Introduction to Proletarian Theory

A Panoramic View of Some Basic Concepts in Proletarian Struggle




Proletarian Alternative

Last edited July 6, 2015



This is a preliminary presentation aimed, primarily, at building a certain level of political unity with the objective of building a Proletarian Alternative in the belly of the beast. This is in no way directed at building our intellectual capacity outside or independent of our social practice. If we did that, the result would be an association of intellectuals with no political purpose and totally disconnected from social reality.


One of the principal objectives of all our organized work is to understand the reality we are in and will struggle to transform. If we cannot appropriate this reality to the best of our ability, how can we transform it? If we do not have a scientific interpretation of objective reality, how can we begin to define the ways of transforming it or build the necessary tools needed to transform it?


Proletarian theory is a science that contains two components: Dialectical Materialism [DM] and Historical Materialism [HM].


Dialectical Materialism is a scientific philosophy, meaning that, as opposed to many other philosophies that are based on superstition or metaphysical beliefs, it strives to give a scientific interpretation, situated in human history, to every real phenomenon. DM allows us to have the capacity to reach a relative understanding of the real world, of different existing phenomena, the development of these complex realities and the interrelationships, if any, between them.


The problematic of proletarian struggle can’t be appropriated independently or autonomously from the history of the proletarian movement, through the periodic stages of its development. Those stages determined the problems, their various manifestations, and the elaboration of concepts and theory needed to apprehend this reality. This development shaped the constant, unavoidable and necessary rectifications and transformations of our theory.


Historical Materialism is the science that uses DM in order to discover, comprehend and build a theoretical model of societal development. HM, as a theory, allows us to analyze a social formation and comprehend its diverse existing internal relations and the relations between different social formations HM enables us to achieve a relative understanding of history, how different social formations develop in different periods, through different conjunctures, and the effects of these conjunctures on these social formations.


HM also allows the proletariat to develop a scientific political line to defeat CAPITAL, its fundamental enemy. The source of this science is the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat; thus it is severely limited during a low level of proletarian struggle. This theory, this philosophy is the revolutionary scientific guide of the proletariat as the gravedigger of capitalism.


A Historical Materialist Definition of Capital




(December 2014)

Capital is a cyclical process unrolling at the level of the whole society. The principal moment is that of production. It is in that process that the transformation of nature and the production of surplus value are simultaneously carried out; it is where labor is performed under the conditions that allow it to furnish surplus labor.

Capital is not the juridical designation of the privately owned means of production itself. Private property, institutionalized legally, is indeed indispensable for the functioning of capital, and will take different historical forms relating to a range of capitalisms from individual to monopoly to state.

These juridical forms are seemingly distinct from wage labor. But they are required for the functioning of capitalist social relations of production. These relations are the real process of the appropriation of labor, accomplished by controlling the means of production in which the capitalist cycle is unceasingly reproducing. As a social relation, capitalist private property is historically bound to wage labor; one can’t exist without the other.

Capital is a system of social relations of production, which exists solely to recover surplus labor.


What is Proletarian Theory?



by Proletarian Alternative

(September 1, 2014)


Proletarian theory [dialectical and historical materialism] is the most advanced theory of the working class. It is in constant development, never a done deal or set of formulas that could be fit onto objective reality. Even Marx and Engels went through a set of rectifications and deepening of proletarian theory, especially after the Paris Commune. They transitioned from being social democrats [non-proletarian revolutionaries] to being proletarian revolutionaries.


Thus we encounter some level of eclecticism in Marx; for example he spoke of profit both as an added sum, and as a societal form of organization in which the center pole is surplus value. Surplus value is the source and origin of all types of capital and of capital accumulation [except early mercantile capitalism to a certain extent].


At this time we identify Marxism as proletarian theory. Marxism-Leninism was a necessary political demarcation from other theories claiming to be the theory of the working class. We do believe this demarcation has reached a point of maturity. It is time for the working class to reclaim our theory.


On Proletarian Theory

by Jan Makandal

April 8, 2013

In this period, we are witnessing an ossification and stagnation of proletarian revolutionary theory. The effects of this, in reality and objectively, are dogmatism, opportunism and populism. One of the consequences is that Mao’s contributions are cast in stone, making us incapable of going from a dialectical relation of general to specific and specific to general, in order to elevate the theory. That dialectical relation is the underpinning element for theory’s constant mode of rectification and consolidation. (more…)

The Importance of Theory

(Last edited 2/6/13)

Theory: Everybody Has One

A theory is a foundational belief about how the world works.

Whether we are aware of it or not, we each live our lives according to our own personal, internalized philosophical theory. Our personal theory is a contradictory jumble of assumptions, beliefs, intentions, and hypotheses about the nature of the universe and our place in it. Each of us has ideas about the nature of existence, motion, and relationships. Our ideas come from everywhere and blend together: our experiences, our conversations, reading, mass media, advertising, teachers, family, friends, and foes.

Historical Materialism

(last edited 7/2012)

Historical materialism identifies three broad levels of structures and practices in societies that are divided in classes. Each one of these levels represents a system of structure and corresponding practices, a system in which the whole dialectically determines and is dependent on its constituent parts.

These three levels are:

1-    Economic system (structure and practices): the level of production and distribution of material goods and services

2-    Ideological system (structure and practices): the system of ideas, representations, theories, (…) and the system of behaviors, attitudes, customs, ambitions, habits, (…)

3-    Political system (structure and practices): the system of laws, codes, constitutions, customs (…) through which relationships of domination are defined and enshrined and the system of coercion-repression through which these relationships of domination are enforced, maintained, reproduced and developed.

There are a few global principles that are key to Historical Materialism:

10 Starting Points for Revolutionary Proletarian Militants

Last edited 5/18/13

Imperialism is facing an unprecedented crisis with no apparent solutions. Our struggles must push the contradiction forward, to make it harder for the dominant classes as a whole to recover, and to lay the basis for an alternative to be built in our—the popular masses’—interests. Let’s organize and mobilize to face the ongoing attack of a rotten system, and build our capacity until we can defeat it.

1) We must develop our theoretical capacity to understand the nature of the system, the mechanisms of its functioning, its dynamism and tendencies, its strengths and weaknesses, the reasons for its sudden rapid degradation, and its struggle for survival.

2) We must build organizations at all levels (revolutionary, intermediate, mass). Without organizations strong enough to defeat the system’s ideological, political and economic domination, we will always be at their mercy. The enemy won’t concede or fall on its own.

3) We must unify ourselves based on our class interests. We should engage in discussions not for polemics, but for the purpose of consolidating our unity. A genuine desire for unity should guide our struggle within the people’s camp. We must “fight to agree,” so we can stand together against this rotten system.

4) At the mass level, we must distinguish between fundamental and secondary disagreements, and not divide over the latter. Our unity must not be simply written on paper, but constructed in the process of struggle, under the principle that in order to face this decomposing system we must solidify the unity of the people’s camp, under the leadership of the autonomous working class.

5) An organization without theory is an organization with no compass, no guide for action. We need theory if we are to reach our goals. It should not be static dogma, but in a constant mode of rectification, evaluation and consolidation.

6) Solid popular democratic organizations at all levels are constructed within the dialectical motion of the relationship between theory and practice. In this relationship, practice is determinant. The purpose of theory is as a guide to practice. We do not need to merely interpret and understand reality for its own sake, but to radically transform it.

7) An organization with a theory but no practice is a harmless study group. It will be unable to determine any goal, much less achieve it. Without its relation to practice, theory not only has no purpose, but is also motionless, comatose, unable to expand or advance. Our practice validates (or not) our theory, and allows our theory to grow and develop, in order to further advance our practice.

8.) Knowledge is not the property of a few, but belongs to all of us. Among us, it is most powerful when it is collective. The more that knowledge is collectively appropriated, the more solid and democratic our organizations are. In this process, we become more collective in our definition and understanding of the system, and of how to render it null.

9) Solutions are right here in front of us, not hidden in any formulas or scriptures. Only through struggle will the correct line emerge to guide us in discovering the solutions to our problems. We need to learn from the past with the objective of going beyond the past, not remain stuck there as the caravan of life passes in front of our eyes.

10) History will always advance whether we develop the tools and concepts to understand it or not. We can’t stop the advancement of history, so we should strive to understand it, with the objective of influencing it to the greatest extent possible. If, instead, we try to fit the dynamics of history into the parameters of previously acquired knowledge or incomplete concepts, or if we reject the use of concepts because of ideological issues such as dogmatism and sectarianism, then our understanding will be lopsided, limiting our capacity to intervene.

Advancing in our struggle is a must, or capital will continue to destroy our lives and the entire world itself. It is our historical task, and our great desire, to overcome capital, to achieve the emancipation of humanity for a classless and sustainable way of life.