This is a fantastic article so we have reprinted it in part to keep our detractors at bay for awhile.
The editing has been minor.
Joel's reinterpretation of Gus Hall's old ideas to fit our new ways is simply brilliant.
I must say, Joel's brilliance in deception is second to none except for me. My brilliance in controlling and manipulating the smallest National Convention in CPUSA history is just phenomenal.
We weren't able to get away with shedding our name; not yet. But did you take note of the way we got through an entire National Convention without having to pass a resolution in support of Barack Obama remaining the leader of the democratic all-people's front?
We are just about through with the ultra-leftism brought into our Party by Gus Hall and to finish them off we will use some edited and slightly changed writings from Gus Hall.
Joel, won't you step forward and take a bow before reading your edited version of Gus Hall's polemic.
Yes, Perlo, what is it?
Sam, can we see the original unedited version of this?
Perlo, why would you want to see that; you can take my word the editing has been ever so slight. If you really want to read the original you should go look through the boxes of stuff we gave to the Tamiment Library.
We are going to use our edited version to kick off a discussion about "vanguard party."
Yes, Scottie; what is it?
Sam, I thought you said we could start discarding the idea about the "dictatorship of the proletariat" first.
Scottie, you just hold that thought for a few more months... Peter Molenaar! Not that thought! Leave those damn Viagra pills at home from now on.
Bruce! Bruce Bostick! Why are you bobbing your head that way. Jesus that is distracting and annoying. I know getting through the convention was tough on you and added to your depression because the Soviet agents didn't all come out of the woodwork yet. This is enough to depress anyone. Why don't you pass the Prozac around the room for all of us. Learn to share man.
Ok, Joel; let us have your best middle class thoughts. Read us Gus Hall's ideas:
By Gus Hall
Editor's note: We have to take every opportunity to oppose what may be called the Sarah Palinization of working-class politics, that is the reduction of politics to sound bites, appeals to wedge issues and hate, and promotion of the idea that working people can't think for themselves. To help, here is an excerpted and slightly edited version of an article that originally appeared in Political Affairs, April 1977. Additional editor's comments appear in the text for definitions and additional context for today's reader. The purpose of republishing this article is to open a discussion on theory, what it is, why it is and must be rooted in our experiences within historically specific social relations, who is capable of developing it, and why it must have a working-class basis.
The Party has already entered the straight road of leadership of the working masses by advancing "intellectuals" drawn from the ranks of the workers themselves. -- Lenin
Many working people, especially in the capitalist world, go through life in the belief that the world of ideas, of theory and science, is beyond their ability to understand. They believe theory and science have very little to do with their everyday lives or activities. They accept the idea that the world of ideas, the realm of thought, is for intellectuals and professionals.
That, of course, is how the ruling class of all past and present exploitative societies have wanted it. They know that a class that thinks will not long accept exploitation or slavery. In all past exploitative societies book and schools were for the ruling-class elite. These elites were "ordained" to do the thinking for the working people. Such concepts, of course, reflect reality in societies where there is a sharp division between physical and mental labor.
U.S. capitalism has always promoted the concept that thinking should be limited to the chosen few. The capitalist class fought against the establishment of the public education system. They lost the battle but never gave up. They have continued their attempts to limit the number of students and as much as possible to limit the scope of education only to satisfying industry's technological requirements.
Educational restrictions have always been aimed against working-class youth. And there have always been special racist restrictions against Black, Puerto Rican, Chicano and other racially oppressed young people. The stubborn resistance to bilingual education is one current instance of this resistance. [Editor's note: Education activists, such as Jonathan Kozol, have long noted the class and racial divides in America that persist today. Though Hall wrote this in 1977, the battle to protect or extend bilingual education persists.]
After World War II, the government's education program for veterans opened the door to higher education to tens of millions of young working people. Now, however, it is attempting to close that door again. Today, state monopoly capitalism is continuing to enforce the policy of limiting the scope of education for the working class. [Editor's note: Hall's argument holds true for the 1970s as the Nixon administration repeatedly blocked efforts to boost GI Bill benefits for veterans of the Vietnam War. Congressional Democrats, along with strong support from veterans' organizations and the labor movement, in 2008 won a huge victory by overcoming Republican opposition to the expansion of college benefits for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with passage of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Expansions of the bill's programs in 2009 under President Obama's economic recovery act also passed over Republican opposition. Obviously, these changes will prove to be a big step forward for hundreds of thousands of working-class men and women.]
But that is not the whole story. Because of the internal contradictions of capitalism, the advance of science and technology, and because of strong public demand, capitalism has not been able to keep the realms of thought, science and theory closed in the same way previous exploitative societies did. In this sense reality has changed. But many old notions and prejudices stubbornly resist the new reality. [Editor's note: The development of the Internet and new information technologies have proven these remarks ever more true today.]
This is an important question because a historic truth is being used by many to put over ideas that are not true, including the anti-working-class concept that working people are not able to think. For many the reflection of past realities has become the basis for a timeless, anti-working-class dogma.
One does not have to be a professional historian to realize that important changes have taken place which have their effects on the working class, such as the availability of mass public education and higher education, the higher rates of literacy in the industrialized countries and the mass publication of basic books. Even winning the eight-hour day has given workers more time for studying and thinking. The new level of mass communication, of science and technology has created new relationships between the broad masses and the world of theory and thought.
Many still hold to outdated and very narrow notions of what intellectuality is and who intellectuals are. Many cling to the old, elitist concept that only those who "think full-time" qualify. That, of course, conveniently disqualifies all who work with their hands.
Many intellectuals use the past reality to justify and sustain their prejudices that workers are not able to think. Even in some of the best circles this erroneous concept gives rise to attitudes of intellectual snobbishness or elitism. In many instances it gives rise to ideas that only people with professional training, or middle-class intellectuals, can or should lead working-class organizations.
This problem is not limited to the U.S., or to capitalist countries in general. There are reflections of this in the world Communist movement and it occasionally appears in Marxist-Leninist literature. However, it is necessary to state that, while not he surface the problem appears the same, in essence there is a difference.
In the non-capitalist world it is a leftover of old ideas. The following is a rather typical example of this kind of statement appearing in Marxist literature. As a rule it seems to appear without much thought. It is not defended, discussed or elaborated upon:
It must be borne in mind that in an exploitative society, where there is an impassable gulf between mental and manual labor, the classes whose lot is manual labor are unable as a rule to advance ideologists from their own ranks. Their ideologists most often are members of other classes who have enough time and money to get an education, and at the same time are capable of understanding in what direction history is moving.
Such a formulation, while having an element of historical truth, leaves the door wide open to all kinds of misinterpretations. It certainly does not indicate that there are and have been changes in class relationships and in the role of classes in society.
When referring to the working class, phrases like "are unable," combined with the implication that other classes "are capable of understanding in what direction history is moving," are unacceptable. If the working class is not "able" to provide people "from its own ranks" who "are capable of understanding in what direction history is moving," then it is not capable of providing people who are "capable" of understanding Marxism-Leninism. However, life proves otherwise every day.
With the advent of capitalism there emerged a new class – the working class, which in many ways is unique and to which history has assigned the unique task of the final elimination of all classes, including itself. A class that is capable of carrying out such a monumental task is more than capable of making contributions in the field of thought.
Even in the last century when the educational gap between manual workers and intellectuals was much greater, the advantage in grasping complicated ideas was not always on the side of intellectuals. For example, as Engels noted in his Introduction to Marx's Wage Labor and Capital: "The uneducated workers, who can be easily made to grasp the most difficult economic analyses, excel our supercilious 'cultured' folk, for whom such ticklish problems remain insoluble for their whole life long."
The question of theory/science and its relationship to the working class must be dealt with in present-day terms. It can not be approached as a timeless cliche.
As the working class matures and develops and as it fulfills its historic assignment, two processes take place. The first is that the class struggle and the working class become increasingly greater influences in molding a new type of intellectual: an intellectual who, although not of working-class background, is a working-class partisan. An outstanding example of this kind of intellectual is John Reed, a founder of our Party, who was described by Mike Gold in these words: "He identified himself so completely with the working class. He undertook every danger for the revolution. He forgot his Harvard education, his genius, his popularity, his gifted body and mind, so completely that no one else remembered them anymore. There is no gap between Jack Reed and the workers any longer."
The second process is that the working class is increasingly producing new working-class intellectuals from among its own ranks.
It must be kept in mind not to confuse the role of the intellectual with the role of a vanguard working-class revolutionary party. The task of such a party was defined clearly by Lenin: "The task of the proletarian party is to introduce socialist consciousness into the spontaneous working-class movement, to impart to it a conscious nature."[Editor's note: The concept of "vanguard role" is a complicated one. It deserves new thinking. We do not adhere – and never did – to the pseudo-political idea that a small group of people who hold some special insights into the nature of society will cause some revolutionary break with capitalism. Change will come when tens of millions of people vote in new ways, build the power of the labor movement and working class, and create new or renew existing democratic institutions that shift power away from banks, oil companies, military contractors, etc. to working families.]
How well the Communist Party fulfills this task in a planned, organized way is a very basic measure of how it fulfills its vanguard role and how well it helps to prepare the working class for more advanced struggles. This task is fulfilled by parties in which the cadre who come from working-class backgrounds and those whom from non-working-class backgrounds blend into one Communist, working-class revolutionary/intellectual collective.
Therefore, the concept of introducing class and socialist consciousness "not the spontaneous working-class movement" must not be interpreted to mean that this can be done only by intellectuals of non-working-class origins and status.
There are many significant changes that must be taken into consideration when dealing with the questions of intellectuals and the working class.
The birth and building of socialism in the world has added a new – a qualitatively new – element to this question, because the working class in socialist societies is the dominant influence, not only in everyday political affairs but also in the development of theory and science. As socialism does away with differences between mental and physical activities, it is also removing the barriers which have prevented worker from making their full contribution int he field of thought and ideas.
In the socialist countries the working class is doing what Karl Marx and Frederick Engels said, in The Holy Family it would be forced to do. The working class "cannot abolish the conditions of its own life without abolishing all the inhuman conditions of life of society today which is summed up in its own situation."
The effects of the changes in the socialist countries are felt worldwide. This is a very important new factor, a new influence on the development of intellectuals from the ranks of the working class. The example of the historic achievements of societies where the working class is the leading force acts as a source of confidence for workers, a stimulant to enter the area of ideas, of theory and of science.
The Communist parties have made unique and historic contributions to opening up the world of thought, the world of theory and science, to workers. The Communist parties are themselves schools for the development of intellectuals with a partisan class viewpoint.
As capitalism decays, the capitalist class becomes less and less the basis for the development of intellectuals with a healthy social consciousness, and even less so for intellectuals with a partisan working-class consciousness. Life has shifted that historic responsibility to the working class.
As working-class parties, Communists parties are a factor in helping the working class carry out that responsibility.
The idea that the working class is not able to develop intellectuals from its own ranks is turned into a coverup for anti-working-class concepts.
In some cases this weakness leads to situations where middle-class, professional intellectuals tend to take over and hog the leadership of Communist parties in capitalist countries. Often they use the words "class struggle" and "the working class" as cliches, but take not steps to make it possible for the working-class cadre of these parties to be a factor in policy decisions. [Editor's note: "cadre" refers to party activists.]
Such leaders are not willing to accept the leading role of the working class in the field of thought or in their parties. They dilute the concept of class struggle. They downgrade the historic role of the working class. They eliminate the working class in the struggle for socialism and they do not think the working class is able to produce an intellectual.
The time has come to bury the idea that the working class is unable to think. In fact, Marxism-Leninism is a science so closely related to the rise of the working-class movement that eliminate the working class as a basic influence and participant in the further development of the science is like eliminating the heart in a living being.
The historic role of the working class was clearly placed by Marx and Engels: "Before the proletariat fights out its victories on the barricades and in the lines of battle, it gives notice of its impending rule with a series of intellectual victories."
Many errors in the history of our Party can be traced to periods when there was a lack of working-class participation in the leadership of the Party. The history of the world Communist movement argues for greater participation of workers in the field of theory and science. It is time to drop concepts and cliches that do not correspond to the new realities of this period of history.
Fantastic Joel; just fantastic.
As all of you can see, middle class muddle-headedness has a great future in our Party.
I can't wait to see what you do with Vic Perlo's work.
Bruce, how are you coming on those leafets?
Well, Sam, we are trying to find a printer. You want ten million leaflets about this instigator of the Minnesota Problem and Al Marder said he wants half the ten dollars you gave me to print up leaflets for the U.S. Peace Council to cover the Nation.
Bruce, why aren't you using our printing presses?
Sam, you sold off that stuff when you said we didn't need it anymore. You bought all these computers made by Apple in China with the money. Have you heard about all the depressed workers they have over there?
Bruce, have you checked out our rooftop?
Sam, I haven't. No not yet. I still have some Prozac left and Sam Stark told me he can get me more. If he can't I'll checkout our rooftop before I ever check in to Bellevue again. That Club there just isn't working out for me.
Ok, Bruce; why don't you get one of the mimeograph machines out of the closet.
But Sam, they are all hand-crank jobs.
Ok, Peter Molenaar, you get to work cranking the mimeo you like to use your hands.
National Chair, CPUSA