June 23, 2020

"Reform" and "Reformism"

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Confusing the "reform" with "reformism"; further shift to the right of reformism 

"the entire minimum programme of the R.S.D.L.P.,which envisaged a struggle for democratic reforms that would facilitate the preparation and transition to the socialist revolution. Like the old “economists,” who could not understand the need for the political struggle of the working class under conditions of capitalism, the “imperialist economists” did not understand the significance of the struggle for democratic reforms under conditions of imperialism." Lenin, CW 38, P 582-583


To confuse reform with reformism , on one hand, is a result of learning Marxism Leninism by rote and not applying the dialectic of Marxism to the subject, on the oter and more often is a result of anarcho-Trotskyite tactics. They lump and equate the meaning and context of each term in order to reject any struggle for reform and disguise themselves as anti-reformist, anti-revisionist “revolutionaries”. Lenin states:
" Recognition of revolutionary activity along the lines indicated above, not denial of legal activity and of the struggle for reforms, should be the essence of the “struggle against the Marsh (= wavering, lack of principle, “turn table” (“Drehscheibe”), weathercock). " (Page 173) 
Contrary to misconception that Reforms (not reformism) excludes revolution, Lenin says, "Reforms do not, of course, exclude revolution " (Page 23), but reform is not a revolution, but an alternative to the revolution for the forced bourgeoisie. Lenin continues; “The point is that revolutionaries must not exclude themselves, not give way to reformism, i.e., that socialists should not substitute reformist work for their revolutionary work.” (Page 131)

(Not Reforms) Reformism excludes revolution, it is counter-revolutionary ideology that limits change.

The concept of "reform", " says Lenin," is undoubtedly the opposite of the concept of "revolution". Not remembering this contradiction, not remembering the line separating these two concepts constantly causes serious mistakes in all historical debates. However, this contrast is not an absolute thing, this line is not a dead thing, on the contrary, it is a living and changing thing, and the individual must be able to define it in any specific case. " (Page 29)

In other words, "reform" in connection with the revolutionary struggle cannot be handled in an absolute context in all situations and periods, such as " it does not serve the revolution, but serves the counter revolution," or " serves the revolution ". It should be handled in a concrete context with its vitality and variability in the revolutionary situation and in non-revolutionary situations and based on the evaluation of any given specific situations. 

First of all, reforms are not a product of "reformists", but they are democratic rights which the working people have gained as a result of their opposition, active reaction and struggle against the power of capital, that is, even if it was spontaneous, they are the byproduct of a struggle . "Reforms are a by-product of the revolutionary struggle" says Lenin (Page 42) And for those who claims otherwise, Lenin says “ What have metaphysics got to do with it, when historical experience, the experience of England, France, Germany and Russia, the experience of all modern history in Europe and Asia, shows that serious reforms have always been merely the by-product of a movement completely free of the narrowness of reformism?” (Page 79)

Reform and reformism are not one and the same. Reform, regardless of its extent, refers to the right gained as a result of the struggle. Reformism is the attempt to take the struggle of working people for reforms, the degree of rights gained under control and to prevent it from going further. One is related to the "gained - or desired to gain" right(s), the other is the ideology and practice of limiting the struggle to these rights in order to prevent revolutions. Reformists, as Lenin puts it,” only recognize reforms, they reject revolution" (Page 58) “We are by no means opposed to the fight for reforms.” (Page 169)

Stalin explains it as follows; " the bourgeoisie may sometimes concede certain partial reforms while remaining on the basis of the existing social-economic system. Acting in this way, it calculates that these concessions are necessary in order to preserve its class rule. This is the essence of reform. Revolution, however, means the transference of power from one class to another. That is why it is impossible to describe any reform as revolution." (Page 176)

"Reformist tactics," says Lenin, " are unlikely to achieve real reforms. The most effective way to secure real reforms is to pursue the tactics of the revolutionary class struggle. In fact, reforms are won as a result of the revolutionary class struggle because of its independence, mass power and determination. " (Page 88)

So, the "reforms" are not the achievements of reformists but of revolutionary struggle. “In contrast to the reformists fight for reforms to hinder revolutionary struggle, in view of the Marxist Leninists” all struggles for reforms should be channeled and must be converted into the revolutionary struggle. "(Page 96) 

In other words, the struggle of the Marxist Leninists is not against "reforms", but against "reformism" and "reformists", who take the struggle for reform and reforms -which are inseparable part of the democratic struggle- as a final goal, and to limit the struggle of the masses only with "reforms" .

"Unlike anarchists," says Lenin,” Marxists recognize the struggle for reforms, that is, they recognize the struggle for measures that improve the conditions of the entire working class, without destroying the power of the ruling class. They carry out the most decisive struggle against reformists, which directly or indirectly restrict them. Reformism is the bourgeois deceit of workers who will always remain a paid slave, as long as capital is dominant. " (Page 18) 

Therefore, in terms of the tactical approach to reforms, Lenin says, " We shall never reduce our tasks to that of supporting the slogans of the reformist bourgeoisie that are most in vogue. " And continues," We pursue an independent policy and put forward only such reforms as are undoubtedly favourable to the interests of the revolutionary struggle, that undoubtedly enhance the independence, class-consciousness and fighting efficiency of the proletariat. Only by such tactics can reforms from above, which are always half-hearted, always hypocritical, and always conceal some bourgeois or police snare, be made innocuous. " (Page 88)

Lenin summarizes the difference. Marxist Leninists and class-conscious " workers struggle for better conditions and use them to speed up the fight against wage-slavery. The reformists try to divide and deceive the workers with little concessions to take them apart from the class struggle. But workers use reforms to develop and expand the class struggle, seeing the false nature of reformism. " (Page 18)

" Revolutionaries, " says Lenin," they played a tremendous historical role in the social struggle and in all social crises, even if the immediate result of these crises was semi-voluntary reforms. "And it reveals the essence of what reform is; "Revolutionaries are leaders of the social forces that affect all changes; reforms are by-products of the revolutionary struggle". (Page 42)

Only those who have no ties with the masses, do not trust the masses, have been participating in the choir of religious or otherwise reactionaries for years, singing the same songs with them, would consider the reaction, struggle and achievements of the working peoples as the gain of "reformism". Since, aside from being indifferent to the democratic demands of the masses, they take a stand against these demands, do not understand and do not believe the power of the masses, according to them any gain is only the gain of or this or that party in order to soften the anger and hatred of the masses and to try channeling it in the interests of the system. And again, according to them, any democratization in the political system is simply a deception without any benefit to the working people and their struggle. According Lenin, however, " The more democratic the system of government, the clearer will the workers see that the root evil is capitalism, not lack of rights." (Page 172)

For those phrase-makers who argue that the fight for reforms is not "class" struggle, but a conciliatory one; " "The class perspective " on the political struggle, says Lenin, " requires the proletariat to provide a driving force for every democratic movement. The political demands of working-class democracy are in principle not different from those of bourgeois democracy, the difference is quantitative ... we have many allies in the struggle for political liberation, and we should not be indifferent to them. "" (Page 104)

Likewise, "The revolutionary proletariat," says Lenin, " will reject such a theory with contempt. .... the demand for the republic, for arming the people, for the separation of the Church from the State, for full democratic liberties, and for decisive economic reforms." (Page 115) 

Unlike revisionists and left-wing phrase makers rejecting to fight for reforms at every situation, Lenin says; " everywhere the Marxist workers are ahead of the liquidators, in the direct, immediate, “day-to-day” activity of agitation, organisation, fighting for reforms and using them. " (Page 18)

Marxist Leninists " has always included the struggle for reforms as part of its activities." (Page 126) But unlike reformists, ML " subordinates the struggle for reforms, as the part to the whole, to the revolutionary struggle for freedom and for socialism. " (Page 126) In the same way, Lenin states that the "Marxists are working tirelessly, not missing a single “possibility” of winning and using reforms, and not condemning, but supporting, painstakingly developing every step beyond reformism in propaganda, agitation, mass economic struggle, etc. " (Page 18) 

"" Those who refrain from making efforts in this way... make the liberals dominate, hand over the political education of the workers to their hands and leave the sovereignty in the political struggle to the leaders of the bourgeois democracy in the final analysis. ”(Page104)

As a result of the uneven development of capitalism in different countries, the "bourgeoisie" says Lenin, " as represented by their ideologists and political leaders, are coming out increasingly in defense of so-called social reforms as opposed to the idea of social revolution. Not liberalism versus socialism, but reformism versus socialist revolution—is the formula of the modern, “advanced”, educated bourgeoisie. " (Page 58) 

To stop the evolving struggles of the masses and channeling them into reformism, " everywhere the bourgeoisie seek, in one way or another, to corrupt the workers and turn them into contented slaves who have given up all thought of doing away with slavery. " (Page 18) 

It is an illusion to expect revolutionarism from the "masses" while being isolated from them and disinterested in their economic and democratic demands. Inevitably, due to desperation and lack of leadership, the masses will be under the influence of reformists. And as Lenin puts it; " The stronger the reformist influence among workers, the weaker the workers, the more they depend on the bourgeoisie. " (Page 18)

Stalin summarizes the difference between Marxism Leninism and reformism as follows;

"" To a reformist, reforms are everything, while revolutionary work is something incidental, something just to talk about, mere eyewash. That is why, with reformist tactics under the conditions of bourgeois rule, reforms are inevitably transformed into an instrument for strengthening that rule, an instrument for disintegrating the revolution. ……. To a revolutionary, on the contrary, the main thing is revolutionary work and not reforms; to him reforms are a byproduct of the revolution. That is why, with revolutionary tactics under the conditions of bourgeois rule, reforms are naturally transformed into an instrument for disintegrating that rule, into an instrument for strengthening the revolution, into a strong point for the further development of the revolutionary movement. "". (Page 176)

Mixing the “reform” and the struggle for “reforms” with “reformism” and “reformist” means moving away from the ABCs of Marxism and breaking its wings. Especially in times when there is no revolutionary situation, in Lenin's words, " A period of reform. The absence of a revolutionary situation. This is the essence of the work." (Page 16) 

"The liquidators are reformers ..." says Lenin and continues; " If there were a group that denied the use of reforms and partial improvements, we could not join it, because that would be a non-Marxist policy, a policy harmful to the workers.  Neither could we join the liquidators, because repudiation and abuse of the “underground”, repudiation and relegation of the two “pillars”, the advocacy in present-day Russia of a struggle for a legal party and the possibility of political reforms—all this is a betrayal of the working class, desertion to the bourgeoisie.. " (Page 24) 

In these seemingly complicated words, Lenin emphasizes that the rejection of reforms and the struggle for them is anti-Marxist, as well as betrayal of the working class in association with reformists, that is, he reveals the difference between reform and reformism. 

In terms of the importance of struggle for reforms, it is useful to quote the following words of Lenin in evaluating a period; 
" Yes, we are undoubtedly passing through an era of reforms….. Of course, these are not the reforms that denote a down-grade in political development…. Such reforms are always foretokens and precursors of revolution. " (Page101)
We try to help the working class to get the smallest possible” says Lenin, “but real improvement (economic & political) in their situation and we add always that no reform can be durable, sincere, serious if not seconded by revolutionary methods of struggle of the masses. We preach always that a socialist party not uniting this struggle for reforms with the revolutionary methods of working-class movement can become a sect, can be severed from the masses, and that is the most pernicious menace to the success of the clear-cut revolutionary socialism.” (Page 167)
The struggle for "reforms" and for the demands as such, is not only carrying an important weight for the "preparatory period" – where a revolutionary situation does not exist. Any demand for "reform", in any specific time, at the same time, may carry within the agitation of revolutionary "uprising". (Other than Exceptions) The masses will not spontaneously rise up collectively, most likely, one or more "reform" demands of that specific period for the broadest masses will be the reason for this insurrection and may be the leadership's insurrection agitation. 

Consequently, “reforms” and “reformist’, “reformism” should not be confused. In pursuit of an "anti-revisionist" appearance, disguise, such "far-left" approaches are essentially not revolutionary, but reactionary, further to the right of reformists. If the issue is "the fight against revisionism”, as Lenin puts, it is " " not the denial of legal activity and of the struggle for reforms, (it) should be the essence of the “struggle against the Marsh ( revisionism). " (Page 173) “The "Kautskyites", the "Centre", are revolutionaries in word and reformists in deed” (Page 170)

Divorce the struggle for reforms from the struggle for the final goal—that is what Bernstein’s preaching actually amounts to. Divorce the struggle for improvements, for freedom of association, etc., from the struggle against reformism, from the defense of Marxism, from its spirit and its political trend—that is what the preaching of D. and the other liquidators actually amounts to.” (Page 159)

30 July 2019


Lenin, May day and War, Collapse of Pacifist Dreams Page 16

Lenin, Marxism and Reformism  Page 18

Lenin, Two Paths Page 24

Lenin, Apropos of an Anniversary  Page 29

Lenin, Once Again About the Duma Cabinet Page 88

Lenin, An Era of Reforms Page 101

Lenin, Social-Democracy and the provisional Revolutionary Government Page 115

Lenin, Trade-Unionist Politics And Social-Democratic Politics Page 126

Lenin, Letter to the Secretary of the Socialist Propaganda League Page 167

Lenin, disarmament slogan   Page 169

Lenin, A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism  Page172