About the text:
From: There will come a day… Imperialism and the Working Class. Futura 1971, 31 p., p. 13-18.
First published in Danish in Kommunistisk Orientering, 20th October, 1967.
Vol 1, no. 4 of the periodical “EXtract” is devoted completely to an attack on the articles in “Communist ORIENTATION” about the perspectives of our struggle, “Collective Agreement and Parasite State”, and the later articles and special issues about labour aristocracy, the relation between trade union struggle and struggle for socialism in Denmark today, the role of the revisionists, etc.
The long article, which is Signed J.J., and which takes up the whole issue of “EXtract” is useful reading in many ways, and we recommend it to our readers for a thorough comparison with our articles, whereby they themselves will be able to see who is right. In our opinion, such a comparison will contribute towards cementing the understanding of the present situation in our part of the world, Denmark included.
Not only J.J. and “EXtract” disagree with us in our evaluation of the parasite state of Denmark and the road to socialism to be taken by her labour aristocracy. Nor is the disagreement confined to Denmark alone.
J.J. and others with him are of the opinion that also in Denmark of today it must be the task of revolutionary communists not only to lead the workers’ demands for higher wages, better living conditions etc., but even actively themselves to formulate new demands for the workers in this direction – with the explicit purpose of thereby bringing the class closer to revolution and socialism.
Also in other developed capitalist countries there are people who, like J.J., quote Mao Tse-tung and hail his thought, but whose idea of the road to socialism open to this capitalist world differs from ours.
These differences of opinion make us constantly test our theory – both through an analysis of concrete circumstances (the situation at the shipyard of B&W at many points seemed to us to furnish a preliminary confirmation of its correctness), and through constant reading of the classics of Marxism.
During this process we have found extremely interesting evaluations made by Marx, Engels and Lenin, and we take this opportunity to bring some quotations for J.J. and others in and outside Denmark to contemplate. These quotations, as Lenin says about the quotations he himself is presenting from Marx and Engels – are worth very serious contemplation.
The ‘civilized’ world is a parasite
Lenin starts his article “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism” from 1916 (Collected Works, English ed. Moscow 1964, vol. 23) with the words:
“Is there any connection between imperialism and the monstrous and disgusting victory opportunism (in the form of social-chauvinism) has gained over the labour movement in Europe?
This is the fundamental question of modern socialism.” (p. 105)
Lenin starts his analysis of this question with a renewed enumeration of the main features of imperialism, and writes that the fact that imperialism is parasitic and decaying capitalism manifests itself, among other things, in the fact that “the exploitation of oppressed nations – which is inseparably connected with annexations – and especially the exploitation of colonies by a handful of “Great” Powers, increasingly transforms the ‘civilized’ world into a parasite on the body of hundreds of millions in the uncivilized nations. The Roman proletarian lived at the expense of society. Modern society lives at the expense of the modern proletariane. Marx specially stressed this profound observation of Sismondi. Imperialism somewhat changes the situation. A privileged upper stratum of the proletariat in the imperialist countries lives partly at the expense of hundreds of millions in the uncivilized nations.” (p. 106-07)
Lenin further writes:
“… that the opportunists (social-Chauvinists) are working hand in glove with the imperialist bourgeoisie precisely towards creating an imperialist Europe on the backs of Asia and Africa, and objectively the opportunists are a section of the petty bourgeoisie and of certain strata of the working class who have been bribed out of imperialist superprofits and converted into watchdogs of capitalism and corrupters of the labour movement.” (p. 110)
Lenin brings a number of quotations from Marx and Engels in order to show the connection between first of all England’s industrial and colonial monopoly and the growth and protracted domination of opportunism, for instance these quotations from a letter from Engels to Kautsky on September 12th,1882: You ask me what the English workers think about colonial policy. Well, exactly the same as they think about politics in general. There is no workers’ party ‘here, there are only Conservatives and Liberal-Radicals, and the workers gaily share the feast of England’s monopoly of the world market and the colonies.” (p. 112)
Lenin goes on to write:
“… why does England’s monopoly explain the (temporary) victory of opportunism in England? Because monopoly yields superprofits, i.e. a surplus of profits over and above the capitalist profits that are normal and customary all over the world. The capitalists can devote a part (and not a small one, at that) of the superprofits to bribe their own workers, to create something like an alliance … between the workers of the given nation and their capitalists against the other countries” (p. 114).
“A handful of wealthy countries – there are only four of them, if we mean independent, really gigantic, ‘modern’ wealth: England, France, the United States and Germany – have developed monopoly to vast proportions, they obtain superprofits running into hundreds, if not thousands of millions, they ‘ride on the backs’ of hundreds and hundreds of millions of people in other countries and fight among themselves for the division of the particularly rich, particularly fat and particularly easy spoils.” (p.115)
Denmark gets her share of the spoils
Here it may be reasonable to bring a Lenin quotation concerning the position of Denmark in this division of the easy spoils from the colonies. Lenin’s description is from 1916, but the main point of it still holds true:
“… a specific feature of Danish imperialism, is the superprofits it obtains from its monopolistically advantageous position on the meat and dairy produce market: using cheap maritime transport, she supplies the world’s biggest market, London. As a result, the Danish bourgeoisie and the rich Danish peasants… have become ‘prosperous’ satellites of the British imperialist bourgeoisie, sharing their particularly easy and particularly fat profits.” (“Ten ‘Socialist’ Ministers!”, Collected Works, Moscow 1964, vol. 23, p. 135)
The few on the backs of the many
In 1920, in his speech at the Second Congress of Comintern (Collected Works, Moscow, vol. 31, p. 215 etc.) Lenin amplifies his description of the world in which “the impoverishment of the masses has grown incredibly, primarily among 1.250 million people, i.e. 70 per cent of the world’s population”, and where on the other hand opportunism still retains the predominant influence among the workers of the rich countries.
Lenin writes (p. 230-31):
“Here we must ask: how is the persistence of such trends in Europe to be explained? Why is this opportunism stronger in Western Europe than in our country? It is because the culture of the advanced countries has been, and still is, the result of their being able to live at the expense of a thousand million oppressed people. It is because the capitalists of these countries obtain a great deal more in this way than they could obtain as profits by plundering the workers in their own countries.
Before the war, it was calculated that the three richest countries – Britain, France and Germany – got between eight and ten thousand million francs a year from the export of capital alone, apart from other sources.
It goes without saying that, out of this tidy sum, at least five hundred millions can be spent as a sop to the labour leaders and the labour aristocracy, i.e., on all sorts of bribes. The whole thing boils down to nothing but bribery. It is done in a thousand different ways: by increasing cultural facilities in the largest centres, by creating educational institutions, and by providing co-operative, trade union and parliamentary leaders with thousands of cushy jobs. This is done wherever present-day civilized capitalist relations exist. It is these thousands of millions in superprofits that form the economic basis of opportunism in the working-class movement. In America, Britain and France we see a far greater persistence of the opportunist leaders, of the upper crust of the working class, the labour aristocracy; they offer stronger resistance to the Communist movement. That is why we must be prepared to find it harder for the European and American workers’ parties to get rid of this disease than was the case in our country. We know that enormous successes have been achieved in the treatment of this disease since the Third International was formed, but we have not yet finished the job; the purging of the workers’ parties, the revolutionary parties of the proletariat all over the world, of bourgeois influences, of the opportunists in their ranks, is very far from complete.
I shall not dwell on the concrete manner in which we must do that; that is delt with in my published theses. My task consists in indicating the deep economic roots of this phenomenon. The disease is a protracted one; the cure takes longer than the optimists hoped it would. Opportunism is our principal enemy. Opportunism in the upper ranks of the working-class movement is bourgeois socialism, not proletarian socialism. It has been shown in practice that working-class activists who follow the opportunist trend are better defenders of the bourgeoisie than the bourgeoisie itself. Without their leadership of the workers, the bourgeoisie could not remain in power. This has been proved, not only by the history of the Kerensky regime in Russia; it has also been proved by the democratic republic in Germany under its Social-Democratic government, as well as by Albert Thomas’s attitude towards his bourgeois government. It has been proved by similar experiences in Britain and in the United States. This is where our principal enemy is, an enemy we must overcome. We must leave this Congress firmly resolved to carry on this struggle to the very end, in all parties. That is our main task.”
In his article “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism” Lenin points out that Marx and Engels did not live to see the imperialist epoch of world capitalism, but that in the example of England they saw the connection between opportunism and the exploitation by western capitalism of the majority of mankind. Lenin in his turn, did not live to see World War II and the era of neo-colonialism.
Engels talked about a small group of opportunists and labour aristocrats – because he knew only a small group in a single country.
Lenin talked about large groups of labour aristocrats in a number of countries – because he knew only large groups.
Both agreed that the “disease” was protracted. Both agreed that it was very closely connected with the exploitation of the majority of mankind.
Lenin made his speech at the Second Congress of Comintern on the basis of the then existing situation in Europe.
He could not foresee the fact that imperialism in the West European and North American countries would prove able to use still more of its superprofits for bribery. He could not foresee that opportunism was not only a “protracted disease”, but that it had struck root so deeply in the West European working class that not even Fascism and World War 11 could exterminate it. He could not foresee that it was n e v e r exterminated in one single West European communist party.
He could not foresee that the workers of the imperialist countries would not only allow a World War II, but that even after that war they still “gaily share the feast” of the increased and manifold intensified exploitation of the oppressed peoples of Asia, Africa. and Latin America.