Notes on left-wing organizations

Image: Mustafa Ezz


On the left there was a profound theoretical setback, with the abandonment of the strategy of the socialist revolution and even of Marxism and its political adaptation to the rules of bourgeois democracy

When you look at leftist organizations, they look like a collection of tiny, scattered fragments. At first glance, it is practically impossible to identify the differences that justify the existence of so many groups, after all, in general, the positions defended by these organizations are always very similar. Usually these groups have some degree of kinship, direct or indirect, being products of numerous ruptures or, in rare cases, mergers.

Many of the leaders of these organizations were together at some point in their militancy, having split and giving rise to two or more groups. These ruptures normally occur from some tactical divergence in a specific conjuncture, from personal disagreements or, in a few cases, from substantial theoretical divergences.

As many organizations tend to give greater importance to conjunctural issues, most of the ruptures do not occur from a theoretical and programmatic debate carried out in a careful way. On the contrary, “it appears that the principle of constant appeal to the masses was increasingly abandoned and that bureaucratization was installed with the imitation of bourgeois forms of politics inside and outside the party. Instead of democratization within the party, backroom politics, intrigue and clique formation made its appearance”.[I]

Several hypotheses are possible to explain this extreme fragmentation, although the determining factor is related to the economic and political situation. This hypothesis starts from the characterization that for about thirty or forty years a profound ebb in the struggle of the workers, in an international scope, has been noticed. Although moments of advancement have been observed in some struggles or in workers' organizations, these are episodic or even isolated facts if observed from a structural and long-term perspective.

Therefore, it can be said that, in the scenario after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the countries of the so-called Eastern Europe, there were no worker mobilizations that overcame the immediate struggle and pointed to strategic organizational forms of the working class. It is observed that the “period is marked by a brutal advance of capitalism, which, through its international organizations and national governments, imposes an economic model of deepening the domination of countries, through the privatization of services and public companies and through the flexibility of workers' rights, especially those associated with welfare state, such as labor and social security. In several countries, reforms of the most varied types were carried out, seeking to reduce spending on services and expand financial support to companies and banks”.[ii]

It is also observed that on the left there was a profound theoretical setback, with the abandonment of the strategy of the socialist revolution and even of Marxism and its political adaptation to the rules of bourgeois democracy. The most obvious cases of this process are the communist and social-democratic parties, which have even reached the government of important countries in recent decades.

However, this theoretical and political retreat applies not only to communists and social democrats, but also to organizations that intend to be revolutionary, after all, these groups, without having social insertion to dispute governments and parliaments, end up being co-opted by the union structure or by other social movements, adapting their actions to the corporate immediacy of the categories of workers where their militancy is inserted.

Within the scope of the left, since the beginning of the 1990s, the scenario that is shown is that of the main leaderships assuming the management of the State and that of the supposedly revolutionary sectors limiting themselves to the containment of the crises of the capital through the intervention in the unions or in social movements. At the international level, the working class has been systematically and harshly attacked, managing only to organize episodic and fragmented resistance. The context of the last decades opened space for a greater fragmentation of the left, from the co-option of the main workers-based parties and the split of the existing small groups. These crises and disruptions are directly related to theoretical and political retreat or even betrayals by existing organizations.

If, before the end of the so-called Eastern European countries, the left revolved around the Soviet Union, either supporting the Stalinist regime or taking a critical position in the face of the bureaucracy, there were communist and social-democratic parties in different countries, as well as Maoist and Trotskyist groups with some expression in the vanguard of the workers, there was a scenario in which practically all organizations, including smaller groups, went through crises and rupture. Although other minuscule groups existed before, their appearance was limited and in many cases little noticed.

Faced with the entry of reformist parties into governments or their political and theoretical shifts, sectors that acted in these organizations created separate groups, in some cases even using electoral legality, but without insertion in the concrete class struggle. These small organizations normally revolve around a main ruling group, which centralizes all their policy making and controls their actions, supposedly ensuring that there are no opportunistic or sectarian deviations. These organizations, with their centralized leadership group, which supposedly embodies the best of the revolutionary legacy, but which in reality are political professionals removed from the daily struggle of the workers, obviously do not possess, in their overwhelming majority, any theoretical and political consistency.

In the second half of the 1968th century, the great reformist apparatuses and even the groups with influence in the forefront were strengthened in the face of the growth of struggles, perhaps having 1970 as a symbolic milestone. , made reformist parties come to government in their countries, such as in Germany and France, from the XNUMXs onwards.

In Latin America, taken over by dictatorial governments, there was also an increase in social struggles, possibly having the strikes in Brazil as the main example. This struggle process, to a large extent, was responsible for the convergence of sectors of the left in a workers-based organization, although controlled by a union bureaucracy and sectors from Stalinism, which materialized in the Workers' Party (PT).

The PT project brought together a set of socialist sectors, both reformist and revolutionary, which organized themselves in defense of a strategy of social transformation under the hegemony of the workers. This experience starts from the idea of ​​a socialist movement, seen as “a confluence of anti-capitalist forces”.[iii] In this case, the parties, absorbing the confluence of forces that turn against the existing order, express themselves as their “form of institutional organization”, that is, “these social forces organize themselves institutionally and it is through the parties that the agglutination of forces”.[iv]

At the end of the 1980s, with the crisis of the Soviet bloc and the growth of an electoral project of state management, the PT increasingly began to seek space within institutions and even abandoned its generic and imprecise perspective of socialism. This process led to the departure of several groups from the party, such as the Causa Operária and the Socialist Convergence. Among other ruptures, individual or group, the most important political process was the expulsion of the so-called “radical parliamentarians” from the PT, who came to found the Socialist and Freedom Party (PSOL), as a response to the attacks imposed by the Lula government on workers. , starting in 2003.

The PT, like other workers' parties over the past centuries, was an expression of the workers' organization process. The growth processes of struggles normally lead to the construction or growth of a political leadership where class interests converge. To a large extent, this organization gains influence at the forefront, incorporating broad sectors of the workers into its ranks, or at least assuming influence over sectors of the class. The clearest example of this was the convergence of the vanguard and the masses in the direction of the Bolshevik Party, in the political process that resulted in the October Revolution, in 1917.

This example, as well as others that could be cited, show that the workers seek political direction that is more aware of the process, either placing themselves under its program or organizationally strengthening this direction. It is not a question of pointing out the tactical and strategic errors of any of these directions, but of highlighting that the mass sectors end up placing themselves around those organizations that point, albeit in a confused way, to social transformation.

This process can also lead to the construction of political syntheses, which normally express a certain plurality of strategies, socialist or otherwise. However, the most important thing to highlight is the fact that these organizations express the awareness of broad sectors of the working class, organizationally and strategically showing the limits and possibilities of the situation.

If these processes allowed, in different times and places, the construction of strategic syntheses in the workers' struggle, as broad sectors of the class placed themselves under political leadership, it is necessary to analyze what can happen in a scenario where there is a complete fragmentation of the left, with the reformist apparatus representing an electoral alternative and the revolutionaries scattered in dozens of tiny acronyms. What ensured that in a scenario of ascension, such as that of Brazil in the late 1970s, some organizations built syntheses, was precisely the fact that they brought together segments of the working class in the widest possible way. These directions were the expression of the level of class consciousness, expressing its contradictions and even its limitations.

Although class consciousness is commonly analyzed from the avant-garde, it cannot be considered as the only parameter. One must, as a starting point, understand that “human consciousness in general is extraordinarily conservative and always tends to lag behind in the development of society, technology and productive forces”.[v]

Ultimately, consciousness is a product of the material conditions of society. Therefore, “consciousness is, of course, first of all the mere awareness of the most immediate sensible environment and awareness of the limited connection with other people and things external to the individual who becomes conscious; it is, at the same time, consciousness of nature which, initially, appears to men as a totally alien, omnipotent and unshakable power, with which men relate in a purely animal way and in front of which they allow themselves to be impressed like cattle. ”.[vi]

The level of consciousness of the more general class is usually concretized in a mass political organization with reformist characteristics. In this case, it is up to the revolutionaries to provide the workers with the advance in their organization process, bearing in mind that “the consciousness of the working masses cannot be a true class consciousness if the workers do not learn, based on facts and concrete political events and current, to observe each of the other social classes in all manifestations of intellectual, moral and political life; if they do not learn to apply in practice the materialist analysis and appreciation of all aspects of the working life and the life of all classes, categories and groups of the population”.[vii]

This is the way to build and strengthen these organizations, to the extent that workers' awareness goes beyond the immediate perception of their daily lives. It must be understood that “the revolutionary party is formed not only by the clear elaboration of a theory and practice that correspond to reality, but also, and in the first place, by the treatment of the questions that interest the different strata of the population. Only then will the masses supply the party with the cadres it needs. This allows a better rooting in the masses, which in turn will act better, and vice versa. The party and the masses progress through reciprocal contributions; only from this intimate fusion and, at the same time, from this selection of leading cadres from the masses, is the mass party created, that is, the party, defined in quality and not in quantity, that guides the masses”.[viii]

Amidst the fragmentation of recent decades, it is obvious that each allegedly revolutionary acronym does not have effective roots in the class. They are small groups that either have militants spread across different professional categories or have a relative political weight in a single category. They are small groups, the overwhelming majority of which have a few hundred members. Usually they have a limited financial structure, maintaining themselves mainly from the contribution of their militants and supporters, having a press with a small insertion among the workers. Therefore, each organization has a limited social base, centered on some very specific sector of the population or even with a regional insertion only.

They thus express only fragments of class consciousness, which leads to two main deviations. The first, impressionism, is related to the fact that it allows itself to be influenced by the immediate awareness of the category that constitutes the social base in which it is primarily inserted. As a result, the set of tactics is aimed solely at responding to the interests of these limited segments. In addition, the responses given to current problems aim at immediate action, minimizing the importance of a long-term strategy. The second deviation, the partialism, is related to the fact of considering the level of consciousness of the specific category as if it were the whole of the working class. In this case, the conjuncture is not thought of in its broad sense, but from a small fragment. With that, if the category is advancing or receding, mobilized or inert, the general assessment of the conjuncture will be given only by the perception of this limited segment.

These problems make the groups look like cults or sects detached from the more general reality. As their vision is partial and based only on the vision of the social base where they are inserted, they interpret that the positions of other organizations, which also express other fragments of class, are mistaken. As each one is isolated in their own particular point of view, they begin to create theories and interpretations and to focus their fight against other organizations, building up a dispute over the interpretation of classic texts and mutual criticisms that are impossible to be interpreted by those who do not participate in these groups.

This fratricidal dispute, where each group claims to be right and all the others are wrong, leads to the complete inability of dialogue between the groups to go beyond the most immediate tactics. It is understood that “the emptiness, the scholasticism, the immobility, the distancing of the masses, are the result, precisely, of each existing organization considering itself as chosen by the Gods to lead the forthcoming revolution, and on this basis each one tries to stigmatize the others as counterrevolutionary”.[ix]

It can be said, within the exposed crisis scenario, that all organizations that claim to be revolutionary are nothing more than groups that preach Marxism to a tiny social base within the class as a whole. None of them has a monopoly on the workers' truth. To the extent that they keep themselves isolated from a programmatic, tactical and strategic debate with other organizations, limiting themselves to contentions that serve only for each group to take a stand and not really open up to an effective debate, these organizations are doomed to never come to having any political relevance to the class struggle, remaining isolated or even disappearing.

Although many groups feel that their subjective will and their program of good intentions will solve the problems of the working class, the solution will only be given by the objective struggle of the class as a whole. As long as the workers do not put themselves on a broad offensive and build an instrument of mass organization and struggle, which encompasses the broadest sectors of the working class, it will be a long way from overcoming its extreme fragmentation.

Without this organization, therefore without a space where one can discuss and build programmatic syntheses, a mosaic of positions will continue to exist spread across hundreds of tiny groups irrelevant to the class struggle.

*Michel Goulart da Silva He holds a PhD in history from the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) and a technical-administrative degree from the Federal Institute of Santa Catarina (IFC).


[I] REICH, Wilhelm. What is class consciousness? São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 1976, p. 62.

[ii] SILVA, Michel Goulart da. The end of the Soviet Union and its impact on the Latin American left. Economic Bulletin (BOCA), nº 22, p. 1-6, 2021, p. two.

[iii] FERNANDES, Florestan. Socialist movement and political parties. São Paulo: Hucitec, 1980, p. 6 (

[iv] FERNANDES, Florestan. Socialist movement and political parties. São Paulo: Hucitec, 1980, p. 7.

[v] WOODS, Alan & GRANT, Ted. Reason and revolution: Marxist philosophy and modern science. São Paulo: Classes Fight, 2007, p. 4.

[vi] MARX, Karl; ENGELS, Friedrich. the german ideology. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2007, p. 35 (

[vii] LENIN, Vladimir. What to do?. São Paulo: Martins, 2006, p. 181.

[viii] REICH, Wilhelm. What is class consciousness? São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 1976, p. 66.

[ix] REICH, Wilhelm. What is class consciousness? São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 1976, p. 72.

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