[To be added...]
See also: ASSET BUBBLES, CREDIT BUBBLE, HOUSING BUBBLE
BUILDING A REVOLUTIONARY ORGANIZATION — Difficulties of in the U.S.
It is no doubt true that building a new and significant revolutionary organization (and eventually a new MLM party) in any country is a very difficult and challenging task. However, it does seem that attempting to do so in an advanced capitalist-imperialist country such as the United States is an especially difficult task, with at least the possibility of many additional dangers, corruptions and pitfalls. Over the past century there have been many attempts to create such organizations or parties, some of which seemed to be on the road to success for a while, but most of which have veered into revisionism or else sectarian cultism, and have mostly disappeared. We are of course hoping that one of the current new attempts will prove to be much more successful. Time will tell about that. In the meantime it is worth thinking some more about the various reasons that past organizational attempts have come to naught.
First of all, there is the basic problem of the grossly distorted class structure of the United States. In speaking of the earlier colossus, the first dominant capitalist-imperialist country, Britain, Engels noted that Britain had not only a bourgeoisie, but also a bourgeois aristocracy, and even something of a embourgeoised proletariat! [See: Engels, “Letter to Marx”, Oct. 7, 1858, MECW 40:343.] Probably even more extreme is the case in the U.S. today. Indeed, there is little doubt that America is by far the most bourgeois of all countries in the world today. What this means is that even many of those who seek to organize a revolutionary organization will themselves likely be infected with at least some petty-bourgeois ideas and perhaps even some outright bourgeois attitudes. It is surprising how little awareness of and attention toward this problem existed in the “New Communist Movement” of the 1960s and 1970s. And our fledgling revolutionary movement in America in that period paid dearly for this lack of accurate class self-consciousness and grossly insufficient internal ideological class struggle and rectification.
In a country like the U.S. today, as with many other countries, those who start the process of building revolutionary organizations will mostly be students or recent ex-students. There are likely to be few actual workers who have not been in the universities who first help get things underway. While it is technically true that most American students today are from working class families (i.e., with parents who sell their labor-power to the capitalists), still, ideologically a large portion of contemporary U.S. students have something along the lines of at least a partial petty-bourgeois class perspective. (For more on this see the entry on the petty-bourgeoisie.) While the initiating role of students is very important, and perhaps even essential, we have to be aware that in today’s America those students do tend to bring along a lot of alien class ideas with them!
One of the most prominent and harmful of the petty-bourgeois tendencies that young revolutionaries bring with them in this society is rampant individualism. This is a major source of arrogance and sectarianism in any young revolutionary movement. But this has other very negative results as well. Consider, for example, the effect it can have on the developing leaders of the organization themselves. At first, of course, even those young leaders are forced to be modest, knowing, as they do, that they are just beginning to study the science of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and the objective situation. But as a few years go by, it is amazing how soon many of these leaders start to assume that they have mastered all the basics, and how those who disagree with them on any substantial point must be totally wrong—or perhaps even the enemy! An extreme case of this is how the Revolutionary Union, which became the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, developed from an initially very promising revolutionary organization into a political cult led by its ultra-arrogant guru Bob Avakian. Although a cult is in many ways the opposite of rampant individualism, the ferocious struggle among individualist trends within a group can eventually lead to a single surviving trend—which has then become a cult around its unchallengeable leader, who supposedly has been proven right about everything. Thus, somewhat strangely, tendencies toward both individualism and its opposite bourgeois sin, tribalistic thinking or cultism, must both be watched out for in this society, and strongly opposed whenever signs of them start to arise.
New revolutionary organizations must make great efforts to become clear on the basic purpose and role of democratic centralism, right from the very start. They may at first be too small to even think about having a real “central committee” yet, but they will still need to immediately become clear on and agree about the most basic point of democratic centralism: namely, to form an organization which can act in a unified fashion even though the various members may have differing ideas about what should be done. Achieving a real appreciation for democratic-centralism and its central purpose is already a major victory against petty-bourgeois individualism. But this battle to correctly understand democratic centralism is never really over within a surrounding bourgeois society.
Another insufficiently appreciated aspect of democratic centralism is its insistence on collective leadership. Committees should decide things at all levels, and as Mao pointed out, these committees should not be purely nominal, with one dominating leader doing almost all of the decision making. In a bourgeois society like the United States, revolutionaries need to constantly remind themselves about things like this. In fact, a good rule of thumb is to be somewhat suspicious of the development of any individual leader who has too much respect and authority!
A strong focus on the mass line method of leadership is also essential, and right from the start. Any revolutionary organization which does not really understand that a worthwhile revolutionary movement has major and continuing things to learn from the masses in struggle is hopelessly arrogant and bourgeois. Along with this, a genuine MLM organization must understand (and continually remind itself) that leadership of the masses must be carried out in a genuinely democratic way. The tendency towards understanding democracy in the phony bourgeois way (as primarily a matter of rigged elections) must be constantly denounced as quintessentially bourgeois.
Of course there are many other things which could be mentioned when discussing how to resist bourgeois and individualist tendencies in new revolutionary organizations. One important thing to do is to seriously study what went wrong with previous groups. This may require some extensive investigations. To give just one example, in the early Revolutionary Union, all the members were engaged in what amounted to constant political study of MLM classics. But later on, in the RCP,USA era, study mostly became a matter of mastering the writings of the party leadership, and especially those of the guru Avakian. To learn about corrupting changes like this in an organization may require talking to a lot of people who went through the experience. It may not be immediately obvious to people on the outside.
Founding, developing and expanding a revolutionary organization and then party is itself a constant struggle, and not just for the leaders. Every member and even outside friend of the process has an obligation to join the struggle within the process so as to make it possible for an organization to develop which really has the potential to lead the masses in destroying their bourgeois enemy. —S.H. [Oct. 3, 2023]
BUKHARIN, Nikolai Ivanovich (1888-1938)
One of the long-time prominent leaders and theoreticians of the Communists in Russia. He was born in Moscow, and joined the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party in 1906. In 1912 he became one of the editors of Pravda. While he had a number of disagreements with Lenin, Lenin still highly valued him. At the time of Lenin’s death in 1924 Bukharin was one of the three most prominent leaders of the Communist Party (along with Stalin and Trotsky). From 1926 to 1929 he played a prominent role in the Executive Committee of the Communist International. In 1934 he became editor of Izvestia, but in 1937 Stalin had him arrested on charges of conspiring with followers of Trotsky (which was almost certainly false). After a show trial, he was executed in 1938.
[More to be added...]
See also: EQUILIBRIUM THEORY, HISTORICAL MATERIALISM [Book]
“There are interesting parallels between Bukharin’s relationship to Lenin and Edward Bernstein’s to Engels. Bernstein, too, was a close collaborator and almost like an adopted son to the aging leader of the movement. Like Bukharin, he developed the older man’s intellectual legacy, as he understood it, into a highly controversial doctrine shaking orthodox Marxism to its very foundations. In both cases, the departure is in the direction of greater flexibility, tolerance, moderation, and democratization. In developing Lenin’s last articles and speeches into a more coherent program, Bukharin laid the groundwork for an interpretation of communism which allows for gradualism, and balanced growth, a mixed economy, pluralism, polycentrism, and the desirability of an open, democratic political system. Bukharin is therefore the most important link between Leninism and what might today be called reform communism. His ideas are an important early statement of ideas expressed today in such currents as Titoism, Libermanism, East European ‘Revisionism,’ Jay Lovestone’s doctrine of American exceptionalism, as well as Togliatti’s notion of polycentrism. In short, Bukharin is the most important early spokesman of a gradualist wing within communism, the proponent of an almost Fabian program of moderation...” —Alfred G. Meyer, Introduction to an edition of Bukharin’s book, Historical Materialism: A System of Sociology (Univ. of Michigan Press, 1969). [This sort of acclaim by a bourgeois liberal is just the sort of thing that makes us revolutionary Marxists all the more suspicious and critical of Bukharin! —S.H.]
BULGAKOV, Sergei Nikolayevich (1871-1944)
A Russian theologian, idealist philosopher and bourgeois economist who was a “Legal Marxist” in the 1890s. After the 1905-07 abortive revolution in Russia he joined the Constitutional-Democrats the leading bourgeois party in Russia. In 1922 he was exiled abroad on a “Philosophers’ Ship” for his anti-Soviet activities, and continued his hostile propaganda against the Soviet Union from there.
“A Missouri company is selling bulletproof furniture to schools. Paul Alexander, founder of Executive Wood Products, says the firm’s custom-made lecterns contain steel interiors that can serve as shields against rounds from handguns, AR-15s, and even machine guns, but look like regular furniture. ‘I want the active shooter to think he can shoot through them,’ says Alexander, ‘because that’s what saves lives.’” —“Only In America”, The Week, Nov. 18, 2022, p. 6. [Apparently, our crazy bourgeois American society has given up any expectation of being able to prevent mass shootings from happening in schools and businesses, and the best that can now be hoped for is to somehow try to limit the body count. —Ed.]
“The General Jewish Workers’ Union of Lithuania, Poland, and Russia;
founded in 1897, it embraced mainly the Jewish artisans in the western regions of Russia.
The Bund joined the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party at its First Congress in March
1898. At the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. Bund delegates insisted on the recognition
of their organization as the sole representative of the Jewish proletariat in Russia. The
Congress rejected this organizational nationalism, whereupon the Bund withdrew from the
“In 1906, following the Fourth (‘Unity’) Congress, the Bund reaffiliated with the R.S.D.L.P. The Bundists constantly supported the Mensheviks and waged an incessant struggle against the Bolsheviks. Despite its formal affiliation with the R.S.D.L.P., the Bund remained an organization of bourgeois-nationalist character. As opposed to the Bolshevik programmatic demand for the right of nations to self-determination, the Bund put forward the demand for cultural-national autonomy. During the First World War of 1914-18 the Bund took the stand of social-chauvinism. In 1917 the Bund supported the counter-revolutionary Provisional Government and fought on the side of the enemies of the October Socialist Revolution. During the Civil War, prominent Bundists joined forces with the counter-revolution. At the same time, a turn began among the rank and file in favor of support to the Soviet Government. When the victory of the dictatorship of the proletariat over the internal counter-revolution and foreign intervention became apparent, the Bund declared its abandonment of the struggle against the Soviet system. In March 1921, the Bund dissolved itself and part of the membership joined the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) as new members.” —Note 97, LCW 5:551-552.
Nationalist or ethnic separatism or exclusivity within the working class and revolutionary movements.
BUREAUCRACY — In General and Under Capitalism
[To be added...]
BUREAUCRACY — Of the U.S. Government
“Americans collectively spend 11.4 billion hours a year filling out government forms—an average of 35 hours per person, an analysis by the American Action Forum has found. The federal government interacts with citizens via about 23,000 separate forms; the worst offender is the Department of Health and Human Services, with more than 5,000 forms.” —Washington Examiner report, summarized in The Week magazine, May 6, 2016, p. 16.
BUREAUCRACY — Under Socialism
[Intro to be added...]
“Immediately arrest Kogan, a member of the Kursk Central Purchasing Board, for refusing to help 120 starving workers from Moscow and sending them away empty-handed. This to be published in the newspapers and by leaflet, so that all employees of the central purchasing boards and food organizations should know that formal and bureaucratic attitudes to work and incapacity to help starving workers will earn severe reprisals, up to and including shooting.” —Lenin, Telegram to the Kursk Extraordinary Commission (Jan. 6, 1919), during the civil war and famine; LCW 36:499.
The policy of class-collaboration which the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) came to with the German bourgeoisie during World War I.
“Burgfrieden—literally ‘fortress peace’ or ‘castle peace’ but more
accurately ‘party truce’—is a German term used for the political truce the Social
Democratic Party of Germany and the other political parties agreed to during World War I.
The trade unions refrained from striking, the SPD voted for war credits in the Reichstag
and the parties agreed not to criticize the government and its war. There were several
reasons for the Burgfrieden politics: the Social Democrats believed it was their
patriotic duty to support the government in war; they were afraid of government
repression should they protest against the war; they feared living under an autocratic
Russian Czar more than the German constitutional monarchy and its Kaiser; and they hoped
to achieve political reforms after the war, including the abrogation of the inequitable
three-class voting system, by cooperating with the government.
“The only SPD member of parliament to vote against war credits in the second session was Karl Liebknecht. In the third session on March 20, 1915, Otto Rühle joined him. Over the course of the war the number of SPD politicians opposed to the war steadily increased. Their resistance against the Burgfrieden politics led to the expulsion of Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Clara Zetkin, and others from the SPD. These went on to found the Spartacus League, the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD), and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD).
“The only trade union to refuse the Burgfrieden was the Free Association of German Trade Unions (FVdG), which would later become the Free Workers’ Union of Germany (FAUD).” —Wikipedia article “Burgfrieden” [as of 7/6/11].
1. A medieval European merchant or prosperous citizen.
2. A comfortably well-off bourgeois person. (And thus someone often appropriately despised by revolutionaries!)
A grotesque tent-like garment, often black, that women are required to wear while in public in some terribly backward religious-dominated societies, which cover every single inch of their bodies and also totally hide every aspect of their bodily form. Even their eyes are often covered by a gauze panel which only allows them to sort of peek through to see where they are going. This garment is rather like a portable prison cell which severely restricts the woman’s ability to interact with her surroundings.
Why are such absurd garments demanded of women? Apparently women in these societies are viewed by men as sexual property, not equal human beings, and it is felt that other men in such societies cannot be trusted to treat women properly and with respect if they can actually see them. Obviously societies like this are in desperate need of social revolution.
Photo at right: Two women in burqas in Afghanistan. [From the Wikipedia.]
See also: HIJAB
BUSH, Vannevar (1890-1974)
American pioneer in analog computing, director of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II, and top administrator of the Manhattan Project which built the first atomic bombs. He well represented the subbordination of American science to the political goals of U.S. imperialism.
Alternate name for what Marx called the Industrial Cycle.
See also: ECONOMIC CYCLES
See: CORPORATE DEBT
BUSINESS PLOT OF 1933
See: WALL STREET PUTSCH OF 1933
BUTLER, Smedley D. (1881-1940)
A U.S. Marine Corps major general, the highest rank then authorized for that branch of the military, and by the time of his death the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. In his military career he fought not only in France during World War I, but also in U.S. imperialist wars in the Philippines, China, Central America and the Caribbean. However, to his credit, he came to deeply regret his work for U.S. imperialism and in his later years became a dedicated political activist against it. In 1935 his book War Is a Racket appeared. (A powerful excerpt from that book is presented below.)
In 1933 a conspiracy of Wall Street reactionaries tried to enlist Butler in their plot to overthrown the new Franklin D. Roosevelt administration in a fascist coup d’état, but he exposed the plot and thus put an end to it. (See: WALL STREET PUTSCH OF 1933)
“I spent thirty-three years and four months in active service as a member
of our country’s most agile military force—the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned
ranks from a second lieutenant to major-general. And during that period I spent most of my
time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the bankers.
In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism....
“Thus I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in.... I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras ‘right’ for American fruit companies in 1905. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.
“During those years I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals, promotion. Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.” —Smedley D. Butler, War Is a Racket (1935), excerpt quoted in Leo Huberman, We, the People: The Drama of America (MR Press: 1960 (1947)), pp. 252-3.
This is a bourgeois nationalist slogan popular in the U.S., and widely promoted by politicians, labor unions, and many individuals of various reformist outlooks. It is interesting how contradictory it is to capitalist ideology; after all, the essence of capitalist thinking is that the “efficiencies of the world capitalist marketplace” determine what is most sensible to buy. This means that from this bourgeois theoretical perspective a sensible person should not buy an inferior or more expensive product just because it is made by the company they personally work for or because it is made in their own country. On the other hand, capitalist classes in the world are still divided by the different nations they rule and their mutual international contention. In the capitalist-imperialist era, especially, this often means that they must promote nationalist or patriotic behavior even if that means ignoring their own capitalist economic theory!
When did this “Buy American” craze first begin? It is worth noting that it was initiated by President Herbert Hoover on his very last day in office in early 1933. He was responding to the “Buy British” plan that had just been announced in London. Bourgeois theorists often say in retrospect that protectionist schemes (including large tariff increases and also buy-at-home campaigns) were the major cause of the Great Depression of the 1930s. This isn’t actually true. But it is true that the “Buy American” and other protectionist measures did serve to somewhat aggravate that world crisis by further restricting world trade and world economic production. And this did in turn further worsen the impoverishment of working people at home and around the world. A basic problem with all “beggar-thy-neighbor” policies is that “thy neighbor” will then certainly adopt that same policy toward you.
It is also worth noting that when the U.S. government declares a “Buy American” policy—as the Biden Administration did in its first few weeks—it will mean increased expenses for government, which the American taxpayers will have to pay. The Peterson Institute, a U.S. think tank, estimates that the annual taxpayer cost for each U.S. job “saved” by the Made in America rule will exceed $250,000.
The real way to deal with the perennial capitalist unemployment is not through “Buy American” schemes, but rather by overthrowing capitalism and creating a new socialist society in which everyone capable of working produces goods and services for the benefit of all.
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