The following theses, written February, 2015, are the result of a lengthy process of research and discussion carried out by Liberation Road. We view it not as the end point of that discussion but rather as a living document, reflecting our thinking at this moment but open to change and deepening. We present it here as a contribution to the movement and to revolutionary thinking, and also as an invitation to all readers to share feedback and join with us in a process of thinking about the strategic challenges for the revolutionary socialist movement in our times.
1. The ultimate goal and the re-politicization of the Left
1.1 For us, the ultimate goal of revolutionary struggle is communism: a classless society in which the collective stewardship of the resources of society and the planet is the foundation for the development of the full potential of each human being.
1.2 Inaugurated by the capture of state power and public ownership of social resources, socialism is the period of transition between capitalism and communism, during which the masses of people engage in struggle to uproot systems of exploitation and oppression while at the same time working to build new relationships based on mass participation and initiative in governing society. It is a long historical period during which the people transform themselves by transforming society, fighting to prevent the restoration of capitalism and to advance towards communism.
1.3 Unfortunately, socialism and communism are seen by many—even by some Marxists—as synonymous with the authoritarian systems of government that came to dominate the USSR and China. Because of this association, many on the Left, particularly in the US, have rejected the struggle for state power as a critical objective for our movements and have rejected socialism and communism as the goals of the revolutionary process. In their place has grown a tendency to see resistance as a goal in itself and to rally around general anti-neoliberal/anti-capitalist slogans (e.g. “another world is possible”). Thus, there is a direct connection between the reversal of the socialist revolutions of the 20th century—what we call the crisis of socialism—and the general depoliticization of left movements.
1.4 Important as resistance is, however, it cannot take us beyond capitalism. In order to make “another world” real, it is essential to re-politicize the Left, re-centering the struggle for state power and the goals of socialism and communism within our movements. This re‐centering must confront both the major errors of past socialist experiments and the influence of post modernist, anarchist, and social democratic ideologies which obscure the question of political power for the Left today. Re politicization of the Left therefore requires addressing the crisis of socialism.
1.5 In this document we have attempted to bring together the best thinking of the movements and of our organization in order to confront these twin challenges. Our reconception of communism, socialism, and the state grow from critical assessments of both 20th and 21st century socialist experiments. Our theory of capitalism today is a particular version of historical materialism, reclaimed from economic determinism and enriched by the thinking of Third World Marxists, revolutionary women of color, and Marxist historians of class struggle.
1.6 Our approach to the revolutionary process has been deeply informed by feminist and other radical traditions that have drawn attention to the importance of practice as the core of all forms of transformation. However, we have also drawn on the best of the communist tradition to counter the fetishism of process and the resistance to materialist theory that are the result of postmodernism on the Left today.
2. Socialism, protagonism, and working class democracy
2.1 At the core of our renewed vision of socialism is the concept of protagonist, working class ‐ democracy.1 The concept of protagonism, in our view, is a deepening of the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat. As we wrote in our document On the Crisis of Socialism, this “cultivation of mass participation in and control over economic, political, and social institutions and structures” in order to gradually eliminate classes and oppression is the true essence of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and its goal is to gradually eliminate classes and oppression.
2.2 This protagonist democracy is not something that begins after the old state has been overthrown. It must be the very content of the revolutionary struggle to overthrow the state and must continue in the revolutionary struggle to transform social relations as well. In other words, it is both the means and the end of socialism’s political and social revolution.
2.3 Protagonism also means that there must be many forms of organization of and by the masses, not just a single party. The organization of the masses must include but must not be confined to parties or the state. This means both the likely existence of multiple parties under socialism as well as the necessity of mass organizations, both connected to and independent of political parties.
2.4 The centrality of protagonism in our view of the revolutionary process contradicts the model of revolution as something carried out primarily by the party or the state. Instead we see the party, the state, and mass organizations as instruments of the protagonism of the masses—instruments that must be sites of struggle if they are to be kept from becoming instruments for dominating the people.
2.5 Ultimately it is the organization, unity, and consciousness of the people that must carry out the socialist struggle and the transition from capitalism to communism. Only through this struggle can we transform ourselves, overcome our weaknesses, oppressive socialization, and divisions and create new practices and social relations.
2.6 We cannot pretend as though it is only “the system” that requires fundamental change as if that transformation happens somewhere “out there” in society or the future. Nor can we simply congratulate ourselves for having critiques of oppression. The most important thing is for us to begin practicing, here and now, the kind of relationships and society that we are trying to build. We must work on transforming the communities and social forces who are the leading forces of revolutionary struggle, as well as broader social structures.
2.7 At the center of our theory of protagonism, then, is the all important concept of practice. Only by practicing proletarian/protagonist democracy can we establish working class democracy as the dominant relation of politics. Only through queer feminist practices can we fully uproot patriarchy and replace it with liberated gender relations. Only the practice of self determination can win national liberation. It is practice that shapes consciousness and is the foundation of social relations and it is through this practice of our revolutionary principles that we will further enrich our theory (which, after all, is also a practice) and build up the strength of revolutionary forces.
2.8 We reject, however, any simplistic or linear notion of prefiguration that ignores the limitations that material conditions and the balance of forces place on our practice. Under capitalism, for example, full protagonist democracy is impossible. We therefore see our practice as transformative of currently existing conditions rather than the embodiment of the ideals of a utopian future.2
3. The meaning of state power and revolution
3.1 Of course, standing in the way of proletarian democracy is private ownership of the means of production and the capitalist state, which protects this class structure. Protagonism, after all, implies antagonism. Thus, while recognizing the importance of revolutionary practice before the capture of state power and its continued importance afterwards, the capture of state power—political revolution—remains a decisive objective for our movements.
3.2 The state is a set of institutions through which the ruling class organizes itself and organizes society behind its leadership to ensure its dominance.3 Armed force—the military, police, etc.—is ultimately the backbone of the state that enforces this dominance. But the state is never merely an armed force. It is also an organizing apparatus through which the ruling class resolves differences within itself and through which it attempts to organize the rest of society under it.
3.3 As Marxists we talk about the state rather than just the government because the major institutions of class rule are not limited to government. For example, in the US organizations like the Business Roundtable work to develop strategies for the capitalist class as a whole, while industry groups like the National Association of Manufacturers lobby for specific sectors of capital. Policy planning organizations like the Brookings Institute and major foundations like Ford work to shape policies on every issue and media messaging to shape public opinion. These institutions are essential, along with the parties and the government, for the working out of ruling class strategies and building popular support for them.4
3.4 Any attempt to fundamentally change society must ultimately take on the question of the state, both its armed force and the organized power of the ruling class as a whole. Political revolution is the process through which the working class organizes itself in order to break the organized power of the ruling class and replace it with the organized power of the workers and oppressed, that is, with the institutions and practice of protagonist democracy. This is why in The Communist Manifesto Marx called the new state “the proletariat organized as the ruling class.”
3.5 Some on the Left make social democratic errors. Seeing the current state as a more or less neutral instrument that can be transformed by taking over the government, they forget that government has been designed to facilitate the rule of the capitalists and the subordination of the people. They confuse government office with taking state power and forget that the ruling class is willing to use both fraud and terror to hold onto power. In the rare cases where governments have been taken over by socialists using electoral means, the ruling class has always attempted to use the armed forces (the core of the state), control of the administrative bureaucracies, as well its access to the media to undermine the elected government and to reestablish control. Salvador Allende of Chile and Jean-Claude Aristide of Haiti are only two of many examples. As long as the ruling class remains in control of armed force, media, the bureaucracy, and the means of production, its state power has not been overthrown.
3.6 Others on the Left make anarchistic errors. Seeing the current state as little more than a crude repressive instrument to control and trick the people, they forget that it is also the self‐ organization of the ruling class that been able to win over sections of the masses because it has offered them very real material benefits without which its ideology would have little currency. They confuse the confrontation with the armed forces of the state with state power itself, forgetting that socialist society requires the popular classes to be organized as well and to offer real improvements in the lives of the masses in order to lead. In rare cases where armed revolutionary forces have defeated the armed forces of the capitalists but have lost the support of the masses, the old or new ruling classes have undermined the new system and restored oppressive class rule. As long as the popular classes have not been organized to fight for socialism and communism, the state power of the working and oppressed people has not yet been established.
3.7 Communists advocate the overthrow of the capitalist state, then, not only because we understand the necessity of breaking the state power of the capitalists, but also because we believe that the kind of state that we need for the socialist period is of a type totally different than the capitalist state. The new state must be the result of the self organization of the working class and the oppressed; it must be made up of a wholly different set of institutions and practices than capitalist/representative “democracy.” Like the Paris Commune, the Russian soviets, and the Chinese base areas, these institutions are discovered and developed in the course of struggle.
3.8 These new institutions must be capable, not only of overthrowing the old state, but must also prevent the consolidation of privilege and power by new forces that arise in the contradictory period of socialist transition to communism. Armed forces are necessary, but because the drive to restore capitalism arises from the fact of vast inequality and the unfinished transformation of social relations, armed force cannot be the primary means of preventing the restoration of capitalism. Rather, the education, organization, and mobilization of the masses in social and political movements must be the key means.
3.9 At the same time communists recognize the importance of strategic struggles within the arena of capitalist elections and government. Through such struggles it is possible for communists to raise issues to large numbers of people, win material victories for the masses, and create and cultivate spaces for the masses to educate themselves about and begin participating in broad political struggles rather than just issue reforms. However, we must not confuse political struggle within the capitalist state with the work of building the political instruments of the new state. Indeed, only through building these new instruments will it become possible to carry out the struggle within the capitalist state without falling prey to its traps.
3.10 Ultimately, however, the struggle for state power is a means and not an end. We want to capture state power in order to clear the way for the transformation of society, in order to open the epoch of the socialist transition. It is not enough, then, to be a revolutionary calling for the overthrow of the capitalist state. We must also understand the system that we are trying to change.
4. Two theories within Marxism
4.1 Marxism distinguishes itself by integrating a particular scientific theory of history— historical materialism—into its political practice. This theory recognizes that societies are made up of an overwhelming number of processes and relationships all interacting with and defining one another and in a constant state of change. However, among all these processes and relations, not all are equal. Some tend to shape and structure other processes and society as a whole.
4.2 The term “mode of production” identifies a particularly powerful set of processes/relations at the core of any society. On the one hand are the forces of production: relationships and processes between people and the environment, mediated by the instruments of production. On the other hand there are the relations of production, which are the relationships among groups of people that allow a specific social system to reproduce itself.
4.3 Historically, there has been a struggle within Marxism (beginning in the work of Marx himself) between those who emphasize forces of production and those who emphasize relations of production as the key factor in society. Those emphasizing the forces of production have tended to develop a theory of history in which the motor force is the development of technology. Those emphasizing the relations of production have tended to develop a theory of history in that recognizes multiple forces in history but sees them all being structured fundamentally by the relations of production, particularly class and class struggle.
4.4 The technologically focused version of historical materialism has historically been known as the theory of productive forces. It gained dominance within Marxism during the Second International, but was consolidated into the official line of Soviet Marxism Leninism in the late 1930’s, as exemplified by Stalin’s essay “Dialectical and Historical Materialism.” But the theory of productive forces has roots in Marx’s work, and flourished in the Maoist and Trotskyist currents of the communist movements as well as among independent Marxist groups.
4.5 The version of historical materialism focused on the relations of production has historically been less systematically developed. While it has been the source of the most insightful and innovative Marxist theory from Marx to Mao, it has generally existed under the dominance of the theory of productive forces. That is, class struggle was conceived as the effect of the development of the productive forces even when Marxists made brilliant analyses of class and led successful revolutions.
4.6 For the theory of productive forces, the evolution of the tools of production requires the reorganization of work and, eventually, the reorganization of all other relationships and processes. Social systems become obsolete once they become barriers to the further evolution of technology and productivity. Revolutions are necessary to overthrow those classes who hold back social evolution for their own gain. And higher levels of production supposedly lead to a higher standard of living for all. In all societies and at all times, the driving force of social change is always technological development, moving societies from primitive communism to slavery to feudalism to capitalism to socialism, and finally to fully developed communism.
4.7 This theory incorrectly assumes that technological change is an autonomous social force that is necessarily progressive and that it ultimately leads to more just social relations. More troubling, it turns the capitalist obsession with technological development and production into the goal of revolution and history itself, planting a capitalist drive directly into the heart of the socialist project. The result of this technological fetish in the USSR was the denial of class struggle within socialist countries and the raising of the industrialization process above the well being of the people and the preservation of ecological balance.5
4.8 The theory of productive forces also creates problems for revolutionary strategy by creating a framework that allows little room for recognizing the particularities of different societies and their histories. Because it assumes that all societies are on the same linear path, the tendency is to compare societies as “backward” or “advanced” rather than recognizing the unique characteristics and trajectories of different societies.
4.9 We draw our renewed theory of history from those alternative currents within Marxism that have broken with the theory of productive forces and have emphasized instead the structuring character of the relations of production in order to reconstruct historical materialism.6 And in this way, we are breaking with certain aspects of our own historical lineage.
4.10 From this viewpoint each society has its own dynamics and path of development based on the unique history of that place. But those dynamics are fundamentally structured by the way that class is organized and by the development of class struggle. At the same time, the concrete history of a society gives class structure and class struggle a unique character. From this perspective the forces of production and their development are not simply “things”—natural resources, scientific knowledge, the organization of work—but are themselves processes and fundamentally structured by class and class struggle.
4.11 From this perspective, the transition from one type of society to another—and from capitalism to communism specifically—is not the automatic outcome of “technological” development, nor is there any guarantee that the transition will be necessarily progressive or successful. Rather, it is the specific outcome of struggle between opposing forces fighting for different objectives, though it is entirely possible (and unfortunately common) that the objectives of the ruling class may disguise themselves in the language or aspirations of the oppressed.
4.12 If there are numerous possible outcomes to the struggle, without any promise of it being progressive, then achieving the outcome we want depends on revolutionary forces’ understanding the precise nature of the social relations we are working to transform, the character of the relations we are trying to nurture, and the power that will allow us to carry out this work. It also depends on the level of organization and unity of the revolutionary forces.
5. Class struggle, capitalism and the transformation of social relations
5.1 In our view, there are both class and non class relations of production. Class relations are those through which surplus is extracted from direct producers by an exploiting group through the control of the means of production. A non class relation of production, on the other hand, is a relation that fundamentally shapes the nature/organization of work, the character of exploitation, and the unity or disunity of classes but is not based directly on control of the means of production.
5.2 The creation of a class of dispossessed workers through the separation of producers (usually peasants and craftspeople) from the means of (re)production and the exploitation of these dispossessed workers through production for the market constitute the heart of the capitalist process of class exploitation. Class struggle, then, tends to take on (but is not reducible to) two main forms: the struggle against dispossession and the struggle against exploitation.
5.3 Class struggles under capitalism are the result of the contradictory and antagonist strategies of reproduction pursued on the one hand by those whose survival is threatened by dispossession and exploitation (peasants, craftspeople, wage workers) and, on the other hand by the those whose power and wealth depend on the continued dispossession and exploitation of other classes (capitalists).7
5.4 However, these struggles happen in the context of specific societies, not in the abstract. Capitalism inherits and molds to its benefit old social divisions (e.g. “race” and gender), destroying old identities and creating new ones in their place. It adapts to and also radically transforms the ecological conditions into which it is introduced. We consider these non-class relations of production because, while they fundamentally shape and are intricately related to the class process, they are not reducible to it.
5.5 Under the influence of the theory of productive forces there has been a tendency to see class as the only relation of production and to see all other social relations as mere effects of the contradiction between the forces and the relations of production. Moreover, even class tended to be reduced to a simple legal relationship of ownership. Indeed, socialism came to be equated as a stage of society in which the state owns the means of production.
5.6 We reject this view. For us, the nationalization of the means of production by a socialist revolution is necessary but it is only the preliminary step in the socialist transition. It creates the conditions under which further transformation is possible. However, without addressing the question of ecology and non class relations of production, state ownership will not lead toward a communist society and will likely provide the basis for a restoration of capitalism.
5.7 Revolutionary women of color feminists were among the first to put forward an analysis of society that paid attention to these multiple dimensions of social relations: class, race, gender, the environment, etc.8 Analyzing race, gender, and ecology as relations of production is our attempt to transform historical materialism by incorporating this pioneering thought.
5.8 Under the influence of postmodern ideology, however, there has been a tendency for the US Left to turn this multi dimensional analysis of a single social system into a multi-system theory of “isms”, each with its own separate history and logic. This perspective— sometimes presented under the guise of intersectionality—opposes the idea that society is fundamentally structured by class relations, seeing this as an attempt to reduce all social relations to mere effects of economic causes.
5.9 In our view class and class struggle are not the cause of all other social relations, they are the fundamental contradiction that structures the way that other social relations play themselves out.9 While rejecting a simple relation of cause and effect determinism, we recognize the reality of class determination.
5.10 While recognizing the crucial importance of an intersectional analysis in the framework of historical materialism, then, we oppose postmodern intersectionality, which recognizes no overarching logic to capitalism as a whole.
5.11 All this leads us to a unique view both of class struggle and the struggle to transform capitalist social relations. For us, class struggle means much more than workplace struggles or the fight to nationalize the means of production. First, we recognize the existence of multiple forms of exploitation by capital and therefore multiple forms of class struggle that they produce. Second, we recognize that class struggle must put working people in actual control of production, in practice and not just legally. Third, class struggle must include the struggle to transform important non class relations within and among the working class itself in order to create the level of unity necessary to carry out the struggle. Fourth, class struggle must include the struggle to change the purpose of production so that it is in harmony and alignment with rhythms and logic of the environment. We believe the transformation of these relations is at the core of the revolutionary process.
6. Stages of struggle and the principle of the united front
6.1 The revolutionary process goes through its own stages based on changing material conditions and the balance of forces between the ruling class and the revolutionary forces. At each stage of struggle, revolutionaries must work to unite the broadest possible front, isolating the main enemy and focusing all the force of the united front against that enemy. This requires the identification at each stage of the leading forces, the principal allies, the middle forces, and the backward forces, including an analysis of divisions within the backward forces.
6.2 This united front principle allows revolutionary forces to defeat the enemy one by one while gradually building up strength. However, it also recognizes that revolutionary struggle requires unity with forces beyond any single organization or sector of the movement and beyond any single class. In our view the united front is not a tool reluctantly or manipulatively used in the period before “the Party” takes sole leadership of the struggle. Rather, it is a way of seeing struggle that recognizes that there will always be a diversity of groups, ideas, and forces that must be united in order to carry forward struggle. Just as we believe that protagonist democracy under a socialist state will involve many forms of mass organization as well as multiple parties, we believe the struggle for socialism involves united fronts between various forces and classes.
6.3 We disagree, however, with the use of the concept of united front as a cover for organizing the masses behind the leadership of the more progressive sectors of the ruling class. In order to be a strategy for revolution, the united front must unite around the leadership of the most advanced social forces and their leadership, not behind the least reactionary of the backward forces.
7. The role of communists and stages of communist movements
7.1 The role of revolutionaries—specifically communists—in the revolutionary process is summed up, for us, in the theory of the mass line as articulated by Mao: “take the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action, and test the correctness of these ideas in such action. Then once again concentrate ideas from the masses and once again go to the masses so that the ideas are persevered in and carried through. And so on, over and over again in an endless spiral, with the ideas becoming more correct, more vital and richer each time.”
7.2 We distinguish our view both from the idea that revolutionaries are the owners of the truth and from the idea that the masses are always correct. Rather, we see our role as working to fuse ourselves with the masses, to transform ourselves and the communities we work in by developing a political practice that combines the insights of the people with those of science and the experience of the struggle.
7.3 The masses are the protagonists of revolution, people with their own ideas, who must grasp for themselves the nature of society and the tasks of revolution. This is not something that can be derived immediately from direct experience by the masses on their own, nor can it be derived from revolutionary theory in general. Rather, it is only possible as the result of fusing revolutionary theory with the experience and struggles of the masses and developing concrete knowledge through practice.
7.4 The work of Paulo Freire has been particularly important in developing a Marxist theory of political and popular education that starts from the recognition of the subjectivity of the masses, rather than a view of them as the recipients of the “true” knowledge of revolutionaries. Also useful are Marta Harnecker’s distinction between naïve consciousness, class consciousness, and socialist consciousness.10 Naïve consciousness is thinking under the influence of ruling class ideas, class consciousness arises when, as a result of struggle, the masses begin to question and rethink the world, socialist consciousness is the fusion of class consciousness with the scientific insights of Marxist theory. Marxists must realize that both the immediate experience and the struggles of the masses produce knowledge that they themselves may not have and which is essential to developing truly socialist consciousness. Only when this happens does communism become an organic expression of the masses.
7.5 This work can be understood as happening in four general stages: (1) a stage of laying the basic ideological foundations and a core of cadre committed to building a communist movement, (2) a stage of fusing that core group with the vanguard of the working class and oppressed people, (3) a stage of winning the support of and organizing the broad masses of people towards socialism, (4) a stage, after the overthrow of the capitalist state.11 Of course, there are ideological questions to be handled at every stage and at every stage communists should be working to strengthen their relationships with the masses. The point is not to reduce each stage to only that task or to limit each task to only one stage but to identify the central task in each stage which moves the process forward.
7.6 Our first task is to establish the ideological foundations for a communist movement. Historically, this has always involved a deep rethinking of theory and ideology in order to bring it up to date and to make it applicable to the specific circumstances of a specific society. However, laying the basic ideological foundations does not mean that we must first resolve all ideological and theoretical questions and differences. Each movement must discover for themselves which questions are key at which moments and which will be resolved at a later time.
7.7 Our next task is to fuse Marxism with the vanguard of the working class and oppressed people. This is the phase of party formation. And it is not a simple passing on of “truth” ‐ from revolutionaries to the “ignorant”, of simply “winning” the advanced to “our” ideas. Rather, it is truly a process of transformation (of revolutionaries, of the advanced, and of revolutionary theory and practice) through the shared experience of struggle. Indeed, by “fusion” we mean the synthesis of each of these processes into something new: a communist movement that is made up of the objective leadership of the working class and oppressed peoples.
7.8 Like other major concepts of communism, the term “vanguard” has been generally discarded by the US Left because of its association with authoritarianism and the self-righteous, sectarian practice of many of the organizations of the communist movement. However, in its objective sense “vanguard” refers quite simply to the existence of the “advanced” in any social group. Any organizer who identifies and develops leaders in order to organize larger numbers of people is attempting to organize the vanguard in that workplace or community. We identify the advanced not simply by their familiarity with revolutionary theory, but through their practice and the principles expressed in that practice.
7.9 When we say we want a vanguard party we are not saying that we want a party that tells the masses what to do, but a party that has recruited the advanced leadership of the people and which has the respect of the broad masses. The role of the vanguard is to facilitate and organize the participation of the masses in the struggle as protagonists, not as a passive or populist mob. Developing the participation of the broad masses is the third task of revolutionaries.
7.10 Fourth, and less clear from our current position is the work of leading the struggle after the political revolution.
7.11 In all four stages there are many pitfalls; right and left errors pose a danger to revolutionary practice. Tailism and adventurism are particular forms of these errors that we see on the US Left. Tailist errors happen when, in an attempt to have a broader impact, we underestimate the moment and dilute the revolutionary content of the struggle. These right errors end up holding back the actual level of struggle and mass consciousness or leave revolutionaries tailing behind. Adventurist errors happen when, in an attempt to push forward the revolutionary aspects of the struggle, we overestimate the moment and push the struggle beyond actual conditions. These left errors end up alienating the masses and undermining the credibility of revolutionary leadership.
7.12 Both left and right errors isolate us from the people and can come from confusing the attitudes of the advanced or the backwards with the consciousness of the majority of people and misreadings of material conditions. Unless they are corrected, these errors can lead to the consolidation of ultra left and rightist political trends.
7.13 The role of communists throughout the struggle is to use theory as well as deep relationships among the masses to develop the most accurate “line of march” and to respectfully create spaces of dialogue where the people can discuss and decide for themselves what line to carry forward. This means working to discover through the mass line the internal main obstacles for the main and ally forces that can be mobilized for these struggles, as well as the forms and tactics of these struggles.
7.14 Finally, it is the role of revolutionaries to provide an example of revolutionary practice. This does not mean being free from error, but rather, being committed and accountable to our politics. It also means creating a community of practice, a culture of camaraderie which nurtures and supports revolutionary practice.
1. While there are certainly precedents of “protagonism” in Marx and Lenin’s theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat and Mao’s theory of the mass line, we owe much of our current thinking on this question—not to mention the term itself—to discussions of the struggles in Venezuela in the writings of Marta Harnecker and Michael Lebowitz. While we do not agree with all that they have to say on this question, we found their work on this issue to be thought provoking. See especially Lebowitz’s book Build It Now.
2. Again, while we drawing on precedents from the communist tradition, our thinking on the question of practice has been informed by the emphasis on practice developed by feminism, somatics, and anarchism/horizontalism. Though we are critical of many of the utopian and moralist ways that “prefigurative politics” can become a fetishism of process for the US Left, these radical traditions have made an enormous contribution to the rest of the Left in that they have enriched our understanding of practice.
3. Etienne Balibar’s On the Dictatorship of the Proletariat provides an insightful analysis of Lenin’s thinking on the state based on the early experience of the Russian Revolution. It has been a key text in shaping our thinking on the need to destroy the old state and the necessity of a totally new kind of state.
4. Who Rules America? by G. William Domhoff offers the classic, detailed, empirical analysis of the institutions through which the US ruling class works to control government, public opinion, and elections. While his conclusions are not Marxist, his research is incredibly insightful.
5. The Preface to Charles Bettelheim’s Class Struggles in the USSR: 1917–1923 provides an excellent critique of the economistic emphasis of Stalin’s theory of the productive forces, the political consequences of that theory, and the social basis/origins of that theory in capitalism and in the European labor movements specifically
6. Ellen Meiksins Wood (Democracy Against Capitalism), Robert Brenner (The Brenner Debate), and Charles Bettelheim (Class Struggles in the USSR v.1) have been especially helpful in developing our new conception of historical materialism, putting “politics” (the relations of production) in command of our theory.
9. On the point of class and class struggle as a uniquely powerful force that structures other social processes and relations see Robert Brenner’s essay “Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-Industrial Europe.” See also Robert Albritton’s “The De(con)struction of Marx’s Capital” in Post-Ality: Marxism and Postmodernism. On the difference between causality and contradiction as different ways of understanding explanation see John Rees’ Algebra of Revolution, page 7.
11. In addition to general reflection on the development of revolutionary movements, our thinking on these stages is drawn from Lenin’s discussion of the evolution of the Russian communist movement in Left Wing Communism, Mao’s discussion of the origins of the Chinese communist party in “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship”, and the first chapter of PUL’s 2, 3, Many Parties of a New Type?