Opportunism

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Opportunism

 

in the working-class movement, theory and practice that contradict the real interests of the working class and push the working-class movement onto a path beneficial to the bourgeoisie. Directly or indirectly, through compromise and overt capitulation or unjustified and provocative actions, opportunism adapts and subordinates the working-class movement to the interests of its class enemies.

Opportunism emerged with the development of the revolutionary movement of the working class in the second half of the 19th century. At first, its ideological foundation consisted of various forms of pre-Marxian socialism, and its tactics were borrowed from liberal reformists, as well as from various anarchist groups. During the period of the First and Second Internationals, K. Marx and F. Engels criticized the opportunistic concepts and tactical aims of, on the one hand, F. Lassalle, B. Bernstein, and K. Schramm, for their direct surrender to the bourgeoisie, and on the other hand, M. A. Bakunin and A. Blan-qui, for pushing the working-class movement onto the path of adventurism. After the triumph of Marxism in the working-class movement, opportunism changed its ideological garb, clothing itself in Marxist phrases. In terms of its class nature, opportunism within the revolutionary working-class movement is a manifestation of petit bourgeois ideology and policy. In theoretical terms, it appears sometimes as revisionism and sometimes as dogmatism. Organizationally, it is sometimes manifested as liquidationism and sometimes as sectarianism. In terms of the direction of its influence on the revolutionary movement, it emerges sometimes as right and sometimes as “left” opportunism. One type of opportunism may be transformed into another.

Right opportunism is a changing totality of reformist theories and compromising tactical orientations that are aimed at the direct subordination of the working-class movement to the interests of the bourgeoisie and that abandon the fundamental interests of the working class in the name of short-term partial advantages. The concrete varieties of right opportunism are based on a fatalistic notion that replaces sober-minded consideration of objective conditions with worship of spontaneous economic development, mistakes small-scale reforms for the gradual introduction of socialism, and hopes for the automatic “transformation of capitalism into socialism.” The ideological principles of right opportunism are defense of class “cooperation”; rejection of the idea of socialist revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and revolutionary methods of struggle; accommodation with bourgeois nationalism; and the transformation of legality and bourgeois democracy into fetishes. In most instances, right opportunism is a reflection of the attitudes of certain strata of the petite bourgeoisie or of certain groups in the working class, such as the workers’ aristocracy and the bureaucracy, whose conditions of existence are relatively tolerable.

As early as the late 19th century, right opportunism was widespread in the working-class movement. The revisionist ideas of Bernstein and later the dogmatic conceptions of K. Kautsky were frequently used by opportunism as its ideological banner. After the deaths of Marx and Engels, the key positions in the major Social Democratic parties of Europe and in the Second International were gradually captured by right opportunists, including K. Kautsky, H. Hyndman, and G. Cunow. For many years, V. I. Lenin, the Bolsheviks, and revolutionary Marxists in other countries waged an uncompromising struggle against right opportunism. After the collapse of the Second International (1914), the opportunist wing of the Social Democratic parties embarked irrevocably on a course leading to degeneration and became the precursor of many contemporary reformist parties, which have inherited the ideas of right opportunism and have completely abandoned Marxism.

With the emergence of the international communist movement, opportunism tried repeatedly to entrench itself in the ranks of the movement and waged a struggle against the theory and practice of Leninism. In the second half of the 20th century, right opportunism in the communist movement has emerged as right-wing revisionism. Draping themselves in the flag of antidogmatism and the “creative development of Marxism-Leninism,” its spokesmen (for example, M. Djilas, I. Nagy, J. Gates, and in the late 1960’s, R. Garaudy, E. Fischer, F. Marek, and B. Petkov) have used as ideological sources contemporary bourgeois and social reformist ideology, as well as the views of right opportunists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A sharp struggle developed, as a result of which the ideological positions of right opportunism were destroyed, and its spokesmen found themselves outside the communist movement.

“Left” opportunism is a highly volatile mixture of ultrarevolu-tionary theories and adventuristic tactical objectives that push the revolutionary working-class movement into unjustified actions and senseless sacrifices and defeats. The foundation of “left” opportunism consists of voluntarist concepts that play on the revolutionary enthusiasm of the masses. The ideological underpinnings of “left” opportunism are reliance on “revolutionary violence” as a panacea for all ills, disregard for the stages of socioeconomic development, and a belief in “spurring on” revolutions and in “cavalry attacks” in economics. Trotskyism is a typical example of “left” opportunism. As a rule, “left” opportunism expresses the psychology and attitudes of groups of the petite bourgeoisie and peasantry and members of the middle strata who fall into an extreme, anarchist revolutionary position when pressured by unrestrained exploitation or confronted with the difficulties of socialist construction. “Left” opportunism tries to push the revolutionary movement onto an adventurist path. Its erroneous actions, disguised in revolutionary, Marxist phraseology, discredit communism, thus playing into the hands of the bourgeoisie.

In “Left-wing” Communism—an Infantile Disorder (1920), Lenin analyzed the essence of “left” opportunism and its various manifestations in the period of the formation of the world communist movement.

Since the early 1960’s, the danger of “left” opportunism has increased. Contemporary “left” opportunism is distinguished by the fact that it first emerged as dogmatism and later took the form of “left-wing” revisionism. A particularly dangerous variety of this most recent “left” opportunist movement is Maoism, which became the state ideology in the People’s Republic of China in the 1950’s. In the communist movement Marxist-Leninists and “left” opportunists are engaged in a sharp struggle concerning the basic problems of social development: for example, the essential character of the present epoch, the role of the main revolutionary forces, the issues of war and peace, the role of Third World countries, international détente, and ways of building socialism and broadening democracy. Contemporary “left” opportunism attempts to substitute its notions for all the components of Marxism-Leninism, and to split the commonwealth of socialist countries and the international communist movement. It slanderously equates the USSR and the USA, referring to them as “the two superpowers,” and seeks to push Communists into taking an adventurist path. The struggle against both right and “left” opportunism is a current task of the world communist movement.

REFERENCES

Marx, K. and F. Engels. “A. Bebeliu, V. Libknekhtu, V. Brakke i dr. (Tsirkuliarnoe pis’mo’), 17–18 sent. 1879.” (Letter.) Soch 2nd ed., vol. 34.
Lenin, V. I. “Marksizm i revizionizm.” Poln. sobr. soch, 5th ed., vol. 17.
Lenin, V. I. “Raznoglasiia v evropeiskom rabochem dvizhenii.” Ibid., vol. 20.
Lenin, V. I. “Istoricheskie sud’by ucheniia Karla Marksa.” Ibid., vol. 23.
Lenin, V. I. “Marksizm i reformizm.” Ibid., vol. 24.
Lenin, V. I. Krakh II Internatsionala, Ibid., vol. 26.
V. I. Lenin protiv dogmatizma, sektantstva, “levogo” opportunizma (collection). Moscow, 1964.
V. I. Lenin protiv revizionizma (collection). Moscow, 1958.
Programma KPSS (Priniata XXII s”ezdom KPSS). Moscow, 1973.
Programmnye dokumenty bor’by za mir, demokratiiu i sotsializm. Moscow, 1961.
Mezhdunarodnoe soveshchanie kommunisticheskikh i rabochikh partii. Moscow, 1969.
Revizionizm—glavnaia opasnost’. Moscow, 1958.
Butenko, A. P. Osnovnye cherty sovremennogo revizionizma (Kriticheskii ocherk). Moscow, 1959.
Marksizm-leninizm—edinoe internatsional’noe uchenie, vols. 1–3. Moscow, 1968–69.
Kritika teoreticheskikh osnov maoizma. Moscow, 1973.

A. P. BUTENKO

Opportunism

Arabella, Lady
squire’s wife matchmakes with money in mind. [Br. Lit.: Doctor Thorne]
Ashkenazi, Simcha
shrewdly and unscrupulously becomes merchant prince. [Yiddish Lit.: The Brothers Ashkenazi]
Butler, Rhett
southerner interested only in personal gain from Civil War. [Am. Lit.: Gone With the Wind]
carpetbaggers
northern politicians who settled in the South to control the Negro vote. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 84]
Cowperwood, Frank A.
capitalist involves politicians in shady dealings. [Am. Lit.: The Financier, Magill I, 280–282]
Nostromo
entrusted with a cargo of silver, manages to conceal some for his own gain. [Br. Lit.: Conrad Nostromo]
Peters, Ivy
shyster lawyer capitalizing in New Frontier territory. [Am. Lit.: A Lost Lady]
Ravenel, Gontran
de weds peasant’s plain daughter to obtain land. [Fr. Lit.: Mont-Oriol, Magill I, 618–620]
Wallingford, “Get-Rich-Quick”
ingenious rascal of high finance; quasi-lawful. [Am. Lit.: Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford, Hart, 150]