MLM VS. ANARCHISM
Part 5: Making Revolution For Real in the Real World
By Bob Avakian
Revolutionary Worker #923, September 14, 1997
In concluding this series, I want to make one other point concerning anarchism. Some anarchists--and this also applies to pseudo-communist quasi-anarchists like PL (Progressive Labor Party)--argue that not only can they immediately do away with the "leftovers" from capitalism in the superstructure of politics and ideology, but that they can actually do away with all aspects of capitalist production relations, all at once, with the overthrow of the present system. PL is a kind of peculiar case that is worth examining a little.
For awhile in the '60s, PL used to put themselves forward as, and be generally considered as, "Maoists"--to a certain degree they upheld the Cultural Revolution and socialist China as models. But then, apparently, PL got impatient with the complexities and difficulties of socialist society and the struggle to advance toward communism in a world still dominated by imperialism; so, in effect, they said, "let's just eliminate all this shit altogether, let's just leap directly to communism." It seems they got tired of having to wrestle with everything that marks socialism as a relatively long and very sharply contradictory period of transition to communism, and in effect they said: "Fuck it, let's just talk about going straight to communism. Why do we need all this socialism anyway? It leads to all kinds of problems--there is all this experience with all kinds of problems under socialism." So they have adopted a sort of semi-anarchist, seemingly very "left" position in many ways.
As an illustration of this, in a report I read there was an account of a gathering where some PLer said, "We're going to make revolution and then we are going to immediately eliminate money!" No you ain't. First of all, with your line you're not going to lead any revolution; and when a real revolution is made--as opposed to your imaginary revolution--it won't be possible to eliminate money right away. The reason is that it won't be possible, for quite some time, to eliminate the material conditions, the contradictions, that make money necessary. It will require a whole historical period of transition--of revolutionary struggle--worldwide, to bring into being the material, and the ideological, conditions where it will be possible to carry out production and exchange without the use of money.
Marx makes the point, in his writings on political economy, that there are different kinds of labor in society. There's what he calls "simple" labor and "compound" labor--in other words, there's labor that takes certain basic skills and physical ability to carry out, and there are other kinds of labor that involve more complicated skills and abilities which require more time, education and training. This is an objective fact.
If you want to put it simply, you can't be a nuclear physicist, or a pediatrician, or an engineer or architect, or an economic planner without any training, without any study, without any education. You don't have to go through the bourgeois educational system to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to do these things, but you have to have some formal training and education--it takes time and work and struggle to develop these abilities. And there is a need for people to fulfill these functions in society. You can't eliminate the need for this. If you have a revolution and you try to do without physicists and scientists of all kinds and doctors and everything else, you're not going to meet the needs of the people. The people are gonna say, "bring back the fucking bourgeoisie, right now!" This is a problem you're gonna have. They're gonna say, "get this fuckin' PL out of here and bring back the bourgeoisie straight up--at least they knew how to deal with some problems."
You're going to have to deal with the material reality--people have to eat, people have to have clothes, people have to have medical care, and so on--it takes people with certain education, training, and skills to do these things. And the masses of people are not going to be able to jump up one day and all of a sudden do all of this.
The Mental/ Manual Problem
It is a fundamental objective of the socialist revolution that the difference between mental and manual labor be overcome, and that the masses be led to master and transform all the different spheres of society--economic, social, political and ideological, including education and culture--in order to carry forward the advance toward communism as part of the world proletarian revolution.
When communism has been achieved, worldwide, these major social contradictions--such as between manual and intellectual labor--will have been overcome, and so will the need to retain any aspects of commodity relations and the use of money in producing and exchanging the material requirements of life and promoting the all-around development of society and the people. But all this will require a long historical period--an epoch-making revolutionary struggle--it cannot be done right away upon the overthrow of the old order, as PL seems to think.
So what are you gonna do? You're not going to make use of the doctors and physicists and teachers and other people who were educated and trained in the old society? You're going to either kill them all or throw them all in jail? Or--apparently this is what PL wants to do--tell them, "You will have these jobs, but you will be paid the same wage as everybody else." If you try that, there are going to be two basic problems. One is a political problem, and the other is a material, an economic, problem.
The political problem is that these people know that they have certain skills, and they're used to being remunerated in a certain way for this. They might be willing to see that restricted, especially if you win them over correctly to the revolutionary struggle; but very few will be willing to see that difference abolished all at once. And there are real objective reasons why that should not be done, why such differences should not in fact be eliminated all at once. But even just in terms of their subjective outlook, they're not going to go along with that. So what are you gonna do? You gonna put a gun to all their heads in order to get them to do their job? Well, somebody else is going to come along with some other guns and mobilize them another way. Those other forces--those forces for capitalist restoration--are going to be out there, and they're going to be strengthened by this idiocy you're trying to carry out.
And what goes along with that political problem is an underlying material, economic problem. The fact is that all production and exchange in society represents the expenditure of labor and the exchange of a certain amount of expended labor. Skilled labor represents more expended labor--it takes more labor time to develop--than unskilled labor. This applies to the labor that goes into being a doctor and other "professions." We don't have to bow down to these "professional" people, but we do have to recognize material reality. We don't have to pander to their petit bourgeois prejudices and their privileges, but we have to recognize the material reality, in its contradictoriness, here.
These "professions" require more labor time to acquire the necessary knowledge, training and skills. So if you want to pay people in these "professions" the same amount that you're paying unskilled labor, you are, in effect, in terms of the underlying material reality, exchanging unequal amounts of labor for each other. And that's going to end up being irrational--it's going to affect production and exchange overall--the economy is going to be sabotaged by it. You're going to be having people expend a certain amount of labor--of "compound" or "multiplied" labor--to develop all this knowledge, training, and skills, but you're going to be exchanging other labor with that--in the form of wages (or some other token, if you have, temporarily, abolished money)--which represents less labor than they actually put into developing that knowledge, training, and skills. So your whole economic system is going to be out of whack: you're going to be exchanging unequal amounts of labor. This is going to throw your whole economy, as well as your whole political system, into chaos.
And, once again, other forces, bourgeois forces, are going to come along and say "Remember us, we knew how to do this shit a lot better than this." Then people will go with them, because it's true--they do know how to do it a lot better than that. They don't know how to do it better than the proletariat does, when it is led by an MLM vanguard with a dialectical materialist outlook and method, but they do know how to do it better than petit bourgeois anarchists and idealists of the type like PL. So that is an important point of materialism--dialectical materialism and historical materialism--that has to be applied here in understanding how we have to actually go about carrying out the real revolutionary transformation of society, in the real world, in dealing with the real material contradictions in the economic base, as well as their expression in the political-ideological superstructure.
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