Today’s point of order is to talk briefly about the real movement, organization, and ideology.
The Real Movement:
What is the real movement? Marx mentions the real movement in the following passage: “Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement [of the proletariat] which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.” (The German Ideology) The real movement is exactly as it sounds like: it is the proletarian movement in its actuality, the actual ebb and flow of the class struggle of the working class, as opposed to a description of the ebb and flow of organizations or individuals formally claiming to represent the proletariat. We can call such a description of the formal bodies substituting themselves for the proletariat the “formal movement” or “mystified movement” of the proletariat in contrast with “the real movement” of the proletariat.
Marxist-Leninism, as well as its derivative ideologies (Marxism-Leninism-Maoism) and fellow travelers (Trotskyism), substitutes the movement of the State or the Party in the place of the real movement of the proletariat. It reads the history of the State or Party (or in the worst cases, the history of Great Men) as the history of the proletariat. However, in actuality, the real movement of the proletariat is subterranean with respect to any organization or individual formally claiming to represent the proletariat. That’s why it’s called the real movement of the proletariat, not “the formal movement” of the proletariat or “the mystified movement” of the proletariat.
Marxist-Leninists, as well as their descendants and fellow travelers, mystify the real movement of the proletariat and this is inherent in their ideology. You basically cannot have Marxist-Leninist ideology without the mystification of the real movement of the Soviet proletariat and its replacement with the movement of the Soviet Communist Party or of its leaders. This is the only way that they can justify that the proletariat had power at some point in the Soviet Union! Marxism-Leninism is the obfuscation of the actual conditions of existence and class interests of the Soviet proletariat, which was in actuality to fight against both the Party-State and the Party leaders of the Soviet Union. Marxism-Leninism and its friends also generally mystify the real movement of the proletariat outside of the Soviet Union as well. They do this by looking at the world in the framework of competing organizations (parties, countries, nations, etc.), not the framework of the actual struggle between classes, while substituting the movement of these competing organizations for that of the proletariat. We thus get oxymoronic and monstrous concepts such as “bourgeois and proletarian nations”, “anti-revisionist and revisionist parties”, “socialist countries”, etc.
Because they are mystification, Marxism-Leninism and its friends are therefore ideology, not consciousness. (See The German Ideology for more on mystification being ideology.)
Organization, to the point where it must exist, must be thrown up spontaneously and organically by the class-in-motion and dissolve when it is not needed anymore or has lost touch with the real movement of the proletariat. All of this is to avoid ossification and determination by the capitalist mode of production, which would turn such organizations into bourgeois institutions. I describe the process of ossification and co-optation by capital in slightly more detail in The Poverty of Left-Wing Activism. You can also read On Organization by Jacques Camatte for another great article on the same topic, capital’s co-optation of organizations claiming to represent the proletariat.
Moreover, it is not our job as pro-revolutionaries to dictate to the proletariat which kinds of organization it must make. Such would be a “doctrine concerning the changing of circumstances” that “forgets that circumstances are changed by men and that it is essential to educate the educator himself”. “This doctrine” only serves to “divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society.” (Theses on Feuerbach) The forms of class struggle will be determined in practice and only in practice. This is my brief critique of council communism, and other doctrines that presuppose the forms that the class struggle takes.
“Revolutions are made by classes, not ideologies.”
This is the common response of left communists when asked by bad-faith pro-revolutionaries (Marxist-Leninists, Trotskyists, Marxist-Leninist-Maoists, etc.) about what left communists have ever done. Though the response is correct and should be used more, it deserves some elaboration.
The point of uttering this response is to show bad-faith pro-revolutionaries that their idea of comparing ideologies with one another to choose the “best” is completely anti-materialist, nonsensical, and anti-proletarian.
Their perspective is a way of projecting themselves outside of real material class society and abstracting to the point of conflicts between ideologies. The person who takes this perspective has already lost all claims to being “materialist” and is strictly in the realm of “idealism”, because they look at the mystified clash between ideas in lieu of the clash between classes. On the grounds of the materialist method alone, this perspective of Marxist-Leninists and their friends should be discarded.
Moreover, positioning oneself outside of class struggle and abstracting to the point of ideologies “divide[s] society into two parts, one of which is superior to society”. This is because the person who does this comparison of ideologies essentially plays the role of Jesus Christ, both part of the material world and standing above it, which is completely nonsensical. They thus forget the “revolutionary practice” of “self-changing” by adopting such a ludicrous God’s-point-of-view. On the grounds of the 3rd thesis of the Theses on Feuerbach, this perspective of Marxist-Leninists and their friends should be discarded.
Finally, once one looks at the world by comparing ideologies, one immediately loses all pretense at being connected to the real movement of the proletariat. This is due to the fact that looking at competing ideologies as a substitute for looking at competing classes substitutes ideology for class. My earlier elaborations on the real movement and attempts at substitutionism of the real movement by MLs and their friends thus apply. On the grounds of “the real movement”, this perspective of Marxist-Leninists and their friends should be discarded.
Nevertheless, even if all that I wrote so far about ideology is wrong, even if we grant to our bad-faith pro-revolutionary friends that ideologies make revolution and not classes, you still should not gravitate towards Marxism-Leninism and its friends. This is because all that their ideologies have produced or can produce are totalitarian bourgeois societies, while “Left Communist” revolutions (I shudder at ever uttering this phrase but I have to do so for the sake of granting to our ML friends their argumentative framework), like the beginning of the Russian Revolution of 1917 before Bolshevik reterritorialization, the German Revolution of 1917, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, or the French Revolution of 1968, pointed in the direction of the free, human society of communism (and did not morph into state capitalist totalitarian dictatorships) before being crushed or co-opted by the actions of right-wingers, social democrats, Bolsheviks, Marxist-Leninists, or their friends. (For more information on these revolutions, check out my reading list, which is also on my blog.)
Revolutionary consciousness is thrown up by the proletariat as a consequence of its class struggle, in other words, as a consequence of the real movement. Communists should therefore seek to follow the real movement of the proletariat as much as possible instead of squabbling over whose ideology has accomplished more in a way completely detached from the real movement.