Revolutionary Communist Party – Brazil
Luiz Falcao

Against Individualism

After being arrested for the second time on August 16, 1965, Manoel Lisboa, founder of the Revolutionary Communist Party PCR, then 21 years old, declared himself to be a Marxist-Leninist and wrote: "The awakening of human consciousness to social problems, to the problem of millions of exploited, is a feeling that unleashes in each person a series of changes for better and proper behavior in one’s personal life."*

* The first arrest of Manoel Lisboa took place in 1964, when he was in jail for 15 days. The Life and Struggle of the Communist Manoel Lisboa. Manoel Lisboa Publications.

Contrary to what the petty-bourgeois intellectuals keep saying, to be a Marxist-Leninist is not a cliché. It means taking up a new ideology, an ideology characterized by defending a new society in which there is no exploitation of man by man; it is to awaken one’s consciousness to social problems; to identify the real causes of poverty, hunger and unemployment, to understand that the class struggle is the lever of social transformation; it is the fight to put an end to these injustices and, mainly, to dedicate one’s life to the struggle, to the revolution.

Thus, each member who joins the Revolutionary Communist Party, who becomes a Marxist-Leninist, deepens his commitment to the millions of exploited in our country and in the world, but also initiates a process of change in his life, abandons his old conceptions and ideas and acquires a new consciousness, a new way of seeing the world, which cannot but lead to a new behavior in his life.

The Struggle Between the Old and the New

However, sometimes we slip in this process of profound personal transformation, acting vain and arrogantly in relations with comrades or at meetings of our collectives. Discussions that could be held in a calmer manner suddenly become an argument in which no one hears or pays attention to what the other person is saying, just what the person himself is saying. Often one reaches a dead end and what is worse, some maintain the rancor of these discussions instead of being self-critical about their behavior. The collective, with many new members sitting through such confrontations in silence, wonder if there is really a reason for all this discussion and why so much excitement and hostility if we are among comrades. Other members worry too much about being recognized and behave as if they thought things would be better if they themselves were in command.

There is no doubt that such behavior is a manifestation of old individualist conceptions, which are survivals of egotistical habits such as: "what matters is individual success and not collective success." Clearly, this vanity has nothing to do with the new man or new woman, nor is it a virtue; on the contrary, the Leninist is, above all, a simple, altruistic person more committed to the millions of oppressed in the world than to himself. Although he always defends debate and discussion, he must fight for this to be fraternal, so that each discussion will result in the development of a new consciousness of the Party and not in a situation of victors and vanquished.

Lenin: Simple as the Truth

Indeed, in the book Brief Illustrated History of Lenin by Elio Bolsanello, we find the following passage: "Asked about Lenin’s most important characteristic, Dmitri Pavlov, a worker of Samara, answered Maxim Gorky: ’Simplicity. He is simple as the truth.’ John Reed, author of the book Ten Days That Shook the World, said the same thing. ‘Lenin is so simple, so human and at the same time so wise and strong’."*

* Brief Illustrated History of Lenin. Elio Bolsanello. Manoel Lisboa Publishers.

Also Nadezhda Krupskaya, in her article "Lenin, Propagandist and Agitator," states that "Lenin could not abide people who watched the masses from above. He always spoke respectfully with humble people and he was sincerely interested in what they did and thought. He listened and not only talked, trying to learn and not only to teach."

But beyond communist vanity, we have another manifestation of individualism, no less harmful to the achievement of our deep ideological unity: resistance to authority within the Party, in particular, to decisions with which one does not agree. When one is in agreement with a decision that has been made, all is well, but if the decision taken is not that which one defended, one remains silent or goes against the collective decision in order to show that "I was right and the collective was wrong.” Some even make individual conversations that question the correctness of the decision of the collective.

As much as one considers one’s position as the most correct, to spread mistrust within the Party is equivalent to developing skepticism in the revolution, because the Party is the main instrument available to the working class to put an end to the slavery and exploitation imposed by the bourgeois state. As history has proven countless times, without a profound cohesion and unity of action in the revolutionary party it is not possible to defeat the capitalist class nor to build a new society. Certainly, as Stalin stated, "No army at war can dispense with an experienced General Staff if it does not want to be doomed to defeat."

Even for a strike or occupation to be successful needs a great unity among its participants and a strong and cohesive leadership.

What we must ensure is ongoing discussions in the collectives and to avoid making decisions without such discussion. Also the Party must act within society, it cannot stand by watching as the band marches by, and it will do this better if we are all conscious of the importance of our unity. Therefore, after the debate, the fight, we must all unite and work to win our objectives: to develop the consciousness and organization of the masses and increase the size of the Party. In fact, to weaken the authority within the Party is to reject the role of an organization of revolutionaries; it is to join the old spontaneity. Moreover, as Engels says, one cannot in any way defend a revolution and be against authority, for "A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is." (Engels, On Authority.)

However, when we evaluate these events and make these observations, everyone agrees and recognizes that they did not act properly and they promise that this will not happen again. Others are more sincere and say that they know that it was wrong, but they do not change.

Now, one cannot defeat the old with superficial attitudes and empty promises; a titanic struggle is needed to persevere and not give up. Besides that, "When the new has just been born the old always remains stronger than it for some time, this is always the case in nature and in social life" (Lenin, A Great Beginning).

The Individual and the Collective

But, why do even comrades who are avowedly Marxist-Leninists still have these attitudes?

As Marx explains, “The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class." In a capitalist society such as the one we live in, the ideas that dominate are naturally those of the bourgeoisie. And what are they? "To exploit another human being for one’s own benefit is just and correct"; "to succeed in life one must be competitive at all times to beat one’s rivals in the market"; “things are what they are and one cannot change the world."

That ideology is reproduced millions of times each day in every movie, every newspaper, every television or radio program, on the internet and by all bourgeois institutions in capitalist society. Therefore they exert a huge influence on people, even if they themselves do not realize it.

In other words, the contradiction between the individual and the collective is not the result of chance; it is the offspring of the dominant ideas in our society: that the individual is more important than everything; that to be a person one cannot give up one’s idea and one should always impose one’s interests and will upon another, no matter what, regardless of the harm that it causes. Thus, vanity and arrogance do not just happen; they are the offspring of bourgeois morality and are based on private ownership of the means of production.

Speaking to the Soviet communist youth, Lenin described this bourgeois mentality in this way: “If I have a job as a doctor, engineer, teacher, or clerk, I do not care a rap for anybody else. If I toady to and please the powers that be, I may be able to keep my job, and even get on in life and become a bourgeois”.*

Lenin, The Tasks of the Youth Leagues.

Our Success Is the Revolution

All these ideas lead to a behavior of contention and dispute among people. To want to be better than others and do everything for personal gain. The communist has another mentality; his goal is not personal gain but the liberation of the working class, the end of the suffering of the workers, the achievement of a new society, of a better world that is one of brotherhood among the peoples instead of wars.

Actually, the victory of the revolution is not possible without defeating the old society and affirming the new one both in the country and in the individual. The true communist must be aware of these attitudes, be conscious of the fact that they are the continuation in us of what is old and backward and that they are extremely harmful to the revolutionary struggle. So it is not enough to study Marxism-Leninism; we must practice camaraderie daily, we must develop an genuine solidarity with all oppressed people; we must keep in mind how Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Che Guevara and other great revolutionaries lived and how they acted in life, to cultivate simplicity and not vanity in one’s personal life.

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