Workers, Study Marxism!
Nowhere in the world does the proletariat (working class) face a more viciously reactionary, hardened and entrenched enemy than in South Africa. To enslave us in exploitation, capitalism has built here a racial fortress of immense power, armed with the most efficient weapons of repression and destruction, fuelled and fortified by the class-allies of the bosses abroad.
Our movement has laid siege to this fortress. Through organisation, through sacrifice, through stubborn resistance and firmness of will, we have begun to wear away at its foundations and crack its social walls. The tide of battle has begun to turn. Here and internationally it is our forces - the forces of the proletariat - which are rising, while theirs are falling into disarray.
Yet least of all in South Africa does any easy victory offer itself before us. By far the hardest struggles are still ahead. The cornered enemy will lose no opportunity to turn any weakness on our side to advantage, to buy time with deception, to send agents of division and confusion into our ranks, to rain savage blows when least expected on any exposed flank.
Against the 'total strategy' of the enemy, our movement requires its own total strategy for the conquest of power. To organise and arm the mass movement of the black proletariat for revolution is the great task of this period. But the condition for the success of that task is clarity of understanding - a scientific theory to guide our work.
The class struggle against the bosses and their state is also a struggle of ideas. Throughout history the ruling classes have made their own ideas, their own view of the world, their own distorted 'science', the ruling ideas of society. Every revolutionary movement has required revolutionary ideas, expressing the interests and outlook of the rising revolutionary class, and breaking the hold of the stifling ideas of the old order.
Our class, the proletariat, has a long history of struggle in many countries, and a long history of fighting for the clarity and supremacy of its own ideas. For 135 years the world proletariat has possessed a scientific theory, expressing its own experience of life, its own general interests, and its own historic task of conquering power. That theory is scientific socialism - or Marxism.
Because the proletariat is without property and cannot exploit any other class; because in its struggle for power it must consistently champion the democratic interests of all oppressed people against tyranny and exploitation - the proletariat alone of all classes can look reality squarely in the face. The proletariat alone has no interest either in deceiving itself or in deceiving society. Thus it is the authentic class ideas of the proletariat alone which can have a truly scientific character.
Marxism - the revolutionary science of the world proletariat - for the first time laid bare the real material causes of historical development, and explained the socialist and communist future towards which society is advancing.
But the ideas of Marxism did not fall from the skies. They are drawn from the whole body of knowledge gained by mankind in its laborious progress from the most primitive to the most advanced modes of production. The towering accomplishment of Marx was to penetrate the scientific kernels in previous philosophical, historical and economic thinking, while completely discarding the mystifying shells which encased them.
Nor could Marx, despite his genius, arrive at scientific conclusions apart from the proletariat itself. The ideas of Marxism are not the simple product of the library or the study, but were formed in the very midst of the awakening working-class movement.
Itis no accident that all the great teachers of this revolutionary science - notably Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky -were active political organisers and revolutionary fighters in the. workers' movement. Today it is just as impossible to genuinely master Marxism without the will for revolutionary action
The ideas of Marxism are ideas of the workers' movement - not ideas brought to it from outside. Marxism articulates what workers experience in daily life under the bosses' heel. At the same time Marxism generalises this experience, draws it together internationally, examines its development over time, and so defines the lessons and charts the course for the whole movement.
In periods when the proletarian movement has surged forward world-wide and confronted the ruling class with a revolutionary challenge, the active layers of the workers have turned overwhelmingly towards Marxist ideas. All the mass workers' Internationals - the First, the Second and the Third - arose on a consciously Marxist programme.
But in periods when capitalism has advanced strongly, when the class struggle has ebbed, or when workers' revolutions have been defeated and the bourgeoisie for a time has strengthened its grip - the ideas of Marxism have ceased to be mass ideas, becoming confined instead to narrowing circles of the remaining conscious cadres.
In such a period Marx and Engels found it necessary to wind up the First International, to prevent the staining of its banner by the resurgence of pre-Marxist and reactionary ideas.
In such a period the Second International decayed into reformism and national chauvinism, while many of its most prominent leaders contrived to apply the label of 'Marxism' to anti-working-class policies. The great achievement of the Bolsheviks was to preserve the method of Marxism against this corruption, building a cadre which could lead the next tide of the revolution on the right course.
The Russian Revolution of October 1917, under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky, brought Marxism once again to unequalled authority within the international proletarian movement and led to the formation of the Third International.
But a period of great defeats of the proletarian revolution in other countries followed. The Russian Revolution was isolated, and itself degenerated, leading to the dictatorship of the bureaucracy under Stalin. The Third International succumbed to the same process of decay, abandoning Marxism for nationalism and reformism. Its Stalinist leaders falsely labelled their anti-Marxist ideas with the name of 'Leninism'.
In fact, after the death of Lenin the authentic method of Marxism was carried forward by the cadres of the Bolshevik Left Opposition, whose international leader was Trotsky. It is to this chain of revolutionary tradition, from Marx and Engels to Lenin and Trotsky, that the Marxists of today must look for political guidance and authority.
For a whole historical period, the mass of the proletariat world-wide has been without Marxism. Marxist ideas have been defended and developed for well over a generation by only a slender cadre within the workers' movement.
A great flowering of pseudo-Marxist ideas and tendencies has taken place, especially among intellectuals divorced from the workers' life. Endless varieties of reformist, nationalist and other unscientific ideas continue to flourish under the guise of 'Marxism', as off-shoots of old distortions. This has clouded the path with confusion, and now confronts the fresh generation of revolutionary youth and workers with time-consuming difficulties.
Nevertheless, the real tradition of Marxism has been preserved, and today is raising an unmistakable voice within the mass organisations of labour in a growing number of countries. In South Africa we must urgently strive to recover this tradition for our movement, to master it critically, and to test it and deepen it in the light of our own experience.
The surest route to an independent understanding of Marxism is to study over and over again the original works of the great teachers.
In this and future supplements, INQABA will reprint extracts from these works - works which are mostly suppressed by the regime or which are otherwise not readily available to workers in South Africa. In this way we hope to assist the many study circles which have sprung up among young workers and students, and so shorten the journey of self-education which comrades have to travel in order to grasp the essence of the Marxist method.
Today the racist fortress of the bosses is crumbling. If the cadre of our class masters revolutionary theory and succeeds in popularising it among the masses, our movement can become a conscious fortress of workers' power against which every reactionary wave will break and fail.
And with its ranks fortified in this way, the ANC will the more surely and swiftly rise as a mass force within South Africa and conquer.