Draft Programme of the RCP, USA
Draft Programme Part 2
The Party Under
When the proletarian revolution is victorious, the position of the party in society undergoes a profound change and new contradictions, new—even more profound and more historic—struggles come to the fore.
The proletariat will now be in power. It will be facing the immense challenge of defending the socialist state, building a new and radically different economic, social, and political system, continuing the struggle to transform society, supporting and assisting revolutionary struggles throughout the world—and correctly handling the very real and often acute contradictions involved in all this.
Under these circumstances, the leadership of the party will certainly be no less important than it was in the process of preparing for and then successfully waging a people’s war to seize power. But, in the new socialist society, the party will occupy the strategic positions of leadership in the government, the armed forces, the economy, and society as a whole—at the head of the proletariat in power. And further, within the party itself, there is the contradiction between leadership and the led: between the party leadership and the party members as a whole.
The fundamental objective of advancing to communism means and requires the elimination of class distinctions and oppressive social divisions and, together with that, the end of any need for a specialized, institutionalized leadership in society.
Viewed in relation to that fundamental objective, the contradictions involved with the party’s necessary role as the leadership of the proletariat in socialist society stand out as very profound contradictions indeed. And these contradictions are, at the same time, an expression of the underlying contradictions faced by socialist societies as they emerge from the old society they have overthrown, in a world still dominated by imperialism. Not only is it the case that the remaining differences and inequalities, such as that between mental and manual labor, cannot be overcome all at once, or very quickly; but the socialist state also stands in fundamental antagonism to the imperialist and reactionary states that “encircle it.”
So neither the need for the party’s leadership in socialist society—nor the need to continue advancing toward the achievement of the conditions, worldwide, where such leadership will no longer be necessary—can be lost sight of, or underestimated, if the proletariat is to carry out its historic revolutionary mission.
The contradictions bound up with all this are, as mentioned, deeply rooted and pose complex problems and difficult challenges. But the essential means for resolving them lies in the all-around struggle to thoroughly revolutionize society through the socialist transition to communism—and, as a crucial part of that, to continually revolutionize the party itself.
This question—of revolutionizing the party—has proven historically to be critical for the proletariat. In both the Soviet Union and then China, socialism was reversed through the counter-revolutionary efforts of bourgeois cliques that grew up within the proletarian party, especially at its top levels. Society was turned back to capitalism, even though the labels still read “communist” for quite some time.
Lessons of the Cultural Revolution
Along with other Marxist-Leninist-Maoist forces throughout the world, our Party has devoted a great deal of attention to grappling with this problem. And we are continuing to seek out the deepest and most comprehensive lessons from the experience, both positive and negative, of the dictatorship of the proletariat in this regard. In particular, we have focused on the most advanced and concentrated experience of the international proletariat, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China.
The Cultural Revolution was a mass revolutionary upsurge led by Mao Tsetung. It was aimed at preventing capitalist restoration and at further revolutionizing socialist society and its key institutions, including the Communist Party itself. For a decade, from the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s, the Cultural Revolution not only succeeded in beating back attempts by top Party leaders to take China back down the capitalist road but also brought about breathtaking transformations in the fundamental relations in all spheres of society and in the thinking of tens of millions of people.
Yet, as Mao himself said, one Cultural Revolution could not solve the fundamental contradictions involved and could not prevent capitalist restoration once and for all. And shortly after Mao’s death in 1976, the “capitalist-roaders” in the Chinese Communist Party, led by Deng Xiaoping, finally succeeded in seizing power and restoring capitalism.
This overthrow of proletarian rule, coming after the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union in the mid-1950s, was a bitter and profound manifestation of a basic truth. The proletarian revolution is bound to proceed through twists and turns and even to encounter—and confront the necessity to rebound from— major setbacks along the way, both within particular countries and on a world level.
What are the most important lessons to be drawn from this experience and, more generally, the experience of socialist states so far, in terms of the struggle to prevent capitalist restoration and continue the advance toward communism worldwide?
To begin with, as Mao emphasized, while socialist society represents a great advance over capitalism and a radical change in class relations—with the proletariat rising to power and exercising dictatorship over the overthrown bourgeoisie and other exploiters and oppressors—socialism is not the end of the revolution but only the beginning of a whole new stage.
And socialism is not free of social contradictions. It is in fact driven forward by such contradictions, which find concentrated expression in the continuation, under the new conditions, of the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. More specifically, this finds expression as the struggle between the socialist road, leading to communism, and the capitalist road, leading back to the old society.
Further, while the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, and between the socialist and capitalist roads, goes on at all times, and in every sphere of society, there will be critical junctures when bourgeois headquarters which repeatedly arise within the party itself come into direct all-out conflict with the revolutionaries within the party and the masses more generally. At these crucial times, the entire direction of society is at stake, and the masses in their millions must struggle things out in an all-encompassing way.
The objective of the genuine communists in all this is not only to defeat a particular bourgeois headquarters and prevent the restoration of capitalism. Even more fundamentally, ever broader ranks of the masses—through both high tides of mass upsurge and the less intense but ongoing class struggle, through study and through practical experience—must gain the ability to distinguish genuine Marxism from sham Marxism and the socialist road from the capitalist road. In this way, the masses are strengthened in their role as masters of society—in their ability to rule and transform society toward the goal of communism.
And, as discussed earlier, a crucial aim of the continuing socialist revolution is to repeatedly revolutionize the party itself. This requires arousing the masses to expose and struggle against the party’s “negative side”—the bourgeois aspects and forces that remain, or newly arise, within the party—and to criticize and supervise the party and party leaders overall.
In socialist society, there is the ongoing and long-term task of narrowing the differences between leadership—and those who do “mental work” generally—and the masses. These differences must be restricted to the greatest degree possible at every stage of the revolution, so that they can be fully and finally overcome as the proletariat, not just in the particular country but worldwide, carries through the transition to communism.
In order to continually narrow these differences, it is necessary to “attack them from both sides.” There is the task, on the one hand, of involving the masses in the administration of society, in the affairs of state, in shaping and running education, culture, and all other spheres of society, and in mastering technical, scientific, and other fields. And on the other hand, there is the task of involving intellectual, technical and administrative personnel, political leaders, etc., in productive labor and scientific experiment—as well as in political and ideological struggle and the study of Marxism and criticism of bourgeois ideology—together with the masses.
There will be those who resist this and do so bitterly. While the class-conscious proletariat seeks its own elimination as a class—through the achievement of a classless communist society—there will be some in the party who oppose the struggle to narrow and eventually eliminate the differences that are left over from capitalism and provide soil for its restoration.
This is not only because such people hold positions of power and do not want that position weakened or undermined. More fundamentally, it is because the advance of the socialist revolution involves and requires an increasingly radical break with the social relations, and the ideology, that characterize capitalism and exploitative society generally; and because, at every new stage in the revolution, new contradictions and challenges get posed, often acutely, and some people get “stuck” in the old ways of doing things and of thinking.
The International Dimension
Along with these issues, there is the international dimension. One of the most important questions to which our Party has been devoting continuing attention is the way in which the international situation and revolutionary struggles throughout the world are interlinked with and significantly influence the situation and the class struggle within particular countries, including socialist countries. This has great bearing not only on the struggle to seize power but also on the class struggle within socialist society once power has been seized.
The pressure and aggression from imperialist and reactionary states, and the overall dominant position of imperialism in the world, create serious difficulties for the proletariat in power—and in particular provide more ground for capitalist roaders within the party. But so too, the advance of revolutionary struggles worldwide and the mobilization of the masses in the socialist country to support and assist such struggles provide vital strength—materially as well as politically and ideologically—for the masses and for those in leadership who are determined to continue the revolution on the socialist road.
Just as it is a hallmark of capitalist-roaders in socialist society—and of revisionist phony communists in general—to downplay or deny the importance of proletarian internationalism and to focus narrowly on the situation in “their own” country; so the importance of upholding and giving living expression to proletarian internationalism is a fundamental principle of genuine communists. Proletarian internationalism is a crucial part of strengthening the proletariat in its struggle to seize power, and to prevent capitalist restoration and continue the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat once power has been seized.
For all these reasons, it must be the profound orientation of the revolutionary proletariat that, having seized power, it will lead ever broader ranks of the masses to overcome, step by step, and leap after leap, those aspects of socialist society itself that represent the remaining elements of capitalism, and to fight together with the proletariat and masses in all countries to overcome the remaining domination of imperialism and relations of exploitation and oppression in the world as a whole.
The Vital Role of
It is in this way that the most favorable conditions will be created—and repeatedly forged out of difficulties—for continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat, deepening the revolutionization of society, and, as a crucial aspect of that, further revolutionizing the party itself.
It is by continuing the revolution that a profound contradiction can be correctly handled. This is the contradiction between the continuing need for and vital leading role of the vanguard party in socialist society, on the one hand, and the need, on the other hand, to continue bringing into being the conditions in which the masses themselves are ever more fully mastering and ruling society.
It is a basic truth that, in any society that is relatively large and complex, there will be a need for people to perform tasks of administration and coordination of the affairs of society. Ever since the emergence of class distinctions, exploitation, and a division of labor embodying social inequalities, these functions have been monopolized by a small handful and have represented and reinforced the rule of the few over the many.
Here again is the contradiction: It is out of these very social conditions that the need has arisen for an organized advanced detachment of the exploited class in capitalist society, a vanguard party of the proletariat, to enable the masses of exploited and oppressed people to become conscious of their fundamental interests and role in revolutionizing all of society, and to lead them in doing so. Yet ultimately this revolution aims to bring into being the conditions in which such a vanguard—and in general the monopolization of the administrative functions of society by a small, distinct group—is no longer necessary, or possible, and thus “withers away.”
All throughout the revolutionary process—even before the seizure of power and in a magnified way once power has been seized—the communist vanguard must consciously grasp this contradiction. The vanguard must work consistently toward its resolution as a key part of the advance toward a communist world without class distinctions and without division between leadership and led, between those who make decisions and those whose role is to carry them out.
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