Greece: Another Failure of the Radical Left Petit Bourgeoisie


We Need a Game-Changing Strategy: Working Class Leadership

Jan Makandal
July 11, 2015

LimitedVisionColorOnce again the failure and the bankrupt political line of the radical left petite bourgeoisie is manifest. [The petite bourgeoisie is the so-called “middle” classes, who are part of neither of the two fundamentally contending classes in the capitalist mode of production, capitalists and workers].

The ongoing negotiations in Greece are not about a total abolition of the debt and for the popular masses of Greece to take their destiny in their own hands, counting on their own strength to rebuild this social formation under the leadership of the working class. They’re not for a totally new mode of production (rather than an updated capitalism) led by the working class of Greece and the popular masses, under the leadership of the working class.

Once again the radical left petite bourgeoisie has failed.

This is not particular to Greece. It is a general tendency of struggles in many other social formations as well, wherever the petite bourgeoisie instead of the working class is leading the struggle. One lesson to learn is that whenever we persist in hoping that something positive will come from petite bourgeois leadership, however radical they might seem, THE RESULT WILL BE THE SAME: A TOTAL CAPITULATION TO CAPITAL.

The experience of Greece has once again confirmed a theory developed by previous revolutionary militants that the petite bourgeoisie is incapable of challenging capital, no matter how their radicalism is manifested in their political practice. In the end, this non-autonomous class will inevitably show its impotence and capitulate to capitalism/imperialism. Over and over again, they will always offer all the popular struggles of the masses to capitalism on a silver platter—as they have done in Peru, South Africa, Nepal, the social formations involved in the Arab Spring, and many others.

The international radical left will shove these dismal experiences under the rug of their historical failure and hop onto new experiences, hoping to get lucky. But however persistent they are, we can be sure it will be another failure, another manifestation of their bankrupt line.

But one thing for certain: the popular masses [including the petite bourgeoisie] do want change, radical change. This radical change can only come from PROLETARIAN LEADERSHIP and proletarian-led mass struggle. The role of the most advanced within the petite bourgeoisie is to facilitate the construction of that proletarian leadership, and the role of the most advanced workers is to take destiny into their hands and face this historical task head-on.

Greece is not the first example of failure, nor will it be the last, as long as the petit bourgeoisie takes leadership of popular struggles.

In relation to capitalism, the petite bourgeoisie is dominated. This domination, however, is not based on antagonism (as is capitalists’ domination of the working class). Thus, reformism can easily allow them to resolve some aspects of their secondary non-antagonistic contradictions with capital. It also simultaneously allows some elements of the petite bourgeoisie to transfer to the capitalist class, mostly into one of the most ruthless fractions of the capitalist class: the bureaucratic bourgeoisie.

The petite bourgeoisie can run candidates and even militate on an anti-capitalist platform, but they are unable to hide their pro-capitalist objectives, especially if the only thing realized by their actions (repeatedly, throughout history) is capitalism—usually a very autocratic capitalism under the control of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie.

In relation to the popular masses, the petite bourgeoisie will attempt to dominate them by trying to unify the masses under its political objectives in the struggle against capitalism.

In many social formations they will articulate erroneous theories to justify their leadership role, such as, “Everybody who works is in the working class,” or “The working class doesn’t exist in the US or in some dominated social formations.” They will use social justice notions such as white/male/cis privilege and Black Lives Matter to strip the working class of its leadership role. In their hands, categories like “the people” or “the popular masses” become populist concepts stripped of class content. They will use Marxist-flavored theories to subtly replace the working class with themselves in leadership roles, and even go to war against anyone who claims the historical role of the working class.

In fact, the petite bourgeoisie left is revolutionary only in its phraseology. But in action, reformism is their game. They are unable to distinguish a struggle for reforms from a revolutionary struggle. Even worse, they can’t differentiate a struggle for reforms from a reformist struggle.

In practice, what they identify as “revolutionary mass organizations” are simply reformist organizations, proving clearly that their basic notion of “revolutionary” is intimately reformist.

We are not the only ones pointing out that relative absolute truth. During the struggle of the German working class, Marx insisted on, and gave clear corresponding directives, to keep out the petit bourgeois intellectuals.

Marxism is the triumph of one theory over other theories (mainly petit bourgeois theories) for a societal alternative. Lenin went to war against the petit bourgeois populist tendencies, including the anarchists of Russia, to realize the victory of the Russian proletariat. Mao went to war against the capitalist roaders. The incapacity of the petite bourgeoisie is not a new innovation or discovery. The only class capable of waging a successful struggle against capitalism is the PROLETARIAT when they become conscious of their historical role.

Internationally, the radical left petite bourgeoisie is seeking a positive alternative for their class to face imperialism, but they keep achieving the same results, confirming their impotence. Left reformism usually transfers to right reformism. Greece is not immune from that reality. In Haiti, the international petite bourgeoisie went to war against the revolutionary left for not supporting the Lavalas movement headed by Aristide; nowadays it would be very difficult to identify even so much as a left opportunist tendency in the Lavalas populist movement. Many of them transferred to supporting Michel Martelly, and others are attempting to offer themselves as the best candidate sycophants to serve imperialism.


As mentioned earlier, Syriza is not building a mass movement to abolish the debt and rebuild Greece on a new foundation, but is instead negotiating to restructure the debt. Whatever the result of these negotiations, the popular masses will still be under imperialist domination, and Greece will still be a dominated social formation.

Once again, we insist on a game changer: the need for the working class and its most advanced detachment to reclaim and take control of the leadership of their struggle against capitalism.

We are in a conjuncture in which a structural crisis is looming for capitalism, and in response the petite bourgeoisie left and right will offer their respective alternatives for the reproduction of capital. The only class capable of rupturing with this and give its own autonomous alternative to capital is the proletariat. In this period of crisis, our principal task is to organize the working class. If we don’t, even if the situation deteriorates, capitalism will retain the upper hand.