Eloisa Rule (Great Britain) – “TWENTY YEARS AFTER – THE FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE CONTINUES”
7. November 2009
The international communist movement suffered a severe split in the 1960’s as a result of Khrushchevite revisionism. The result is that even today, 18 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the communist movement is still divided along the lines of that split into what we might term a pro-Soviet wing on the one hand and a pro-China wing on the other. While each of the wings is making sporadic efforts to overcome the various splits that have taken place within each of them, the chasm between those who found themselves on different sides of the Soviet/China split seems as yawning as ever.
Our Party has had occasion to comment in the past on revisions of Marxian economic theory, which contributed to the split in the movement and which ended up bringing to its knees the once mighty Soviet Union, allowing the public wealth that had been built up by the enthusiastic sweat and toil of its people to be usurped by a handful of corrupt billionaires. In his book, Perestroika – the complete collapse of revisionism – our Chairman, Harpal Brar, with a view to facilitating the regrouping of communists following the shameful defeat that the collapse of the Soviet Union represented for the world communist movement, showed how the reintroduction of bourgeois economic norms into the socialist economy of the Soviet Union, so-called ‘market socialism’, had paved the way for that collapse, as Cde Stalin had warned in his Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR (1952). The whole point of proletarian revolution is to free humanity of the havoc wreaked on the wellbeing of its overwhelming majority by the operation of the laws of the market, in particular the law of value. Not only can the toiling masses so long as capitalism subsists not prevent their periodic devastation by the operation of these laws, but even the bourgeoisie is not in control, and many of its number are periodically hurled into the proletariat, never again to emerge. Those that remain are, in their determination to hold on to and rebuild their wealth, driven to wars which engulf the toiling masses in further suffering to no good effect. When after the death of Cde Stalin ‘market reforms’ were introduced in the Soviet Union, ostensibly with a view to increasing production and productivity, the net effect was to extend the sphere of the market, the extent of production for profit, with all its deleterious consequences, into the Soviet economy, which in turn ended up not only reducing the rate of growth but, worse, in alienating the toiling masses. The market reforms broke the link between the producer and his product, took control out of the hands of the workers placing it instead in the hands of profit-oriented bureaucrats. The tragic result of this is that on the day of the counter-revolution in August 2001, there was virtually nobody available able and willing to defend the socialist gains of the October revolution. Despite all their schooling in the principles of Marxism-Leninism, the people of Soviet Russia and of the People’s Democracies of eastern Europe let their socialist revolution go, believing that the restoration of capitalism would lead to a better life. The majority of those who were formerly Soviet people and east European people have been plunged into hardship and have found out the hard way how false was their naive belief.
However, in his Perestroika, our Chairman did not deal at length with the political measures that were taken in conjunction with the expansion of commodity production, the law of value and the profit motive into the Soviet economy. He did not do so because these questions had been thoroughly dealt with by the Communist Party of China, in particular in a pamphlet that was widely available at the time and well known in the anti-revisionist movement, namely A proposal concerning the general line of the international communist movement. What had not been foreseen, however, was that as a result of the collapse of socialism in the USSR and eastern Europe the whole host of ‘official’ communist parties that had previously followed the Soviet line and were released from the revisionist grip would not only be unfamiliar with the arguments emanating from the Communist Party of China but would in fact be hostile to ‘Maoism’, which in revisionist circles had, ever since the critique issued by the Communist Party of China to Khrushchevite policies, been bracketed and equated with Trotskyism.
The fact is that the critique made of Khrushchevite revisionism was both thoroughgoing and correct and should have been effective in convincing every communist, enabling them to understand in good time to take measures against them the true nature of the ‘reforms’ being imposed on Soviet society in the name of Marxism! However, the paranoid hatred propagated in revisionist circles against ‘Maoism’ prevented comrades from studying invaluable texts that the Chinese comrades produced criticising the specific forms that revisionism was adopting in the USSR. To this day, the number of communists from what one might call the Soviet side who have studied the Chinese critique has been dismally small.
As a result, Comrade Brar decided to prepare a preface for the first Spanish language edition of his book that would summarise this critique, the reason being that vestiges of the revisionist rot that was peddled by the Khrushchevites are still causing quite unnecessary disunity and confusion in the international communist movement, which need to be corrected in order to enable us the better to fulfil our role of offering scientific communist leadership to the working class.
The topics tackled in this preface are as follows:
The doctrine of the “peaceful transition” to socialism;
Comrade Brar writes:
“At the 20th Congress of the CPSU, Khrushchev raised the question of “ peaceful transition” to socialism, on the pretext that “radical changes” had taken place in the international situation. While saying that the road of the October Revolution had been “the only correct road in those historical conditions”, he asserted that, in view of the changed situation since then, it had become possible to carry through the transition from capitalism to socialism “through the parliamentary road”. This erroneous thesis of Khrushchev’s marked a clear revision of, and complete departure from, the teachings of Marxism-Leninism on the state and revolution and was a clear repudiation of the universal significance of the road of the October Revolution.
“According to Khrushchev, the proletariat is in a position to win a stable majority in parliament in the conditions of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and under the latter’s electoral laws. “The working class” in the capitalist countries, “by rallying around itself the toiling peasantry, the intelligentsia, all patriotic forces, and resolutely repulsing the opportunist elements who are incapable of giving up the policy of compromise with the capitalists and landlords, is in a position to defeat the reactionary forces opposed to the popular interest, to capture a stable majority in parliament” (N S Khrushchev, Report to the 20th Party Congress of the CPSU, February 1956).
“Khrushchev equated the winning by the proletariat of a stable majority in parliament with the seizure of state power and the smashing of the bourgeois state machine. For the proletariat ‘to win a majority in parliament and transform it into an organ of people’s power, given a powerful revolutionary movement in the country, means smashing the military-bureaucratic machine of the bourgeoisie [my emphasis] and setting up a new, proletarian people’s state in parliamentary form’”
Of course this was a complete departure from the fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism.
Says Comrade Brar, “Marxism-Leninism teaches, and historical experience confirms, that violent revolution is a universal law of proletarian revolution. The whole history of the working-class movement also informs us that the recognition or non-recognition of this universal law, of the necessity of smashing the old bourgeois state machine, and the necessity of replacing the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie by the dictatorship of the proletariat, has always marked the boundary line between Marxism and all forms of opportunism and revisionism, between proletarian revolutionaries and all renegades to the cause of proletarian revolution.
“Lenin repeatedly stressed the necessity, and inevitability of “civil war, without which not a single great revolution in history has yet been able to get along, and without which not a single serious Marxist has conceived of the transition from capitalism to socialism”.
“Lenin pointed out that a long period of “birth pangs” separates socialism from capitalism; that violence always plays the role of midwife in the birth of the new society from the womb of the old society, and that the bourgeois state “cannot be superseded by the proletarian state (the dictatorship of the proletariat) through the process of ‘withering away’, but, as a general rule, only through a violent revolution”, and that “the necessity of systematically imbuing the masses with this and precisely this view of violent revolution lies at the root of all the teachings of Marx and Engels.”
“Only those who suffer from the incurable malady of ‘parliamentary cretinism’ which robs those affected by it ‘of all sense, all memory, all understanding of the rude external world’, can subscribe to this thesis of peaceful transition to socialism.”
These prejudices spread throughout the communist movement by the Khrushchevites led to a flourishing of parliamentary cretinism, causing untold harm to the aspirations of the working class in country after country. Not only did the supposed vanguard party of the working class in various countries refuse to take up the armed struggle in situations that were crying out for armed struggle, but worse, it often sided with the oppressing classes against armed struggles taken up by others and against the spontaneous armed resistance of the masses.
This right-wing opportunism of parliamentary cretinism was countered by left-wing opportunism that denounced all participation in parliamentary processes refusing to see a role for parliamentary struggle whatever the circumstances, an error that is all too common among people who like to think of themselves as ‘Maoists’. However, Comrade Mao should not be blamed for this type of left-wing infantilism, of which he was certainly never guilty and never advocated.
Such comrades would do well to heed the words of Lenin on the subject:
“The party of the revolutionary proletariat must take part in bourgeois parliamentarism in order to enlighten the masses, which can be done during elections and in the struggle between parties in parliament. But to limit the class struggle to the parliamentary struggle, or to regard the latter as the highest and decisive form, to which all the other forms of struggle are subordinate, means actually deserting to the side of the bourgeoisie and going against the proletariat.”.
The concept of the ‘state’ and the ‘party’ of the ‘whole people’
In order to be able to smuggle bourgeois norms into the Soviet system, the Khrushchevites and their successors worked hard to cause people to relax their vigilance against bureaucrats and those who sought high office for reasons other than serving the people. Stalin, who had organised the working-class and peasant masses to be vigilant to ensure that party and state officials did not abuse their status, was condemned as ‘paranoid’ – there being according to the Khrushchevites no need for such vigilance or for the periodic purges of those found wanting.
According to the revisionists, since class divisions had been abolished in the Soviet Union (in the sense that there were no longer any exploiters of the labour of others), class struggle had come to an end. Therefore the state was no longer an instrument of proletarian class rule but a ‘state of the whole people’. They totally ignored the fact that the old ideology associated with class society still lingered on in people’s minds, as it was bound to do for many generations, and certainly so long as the vast masses of the peasantry were still producing for profit in co-operatives rather than producing to plan in state farms. They ignored the fact that bourgeois elements within society still yearned for their past glories, and they ignored the influence of such people on petty-bourgeois intellectuals many of whom are easily persuaded that in capitalist society their talents would be more greatly appreciated and rewarded. They also ignored the ability of foreign enemies of socialism to identify the malcontents and to support them in spreading demoralisation among the masses. In other words, they ignored the fact of which Stalin had repeatedly warned that following the revolution the class struggle does not abate but that on the contrary it intensifies.
On this point Comrade Brar writes:
“Even a novice in Marxism knows that the state is nothing but an instrument of class rule, a tool for ensuring the dictatorship of one class over another, the subjugation of one class by another. As long as the state exists, it cannot stand above classes; so long as the proletariat uses the state, it does so to hold down its adversaries. Indeed, the very existence of the state is an eloquent proof of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms. The moment the state comes forward as a representative of the whole of society, it becomes redundant and superfluous, and disappears as such:
“However, the proletariat needs its own state – the dictatorship of the proletariat – for the “entire historical period which separates capitalism from ‘classless society’, from communism”. The dictatorship of the proletariat is necessary to make possible the “expropriation of the expropriators”, to crush the inevitable resistance and attempts at restoration of the former exploiting classes, to organise the economic reconstruction of society – in a word, to prepare the material and spiritual conditions for the transference of society from the lower phase to the higher phase of communism.
“Since classes, and struggle, continue long after the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, and for an entire historical epoch, during this period the dictatorship of the proletariat too is needed, for without it the long, difficult and complicated journey from the lower to the higher state of communism cannot be transversed. In the never-to-be forgotten words of Lenin, “only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is what constitutes the most profound difference between the Marxist and the ordinary petty (as well as big) bourgeois. This is the touchstone on which the real understanding and recognition of Marxism is to be tested … opportunism does not extend the recognition of the class struggle to what is the cardinal point, to the period of transition from capitalism to communism, to the period of the overthrow and the complete abolition of the bourgeoisie. In reality this period inevitably is a period of an unprecedentedly violent class struggle in unprecedentedly acute forms and, consequently, during this period the state must inevitably be a state that is democratic in a new way (for the proletariat and the propertyless in general) and dictatorial in a new way (against the bourgeoisie)” …
“The Khrushchevites asserted that only by the replacement of the dictatorship of the proletariat by the “state of the whole people” could democracy be deepened into “genuine democracy for the whole people”; they pretentiously asserted that their line of the abolition of the dictatorship of the proletariat represented “a line of energetically developing democracy” and an example of how “proletarian democracy is becoming socialist democracy of the whole people”.
“Anyone in the least acquainted with the subject knows that democracy is a form of state, and, as such, is a class democracy. There is no such thing as non-class democracy – “democracy of the whole people”.
“In the words of Lenin: “Democracy for the vast majority of the people, and suppression by force, i.e., exclusion from democracy, of the exploiters and oppressors of the people -this is the change democracy undergoes during the transition from capitalism to communism”.
“In other words, the only way that democracy for the masses of working people can be developed, deepened and expanded, is through the exercise of the dictatorship of the proletariat over the exploiting classes; without the latter there can be no real democracy for the working people. Proletarian democracy and bourgeois democracy are mutually exclusive. The most thorough elimination of bourgeois democracy is a condition for the most thorough flourishing of proletarian democracy.
“The denigration of the dictatorship of the proletariat, far from being a step in the extension of democracy on the road to communism, was intended to, and actually did, serve as an instrument for the curtailment of democracy – proletarian democracy – for the masses, the empowerment of the privileged sections and strata of Soviet society, thus paving the way back to the restoration of capitalism.
“The Khrushchevite revisionists, however, opposed this basic Marxist-Leninist teaching on democracy. According to them, there is no democracy if the enemies of the proletariat are suppressed and the only way to develop democracy is through the abolition of the dictatorship of the proletariat over its enemies, the cessation of their suppression, and the establishment of “democracy of the whole people”.
Yet by subjecting people to ‘market socialism’, subordinating them to considerations of profit and the law of value, the revisionists were already derogating from people’s democratic rights. Instead of people’s needs and desires determining decisions on how the economy should be run, they were ignored in favour of considerations of profitability.
As for the ‘party’ of the whole people, this is a concept that denies the proletariat its need for a vanguard party that will lead them in the class struggle. It amounts to nothing more or less than disarming the proletariat in its class struggle, just as the class struggle is sharpening and becoming more complicated and difficult. It amounts to a strategy to ensure the defeat of the proletariat – and so it proved to be.
The promise of ‘peaceful coexistence’ between imperialism and socialism
Khrushchev shamelessly distorted Lenin’s policy of peaceful co-existence between socialist and capitalist countries to be instead of policy of class collaboration by socialist with imperialist countries, in other words, a policy of abject surrender to the diktat of imperialism.
Comrade Brar writes:
“It is clear that, whereas Lenin’s policy of peaceful co-existence was directed at imperialist policies of war and aggression, was based on the standpoint of international class struggle and the historical mission of the proletariat that requires socialist countries, in addition to pursuing the policy of peaceful co-existence, also to render firm support to the revolutionary struggles of the oppressed peoples and nations, as well as proletarian revolutionary movements of the working class, the Khrushchevite peaceful co-existence, on the other hand, serves imperialism and encourages imperialist policies of war and aggression, seeking as it does to replace proletarian world revolution with pacifism and a complete renunciation of proletarian internationalism. The Khrushchevite policy is one of class capitulation and robs the Leninist policy of peaceful co-existence of its revolutionary essence by distorting, mutilating and falsifying it beyond recognition. Whereas Lenin’s policy of peaceful co-existence was but one aspect of the international policy of the proletariat in state power, the Khrushchevites transformed peaceful co-existence into the general line of the foreign policy of the socialist countries – even into the general line of all communist parties.
“Capitalism and socialism are two diametrically opposite systems. Capitalism can never reconcile itself to the existence of socialism. From time to time it will turn its desire to overthrow socialism into armed struggle aimed at such overthrow, of which the war of intervention by imperialism against the young Soviet republic and the brutal war waged by Hitlerite fascism against the USSR, and the genocidal wars waged by US imperialism against the Korean and Vietnamese people, are just a few examples of such murderous attempts to wipe out socialism. It is only through struggle and armed defence, only through inflicting staggering defeats on imperialism, that the socialist countries won the right to live side by side with imperialism – the right to peaceful co-existence. Any policy of peaceful co-existence devoid of struggle would have got the socialist countries absolutely nowhere.
“In the absence of hot wars, during periods when imperialism is unable to wage wars owing to weakness and unfavourable conditions, it launches cold wars, during which, while vastly expanding its armaments and preparing for war, it resorts to every means, every trick, to sabotage the socialist countries politically, economically, culturally and ideologically. The cold war waged by imperialism against the socialist countries, especially the Soviet Union, between the end of the Second World War and the collapse of the USSR and the east European People’s Democracies, provides eloquent proof, if proof be needed, of this self-evident truth. Since the collapse of the USSR, imperialism’s cold war against the remaining socialist countries continues unabated.”
Hence, the policy of pretending internal class struggle had gone away, just at a time when it was intensifying in an unprecedented manner, was matched by a policy of pretending the international class struggle had gone away, and of lowering the guard of the Soviet people against all the vicious policies implemented by imperialism to try to put an end to Soviet socialism. Since the Khrushchevites and the imperialists were at one in this aim, it is not surprising to find the revisionists advocating what was in effect class collaboration on an international scale. To the extent that this policy was modified at all, it was because of the contradictions between the Soviet wannabe bourgeoisie on the one hand and the various imperialist interests on the other – each of which was seeking to be the one to dominate the Soviet economy.
The attitude of revisionism to war.
Last but not least, the Khrushchevites and their revisionist successors used the excuse of avoiding war to excuse each and every concession to imperialism.
Comrade Brar writes:
“Going against the Leninist thesis, fully corroborated by historical practice, that it is impossible to eliminate war without putting an end to imperialism, Khrushchevite revisionism … maintained that all wars could be prevented without eliminating imperialism. In 1952, Stalin emphasised the continuing validity of the Leninist thesis on the question of war and peace thus: “To eliminate the inevitability of war, it is necessary to abolish imperialism”
“The correctness of the Leninist thesis … has been fully confirmed by the two World Wars and the ceaseless local wars and armed conflicts launched or instigated by imperialism – especially on the continents of Asia, Africa and Latin America. In the face of this harsh reality, the vigorous propagation by Khrushchev and his cohorts of the Kautskyite theory of ‘ultra-imperialism’, of the view that a world without armaments and without wars can be created without the abolition of imperialism, can have only one purpose, namely, to sabotage and abolish national liberation wars and revolutionary civil wars against imperialism and its stooges, and thus encourage and help imperialism in its preparations for new wars.
“The Khrushchevite leadership went further by turning to nuclear fetishism and nuclear blackmail as the theoretical basis and guiding principle of its policy on the question of war and peace and a number of related issues. It came to hold that, with the appearance of nuclear weapons, the distinction between just and unjust wars had been rendered obsolete. “The atomic bomb”, asserted the Khrushchevites, “does not distinguish between imperialists and working people, it strikes at areas, so that millions of workers would be killed for every monopolist destroyed”.
“The Khrushchevites advised the oppressed peoples to abandon all ideas of revolution and refrain from waging just and popular wars and wars of national liberation, for such wars could easily result in the complete annihilation of the human race through a nuclear holocaust: “…any small ‘local war’”, asserted Khrushchev, “might spark off the conflagration of a world war” and that in modern times “…any sort of war, though it may break out as an ordinary non-nuclear war, is likely to develop into a destructive nuclear-missile conflagration” and in the destruction of our “Noah’s Ark – the globe”.
“Following Khrushchev’s line, the socialist countries would have but one option – to capitulate to imperialism’s nuclear blackmail and threats and collaborate with its schemes for world domination. “According to Khrushchev, there “…can be no doubt that a world nuclear war, if started by imperialist maniacs, would inevitably result in the downfall of the capitalist system, a system breeding wars [this is the same Khrushchev who at the same time maintained that wars were no longer inevitable even if imperialism continued to exist! – HB]. But would the socialist countries and the cause of socialism all over the world benefit from a world nuclear disaster? Only people who deliberately shut their eyes to the facts can think so. As regards Marxist-Leninists, they cannot propose to establish a communist civilisation on the ruins of centres of world culture, on land laid waste and contaminated by nuclear fall-out. We need hardly add that in the case of many peoples, the question of socialism would be eliminated altogether because they would have disappeared bodily from our planet”.
“In other words, according to Khrushchev and his fellow renegades, all the major contradictions in the world – that between capital and labour, between imperialism and socialism, between imperialism and the oppressed nations, and the inter-imperialist contradiction between various imperialist countries – had all ceased to exist with the emergence of nuclear weapons. In their view there remained but one contradiction, namely, the fictitious contradiction fabricated by them between the alleged common survival of imperialism and oppressed classes and nations, on the one hand, and their complete annihilation on the other.
“Pravda of 16 August 1963 summed up these Khrushchevite gems in this single short rhetorical question: “What is the use of principles if one’s head is chopped off”).”
All these class collaborationist policies, that denied the irreconcilability of the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, between the oppressed countries and the oppressor countries and between socialist countries and capitalist countries – policies that struck at the very heart of Marxist teaching – were imposed by the CPSU on fraternal parties who were naturally very reluctant to ignore instructions from Moscow. This weakened these parties both by causing deep divisions within each of them, and secondly by causing them in effect to abandon the interests of the proletariat they are supposed to represent in favour of losing themselves in some fantasy of being able by adopting a benevolent disposition to abolish, surmount, or negotiate the antagonistic class contradictions in society. As a result very many prestigious parties throughout the world dwindled to nothing, losing their support to such petty-bourgeois militants who did at least have a clear anti-imperialist perspective.
The principal political lessons that need to be drawn from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the People’s Democracies of eastern Europe if the international communist movement is going to be able to regroup as a genuine proletarian movement, to include all parties from the Soviet tradition, the ‘Maoist’ tradition and the ‘Hoxhaist’ tradition who have been able to correct their past rightist and leftist errors, at the head of a mighty international brotherhood of workers of all countries, are those stated above. As a minimum, any party that seeks to represent the interests of the proletariat, besides recognising that the whole point of proletarian revolution is to rid humanity of the curse of the market and the devastation it causes (replacing production for profit by production to meet needs), MUST recognise:
The Marxist teaching on the state. It must recognise that bourgeois democracy is only a consensual form of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and that socialism cannot be brought about through taking control of the bourgeois state apparatus by winning bourgeois elections. Attempts to do so will only lead to a bloodbath, such as the one that wiped out Allende’s socialist government in Chile in 1973. It must recognise that the bourgeois state must be smashed and replaced by a state machine adapted to the interests and needs of the proletariat – involving participatory democracy rather than bourgeois ‘representative’ democracy.
It must recognise the need for, and the function of, the dictatorship of the proletariat during the whole period from the proletarian revolution to the establishment of the higher stage of communism when the state is not abolished but withers away for want of a function to perform. Throughout this period the proletarian state’s principal purpose is to subdue by force the enemies of proletarian power, to prevent them restoring exploitative class relations.
It must recognise that the exploiting classes nationally and internationally do not willingly give up their right to exploit and that they will unhesitatingly resort to the use of force of the most brutal kind to try to eliminate and extirpate socialism. Therefore, even though one of the most fundamental aims of socialism is to put an end to wars (by putting an end to the class contradictions of exploitative societies that inevitably lead to war), the party of the proletariat must be prepared for the inevitability of war perpetrated by reactionaries in their efforts to call to a halt the march forward of history that the proletariat with the Communist Party at its head is leading.