by MC5, December 1 2005
For decades now the Amerikan and European so-called Leftists told the world that the 90% of the population either has an interest in socialism or is somehow revolutionary. As time goes on, it becomes harder and harder to hide the fact that the employment profile of the united $tates is in what Marx called the parasitic "unproductive sector." By 1980, a majority of whites found themselves in the white collar sector.
In the Comintern resolutions pertaining to imperialist countries, the original revolutionaries of our time explained that white collar workers are less revolutionary than peasants. Peasants of course are "petty bourgeois" with the exception of wage workers among them. Yet over time, it seems that no one calling herself "Leninist" listens to the original Leninists anymore.
So already in statements of definitions and theory, the Leninists made it clear that what we see today in imperialist countries is not the basis for proletarian revolution. In fact, the Comintern said they were "beyond organizing" and right in "Left-Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder" Lenin said he did not expect Amerikan comrades to organize among the petty-bourgeoisie.
J. Sakai has already talked about the history behind the petty-bourgeoisie for Amerikans. H.W. Edwards touched on Europeans and Amerikans. What may come as the biggest shock of all is that Lenin had concrete historical experience with this problem in Russia, not just in leading an anti-war movement.
In explaining why socialism broke through in Russia and not the most advanced capitalist countries, Stalin explained that Russia was the "weakest link." While some were calling Russia prior to 1917 a French colony and while some referred to Russia as a German colony in 1918, Lenin made the rather bold assertion that Russia was imperialist, perhaps "semi-imperialist" or barely imperialist, and the most backward imperialist, but imperialist by the skin of its teeth.
The Cheka were Lenin's secret police, the first Soviet secret police. Most comrades should already know that the Cheka carried out the repressions in the era of the "Red Terror" of the Civil War in Russia. We commonly hear that the first jobs involved hooligans and looters running the streets in disorderly Russia. From there it would only be a question of which ministry or military unit was carrying out repressions during the Civil War. One thing for sure, Lenin made it clear that he was repressing people. What we should not forget is that the first repressions necessitating a Cheka and not just ordinary police came against white collar so-called workers.
We can learn of this in Lenin's letter to Dzerzhinsky of December 7, 1917. According to Lenin the entire civil service was raising a strike and driving the city into a food shortage. The bank then issued propaganda its own name to rebut Lenin! It claimed it was still distributing enough money for people in the city not to starve. Lenin returned to the subject again on December 14th and called for major organizational steps upon penalty of being brought before revolutionary courts.
The Bolsheviks had a much stronger position in 1917 than any communist movement has had in the imperialist countries since: 1) the people in Soviet elections gave majorities to the Bolsheviks in the two major cities of Petrograd and Moscow; 2) soldiers lined up for the movement especially in the major cities and across-the-board the Bolsheviks had the good fortune to be the only party sensible enough to call for an end to World War I. Even the anarchists of the time lodged in the "Left SRs" wanted to continue the war against Germany. Thus the Bolsheviks were able to seize the cities of Petrograd and Moscow by insurrection. The rest is as they say, "history."
The seizure of power was not so quick so that white collar workers did not know what hit them. The Bolshevik power seizure in fact had several dry runs in 1917 starting with February, but also in April. The basic issues were well known to all as each political party had its own press. The various parties discussed the seizure of power at a time when the public interest in politics was at fever pitch. Yet despite Bolshevik troops swarming in the streets, the white collar worker waged a general strike, not for the Bolsheviks but in the face of armed peasants now called soldiers.
This white collar movement was not only not an accident, it had real spine. With troops and commissars ordering them to turn over money, bank employees repeatedly denied the Bolsheviks even after the seizure of power. The bank had the nerve to continue sending the ex-tsar his allowance approved by the previous government. Not only that, the previous government also continued to withdraw money in semi-exile internally with 40 million of the total of 610 million rubles withdrawn in a week. On repeated occasions, bank employees stared down guns barrels and said "no" to the Bolsheviks.(2) As we can imagine, this was an even bigger issue then than it would be today, because of the gap in education between bank employees and those who might want to replace them.
Even once in power, Lenin's first $5 million in rubles from the bank came from an armed robbery where Bolsheviks with rifles had to threaten their way all the way into the vault. They could not set up a more orderly way of extracting money from the bank.(3)
By mid-December 1917, the general strike of civil servants was still on against the Bolsheviks. Workers in Foreign Affairs, Enlightenment, Justice, Supply, Customs and the State Bank refused to work including lower-ranking civil servants. City workers in Moscow quit their jobs and the strikes spread into the provinces. The strikes did not end until Lenin broke up the Constituent Assembly in January, 1918.(2) Thus as we followers of Lenin often say there was a concrete example of the importance of politics to the economy. Only after a change in the qualitative situation in political life was it possible to promote lower-ranking civil servants to do what the upper-ranking ones had refused to do.
In 1917 it would be reasonable to think that the white collar strike in Russia against Lenin was an historical aberration. As it turns out, no one has managed to surpass Lenin in the imperialist countries. What could have been a one-time thing has turned out to be the rule largely because white collar workers have become an expanding portion of the imperialist countries. It was not to be the case where Leninism would usher in advances making it possible to organize white collar workers for revolution in the imperialist countries. Quite the contrary, as MIM has said many times, bringing the white collar worker to political life on his terms means awakening counterrevolution. It is the labor aristocracy that is the main force for fascism, so organizing that class for its demands promotes fascism, whatever the intentions of the organizer. The proof is what happened to Lenin. We deny all imperialist history since then only to the disadvantage of the proletarian struggle.
Recently, some comrades at www.irtr.org took fire from our Liberal crypto- Trotskyist critics for wanting to set up "One Big Gulag" and even slavery over the exploiters inside u.$. borders. Our critics are either denying what happened to Lenin and why the Cheka got started or they are like anti-communists everywhere trying to exaggerate what the Cheka was doing to repress the bourgeois elements. The two choices of our critics are the ostrich approach to history and the practice of classes or the slander-Lenin approach. For those Liberal rationalists who ask "why can't I organize them [white collar workers] with the truth?" the problem is that classes are classes and not individual people subject to persuasion. It is not a question of having the individual will to struggle with people. Saying so implies that one imagines she will be more persuasive and stronger-willed than Lenin and MIM is here to say that is an unrealistic "voluntarist" assumption. (The root word of "voluntarist" is "volunteer.") More important than one's individual will is the historical truth. Summing up history and not breaking the bond of theory and practice means summing up the white-collar worker in practice in the imperialist countries since 1917. A summation of that history unavoidably leads in MIM's direction, not the direction of the MIM critics.
1. Lenin's letter Dec 7 1917; an Amerikan college course translation says that Lenin's letter disapproved repressive measures mentioned against the civil service on December 7th. Another translation says he approved them. In any case, the Cheka started in connection to State Bank workers.
2. Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution (NY: Knopf, 1990), pp. 527-9.