We Are Not the 99%: Francisco Martins Rodrigues on the Dangers of Allying with the Petty-Bourgeoisie (Pt. 1)

"Francisco Martins Rodrigues (FMR) is a little-known figure in global communism, and yet his analysis is key for demystifying the blockage of revolutionary potential in the Global North."

We Are Not the 99%: Francisco Martins Rodrigues on the Dangers of Allying with the Petty-Bourgeoisie (Pt. 1)

Francisco Martins Rodrigues (1927-2008) was a Portuguese communist revolutionary. He lived through the 39 years of US-backed fascist dictatorship in Portugal, and was part of the Portuguese Communist Party from 1953 until 1963, when he left it because it sided with Moscow during the Sino-Soviet conflict. Following the killing of a fascist spy in his recently-founded Marxist-Leninist Committee, he was violently tortured by the secret police of the regime (PIDE) until he revealed the identities of some of his comrades, and was then condemned to 20 years in prison. He would be freed by the Carnation Revolution of April 25th 1974, when the Portuguese armed forces, after being ground down by the African revolutionary armies, put an end to the regime with the goal of ending the war. The two years that followed saw Portugal wobble towards a socialist government, but eventually the bourgeois coalitions put a stop to the Ongoing Revolutionary Process (PREC) and staged a counter-revolution in 1975, setting the country on its path to liberal democracy.

Francisco never forgave himself for having betrayed his comrades, albeit under torture, and he refused to take up any leadership role during the revolutionary process. He joined the Popular Democratic Union (UDP), closely aligned with Enver Hoxha’s PLA, which he left in 1983 after diagnosing it with the same problems he had seen in the PCP. Throughout his life he took up the study of history and theory, and his writings are almost unexplored territory in Marxist-Leninist thought even in his native country. Profoundly anti-colonial, he scoured the history of the successes of revolutionary uprisings, and concluded that a fundamental cause of the absence of victorious socialist revolutions could be traced down to two different issues.

The first was the policy of the United Front, first proposed during the Seventh Congress of the Communist International in 1935 by Georgi Dimitrov, who argued the necessity of wide-ranging alliances against fascism and for the coalition of Communist parties with bourgeois liberal forces. This, Francisco argued, was done without ever prioritizing that such "united fronts" would be under the hegemony of the proletariat, and thus ended up subordinating the interests of the proletariat to those of the bourgeoisie.

The other issue that Francisco identified was that the absence of revolutionary potential in the Western working class was not due - as many on the Left have proposed - to the fact that they were alienated, or that the "hegemonic" capitalist ideology made them advance class interests other than their own. Rather, he said, the exploitation of the Third World and the distribution of colonial profits ensured that the working class in the Global North become, as was already suggested by Engels, a "labor aristocracy" that are effectively acting in their class interests by assuming reformist positions.

Francisco concluded that these combined factors explained the reformist potential of Communist parties in the West. Euro-communism, as it is sometimes called, retains the trappings of communism, but in effect it serves the interests of its labor-aristocratic base of material support, which then become their base of electoral support, well within the horizon of bourgeois parliamentary democracy. Euro-communism is a dead-end for revolution, because it is based on the collective aims of a parasitic global class, that is subordinate to the finance capitalists. This analysis explains why the surviving Communist parties in Europe or the USA campaign from a colonial capitalist starting point of a "fairer distribution of the spoils" of the imperial exploitation of the Third World.

Francisco Martins Rodrigues (FMR) is a little-known figure in global communism, and yet his analysis is key for demystifying the blockage of revolutionary potential in the Global North. Consequently, he is also helpful for understanding the role of a revolutionary communist movement located in any imperial center that holds imperial class interests; for identifying the true revolutionary subjects in the various colonial heartlands; and for spotting the dangers of taking up the rhetoric and trappings of communism and socialism, without concretely questioning the parasitical dependence of whole sectors of the labor movement upon whiteness and empire.

This series will provide a set of four newly translated texts by FMR. The first is a small essay, written towards the end of his life, on class hatred, and on opposing democratic socialist and anti-class struggle positions. The second will be an excerpt from his analysis of the failure of the Carnation Revolution, called "April Betrayed". The final two will be excerpts from his magnum opus, "Anti-Dimitrov 1935/1985 - Half a Century of Revolutionary Defeats," in which he lambastes the stance of "united democratic fronts" that do not first ensure the proletariat's hegemony within these coalitions (as Lenin and Mao had extensively argued). FMR identifies Dimitrov's position as the main culprit in the utter failure of socialist revolution in any Western country since it became Comintern policy. The influence of that position can still be seen today, in the wide-ranging anti-fascist movements of the imperial core, making FMR's critique more urgent than ever.

THE WEAPON OF CLASS HATRED (Francisco Martins Rodrigues)

“Organizing is the weapon of the oppressed.” False. Organizing is an indispensable tool, but if that was our weapon we’d be screwed. The weapon of the oppressed is hatred towards the oppressors, and there is no other, there has never been. Why do we say this so seldom? (In reality, for a long time now no one has dared to say it because hatred towards the oppressors implies the decision to overthrow them, and that is not allowed.) Our freedom is under watch, and we get to keep it only if we behave according to conditions that are fixed for us from above. That is where we get the natural tendency to bring the struggle of the oppressed into the field of organizing. It’s a way to empty it of content. We’ve all seen how the oppressed, focused on their “weapon” of organizing, become harmless “fighters”, bleating sheep that power can be entertained with “alternatives” and “rotations”.

— But hatred is irrational, fit for backward people who don’t know what they want and where they’re going! Hatred isn’t a feeling worthy of Marxists who fight for a better world!

This prejudice that hatred is inappropriate to enlightened revolutionaries has been undermining our collective thinking, and there seems to be no one willing to counter it. We must say that hatred isn’t necessarily irrational, and that our hatred, enlightened and conscious of itself, class hatred, is a thousand times more effective than the irrational hatred of someone who rebels as an individual.

Yet hatred is the only rational conclusion that can be extracted from an understanding of contemporary society. If the system cannot be reformed, as has been proven in blood a hundred times, if the masters of the system are willing to do anything to keep it going - because such is their nature, they can’t act in any other way even if they knew how - then the only rational conclusion is to work to overthrow them by force. And nothing but the weapon of class hatred can compel anyone to overthrow them.

Why do so many efforts go daily to waste, efforts of explaining, of organizing, and so much good-will? Because the core that gives them their coherence is missing, and that can only come from the desire to destroy the enemy. When that spirit is missing, everything falls apart. The bourgeoisie knows that very well, and so it always tries to make their adversaries and their accusations comply to “civility” and to “good manners” – this it does in order to defang and to disarm them.

We must put aside this Christianity masquerading as Marxism and take back the spirit of intransigent revolt. That’s the juice of Marxism: oppressed against oppressors, the toppling of the system, the expropriation of the expropriators. A prolonged war, full of small skirmishes, of breakthroughs and setbacks? Naturally. But a permanent war means that all minor episodes must tend towards the final goal, and they must be judged according to how much they advance or harm that goal.

What does this mean? To shoot? To plant bombs? That also, without fail. But for us, here, now, it means to lay bare at every instant the two opposing fields, to rouse their antagonism, to discredit the people keen on reconciling both sides, to stir their purpose to fight for one side or for the other, and with each action to bring closer the necessary clash between the two opposing forces and goals – either to keen the decrepit system alive at all cost, as they would prefer, or else to bring in a new system, a new way of life, as we demand.