|I bring greetings to this Seminar from the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist).
I would like to express our tremendous appreciation for the work done by the comrades of the PTB in holding this seminar, at great cost to themselves both in effort and financially. They are making an important contribution to promoting Marxist-Leninist understanding all over the world, but we do understand the sacrifices that they have to make in order to achieve this and would like to say we are truly grateful.
There are some people who think that as grateful guests we should not raise issues of a controversial nature, since that amounts, in their view, to a disruption of the higher level of unity that we are all anxious to achieve.
Such a view is quite wrong. We must not be frightened of differences. Through discussion and debate of these differences we set in motion a dialectical process which generally results in reaching a superior understanding.
Although on this occasion we think the General Resolution that has been approved could be improved, it does nevertheless represent a high level of unity, and we would like to congratulate all those who were involved in putting it together and in amending it in the light of discussion.
Experience does suggest that we need to learn that even sharp differences should never lead us to refuse to unite in the interests of uniting the working-class movement.
One typical tactic of opportunists is to claim that it is impossible to unite with anyone who expresses disagreement with them over anything. Our response to this must be clear: there can be no excuse for not uniting to fight the bourgeoisie together. If you demand unity over everything, this is impossible to achieve, and it means therefore that you do not take seriously the fight against the bourgeoisie.
Our task today is to arm the workers ideologically. We, the communists, will never make a revolution by ourselves. It is the masses who make history, not us. Our job is to prepare the masses for that day and to provide the general staff that will guide the revolutionary masses to victory.
Ideological preparation is the key to this. When the day comes for handing out actual firearms, we don’t want these to be turned by workers against fellow workers who happen, for example, to be immigrants, and we certainly don’t want them to be turned against us!
If we haven’t sorted out wrong ideas, this will be a real danger. It follows that, by then, if we want the revolution to be successful, we must have succeeded in freeing the working masses from a great deal of the slave mentality and wrong ideas that the bourgeoisie spreads among them with a view to preserving bourgeois class rule.
The truths of Marxism Leninism, however, do not easily displace wrong ideas that have been accepted as true for generations and continue to be accepted as true by most people. Marxist-Leninist truths are easier for the working class to accept, than, say, for the petty bourgeoisie, because they accord with the reality of its experience as a class, but still, as Lenin pointed out, habit is a terrible force – a force that we communists have to work very hard, very patiently, and in a very determined manner to overcome.
But while we are doing so, we are not left alone to educate the masses in the manner of teachers in a classroom. The bourgeoisie has its agents everywhere trying to frustrate every step that we take.
We go everywhere that the working class is to be found, but invariably find agents of the bourgeoisie there too, striving to mobilise people’s backwardness to prevent us from bringing Marxism Leninism to the working class; to prevent us from arming the working class ideologically.
How is the bourgeoisie able to mobilise within the working-class organisations such as trade unions? The answer is that it mobilises among the labour aristocracy – a section of the working class which enjoys petty-bourgeois conditions of existence thanks to imperialist superprofits.
This is the only way it can be understood why clever people with impeccably working-class credentials (whose families have worn steel hats for generations) would fight on behalf of the bourgeoisie to ban communists or manoeuvre to make it difficult for us to speak out within working-class organisations.
It does not follow that every labour aristocrat necessarily betrays the working class, any more than every petty-bourgeois intellectual sides with the bourgeoisie rather than the working class, but the existence of that privileged layer does give the bourgeoisie access to working-class organisations in a way that would otherwise be impossible.
We cannot do our job in the working-class organisations unless, in one way or another, we confront these people. Nevertheless two points need to be noted:
1. By confronting them, I do not mean acting as parrots that have been taught to speak Marxist-Leninist truths. We do not fulfil our revolutionary duty by making Marxism Leninism sound ridiculous.
However, as and when the opportunists try to commit treachery, we must be ready to confront them, to prevent them undermining the interests of the working class and to ensure that workers do not fall into cynicism and apathy because of betrayal by their leaders.
2. Of course, the labour aristocracy, like the petty bourgeoisie, has its own contradictions with capitalism, and, if we can help sharpen these, we should always do so – but never at the expense of our main duty of arming the working class ideologically.
Nor should we expect to win the labour aristocracy as a whole over to our side, thinking that our imperialist bourgeoisie is in such trouble that it is no longer able to bribe them. Imperialism is still able to offer this limited stratum quite a bit in the shape of short-term benefits. The banks and the multinationals are still raking in superprofits. We must not deceive ourselves into believing that the labour aristocracy is extinct.
I have been very much educated this weekend about the differences that exist between the state of trade unionism in Britain, on the one hand, and in Belgium and other European countries on the other.
The class struggle goes on in all countries, within all unions. The labour aristocracy, however, does its work in different ways. In the UK, you do not get expelled from your union because of your political affiliations, but of course the labour-aristocratic bureaucracy that controls most unions will not easily allow communists to take any union position or publish articles in trade-union journals.
In Belgium, in the past, members of the PTB have been actually barred from membership of some unions. Of course, this would make work in unions much more difficult, but ways of doing it must nevertheless be found.
If nothing else, the victory of the People’s War in Nepal has shown us that communists must be flexible if they are to succeed; that flexibility in tactics is essential and not an indication of any kind of surrender.
But precisely in order to be flexible, we must be very clear about the class forces that we are having to confront. As a result, it is concerning to hear that there are people at this seminar who are not sure that the labour aristocracy still exists or, if it does, they think it might have turned against capitalism.
If this is indeed the case for any party here which operates in an imperialist country, then an urgent revision of Lenin’s works on the subject, for instance Imperialism and the Split in Socialism, together with careful analysis of one’s own experiences in working-class struggles, must be undertaken as a matter of first priority to help our communist workers manoeuvre successfully in the extremely difficult and complicated struggles that they must undertake.
Equally, to admit that the number of industrial workers in western imperialist countries has declined significantly as a result of the export of capital, the export of industrial production to the third world, and to the imposition on our countries of a shameful parasitism is not to say that the working class no longer exists in imperialist countries.
On the contrary, those who cannot survive without selling their labour power are an increasing, not a decreasing, proportion of the populations here. The industrial working class, deprived of the industries that gave their lives meaning and held their communities together, are literally desperate to regain what they have lost, which they are unlikely to be able to do (without emigrating) unless they first establish socialism.
Communists need to find ways of reaching out to these people, even though they are no longer in unions. We won’t be able to do that if we close our eyes to the reality and just abandon these people to be picked up by the fascists, who are very anxious to recruit them.
We must also work to integrate the new elements of the working class – the immigrants, legal and illegal, the asylum seekers, and so on, who are working often under the most appalling conditions – but I do not think I need to convince anybody here on that question.
Thank you all once again. It has been an excellent seminar with a very high standard of contributions. Belgian hospitality has been outstanding, as ever.
Next time we meet, the credit crunch will have advanced like a tsunami, playing havoc with the lives of workers everywhere, including here in Europe. Conditions in the third world will have become even more terrible than they are today.
I know that the next seminar too will provide a valuable opportunity for us to share our experiences and our thoughts as the class struggle intensifies.
Hasta la victoria siempre
Long live the unity of the international working class
Long live Marxism Leninism