Socialist Strategy

Peter Camejo, “Liberalism, Ultraleftism, or Mass Action”

Learning Outcomes:

  • For the ruling class, it’s very dangerous to play with masses in motion. They do not want to allow the working class to generate change.
  • Mass action is the only orientation that trusts the working class to secure their own rights.
  • Our aim should be to unite people in action around the issues on which they’re moving, eventually mobilizing people around broader and broader issues.

Key Terms:

  • “The May Events”: Beginning in May 1968, a period of civil unrest throughout France, lasting some seven weeks and punctuated by demonstrations, general strikes, as well as the occupation of universities and factories. The unrest began with a series of student occupation protests against capitalism, consumerism, American imperialism and traditional institutions. The protests reached such a point that political leaders feared civil war or revolution; the national government briefly ceased to function after France’s President secretly fled to Germany at one point.
  • Liberalism: a political orientation described by Camejo as ultimately trusting of the system as it already exists and simply searching for more responsive politicians to more fairly implement capitalism. 
  • Ultraleftism: an orientation of leftist politics described by Camejo as having gone through a partial radicalization, only to believe that faschism is imminent and no independent force can overcome the ruling class. They want to shock the ruling class into making fair decisions for the masses and do not believe in the worker to fight for their rights.
  • Mass action: the final orientation of leftist politics described by Camejo. This method focuses on building a massive coalition of working class people to demand more direct representation in government. This is the only orientation that recognizes the potential power of the working class.

Discussion Questions:

  • Why do you think the government would especially want to prevent a student strike? What role does the student play in society and where do they get their power?
  • Pick one of the three orientations that Camejo describes in leftist politics and explain:
  • How they view both the ruling and working classes.
  • Who they believe can solve the problem.
  • What is the difference between small-scale demonstrations and large-scale organizing? 
  • Why is it important for us to make concrete demands in our organizing efforts? How can this help us draw even more people into the movement, even though we are being more specific in our demands?

Additional Resources:

Introduction to No Shortcuts

Vivek Chibber, “Our Road to Power”

Sam Gindin, “Building a Mass Socialist Party”