The revisionists claimed to revise Marxism according to the changing nature of modern capitalism, which Marx could not foresee in his own time. The Marxists concept of the dictatorship of proletariat has been given up by the modem Social Democrats.
They hold that orthodox Marxian had become out of date, therefore, it must be re-examined, corrected and supplemented. For them, Marxism is wanting on the following counts:
1) The theory of the class struggle, is itself correct; however, it loses its significance with the development of the trade union and the establishment of democracy;
2) Revolution is an absolute conception, it corresponds to a lower level of social development. The democratic state precludes revolutions and the revolutionary struggle;
3) Democracy assures the working class the peaceful passing over from capitalism to socialism, and therefore the dictatorship of the proletariat is not and cannot be the order of the day;
4) The theory of the impoverishment held good at one time, but now it has become obsolete;
5) During the epoch of Marx it was perhaps true that the leading role in the trade unions belonged to the party, but today only party- political neutrality can ensure the effective development of the trade union movement;
6) During the epoch of Marx, strikes had to be considered as one of the most important weapons of struggle, but native philosophy of trade unions have outgrown this.
This Marxian alternative philosophy of trade unionism, or revisionism, has many varieties like state socialism, evolutionary socialism, collectivism, guild socialism, fabianism and democratic socialism, etc.
They have minor differences on some issues but they are based on the faith that democratic institutions should be used by workers by participating in elections, forming labour, social democratic parties and pushing measures using governmental authorities for the benefit of the workers. When out of power, as an opposition party it should pressurize the government to give concessions to the workers. Thus, socialism can be brought about gradually, and capitalist state would give way to a socialist state peacefully.
Lenin’s Criticism of Revisionists
Needless to say that Lenin had serious disagreement over the ‘supplementing’ of Marxism by the revisionists. He called these revisionists as opportunists and stooges of the capitalists. Lenin held that the phenomenon of imperialism helped the imperialists to obtain immense profits from the exploitation of colonial countries.
The part of the profits, they amassed in their coffers, distributed as crumbs to the so called working class leaders – the labour aristocracy. ..The better conditions of the working class in advanced capitalist countries projected by the spokesmen of social democracy is nothing but the reflection of the opportunism of these labour leaders who are benefited by collaborating with imperialist exploitation of the colonies.
The New Left
The New Left philosophers combat the Marxist-Leninist theory that the condition of the working class will deteriorate with the advance of capitalism. They hold that in fact in advanced capitalism, working class power has increased and they are no more exploited, but through their united power dictate their terms to employers as well as political system. They are called as “New Men of Power”.
The New Left feels that in the advanced capitalist countries workers are no more revolutionary and that they are bourgeoified and consumerism has overtaken them. This society, according to Marcuse, is based on an alliance between big business and the working class which has been brain washed into chasing an ever expanding flow of goods and inessential gadgets that their relative affluence enables them to purchase. Marcuse holds that working class is no more a negation of capitalism, but is in collusion with it in protecting the present system. According to him, “The very classes which were once the absolute negation of the capitalist system are now more and more integrated into it”.
What role should the trade unions play in politics? No doubt, there is wide range of differences. The capitalist system has been compelled to allow trade unions to exist, but there is always an emphasis, which is reflected by the theorists, who consider western democratic system as an ideal system as well as inevitable, that trade unions are only bargainers, and their role in politics is confined to putting pressure on the political system to gain benefits for the workers. On the other side, Marxists are emphatic that workers should be politicized, and trade unions are not only an instrument to extract concessions for the workers but also they have to transform the capitalist system into a socialist system, and build a socialist society.
The world has been thus divided in the capitalist world, the socialist world and the newly independent countries which have overthrown the foreign yoke very recently. What role workers’ unions have played in these countries? Are they confined to their economic role and limited themselves to putting pressure on the government to shorten their working hours, asking for various facilities and wage increase? Nevertheless, the situation in these colonial countries had been very different. Working class also has to undergo immense suffering along with the other sections of the society due to the ruthless exploitation by the colonial rulers.
Therefore, they also jointed with other sections in their struggle for freedom. Trade unions also are involved along with other classes in these colonies with the national movement as in India; thus the most remarkable feature of trade unions is their linkage with political movements.