Like in previous class societies, under capitalism too people are divided into big groups, i.e. classes, according to the position that they hold in the social production system, to their relationship to the means of production, to their roles in the social organisation of labour; hence to the size of their shares that they acquire from the social wealth. In the capitalist society, the petty-bourgeoisie constitutes an intermediate class which is squeezed between the two fundamental classes of the society, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. In the scientific sense, petty-bourgeoisie resembles the capitalist class on the one hand because of its private property, whereas it also resembles the working class on the other hand since it subsists mainly by its own labour. In the modern industrial society, the petty-bourgeoisie is an extremely complicated “class” in terms of its structural features, way of life and standards of living.
Having inherited the small property-owners of the countryside and the cities from previous class societies, capitalism added new ones among them. Artisans and craftsmen having small shops as well as small peasants composed the traditional layers of the petty-bourgeoisie that had been present before capitalism. Capitalist development proceeded in such a way to deprive those old petty-bourgeois layers of their properties and to force them to join in the ranks of the working class. Nevertheless, those elements did not entirely disappear under capitalism which went on adding new participants into the petty-bourgeoisie especially in cities. Unlike in the past, those new petty-bourgeois dwellers of the city consisted of a highly-educated professionals.
But in the final analysis, the position of these new intermediate layers is again a moment on the road of capitalist development. The general trend of capitalist development is in the direction of proletarianisation of traditional small property-owner classes and ending of the privileged status of educated professionals. Some would-be Marxist authors’ description of a crowded intermediate class called the “new middle layers” is just an assertion lacking scientific data. This arises from the delusional or distortional assumption of educated labour (doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers etc.) as an entirely self-employed layer, whereas they largely consist of wage-earners today and therefore form a part of the working class.
Lenin emphasises that capitalist development increases the number of skilled workers and office workers at a considerable pace and creates a growing demand for educated layers. These layers of society objectively join the working class since capitalist development deprives them of their self-reliance, forces them to become wage-labourers and lowers their standards of living. But, they cannot easily break away from the bourgeois order in terms of their relations and world-view. Unconscious workers also live completely under the bourgeois order though, unaware of the power of their class, dreaming of climbing the social ladder and becoming rich. However, highly-educated people generally persist in refusing to see themselves as part of the working class even after they become workers objectively. Being tied by thousands of invisible strings to the bourgeois order, they brag that they are better off than workers and they mostly live on the basis of dreams of becoming bourgeois.
It is an obvious fact from a scientific point of view that under capitalism the intermediate class shrinks whereas the working class enormously expands. In other words, the objective basis of this intermediate class is getting substantially weaker. But although the position occupied by the petty-bourgeoisie in modern society has lost its objective significance, various social and political problems that arise from the position of the petty-bourgeoisie remain important. But, being petty-bourgeois as a certain way of viewing social life is a mentality that has existed from pre-capitalist eras until the present day, permeating almost all tissues of society. This mentality can actually expand its sphere over both the bourgeois and workers. Consequently, what the term “ petty-bourgeois” implies is not just the sum of the members of this intermediate class, but a far-reaching ‘reality’. Capitalist development gradually relieves us of the petty-bourgeois layers objectively. But we cannot get rid of the question of petty-bourgeois mentality when it continues to turn up like a bad penny and almost generalises the average person’s outlook on life.
A disease-generating status
The “intermediate” and “squeezed” social position of petty-bourgeoisie in relation to capitalist development brings about a lot of problems which also reveal themselves at the stage of political struggle. The class character of the petty-bourgeois forms a basis for its ambivalent and contradictory attitudes displayed in the different spheres of life. The history of capitalism has proved that the petty-bourgeoisie cannot constitute a power centre or develop a political attitude that is completely independent of and unaffected by the two fundamental classes. In the modern capitalist society, the petty-bourgeoisie has to follow either the proletariat or the capitalists and to fall under the hegemony of one of these two fundamental classes. But, its intermediate class position leads the petty-bourgeois to floundering to follow a specific “middle way” in almost every respect. These flounders always prove futile and drive the petty-bourgeois into daydreaming in every aspect of life. But old habits die hard. At the end of the day what we get is kind of picture of the average person who is squeezed, depressed and finally got sick because of his/her failure to take a combative attitude against unbearable social problems caused by decaying capitalism.
Arising from the class position of petty-bourgeois, but subjectively going far beyond the size of its objective presence, these social illnesses are various and widespread. Even some obsessions that come into prominence as personal illnesses or psychological problems have direct and deep links with the petty-bourgeois mentality of the average person who has failed to find a satisfactory place in capitalist society. Prominent novelist Maxim Gorky mentioned the matter in an article on petty-bourgeois years ago and pointed out that psychological illnesses that were accepted as personality disorders such as paranoia or schizophrenia are in fact a social problem created by capitalism. Gorky’s approach is not a fictional product of a novelist but is full of sound and correct observations. And this approach also enlightens a lot of issues encountered in the revolutionary struggle.
Today, these illnesses become more widespread than thought. The extent of disease expands, as capitalism intensifies the social degeneration and atomisation. Now, a growing number of psychologists feel obliged to accept that social causes lie behind these problems and the illnesses that are defined as personality disorders cannot be considered just as individual or biological disorders. However, bourgeois ideology sticks its nose into this field too and distorts the reality. That is why the perception of social environment is extremely limited and it is desired to confine one’s conditions of existence to an environment consisting of just family, school and friends. But it is impossible to grasp or satisfactorily explain the social causes of individual behavioural disorders from this narrow perspective. In order to uncover the social causes, one must admit the importance of class mentality that lies behind.
When it is considered from this point of view, one would easily see that it is crucial to analyse capitalist society scientifically in order to understand human psychology. But unfortunately, capitalism commodifies the illnesses of the human soul like all other things, and leaves them to merchant specialists. There is nothing like those specialists when it comes to replacing fallacies with truths and truths with fallacies. This applies to all capitalist countries. According to these specialists, people who lose all humanitarian values such as cooperation, sharing, solidarity while striving to climb the social ladder act in fact rationally! On the other side, people who revolt against the prison boundaries of capitalist society are almost seen as lunatics!
Here is a real slice of life to make this issue more concrete. Having become perplexed by petty-bourgeois mentality, a highly-educated couple in a European country consider their son sick and take him to a psychologist forcibly, just because their son excitedly joined the revolutionary struggle. After listening to the young man, psychologist gives the diagnosis: “You have developed an obsession with the belief that the society is divided into classes and you cannot heal unless you get rid of this obsession!” In brief, the specialists of capitalism try to portray surrendering to petty-bourgeois mentality as “normal” and not surrendering as “abnormal”. In fact, the mission of bourgeois ideology is to create deep distortions in the social perception of almost all subjects and to cause an eclipse of reason in the masses so that the capitalist order prevails.
Distorted view of freedom
There is a very important fact indicated by Marxism and related to all class societies. Under given conditions, the ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class. The class which is the dominant material force in society is also the dominant intellectual force. Owning the means of material production, the bourgeoisie also dominates the means of intellectual production. Only an organised revolutionary struggle against the ruling forces can attack this sphere of domination and make room for freedom and independence of thought for the working class, which means that in ordinary times, the ideas of the working masses are dependent on the ruling class.
The development of the productive forces has already created the potential to radically change the capitalist social relations that produce exploitation, inequality and oppression. The conditions for cooperation of individuals on a world scale have been present for a long time. But in capitalism, this trend of development is completely under the yoke of the capital. Hence, the course of global capitalism is in fact in conflict with the freedom of the individual when it comes to the use of technology, to investment decisions or to consumption preferences. What is to the benefit of human society is to transform all development processes (from the relations of production to human relations and to the application of technology) radically and not allow them to continue as in capitalism. And such a potential of transformation solely belongs to the world proletarian revolution.
The workers’ revolution will put an end to the illusive phenomenon of cooperation within the masses oppressed under class society and create the conditions for the genuine cooperation of human beings. As shown by Marxism, this is the only possible way for the human being to become an individual, to get the opportunity to improve his personal qualities in the direction of his own desires and in short to reach emancipation. Then, the working masses at large can start enjoying freedom socially as well as personally thanks to the radical transformation created by the revolutionary proletariat.
However, the bourgeoisie creates various distortions to conceal these facts in order to prevent the awakening of revolutionary consciousness which is a threat to the established order. The view of a so-called ‘freedom’ which is imposed to brainwash the educated layers of the society is a good example of these distortions. Bourgeois ideology presents “individualisation” as a magic key that will open the doors of the heaven of freedom. Empty words about freedom are used to hide the harsh realities of bourgeois dominance. Marxism fighting for complete human emancipation and for the start of the real freedom era of mankind is presented as an ideology which overlooks the human factor and sacrifices the individual freedom for the sake of economic progress.
It is obvious that the freedom for the working masses can only be achieved by the collective struggle of these masses. But bourgeois ideologists spread the lie that individual freedom is possible without such a struggle. Well-heeled bourgeois intellectuals pretend not to understand the essence of the relations of production which make individual freedom impossible under capitalist rule. Disregarding the contradiction between the individual and society, a contradiction peculiar to class societies, they make up a dream of so-called individualisation and autonomy isolated from social system. Yet, the only possible way to overcome the contradiction between the individual and society and to reach the freedom of individual is to establish a classless society free from exploitation.
This distortion of freedom created under the guise of the “right to privacy” is one of the main traps by which the bourgeois ideology hunts the petty-bourgeoisie and wins them over. The lifestyle which the bourgeois media tries to impose, on the youth in particular, is based on a distorted view of freedom of human relations. Just as the traditional petty-bourgeois going after his sinking small property in vain, the “modern” petty-bourgeois being enslaved by the distortions of ruling forces gets lost in blind alleys in pursuit of a vain obsession for “individual freedom” making himself self-centered.
In fact, the bourgeoisie leaves no private living space to the working masses. “Free time” remaining from long and exhausting working hours is wasted through the slavery created by bourgeois ideology and the meaningless consumption habits imposed by the capitalist order. As for the aspect of the question regarding the revolutionary struggle, it is clear that a tendency to expand the “private living space” within the ranks of revolutionary struggle will amount to expanding “the space” surrendered to the bourgeois ideology while limiting the space “dedicated” to revolutionary struggle. Falling into this situation is the eternal problem of the petty-bourgeois who has a desire for revolutionary struggle but also cannot get rid of his distorted view of “freedom”.
The petty-bourgeois’ sense of freedom is really distorted to a great extent. To realize the individual’s spiritual existence in a revolutionary collective seems to him as a loss of personal freedom. Yet, a revolutionary person or a revolutionary worker feels proud of working for a collective structure based on a consensus on the ideas, actions and will. In fact, to work for a cause willingly, to have a just and right goal, to make sacrifices for this goal against all difficulties, all these purify the individual from the filth of capitalist society. All these save one’s brain from vicious worms and expand one’s heart. Reaching such a point does not mean a loss of freedom as supposed by petty-bourgeois approach. On the contrary, this is a chance for avoiding the capitalist swamp, reaching moral richness and setting sail for freedom.
“On the one hand and the other”
Marxism shows that the production of ideas, representations and consciousness is determined by the material life activity and material relations of human beings. What creates the language of real life is also this activity. In other words, people’s conditions of existence and consciousness reflect their real life processes. But without a doubt, the laws of dialectics are in effect here too. Whereas the objective environment and conditions are shaping one’s consciousness, a conscious person can also change their environment and conditions.
In capitalist society, the objective conditions upon which the life of a petty-bourgeois is based reflect a position that takes shape under the influence of both of the bourgeoisie and the working class and is torn between these two sides. This objectivity must find its correspondence in the context of subjectivity and so it does. This is the reason why the members of petty-bourgeoisie, or more generally all those who share a petty-bourgeois view of life, are in an unending ambiguity.
The one who is living within the boundaries of petty-bourgeois mentality seems to build almost all of his existence on contradictions. A petty-bourgeois mostly consists of “a little this and a little that”. This kind of being creates a type of person that can be called a “chronic opponent”. Trying to gain originality by opposing almost everything without thinking broadly and enduring hardships to sort something out, the “chronic opponent” petty-bourgeois is a type that we come across too often. Moreover, the type of “chronic opponent” petty-bourgeois did not remain just a fact of everyday life but it spread to the world of thought.
The case of Proudhon which had been examined by Marx and has been addressed by our articles is an example. Having been subject to Marx’s striking criticism, the thought of Monsieur Proudhon reflects a vain hope of returning to the pre-capitalist era, rather than surpassing capitalism. His characteristic feature is producing bright-looking nonsense ideas for the sake of being “original”. To give an example, it was the talent of professors like Proudhon to make up a theory called “synthetic value”, whereas Marx had already developed the surplus value theory in time to analyse the value in capitalism in a scientific context. It is common to thinkers like Proudhon to have ambitions surpassing their calibre, to have a dislike for already attained scientific thoughts and to be filled with self-admiration for their own nonsense discoveries.
Since its very beginning, the socialist movement has never lacked Proudhon-like people. Even today, if we examine the left-wing movement closely, we could spot Monsieur Proudhons very easily. Those who bring the petty-bourgeois tendencies such as envy, arrogance, impatience, showiness, self-promotion to left-wing politics are but none other than these types or so-called “leaders” from among them, Worse still petty-bourgeois leftism even distorts and exploits “revolutionary heroism” and takes it out of its class base. It is one of the primary characteristics of petty-bourgeois leftism to favour individual heroism over the heroism of the masses.
One should not overlook that in some cases the image of extravagant devotedness pictured by petty-bourgeois can disguise the ambition of an individualist. This individualist ambition must not necessarily be satisfied by material privileges. Moreover, when it comes to the revolutionary struggle, individualist ambitions manifest themselves mostly in self-promotion and careerism that nearly ignore the existence of the organisation. It is the typical indicator of the individualist ambition of the petty-bourgeois to identify one’s entire existence with the passion for personal success rather than being content with the success of the organisation. Individualism is an adverse factor which restrains the improvement of others and which consequently curtails the overall performance of the organisation in the long run. Drawing one to passion for “success” within the boundaries of the established order, individualist ambition definitely contradicts the collective feeling and commitment required by the revolutionary struggle of the working class. Unless this contradiction is cleared up by destroying the individualist part, the revolutionary part would be liquidated at the end. Socialist novelist Jack London handles this subject in his novel Martin Eden. London put an end to the life of his hero who symbolises the individualist ambition. And this outcome actually reflects the internal conflict of an author who ruthlessly fights against his individualist side in order to become a real socialist.
To sum up, the petty-bourgeois cannot be bound up neither with themselves nor with the working class, as they stick their nose in the field of revolutionary politics. As a result of the attitude of ‘hither and thither’, they get angry with bourgeoisie on the one hand while they sneakingly nurture a reaction towards workers on the other hand. There are countless examples of this issue but it is enough to share just one. Appearing to defend the rights of the workers and the strike struggles, a petty-bourgeois socialist has an astounding attitude in case of a strike of the public transportation workers. Being unable to get where one wants because of the strike, the petty-bourgeois replaces the sympathy for workers with a great anger for the strike. According to the petty-bourgeois mentality, there should be no right to strike in that field. Expectably, the sympathy of the petty-bourgeois for the struggle of the working class has its limits!
When people with the petty-bourgeois mentality decide to become revolutionists, there are limits. They can become “revolutionists” to the extent and in the way that it suits their book. The petty-bourgeois revolutionists look down on everyone in the context of revolutionary struggle and deliver the most radical revolutionary tirades as long as their own life space is exempt. However, once they get bored with the discipline of the organised struggle, they will start exploring mistakes in this organised struggle! Even when they appear to be influenced by revolutionary ideas from one side, the other side draws them to individualism and the “chronic opponent” position and in the end, the tendency to escape from organised struggle prevails. It is clear that those who cannot resist the destructive and disruptive effects of the ruling mechanisms of the capitalist society will sink in the swamp of jealousy, individualism and rivalry. For this reason, cases of the petty-bourgeois who run backward with souls filled with vicious emotions after somehow getting involved in revolutionary groups cannot be regarded as isolated..
When an educated person under the sway of the petty-bourgeois mentality wishes to get enlightened, he/she will fall short of it and end up merely being a quasi (or quarter) intellectual. All petty-bourgeois leftists regardless of their political groups are crippled by distortions and deformations that reflect their class attitude. They misapprehend, misinterpret and misrepresent everything as if they have a structural defect in the unit of perception in their brains. In fact, there is an objective reason for this error as we have emphasised above. The members of the intermediate class are subject to a multiple personality disorder as a result of being squeezed between two major classes and suffer from brain damage in a way. When they want to become proletarian and revolutionary, the other part of their brain teases the “good” part like a virus settled in there. When the dream of climbing the social ladder and becoming a bourgeois reappears, they hit the solid facts of the life. For an organism that is compressed under these two pressures, it would be against the nature of things not to be faced with illness and perceptual disorder.
Manifestations of petty-bourgeoisism
As a historical question, petty-bourgeoisism does not remain limited to the field of its class but it spreads across the field of revolutionary struggle in many respects. The problems that arise from the slippery class attitude of the petty-bourgeois are extremely serious for revolutionary organisation. They cannot be underestimated as if they are just some exaggerated concerns brought up by Marxists. To date, a lot of would-be communist parties and groups have vanished because they couldn’t overcome petty-bourgeois illnesses and put an end to petty-bourgeois squabbles.
The more the petty-bourgeois type spreads to the field of revolutionary politics and thinking, the more will incidents come out there. Although those problematic attitudes and behaviour that need to be fought against come up on different levels and in different guises, there are some common points. Failure to endure hardship, intolerance of criticism, evasion of revolutionary discipline, pursuit of easy success, thirst for being flattered, desire to come into prominence, careerist ambitions to appear always in the front rank are the major characteristics.
It is clear that the role of vanguard fighter can be fulfilled only by a revolutionary party guided by the most advanced theory. However, petty-bourgeois approaches can cause many deviations. Talking about the importance of theory but giving no weight to it is the attitude of petty-bourgeois. The petty-bourgeois ‘revolutionary’ also tends to perceive the theoretical struggle as an intellectual activity disconnected from the organised practice and to run away from revolutionary organising and activism. On the other side, the working class struggle requires the continuity of revolutionary organisation under all circumstances. In this regard, the question of revolutionary adjustment to illegality has as much significance as the utilisation of legal facilities.
The struggle against legalist tendencies that sabotage the revolutionary organisation of the working class has always been a major subject for communists. Both Marx and Lenin always criticised the leaders of the working class parties for their failure to prepare for illegal struggle due to the lack of revolutionary soul and solidity. Indulgence in legalist tendencies that limit the organisational content and political frame of the revolutionary struggle to bourgeois legislation means surrender to bourgeois ruling forces from the start. This very crucial issue makes it possible to grasp the consensual character of the petty-bourgeois legalist and reformist leftism.
It is nearly impossible to find a reasonable level of stability, a sound balance in the view of life and attitudes of the petty-bourgeois. It is alien to the petty-bourgeois to make a sober and sensible appraisal of circumstances and take a consistent line of behaviour. Characteristically he is over occupied with himself and he goes from one extreme to another swinging between too much praise of things and people and complete disregard of them. Therefore, a petty-bourgeois in the revolutionary struggle can easily pass from worship to profanity towards the organisation to which they claim to belong.
The petty-bourgeois finds it difficult to proceed through the routine of planned, patient, determined and lasting work. Rashness and untidiness are major appearances of petty-bourgeoisism. In a petty-bourgeois ocean like Russia, such issues caused many troubles for the Bolshevik Party, not only before the revolution but also afterwards. Within the context of consolidation of the proletarian rule, Lenin had to address this kind of problems continuously. As he said, a fool’s hurry does not mean speed. It would lead to success to follow the “better fewer, but better” rule, rather than a hurry that achieves nothing.
Another indicator of petty-bourgeoisism is to have a tendency to run for cheap, sweatless victories. Yet, the “success” that is gained through easy ways and without necessary efforts would be lost before long. To be capable of avoiding boasts in victories and retaining motivation in defeats is the most important measure for those who joined the revolutionary struggle, indicating their communist responsibility, endurance and maturity. But those who could not save themselves from petty-bourgeoisism would fall short of such qualities.
Making one mistake after another is the typical characteristic of the petty-bourgeois. And laziness and idleness are on the reverse side of the foolish rashness. Such factors also strengthen the tendency of self-satisfaction and conformism that manifest themselves in being contented with current level regardless of the action. The tendency for intellectual laziness, procrastination, evasion, and free riding is the insidious enemy of revolutionary organisations, which downgrades their quality continuously. It is an imperative task to wage a systematic and determined struggle against this enemy and to make no compromises with petty-bourgeois conformist habits in order to strengthen the revolutionary struggle of the working class.
In its attempt to sabotage the organised struggle of the working class, capitalist society favours individualism over revolutionary values such as collective criticism, guidance and solidarity. Bourgeois ideology utilises all opportunities to atomise the organised struggle of the working class, especially its Bolshevik-style collective struggle. One of the instruments applied in this regard is to instigate petty-bourgeois motives of competition and dispute and by these means undermine the revolutionary organised life from inside. The antidotes to all these systematic attacks are consciousness, discipline, co-determination for struggle and revolutionary criticism. But, the countries where the petty-bourgeois mentality is almost generally accepted can be considered unlucky in this sense. For example, the people in Turkey dislike criticism. Firm but constructive criticism with the aim of raising the revolutionary level is generally perceived as groundless accusation in here. People in this country escape criticism, but love to be flattered. This is a reality; however there is no way to become a communist without being armed with weapons of criticism and self-criticism and without making effort to surpass the average person’s behaviour.
Another indicator of petty-bourgeoisism is intolerance to revolutionary discipline. It is almost a common characteristic of intellectuals crippled with petty-bourgeois mentality to pontificate on revolutionary struggle, but also to disclaim the necessity of revolutionary party and discipline when it comes to practice. Even the smallest concessions for such elements would inwardly corrode the revolutionary organism and consequently weaken the proletariat’s struggle against bourgeoisie. One of these issues requires a special attention. These elements exploit the criticism of bureaucratism as a pretext to attack the necessity for centralism and discipline in the revolutionary struggle. Yet the revolutionary centralism is the antidote to bureaucratic centralism. Likewise, the revolutionary discipline has nothing to do with bureaucratic cruelty- as it definitely should not. Revolutionary discipline must be the voluntarily internalised self-discipline of the person who wholeheartedly believes in the revolution and relies on the Marxist science, knowledge and the necessity of collective work.
Let us make one last remark. It is another one of the typical characteristics of petty-bourgeois to arbitrarily classify the requisite tasks of the revolutionary struggle as “likeable and tedious works” and escape the ones that seem difficult. Compromising these attitudes would create apparatchiks that escape from the “tedious” works. So, a routinism incompatible with revolutionism would develop on this basis. Yet, the efforts to overcome all difficulties and all bourgeois habits, traditions and routine, always and everywhere and in all fields of the struggle, constitute the indispensable condition for proletarian revolutionism.
All great revolutions arise from the contradictions between the old system and the desire for the new one that will put an end to old mechanisms and relations. Furthermore, the shorter the revolution takes, the longer these contradictions would remain. This issue must be examined carefully, not just within the context of the relations of production and the superstructural institutions derived from them, but also on a much larger scale, i.e. in terms of the inner revolution of the person. To achieve a transformation that will carry the human being and the humanity to a further point, it is imperative to perpetuate the revolution in every field and to thoroughly absorb the on-going transitions over time. A revolutionist is the one who voluntarily internalises the dialectical laws of motion in transformation of life and in self-transformation. Reconciling to the comfort of stableness, customs, familiar ways and works is the reflection of the mental state of the petty-bourgeois. This would be the life source for routinism, the enemy of motion.
Is the term “ petty-bourgeois” accusatory?
Petty-bourgeois attitudes and political approaches are characterised by crippling the revolutionary struggle of the working class and undermining it from inside. Therefore, for those who wholeheartedly embrace the struggle for the emancipation of the working class, it is a revolutionary duty to maintain a consistent and continuous struggle against petty-bourgeois approaches and distortions.
Those who are familiar with the problems of the revolutionary struggle must have been aware that the question of “petty-bourgeoisism” has an important place in the lives of the organisations and groups that claim to work within the working class. The critics from these organisations towards its elements on the questions of petty-bourgeois political tendencies, ideas or behaviour have a lot in common. Being afflicted with same diseases of these figures or groups who make such criticism doesn’t change the result. In fact, this situation itself is an important part of the issues we mentioned. Therefore, in any case, the problem we consider is a real and serious one with a wide sphere of influence.
In order to test the intention of the person who approaches the revolutionary community, his/her attitudes towards the distortions peculiar to the petty-bourgeois must be examined carefully. Likewise, an observation of their attitude and endurance in the case of revolutionary criticism against petty-bourgeois mentality is also important. Fair and rightful criticism towards petty-bourgeois diseases would never appear as false accusations to those who want to undergo a revolutionary self-transformation wholeheartedly and to face the bother and pay the price willingly. But, on the contrary, those crippled by petty-bourgeois diseases would perceive things being called in their right names as extreme accusations and insult to their personality.
After all, this is the nature of things. It’s very natural that “determining a problem” appears as an accusation in the eyes of some, whereas it is essential from the point of view of the revolutionists. That is not all. If a person makes no effort to admit and correct one’s fault sincerely, at the end one would start considering the critics as unfair while rating oneself as fair. Such a person entirely walks away and separates from revolutionary life instead of tidying oneself up in accordance with principles of the revolutionary life. Bourgeois order is always on call to perplex and deform those who have no courage and resolution to face and correct their faults. Without being nourished by communist consciousness, tenacity, sincerity, honesty and hard-work an organism is always at risk of being deformed by the diseases carried by capitalist society. Nobody has an inborn immunity against such diseases. Such immunity can only be obtained by collective and organised struggle based on communist unity of ideas and behaviour.
Now we can sum up and highlight some results. As a matter of fact, there is not a unique lifestyle that can explicitly be pictured as the petty-bourgeois lifestyle and put into a single frame or explained as a main pattern. However petty-bourgeois attitudes reflect primarily a mentality which far surpasses the place occupied by the members of the petty-bourgeoisie under today’s capitalist system. And, for historical reasons, we have a question of petty-bourgeois mentality that involves almost the whole of society.
So true is this that even the vast majority of workers are petty-bourgeois in terms of mentality, although objectively they are not. In short, this question mainly concerns comparatively more educated people who fail to come to terms with being workers, whereas it also can affect unskilled workers as the members of the capitalist society. Moreover, it is mostly such elements that carry over this mentality into revolutionary organisations and groups. It is clear that neither the labour movement in general nor the revolutionary movement in particular are far away from the problems created by petty-bourgeois mentality. To put it more generally, almost nobody is immune to diseases that result from this mentality. It is definitely a matter of conscious and organised struggle to get rid of such diseases and to become a real communist.
The leaders of Marxism emphasised that the emancipation of oppressed and poor people is not a work of thought but of historical struggle. For communists, the central issue is to change the world in a revolutionary way, rather than limiting themselves to interpretation of the current circumstances. The history of the world has already proved that such change can only be achieved by the revolutionary organisation and actions of the working class. In fact, succeeding in a self-change by defeating one’s own weaknesses depends on the same conditions for all who want to join in revolutionary struggle. Without joining the organised life and action, nobody will be capable of overwhelming the petty-bourgeois inside!
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