The Finnish Communist Revolution (1918) PART 5: THE WHITE GUARD

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ORIGINS OF THE WHITE GUARD:

The Finnish white guard had 3 or 4 different roots, which eventually merged.

1) The activist committee, a secret nationalist organization. The activist committee organized for thousands of Finns to travel to Germany and train in the German military for a future war with Russia. They would later play a large part and the alliance with Imperial Germany would be crucial for the Whites. The pro-german fanaticism of some capitalists went so far as to support Finland becoming a German protectorate with a German king as the Finnish ruler. Since early 1917 the activist committee was the white guard central command until the creation of the white army.

2) The military committee, an organization created from Finnish officers in the Russian Tsarist military. This would function as the core of the Finnish white army and the leader of the Finnish white army, Mannerheim was also an ex-Tsarist officer.

3) White guards were formed locally to protect the property of the capitalists and landowners from the poor population. The capitalists hoarded large amounts of food while the population starved. The white guards would prevent the food from being taken by the hungry masses. The white guards would attack workers on strike, and also protect strike breakers. Workers would often demonstrate for better conditions and more rights, surrounding government buildings etc. and the capitalist politicians would bring the white guards to break up the demonstrations.

4) The only “legitimate” use for the white guards was to prevent criminality. However in practice they were almost always targeting the working class for political reasons. There was one famous incident of unruly Russian soldiers murdering a Finnish citizen, and this was used as a justification for keeping and strengthening the white guard. However, this too had a political element since the Russian soldiers largely sided with the working class. They were from worker and peasant backgrounds and in most cases had killed their Tsarist officers during the February revolution. The remaining Tsarist officers looked to the white guards for protection.

In reality there was no need for a white guard police force since there already existed a militia specifically for this purpose. The problem with the militia was that it had a large working class presence and the capitalists couldn’t use it to break strikes, attack innocent workers and demonstrations. The militia itself would sometimes go on strike to demand bread and political rights.

“In the cities the police was dismantled in early April [1917] and replaced by a worker militia or in other ways brought under working class control. In different parts of the country mass meetings of workers demanded unpopular officials to step down. The power structure was flipped on its head…” (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p.188)

“The influence of the organized workers was also demonstrated by the fact that… the [tsarist] police was replaced by a newly formed militia, the man power and leadership of which was formed primarily by organized workers” (Hyvönen, pp. 42-43)

The militia was perfectly suited for preventing crime but was not sufficient for the capitalists to maintain their repression of the organized workers. The capitalists needed to create a fully anti-worker military force, which would in every situation side with the rich elites against the people. This is why the white guard was created.

“During the strikes of Spring and Summer the workers had already gotten a taste of what… strong [bourgeois] rule of law meant; white guards had shot and beaten unarmed strikers. It was known that the bourgeoisie was training and arming their class guards against the working class movement. With these armed forces the bourgeoisie planned to crush the working class organizations, to strip workers of the right to assemble etc…” (Hyvönen, p.84)

Another example was also the demonstration of August 1917 in Malmi, a municipality near Helsinki:

“In Malmi, near Helsinki, workers surrounded the municipal building on 13. of August [1917] to get their demands passed. About thirty white guard soldiers arrived from Helsinki to save the surrounded officials… the white guards together with ex-members of the tsarist police beat the workers with their batons.* …In Spring and early Summer the class struggle had not yet resulted in any deaths, although some were wounded, but in August there were the first casualties.

The food question was still to be solved. On the night of 14. of August the municipal workers of Helsinki began a strike demanding action to save especially the elder, sick and children from famine and starvation.** The Senate did not take any action.” (Holodkovski, p.39)

* source: I.I. Syukiyainen. The revolutionary events of 1917-1918, p. 77
** source: Proceedings of the Helsingfors Council of Deputies of the Army and Workers, 6 (19). Viii. 1917, No 119.

“In the Spring and Summer of 1917 the Finnish working masses mobilized to improve their poor living conditions and to carry out those necessary reforms which the bourgeoisie, allying itself with the Tsar attempted to prevent at all cost, especially the 8-hour working day and to gain at least some working class representation in the municipal organs. Now the bourgeoisie no longer had the tsarist police as their protection; it had been dismantled in the February revolution and in its place had been formed a militia, where the workers in all population centers had a significant influence. The bourgeoisie did not yet have large amounts of armed class organizations with the exception of the few secret activist [committee] organizations. For this reason the bourgeoisie had to give itself to the merciful protection of the Russian provisional government… to prevent the working class movement from carrying out its democratic reforms. This attempt to gain protection from the provisional government didn’t stop at advocating the provisional government’s right to interfere in Finnish affairs, the bourgeoisie also wanted the armed forces of the provisional government to attack the working class movement. This happened in connection with several strikes.

The newspaper “The worker” reported on 24. of April 1917 that the director of Lehtoniemi machine workshop owned by baron Wrede had sent a message to the Soviet of Russian soldiers in Helsinki mostly humbly asking to send soldiers to protect the “state property” held by the workshop “from possible damage”. A similar attempt to provoke Russian soldiers to attack striking workers happened e.g. during the shipbuilders’ strike in Helsinki; the bourgeoisie accused the workers of supposedly being armed and preventing work. Also during the municipal strike of Rauma the bourgeoisie encouraged Russian soldiers to attack peaceful striking workers. As late as August [1917] when the bourgeoisie also had their white guard projects well under way, and had thousands of rifles from Germany the bourgeoisie in Oulu attempted to provoke Russian soldiers to attack the workers holding a meeting at the workers’ club.

In all these cases the soviets of Russian soldiers investigated the situation and recognized them as attempts to end the workers’ struggles for rights by drowning them in blood.

When the bourgeoisie saw its own powerlessness before the masses and when the Russian soldiers even sided with the democratic rights of the workers, it began organizing its armed forces to stifle the workers’ struggle. It wasn’t satisfied with only secretly arming itself, but began using armed forces against unarmed workers. Terror attacks against workers’ meetings and strikers became the order of the day.

The worst attacks were faced by agricultural workers and tenant-farmers who had begun demanding improvements in their conditions, an 8-hour working day and in some cases wage increases. The large mansion owners showed their true character by trying to crush the justified demands of the workers. The newspaper “The Worker” reported at the beginning of May that during the strike of the Latokartano Manor owned by Westermarck, the owner… threatened to slaughter the 700 head cattle in its entirety as revenge of the workers’ demands…

Armed strike breaker forces were recruited from old Tsarist police officers, criminal thugs and in general the most reactionary elements of society. In addition reactionary university students, property owners, businessmen and officials were recruited. These strike breaker groups patrolled armed with guns in different villages, terrorizing striking farm-workers.

One of the most heinous attacks against peaceful farm-workers happened in Huittiset on July 13. A group of striking workers was headed to the Huittiset dairy building where the landowners had gathered. When the loose group of workers approached the dairy building, white guard soldires hidden behind piles of logs opened fire on the unarmed workers. Seven strikers were wounded. This information given by the Finnish information bureau was supplemented by a worker newspaper “The Social-Democrat” appearing in Pori at the time, which reported that the strikers had already agreed before hand to not use arms under any circumstances, nor had they been prepared to use arms.

Few days after the massacre in Huittiset another attack against striking workers happened in Suodenniemi. Strikers had peacefully stood on the road and told strike breakers working on the field, who had been gathered from different villages, that they were breaking a strike. At that moment armed strike breakers had attacked the strikers at the instructions of the local constable.” (Hyvönen, pp. 43-46)

Peltola and Suodenjoki refer in their book to another bourgeois historian Viljo Rasila, and verify that “Near the end of the large strike in Suodenniemi, there was a conflict… fought using staffs, cudgels and scythes… Strike breakers got the upper hand and two farm-workers suffered serious injuries.**” (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p.205)

* Viljo Rasila, “Vuoden 1917 maantyöntekijäin lakot” (“Farm-workers’ strikes of 1917”)
** Juhani Piilonen, Sastamalan historia 3. 1860-1920 (History of Sastamala 3. 1860-1920)

Peltola and Suodenjoki also state that for example in the municipality Satakunta “…strikes were the main reason for the creation of the white guard.” (p.211)

“In the cities the bourgeoisie began already in the Spring to create their armed class guards. The bourgeoisie had threatened to use these guards already… but didn’t have the courage yet. On 17. of August at the Helsinki stock exchange building, white guards disguised as militia men attacked workers demonstrating against the city council, and beat them with batons. Soon the bourgeoisie had organized a nationwide class army to smash the working class movement. The working class press took notice of the bourgeoisie arming itself. The newspaper “The Worker” wrote on 23. of August 1917 stating that due to the [February] revolution, the bourgeoisie had lost their foreign protector [the Russian Tsar] and also the [Tsarist] police… It had begun creating an armed class military.” (Hyvönen, p. 46)

“…[T]o counter food confiscation agricultural producers and other bourgeois citizens began independently creating their own police forces, whose mission was defined as protection of property. This angered the workers… The workers considered the food storages [of the capitalists] to be against the food-supply law and thus considered the “white guards” created to protect them as illegal” [Marja-Leena Salkola, Työväenkaartien synty ja kehitys punakaartiksi 1917-18 ennen kansalaissotaa] (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p. 219)

“After the Tsarist gendarmerie had been dismantled and the police replaced by a militia, where the workers held significant influence, and after the Russian troops had gone to the side of revolution, the bourgeoisie realized that it didn’t have any organized armed force to protect itself against the numerically superior and quite well organized working class. This is why already in the Spring of 1917 the bourgeoisie began creating its own fighting forces, whose purpose was supposedly protecting the safety of civilizens and protection of property from vandalism and criminality. Their creation seemed timely and for this reason, even some workers initially joined these organizations (chapters were formed under the name of sport societies and volunteer fire departments and only later they began everywhere to be called white guards)… The bourgeoisie did not admit that the white guards were its class organizations. The white guards were the bourgeoisie’s military force, with which it believed to create the order it desired.

In Southern Finland where the rural workers’ strike movement began to spread already in April and May, white guards were created especially to fight strikes. In Northern Finland they were being created to oppose Russian soldiers [who sided with the workers]. Soon control of the nationwide organization and action of the white guard was given to the secret Activist Committee.

The Activists had already since before WWI kept connections to Germany and organized the sending of couple thousand young Finnish men to Germany for military training. They were preparing a war to separate Finland from Russia with German help, even if that meant Finland would become reliant on Germany. In June 1917 the Activist Committee divided Finland into regions for better coordination of the white guards. In July a central office for the white guards was created. It was located in Helsinki under the harmless sounding false name of “The new forest office”. The central office held secret communication with local organizations as well as Sweden, Germany and the Finnish Jäger battalion… [i.e. the Finnish soldiers serving and being trained in the German army]

For this new army, weapons for 100,000 men were collected in Danzig. In October 1917 explosives were shipped from Umeå [in Sweden] to Vaasa [the secret white Capital in Finland], from where white guard members transported them in fish barrels and their luggage to local organizations. At the end of October the ship “Equity” left from Germany. To camoflage it, the Russian name “Mir” was painted on the ship’s side and a red flag was waving in its mast. This ship brought the white guards large amounts of rifles (some sources say 4500, others 7000), machine guns (according to some sources 30, according to others 100), 2,800,000 bullets, 1500 hand grenades, 2000 pistols and explosives Weapons were secretly bought from Russia through the [white guard] Vyborg regional organization founded in July and in the Autumn through the harmless sounding [white guard organization] Karelian citizen’s league (this league was funded by a banker, a factory owner and four wholesalers) and through the Finland committee founded in Petrograd…

By creating white guards the bourgeoisie started a process which would develop due to its inherent laws logically towards civil war. The workers could not interpret it as anything else then preparation for an armed attack against them. Despite bourgeois propaganda and press saying otherwise, realities spoke a clear message: white guards were being used to break strikes. Workers reacted to the founding of white guards with determination: to avoid being at the mercy of an armed opponent, workers began creating their own peace-keeping forces… for self-defency purposes.”
(Holodkovski, pp. 29-31)

The Activist Committee had wormed itself to the highest levels of the government:

“…[M]ember of the nationalist Activist Committee…[senator] Åkerman… agreed to handle [the bourgeois senate’s] food issues if he was given authority to gather necessary food supplies to suitable locations. [Source: “Suomen vapaussota vuonna 1918” I, pp. 294-295]

Food, transportation vehicles and other supplies for a white army were stored in Southern Ostrobothnia in preparation for civil war. The Activist Committee had played an important part in creating the white guards and was now recognized as an official organ of the state, and given responsibility to draft the new conscription law and develop the bourgeois military forces. Ignatius, chairman of the committee that drafted the new conscription law proposed in a meeting of investors and industrialists on 3. of October [1917] that they would provide 3 million marks to fund the white guards. In this meeting 9 million marks worth of checks and bonds were collected.
[Source: Ibid. pp. 295-296]
” (Holodkovski pp. 35-36)

“…alongside the Activist Committee founded in 1915, a Military Committee consisting of ex-Tsarist officers was created and recognized as an official state organ by the Svinhufvud senate on 7. of January [1918]. Gustaf Mannerheim was appointed the committee’s chairman on 15. of January.”
(Pekka Myllyniemi: Ajautuminen sisällissotaan, Länsi-Uusimaa, 17.1.2018) https://www.lansi-uusimaa.fi/blogi/598630-pekka-myllyniemi-ajautuminen-sisallissotaan

THE WHITE ARMY:

Between late 1917 and early 1918 the white guards were organized into an army. The capitalists had collected millions of marks, tens of thousands of weapons, created a secret capital for the future white guard dictatorship, made connections with their foreign allies and assembled a large armed force. The white guard was recognized as the official state military of Finland by the Svinhufvud government. Mannerheim was appointed its commander. Lets examine the composition of this army:

“In the 20 Southern Ostrobothnian white guard detachments 59% of the soldiers were wealthy farmers and their sons, 8% tenant-farmers, 6% farm workers, 21% workers and 6% officials, students etc.” (Holodkovski, p.307)

“On the other hand for example in the Jyväskylä white guard military district the around one third of those who fell in battle were officials, shop-keepers, students and teachers, foremen, doctors and other wealthier people, even a bank director. Another third were landowning farmers and a third tenant-farmers, workers and farm hands. Capitalists, investors and bankers constituted only a tiny minority of the population. While officials, doctors, military men, police officers and other somewhat wealthier people often sided with the whites, the real bulk of the white army consisted of independent farmers, especially wealthy farmers, and their relatives. This army was then enlarged by forced conscription of the poorer classes. ” (Holodkovski, pp.307-308)

“…regarding armed struggle the bourgeoisie could rely on the officials, who spread accross the whole country and thus could form a nationwide organizational network. The city enterpreneurs and intellectuals, as well as technical experts in industry were largely active supporters of bourgeois policy. The nobility and other large landowners were passionate enemies of the working class movement. The influence of the bourgeoisie also spread itself strongly to independent farmers who had been frightened with the notion that the workers wanted to steal the peasantry’s land.

In military matters the bourgeoisie was in an enormously better position, in the amount of trained and experienced officers it had. The so-called “white army” had 11 people with the rank of general… 480 graduates from the old Finnish cadet school. There were 403 officers and 724 NCOs among jägers. The whites received 118 NCOs from the Vöyri military academy. 27 active officers arrived from Sweden. In total the white officer core was 1700 persons. Initially the whites threw 10,000 men at the front. But in February they had to resort to forced conscription, through which they increased the number to 32,000 men.

According to the whites themselves their army was already 10,000 by the end of 1917, 36,000 by April and 70,000 by the end of the war…

The whites also had better weaponry. Already in October of 1917 they received 7000 rifles, large amounts of machine guns, hand-grenades, bullets etc. from Germany. At the end of January the whites also managed to steal 7880 rifles, 1 ,143,000 bullets, 10 machine guns and 12 cannons from the demoralized Russian troops in Northern Finland. Two more weapon shipments arrived from Germany containing 140,000 rifles and more then 83 million bullets, 250 machine guns, 500,000 hand-grenades and 32 cannons with ammunition. On top of all this they received other weapons and equipment of all kinds, such as pistols, radios and field telephones etc.

The whites also had confirmed knowledge about Germany’s intervention since February; at the beginning of March there was already an exact agreement. Furthermore the whites got a Swedish brigade on their side. Individual officers and volunteers arrived from other nordic countries. Russian counter-revolutionary officers also aided the white war effort.” (Hyvönen, pp. 91-92)

SOURCES:

Suodenjoki & Peltola, Köyhä Suomen kansa katkoo kahleitansa: Luokka, liike ja yhteiskunta 1880-1918 (Vasemmistolainen työväenliike Pirkanmaalla osa 1)

Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-1918

Holodkovski, Suomen Työväenvallankumous 1918

I.I. Syukiyainen. The revolutionary events of 1917-1918

Известия Гельсингфорсского совета депутатов армии и рабочих, 6 (19). VIII. 1917, No 119. (Proceedings of the Helsingfors Council of Deputies of the Army and Workers, 6 (19). Viii. 1917, No 119.)

Viljo Rasila, “Vuoden 1917 maantyöntekijäin lakot” (“Farm-workers’ strikes of 1917”)

Juhani Piilonen, Sastamalan historia 3. 1860-1920 (History of Sastamala 3. 1860-1920)

Marja-Leena Salkola, Työväenkaartien synty ja kehitys punakaartiksi 1917-18 ennen kansalaissotaa<

H. Soikkanen, kansalaissota dokumentteina

J. Paasivirta, Suomen itsenäisyyskysymys 1917

“Suomen vapaussota vuonna 1918”

“Пролетарская революция”, No 2

Luokkasodan muisto, ed. Juho Mäkelä
https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/157351

Pekka Myllyniemi: Ajautuminen sisällissotaan, Länsi-Uusimaa, 17.1.2018
https://www.lansi-uusimaa.fi/blogi/598630-pekka-myllyniemi-ajautuminen-sisallissotaan

“Ilkan ja Poutun pojat. Etelä-pohjalaisten sota-albumi”, ed. A. Leinonen

“Keskisuomalaiset sotapolulla. Kappale Suomen vapaussodan historiaa”, ed. S. Kuusi

Erinnerungen, G. Mannerheim

Sosialistit pyrkivät itsenäistämään Suomea jo heinäkuussa 1917 – porvarit harasivat vastaan (https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-9710204)

How Does Socialism Solve Racism, Sexism & Other Oppression?

(or, How to better understand the Relation between Base & Superstructure)

INTRODUCTION

Unfortunately it is assumed by some Marxists that Socialism, almost automatically solves issues like sexism, racism, transphobia & homophobia. People who hold this mistaken view argue: “These issues cannot be solved in capitalism, so let’s not focus on them now, it will all be solved in Socialism.”

There is a tactical component to this question which I will discuss at the end. First I want to cover the assumption that Socialism solves these, inequalities, oppressions, ills of capitalism automatically, or almost automatically. This mistaken view derives from an incorrect understanding of the Base and the Superstructure & their relation.
Base-superstructure_Dialectic

WHAT ARE THE BASE AND THE SUPERSTRUCTURE?

What Marxists often call simply the “Base” means the underlying economic system of the society, the economic mode of production. In our current society this mode of production is imperialist capitalism.

In A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy Marx describes this economic underlying ‘base’ as follows:

“In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation…”

and adds:

“…on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness.”

So what is this superstructure? The superstructure consists of things like culture, religion,  form of government such as parliamentarism, military dictatorship or monarchism.

Later on Marx describes the basic relation between the base & superstructure:

“The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.”

That is, each economic mode of production (e.g. capitalism) creates its own superstructure which necessarily results from the social relations arising from the economic mode of production. Changing this superstructure is only possible, even necessary after changing the economic base.

This has led some to hold the incorrect view, that replacing a capitalist economic system with a socialist one, will automatically or practically automatically or very easily, get rid of all the oppressive and reactionary elements arising from the old capitalist society.

HISTORICAL PRACTICE

1. What was achieved?

Let us now examine the notion that the destruction of the capitalist economic base will by itself alone quickly & easily get rid of the reactionary culture fostered by capitalism. When Marxist-Leninist states were in existence, did they cure all these ills? We know the answer. Racism and sexism still remained though in a more limited form.

Trans issues were not yet recognized by anyone at the time, except the trans people themselves. This applies not only the capitalist countries but also socialist ones. LGBT issues were advanced by communist groups like the Black Panthers and recognized by socialist countries like the German Democratic Republic but there was a lot to be desired.

What Marxist-Leninist countries did do was implement policies such as granting equal legal & democratic rights to women as well as ethnic and religious minorities. They provided equal opportunities to study and work for all people regardless of sex or race. The socialist media portrayed minorities as equally capable members of society,  the education system tried to combat sexist, racist and other bourgeois-conservative views.

2. Objective vs. Subjective Factors

These advances were a necessary outcome of the new society that was being built. Socialism couldn’t have been built without at the same time combating the most glaring and most vicious examples of bourgeois-conservative ideology and culture. They were in one sense a result of the objective factors.

However there was nothing “automatic” or “easy” in this process, as would be implied by the “don’t worry, it will all be taken care of in socialism” type of attitude. These achievements were necessitated by the new economic system, but they were implemented by conscious policies by people. In this sense, they were also a result of the subjective factors, the people, the activists, members of the oppressed groups etc.

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THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM

The mistake of the “automatic” or “we will take care of it in socialism” theory is the following:

Although the capitalist base is what created and maintained the reactionary superstructure of sexism, racism, transphobia etc. the remnants of the old superstructure can still survive in a limited form for quite some time even in a new base. Especially as this base is constantly itself changing and transitioning away from the old towards something new. To think that these issues will be solved quickly and easily is naive hubris.

It took capitalism an extraordinarily long time to wipe out most remnants of feudal culture. There are still many constitutional monarchies in the world, where the economy is entirely capitalist and the crown has been stripped of power, yet the ridiculous cultural remnant of monarchist absolutism is still there.

Those aspects of feudalism which most strikingly hindered the growing bourgeoisie came into such violent conflict with the new capitalist system that they were eliminated much faster. Aspects like aristocratic privileges, Monarchist absolutism, absolute rule of the clergy, various feudal restrictions of banking, trade and other capitalistic activities. As a result the corresponding ideological-cultural superstructure, began to die out.

With the changes in the economic base the ruling feudal ideology began to be replaced by capitalist ideology. Feudalism was no longer seen as man’s natural state, instead man’s nature was proclaimed to be capitalistic. Religion lost much of its influence, the Divine right of the king crumbled into dust, replaced by the wealthy bourgeois politician.

This didn’t always happen in a simply linear fashion at all. The French Revolution overthrew feudal absolutism but the Napoleonic reaction managed to restore it, however while still releasing the economy from feudal shackles for capitalism to develop more freely.

In many capitalist countries up until a 100 years ago Monarchism & many feudal aspects still held influence. Finland still had clerical & aristocrat privileges and the church acted like a giant feudal landlord. The Russian Empire was another good example where capitalism was evidently there existing side by side with blatant feudalism. This is what Marxists later termed “semi-feudalism”.

Those aspects of the old feudal order which were less restricting for capitalism remained for a long time and died out only slowly, adapting themselves or even being co-opted by specific subjective forces in the capitalist order e.g. religious or conservative anti-communist propaganda. Similarly, while the Socialist States quickly stamped out the most egregious ills of capitalism, remnants still managed to survive and sometimes the people of those states were even unaware of this. It takes both the necessary objective conditions of the new society as well as conscious work by the subjective forces: the people, to achieve liberation and rid ourselves of sexism, racism, transphobia, homophobia and other ills of capitalism.

THE TACTICAL QUESTION

The tactical question of the matter essentially boils down to the question: “Revolution or Reform?”

The advocates of the theory of “we will fix it later in socialism” hold their view because they have a mistaken understanding of Marxist-Leninist theory. They have a one-sided view that exaggerates the danger of reformism. They want working class revolution, and see all other struggles as secondary and fundamentally reformist. This is a dangerous error. Such thinking isolates the Communists from the masses. The struggles of oppressed people are not secondary but deeply intertwined with the working class struggle.

1. Are questions of race, sex, etc. secondary to class?

Lenin could have been a dogmatist and said that the Peasant Question, Women’s Question or National Question are secondary and unimportant. But why didn’t he?

Because women are approximately half the population, our work depends on women. Because the vast majority of the Russian population were poor toiling peasants, it would have been inconceivable to succeed without them. Because the Russian Empire was a prison house of nations, it was inconceivable to build a socialist society based on trust, equality and co-operation without granting full rights to national minorities. Without such a policy, this wouldn’t have been a project of fraternity but of subjugation.

The working class is the most revolutionary class and class is the significant factor. In this sense the working class question is “primary”, but its only so in terms of the end goal, a classless communist society without oppression. In real praxis these other questions were never secondary, they were beneficial or necessary for the victory of the working class revolution.

2. The question of our alliance with oppressed minorities

The relatively small number of LGBT & trans people has made their struggle far more difficult and probably has contributed to it only being recognize so late. That said, isolating ourselves from LGBT & trans organizations because of their alleged “reformism” only hinders our movement and reduces its allies & forces. By the fact that they are oppressed, they belong to our movement. By the simple fact that we want true equality for all, their goal is the same as ours.

Some might argue, that because the number of LGBT & trans people is so small their chances of playing the crucial role is smaller. A popular movement without women is doomed to fail, but a movement that is missing a small minority, can still succeed. For the sake of argument let us assume this is correct: why should we deny ourselves this beneficial alliance even if it were possible to win without it? There is no good reason for it.

The same question applies to some very small national groups. Someone might argue that they are so few, that in the nationwide scheme they are not the deciding factor, but why deny ourselves this ally? All oppressed people are our allies.

Their number may be small but this probably doesn’t give a fair representation of their influence. There is reason to believe that oppressed people are more prone to Revolution & political activism, and this should be worthy of consideration for us.

3. Reform or Revolution?

Some people will to a varying degree argue explicitly (or more often implicitly) that the women’s movement, anti-racist movements, trans or LGBT movements are at the end of the day reformist in character and therefore not of any use for us, or worthy of our support.

Certainly there are reformist tendencies, in fact most non-communists are reformists. Liberals, social-democrats and all those who think that sexism, transphobia, homophobia and racism can be solved in the context of capitalism are by definition reformists. But what kind of a “mass movement” can we hope to become if we isolate ourselves from the masses because they are not communists?

These “reformist” movements should more accurately be termed “spontaneous” movements. Their problem is not principled dedication to reformist tactics, but a lack of class and political consciousness. They lack an understanding of the underlying causes of their oppression and act unconsciously, which results typically in reformist actions. The cure for unconscious action is political education. We should be eager to hear the complaints and grievances of the masses, and the experience to be learned from them. Likewise the masses are eager for political knowledge and better organizational forms – the fact that they are organizing themselves is proof of that.

The real reformist danger lies elsewhere. The real danger lies in semi-conscious political groups, even communist groups which take the opposite kind of one-sided approach. Groups that spend all their time focusing on issues which only impact a tiny minority. They neglect work towards working class revolution in favor of reformist actions, to fix capitalism for the oppressed groups. This task is doomed to fail as capitalism cannot be made something that it is not. Capitalism cannot be made into a fair & equal system.

Such movements are either outright liberal or simply have accepted liberal idealist political theory to such a degree that they look more like a liberal then a genuinely leftist organization. They serve neither the working class or other oppressed groups. Their work only serves capitalism as it hinders any real change. They should be exposed and criticized but the existence of such groups should not lead us to the wrong and one-sided view that rejects our work with oppressed groups, our alliance with them, us recruiting them into our ranks.

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