Franz J.T. Lee, April, 2006
Venezuela: without theory, no political party, no vanguard of the revolution!
While the Bush military junta is intimidating us with its present bellicose maneuvers here in the Caribbean waters, what does an armed revolution mean within the global emancipatory process?
Is Marxism, scientific and philosophic socialism, really so "obsolete" that we can discard it totally?
What about the ideas and thoughts of Plato and Simon Bolivar, are they also outdated?
In the current explosive situation in Venezuela, where the "opposition" and the USA are launching another severe attack against the Bolivarian Revolution, are we practically and theoretically really armed to stop the menace of a foreign military intervention?
What can we learn from Marx, Engels and Lenin, with regard to Citizen Power, deepening the "revolution in the revolution," the growth of a revolutionary class consciousness, the construction of a political vanguard for the "process," and the bringing into existence of a powerful political revolutionary party in Venezuela?
What has revolutionary theory got to do with the armed struggle, the concrete battle against global fascism in Venezuela?
Let us allow the Marxists to speak, they are the historical experts in this emancipatory matter.
A contemporary armed social revolution objectively must be based on working masses, on working classes; subjectively, it has to be directed by a conscious working class vanguard; and "transjectively," it has to surpass as proletarian mass organization, led by a political party based in creative scientific praxis and emancipatory philosophic theory.
Let us see what is meant by this, what contribution Lenin has made to modern emancipatory global processes, especially to the Bolivarian Revolution in Latin America.
Nationally and internationally, from all over, many comrades are asking us about the class character of the Bolivarian Revolution, about its "ideology," its "revolutionary subject" and the economic nature of its future society. Basically all these questions concern a Marxist approach toward the Bolivarian Revolution, its policies and projects.
Although representatives and defenders of the revolution insist that it urgently needs an "ideology," that "it is not Marxist, also not anti-Marxist" (Martha Harnecker) or simply that its "projects are not Marxist" (Chavez), nonetheless, this does not exempt us from studying Marxism scientifically and philosophically, especially in an epoch of ferocious disinformation campaigns, universal lies and hoaxes, of "leftist" Kautskyian social reformism. In fact, these problems concern the whole world community in an era where humanity itself is faced with inexorable extinction.
As President Fidel Castro has warned us a little while ago, during a lecture in the faculty of law of the University of Havana, we know very little about socialism, what Marxism is all about ... and what a Marxist, socialist revolution should be.
Hence, we cannot just condemn or cast away something which we ourselves have not studied thoroughly, that we do not even know what it is really about.
This pathological ignorance about Marxism can be seen all over, even among bourgeois, capitalist circles. The industrial and military complex of corporatism does not even know its own revolutionary negation, its "arch-enemy." How could it defend itself against real, true, socialist, emancipatory movements?
Surely, Rumsfeld, Rice, Rove, Cheney and Bush do not have the foggiest notions what scientific and philosophic socialism, that is, "communism," is all about.
All the more, we in Venezuela have to discover, to oil, to renew our real, true arms against world imperialist fascism. This is necessary, not only for the Communist Party of Venezuela, for the Tupamaros or some socialist Bolivarian study circles but also for all those comrades who support the "process" and who want to "deepen" its "revolution within the revolution."
This is also valid for the "chavistas without Chavez," to know with what fire they are playing in the prairies of America. To declare Marxism as being "obsolete," that is, to sing the same Swan's song like Bush & Co., could be fatal for the Bolivarian Revolution; there is a direct transhistoric, emancipatory relation between Bolivar, Marx and Chavez, towards exodus out of this miserable mode of self-destruction.
The "opposition" and the Bush administration are accusing us permanently of being "Castro-Communists," well, then, at least, we should study that what they talk about, before they get on the brilliant idea to do it themselves, and to use this formidable weapon against our own global class interests and emancipatory endeavors.
Venezuela, beware, do not forget that the fascist party of Hitler has called itself a national, socialist, workers party!
The above also concerns the emancipatory statement of President Hugo Chavez Frias that the economic basis in a future planned economy for Latin American integration "will be neither capitalist nor socialist."
In other words, detonating the third law of formal logics, in the classical political sense of these concepts, it will be neither reformist nor revolutionary, but emancipatory.
However, we first have to win a revolutionary battle against capitalist imperialism in the Americas, whether we like it or not, with the aid of both Bolivar and Marx.
As introductory guide, learning from Lenin, here we will just touch the practical and theoretical general essence of the problem of bourgeois reformist ideology and of the necessity of founding a political vanguard revolutionary party in Venezuela, Latin America and the rest of the world. In later writings we will freely apply these theoretical reflections to the concrete reality of contemporary Latin America, for example, to explain why revolutionary praxis and theory logically must lead to the formation of modern vanguard parties, to Internationalism versus Globalization, to permanent world revolution and human emancipation.
Of course, we could develop millions of new historic projects for humanity within world imperialism, for the poor, for billions they never will work out, will not change their progressive, geometric pauperization.
What is bourgeois, capitalist ideology?
In two works, I have already explained the content of reformist ideology, and its difference with regard to revolutionary theory.
(See: Franz J. T. Lee, Teoría-Práxis de la Revolución-Emancipación (1986) and Franz J. T. Lee, "Venezuela: De la Revolución Bolivariana a la Emancipación Humana" (2005))
In general, what did the fathers of scientific and philosophic socialism, real Marxism, teach us with reference to bourgeois, capitalist ideology and proletarian revolutionary theory?
Categorically, concerning social classes and ruling class ideology, Marx and Engels had stated the following: "The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it." (Marx and Engels, The German Ideology (1846).
In any event the concept of ideology of the "young" Marx is ambiguous but negative; according to him, it affirms the status quo, the establishment, by disfiguring reality, from which it parts, and by converting it into inadequate virtual fantasies, lies and hoaxes, that serve only ruling class interests.
Concerning the eradication of "ideology," they stated: that the rule of a certain class is only the rule of certain ideas; it will come to a natural end, of course, as soon as society ceases at last to be organized in the form of class rule, that is to say, as soon as it is no longer necessary "to represent a particular interest as general or ‘the general interests’ as ruling." (ibid.)
In order to understand Lenin’s considerations, it is important to understand these Marxian thoughts in the context of capitalist rule. As we know, and nowadays more than ever, the various bourgeoisies and corporate conglomerates nationally and internationally control systemic ideological production, that is, the mass media, education, socialization institutions, schools, universities and churches. They use these in their own class interests to perpetuate their parasitic existence. According to Lenin, as long as the bourgeoisie was young, revolutionary and relatively stable, for example, in the 18th and 19th centuries, its ideology fundamentally influenced the working classes, and many proletarian leaders were confused.
In the first phase of the workers’ struggles, especially until 1848 in Western Europe, much later in other regions, the proletariat as a "class in itself" still used the ideals ... for example, of liberty, equality and fraternity or of social justice, world peace and democracy ... of the capitalist French Revolution, and the ideology of the bourgeoisie, as developed by its philosophers across the centuries.
Till this very day, not even the Bolivarian Revolution escapes this ideological and religious onslaught. They did not realize that "liberty, equality and fraternity" were not for them, had nothing to do with workers or human rights. In fact for centuries millions of workers were not considered to be human, to be human beings at all. The toiling masses were just rightless slaves, "speaking tools" and "niggers" who "served neither for the use nor for the abuse of philosophy."
In Venezuela, this kind of knowledge, these reflections about our historic reality, are fundamental in the formulation of a theory of revolution and emancipation.
But as the class struggles intensified on a global scale, especially at the beginning of the 20th century, bourgeois class rule became unstable and shaky, thus a revolutionary process of the proletariat becoming a "class for itself“ set in. At first, the proletariat began to develop a "revolutionary ideology" (Lenin). This is a very strange controversial concept that in fact was used by Lenin. However, the same Lenin underlined: "without theory, no revolution!"
Later, especially during the intra-imperialist World War I and the following Great Depression of 1929, the workers in many countries more and more became conscious of their class oppression, of their class nature and interests, of their own historic mission. Progressively, after Lenin's death, as the subjective reflection of the objective class struggle a Marxist controversy between bourgeois ideology and workers' class consciousness, expressed as revolutionary theory, was developing itself everywhere in Europe, Africa and Asia, but also in other parts of the globe.
Here again, as we have stressed over and over already, we should note that something like "proletarian ideology“ or "Marxist ideology“ is scientifically alien to philosophic socialism. In fact, during the era of "Cold War," such terms were just corrupt ideological products of the then "real, existent socialism." Even formal logically It is nonsensical to talk about holy devils or devilish gods, about ideological theory or socialist ideology.
In Venezuela, we have to think very seriously what precisely "Bolivarian Ideology" and what its corresponding "ideological practice" should be. Now, in the terms of his epoch, let Lenin continue to explain to us what revolutionary theory should be.
In a world where the history of the working classes has disappeared from the syllabuses of higher education, where Marxism systematically is defiled, vilified and bedeviled, how and where will we still find commentaries about revolutionary praxis and theory in Venezuela in the official mass media?
For us, revolutionary theory concerns workers class consciousness, it has to do with the deep social desire to save mankind from capitalist, imperialist extinction on this god forlorn planet. With his theory of organization, Lenin tried to explain the inner dialectics of the revolutionary process of achieving political class consciousness, as it is developing itself within the concrete class struggle of the workers, of the working classes, of the proletariat. Concepts like liberty, equality and fraternity, or even like "Our Father who art in Heaven," today still are "cool," are "in." However, strange enough, socialist terms like those mentioned above, that concern the life and death struggle of billions of toiling workers, sound very strange indeed to our modern ears. They demonstrate our ideological confusion, our theoretical poverty, what mental damage has already been meted out to all of us across the centuries.
Meanwhile, it is horrible to hear who all talk about a "New Socialism for the 21st Century!" Among them are "chavistas" who have not read a single book of Marx, and who have not understood a single sentence of Marx, not even what he meant by stating that "religion is the opium of the people."
Who doubts that there is a class struggle in Venezuela, in Latin America, should please study Marxism, to get out of his bourgeois, capitalist, reformist, eternal slumber. If that what happened here between April and December 2002 is not a fierce social class struggle in Venezuela, then very urgently we should visit a competent revolutionary psychiatrist, to exorcise the "axis of evil" virus out of our tortured, controlled and enslaved minds.
Revolutionary Theory of Organization
Scientific and philosophic clarity with regard to the above is a precondition of getting down to revolutionary praxis in Venezuela, that is, of organizing the deepening of the revolution, of purifying it from reactionary, reformist elements, especially to construct the long overdue popular armed defense of the Bolivarian Revolution that currently in the year of presidential elections is in serious danger.
What is relevant for us is that Lenin’s revolutionary theory operates with three major categories: the working class (working masses); the proletarian vanguard (that part of the workers which is already class conscious) and the revolutionary organization (the Marxist Party).
The Working Class
Already Marx and Engels had developed an objective and a subjective "class“ concept. The subjective class concept, which was mainly developed by the young Marx in the Communist Manifesto (together with Engels) and in his works of 1850-52, denotes that the working class, with a minimum of self-consciousness could develop itself within the class struggle towards a "class for itself," to a sovereign with a revolutionary class consciousness, to revolutionary Citizen Power. Hence, they thought that a workers’ party would not necessarily play a decisive revolutionary role.
Surely, for the Russian Revolution, the historic situation was totally different, also for the colonial and semi-colonial regions.
Furthermore, we are in Venezuela, in the "Third World," in new historic conditions, but we all work, we live in an "under-developed" capitalist country, and a large part of the total population in one way or the other is "working," are wage workers. In Venezuela, in the factories they are still being exploited, dominated and discriminated, they do not possess as private property the major means of production and of communication. In this sense, what Marxist theoreticians were and are still saying to a great extent is also valid for us.
However, as we know, already after 1852, Marx and Engels also had formulated an objective class concept, which signifies mainly a "class in itself“ that is, a social group which is determined by its specific material place in the productive process, also by a specific political consciousness. This objective Marxist concept is fundamental for Lenin’s theory of organization (see his book, What is to be done?). Similarly, it is of significance to understand the works of the "left“ opposition within the German Social Democracy, under Engels, Bebel and even Kautsky.
This discussion is also relevant here in Venezuela with regard to the quo vadis of the Bolivarian Revolution, towards social revolution or social reform, towards socialism or barbarism.
The Proletarian Vanguard.
carries out a workers' revolutionary class struggle?
it need leadership, a political vanguard, a political party?
is class consensus, what is class struggle?
Does class struggle just vanish because it is "obsolete," because "capitalism" is "out-dated," because we are already "post-modern" or "post-capitalist," because we never mention it?
Surely, here and now, these socialist questions concern the Venezuelan "process" directly.
Lenin stressed that only because the proletarian class exists objectively in a revolutionary position, it can carry out a revolutionary class struggle. This is the reason why the workers of Venezuela could defend their president, their government and their oil industry in 2002. This is also the explanation why the "opposition" and Uncle Sam failed. Without the objective existence of Venezuelan workers, of formal and informal economic ones, of "buhoneros" and "tin-collectors," of oil and factory workers, long ago "neo-liberalism" and the ALCA would have been established in Venezuela.
Furthermore, Lenin indicated that only in connection with this class struggle, the concept of a revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat has a scientific meaning. Outside this historic combination, objective proletarian class and concrete class struggle, revolutionary activity can only constitute a "party core," but not a proletarian party.
Also in this context, Bolivarians could learn from Marxists, like Lenin, what should be, and could only be a revolutionary political party; otherwise we could just as well return to the "puntofijista" political dinosaurs, to Christian and Social Democratic relics of the past.
Hence, there cannot be a self-proclaimed "vanguard party." A real revolutionary workers party can only win the historic right of a vanguard within the actual class struggle. Without recognizing the class struggle in Venezuela, without participating directly with the poor, with the people in class struggle, without a Latin American popular base, here we will never be able to bring into life a real, true, non-sectarian, political, revolutionary party, or a Workers' International capable of toppling world fascism.
The constitution of global working classes, as a proletariat at different stages of development, of exploitation, as an objective category is itself a historic phenomenon. The working classes emerged from various social groups, which brought with them different forms of self -- or political -- consciousness.
We in Venezuela, nearly all of us are religious and Christian, we find ourselves in the equal, unequal and combined carousel and roulette of modern socialization processes, of the Mental Holocaust.
To a certain extent, many of us in Latin America are still struggling to reap the fruits of the French Revolution, for example, to achieve land reform, to enter modern industrialization.
Others are already completing the French Revolution in Globalization, realizing all the predictions of Marx in his work "Capital." All these definitely affect our consciousness, inspire our love for consuming a liberal good capitalism, produce our beloved "theology of liberation," our vague concepts of modern Christian socialism.
According to Lenin, logically the workers on the frontier of the class struggle, that is, the revolutionary vanguard will be the most advanced consciously. These workers should not be frustrated; we should not replace them with backward reactionary forces of the old regime.
The very category "a revolutionary party" has its analytic basis, its "revolutionary theory" in the emancipatory postulate that socialism is a very complicated science and complex philosophy which cannot be acquired or mastered collectively within weeks, or within "workshops" of short duration. In the transitional period of social revolution, for the time being, socialism, the true negation of capitalism, can only be comprehended individually or in small groups or cooperatives. Only in this way scientific and philosophic socialism can be distributed in its totality throughout society, throughout the country, the continent.
Concerning this aspect, we should remember that in the mid-19th century, according to Marxists, scientific, philosophic socialism has claimed to be the dialectical "blossoming" and the "self-abolishment" of at least three major classical social sciences: German philosophy, English national economy and French political science.
Such a scientific assimilation has as prerequisites a thorough grasp of materialist dialectics, historical materialism, bourgeois and Marxist economic theory, the history of modern social revolutions and of the contemporary working class movements within imperialism. Surely, a semi-educated factory worker, on the road and working daily for up to 15 hours, over-flowing with bourgeois ideology and illusions of consumption, is unable to learn and grasp the above scientific facts in their philosophic totality, and even less so, what globalization means today.
Thus, Lenin argued that only through individual selection of the most experienced working social groups of the proletariat can class consciousness and socialist ideas and praxis be eventually distributed socially among all workers, among all the allies of socialist revolution nationally and internationally.
Unfortunately, real, true revolutionaries are very few on this globe, and they cannot be created overnight, they do not sprout up like mushrooms even if the necessary conditions should exist.
Real revolutionaries need a life time to become true revolutionaries.
This has nothing to do with "ivory-tower" intellectualism, or with the hegemony of thought over action, or with ignorant, backward social layers, it concerns the stark reality of capitalist exploitation, domination and discrimination across centuries. Thus, because of the fact that class consciousness is initially acquired individually, members of other social groups, for example, intellectuals, can directly participate in the proletarian class struggle, provided that they further and protect working class interests.
Concerning the above, by organizing national and international forums of discussions, the Bolivarian Revolution made great international strides forward.
Against this background, Lenin developed his theory of the party. Of course, also the organization of a political party is part of revolutionary praxis and theory.
Yes, without theory, no political party, no vanguard of the revolution.
Workers' Class Struggle and Proletarian Class Consciousness
From the above, according to Lenin, it follows that the dialectical unity (as a contradictory process) of the three main factors ... proletarian masses, proletarian vanguard and revolutionary party ... determines the transformation of the elementary people's protests and daily struggles into organized revolutionary class struggles, into the proletarian world evolution itself. If applied to us, this would mean the real beginning of global internationalist class struggle in Latin America, of the majestic maturity of a continental and international Bolivarian Revolution, that could form the vanguard of a New World Socialism.
This North America fears, this is what it wants to nip in the bud. This is why there exists a "Plan Colombia," why an ALCA is necessary, why at strategic positions all the United States military forces are stationed in Central and South America, and in the Caribbean already.
In conclusion, we would like to recall that for millennia, class struggles has been waged, without that the revolutionary classes had known consciously what exactly were their historic mission. Furthermore, working class struggles occurred long before there ever existed a socialist movement, scientific socialism or the "Communist Manifesto." Such struggles included methods like strikes, "go-slows," violent protests, demonstrations or even trade unions in embryo. These were direct products of workers' actions against oppressive ruling class conditions, and can be classified as elementary forms of workers' class struggle.
What Marxism and especially Lenin and Trotsky showed us is that the collective action of progressive workers is very hard to achieve. Bolivarian revolutionaries across history are not multitudes, they still have to globalize, to internationalize themselves.
The revolutionary working class party
Through past experience they know that ephemeral actions do not lead to their goal of liberation. Also, they have no illusions about the strength of the ruling classes, of the USA. This is why Lenin stressed that these progressive workers have to be assimilated with the revolutionary cores of workers in order to establish a revolutionary working class party.
This party, as vanguard, has to be of the workers, to be organized by the workers, and to be placed in the service for the workers themselves; of course, with the unconditional aid of revolutionary intellectuals and other progressive class forces.
Also, the "ripening" process of a potentially revolutionary situation articulates itself in the continual corresponding actions of the broad working masses with those of the progressive workers. A revolutionary situation, that is, the possibility to conquer social power, exists when the assimilation of the workers revolutionary vanguard and mass actions is achieved, and, when at the same time, the political consciousness of the vanguard has become revolutionary consciousness.
This means that, at last, the social revolution has a praxis and theory, has become a socialist revolution, in a Marxist sense.
In spite of the fact that we are in political power already for more than seven years, do we really have a revolutionary vanguard, and, if so, have we achieved political consciousness?
Why do millions of workers and peasants support the revolution, in the first place for Chavez? Why not for all of us, and for themselves too?
Has the vanguard or the leadership of the Bolivarian Revolution become revolutionary conscious?
Are all the educational institutions and missions directed towards the development of a revolutionary class consciousness in Venezuela?
Such are the fundamental questions to ask and to answer, in order to know whether we are making a social revolution or just social reform here in Venezuela.
The transformation of the elementary class struggle into workers revolution, thus, has important quantitative and qualitative pre-conditions: a very large number of progressive workers is necessary, but also very clearly formulated revolutionary objectives -- a definite transitional socialist program, guided by a new logic, science and philosophy.
According to Lenin, a genius in revolutionary praxis and theory, only when in future all the above-mentioned factors are successfully and dialectically united with each other, will a successful revolution, the establishment of a new socialism of the 21st century be possible in Venezuela and in an integrated Latin America, and eventually on a world scale.