Workers’ Party of Tunisia

The struggle against opportunism and revisionism, a necessary condition for the victory of the revolution

From the beginning, the Marxist theory has evolved in the fight against various opportunist currents more or less present in the international workers’ movement, particularly in Europe.

Lenin, in an article from 1908,1 briefly recalled the theoretical battle that Marx and Engels waged from the 1840s to the end of the 19th century, against various opportunist currents and theories within the workers’ movement: against the radical Young Hegelians who advocated philosophical idealism; against Proudhonism, against Bakuninism, against the positivism of Duhring,2 etc. The victory of Marxism as a theory of the liberation of the working class was undeniable at the end of that century.

However, that fight was not over, because

the penetration of this ideology into the workers’ movement took new forms and expressions. Thus, in 1890 anti-Marxism appeared within Marxism itself. Bernstein was one of the first who proposed revising Marx, thus giving rise under the name of “revisionism” to that current that had different developments with the evolution of the international communist movement. That current had various names in different countries and had representatives in the organizations that claimed to support the theory of the working class.

On the philosophical field, the revisionists attacked dialectical materialism and defended openly idealist theories, basing their foundations on ancient or modern authors, such as Kant.

In the field of political economy, they denied the tendency toward concentration of production that, according to them, was not based on reality; they also rejected the idea of cyclical crises, which, they said, were rarely manifested, and they even claimed that the class antagonisms tended to be reduced.

Politically, the revisionists took aim at the theory of the class struggle and of the State. They claimed that democratic liberties and universal suffrage soothed the class struggle and made it out-of-date. They ended up stating that the State was not an organ of class rule, but that it expressed the will of the majority.

Lenin, worthy heir of Marx and Engels, responded to these revisionists and refuted their theses. From that viewpoint, in 1909 he published his masterful work “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism,” exposing their philosophical allegations, arguing on the basis of the advances in the field of science, particularly of nature, starting from what Engels had developed. As for the alleged refutation of cyclical crises of the capitalist system and of the class struggle, it is reality that has proved otherwise.

As Lenin pointed out, revisionism is inevitable since it has roots in modern society. Among other causes, it is engendered by the constant proletarianization of strata of the petty bourgeoisie as a result of the development of capitalism; these elements (small producers and others) are incorporated into the ranks of the working class, but they retain their class ideology, which leads them to try to adapt Marxism to their own interests, for which they resort to its revision.

Lenin ended his above-mentioned work [“Marxism and Revisionism”] with this paragraph:

“The ideological struggle waged by revolutionary Marxism against revisionism at the end of the nineteenth century is but the prelude to the great revolutionary battles of the proletariat, which is marching forward to the complete victory of its cause despite all the waverings and weaknesses of the petty bourgeoisie.”

Gerald Ford and Leonid Brezhnev
Khrushchevite revisionism means capitulation to imperialism

At the same time, Lenin led a relentless struggle against the opportunist and revisionist currents within his own party, the RSDLP (Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party), currents whose expression was concentrated in Menshevism. Without that struggle the victory of the first proletarian revolution would not have been possible.

The whole history of the RSDLP (after 1912 the Bolshevik Party) is the history of the struggle against opportunist and revisionist currents. The birth of the party at the end of the 19th century was made possible due to the struggle waged by the Marxists, such as Plekhanov, against Russian populism, which was then the most advanced form of opportunism in Russia. When Plekhanov founded the “Emancipation of Labor Group,” he put forward two objectives: to spread Marxism among the working class and to fight against populism, which predominated within it. The first conference, held in 1898, which gave birth to the “Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party,” did not achieve those objectives. With nine delegates attending, Plekhanov could not achieve a revolutionary program nor establish the bases for a party, a genuine organized vanguard of the working class.

Lenin, who was unable to attend this congress because he had been deported to Siberia, devoted himself from then on to fight against these errors, and from the pages of Iskra he continued the fight led by Plekhanov against populism; he also denounced “economism” and “legal Marxism,” opportunist currents that had emerged in Europe, which quickly found representatives in Russia. Iskra also served to ensure the unity of the Marxists around a program and to prepare a congress worthy of the party of the working class, whose principles were expounded by Lenin in his “What Is To Be Done?” (1902).

The second congress, held in 1903, adopted a revolutionary program that was applied until the seizure of Power and which was changed to a new one at the 8th Party Congress held in 1919. At that congress (1903), there was a great debate over organizational principles, particularly over the first article of the statutes that opposed Lenin’s conception to Martov’s, which gave rise to the Menshevik and Bolshevik currents within the party.

The ideological and political struggle within the RSDLP was crystallized around these two currents, a struggle that continued at the subsequent congresses held in consecutive years: the 3rd in 1905, 4th in 1906, 5th in 1907, undermined and split by the Mensheviks, which Lenin denounced in his work “One Step Forward, two Steps Back” (1904). The 6th congress took place in April of 1917, on the eve of the Great October Revolution. But earlier, as a result of the Menshevik sabotage, Lenin did not hesitate to call a conference of the Party, which took place in Prague in 1912, in which the Bolsheviks constituted the Marxist party.

After that the struggle increased. Stalin had to wage a continuous and tenacious ideological struggle against the bourgeois currents that emerged within the party. Three principal bourgeois currents placed Soviet socialism in danger:

• Trotskyism, which with “leftist” verbiage developed an anti-Soviet and anti-communist line that corresponded perfectly to the needs of German and U.S. imperialism.

• Bukharinism, which was a new form of the social-democratic line under the conditions of socialism, which advocated the extinction of the class struggle, the integration of capitalist elements into socialism, and the conciliation with the Menshevik currents.

• Bourgeois nationalism, which utilized the masses of certain nationalities, driven by the national bourgeoisie against socialism, under the slogan of independence.

The confrontation with these three ideological currents was of historic importance for the victory of socialism and the consolidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Stalin not only had to fight against these currents within the CPSU. After 1948, he criticized and then denounced the policy pursued by Tito. Titoism was in fact a condensation of the three bourgeois currents that had been defeated in the Soviet Union during the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s. In 1948, the international bourgeoisie denounced the “control” that Stalin wanted to impose on Yugoslavia and supported Tito’s “policy of independence/1 However, this fight was not for the “control” of independence, but between the Marxist-Leninist line and the bourgeois line. The fight against Tito was nothing trivial; it was in reality the continuation of the struggles carried out by Stalin and the CPSU against the enemies of Bolshevism. In launching the struggle against Tito’s revisionism in 1948, Stalin showed his clarity and firmness of principle. Forty-five years later history fully confirmed his foresight.

After Stalin’s death, following the 20th Congress of the CPSU, revisionism was established as the political line of the party. It was the greatest betrayal of Marxism-Leninism and the principal cause of the division and weakening of the international communist movement. Khrushchev’s report to the 20th Congress, his secret report on Stalin, and later the report to the 22nd Congress in 1962, are a detailed expression of the revisionist, bourgeois line within the International Communist Movement.

The Communist Party of China and the Party of Labour of Albania had the historical merit of consistently defending Marxism-Leninism against Khrushchevite revisionism.

Why and how are the revisionist and opportunist conceptions an obstacle to the victory of the revolution?

After the 20th Congress of the CPSU, that party dragged the international communist movement along the path of revisionism, and launched the theory of peaceful transition to socialism. The communist parties that adopted that thesis ceased to be parties for the revolution and became mere social-democratic parties that work to improve the capitalist system. Thus, parliamentarism and the electoral road are the only perspectives that they offer to the working class. The question of Power and its seizure by the proletariat through revolutionary violence are not relevant for these parties. The theory of the class struggle has been transformed into class collaboration. This has led to the degeneration of these parties. Today, the majority of them have been transformed into mere bourgeois parties that serve as appendages to the regimes at the service of world capitalism.

The heritage of the international communist movement, the science of the proletarian revolution, which is the theoretical summary of the struggles waged by the working class for two centuries, have been put aside and replaced by a bourgeois ideology that is in no way distinguished from that of the bourgeois parties. Since then, revisionism has been one of the greatest dangers to the revolution.

Why is revisionism a principal danger?

Because it has become the most deceitful and most subtle manifestation of bourgeois ideology. It is an apparently Marxist ideology, it uses revolutionary phraseology; however what it does is confuse the masses. Revisionism is an integral part of bourgeois ideology, of that of the oppressors; it serves to destroy the vigilance of the working class and its willingness to fight for its emancipation.

But to achieve its goals, the revisionists need the masses; they have kept a part of them under their influence. They utilize them in short-term struggles, both in the economic and the political sphere. The revisionists are vigilant against the radicalization of the masses and their revolutionary politicization. They are afraid that the masses will raise their ideological level.

Regardless of the label that they use, whether they call themselves Marxists, Marxist-Leninists or Marxist-Leninist-Maoists, the revisionists always end up showing their bourgeois ideology and their genuine class interests by their political practice.

They transform Marxist philosophy into bourgeois philosophy, revolutionary dialectics into vulgar evolutionism. They transform Marxist economy into bourgeois economy and scientific socialism into bourgeois socialism.

In this regard, Engels had already explained that over long periods of time the workers’ movement will accumulate a “colossal pile of garbage” that it will be necessary to sweep away. It is, therefore, a permanent task that must be taken up by the Marxist-Leninist parties themselves, and within the working class, to shield them against the influence of every type of bourgeois ideology. This is one more task that we Marxists have to carry out to prepare the conditions for the victory of the revolution.

To occasionally denounce revisionism is insufficient to remove them from the leadership and from the ranks of the workers’ and popular movement, a task that the Marxist-Leninist parties should ensure, while seeking to attract to it the vanguard workers of the trade unions and other mass organizations. To achieve this we must unite ourselves with the masses, we must organize, mobilize and politicize them and build together with them the organizations necessary for the struggle and to prepare the revolution. We must explain, educate, learn and fight resolutely with the masses, without losing sight of the fact that this is all part of the inevitable preparations for the proletarian revolution.

In summary, we hold that history of the workers’ movement has been marked throughout its existence by the theory and action of scientific socialism, that is, of Marxism, and later of Marxism-Leninism, in order to guide the struggle of the working class and the laboring masses. This action, indispensable to ensure the victory of the revolution, is always developed through a tenacious struggle against non-proletarian ideologies, to denounce and isolate within the working class and its allies, the conceptions propagated by the bourgeoisie with the help of certain elements, conscious or unconscious agents of the class enemy on all fronts, ideological, political, cultural and organizational.

This fight also takes place within the communist party. It is therefore the duty of all members to understand the historical experiences of the workers’ movement, of the proletarian revolutionary parties and organizations, the teaching of the theory of scientific socialism. For this we must study and always study these teachings to better understand the class enemy, to fight him better now and in the future.

Tunisia, April 2014

“The fight against imperialism is a sham and humbug
unless it is inseparably bound up with the fight against opportunism.” LENIN


  1. “Marxism and Revisionism”
  2. F. Engels, “Anti-Dühring”
Click here to return to the Index, U&S 28