Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Wh   —

A military school founded in May 1924 by
Sun Yat-sen at the suggestion of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of China. Sun appointed Chiang Kai-shek as president of the Academy, and Zhou Enlai [Chou En-lai] as director of the Academy’s political department. Unlike most military schools, Whampoa is said to have attached equal importance to military training and political education; however, much of this political education was of a nationalist patriotic flavor. Several Soviet Red Army officers, including General Vasily Blucher [“Galen”], were invited to serve as military advisors at the school and to the KMT as a whole. A large number of members of the CCP and its Youth League studied at this Academy.
        See also: BLUE SHIRTS

“[This] was a military school founded in 1924 by Dr. Sun Yat-sen with the help of the Chinese Communist Party and the Soviet Union after he had organized the Kuomintang. Located in Whampoa near Kwangchow [Guangzhou], it was jointly run by the Kuomintang and the Communist Party until Chiang Kai-shek’s betrayal of the revolution in 1927.” —Note in Peking Review, #11, March 11, 1977, p. 11.

WHAT IS TO BE DONE?   [Book by Lenin]
An extremely important book by Lenin which was written at the end of 1901 and which first appeared in early 1902, and whose full title was: What Is To Be Done? Burning Questions of Our Movement. This book has played an important role in the establishment of communist parties not only in Russia, but also in many other countries.

“In issue No. 12 (December [1901]) of Iskra, Lenin published his article ‘A Talk with Defenders of Economism’ which he later called a conspectus of What Is To Be Done? He wrote the Preface in February 1902 and early in March the book was published by Dietz in Stuttgart. An announcement of its publication was printed in Iskra, No. 18, March 10, 1902.
        “What Is To Be Done? played an important part in the struggle for a revolutionary Marxist party of the working class in Russia, and in the victory of the Leninist Iskra trend in the committees and organizations of the R.S.D.L.P. and at the Congress in 1903.
        “In 1902 and 1903 the book was widely distributed among the Social-Democratic organizations in Russia; it was found during police searches and arrests of Social-Democrats in Kiev, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhni-Novgorod, Kazan, Odessa and other towns.” —Note 80, Lenin Selected Works, vol. 1 (1967).

What is to be Done is a book of key importance for the Marxist conception of the tasks of the working class party. To understand the circumstances in which it was written, and as an aid to grasping its principal points, the reader should consult the History of the C.P.S.U.(B.), Chapter I, Section 5 and Chapter II, Section 2.
        “What is to be Done was directed against those who in the early days after the establishment of a working class party in Russia taught that the workers should engage in economic struggle only, concentrating on bread-and-butter problems rather than political issues. Lenin saw in this trend the nucleus of opportunism in the working class movement, of class collaboration.
        “The ‘Economists,’ as they were called, began their campaign by demanding ‘freedom of criticism’ in the party, attacking what they called the ‘narrow political views’ of Lenin. The first chapter of What is to be Done is accordingly devoted to the question of ‘Freedom of criticism.’ Lenin shows that the ‘freedom of criticism’ demanded by the Economists means freedom to embrace bourgeois ideas instead of Marxism, and that this opens the way to collaboration with the bourgeoisie. Of course, he says, the Economists are ‘free’ to take the path of class collaboration, but not to drag the party with them.
        “Lenin shows that to confine the working class movement to economic struggle alone means to give up the political struggle and so to condemn the workers to eternal wage slavery. The Economists relied on the spontaneous movement of the workers protesting against bad economic conditions. Lenin shows that to rely in this way on spontaneity is ‘tailism’ (kvostism), i.e. it is to tail behind events, instead of giving leadership. Political knowledge cannot arise in the working class movement spontaneously, as a result of spontaneous economic struggle alone. Political knowledge, revolutionary theory, must be introduced into the working class movement. The Economists belittled the role of theory. But ‘without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.’
        “Lenin shows that the roots of opportunist ideas and of opportunist policies in the labour movement lie in the attitude of relying on the spontaneous movement and belittling the role of theory.
        “In What is to be Done Lenin shows concretely how to combine political and economic struggle. Working class political struggle must be something much broader than mere ‘trade union politics.’ The workers must be concerned with ‘the inter-relations between all the various classes,’ and must fight against every manifestation of reaction. In advocating economic struggle alone, the Economists sank into reformism, opportunism. But the struggle for reforms must be subordinated to the struggle for for liberty and socialism.
        “In What is to be Done Lenin also deals with questions of party organization. He stresses the need for a centralized disciplined organization, for the practical and theoretical training of revolutions, for a firm Marxist theoretical basis.”
         —Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics, prepared and edited by Maurice Cornforth, (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1953), pp. 47-48.

In answering this question the first essential bit of wisdom was stated by the ancient Roman materialist philosopher Lucretius: Ex nihilo nihil fit. “Nothing can be made out of nothing.” [From his great work De Rerum Natura, “The Nature of Things”.]

“So do new things arise ex nihilo, out of nothing? No, they arise through the transformation of older things which had a different character, a different essence (in the relevant respects). Thus ice does not arise out of nothing, but through the transformation of something else, liquid water, under certain conditions (low temperatures). Similarly, human beings did not suddenly appear out of nothing, nor out of some idealist ‘Godhead’, but rather we developed out of earlier forms of life, most recently from pre-human ape-like hominids. And life itself did not originally ‘develop out of nothing’ (whatever that might be taken to mean), but through the transformation of at least moderately complex organizations of non-living chemical compounds.
         “Sometimes we speak as though something new and wonderful appeared out of the blue, out of nowhere, but really it is not true, and when we stop to think about and investigate its origins this becomes clear. New things, and changes in general, are a matter of the transformation of the old into the new, rather than the miraculous creation of the new out of thin air.
         “From this first basic and rather obvious principle, we can derive a number of subsidiary principles, such as:
         “1)   To make something new, you must start with something else which already exists, and find a way to transform it.
         “2)   Often there will be several different existing things which can be transformed into more or less equivalent new things; but...
         “3)   In these cases, one of the existing things will almost always be more easily transformed into the new thing than any of the others. (There’s almost always a ‘best way’ to proceed.)
         “4)   Thus a careful analysis must be made of existing things to see what to start with in constructing the new thing.
         “5)   The old thing which can most easily be transformed into the desired new thing may be quite unlike the new thing in important respects. It may be glaringly deficient in the very characteristic that we are most interested in, and thus be overlooked at first. (For example, it is vastly easier to transform an acorn into an oak tree than it is to transform a maple tree into an oak tree—even though in many respects the maple is much more like the full-grown oak than a little acorn is.)
         “6)   Since anything new is derived from something old, it will still contain elements or aspects of the old thing.
         “7)   The only way the undesirable remaining aspects of the old thing within the new thing can be eliminated is through a series of further transformations. It is irrational to expect that something totally new can be created through a single transformation. (Is anything ever really ‘totally new’? Certainly, in the sense that its essential aspect(s) or characteristics may be completely new. But there are always at least some other aspects of the thing which are not new. Thus there is some little bit of truth to the point of view that ‘there is nothing new under the sun’, even though it is essentially wrong.)
         “Let us now apply these subsidiary principles to a few of the many issues involved in social revolution. Why, for example, must there be the transitional stage of socialism between capitalism and communism? It follows immediately from principles 6 and 7. Socialism is the whole period during which a series of transformations turns capitalism into communism.
         “Next, how can the proletariat, which originally and for long periods is unconscious of the need for revolution and of its revolutionary role, come to be the revolutionary force which transforms society? Through its own step-by-step transformation. From principle 1 we must find the ways to help transform the proletariat into a conscious revolutionary force.” —Scott Harrison, excerpt from Chapter 31 of The Mass Line and the American Revolutionary Movement, online at:


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