Letter to the Editor - Internationalism
To the editor of Red and Black Notes, Toronto:
On February 26, 2005 the meeting in Toronto on class
consciousness and the role of the revolutionary organization
could not be developed in depth because the discussion got cut short
due to time limitation. We would like to take this opportunity to
explore further the topic of the meeting.
There were two presentations, one by NF, editor of Red and Black
Notes, and the other by the IBRP [Internationalist workers' Group
- North American Sympathizing section of the International Bureau for
the revolutionary Party]. The first posed a point of departure
for the discussion, laying out the materialist basis of class
consciousness and raising the question of the role of the
revolutionary organization in the process of coming to consciousness.
The other presentation by the IBRP, on the other hand, was rambling,
suffered from immediatist enthusiasm about the class struggle, filled
as it was with anecdotes about recent struggles in Quebec, but did
not lay out the position of the IBRP on class consciousness and the
revolutionary organization. In this sense, it did not contribute to
We think that the discussion posed by Red and Black contains
elements that can advance the understanding of the topic. First, we
salute the clarification contributed by the first part of the
presentation as to the working class being the revolutionary subject.
Our understanding of class consciousness cannot advance if we don't
first identify the class in society who bears a revolutionary
consciousness. Red and Black used the materialist approach to
effectively explain and demonstrate that it is the conditions of
exploitation and oppression experienced by the working class that
provide the fertile soil for its revolutionary consciousness to
The presentation then ran into difficulty in trying to connect the
development of class consciousness and the role of the revolutionary
organization. The presentation said that revolutionaries could
"assist" in this process, but it could not clarify what this meant.
This reflects the difficulty the comrade is having in clarifying his
position as he moves away from councilism, which minimizes and even
denigrates the importance of the revolutionary organization in the
revolutionary project. It reflects a difficulty perhaps to understand
the relationship between revolutionary minorities and the class.
Unlike the Trotskyist [from the International Bolshevik
Tendency] who intervened in the discussion to insist that it is
essentially revolutionaries who were petty bourgeois and bourgeois
intellectuals who bring revolutionary ideas from outside the
proletariat and inject them into the working class, we do not make a
separation between revolutionary minorities and the working class.
Marx himself, whom the Trotskyist might view as an 'intellectual',
was always clear that his understanding derived from the living
struggles of the class.
Revolutionaries and revolutionary organizations are not separate
from the class, but are secretions of the class, as it struggles to
understand reality in order to change it.
Revolutionaries are the workers who come to understand the
necessity for the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism earlier than
their class brothers. It is in this sense that we say they are the
vanguard of the proletariat - they are in the forefront of the
struggle to understand, to come to consciousness.
For us the vanguard is not the general staff of the revolution
that orders the workers around. It is the most class conscious
workers whom the class itself secretes, and who fulfill the task for
which they are secreted: to spread their understanding to their class
brothers and sisters, to accelerate the process of coming to
consciousness within the class, and to deepen, clarify, and elaborate
the theoretical arsenal of the working class.
It is this dialectic process between the class and the
revolutionaries that councilism does not understand and that
Trotskyism taints. This basic interconnectedness between class
consciousness and organizations means that a proletariat that has not
given rise to a strong revolutionary organization is not prepared for
the revolutionary confrontation with capitalism. It means that there
is a weakness in the development of revolutionary class consciousness
within the class. A class that is struggling to come to consciousness
gives rise to revolutionary minorities and organizations.
These are the tools, the means the class gives itself to assure
the acceleration, deepening, and extension of consciousness within
New York, April 2005
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