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Extracts From PLP Texts
The PLP and Critique of the Gotha Programme
Extracts From Critique of the Gotha Programme

Punabbhava? Or the Undead?


The Progressive Labor Party began as an 'anti-revisonist' split from the American so-called Communist Party in the late 1950s and after having been for a while an orthodox maoist party, in the 1970s began making a continuous series of apparent ruptures with leftism. Today's PLP does not, on the grounds that US imperialism is the Chief Enemy, support the Iraqi or Serbian governments. Nor does the PLP agree with the psuedo-anarchist Chomsky and tell its audience in the US to vote in elections (for Democrats of course, because Republicans are reactionaries). By 1971 the PLP was implicitly denouncing Mao Zedong as a counter-revolutionary. To date, it has broken with not only with nationalism, reformism, and united-frontism, but also with what it calls 'socialism'. The PLP now 'fights directly for communism'.

Does this give the impression that -- like the group around G. Munis breaking with trotskyism in the 1940's -- the PLP has broken with stalinism and might be subsumed into a 'left-communism' willy-nilly comprising everything from Mattick to Damen to Bordiga to the GCI and -- why not? -- the World Socialist Movement?

Hardly. Munis' break with stalinism's Loyal Opposition was over united frontism (the WWII national resistance movements in particular) and the nature of Russia (socialist? or state-capitalist?). The PLP on the contrary nowhere breaks openly with stalinism, at least not with historical stalinism. Instead its programme and views undergo permutations such that there is, at least on the surface, an antagonism between what it recommends today and and what it finds supportable in the past. How is the gap bridged? In the PLP's view 'the old communist movement' (i.e. stalinism) was just doing its best to carry out the defective programme founded by Marx and Engels, because according to the PLP, 'socialism' -- which the PLP describes as 'maintaining the wages-system' -- is nothing other than the loyal execution of the mistaken 'lower-stage of communism' advanced in Critique of the Gotha Programme. And now the PLP has fixed the defect.

So it is that despite its ultra-left positions, the PLP maintains a heroic-defencist position in regard to pre-Khrushchev Russia. Why? First, because the PLP partakes -- at least retroactively -- of the ideology of anti-fascism; second, because according to the PLP, even if 'socialism' was fundamentally flawed, a time-bomb headed 'straight back to capitalism', it at least was immensely 'progressive' in relation to 'capitalism'. The PLP is excited by the exponential growth of Department I (means of production) in relation to Department II (means of consumption) in the Unsoviet Union, confining its disatisfaction with this 'socialism' to a distributionist critique.

As the PLP further develops which pole of the contradiction will win out, the momentum of its ruptures, or its sentimental investment in counter-revolution? The PLP says, "The uphill journey between Road to Revolution I and Road to Revolution 4.5 represents our party's attempt to rid itself of reformist politics and practice. We still have a long way to go." Bravo. Then it must break root-and-branch with that engine of radical reformism masquerading as revolution, its 'old communist movement'.

- Ottavio D.  1999-9-15

Extracts From PLP Texts

Here are PLP quotes arranged by topic. They can be read in their respective contexts in: Road to Revolution III (1971), Road To
Revolution IV (1982), Communist Parties Are The Custodians Of The Future (1982), On Democratic Centralism (1982), One Class, One Party (1987), Stalin's Successes, Humanities Gains (1989), Road to Revolution 4.5 (1996), Political Economy: a Communist Critique of the Wage System (1998), and Anti-Stalinism Is A Weapon Of Our Enemy (1999).

Quotes from PLP on Nationalism:

Why do these so-called communists still advocate the farcical policy of allying with so-called progressive nationalism?

All nationalism is reactionary, a position PLP has held for 30 years.

Nationalism is a term used in two senses. In the literal sense, it is an idea which is intended to bind workers of one nation to the capitalists of the same nation, by holding that "my" nation (or group) is all that counts, or is superior to all others. It has repeatedly served the capitalists’ need to win working class support to go to war against other capitalists (and kills their workers), in order to increase their holdings at the expense of their competitors. In its other form, nationalism is intended to bind workers of an ethnic or cultural group to the capitalist representatives of that same ethnic group. When the capitalists found that their nationalism was being mimicked by various leaders of sections of the working class, they found it expedient to fund these nationalist leaders, a down-payment to sustain segregation and sow distrust and hostility among different ethnic groups. The Nation of Islam, La Raza, the American Indian Movement—these nationalist organizations are happily funded by the rulers in exchange for blinding their members to their class interests, and diverting them into alliances with the capitalist segments of their respective ethnic groups. In trying to carve out their own piece of the profit pie, small capitalists from the various ethnic groups do the dirty work of the dominant capitalists. They spin fables on the need for each ethnic group to reject alliances and unity with workers of the other groups. Meanwhile, the dominant capitalists cover their sponsorship of these nationalist movements by parading a movement to celebrate "diversity" and "multi-culturalism." Diversity, while pretending to bring everyone together in a show of respect for various cultures, is nothing but a sugar-coated form of segregation and nationalism. Multi-culturalism magnifies differences, buries likenesses, and ties the workers of each ethnic group to the interests of the dominant capitalist class. By encouraging workers to identify with members of their separate ethnic groupings, nationalism enables this hoax to succeed. And a hoax it is, no more and no less. After all, how does it improve my situation that another person with approximately my skin color is appointed to Clinton’s cabinet, or elected mayor, or promoted to four-star general?

Thirty years ago, we mistakenly believed in "good" and "bad" nationalism. RR3 (1971) finally put that one to rest. This was a major contribution to rebuilding the world communist movement. Our line is, "One world, one class, one Party." In response to nationalism and to anti-immigrant racism we say, "Smash all borders."

We oppose nationalism and fight for internationalism. By nationalism, the bosses mean that workers must respect capitalist borders. These borders are artificial; they exist to divide workers and keep different sets of bosses in power. Workers need no borders. Workers in one part of the world are not different from or better than workers in another. Nationalism creates false loyalties. Workers should be loyal only to other workers, never to a boss.

Quotes from PLP on Reformism and the United Front:

The adoption of RR4 was a major departure from the past. However, we failed to appreciate its full significance. While our line changed dramatically, our practice remained more same than different. We weren't critical enough of our own efforts. We continued to make the opportunist error of blending the long-term goal of communism with the short-term practice of militant reform of capitalism.

The wrong theory of how to win communism comes in part from misunderstanding reform and revolution under capitalism. In the past, communists (including ourselves) described the relationship between reform and revolution in one of two ways: 1) Reform and revolution are parallel, but unconnected, separate struggles; 2) Reform struggles become more militant and more politicized, and transform into revolution. These views are both wrong.  [...]  [R]eforms are to improve capitalism; revolution is to destroy it.

Therefore, the communist role in every class struggle is to attack reformism by counterposing it to the Party and communism.

For years, the communist movement had a "three lines" formulation: mass line, vanguard line and independent line. This could be described as reform, militant reform and revolution. RR4 made a decisive break, calling for only one line: a mass line of communist revolution. However, our practice, even after RR4, has been to have at least two lines: militant reform and communism. Whenever there is more than one, something has to be primary. As in the old communist movement, our practice has made reform primary over revolution. But the answer is not simply to make a revolutionary line primary over reform (as we said in 1976). The working class needs only one line--communism.

[W]e've said there is no reform for fascism. We've pointed out that fascism is capitalism in decline, in distress. It is not solely the policy of this or that capitalist, but is demanded by the profit system. Our line is not, "Bring back the liberals and bourgeois democracy." It is, "Smash fascism with communist revolution."

While we have steadily moved in the direction of rejecting all compromise with capitalism, our practice has maintained the illusion of "good" and "bad" social reform. There are no capitalist solutions to racism, fascism, or war. There are no "good" borders or bosses. There is no "good" nationalism. And there are no "good" reforms.

About three years ago we correctly pointed out the accelerated decline of capitalism and sharpening attacks on the working class. [...] We started off this campaign with the good slogan, "A system that can't provide jobs must be destroyed." But this campaign, which started off with a modest communist bang, ended with the reform whimper of "Six hours work for eight hours pay." We put out a pamphlet entitled "Jobs and Communism." Jobs was number one and communism number two, not just in the title, but in the content of the pamphlet. This reflected our mistaken belief that the reform fight for jobs would help the fight for communism.

We hardly raised the idea that work is a human need, which only communism can fulfill, that under capitalism workers are wage slaves forced to sell their labor power. We often ignored surplus value. When we did raise this vital issue, we usually failed to point out that it means a fight to the death between two opposing classes. The leap from "a system that can't provide jobs must be destroyed" to "6 for 8" was a step backward. It told our base, "Sure, we believe in communism. But what we really want today is to survive and make life better under capitalism."

A "reform struggle" is a contradiction. The logic of demanding more from capitalism is reformism. It builds capitalist formations and ties the working class ideologically to the profit system. The logic of the struggle, in contrast, is the revolutionary fight to smash capitalism, which can never meet the aspirations of the workers for equality and power.

Lenin once mistakenly called on communists to support bourgeois politicians "as a rope supports a hanging man." We rejected this opportunist formulation a long time ago, but we have been doing much the same thing with reformist organizations.

Quotes from PLP's Unique History of China:

Various forces allied with Mao Tse-tung have portrayed the GPCR as "personally led and initiated" by Mao. This is a myth. The GPCR really began in the late fifties, when masses of people rebelled against the new "red" bourgeoisie and attempted to implement a program for drastic change in Chinese society. The commune movement of the fifties was one of the first expressions of this struggle. Although the commune movement was identified with Mao, it was crushed while he dominated the Chinese political scene. [...] Two distinct elements participated in the GPCR: a left, represented by certain forces in the party, by the Red Guard movement, and by revolutionary workers' councils; and a right, represented by Mao Tse-tung and Liu Shao-chi. [...] Mao and his allies wanted the Chinese economy to develop independently of the Soviet Union. They wanted to produce their own brand of national revisionism. [...] Mao uttered left formulations and issued left directives to ingratiate himself with the masses and win their confidence. But every time the masses went "too far" in carrying out his instructions, he immediately called upon the PLA to beat them into submission. [...] Liu and his associates were used as scapegoats. [...] Bit by bit, Mao methodically whittled away the reforms initiated by the GPCR and dismantled the organizations that had led the fight to win them. He dispersed the Red Guards and other leftists. He removed those leaders of the GPCR who opposed him or who "mistakenly" persisted in "ultra-leftist" thinking. [...] The key error in the GPCR was made by the left, when it failed to separate itself ideologically and organizationally from Mao. It tolerated and in some cases encouraged the anti-Marxist Mao cult.

Left forces in the GPCR set up a commune in Shanghai. It partially replicated the revolutionary Paris Commune of 1871. During this experience and others like it, the GPCR made significant efforts to replace capitalist socialist relations with communist ones. For example, it somewhat intensified attempts to organize production and distribution on the basis of need rather than market requirements.

We must learn from history, and the history of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China during the 1960s and 70s is especially instructive. In fact, the job facing PLP is to complete the battle that the left-wing communists in China began, but lost, in that revolution. Accounts of the Cultural Revolution by writers who support capitalism are generally negative and confusing. A study of Political Economy, however, helps clarify the issues. First of all, the Cultural Revolution amounted to far more than its name would imply. In fact, it was a bitter and often violent fight for political power and control of the state. It was in every sense a political revolution—and the most advanced the world has yet seen. While it took a variety of forms, the battle was essentially over commodity production and wage slavery, neither of which had been eliminated in China under socialism. The main questions were: Should production be driven by exchange value (sales and profits) or use value (communist planning for need)? Will people only work for individual needs (wages), or will they work out of a feeling of responsibility to the whole working class (political/class consciousness)? The line was drawn in this battle between socialists and "capitalist roaders" on one side, and communists on the other. The government was controlled by socialists and capitalist roaders, who both favored profits and wages, though with different justifications. The socialists justified profits and wages as a transitional stage to communism, necessary for the foreseeable future. The capitalists justified them as the best way to organize society now and forever. The communists in this battle were represented by the Red Guard, which was made up primarily of students and workers. They favored the immediate replacement of commodity production and wages with communist planning and free distribution based on need, with no need for any transitional period.

The communists held that there was no need for commodity production and its marketplace, where the "blind laws" of supply and demand would indiscriminately favor one group of workers at the expense of another. They quoted Engels: "The seizure of the means of production by society eliminates commodity production and with it the domination of the product over the producer. The anarchy within (capitalist) social production is replaced by consciously planned organization."

During the Cultural Revolution, the very idea of capitalism was under siege in China. Humankind was on the verge of releasing unheard-of forces. China was about to organize production solely for use. Work was going to be direct—valued exactly for what it was. The responsibility of the whole society would rest on the collective will of the workers, who would hold all power. A revolutionary world was about to be born.

Unfortunately, the battle proved more complicated than that. Socialism—led by Mao and the "Gang of Four"—came to the rescue of commodity production. They said that direct social production (communism) and commodity production (capitalism) could exist side by side. They said that the "law of value" (by which they meant exchange value) could operate alongside direct, planned exchange. And they said that socialism—this mixture of capitalist and communist organization of production—would be a "long historical period," in which the transition to communism would be achieved step by step.

In this the socialists were only following Marx, but Marx had written a century earlier, and had lacked the political experience now possessed by the Chinese working class. It’s not that the socialists didn’t want communism—they did. It’s not that they didn’t want to see direct social production, the transformation of the labor process, and a new share-and-share-alike psychology of labor—they did. It’s just that the socialists believed that society needed to retain some aspects of capitalism for an indefinite period. They stubbornly held to this position, against the Red Guard, because the socialists didn’t think that the working class was capable of organizing and running the whole of society. Besides, they argued, capitalism under socialism was a tamed capitalism, controlled by the working class state.

Quotes from PLP on 'Socialism':

We said above that the world's workers made great advances with the revolutions in Russia and China. We also said that these revolutions, which had established socialism, were reversed, and that now Russia and China are capitalist societies with new bosses. Marx and Lenin described socialism as the early stage of communism. These great revolutionaries doubted that the working class could move immediately from capitalism to communism. They and others believed that important concessions to capitalism and capitalist ideas were necessary to win enough people to socialist revolution. They thought socialism would eventually lead to communism.

Many capitalist economic and cultural relations were maintained after the victory of socialism. These included, keeping the wage system, paying workers based on skills and the amount of production and small scale private ownership of land and business. A new communist culture was never really developed. Instead socialist culture was simply doing it better than the capitalists.

Keeping the wage system was the greatest concession to capitalism. Under socialism, every worker got a wage. Your work determined your wage. Professionals made a lot more than those who worked with their hands. Among manual workers, the so-called skilled made more than the unskilled. Does this sound familiar? The motive for these inequalities was the mistaken belief that many workers had to be bribed to produce.

Wage differences reinforced commodity production--production for sale, for profit rather than for society's use or need . Goods could never be distributed according to collective need because some workers had greater purchasing power than others.

The wage-system is capitalism.

Our own history, like that of our predecessors, has been a series of qualitative moves to the left. Our Party was born out of the breakdown of the old communist movement. We have been compelled to explain the failure of socialism and the subsequent restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and China.

Most recently, in 1982 we published Road to Revolution 4. We described socialism as an aspect of opportunism within the communist movement. We concluded that the cardinal error of communists, including ourselves, had been the fight to establish socialism as a stage, the prelude to the communist stage of society. We declared socialism to be fundamentally flawed, inevitably a failure.

In the 1980s, we finally figured out that despite heroic efforts by millions of workers and others, the old movement had destroyed itself from within because it had failed to make communist politics primary. From its earliest days, the movement’s leaders—Marx, Engels, then later Lenin, Stalin, and Mao—estimated that the masses could not be won directly to communism. Marx and Engels decided that an halfway house—socialism—was necessary to make the transition between capitalism and communism. However, as events later proved, socialism really paved the road back to capitalism. In every country where it developed, the socialist stage retained many capitalist ideas and relations. Wage slaves remained wage slaves, because workers received salaries relative to their skills.

So in the early days, we applied many of the old international communist movement’s mistaken ideas. We advocated socialism. We were wrong! We learned and are still learning the hard way that we are communist revolutionaries, not reformers. As the old movement’s children, who deeply respected our forebears, we mainly promoted reforms while advocating communist ideas on the side. Although we knew by 1982 that socialism had been a mistake, we didn’t elevate our own practice to the level of this understanding. Our party advocated communism in general while implementing reformist politics, like the shorter work week. We came up with all sorts of rationales to justify the theory that these reformist battles would lead to communism.

As Road to Revolution IV points out, the question of wages and the maintenance of the wage system lies at the center of socialism's reversal. Road to Revolution IV calls into question Marx's theorem that after the seizure of state power, bourgeois rights must be partially maintained as a concession to the birthmarks bequeathed to socialism by the old way of life. The modern argument that wages remain essential under socialism constitutes an attempt to have one's cake and eat it too, because underneath the argument lies the assumption that a distinction is possible between "capitalist" and "socialist" wages. The distinction is specious. When Marx called for maintaining the wage system under socialism, he did not deny that wages remain a capitalist institution: the money equivalent of labor power sold on the market as a commodity, the only commodity owned by workers. Wages are synonymous with capitalism. A system of distribution based on equality cannot be a wage system. Either one keeps a form of capitalist wages or one abolishes wages altogether. There is no middle ground.  [...] When Marx and Lenin spoke of socialism, they meant a period of transition to a higher form of society during which the workers' state had no choice but to preserve the wage system, stratification, and significant elements of bourgeois rights. And this is precisely what was built in the Soviet Union, China and elsewhere. Only the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution's left wing seems to have broken with this notion, and it neither broke radically enough nor succeeded in freeing itself from the cult of Mao.

As Road to Revolution IV points out, the question of wages and the maintenance of the wage system lies at the center of socialism's reversal. Road to Revolution IV calls into question Marx's theorem that after the seizure of state power, bourgeois rights must be partially maintained as a concession to the birthmarks bequeathed to socialism by the old way of life. The modern argument that wages remain essential under socialism constitutes an attempt to have one's cake and eat it too, because underneath the argument lies the assumption that a distinction is possible between "capitalist" and "socialist" wages. The distinction is specious. When Marx called for maintaining the wage system under socialism, he did not deny that wages remain a capitalist institution: the money equivalent of labor power sold on the market as a commodity, the only commodity owned by workers. Wages are synonymous with capitalism. A system of distribution based on equality cannot be a wage system. Either one keeps a form of capitalist wages or one abolishes wages altogether. [...] Commodity production is capitalism. If over an entire historical period one concedes the retention of wages and commodities in essence, while merely changing their form, then it is difficult to see how commodities and wages will wither away of their own accord. History proves that quite the opposite is the case. Wages beget wages and stratification; one commodity begets many--the issue is qualitative, not one of "dosage." A proletarian dictatorship that produces commodities has always gone on to produce more, not less, and to reconstitute itself as state capitalism.

It matters little whether one retains the name socialism or comes up with something else. The important point is the content. The only plausible argument for retaining stratification under the dictatorship of the proletariat is the line that the party must capitulate to "birthmarks," "backwardness" and the "unwinnability of the masses," a line endorsed in one form or another by all the two-stage theorists.

Quotes from PLP on Labour Unions:

For the past few years, we have struggled to move the Party more directly into the mass organizations, especially the unions. Our intent was to bring the fight for communism into "the enemy's camp." But our comrades spent the bulk of their time and efforts figuring out how to function within the official union structure, building SOC around 6 for 8 in a more "creative way," organizing 150,000 garment workers into a pro-capitalist union, and generally not building the Party. The worst part is, these comrades were doing what the Party leadership asked them to do.

Should we be in mass organizations? Should we participate in reform struggles, even lead them? Yes. But we are not in unions to build them. We are not there to be the best reformers. We are in reform organizations to smash them and their ideological hold on workers.

Shortly after the editorial about the South Korean strikes, Challenge ran an article about the Metro public transit system in Washington, D.C. The article called on the union to become more militant and to spread its organizing. But the PLP correctly views unions as the bosses’ tool. They will never act in the workers’ class interests. Even if they increase their militancy and force some minor concessions for their members, the result can only reinforce their reformist grip on workers.

[I]n 1965 we had not yet developed as clear an understanding as we have now of the role of unions, and the correct ways for communists to work in them.

If we allow the struggle to be narrowed to wages and working conditions, we will leave untouched the political power of the capitalists and their system of exploitation. The chief role of the unions is precisely that—to insist that the battle for wages and conditions is all that concerns the working class. To the point that they succeed, the unions do capitalism a great service. That is why the revolutionary PLP has formed in opposition to the unions.

Quotes from PLP on Organization and Decision-Making:

So reality shows us that there is only one international working class. Why then should we imitate the bosses borders by having this party and that party? Having a different communist party in each country is playing the ruler's game. Workers in one area have particular problems and different situations from workers in another area but the universal truth is that in no area of the world can workers' problems be solved without communist revolution.

The Party is organized on the basis of democratic centralism. The Party is divided into cells, or clubs, which meet regularly to evaluate members' work and to make suggestions about how to improve it, and to evaluate the Party's positions and make suggestions for change. These suggestions are taken by the club leader to section meetings (made up of the club leaders and other leading comrades in an area, and by section leaders to the Central Committee. Based on the collective experience of the Party, the leadership decides on new positions (a new line) which all Party members are then bound to put into practice. Only if all of us put the same line into practice can we find out if the line works; if each of us goes our own way, we will never have the common strength of a united Party. [...] Democratic centralism is communist democracy. After the revolution we will run all of society along democratic centralist lines.

The Bolsheviks [...] gave some support to workers' councils (soviets) in 1917-18. These soviets were usually organized on bourgeois democratic lines, and they had the usual faults of bourgeois democratic institutions. The superstar speakers and the best educated and richest (meaning the skilled workers) dominated. Individualism was the order of the day: many factory soviets refused to cooperate for the common good in the spring of 1918, hoarding goods that were vital for the defense of the revolution and for provisioning workers elsewhere. In practice, the soviets were pretty much under the influence of syndicalism, which calls for the workers in each factory to run their plant without any overall organization of society as a whole. Syndicalism is basically capitalism based on workers' cooperatives. We communists want to see a collective solution, with workers as a class running society as a whole, not competing with each other.

Quotes from PLP on Party And  State

We have rejected the separation of state and Party.

Throughout the process of seizing, holding and expanding revolutionary power, workers need only one leading political force--the communist party. Before and during the revolution, tens of millions of workers, soldiers and students will join or support the communist party. Only a party with such a mass base can successfully lead a revolution. After the revolution, workers and their allies will not need a government separate from the party. Either such a government would be a rubber-stamp for the workers' mass party, or it would represent enemies of communism. [...] We propose that after the revolution, the party--composed of tens of millions of workers--lead society.

Quotes from PLP on Revolutionary Consciousness:

RR4 posed the need for a mass communist Party. We specifically pointed to the necessity of many millions of workers to be committed communists before the seizure of power. Even though some of our critics sneer at this idea, we continue in our commitment to a Party of millions before revolution. Those who seek shortcuts to communism will themselves be caught short. History has proved there are no shortcuts.

No movement has yet been built primarily around making communist ideas mass ideas. The principal slogan of the Russian Revolution, for example, was "bread, land, and peace." Even after RR4, we failed to understand the relationship between the Party's line before, during, and after revolution. We continued to make some of the same mistakes as our predecessors.

By making the reform struggle primary we obliterated the communist idea of "eliminating the wage system." We were unsure that we could make communist ideas into mass ideas. We have generally made the mistake of thinking that mass ideas can only be reform ideas. We feel if we don't organize primarily around reform ideas we will become isolated from the working class. This is a serious mistake--especially now. Communist ideas can be mass ideas. Communist ideas are the order of the day!

Who’s to say that the masses can’t adopt revolutionary ideas and goals? Are workers so backward that only a few wise men can comprehend advanced communist concepts? We estimate that a direct leap from capitalism to communism is possible. We believe that the many can eventually grasp and apply communist principles. We are after a mass communist cadre rather than a tiny elite of experts. "Unrealistic!" you say. Maybe so. But we know that socialism doesn’t work.

The communist organization of society requires the active commitment of millions of workers. Communism will not succeed unless people understand it, agree with it, and vow to make it succeed.

Quotes from PLP on Daily Life in the Party:

Liberalism and opportunism are obstacles we can overcome. "I took my friend shopping, to buy the things he needs and then I told him that he had to come to the meeting", commented a garment worker and PLP member in a garment meeting in LA. When he was criticized for his liberalism, he defended his position saying "we have to do anything to bring people to the Party."

To get this kind of society, we need collective organization. That is why we need a Party -- to encourage everyone to speak out and act, to draw on our collective strength, to help each other correct our mistakes. Too often we look at the party as restricting us and limiting us ("the Party makes me go to meetings". "The Party makes me talk about revolution at work.") Actually, the Party liberates us and gives us the strength to put our ideas into action.

Quotes from PLP on Russia:

Over the years the Stalin leadership committed wholesale errors: 1) Making concessions to the old Russian ruling class; 2) Introduction of material incentives instead of political-moral incentives; 3) Relying on nationalism to defeat the Nazis--thus making the policy of the international working class subservient to the interests of the Soviet Union. So, nationalism triumphed over internationalism.; 4) This policy led the Soviets into alliances with the international ruling class. This was most evident during the war against the Nazis. U.S., British, some French and other bosses were pictured as progressive forces;5) Democratic centralism, which is the only system of revolutionary organization, was reduced to arbitrary centralism. [...] 6) Probably the most important error Stalin and others made was not winning masses of people to Marxism-Leninism. So, an elite held power without much participation by workers and peasants. Socialism was for the party leaders. The masses were only involved in carrying out this or that policy. Because these policies seemed progressive at the time, there was little resistance to them.

 Central to all these errors was the concept of socialism itself, a "transitional" strategy enunciated by Marx in his Critique of the Gotha Program, according to which the wage system would be preserved under proletarian dictatorship as a stepping-stone to communist society. The PLP now rejects this strategy. We consider wages in any form to be capitalist exploitation. Maintaining wages under the dictatorship of the proletariat maintains capitalism. This is one of Soviet history's key lessons. [...] However, Soviet socialism had two aspects. True, it preserved wages and capitalism. But under Lenin's and Stalin's leadership socialism also injected [...] egalitarian communist ideas [...]. . Because of these ideas and this practice, millions of workers, peasants, intellectuals, students and their leaders changed the world and proved that the masses will perform miracles to win communism. [...] [W]ith all its imperfections, Soviet socialism under Stalin represented a gigantic stride forward to freedom for the working class and humanity in general.

Here is a leader who came to power in a nation with little heavy industry, large areas with wretched living conditions, high illiteracy—a nation to be compared with bordering countries such as Turkey or Afghanistan. Under his leadership, the USSR developed a modern economy capable of defeating the expected attack of international capitalism, spearheaded by Hitler. Meanwhile, in the mid- to late thirties, living standards were quite decent—a far cry from the old rural poverty—and were rising steadily. After the massive destruction of the war, with 27 million deaths, the economy was quickly rebuilt and a decent living standard reached again.

We in PLP feel that if the USSR had enlisted large masses of people to crusade for and build real communism, instead of a socialist system which still included a lot of individualistic monetary privileges, the nation could have handled a lot of these suspected class enemies better. This "holding back" on communism was a basic Marxist error, not originated by Stalin.

Yes, even during the all-out drive for industrialization and armament, living standards improved and were quite good by 1937. This writer had an aunt (a teacher) and an uncle (a construction worker) who lived in the USSR during the 1930s and confirmed this, so this statement relies on more than just statistics.

It was the accepted wisdom of that time that a worker-controlled economy had to go through a long era of keeping the wage system and monetary privilege. It is hard to see where a majority could have been found for a push directly for communism.

Quotes from PLP on Communism:

The two-stage strategy of first socialism, then communism, failed to lead to communism. It led back to capitalism. Therefore, we must fight directly for communism.

PLP is the only communist movement in history to put forward the slogan, "Abolish Wage Slavery," as our immediate goal.

Communism means abolishing nation states, which are an expression of capitalism.

 With production reserved exclusively for use, we will work because we, as a class, need or want the product. Human needs will be returned to their primacy in production, just as they were for thousands of years under primitive communist societies. In this revolutionary return to communism, however, human needs will prevail within a highly technological society.

Communist distribution eliminates the material incentive for the emergence of new bosses corrupted by all sorts of privilege. Government or party officials, special workers, or artists will no longer receive more money for work that is supposedly "more important." The measure of work will have nothing to do with what people receive. People should and will get what they need, within the limits of what everyone can produce. Measuring work to set pay directly contradicts communism. The elimination of wages causes the social basis for privileges and a new class of bosses to disappear. For the first time in history, workers will receive a fair share of society's wealth, regardless of the work they do.

Under communism, the principle of work will be: "from each according to commitment." People will work because they want to, because their class brothers and sisters around the world need their work--even as people fight in revolutionary wars not just for themselves but for their class. They will share in decision-making, including the distribution of goods and services according to society's needs.

Our Party fights for an egalitarian, communist society under the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Of late, there has been some talk about the growing gap between the rich and the poor. Some of the rulers are getting nervous about how the gap may get workers angry enough to doubt and question the capitalist system. With glaring inequality coming to the fore, we can make egalitarianism a mass question.

Communism will abolish socially useless forms of work that exist now only for capitalist profit. Communism will not need millions of lawyers, advertisers, or salespeople. In one stroke, it will do away with layers of needless government bureaucrats, as well as the hordes of petty supervisors and administrators who oversee and manage us for the bosses. It will free everyone to perform socially useful work, which is the source of true creativity.

If we destroy the wage system and capitalism, will we, the working class, be able to organize a society that produces solely for need? Now we are back grappling with the central issue raised in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. And Progressive Labor Party's answer is clear. History has given us a resounding, "YES!" to this question.

The PLP and The Critique of the Gotha Programme

The PLP would do far better to look for the roots of Russian and Chinese 'socialism' not in the psuedo-filiation Marx/Engels-Stalin-Mao but in the social-democrat filiation Lasalle-Kautsky-Lenin-Stalin/Trotsky--Mao, in such places as Kautsky and Bernstein's Erfurt Programme (1891), Kautsky's book The Social Revolution (1902) and Lenin's stupendous formulation, '[S]ocialism is merely state-capitalist monopoly which is made to serve the interests of the whole people and has to that extent ceased to be capitalist monopoly'. To which quote can be counterposed one by Engels: ''The modern state, whatever its form, is [...] the ideal aggregate capitalist. The more productive forces it takes over into its possession, the more it becomes a real aggregate capitalist, the more citizens it exploits. The workers remain wage-workers, proletarians. The capitalist relationship is not abolished, rather it is pushed to the limit.'

In Marx's own lifetime the CGP remained unpublished, a private letter. When Engels had it published in 1891 his introduction made no mention at all of the 'two-stage' prescription. Nor do the 'two-stages' appear in Engels' own Anti-Dühring. The later emphasis placed upon the notion of two stages has, with a few exceptions, served only reactionary and mendacious interests. Today's communists do not necessarily agree with it, either because the forces of production have made it antiquated, or because it is socially or technically impractical. The most valuable part of the two-stages discussion in CGP is probably the observations toward the end, that it is 'a mistake to make a fuss about so-called distribution and put the principal stress on it'  and that vulgar socialism takes 'the consideration and treatment of distribution as independent of the mode of production and hence the presentation of socialism as turning principally on distribution'. The remarks seem to be aimed directly at the PLP.

No matter if the if the two-stages notion is accepted or rejected, in no way can it be interpreted as to put a marxian imprimatur upon stalino-maoist 'socialism'. The PLP seizes upon the phrase 'bourgeois right'. What Marx calls bourgeois (in form, in principle, not in content, he says) in the postulated lower-stage is its distribution based upon equivalency of 'equal quanta of labour'. That is all. And the PLP? Following a logic like that which would declare paper money to be a kind of newspaper because both newspapers and paper money are printed on paper, the PLP evidentally considers the labour-voucher certificate to be a form of money, because both the certificate and money have to do with distribution. Naturally then, Stalin's money is Marx's labour-voucher! But does the PLP not find Marx's labour voucher a strange kind of 'money', this 'money' that cannot be circulated, accumulated or invested?

The following quotation with its misunderstanding of Marx mediated by social-democracy is by Kropotkin, but with a few changes it could just as well be by the PLP: "This is to take the distinctive features of middle-class society and sanction them by a social revolution. It is to erect into a principle an abuse which to-day is condemned in the society that is breaking up. We know very well what will be said in answer. We shall be told about "Scientific Socialism." The middle-class economists, and Marx: too, will be cited to prove that there a good reason for a scale of wages, for the "labor force" of the engineer costs society more than the "labor force" of the navvy. And, indeed, have not the economists striven to prove that, if the engineer is paid twenty times more than the navvy, it is because the cost necessary to produce an engineer is more considerable than that necessary to produce a navvy? And has not Marx maintained that the like distinction between various sorts of manual labor is of equal logical necessity? He could come to no other conclusion, since he took up Ricardo's theory of value and insisted that products exchange in proportion to the quantity of the work socially necessary to produce them."

The CGP's lower-stage is a society in which value-production does not exist. That being the case, it does not have wages, 'stratification', extraction of surplus-value, accumulation of capital or any other facet of trot-stalino-maoist economics.

Bordiga accepted the 'two-stages'. His summary:

Lower stage of communism: or, if you want, socialism. Society has already come to dispose of the products in general and allocates them to its members by means of a plan for 'rationing'. Exchange and money have ceased to perform this function. It cannot be conceded to Stalin that simple exchange without money although still in accordance with the law of value could be a perspective for arriving at communism: on the contrary that would mean a sort of relapse into the barter system. The allocation of products starts rather from the centre and takes place without any equivalent in exchange. [...]. In this stage, apart from the obligation to work continuing, the recording of the labour time supplied and the certificate attesting this are necessary, i.e. the famous labour voucher so much discussed for a hundred years. The voucher cannot be accumulated and any attempt to do so will involve the loss of a given amount of labour without restitution of any equivalent. The law of value is buried (Engels: society no longer attributes a 'value' to products). Higher stage of communism: which can also without hesitation be called full socialism. The productivity of labour has become such that neither constraint nor rationing are any longer necessary (except for pathological cases) as a means of avoiding the waste of products and human energy. Freedom for all to take for consumption."

Or, paraphrasing both Buick and Bordiga -- regardless of 'two stages' (labour-vouchers vs. free access) or not -- socialism/communism  is:

1) The negation of all property, i.e.of every subject of property (private individual, associated individuals, state, nation, even  'society') as well as every object of property (the land, the instruments of labour in general, the products of labour). And thus: 2) Not based on state (nationalised), or even on 'common' (or 'social'), property, but on the complete absence of any exclusive use-controlling rights over the means of production and their products; 3) The complete disappearance of buying and selling, of money and monetary calculation, of wages and of all other exchange categories, including enterprises as autonomous economic and accounting units.

Let us ask the PLP, does the above description bear even an iota of similarity to 'socialism' in Russia or China?

Extracts From The Critique of the Gotha Programme in English and German

Within the co-operative society based on common ownership of the means of production, the producers do not exchange their products; just as little does the labor employed on the products appear here as the value of these products, as a material quality possessed by them, since now, in contrast to capitalist society, individual labor no longer exists in an indirect fashion but directly as a component part of total labor.

Innerhalb der genossenschaftlichen, auf Gemeingut an den Produktionsmitteln gegründeten Gesellschaft tauschen die Produzenten ihre Produkte nicht aus; ebensowenig erscheint hier die auf Produkte verwandte Arbeit als Wert dieser Produkte, als eine von ihnen besessene sachliche Eigenschaft, da jetzt, im Gegensatz zur kapitalistischen Gesellschaft, die individuellen Arbeiten nicht mehr auf einem Umweg, sondern unmittelbar als Bestandteile der Gesamtarbeit existieren.

What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges. Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society -- after the deductions have been made -- exactly what he gives to it. What he has given to it is his individual quantum of labor. For example, the social working day consists of the sum of the individual hours of work; the individual labor time of the individual producer is the part of the social working day contributed by him, his share in it. He receives a certificate from society that he has furnished such-and-such an amount of labor (after deducting his labor for the common funds); and with this certificate, he draws from the social stock of means of consumption as much as the same amount of labor cost. The same amount of labor which he has given to society in one form, he receives back in another.

Womit wir es hier zu tun haben, ist eine kommunistische Gesellschaft, nicht wie sie sich auf ihrer eignen Grundlage entwickelt hat, sondern umgekehrt, wie sie eben aus der kapitalistischen Gesellschaft hervorgeht, also in jeder Beziehung, ökonomisch, sittlich, geistig, noch behaftet ist mit den Muttermalen der alten Gesellschaft, aus deren Schoß sie herkommt. Demgemäß erhält der einzelne Produzent - nach den Abzügen - exakt zurück, was er ihr gibt. Was er ihr gegeben hat, ist sein individuelles Arbeitsquantum. Z.B. der gesellschaftliche Arbeitstag besteht aus der Summe der individuellen Arbeitsstunden. Die individuelle Arbeitszeit des einzelnen Produzenten ist der von ihm gelieferte Teil des gesellschaftlichen Arbeitstags, sein Anteil daran. Er erhält von der Gesellschaft einen Schein, daß er soundso viel Arbeit geliefert (nach Abzug seiner Arbeit für die gemeinschaftlichen Fonds), und zieht mit diesem Schein aus dem gesellschaftlichen Vorrat von Konsumtionsmitteln soviel heraus, als gleich viel Arbeit kostet. Dasselbe Quantum Arbeit, das er der Gesellschaft in einer Form gegeben hat, erhält er in der andern zurück.

Here, obviously, the same principle prevails as that which regulates the exchange of commodities, as far as this is exchange of equal values. Content and form are changed, because under the altered circumstances no one can give anything except his labor, and because, on the other hand, nothing can pass to the ownership of individuals, except individual means of consumption. But as far as the distribution of the latter among the individual producers is concerned, the same principle prevails as in the exchange of commodity equivalents: a given amount of labor in one form is exchanged for an equal amount of labor in another form.

Es herrscht hier offenbar dasselbe Prinzip, das den Warenaustausch regelt, soweit er Austausch Gleichwertiger ist. Inhalt und Form sind verändert, weil unter den veränderten Umständen niemand etwas geben kann außer seiner Arbeit und weil andrerseits nichts in das Eigentum der einzelnen übergehn kann außer individuellen Konsumtionsmitteln. Was aber die Verteilung der letzteren unter die einzelnen Produzenten betrifft, herrscht dasselbe Prinzip wie beim Austausch von Warenäquivalenten, es wird gleich viel Arbeit in einer Form gegen gleich viel Arbeit in einer andern ausgetauscht.

Hence, equal right here is still in principle -- bourgeois right, although principle and practice are no longer at loggerheads, while the exchange of equivalents in commodity exchange exists only on the average and not in the individual case.

Das gleiche Recht ist hier daher immer noch - dem Prinzip nach - das bürgerliche Recht, obgleich Prinzip und Praxis sich nicht mehr in den Haaren liegen, während der Austausch von Äquivalenten beim Warenaustausch nur im Durchschnitt, nicht für den einzelnen Fall existiert.

In spite of this advance, this equal right is still constantly stigmatized by a bourgeois limitation. The right of the producers is proportional to the labor they supply; the equality consists in the fact that measurement is made with an equal standard, labor. But one man is superior to another physically, or mentally, and supplies more labor in the same time, or can labor for a longer time; and labor, to serve as a measure, must be defined by its duration or intensity, otherwise it ceases to be a standard of measurement. This equal right is an unequal right for unequal labor. It recognizes no class differences, because everyone is only a worker like everyone else; but it tacitly recognizes unequal individual endowment, and thus productive capacity, as a natural privilege. It is, therefore, a right of inequality, in its content, like every right. Right, by its very nature, can consist only in the application of an equal standard; but unequal individuals (and they would not be different individuals if they were not unequal) are measurable only by an equal standard insofar as they are brought under an equal point of view, are taken from one definite side only -- for instance, in the present case, are regarded only as workers and nothing more is seen in them, everything else being ignored. Further, one worker is married, another is not; one has more children than another, and so on and so forth. Thus, with an equal performance of labor, and hence an equal in the social consumption fund, one will in fact receive more than another, one will be richer than another, and so on. To avoid all these defects, right, instead of being equal, would have to be unequal.

Trotz dieses Fortschritts ist dieses gleiche Recht stets noch mit einer bürgerlichen Schranke behaftet. Das Recht der Produzenten ist ihren Arbeitslieferungen proportionell; die Gleichheit besteht darin, daß an gleichem Maßstab, der Arbeit, gemessen wird. Der eine ist aber physisch oder geistig dem andern überlegen, liefert also in derselben Zeit mehr Arbeit oder kann während mehr Zeit arbeiten; und die Arbeit, um als Maß zu dienen, muß der Ausdehnung oder der Intensität nach bestimmt werden, sonst hörte sie auf, Maßstab zu sein. Dies gleiche Recht ist ungleiches Recht für ungleiche Arbeit. Es erkennt keine Klassenunterschiede an, weil jeder nur Arbeiter ist wie der andre; aber es erkennt stillschweigend die ungleiche individuelle Begabung und daher Leistungsfähigkeit der Arbeiter [1] als natürliche Privilegien an. Es ist daher ein Recht der Ungleichheit, seinem Inhalt nach, wie alles Recht. Das Recht kann seiner Natur nach nur in Anwendung von gleichem Maßstab bestehn; aber die ungleichen Individuen (und sie wären nicht verschiedne Individuen, wenn sie nicht ungleiche wären) sind nur an gleichem Maßstab meßbar, soweit man sie unter einen gleichen Gesichtspunkt bringt, sie nur von einer bestimmten Seite faßt, z.B. im gegebnen Fall sie nur als Arbeiter betrachtet und weiter nichts in ihnen sieht, von allem andern absieht. Ferner: Ein Arbeiter ist verheiratet, der andre nicht; einer hat mehr Kinder als der andre etc. etc. Bei gleicher Arbeitsleistung und daher gleichem Anteil an dem gesellschaftlichen Konsumtionsfonds erhält also der eine faktisch mehr als der andre, ist der eine reicher als der andre etc. Um alle diese Mißstände zu vermeiden, müßte das Recht, statt gleich, vielmehr [2] ungleich sein.

But these defects are inevitable in the first phase of communist society as it is when it has just emerged after prolonged birth pangs from capitalist society. Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby.

Aber diese Mißstände sind unvermeidbar in der ersten Phase der kommunistischen Gesellschaft, wie sie eben aus der kapitalistischen Gesellschaft nach langen Geburtswehen hervorgegangen ist. Das Recht kann nie höher sein als die ökonomische Gestaltung und dadurch bedingte Kulturentwicklung der Gesellschaft.

Quite apart from the analysis so far given, it was in general a mistake to make a fuss about so-called distribution and put the principal stress on it.Any distribution whatever of the means of consumption is only a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production themselves. The latter distribution, however, is a feature of the mode of production itself. The capitalist mode of production, for example, rests on the fact that the material conditions of production are in the hands of nonworkers in the form of property in capital and land, while the masses are only owners of the personal condition of production, of labor power. If the elements of production are so distributed, then the present-day distribution of the means of consumption results automatically. If the material conditions of production are the co-operative property of the workers themselves, then there likewise results a distribution of the means of consumption different from the present one. Vulgar socialism (and from it in turn a section of the democrats) has taken over from the bourgeois economists the consideration and treatment of distribution as independent of the mode of production and hence the presentation of socialism as turning principally on distribution.
Abgesehn von dem bisher Entwickelten war es überhaupt fehlerhaft, von der sog. Verteilung Wesens zu machen und den Hauptakzent auf sie zu legen.Die jedesmalige Verteilung der Konsumtionsmittel ist nur Folge der Verteilung der Produktionsbedingungen selbst. Die kapitalistische Produktionsweise z.B. beruht darauf, daß die sachlichen Produktionsbedingungen Nichtarbeitern zugeteilt sind unter der Form von Kapitaleigentum und Grundeigentum, während die Masse nur Eigentümer der persönlichen Produktionsbedingung, der Arbeitskraft, ist. Sind die Elemente der Produktion derart verteilt, so ergibt sich von selbst die heutige Verteilung der Konsumtionsmittel. Sind die sachlichen Produktionsbedingungen genossenschaftliches Eigentum der Arbeiter selbst, so ergibt sich ebenso eine von der heutigen verschiedne Verteilung der Konsumtionsmittel. Der Vulgärsozialismus (und von ihm wieder ein Teil der Demokratie) hat es von den bürgerlichen Ökonomen übernommen, die Distribution als von der Produktionsweise unabhängig zu betrachten und zu behandeln, daher den Sozialismus hauptsächlich als um die Distribution sich drehend darzustellen.

Variations in the German text:

[1] (1891) fehlt: der Arbeiter

[2] (1891) fehlt: vielmehr

[3] (1891) die Produktionskräfte

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