Party or Mass
The continual claim of Communists and others is that we must be with the great masses of the working class. If the masses want “immediate demands” and reform agitations then we must go with them in this policy. Shout 44 hours and 4 pounds per week or nationalisation of coal mines or any other plank the masses take up. Sometimes this leads to quarrels about which reform should be supported. McDonald, Mitchell & Co. shout Weir houses whilst the other section wants a different kind of steel house or brick one. Mitchell accuses Geo. Hicks, of the Builders, of signing a report in favour of the weird houses and Hicks tells Forward readers he is sorry he ever did such a thing. So the reformers, with their crowds of supporters, unite the workers by fighting about the kind of plaster to apply to capitalism. Yet, those who think we must join the large numbers, are always talking of Glorious Russia, the very country where Lenin and other Bolsheviks refused coalition with the much more numerous Menshevik and Social Revolutionary elements, though these parties had behind them the bulk of the workers and peasants. Lenin himself says in his pamphlet, “Towards Soviets” :—
“Is it not more honourable for the internationalists at such a moment to be able to resist the fumes that stupefy the ‘masses,’ than to ‘desire to remain’ with the masses, i.e., to give way to the general intoxication? Have we not witnessed, in all the belligerent European countries, how the jingoes defended themselves on the plea of desiring ‘to remain with the masses’ ? Is it not essential to be able for a certain time to be in a minority against the ‘mass’ intoxication? Is not just the work of propagandists essential precisely at the present moment, in order to set free the proletarian line of policy from the ‘mass’ effect of the chauvinist and lower middle class intoxication? It is just the fused state of the masses, proletarian and non-proletarian, without any class distinction within them, that constitutes one of the conditions of the rise of chauvinist epidemic. To speak contemptuously of ‘a group of propagandists’ of the proletarian tendency, seems to be a little out of place.”
Our work is not to pander to the prejudices of the ignorant but to win the workers’ minds for Socialism. Not by agreeing with their unsound ideas but by replacing these wrong notions with sound knowledge.
(Editorial, Socialist Standard, March 1926)