Introductory Education Programme

Article Index


SECTION SEVEN: The need for communist organisation today

Today, capitalism means war, crisis, deepening poverty for billions of oppressed people and environmental destruction on an ever-increasing scale. There is no future for humanity in a capitalist world. The choice is once more between socialism and barbarism. Whilst the resistance of the working class is spontaneously revolutionary, only through the fusion of such a struggle with Marxist thought can there be created a new communist movement capable of challenging capitalism. Hence the struggle to defend the ideas and principles of Marxism is critical to creating the movement of the future. An organisation must be built which is capable of uniting the fighting elements of the working class into a force strong enough to lead the mass of the oppressed into confrontation with the ruling class and its state, which is an organ of class rule, securing the conditions for the exploitation of the working class. Marx’s understanding of the state underwent a great development as a result of the 1871 Paris Commune when he argued that the working class could not lay its hands on the ready- made state apparatus and wield it in its own interests: rather it needs to be smashed, broken up. Lenin built on this in his pamphlet State and Revolution, written just prior to the October Revolution, arguing that the working class’s first act in establishing socialism will be the destruction of bourgeois state power and the forcible suppression of the capitalist class.

As well as confronting the ruling class and its state, the fighting elements of the working class and oppressed must also confront the privileged stratum of the working class which relies on the continuing existence of British imperialism for its position. Both Marx and Engels pointed to the creation of this labour aristocracy within the British working class after the defeat of Chartism in 1848; Engels argued that British capitalism’s monopoly position in the world market allowed it to bribe an upper section of the working class, secure its political support, and through it, to control the whole working class. By the First Imperialist War, such a division existed in all Imperialist powers, as the ruling class used a small proportion of their colonial super-profits to buy off a tiny labour aristocracy which in practice controlled the parties, trade unions and the press of the entire working class.

The outbreak of the war in 1914 showed that the split had become irrevocable, as the organisations controlled by the labour aristocracy sided with ‘their’ ruling class and enthusiastically supported the slaughter in the name of ‘national defence’ and ‘democracy’. One significant party held out against the tide of chauvinism, social imperialism and opportunism that swept through the socialist movement of the day - the Russian Bolsheviks. Their consistent opposition to the war and to those ‘socialists’ who supported the brutal slaughter was the basis for the triumph of the Russian Revolution in October 1917. The material conditions of imperialism give rise to opportunist layers in the working class movement in imperialist countries which seek to reconcile the interests of the oppressed and the oppressors. Without ruthlessly exposing these currents, no revolutionary movement can emerge. Without political organisation, no crisis of the capitalist system will ever, of itself, give way to socialism. ‘Organisation is our only weapon.’

Primary Reading: ‘Imperialism and the split in the working class movement’ – David Yaffe – FRFI 253 October/November 2016

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