The term “Opportunism” has taken on a general definition: “taking opportunities as and when they arise, regardless of planning or principle.” He was accused of “political opportunism”, implying a certain mercenary, ‘end justifies the means’ mentality. In this case, it is an individual personality characteristic – “He is an opportunist.”
We also see opportunism as an essential feature of capitalism and imperialism, which seeks to use every opportunity to enrich the bourgeoisie at the expense of the people. This is the opportunism of corporate or state entities that pursue profit by every available means.
In this struggle of ours, the term opportunism identifies an ideological tendency and reactionary trend within the movement and its organizations. In this context, opportunism manifests as a betrayal of principle, strategy, and political lines for short-term gains, personal enrichment, privilege, or favor. Changing one’s political position (individually or collectively) in order to exploit certain circumstances for sectorial, short-term, or temporary gains reduces principles, which cannot be compromised into tactics that can change on a whim. More importantly, opportunism consciously compromises principles, or we could say it has no principles to which it is committed. Those who engage in opportunism clearly see the lines they cross and carefully manipulate the movement to advance their individual or group objectives or agendas. Inherent in the opportunist perspective is deception – professing one thing and doing another, pretending to be in line with the collective while awaiting the chance to pursue individual or sectional gains. The opportunist is the real spook who sits by the other door – the one who pretends to be with us but is, in fact, part of them.
Bernard Coard was the revolutionary government’s Minister of Finance, Trade, and Industry, as well as the Deputy Prime Minister under Maurice Bishop during the Grenada Revolution. He was the staunchest advocate of the party line and was considered the most left of the leftists. He knew the principles, strategies, objectives, and methods of the revolution. Just as the revolution was threatened, he took the opportunity to arrest and eventually murder Maurice Bishop. Coard became president for three days. The only beneficiary of Coard’s betrayal was US imperialism. So his individual agenda was objectively in service to imperialism. Coard mobilized a sector to carry out his insurrection, thus demonstrating the role of opportunism as an ideological tendency within the movement and its organizations, directing people’s actions along reactionary lines.
General opportunism could never have penetrated the Grenada revolution to the extent of infecting the second in command. It took certain kinds of people to place themselves among the leadership of the revolution and undermine it by being its advocates. It also takes the existence of like-minded persons to implement opportunist plans. This reality undermines organizational cohesion, discipline, and ideological unity by influencing sectors of the militants to adopt its political approach and objectives. The opportunist always recruits.
The opportunist keeps secrets and promotes gossip. They make personal issues political and reduce political contradictions to personal differences. They inject capitalist methods and values into the revolutionary process, often while undermining cohesiveness, democratic processes, and structural authority. They have one line in public and another in private.
We not only have people of this sort among us, but they are a permanent feature and a persistent sector of the people’s struggle. They are a manifestation of capitalist ideology peculiar to the progressive and revolutionary movement. Their existence in our ranks forces us to be vigilant in all our affairs, engage in constant criticism and self-criticism, and strengthen our militants’ commitment to the principles of the revolution.
This is what we mean by opportunism within the movement. It includes the general practice of taking opportunities as and when they arise, regardless of planning or principle. But the opportunism we combat is that and more.
The opportunism we are concerned with is the ideological trend within the revolution that reduces principles to tactics as a counter-revolutionary strategy.