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Die Neue Zeit

The Merger Formula: Ideology on Why Real Parties are Real Movements and Vice Versa

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The Merger Formula: Ideology on Why Real Parties are Real Movements and Vice Versa

The previous blog, Real Parties as Real Movements and Vice Versa, explained the institutional basis for the title. This unoriginal yet long-overdue blog provides the ideological basis.

"It is evident that the worker movement is divided into two sections, the Chartists and the Socialists. The Chartists are the more backward, the less developed, but they are genuine proletarians all over, the representatives of their class. The Socialists are more far-seeing, propose radical remedies against distress, but, proceeding originally from the bourgeoisie, are for this reason unable to amalgamate completely with the working class. The merger of Socialism with Chartism, the reproduction of French Communism in the English style, will be the next step, and has already begun. Then only, when this has been achieved, will the worker class be the true leader of England." (Frederick Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England)

"Nothing is more calculated to impress upon a class a worthy and moral character, than the awareness that it is destined to become a ruling class, that it called upon to raise the principle of its class to the principle of the entire age, to convert its idea into the leading idea of the whole of society and thus to form this society by impressing upon it its own character." (Ferdinand Lassalle, The Worker Programme)

“In order for the socialist and the worker movements to become reconciled and to become fused into a single movement, socialism had to break out of the utopian way of thinking. This was the world-historical deed of Marx and Engels. In the Communist Manifesto of [1848] they laid the scientific foundations of a new modern socialism, or, as we say today, of Social Democracy. By so doing, they gave socialism solidity and turned what had hitherto been a beautiful dream of well-meaning enthusiasts into an earnest object of struggle and [also] showed this to be the necessary consequence of economic development. To the fighting proletariat they gave a clear awareness of its historical task and they placed it on a condition to speed to its great goal as quickly and with as few sacrifices as possible. The socialists no longer have the task of freely inventing a new society but rather uncovering its elements in existing society. No more do they have to bring salvation from its misery to the proletariat from above, but rather they have to support its class struggle through increasing its insight and promoting its economic and political organizations, and in so doing bring about as quickly and as painlessly as possible the day when the proletariat will be able to save itself. The task of Social Democracy is to make the class struggle of the proletariat aware of its aim and capable of choosing the best means to attain this aim.” (Karl Kautsky, The Erfurt Program)

"Social-Democracy is not confined to simple service to the working-class movement: it represents “the combination of socialism and the working-class movement” (to use Karl Kautsky’s definition which repeats the basic ideas of the Communist Manifesto); the task of Social-Democracy is to bring definite socialist ideals to the spontaneous working-class movement, to connect this movement with socialist convictions that should attain the level of contemporary science, to connect it with the regular political struggle for democracy as a means of achieving socialism—in a word, to fuse this spontaneous movement into one indestructible whole with the activity of the revolutionary party." (Vladimir Lenin, Our Immediate Task)

"But this does not exhaust the significance of Lenin's What is To Be Done? The historic significance of this celebrated book lies in the fact that in it Lenin 1) For the first time in the history of Marxist thought, laid bare the ideological roots of opportunism, showing that they principally consisted in worshipping the spontaneous working-class movement and belittling the role of Socialist consciousness in the working-class movement; 2) Brought out the great importance of theory, of consciousness, and of the Party as a revolutionizing and guiding force of the spontaneous working-class movement; 3) Brilliantly substantiated the fundamental Marxist thesis that a Marxist party is a union of the working-class movement with Socialism; 4) Gave a brilliant exposition of the ideological foundations of a Marxist party." (Joseph Stalin, History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks): Short Course)

"The important thing is that the socialist goal should be inseparable from democratic goals and that the programme adopted should be not bourgeois democratic, but, to use a phrase, social democratic in character. That also rules out involvement in any kind of deal with the United Opposition, who are our enemy and part of the preconditions for yet another disaster. It was these questions that produced the split in the Left Front. The section I belong to is now discussing the need to form a new left party in Russia. Firstly, we need to overcome the confusion on the left, which is why we need a debate. Secondly, the important thing is that this new formation follows the example of Lenin in the 1890s in organising the historic linkage between the labour movement and the Marxists, which is precisely the task of the Russian left today." (Boris Kagarlitsky, Fuse Workers Movement and Marxism)

"During the Cold War, capitalism severed the link between the cause of labor and the fight for socialism. This link has never been rebuilt, and this explains the sorry state of the US labor movement today [...] Labor militants need the political support of a revolutionary socialist movement. Sadly, but inevitably, socialist organizations that built a base on campuses became dominated by middle-class academics and professionals who offer abstract, not real, leadership. And they continue to wait for the labor movement to revive [...] Our most urgent task is to reconnect the labor movement with the socialist tradition. For this to happen, labor activists need socialist politics and socialist organizations must reconstitute themselves to place those who lead in the workplace in the leadership of the organization [...] The working class must organize separately from other classes, especially from the middle-class union bureaucrats and the middle-class professionals who dominate the social movements. Only by organizing separately can the working class become strong enough to make tactical alliances with other classes. The working class needs its own independent political party, a revolutionary socialist organization that is dedicated to winning the class war against capital by bringing the working class to power." (Susan Rosenthal, Civil Wars Ignores the Political Lessons)

Updated 30th October 2011 at 03:12 by Die Neue Zeit



  1. Q's Avatar
    I think the last bit by Susan Rosenthal is perhaps the most vague of the bunch, as her formulation could easily lead to sect-building excersises. Also, maybe I'm biased, but I don't think Stalin's bit of text added a lot to the message you want to carry over.

    Otherwise, this blog is pretty good in differentiating sect-building from party-movement building. The one holds on to "true lines", the other seeks to convince the existing movement to adopt the socialist goal as their own. The latter implies open and democratic debate from the very beginning as an added bonus.
  2. Die Neue Zeit's Avatar
    Comrade, maybe a future, more politically correct version of the blog might exclude Stalin, but I just wanted to point out who between him and the likes of Trotsky, Luxemburg, the leading ultra-lefts, etc. asserted the merger formula (not to mention that Lih referenced him, too) - and who didn't.

    As for Rosenthal, yeah it almost reminds me of Lenin's distorted version of the merger formula in Left-Wing Communism ("its ability to link up, maintain the closest contact, and—if you wish—merge, in certain measure, with the broadest masses of the working people—primarily with the proletariat, but also with the non-proletarian masses of working people").
    Updated 10th February 2012 at 04:03 by Die Neue Zeit
  3. MarxSchmarx's Avatar
    One thing that troubles me about a lot of these quotes is that they presuppose "a socialist movement" to some degree independent of the worker's movement. Whilst I suspect that some authors deliberately exploit the relative vagueness of the term "socialist movement" to serve their own peculiar interests (e.g., Stalin), let us take the commitment to socialism as a commitment to a classless society. When in fact if we view the proletariat as the class that advances a classless society, one can argue about this or that proleterian struggle but it seems in the end a genuine working people's struggle is per se advancing the socialist agenda, no?
  4. Die Neue Zeit's Avatar
    Comrade, it shouldn't be troubling at all. There are two end scenarios for a "socialist movement to some degree independent of the workers movement":

    1) There is a popular-but-still-in-a-minority movement, which is the best-case scenario for starting out from sects.

    2) The merger formula was stated in the Communist Manifesto in terms of which social movements not to "merge" with: bourgeois radicalism, petit-bourgeois radicalism, etc.
  5. MarxSchmarx's Avatar
    Yes I agree such movements exist. It seems to me the real question is whether they really matter in terms of the long term historical role of the proletariat.

    An analogy would be the communist manifesto's role of the bourgeoisie in the transition from capitalism. Marx and Engels accepted that there would be certain segments of the bourgeoisie (themselves included?) who would rally behind the proletariat and as individuals perhaps make an impact. But the broader question of whether these individuals would be consequential in the face of the material basis of the class struggle was answered in the Manifesto - such individual contributions would be welcome, they may even serve a certain purpose, but ultimately they will not be the deciding factor.

    I am wondering if the bourgeois utopians, the soviet bureaucrats, in essence the "independent socialist movement" divorced from working class practice will really have more than a transient impact.
  6. Die Neue Zeit's Avatar
    Sure they do matter. The biggest danger, as the Soviet experience showed, comes from a "merger" with some movement of coordinator individuals. Think about the combination of their existence with computer technology!

    CPGB comrade Macnair remarked that their specialized knowledge and management skills amounting to a sort of "private ownership" over information-as-MOP.

    Marx and Engels were petit-bourgeois, not bourgeois. In terms of bourgeois individuals coming to our side, as comrade Miles said: the only reliable form of such coming over is if they self-proletarianize in the process (most notably getting a skilled or unskilled working-class job).

    History can repeat itself tragically. Bourgeois $$$ can provide Internet and traditional media infrastructure to do nasty things, yet coordinator specialists can retain "access" (in computer jargon) to enterprise resource planning systems, inventory control systems, other accounting systems, and so on. Check this management practice out, too:


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