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Intensify the Ideological Struggle!

Interview with Stefan Engel, head of the editorial team of Revolutionärer Weg, 26 April 2021

Interview with Stefan Engel, head of the editorial team of Revolutionärer Weg, on the occasion of the publication of the book, The Crisis of Bourgeois Ideology and Anticommunism

26 April 2021


This week the book The Crisis of Bourgeois Ideology and Anticommunism, written under your editorship, appears. What is it all about?

It is the book edition of the theoretical organ Revolutionärer Weg, No. 36, which has the same title. With this book we publish the first part of a four-volume series with the overall title, The Crisis of Bourgeois Ideology, and the Doctrine of the Mode of Thinking.

The first part deals with the fundamental importance of ideology in societal life, the crisis of bourgeois ideology, and the superiority of the proletarian ideology. Among other things it contains a critique of the theory of freedom from ideology, of the idealist thesis of the combining of materialism and idealism, and of anticommunism in its diverse variants. It also deals with the ideological foundations of fascism, the crisis of modern revisionism, and the significance of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China.

Why is the book appearing exactly now? Aren’t there more important topics?

The world economic and financial crisis, which broke out again in 2018 and has been considerably intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic, or the existence of the humanity threatening environmental crisis, are certainly important topics. In society a full-blown ideological struggle is taking place over what the answers to them are.

The book on the crisis of bourgeois ideology is wonderfully in tune with the times. We have to do with a great confusion among the masses as to how certain things must be assessed. Not seldom, one and the same person holds progressive views and at the same time takes an ultrareactionary position on the refugee question or on COVID-19. How can one draw the right conclusions from the social crises if this confusion is not dissolved?

One must get to the bottom of the reasons for this ideological muddle. The so-called Querdenker (“lateral thinkers”) movement, for instance, which criticizes the crisis management of the Merkel administration from the right and whose demands largely coincide with the reactionary positions of the capitalist associations Federation of German Industries (BDI) and Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA), is a typical example of a tactic of ideological obfuscation. “The main thing is to be against the government” is not a progressive standpoint if at the same time it goes hand in hand with reactionary, partly fascist conclusions. A well-founded proletarian class standpoint is necessary here!

What would a well-founded proletarian class standpoint be in the question of corona?

First of all, we need radical health protection measures for the population against the COVID-19 pandemic. The government of Germany, however, has known for six weeks that we are in the midst of a third wave that can be more devastating than the previous two waves of the pandemic. But it consciously neglects to do the most important things in deference to the monopolies and their profit-making in industrial production. When it does take measures, then only to restrict private life, democratic rights and freedoms, or measures at the expense of smaller businesses and restaurants. That a different approach is possible is shown by the example of Maharashtra, a state in India with about twice the population of Germany. There, in mid-April, after infections reached the mark of about 50,000 per day, a 14-day lockdown of all public life including industrial production (with the exception of vital enterprises) was imposed.

Secondly, it is necessary that the crisis burdens be borne by the monopolies, the capitalists, and not be entirely dumped on the mass of the population. It is a joke that the monopolies are now up in arms against legally mandated testing in enterprises because, they say, it creates unreasonable burdens. What about the burdens on the blue- and white-collar workers, who have to continue slaving away as if nothing has happened?

Thirdly, it is in the interest of the population that, as quickly as possible, the working class again can move more freely, develop its potential, demonstrate, discuss and strike. It is necessary, therefore, to take fast and effective action instead of this “lockdown light” that has been dragging on for months and obviously does not help. Basically, its purpose only is to prevent the heath system, with its limited number of intensive care beds, from collapsing. It is rather cynical the way the federal government accepts 80,000 deaths, the official toll to date, and hundreds of thousands of people suffering from COVID and long COVID, only for the sake of preventing industrial production – and thus the center of profit-making – from suffering bigger damage.

Fourthly, the party work of the MLPD naturally also is severely restricted by the pandemic. This would have to be quickly overcome by a radical lockdown at the expense of profits and by accelerating the pace of inoculations.

The first part of the book apparently focuses on analyzing and polemicizing against anticommunism. Why is this so?

Since the open crisis of reformism and modern revisionism, the destructive effect of the petty-bourgeois reformist and petty-bourgeois revisionist modes of thinking on the working class and the broad masses has dramatically declined. Anticommunism and its effect as petty-bourgeois anticommunist mode of thinking among the masses has become the current main obstacle to the development of class consciousness.

Isn’t it a defensive battle to concern oneself in such detail with anticommunism?

Not at all! In the book we can prove that though anticommunism has caused serious damage to the working-class movement since the Second World War, it nonetheless is in a latent crisis. Again and again it apparently has had to adapt to the zeitgeist in order to maintain its influence on the masses and launch tactical offensives.

At the end of the Second World War the anti-Hitler coalition and the then socialist Soviet Union had smashed fascism. That thrust anticommunism into its so far deepest crisis. Not only the fascist variant of anticommunism lost massive support, the entire capitalist order did.

Instigated by the USA, the influence of socialism had to be contained. The Adenauer government revived the openly reactionary anticommunism. However, it was able to maintain its deterrent effect only for a time. So alongside the openly reactionary variant, those in power developed a democratically veiled variant of anticommunism. The philosophers of the “Frankfurt School” with their “critical” anticommunism were the ideal evidence providers. They held positions critical of capitalism – but at the same time distorted the theory of Marxism-Leninism and slandered socialist construction in the Soviet Union at the time of Stalin.

To fight the successful building of a revolutionary working-class party of a new type, the Greens were promoted. They defamed the Marxist-Leninist concept of democratic centralism as “centralism without democracy” to justify turning their backs on the “ML movement” of the 1970s. Their idealist alternative concept of “grassroots democracy” was a nonstarter, however, and the Greens developed into a state-supporting monopoly party.

Parallel to the process of reunification of Germany and the repeated transitions to the working-class offensive in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, those in power developed modern anticommunism. It puts on a progressive, democratic and antifascist face, but is not the slightest bit less aggressive with its incredible attacks on alleged “Stalinism” and “Maoism.” In enterprises and trade unions it became the chief method of isolating and suppressing the MLPD.

The Schröder/Fischer government and the Merkel government made use of the system of the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking as basic method of governing. Modern anticommunism is the core of this system of the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking. With the help of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the bourgeois parties, the attempt was made to orient the working-class movement, all social movements, the antifascist movement, the militant women’s movement, the environmental struggle, and the fight against the government’s reactionary refugee policy to a petty-bourgeois anticommunist mode of thinking. A veritable barrier thus emerged against scientific socialism in the working-class, people’s, youth and women’s movements.

The book deals critically with these processes, at the same time revealing the fundamental weakness of anticommunism, and brings convincing arguments against it.

Is it not a contradiction to speak of a crisis of anticommunism and at the same time declare the petty-bourgeois anticommunist mode of thinking to be the main obstacle in the development of class consciousness?

Stefan Engel: Of course, but we must understand the dialectics of this contradiction. The crises of anticommunism show that despite constant modification and retouching it is unable  lastingly to keep the freedom ideology of communism out of the working class. Anticommunism never comes out of its defensive for any prolonged time because it is fundamentally in conflict with reality and the interests of the great majority of the broad masses.

At the same time it has to be said that the more anticommunism gets on the defensive, the more it lashes out. It is an effective weapon of those in power and must not be underestimated. With its reactionary ideas they want to turn the masses against socialism, unsettle them, and prevent the development of revolutionary consciousness. For this purpose, diffuse petty-bourgeois anticommunist reservations against communism are stirred up and the attempt is made to isolate the Marxist-Leninists in society.

Does the book deal only with the crisis of bourgeois ideology?

The primary concern of the book is successfully to fight out the battle between proletarian and bourgeois ideology, between materialism and idealism, and between dialectics and metaphysics.

As climax of the book the significance of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in the China of Mao Zedong is discussed. Today, though, the worst atrocity stories are spread about this in order to “prove” the supposed inhumanity of “Maoism.”

The idea of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution from Mao Zedong was the most important positive conclusion drawn from the displacement of the struggle of world outlooks in the old communist and working-class movement. Also in the international Marxist-Leninist and working-class movement there are still many reservations towards the Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China. It is necessary to do ideological persuasion work on this subject. The significance, content and methods of the Proletarian Cultural Revolution are largely unknown especially to younger members of the MLPD, but also of other revolutionary parties, who have joined the Marxist-Leninist and working-class movement only during the last two decades.

With various methods of persuasion and ideological struggle, in the Cultural Revolution it was prevented there already during the lifetime of Mao Zedong that a restoration of capitalism in China took place as in the Soviet Union and the CMEA[1] countries. We absolutely must learn from this if we want to develop a new offensive of world outlook for scientific socialism, and must understand what socialist consciousness in the construction of socialism means.

What is dealt with in the other parts of this series of Revolutionärer Weg, Nos. 36–39?

In No. 37 we shall concern ourselves mainly with more recent developments of bourgeois ideology that have come to the fore in the period of the reorganization of international production since the 1990s. This includes dealing with various epistemological methods such as pragmatism or positivism.

We polemicize also against the revisionist Juche theory of Kim Il Sung from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, against the “democratic confederalism” of Abdullah Öcalan and his anticommunist views, against the abstruse theories of petty-bourgeois radical Leftists, the neorevisionism especially of today's Communist Party of China and Xi Jinping, Trotskyism and postmodernism. Of course, we concern ourselves also with the more recent development of the fascist ideology and the different variants of neofascism. One chapter is devoted to the conspiracy theories that play a big role today in the ideological confusion and the neofascist influencing of the masses.

In No. 38 we shall deal mainly with the crisis of bourgeois ideology in bourgeois science and culture. Religion in its diverse variations and its present-day role in society also will be criticized.

With the doctrine of the mode of thinking, No. 39 must draw comprehensive conclusions for the struggle of world outlooks. This part draws on the knowledge contained in Revolutionärer Weg, No. 26, about the problem of the mode of thinking in the working-class movement. At the same time it summarizes the advance of knowledge in the doctrine of the mode of thinking in 25 years of the theory and practice of revolutionary party work. It also examines the further development of the system of the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking and its negative effects on the development of class consciousness, of the class struggle and of the preparation of the international socialist revolution, and in socialist construction.

A relatively long time passed between Revolutionärer Weg, No. 35, on the struggle against the threatening global environmental catastrophe, and the publication of No. 36. What was the reason for this?

Seven years in fact lie between the publication of these two issues of Revolutionärer Weg. There were different reasons for this. For one thing, this is a mammoth work that investigates the wide range of strands through which the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking and bourgeois ideology exert influence on the masses today. The Central Committee and almost 50 collaborators worked on this for years. It was also necessary, however, to come to grips with a latent displacement of the aspect of world outlook among the collaborators. Such a tendency to displace the aspect of world outlook exists throughout the party. Strategically that is not without its dangers. After all, in the old communist movement this led to the revisionist degeneration of all formerly socialist countries and a large part of the old international communist movement.

Publishing the individual issues in advance aims especially at promoting the ideological-political side of our party work, in particular the work with the theoretical organ of the MLPD, Revolutionärer Weg, and to provide basic guidance for the struggle against anticommunism and the petty-bourgeois anticommunist mode of thinking.

The book also provides guidance on how the revolutionary and working-class movement can cope successfully with anticommunism, and, specifically, is an important foundation for the movement “Don’t give anticommunism a chance!”

With the four books on the crisis of bourgeois ideology, theoretical work surely will not have come to an end.

No! Relatively speaking, however, the further development and concretizing of our ideological-political line since the reorganization of international production, which brought about essential changes in the imperialist world system and entailed changes in our proletarian strategy and tactics, is complete.

Additionally we are already at work on an issue of the theoretical organ dealing with new manifestations in the imperialist world system. This concerns further new changes in the economic basis of imperialism beyond Nos. 29–35, the general rightward development of the governments and parties of the imperialist countries, the emergence of new-imperialist countries, the importance of digitization for the development of the productive forces, and so forth. Moreover, we are working in parallel on a book entitled “Biographical Reflections of the MLPD on Stalin,” which serves as a supplement to the volumes of The Crisis of Bourgeois Ideology, and the Doctrine of the Mode of Thinking.

This year it is thirty years since you took over the editorship of the theoretical organ Revolutionärer Weg from Willi Dickhut, who headed the editorial team before that for 22 years. Taking stock, what would you say?

Willi Dickhut developed the ideological-political foundations for the revolutionary working-class party of a new type in an all-around way. That was the most important precondition for founding the MLPD in 1982. The system of the theoretical organ, Nos. 1 to 24, encompasses the concretizing of Marxism-Leninism for the period following the Second World War, and in particular for Germany, in political economy, proletarian strategy and tactics, and dialectical and historical materialism.

The editorial team under my direction was responsible for analyzing on this general basis, in an all-around way, the reorganization of international production, and for drawing conclusions from this for party building, class struggle, and the preparation of the international socialist revolution. A guideline for this work was the doctrine of the mode of thinking, which enabled us to approach all questions of the theory and practice of revolutionary work with the aid of the conscious application of the dialectical method. We also had to deal with some problems requiring fundamental clarification from the standpoint of Marxism, such as the liberation of women or the struggle to protect the natural environment.

We are always confronted with new tasks of theoretical work because new practical and theoretical questions constantly arise in society and in the international Marxist-Leninist and working-class movement and have to be answered theoretically.

The editorial team of Revolutionärer Weg is distinguished today above all by collective theoretical work on the basis of the proletarian mode of thinking. Today and in future the comprehensive theoretical requirements no longer can be solved in any other way.

Thank you, and congratulations on thirty years at the helm of the editorial team of Revolutionärer Weg!

[1]                      CMEA = Council for Mutual Economic Assistance

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