence the task of intensifying the fight in the Communist Parties against the Right elements, as being the agents of Social-Democratic influence.
Hence the task of intensifying the fight against conciliation towards the Right deviation, as being the refuge of opportunism in the Communist Parties.
Hence the slogan of purging the Communist Parties of Social-Democratic traditions.
Hence the so-called new tactics of communism in trade unions.
Some comrades do not understand the significance and importance of these slogans. But a Marxist will always understand that, unless these slogans are put into effect, the preparation of the proletarian masses for new class battles is unthinkable, victory over Social-Democracy is unthinkable, and the selection of real leaders of the Communist movement, capable of leading the working class into the fight against capitalism, is impossible.
Such, comrades, are the class changes in our country and in the capitalist countries, on the basis of which the present slogans of our party both in its internal policy and in relation to the Comintern have arisen.
Our Party sees these class changes. It understands the significance of the new tasks and it mobilizes forces for their fulfillment. That is why it is facing events fully armed. That is why it does not fear the difficulties confronting it, for it is prepared to overcome them.
The misfortune of Bukharin’s group is that it does not see these class changes and does not understand the new tasks of the party. And it is precisely because it does not understand them that it is in a state of complete bewilderment, is ready to flee from difficulties, to retreat in the face of difficulties, to surrender the positions.
Have you ever seen fishermen when a storm is brewing on a big river-such as the Yenisei? I have seen them many a time. In the face of a storm one group of fishermen will muster all their forces, encourage their fellows and boldly guide the boat to meet the storm: “Cheer up, lads, keep a tight hold of the tiller, cut the waves, we’ll win through!”
But there is another type of fishermen-those who, on sensing a storm, lose heart, began to snivel and demoralize their own ranks: “It’s terrible, a storm is brewing: lie down, lads, in the bottom of the boat, shut your eyes, let’s hope she’ll make the shore somehow.” (General laughter.)
Does it still need proof that the line and conduct of Bukharin’s group exactly resembles the line and conduct of the second group of fishermen, who retreat in panic in the face of difficulties?
We say that in Europe the conditions are maturing for a new revolutionary upsurge, that this circumstance dictates to us new tasks along the line of intensifying the fight against the Right deviation in the Communist Parties and of driving the Right deviators out of the Party, of intensifying the fight against conciliation, which screens the Right deviation, of intensifying the fight against Social-Democratic traditions in the Communist Parties, etc., etc. But Bukharin answers us that all this is nonsense, that no such new tasks confront us, that the whole fact of the matter is that the majority in the Central Committee wants to “haul” him, i.e., Bukharin, “over the coals.”
We say that the class changes in our country dictate to us new tasks which call for a systematic reduction of costs of production and improvement of labor discipline and industry, that these tasks cannot be carried out without radical change in the practices of work of the trade unions. But Tomsky answers us that all this is nonsense, that no such new tasks confront us, that the whole fact of the matter is that the majority in the Central Committee wants to “haul” him, i.e., Tomsky, “over the coals.”
We say that the reconstruction of the national economy dictates to us new tasks along the line of intensifying the fight against bureaucracy in the Soviet and economic apparatus, of purging this apparatus of rotten and alien elements, wreckers, etc., etc. But Rykov answers us that all this is nonsense, that no such new tasks confront us, that the whole fact of the matter is that the majority in the Central Committee wants to “haul” him, i.e., Rykov, “over the coals.”
Now, is this not ridiculous, comrades? Is it not obvious that Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky see nothing but their own navels?
The misfortune of Bukharin’s group is that it does not see the new class changes and does not understand the new tasks of the Party. And it is precisely because it does not understand them that it is compelled to drag in the wake of events and to yield to difficulties.
There you have the root of our disagreements.”
Next we have a selection from Working Class USA by Gus Hall (p. 166) “The Old and the New” (1985):
“When dealing with different sectors of the people we must always keep in mind that they are constantly in motion, in the process of change. They move with and create new political currents. They change in an ongoing ideological process.
As a result they respond differently to events today than they did a year or five years ago. Their priorities change. When we do not take these changes into consideration, we tend to tail movements and struggles and to misjudge the thinking and mood of the masses. We become tactically stagnant. We cease to give vanguard leadership. Therefore it is necessary constantly to update our assessments and refresh our tactics.
It is always important to be alert to what is new and growing. There are situations in which the new should still be dealt with in the framework of the old. But it is most important, from a tactical viewpoint, to be able to recognize when there is a qualitative change in the relationship between the new and the old, a point when it is necessary to see the new as the dominant factor. Then the new must be seen as the framework in which we must deal with the old.
One of the new and growing factors in this period is the overlapping of issues and struggles. The objective developments bringing this about are the three layers of economic crisis: the cyclical, structural and general crises of capitalism.
This is especially true of the effects of the structural crisis. When the plant shuts down it affects all workers, all families, all communities, all small business people.”
It is important to consider these words from the old and apply them to the conditions we face in the new.
Please feel free to comment on these selections, particularly with respect to how they apply to the current state of the international class struggle.