The Working Class and the Petty Bourgeois “Left”

The petty bourgeois “left” is infatuated with the shibboleths of bourgeois “democracy.” A “democracy” which fully serves as a de facto dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Corportist trade unions, the multi-millionaire candidates of the first or the second corporatist party and the arbitrary elections held every two to four years in the United States. The petty bourgeoisie, disoriented but prosperous under the capitalist system, tell us that these are the very pillars of our politics!

The petty bourgeois “activists” and “organizers” tell workers to support corportatist trade unions in their current form, which represent just 10% of the workforce at present and specialize in sell out contracts and the slashing of benefits and real pay. They tell workers to support the second of the two big bourgeois parties. They encourage workers to pledge themselves to capitalist policies – “Vote Blue No Matter Who.” Under this or that flimsy pretext. If Mr. Or Mrs. Blue wins, it could be “conversation starting.” It really means that there might be a pipeline for some of these petty bourgeois supporters of the Democrats and Unions to make their way into the bureaucracy and their cozy six figure salaries paired with kickbacks.

The petty bourgeois “left” take the word of the second of the two parties that they simply do not have enough votes, no matter if they control congress and the White House or not. The truth is that the bourgeoisie will find as many Manchins and Sinemas as they need to shut down the most meager reform, whether they need 1, 2, 20 or 100 senators or congressmen or women. The decay and late-stage parasitism of the American economy has made reform impossible. Not even limited Student Loan forgiveness or universal Pre-K or reduced prescription prices is in the realm of the possible any more for rotting American imperialism. No matter how many of the supposed “good guys” are at the top, from the second of the two parties. Of course, we now have the spectacle of some of the worst people from the first of the two parties, like the late St. John McCain and the daughter of Dick Cheney being held up as heros of the Democrats as well.

They lie and hem and haw about the necessity to be opportunistic, to be “realistic,” to stay within the guardrails of bourgeois politics. They proclaim “the collaborators and the opportunists are the real socialists. The others are sectarian!” They try to dig up fake dirt on genuine fighters, or accept the slandering of these fighters by others, while absolutely drenched in the blood and muck of bourgeois politics, corruption and imperialism. They call themselves progressives and even revolutionaries while begging the workers to accommodate themselves to the bourgeois system, in perpetuity. The petty bourgeois “organizers” of the unions make six figures – which puts them into the top 5% wealthiest of the US population. Their organizing consists in fooling, demoralizing, disarming – essentially, oppressing the proletariat under their unfortunate “leadership.”

The UAW elections – which only came about under the disaster of UAW corruption – has brought an opportunity for workers to vote for Will Lehman, a socialist who wants to give power to rank and file committees. It might be asked, what is the difference between a union and a rank and file committee? Rank and file committees express the power of the working class through democratic, egalitarian and direct means – they are combative and uncompromising – they are not beholden to the corporations and the government through a corporatist bureaucracy that marches to the drums of the companies while sitting on the funds of the unfortunate workers they “represent” and repress. Let us examine Will Lehman’s program.

“My campaign is aimed at spearheading a mass movement of the rank-and-file to break the dictatorship of the apparatus and to transfer power and control over all decision-making processes to the rank-and-file in the auto plants and all work locations.

We must have control over the assets of the UAW, which must be used to support our struggles, not finance an unaccountable apparatus standing over us. I advocate the creation of a powerful network of rank-and-file committees, composed of workers ourselves, which will exercise control and oversight over the union, including national and local bargaining, and the monitoring and enforcement of UAW-corporate agreements.

The strike fund will be used exclusively to support workers’ struggles. Striking workers will receive the weekly compensation necessary to sustain long and bitter struggles.

The size of the apparatus must be massively slashed. Those whose employment is not clearly related to serving the interests of UAW members will be dismissed. The pay of all officials will be tied to the hourly wages paid to workers.

It is time for a coordinated struggle of all workers in the UAW, in unity with every section of the working class, to fight for:
● Massive pay increases to make up for decades of givebacks.
● Mandatory Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA) to keep pace with soaring inflation.
● An end to all tiers by bringing up lower tiers to top pay and benefits.
● Full funding of pensions and high-quality health care for all current workers and retirees.
● The re-establishment of the 8-hour day, not on the basis of poverty-level wages, but with wages that allow us to provide for ourselves and our families.
● An end to all forced overtime, with no more mandatory weekends that deprive us of lives outside of the factory. The overtime rate should be reset to three times the normal-hours wage rate.
● The transfer of all temporary and part-time workers to full-time workers, with full pay and benefits.
● Rank-and-file control over line speed and production standards, to be negotiated by local rank-and-file committees.” –

This is a reflection, in the matters of workers confronting owners, of Marx and Lenin’s program in the Civil War In France and State And Revolution.

Marx says of the Paris Commune of 1871, and by which he means a workers state in general:

The Commune was formed of the municipal councilors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at short terms. The majority of its members were naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class. The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time. Instead of continuing to be the agent of the Central Government, the police was at once stripped of its political attributes, and turned into the responsible, and at all times revocable, agent of the Commune. So were the officials of all other branches of the administration. From the members of the Commune downwards, the public service had to be done at workman’s wage. The vested interests and the representation allowances of the high dignitaries of state disappeared along with the high dignitaries themselves. Public functions ceased to be the private property of the tools of the Central Government. Not only municipal administration, but the whole initiative hitherto exercised by the state was laid into the hands of the Commune.

Lenin says of Marx’s remarks:

In this connection, the following measures of the Commune, emphasized by Marx, are particularly noteworthy: the abolition of all representation allowances, and of all monetary privileges to officials, the reduction of the remuneration of all servants of the state to the level of “workmen’s wages”. This shows more clearly than anything else the turn from bourgeois to proletarian democracy, from the democracy of the oppressors to that of the oppressed classes, from the state as a “special force” for the suppression of a particular class to the suppression of the oppressors by the general force of the majority of the people–the workers…

And if any pedant were to say, “the unions are not the same thing as the state” – they are only speaking out of naivete or dishonesty. The unions today are an appendage of the state as much as they are of the corporations, and to oppose them is to oppose capitalism and the state simultaneously. The strongest drive in recent times toward bolstering the unions has come from the state itself. Biden has declared himself the most pro-union president ever, and has personally intervened in recent union expansion drives, as have many Democratic politicians. The Democrats are after all, those trusted agents whom the unions give a good portion of their billions of workers dues to. In return the Democrats can be trusted with helping the unions carve out a continued niche as parasites of working class people all in benefit of capitalism and “labor peace.”

Will Lehman’s program is a workers program. This frightens the petty bourgeoisie and their appendages. They may call themselves “socialists” but they abhor the traditions of socialism, if they have even familiarized themselves with any of it. They think it is simplistic that we point out their careerist ways, when in fact it is essential. They have definite class interests and their cozy way of life depends on the exploitation of the proletariat. They can’t imagine an authentic workers movement. They often hypocritically accuse genuine socialists of being grifters, for this is the only kind of politics they know!

Look at what the sister parties of the “Democratic Socialists of America” have accomplished throughout the world. In Greece – SYRIZA. Known for its austerity program and defying national referendum results. In Spain government propping PODEMOS, in Germany benefits slashing DIE LINKE. One thing they all agree on – workers must abide by the bourgeois political framework! The sanctity of the trade unions, the sanctity of bourgeois politics. The need for workers to tighten their belts in the immediate future so that, some day, far away, workers will be able to have more of a say in their repression by continuously endorsing it from “the right people.” Lesser-evilism and the path of least resistance that turns into nothing but a reinforcement for bourgeois evils. All these petty bourgeois politicians and bureaucrats and “organizers” and “activists” are agents of the bourgeoisie. And they make bank on it too. Some of them are even outright assets of the state, selling imperialism’s wars to unwitting young people and working their way to the top of opportunist political parties that are all too happy to extend a hand. “Principles” is like a curse word to these people! They must talk down to workers! They must humor workers, instead of showing them a way forward! They are worse than the reformist Economists Lenin speaks of in What Is To Be Done.

“[The ‘Economists’ say] The numerical strength of the active revolutionaries is too small to enable them to concentrate in their own hands the influence exercised upon the whole mass of discontented workers, or to give this discontent even a shadow of coherence and organization…. The separate study circles, the separate revolutionaries, scattered, uncombined, do not represent a single, strong, and disciplined organization with proportionately developed parts. . . .”

This is the Economists of today:

Recent experience leads to the conclusion that large-scale class formation will, for the foreseeable future, run largely (though not exclusively) through electoral politics… The decline of organized labor, coupled with the widespread disintegration of working-class community life, means that only a relatively small minority of workers are currently situated to take part in effective forms of collective action on the job or in their communities. There are, consequently, few channels outside of election campaigns to engage and politicize a mass audience on a regular basis, and the ones that are potentially available are typically defensive in nature and limited to radical expressions of interest-group pressure politics..

-Jacobin (The DSA’s newspaper), Biden Our Time, A Left That Matters

The Mensheviks and “Social Revolutionaries” who propped capitalism in 1917 in Russia and witch-hunted the genuinely revolutionary Bolsheviks are mirrored today by the DSA and other pseudo-left formations who would do the same to real socialists if given any power. Except for this difference, they have no real working class base and never have, let alone any real sense of going against the grain. Not even reformist, but totally conformist. They reach the depths of cynicism under a red banner that a self-proclaimed nihilist would be ashamed of. Frauds, the real scabs in the “labor movement!” The real wreckers! Get the petty bourgeoisie out of the labor movement and start it anew as a confrontational movement of the working class against the bourgeoisie. Don’t be afraid of principles and standards and ambition – not for money for some – but a greater world for all.

It is time to look beyond “labor issues” as well and link up workers struggles on economic matters with workers priorities in government and against the madness of imperialist foreign policy. The petty bourgeois “left” always come down on the side of United States imperialism and militarism. They have backed the wars of the United States in the Middle East and now Ukraine, reflexively but also because they are deeply entwined with the State Department. So many of the petty bourgeois “left” work as hired hands of imperialism that it is impossible to tell what kneeling before imperialism comes from sheer opportunism and reactionary habits of mind and what comes from the direct involvement of the spy agencies.

Genuine socialism does not back the bourgeois state, the bourgeoisie’s wars, the bourgeoisie’s labor conditions, the bourgeoisie’s callous indifference to the future of the Earth and the health and well-being of the world’s population. The movement of the working class is a united movement against bourgeois rule. The necessity of concentrating all these struggles into an independent movement of the working class is clear. Free from the politics of the petty bourgeoisie and reformism, under the aegis of a workers party, for workers, by workers, aspiring to a workers state, a workers economy, a workers global policy. This requires a workers political party totally independent from the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, representing workers and bringing together the best of the working class – its vanguard – and striving for genuine revolution at every step. There is a rich tradition of working class struggle in socialism, a dedication to history and a scientific approach to the conflict between workers and capitalism. Too often workers have been subjected to a one-sided class struggle – that of the capitalist class against workers. With a socialist understanding illuminating the tasks of the working class, they can turn the tide against the minoritarian rule of the parasitic rich, the polluting corporations and the warmongering generals on all sides. Workers can only set policy once the capitalist parasite is removed from social life. Once the profit motive to oppress workers and destroy the world has been abolished and replaced by the direct democratic control of workers worldwide without exception or compromise.


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