Communist Party of Australia 1956
(Tribune, June 20, 1956)
Source: “Basic Questions of Communist Theory, Documents Relating to the Cult of the Individual and Hungary.” Current Book Distributors, 40 Market St., Sydney, March 1957;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.
See text of Khrushchev’s Speech to the 20th Congress, 24th February 1956.
The first meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Australia since the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union took place in Sydney on the week-end of May 25 to 27.
The CC was of the unanimous opinion that the 20th Congress of the CPSU was an epoch-making event in the history of the world labour movement.
Congress decisions, generalising the accumulated experience of the international working class during and since the Second World War, represent a creative development of Marxist-Leninist theory.
The magnificent plan for further peaceful economic development and still higher living standards in the USSR represents an inspiring tribute to the superiority of the socialist mode of production.
Congress decisions on peaceful co-existence of the two social systems, the possibility of preventing war, the perspective of peaceful transition to socialism and working class unity, are of immense theoretical and practical value in the world struggle for peace, democracy and socialism.
The CC of the CPA called on all Party organisations and members to deeply study these decisions, to discuss and collectively work out their creative application to the concrete conditions in Australia today.
The Central Committee unanimously approved of the struggle launched at the 20th Congress against the cult of the individual and welcomed the steps being taken to rectify the great harm that it caused.
Revelation by the CC of the CPSU at the 20th Congress of the existence of the cult of the individual and the exposure of its harmful consequences was a courageous act of self-criticism and a tribute to its great strength, unity and fidelity to Marxist-Leninist principles.
No governing political party of capitalism has ever dared to thus publicly admit to and criticise its own mistakes before the people.
The Communist Party of Australia was surprised to learn that Stalin, whom we had always regarded as a model of revolutionary virtue, had fostered and encouraged the cult of the individual and had placed himself above the Party.
Believing all that was said crediting all the great socialist achievements to Stalin’s wisdom, we were caught up in and influenced by the myth of Stalin’s infallibility.
We did not know that there existed in the latter part of his life a contradiction between certain aspects of Stalin’s practice and fundamental Marxist-Leninist views he propagated.
Reviewing our own past work, in light of the 20th Congress revelations, the CC found that under the influence of the cult of the individual there had been tendencies towards exaggerated praise and adulation of individual Party leaders.
This had not been encouraged by the leaders concerned, but because its harmful significance was not clearly understood it was not corrected with sufficient firmness.
The Central Committee also found that under the influence of the cult of the individual there had been dogmatic, uncritical acceptance of and propagation of all Stalin’s theories, some of which have now been revealed as incorrect.
We were also misled by the mistakes which flowed from the cult of the individual and the intrigues of the traitor Beria which led to the breach with Yugoslavia and to violations of socialist justice.
In the discussions around these matters and in the controversy on Soviet science, our inflexibility in defending what was then believed to be the collective viewpoint in the Soviet Union caused the alienation of some honest Party members and supporters.
We wholeheartedly welcome the steps being taken by the Soviet Union to rectify these mistakes and will take the appropriate measures to remedy the harm caused here.
The Central Committee found that while the cult of the individual had exercised a stultifying effect on many aspects of our work it had not led to any serious violations of Party principles of organisation.
Party Congresses, Conferences and Committee meetings all take place regularly in accordance with the Constitution.
All major policy questions are decided collectively after full and frank discussion.
The Central Committee called on the Party membership to continue the discussion throughout the Party on the 20th Congress and the creative application of its important findings to Australia.
The critical and self-critical discussion should aim at raising our level of ideological understanding, exposing all aspects of the cult of the individual as they affect us, strengthening collective methods of work and leadership, ending bureaucratic methods, eliminating dogmatic and commandist tendencies and above all strengthening the unity and mass work of the Party.
L. L SHARKEY
(From a report to a meeting of the Central Committee, C.P.A.)
(Communist Review, July, 1956)
The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was an epoch-making event. It recorded magnificent achievements in socialist construction in all spheres of human endeavour.
The Sixth Five-Year Plan, endorsed by the Congress, opened up a perspective for an advance never before known to human history. It set new goals unimaginable to capitalism, impossible of attainment by the system of so-called “free enterprise.”
The Congress recorded the fact that the conditions for outstripping the most advanced capitalist countries in per capita production in a brief historical period now exist in the U.S.S.R.
It was Lenin who pointed out that socialism would finally win the victory over capitalism when it proved itself superior in the field of production. Socialism has already proved its superiority by the fact that the rate of increase in production in the Soviet Union and the people’s democracies far exceeds the highest ever attained by capitalist production.
Now the last and decisive proof of the superiority of the socialist mode of production, greater production per capita of the population, will soon he achieved
Each passing day brings new proof of the ever growing superiority of Soviet science in the fields of the development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes, in the development of automation to lessen the burden of labour, in the field of medicine and public health, not to mention that the Soviet Union has the only jet airliners in service in the world today.
The capitalist countries are being left behind in the field of education. More scientists and technical experts are graduated annually in the Soviet Union than in any capitalist country. Four million more are to be trained during the currency of the Sixth Five-Year Plan.
The Soviet people are rapidly becoming the most highly educated people in the world. Secondary education to the age of seventeen years now exists in all the cities and towns of the U.S.S.R. The 20th Congress decided that it must be extended to the whole countryside by 1960.
Unlike capitalism, communism demands a highly educated population. It demands that education not be the privilege of a handful of wealthy people, but placed at the disposal of the toiling masses.
Marx taught that communism will produce a new sort of man, one with an educated mind in a sound and healthy body. The vast mass physical culture system in the Soviet Union is aimed at restoring the vigour of man, affected by the centuries of poverty and oppression, of slums and overwork, rather than at breaking world records, as some people imagine.
The Congress endorsed a programme of shortening the hours of labour, a vast growth of agriculture assuring an abundance of food and consumption goods, a rapid stepping-up of the housing programme, a rise in pensions, wages, and collective-farm incomes, an enormous growth of all forms of social amenities, free education, the further growth of the free medical and public health services.
The reactionary enemies of the working people and socialism, and their unprincipled hirelings made a great noise about the number of criticisms of mistakes and weaknesses made by the 20th Congress, including those flowing from the “cult of the individual.” These were serious, indeed; but not at all the decisive outcome of the Congress discussions. The enemy exaggerated these self-criticisms and corrections of past mistakes to obscure the real achievements of the Soviet people from the masses in the capitalist countries.
These self-critical examinations of past mistakes prove the mighty strength and self-confidence of the C.P.S.U., which, in accord with Lenin’s teaching, does not hide its mistakes, but publicly criticises them before the working people, analysing the reasons and thus ensuring that such errors will not occur again.
Lenin taught that the test of the sincerity of a political party was its attitude to its own mistakes, that the self-criticism of such mistakes strengthened the Party. And so it is with regard to the past mistakes repudiated by the 20th Congress.
The real essence of the 20th Congress was the great achievements of the Soviet Union, which the imperialists thought would be fatally weakened by Hitler’s onslaught, and the wonderful perspectives opened up by the Sixth Five-Year Plan.
The decisive thing is that the Soviet Union, in a brief historical period, will outstrip the most advanced capitalist countries in the decisive field of production of goods more economically than is possible under capitalism.
The development of atomic energy and automation. together with the directives of the Sixth Five-Year Plan, assure that giant strides in the gradual transition from socialism to communism will be made, steps towards abundance for all, leisure for all, complete freedom for each and every individual member of society.
And the hired falsifiers of capitalism and their paymasters cannot succeed in hiding from the people forever the glorious facts of the building of communism in the Soviet Union.
The historic economic and social achievements of the Soviet Union, of the people’s democracies, of People’s China, are being recorded at a moment when the instability of the capitalist economy becomes ever more perceptible to the peoples.
Australia, Britain and New Zealand are about the only capitalist countries without a large unemployed army at the present time.
Yet there are dangerous signs of crisis in both Britain and Australia. The boom period is ending. Restriction of imports, increased taxation, freezing of wages, restriction of credits, a decline of home building in face of an enormous demand for housing, the crisis of the transport system and a heavy increase in fares, the crisis of the coal industry, a slackening off and incipient unemployment in a number of industries, the plight of one million pensioners and people on small fixed incomes, the bad state of affairs in relation to schools and hospitals, together with public works, the fall in income from overseas trade, the continuous decline in prices for exports, all indicate that the Australian capitalist economy is far from being stable. Continual worsening of the economic position of Great Britain will accelerate depression tendencies still further in Australia.
As Khrushchov pointed out at the 20th Congress, the “boom” is experienced mainly in the industries connected directly or indirectly with the rearmament programmes, the “prosperity” being mainly reflected in the super-profits of record proportions registered by the monopolies, who benefit most from the arms programme.
That is true also of the United States and all the countries which are part of the U.S.-led aggressive bloc.
The U.S. which has long had an army of millions of unemployed, estimated from three to five millions, and some ten million part-time workers, is now experiencing a serious crisis in the motor industry. Tens of thousands of workers are being laid off. Recently, the motor-car monopolies were making record profits. G.M.C. being the first monopoly to make a profit of more than a thousand million dollars in one year.
The decline in the motor industry is serious for the capitalist economy. It has been one of the main props, outside the arms industries, of the relative capitalist “prosperity.”
The struggle for markets, with the return of West Germany and Japan, to the capitalist world market, becomes ever more fierce.
We can only estimate the prospects of the Australian economy by taking into account also the main economic tendencies of the capitalist sector of the world.
These tendencies point directly to growing economic crisis.
This means a further attack on the living standards of the masses, the reappearance of unemployment, of fascist tendencies, a further striving towards war as a way out on the part of the monopolists.
This will lead to more intense and widespread political and class struggles.
It places great responsibility on our Party for providing a broad programme to protect the masses against the impact of economic decline, for the preservation of peace and in defence of democracy.
Here the struggle against armaments expenditure and in Savour of expenditure on social and economic development plays a most important part. Against more guns and bombs and new wars, our programme demands peace, more schools and hospitals, protection against flood, fire, drought and .soil erosion, the preservation of living standards in town and country.
This also calls for the defeat of the Australian puppet government of U.S. imperialism, the present Federal Government, recognition of People’s China and the development of trade and intercourse with that great republic, the resumption of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and the growth of trade and cultural relations with the great Soviet people.
That the people are turning away from the reactionary, Menzies Government is indicated by the recent successes ,of the Labour Party in the New South Wales, Queensland and West Australian State elections, where, despite intense campaigns by reaction, Labour Governments were again returned and in the main the Communist vote has grown.
The policy of reaction also is arousing increased resistance on the part of the trade unions in the form of a vigorous growth of the strike movement. Examples of this are the recent waves of strikes in Queensland, the prolonged struggle in the shearing industry and the strike of the water-side workers.
The Menzies Government is now setting up a special industrial penal institution for the purpose of fining unions, and jailing strikers for defending living standards.
Industrial action by the workers in this era of monopoly ,capital rule is regarded as a criminal offence, just as it was in the days of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.
We must wage a resolute campaign for the withdrawal ,of this undemocratic institution which outlaws strikes, drains unions of their finance, and seeks to prevent freedom of action by workers to use their organised strength to combat attacks on living standards.
It is along these lines that we must continue the struggle for the defeat of the Menzies Government, its policy of cold war and waste of the nation’s wealth on obsolete armaments purchased at great expense, its threat to living standards, its undermining of the economy through its refusal to establish free relations with the U.S.S.R. and the Chinese People’s Republic.
The 20th Congress posed several theoretical propositions of the utmost significance for the people’s movement in all countries more especially in the capitalist countries.
Among these is the proposition that for the first time in the history of man, it has now become possible for the peace movement to bar the path to the warmongers.
In the words of Comrade Khrushchov, war is no longer “fatalistically inevitable” in the sense that it was when Marx and Lenin laid it down that war was inevitable whilst capitalism and its imperialist striving to world domination existed.
On what grounds did the 20th Congress base itself in formulating this new theoretical proposition replacing the former Marxist-Leninist thesis on the inevitability of war?
It based itself on the new conditions that exist in the world today.
Marxism-Leninism, it has been said a thousand times, is not a dogma, but a guide to action. In order to act correctly, then, Marxist-Leninists must make a concrete analysis of ever-changing conditions, the balance between class forces, the emergence of new forces, changing economic and political conditions, in order to formulate policies and programmes that serve to guide the masses in a rapidly changing world.
It was in the light of this teaching that new conclusions were drawn.
Making an examination of present-day realities, Comrade Khrushchov pointed to the ever-growing might of the socialist sector of the world, embracing more than 900 million people, to the important group of neutral nations headed by the great Indian Republic, to the disintegration of the imperialist colonial system, and last, but not least, to the resistance of the peace-loving masses living in the imperialist countries.
The international peace forces are now well organised, have vast material backing and the power in their hands to prevent the outbreak of new wars. Already the peace forces, by their pressure, have ended the wars in Korea and Indo-China, have prevented attack on people’s democracies and certainly upset the time-table of the imperialists for a third world war. The unremitting efforts of the socialist countries, spearheaded by the Soviet Union, on behalf of peace, have won the admiration and support of the peace-loving masses everywhere.
The Soviet Union has ceaselessly championed the cause of peace, making ever-new proposals and has pressed the representatives of the capitalist powers to such an extent that they now have to repudiate their own proposals, such as those made by Britain and France to reduce the armed forces of the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. and People’s China to 1,500,000 men and those of Britain and France to 650,000. When the Soviet Union accepted this proposal, the capitalist representatives promptly changed their ground and disowned their own proposition.
The visits of Bulganin and Khrushchov to India, Burma and Afghanistan, their trip to Britain and the warm reception accorded them by the people, indicate the tremendous drive the Soviets are making for peace, and how well the masses understand and welcome these noble efforts.
Practical measures taken by the Soviet Union include the evacuation of the military base in Finland, the reduction off the Soviet armed forces by 640,000 and now by an additional 1,200,000 men.
The decisions of the 20th Congress with regard to safeguarding peace will give renewed energy and enthusiasm to the peace forces everywhere, will unfold ever-greater efforts to make war no longer “fatalistically inevitable.”
Does this mean that the reactionary forces of monopoly capital, headed by the U.S. monopolies, have given up their crazy dream of world empire to be achieved by means ,of a new world war?
It most certainly does not. On the contrary, the exact opposite is true.
The decisions of the 20th Congress on peaceful coexistence between the countries with different social orders are, indeed, a call to the world-wide peace forces to make sure that imperialist aggression will be finally defeated.
What, for instance, was the reply of the U.S. warmongers to the Soviet reduction of armed forces? That the U.S. Government had no intention of reducing the armed forces. Arch-warmonger Dulles tried to create further suspicion and distrust by lyingly saying that the demobilised men will be employed making nuclear weapons. Senator George, the American President’s so-called “Ambassador” to N.A.T.O., set a new time-table for the third world war, declaring that the imperialists will be at war with the Soviet Union in three years. So speak the mad dogs of U.S. imperialism.
Bloodthirsty generals, such as Montgomery, assured the world that the N.A.T.O. command will use nuclear weapons, whether the other side resorts to them or not.
The imperialists refused a Soviet proposal that the atomic powers pledge never to be the first to use these horrible weapons.
It is clear that the American billionaires’ cabinet in Washington and the Tory Government in London have not the faintest intention of agreeing to the Soviet proposals to outlaw nuclear weapons. Only political illiterates, knowing nothing of the nature of monopoly capital imperialism, and mentally conditioned by the lies and hypocrisy of the bourgeois press and spokesmen, could believe otherwise.
However, capitalist governments can be compelled to change their attitude by the further strengthening of the peace forces, by world public opinion, by ever-increasing mass pressure.
Even the puny Menzies Government actually raised war expenditure by £10,000,000 at the very moment the Soviet Union announced the huge cut in its armed forces.
The imperialists, stupidly, seem to believe and openly say that the Soviet Union’s drive for peace has been forced by the so-called “positions of strength” policy of the warmongers in New York, London, Canberra and elsewhere. They demand “concessions” as a result of this stupid belief. They mean by “concessions” the restoration of capitalism in the people’s democracies.
They are certainly chasing moonbeams when they act on such delusions.
The Soviet Union, in fighting for peace, is not acting from weakness nor fear of the “positions of strength” advocates. but from adherence to the Marxist-Leninist principles. the fact that war is alien to socialist principles, that the Soviet people wish to devote all their energy and resources to, the building of communism.
It is crystal clear, then, that the danger of war remains as long as monopoly capital rules an important part of the globe.
But monopoly capital no longer rules the whole world. Today there is the ever-growing socialist world, dedicated to peace and friendship among the nations.
There is the growing number of non-socialist countries who repudiate the war plans and refuse to join the aggressive blocs set up by the Anglo-American imperialists. There is the revolt of the colonial peoples which further weakens imperialism. There is the peace movement in the capitalist countries. These are the forces whose opposition renders war no longer inevitable.
But to say that war is no longer inevitable does not mean that war is now impossible. War can only become impossible when the socialist system becomes world-wide, or at least the predominant system. The labour movement must always keep that point in mind.
Any relaxation of the struggle for peace, or lessening of vigilance, could provide an opportunity for the aggressive forces of monopoly capital to unleash atomic war, with all its horrible consequences.
The situation, in fact, calls for greater efforts on behalf of peace. None of us could claim, for example, that the organised peace movement in Australia is all that we desire. Far from it. It is still weak and unable to fully mobilise the feeling for peace of vast masses of the people, for action against the war danger, for prohibition of nuclear weapons, for disarmament, for peaceful co-existence. That is the reality.
Complacency, because of the successes of the peaceful peoples in recent times, is a most dangerous enemy which we should spare no pains to combat.
Peaceful co-existence does not mean the watering down of the class struggle, of the political struggle against the Menzies reaction. or of the exposure of the evils of monopoly capital. Nor does it mean the watering down of the struggle for improved living standards, for the extension of democracy and defence of national independence against the overlordship of U.S. imperialism.
Above all, peaceful co-existence does not mean that the labour movement must relinquish its struggle for people’s democracy and socialism. It means peaceful relations between States. It means that countries with differing social orders live side by side without resort to war, It means that controversial issues be settled between them by negotiation instead of force.
Peaceful co-existence demands that there be no interference by one country in the internal domestic affairs of any other country. It means respect for the independence of all countries, great and small. It pre-supposes the right of self-determination for all peoples, mutual respect, and the widest economic and cultural exchanges. It means peaceful competition, not war, between the capitalist and socialist systems.
Co-existence means a durable and lasting peace between the nations.
Such is our understanding of peaceful co-existence.
The 20th Congress fully confirms the line taken in our Party Programme about the use of Parliament and peaceful transition to socialism.
This must not be seen in an abstract lifeless way. It would come about as a result of fierce class struggles, political and industrial clashes between classes.
It will not happen as a result of conducting the struggle in a reformist way, of limiting the aims of the labour movement to a few niggardly reforms, to legal “battles” before a bench of Arbitration Court judges. On the contrary, its realisation demands tremendous organisation, a revolutionary growth of class consciousness on the part of the workers, resolute determination to sweep away all obstacles.
What is meant by the possibility of peaceful transition is that in present-day conditions, with the existence of the great socialist one-third of the world, with the powerful growth of the international labour movement, with the disintegration of colonialism and the consequent weakening of imperialism, reaction is not in a position to force intervention and civil war on the working class in the old way.
It is an historical fact that the actual seizure of power by the working class in Russia on 7th November, 1917, was practically bloodless. The long period of civil war and war against foreign armies was forced upon the Soviet people by the intervention of fourteen powers led by Churchill and U.S. imperialism.
Lenin, the Bolshevik Party and the people of Russia had no desire to shed their blood, nor the blood of the old ruling classes. They were driven to defend their country and their revolution against the White Guards and imperialists, who wished to crush the revolution, dismember the country, and reduce it to a colony.
Such were the causes of the prolonged civil war in Russia. The interventionists bear the responsibility for the bloodshed of that period.
The prolonged civil war in China was a product of similar imperialist intervention. When Chiang Kai-shek betrayed the revolution in 1927, he asked for and received the support of all the imperialists, who at that time dominated China. As everyone knows, the civil war in China after the close of World War II would have been impossible except for the support and the enormous quantities of arms and equipment supplied to Chiang by the United States imperialists who were planning, through Chiang’s puppet government, to colonise China.
In the European people’s democracies, on the other hand, because of the proximity of the Soviet Army, which prevented imperialist intervention, the taking over of power by the working people proceeded peacefully.
The progressive weakening of capitalism throughout the world, the discrediting and loss of influence of the old bourgeois parties over the masses make it possible for the labour movement to win strong majorities in the parliaments and to assure a peaceful transition to socialism. This makes an insurrection of the kind needed to overthrow fascist or other authoritarian militarised police States unnecessary, although it is riot excluded that in some countries violent struggles may still take place.
We are a part of Anglo-American imperialism and our struggle depends to a degree on the level of their labour movements at the given time. It is correct to follow the line laid down in our Party Programme.
We can endorse, too, the decision of the C.P.S.U. to seek agreements with social-democratic parties, particularly in regard to safeguarding peace and with a view to ending the split in the working class.
The report to the 20th Congress indicated that some of the social democrats want closer relations with the U.S.S.R. and to formulate a socialist policy.
However, it cannot be taken for granted that the top social democrats want to introduce socialism, peacefully or otherwise.
We know only too well what Lenin wrote about the collapse of the Second International, its role as the saviour of capitalism in the revolutionary period after the Second World War. It is a fact that the present-day social-democratic leaders support to the hilt N.A.T.O., the aggressive organisation of Anglo-American imperialism for war against the socialist countries.
There would have to be fundamental changes in policy and leadership in the social ~democratic parties before they would he prepared to abolish capitalism.
But the effort to reach an understanding on a broad programme covering immediate needs is undoubtedly a step in the right direction and of great value in the struggle for peace.
One of the important results of the 20th Congress was the final liquidation of the cult of the individual.
This cult of the individual was denounced by the leader~ ship of the Party as alien to Marxism-Leninism in that it contradicts the Marxist-Leninist conception of the role of the masses, as the real makers of history, and instead exalts the role of individual heroes.
The cult of the individual hindered the initiative of the masses and of the Party membership. It led to one-man rule, to arbitrary decisions, to one-sided and incorrect decisions, and, as all the leading spokesmen at the Congress declared, the cult inflicted grave harm, serious damage to our cause. That is, not only harm to the U.S.S.R., but grave harm to international communism as well.
We were amazed to learn that collective leadership had not been practised in the Soviet Union in the period since the 17th Congress of the C.P.S.U., which took place in 1934, and that it had ceased to exist until the 19th Congress in 1952 and subsequently. It was revealed to us that during that period Comrade Stalin had placed himself above the Party and had largely concentrated the power of making important decisions in his own hands. The elected organs of the Party, it appears, were ignored, collective leadership had ceased to exist. From the 1 8th Congress in 1939 until 1952, when the 19th Congress was called together, a matter of about 13 years, there was no Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
The fact that J. V. Stalin had originated, fostered and developed the cult of the individual came as a surprise to us. Several statements against the cult were made by him, but it is now revealed that these were mere words which in practice Stalin repudiated.
The C.P.S.U. has made a balanced estimate of the work of Comrade J. V. Stalin. He still remains an outstanding leader of communism and one of the strongest Marxists, in spite of his grievous mistakes. Full tribute has been paid to his outstanding work, his “indelible leadership , as the Chinese Party statement said, in building socialism in the U.S.S.R. This applies to his struggle to realise Lenin’s plans in the industrialisation of the Soviet Union and for the collectivisation of agriculture. Without these the Soviet Union would, no doubt, have degenerated into a bourgeois State, would have become a colony of the imperialists.
Of similar historical importance was his leadership of the struggle against Trotsky, Bukharin and the bourgeois nationalists. The essence of the policies of these “malignant enemies of the people,” as Khrushchov estimated them at the Congress, was the restoration of capitalism on the territory of the U.S.S.R.
As a result of this leadership in the earlier period of his life, Stalin won immense prestige amongst the Party membership and among the working people of the U.S.S.R.
It was on the basis of these great achievements that the cult of the individual took root, was promoted by Stalin himself and ended in his placing himself above the Party in violation of the Leninist principle of collective leadership. Also in this connection we must take into account the capitalist encirclement of the U.S.S.R., the rise of Hitlerism and the outbreak of war, as well as the threat of atomic attack on the U.S.S.R. posed by United States imperialism in the post-war period.
It was in these conditions that the cult of the individual grew like a poisonous weed. Mikoyan, in an interview he gave to Indian journalists on his visit to India, when asked why it was not abolished before, said the conditions for eliminating the cult did not exist previously in the U.S.S.R.
In addition to the damage that was done to the initiative of the masses and the Party in the making of one-sided and erroneous decisions, Comrade Stalin’s errors, it is clear from the material, arose also from certain erroneous theories that he had developed. He had propounded and acted upon several of these incorrect theories.
One of these theories which it seems to me, from studying the material, led to the most grievous results was that the greater the strength of socialism, the more splendid its achievements, then the fiercer and more intense became the class struggle – his theory of the intensification of the class struggle under socialism.
Stalin brought forward this theory at a plenary session of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. His report was in “Inprecorr,” on May 1, 1937. which was the period of the intense struggle against the Trotskyists and the liquidation of the Trotskyist saboteurs.
In this report Stalin went to great pains to say the Party had all been asleep and all the leading functionaries had not detected traitors working alongside them; he argued that a wrecker might work well for a long time and do good work only to promote further wrecking, and denounced the saboteurs in most fierce terms. Stalin laid down a number of propositions which, taken together, constitute his theory of the intensification of the class struggle under socialism.
This had no relation to what Lenin had to say about the situation that immediately follows the taking over of power by the working class.
When the Bolsheviks seized power amidst all sorts of savage terrorist actions, sabotage by the overthrown ruling class, Lenin said that after the seizure of power the capitalist class, the old ruling class, became more frenzied and frantic, became mad with rage and hate, and resorted to the most violent and terrible means of class struggle against the working class. That, of course, undoubtedly is true.
But Lenin did not say that 20 years after the revolution or 30 years after the revolution, or nearly 40 years after the revolution as it is now, when these class enemies of the capitalist class have been deprived of economic and political power and have no mass following of any kind, this would still apply. It was in such conditions that Stalin advanced his theory, and, as was pointed out at the 20th Congress, it created on all sides an atmosphere of mistrust and of suspicion, and led to the organs of State security, the various police organisations, being placed outside control by the Party and its Central Committee. As a consequence of this, violations of Soviet law took place.
In dealing with this question amongst the masses and our friends, we must pay special attention to the evil role of Beria, who has been punished for his crime together with his followers, by being executed.
We do not know the facts and circumstances and we do not know the content of Khrushchov’s disclosures to the 20th Congress, and consequently we are not aware of all the details. All that we know is that according to the main speakers at the 20th Congress there were serious violations of Socialist law which also were aided by some false conceptions on the part of Vishinsky, who was the chief authority on Soviet law at that time.
What were some of the violations of Soviet law? The Leningrad case was referred to. It appears that some of the leaders of the Leningrad Party organisation had put forward proposals that Leningrad should be made the capital of the R.S.F.S.R. and Moscow should be the Union capital. They apparently were regarded as being enemies and were in the process of being framed-up by Beria, but it seems they have been exonerated and released.
Then came the indictment of the twelve doctors, who were mostly of Jewish extraction. They were exonerated after examination of their cases after Stalin’s death and it was clearly shown that they were victims of frame-up by Beria.
These are a few of the things that one must conclude were the outcome of Stalin’s excessive vigilance against the possibilities of counter-revolution.
Unfortunately, the cult of the individual and the false theory of intensifying class struggle under socialism were carried into the people’s democracies, with harmful results. There has subsequently been exoneration from guilt of Rajk in Hungary and Kostov in Bulgaria, who had been executed, and also the exoneration of those who were framed-up by Beria along with them.
There is no doubt that the traitor Beria, utilising Stalin’s incorrect theory and the atmosphere of suspicion and distrust, organised these frame-ups, and as Khrushchov indicated, this evil creature could only have penetrated to high positions and control of the security forces on the basis of the cult of the individual and the situation thereby created.
According to the Chinese Party statements, Stalin’s theory of intensifying class struggle and incorrect approach to relations with other countries were at the root of the catastrophic breach of relations with Yugoslavia.
It is also clear from the material, while not explicitly stated, that Stalin made a number of other errors in international relations. For example, Khrushchov pointed out that there had been mistakes in Soviet policy towards Turkey, and there cannot be any doubt that these and other errors flowing from Stalin’s one-man rule aided the imperialists in promoting their cold war.
The Chinese material further indicated that Stalin’s theory of the main blow – that is that the main blow must be dealt at the middle elements, at the social democrats and others in order to isolate the main enemy – had caused their Party to make serious mistakes in practice. Experience proved it was not correct under all circumstances to aim the main blow at the middle elements.
It was correct in 1917, when Lenin and the Bolsheviks, in order to save the revolution from being overwhelmed by the White Guard elements overthrew the government of Kerensky, the socialist revolutionaries and the Mensheviks – that is, the middle forces. But that is a particular historical situation that may or may not occur again.
But to turn it into a principle as Stalin did was wrong.
Looking at this “theory” now in the light of our new knowledge, what seems important?
The existence of sectarianism; the fact that we have al ways denounced sectarianism in all the Communist Parties and that we tried in every way to get unity with the other forces, the other sections of the working-class movement, but it is clear now that we ourselves were hobbled all the time by this theory that they were the people who had to he destroyed, the leaders of the Labour Parties and the social democrats. As a consequence, there were all the epithets that were hurled at them not only by us but by the Soviet Communists and others, and it is quite likely that the main basis of all of this was precisely this theory of the main blow.
One of the things criticised at the 20th Congress was the perversion of history that took place, as well as distortions in the fields of culture and art, in consequence of the cult of the individual.
One such perversion was that in Soviet historical works the Mensheviks were depicted as having upheld the Tsarist regime, that what they had been fighting for was to maintain Tsarism, which was entirely incorrect. They wanted the overthrow of Tsarism, but what they had in mind was a bourgeois democratic republic. And to say they were upholders and supporters of Tsarism, as was apparently said in Soviet historical works, was entirely incorrect.
There were also distortions in political economy. Mikoyan attacked Stalin’s statement in “Economic Problems of Socialism” with regard to no possibility of further technical progress under capitalism. It is quite clear that, in spite of the general crisis, economic trends show that capitalism is still making progress, however slowly, production is still expanding under capitalism, capitalists are introducing however slowly and painfully, atomic energy for peaceful purposes, are introducing automation and so on. That is quite clear, and it is quite obvious that what Mikoyan said about it is perfectly true and confirmed by our own experience.
Our Central Committee, about the middle of last year, concluded that capitalism had not reached a dead-end in Australia, contrary to what Stalin had said. Similarly with regard to the main blow. In our practice we consciously ignored the main blow being dealt at the middle sections.
If we had been really “main-blow experts,” how could we have possibly supported the Cahill Government, a Groupers’ Government? We supported it on the ground that we wanted to prevent the extension and growth of the power of the main enemy, that is, of the Menzies Government, the representative of monopoly capitalism.
In our practice, in our whole demand for the overthrow or the ending of the Menzies Government and its replacement by the middle elements, the Labour Party, we had to throw overboard Stalin’s theory of the main blow. There is no question about that.
The cult of the individual went down through all of the Parties, the Parties in the socialist sector of the world and in the capitalist countries as well, there cannot he any doubt about that aspect of it.
And we know that there were tendencies towards it in our Party in regard to Comrades Miles, Sharkey and Dixon, and an attempt, especially by those who returned from overseas, to build it up. The idea was created, flowing from Stalin and his cult, that the workers had to have leaders in whom they could have confidence. Presumably that was Stalin’s own excuse for the cult of the individual. But it never grew to any proportions amongst us in that particular sense of the term, neither with those who became the object of it nor the Party membership; it was rather alien to the Australian outlook for one thing, and consequently it did not gain much currency. However, in other respects it did, which was, of course, harmful.
What it meant by collective leadership? It is collective leadership by the elected Party organs, that is, the collective leadership that now exists in the Soviet Union, Where the main general guiding collective leadership of the Party is the Central Committee.
It is stated now that it is the task of the Presidium of the Central Committee to keep in its line of vision all of the major problems that face the Soviet Union, both domestic and foreign, which, of course, was not the case before.
The fact that under the Stalin regime Party Congresses did not take place regularly in the Soviet Union and the Central Committee met irregularly has been referred to.
However, it is a fact with us that the Party Congresses have always been held in accordance with the time period laid down in the Party Constitution; the Central Committee has always met three times a year as laid down by the Party Constitution and no important decision has ever been made which was not referred to the Political Committee or the Central Committee; no important policy was ever embarked upon without being first of all discussed by these bodies or by the Party Congress itself.
There have been no examples of any major policy points being pushed through by anybody in the leadership of the Party without consultation. If there was any attempt by anyone to go forward on some individual policy it was very soon checked by the Central Committee or other organs, so that on the whole we have had in the main, not on the highest of levels probably, but we have had collective leadership in our Party.
The cult of the individual did undoubtedly build up the authority of certain people and in a whole number of affairs, daily affairs, what was said by the general secretary or by the secretary of some other Party committee was accepted without question, and if the Party members had any doubts apparently the cult of the individual was of such a character that they did not put forward their view. That did take place. It was discussed recently by the Political Committee that very often our methods of presenting policy to the Party organisations or the masses were very rigid and dogmatic There was insufficient attempt to use methods of persuasion in order to get conviction, rather than laying down the law to the Party members.
Such a method does not encourage initiative, and is of course, one of the forms of the cult of the individual that was referred to in the Soviet Union as talmudism, laying down the law which nobody must question. Even if the comrades are wrong, they must be encouraged to express their views. If they are wrong they must be corrected, but it is a question of how they are corrected. Sometimes they are corrected by hurling a whole pack of epithets at them, which savours of the cult of the individual characteristic of the Stalin era.
In our discussion some of the organisational forms of the Party should be examined, their functioning does seem to stifle criticism and self-criticism and hinder the initiative of the Party membership.
These are some of the ways in which our Party has been affected by the cult of the individual, and we have to get rid of these remnants, without a doubt.
The destruction of the cult of the individual and making it impossible for it to revive; the restoration of collective leadership; the strict adherence to socialist law; the better and more brilliant conduct of foreign policy on the basis of Marxist-Leninist principle – all these things, which have marked the record of the new leadership in the Soviet Union and of its great work at the 20th Congress, assure a more rapid growth of socialist ideas throughout the entire world.
The ending of the cult of the individual, of one-man one-sided decisions and the great harm it did to our cause, has created far more favourable conditions for the growth of the Communist Parties in the capitalist world.
(Tribune, July 25, 1956)
In response to a request from Comrade Togliatti and several Communist Parties for a further explanation of how it became possible for the cult of the individual to develop in the Soviet Socialist Society, the Central Committee of the CPSU has given an exhaustive analysis of the factors which made this possible. (Tribune 18/7/56.)
We regard this as a thoroughly Marxist document which gives a satisfactory explanation of the objective and subjective factors which led to the cult of the individual.
It indicates how impossible it was in the existing conditions to restore collective leadership and put an end to arbitrary decisions.
It shows how basic Soviet democracy was maintained, the Nazi hordes were defeated and Soviet economy advanced at a rate impossible to even the most advanced capitalist countries in spite of the serious weaknesses resulting from the cult of the individual.
It clearly indicates the basic health of Soviet society and the great vitality of socialism.
The Political Committee, therefore, accepts this document as basic Marxist analysis of the situation which arose in the past period in the USSR and recommends a close study of, and discussion of its content, throughout all Party organisations.
We desire to make further comments and to draw the lessons for our Party from the experiences of the cult of the individual both in the Soviet Union and other countries besides those already made by the Central Committee (Tribune, 30/5/56 and 20/6/56).
We welcomed the struggle waged by the Soviet comrades to eradicate the last remnants of the anti-Marxist “cult of the individual” from the Party and the working class of the Soviet Union.
This destruction of the “cult” opens up the way to a new tremendous upsurge of the initiative of the Communist Party and of the Soviet people.
The destruction of the alien cult of the individual likewise lays the base for a new flowering of socialist democracy, the upbuilding of that proletarian type democracy, described by Lenin as a million times more democratic than the most advanced bourgeois republic.
The courageous self-criticism made by the 20th Congress CPSU, the laying bare of the evils that followed in the wake of the cult of the individual, as promoted and practised by J. V. Stalin, especially in the latter part of his life, has immense value for the international working-class movement.
For the harmful effects of Stalin’s theory of the sharpening of the class struggle as socialism grows stronger, the ideology of the cult of the individual and the criminal activities of Beria also had the most harmful effects in some of the People’s Democracies as well, as the re-examination of a number of trials and the clearing of the names of Rajk, Kostov and others clearly indicates.
The ending of the cult of the individual, the restoration of respect for socialist law, the ending of Beria’s foul conspiracies, all of this will lay the foundation of a similar flowering of proletarian, socialist democracy in the countries of People’s Democracy as well.
The violations of Soviet law and democracy on the part of J. V. Stalin together with the evil machinations of the treacherous Beria and his band of traitors, who flourished in the atmosphere promoted by the “cult,” greatly hampered the work of the Communist Parties, particularly those in the capitalist countries, in uniting and winning the masses for the glorious cause of socialism and communism.
Now that this cancer on the healthy, vigorous body of Soviet Socialist Society has been removed, when Beria and his evil band have been fittingly dealt with by Soviet Justice, now that the Processes of socialist law, as visualised by the great Lenin, are being fully restored, the propaganda bogey of the enemies of socialism and of the warmongers to the effect that the Soviet Union is a “police state” falls to the ground.
That is of cardinal importance not only for the Soviet Union, but for the international revolutionary labour movement as a whole.
Socialist democracy is the form of government by the immense majority of society, of the worker and peasant alliance, of the intelligentsia, of all toilers by hand and brain.
It is the genuine rule by the people for the people.
When communism has been reached, when capitalist encirclement with its attendant threat of a new world war has been finally ended, then the State withers away and the “kingdom of freedom” will at last be reached, then the government of persons gives way to the administration of things.
Such is the glorious perspective of freedom and the fullest development of each individual which can only be realised in communist society.
The struggle of the labour movement has forced capitalism to concede a number of democratic rights valuable to the workers in their struggle for improved conditions and socialism.
Australian workers have a long and proud tradition of struggle for democratic rights. They have won many gains.
However, these struggles must continue for, in the last analysis, capitalist or bourgeois democracy remains a facade for the dictatorship of the exploiting minority, in our day, of the biggest monopolies.
When the capitalist ideologists rant about democracy, in reality they mean their right to own the means of production and continue their exploitation of the working people, the piling up of fabulous profits.
Socialist democracy ends the exploitation of man by man and establishes classless society.
That is why, despite violations of socialist democracy, as a consequence of the cult of the individual, the USSR remained basically infinitely more democratic than any capitalist country.
The development of the cult of the individual resulted in the abrogation of the standards of Party life in the CPSU, which had been established by V. I. Lenin.
Lenin was the founder of the Communist Party and worked out in detail the organisation and methods of leadership appropriate to the vanguard party of the working class.
The basic features of Lenin’s plan of Party organisation include collective leadership, democratic centralism, criticism and self-criticism, election of all officials, and discussion of party policy by the party membership.
J. V. Stalin, as we now know, for some 20 years disregarded these principles.
Instead, he placed himself above the Party and made many important decisions himself.
The Party Congress was not called for 13 years and the Central Committee met infrequently.
Stalin placed himself beyond the criticism and control of the Party and its elected organs.
That is how it came about that there were arbitrary actions against many people and serious violations of Soviet law.
Mistakes of the gravest character were made, including lack of preparations to meet the Nazi onslaught, serious weaknesses and lagging behind in agriculture, which are now being remedied, and mistakes in regard to foreign policy which no doubt assisted the Western imperialists in promoting their cold way policies.
In this connection there is the outstanding example of the breach of relations with the Yugoslav People’s Republic. There is no question here that whatever mistakes or weaknesses Stalin may have considered existed in Yugoslavia, there were none that could not have been overcome by comradely discussion as between Communist Parties.
It is clear enough that Stalin acted in an impermissibly arbitrary fashion and set out to overthrow the leadership of the Yugoslav Party.
A campaign was unleashed against the Yugoslav Party to justify it and also to mislead the Communist Parties throughout the world as to the real state of affairs in Yugoslavia.
This breach did grave harm to the Communist movement and was utilised, as much as possible, for their own nefarious ends by the warmongers, to the detriment of both the Soviet and Yugoslav peoples.
Our Party, in common with the other Communist Parties, was misled into taking sides against the Yugoslavs.
We, of course, were unaware of the role being played by Stalin, of the absence of collective leadership, nor could we know of the treachery of Beria.
This episode, now happily overcome by the energetic measures taken by the CPSU, including the exposure of the cult of the individual indicates the dangers inherent in the great man theory, of arbitrariness and swollen-headedness on the part of individual Communists and the need for collective leadership, the free interchange of opinion and the development of criticism and self-criticism.
Such are the lessons we must learn from the experience of the Soviet Communist Party in regard to the principle of collective leadership.
Freedom to criticise does not mean factionalism can be tolerated.
Nor does it mean freedom to propagate anti-Party or disruptive views through the Party or through its press.
Collective leadership does not mean that democratic centralism can be flouted, that is that the authority of leading party organs and their decisions can be ignored.
Lenin’s principles of Party organisation must be upheld if we are to remain a truly democratic revolutionary party, the vanguard of the exploited masses.
Another aspect of the question of leadership is the role of outstanding comrades.
We have comrades with outstanding talents and much experience.
Naturally, they wield considerable influence in the counsels of the Party.
Is this in itself a bad thing?
No, we need as many outstanding comrades with theoretical and practical talent as possible.
Marx, Engels and Lenin in their time wielded extraordinary authority.
But they vigorously suppressed any hero-worship and caustically denounced the “cult of the individual” with regard to themselves.
On the other hand, Stalin, an outstanding personality and one of the strongest Marxists, abused the popularity and prestige which he won in the leadership of the struggle of the Soviet working class for socialism.
Stalin misused this prestige for his own self-glorification.
In an arbitrary way he flouted the principles of party leadership laid down by Lenin and Marx’s teaching in regard to the role of the masses in history.
Lenin enjoyed even greater authority but never misused it, and saw the supreme wisdom of the Party in collective leadership and discussion.
The lesson for us is that we must in the future, as in the past, assure the proper and regular functioning of the Party organs, of the Party Congress, of the Central Committee, of all democratically elected Party organs and assure opportunities for the Party membership to discuss and criticise policies and exercise proper control over all party leadership.
The’ utmost use of and encouragement of criticism and self-criticism is essential to the progress of the Party and the advance to Socialism.
This criticism should at all times be balanced and constructive.
Vigilance should he maintained to ensure that capitalist agents do not misuse the right of criticism and self-criticism to cause disruption.
However, while maintaining such vigilance, great care should be taken not to condemn genuine, honest dissenting views along with conscious, dishonest disruption.
Such dogmatic attitudes in the past have led to errors in treatment of Party members.
The need to avoid such errors in future work emerges as one of the lessons of the cult of the individual.
The Party is aware that misunderstanding did develop in this period.
No doubt there were difficulties.
In this changed situation there may be some who feel they can now re-align themselves with the Party.
They will find themselves most welcome in the continuing struggle for peace and Socialism.
The question has been raised of international discussion of major theoretical and political problems among the Communist parties.
We are in favor of this.
We believe now that a main obstacle to this, the arbitrary methods of the period of the “cult,” has passed into history.
Today, the Communist parties outside the USSR have become stronger and more mature.
Frank exchange of opinion is necessary and of great importance for the further development of international communism.
The agreement reached between the Soviet and Yugoslav Communists for regular comradely discussion between the Communist parties of the two countries is a good beginning.
The defence of the Soviet Union and of the People’s Democracies against the lies and slanders of the class enemies and
the popularisation of their historic economic, social and cultural achievements remains a prime task of all Communists and progressives.
It is a task dictated by the great principle of proletarian internationalism.
Our party has at all times defended the Soviet Union against the attacks of the enemies of socialism and all the agents of capitalism.
Sometimes we have handled the popularisation of Soviet achievements in an unskilful fashion, dogmatically, our propagandists have often overdone it and tended to repulse the workers.
Making known the socialist achievements of the USSR is an important factor in convincing the masses of the superiority of socialism over capitalism.
Our Party fully supports the Soviet Union’s peaceful policy, it fights for peaceful co-existence, for the outlawing of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction as does the Soviet Union.
We congratulate the present leaders of the Soviet Union on their brilliant efforts on behalf of the relaxation of international tensions in the past couple of years.
The enemies of the Soviet Union had hoped to use the revelations connected with the struggle against the cult of the individual to discredit the Soviet Union in the eyes of the militant workers of the world.
But the workers know of the magnificent perspectives opened up by the Five Year Plan endorsed by the 20th Congress.
Industrial output in the USSR which is more than double that of 1940 will increase by no less than 65 per cent by 1960.
Hours of labour will be shortened and wages, pensions and social amenities will be steeply increased.
The 20th Congress set the goal of outstripping the most advanced capitalist countries in a brief period.
All of this is taking place at a time when moribund capitalism is sinking into evermore profound crisis.
The enemies of socialism had hoped to utilise the excesses that occurred during the period of the cult to cause a split between the Communist parties in the capitalist world and the Soviet Union.
They hoped to create confusion and cause the disintegration of the Communist parties.
They speculated about the supposed “crisis of world Communism.”
The imperialists organised the Poznan provocation in order to further their nefarious schemes.
Already they are beginning to express gloom and disappointment because the “crisis” has failed to materialise.
On the contrary, the Communists regard the exposure of the cult of the individual as a great step forward, as a new victory for Marxist-Leninist principles.
Socialism, now a world system embracing one-third of the world’s people, offers the only real solution to Australia’s problems.
Therefore, the Political Committee calls upon all Party members, all supporters of Socialism, of Peace and Progress, to rebuff the enemy, to close the ranks. build greater unity and march hand in hand with the militants of all lands to new achievements, to still greater victories.
(Communist Review, July, 1956)
(The following article, entitled “On Historical Experience Concerning the Dictatorship of the Proletariat”, is based on the discussions of the enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and presented by the editorial department of the People’s Daily.)
The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union summed up the new experience gained in both international relations and construction within the Soviet Union It made a series of vital decisions, including steadfast adherence to Lenin’s policy of the possibility of peaceful coexistence between countries of different social systems, the development of the Soviet system of democracy, thorough observance of the principle of collective leadership in the Party, criticism of shortcomings within the Party and the adoption of the Sixth Five-Year Plan for the development of the national economy.
The question of combating the cult of the individual occupied an important position in the C.P.S.U. 20th Congress. In a very sharp fashion, the Congress exposed the long existence of the cult of the individual, which had caused errors in work
and had effects on Soviet life. This courageous self-criticism by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of its past errors demonstrated the highly principled character of inner-Party life and the great vitality of Marxism-Leninism.
No governing political party or bloc in the service of the exploiting classes in history has ever dared or in contemporary capitalist States dares today expose its serious errors conscientiously before the mass of its own members and the people. Entirely different is the political party of the working class. The political party of the working class serves the broad mass of the people. Such a political party loses nothing by self-criticism of its errors, and, instead, gains the support of the broad mass of people.
During the past month and more, reactionaries throughout the world have been crowing happily about the Soviet Party’s self-criticism of the cult of the individual. They say: Good! Just look, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the first to establish a socialist state, committed serious errors and, what is more, it was J. V. Stalin, a greatly famed and honoured leader, who committed them. The reactionaries think they have something that can discredit the Communist Parties in the Soviet Union and other countries. But their efforts will finally prove futile. Which leading Marxist ever said in his writing that we could never commit mistakes? Is it not because we Marxist-Leninists always deny that there can be any “ miracle worker” who could not commit major or minor errors that we Communists use criticism and self-criticism in our inner-Party life? Would it be conceivable for the first socialist State in history to practise the dictatorship of the proletariat without committing errors of this or that sort?
Lenin said in October, 1921: “Let the curs and swine of the moribund bourgeoisie and the petty-bourgeois democrats who trail behind it heap imprecations, abuse and derision upon our heads for our reverses and mistakes in the work of building up our Soviet system. We do not forget for a moment that we have committed and are committing numerous mistakes and are suffering numerous reverses. How can reverses and mistakes be avoided in a matter so new in the history of the world as the erection of a State edifice of an unprecedented type? We shall struggle unremittingly to set our reverses and mistakes right and to improve our practical application of Soviet principles which is still very, very far from perfect.”
It is also inconceivable that certain mistakes made earlier preclude the possibility of certain other mistakes later or even of repetition of past mistakes to a greater or lesser extent.
Since its division into different classes with different interests, human society has witnessed the dictatorship of the slave-owners, of the feudal lords and of the bourgeoisie for several thousand years; only since the victory of the October revolution has mankind begun to see the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The first three forms of dictatorship are dictatorship by exploiting classes, though dictatorship by the feudal lords is somewhat more progressive than that of the slave-owners, and by the bourgeoisie somewhat more progressive than that of the feudal lords. These exploiting classes, which played a more or less progressive role in the history of social development, accumulated experience in ruling only by making many historical mistakes over considerable periods and by repeating these again and again; nevertheless, with the sharpening of the contradiction between the relations of production which they represented and the productive forces they inevitably committed still more and greater mistakes, provoking large-scale resistance by the oppressed classes and the internal disintegration within their ranks that eventually brought about their destruction.
The dictatorship of the proletariat is entirely different in nature from any of the previous forms of dictatorship by the exploiting classes. The dictatorship of the proletariat is the dictatorship of the exploited class, a dictatorship of the majority over the minority, to create a socialist society in which there is no exploitation and poverty. It is the most progressive and the final dictatorship in history. But, since this dictatorship undertakes the greatest and the most difficult task and faces the most complicated struggle with the most diversified turns and twists in history, many mistakes in work cannot but occur, as Lenin said. If some Communists indulge in self-exaltation and self-complacency and develop a rigidity of outlook, then they may even repeat their own or others’ mistakes.
We Communists must bear this in mind fully. To defeat the powerful enemy, the dictatorship of the proletariat must have highly centralised power which must be combined with a high level of democracy. When the system of centralisation is emphasised one-sidedly, many mistakes will occur. This is quite understandable. But whatever the mistakes, for the popular masses the system of the dictatorship of the proletariat is always far superior to all the systems of the dictatorship of the exploiting classes, to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Lenin was correct in saying: “If our enemies reproach us and say that Lenin himself admits that the Bolsheviks have done a host of foolish things, I want to reply by saying: Yes, but do you know that the foolish things we have done are entirely different from those you have done?” The exploiting classes, out for plunder, all hope to perpetuate their dictatorship, to sustain their rule to the end of time, and employ every possible means to grind down the people. Their mistakes could not and cannot be overcome. On the other hand, the proletariat, with its goal the material and spiritual emancipation of the people, uses its dictatorship to achieve communism and bring about harmony and equality among mankind and will allow its dictatorship to wither away gradually. Therefore, it does its utmost to enable the popular masses to develop their initiative and play a positive role. Since the initiative and the positive role of the popular masses can be developed without limit under the dictatorship of the proletariat it is possible to correct all mistakes committed during the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Leaders of Communist Parties and socialist States have the duty to do their utmost to reduce errors, avoid certain serious ones, endeavour to learn lessons from particular errors or those of limited duration or effect and make every effort to prevent these from developing into errors that affect the whole country or last a long period. To do this, every leader must be most modest and circumspect, keep close to the masses, consult them in all matters, go into the realities over and over again and make constant criticism and self-criticism appropriate to the situation and degree. Because of his failure to do precisely this, Stalin made certain serious mistakes in his work, in the latter part of his life, as a top leader of the Party and the State. He became conceited and not circumspect. His thinking was subjective and one-sided and he made erroneous decisions on certain important questions, bringing about serious, harmful consequences.
With the victory of the great October Socialist Revolution, the Soviet people and Communist Party, under the leadership of Lenin, founded the first socialist State on one-sixth of the earth. The Soviet Union speedily carried out socialist industrialisation and agricultural collectivisation, developed socialist science and culture, and built a solid union of many nationalities in the form of the U.S.S.R. and formerly backward nationalities in the Soviet Union became socialist. During the second world war, the Soviet Union was the main force in defeating the fascists, saved European civilisation, and helped the people in the Fast to defeat Japanese militarism. All these glorious achievements indicated to humanity the bright future of socialism and communism, seriously shaking the rule of imperialism and making the Soviet Union the primary bulwark in the world struggle for lasting peace. The Soviet Union encouraged and supported the construction of all other socialist countries. It inspired the world socialist movement, the anti-colonisation movement and all the movements for the progress of mankind. These are all great historic achievements of the Soviet people and the Soviet Communist Party. The man who showed the Soviet people and Communist Party the way to these great achievements was Lenin. In the struggle to carry out Lenin’s principles achievements have been made under the vigorous leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and among these are the indelible achievements of Stalin.
After Lenin’s death, Stalin, as the chief leader of the Party and the State, creatively applied and developed Marxism-Leninism: in the struggle to defend the legacy of Leninism against the enemies of Leninism – the Trotskyites, Zinovievites and other bourgeois agents – Stalin expressed the will and wishes of the people and proved himself an outstanding champion of Marxism-Leninism. Stalin won the support of the Soviet people and played an important historic role first of all because, together with the other leaders of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, he defended Lenin’s line on industrialisation and agricultural collectivisation of the Soviet State. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union, in carrying out this line, brought the triumph of socialism in the Soviet Union and created conditions for victory by the Soviet Union in its war against Hitler.
All these victories of the Soviet people conformed to the interests of the working class of the world and all progressive mankind. Therefore, at the same time the name of Stalin enjoyed high honour throughout the world. However, after Stalin had won high prestige among the people, both within and outside the Soviet Union, by his correct application of the Leninist line, he indulged in inordinate exaltation of his own role and posed his individual authority against collective leadership. The result was a contradiction between certain of his actions and fundamental Marxist-Leninist points of view that he himself had disseminated. On the one hand, there was recognition of the masses of the people as the makers of history and the necessity for the Party to maintain permanent contact with the people and develop inner-Party democracy and self-criticism and criticism from the lower levels upward. On the other hand, the cult of the individual was tolerated and encouraged and arbitrary individual decisions made. This led to a contradiction between Stalin’s theory and practice on this question during the latter part of his life.
Marxism-Leninism acknowledges that leaders play an important role in history. The people and their party need outstanding personalities who can represent the interests and will of the people and stand in the forefront of the historic struggle to lead them. To deny the role of the individual, the role of vanguards and leaders, is completely wrong. But when any leader of the party or the State places himself over and above ,the Party and the masses instead of among them, when he alienates himself from the masses, he loses overall, penetrating insight into the affairs of the country. In such circumstances, even so outstanding a man as Stalin inevitably made unrealistic and wrong decisions on certain important matters. Stalin failed to draw the lessons from particular, local and temporary mistakes on certain issues and so failed to prevent them from becoming serious errors involving the whole nation over a long period of time. During the latter part of his life, Stalin more and more indulged in the cult of the individual in violation of the Party’s system of democratic centralism and the system of combining collective leadership with individual responsibility. As a result, he made some important mistakes, like the following for example: Carried the problem of eliminating counter-revolutionaries to excess, showed lack of necessary vigilance on the eve of the anti-fascist war, failed to pay proper attention to the further development of agriculture and the material welfare of the peasantry, advocated certain erroneous lines in the international communist movement, especially on the question of Yugoslavia. On these issues, Stalin was subjective and one-sided, and divorced himself from objective circumstances and the masses.
The cult of the individual is a putrid carry-over from the long history of mankind. The cult of the individual has its roots, not only in the exploiting class, but also in the small producers. It is recognised that paternalism is a product of the small-producer economy. After the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, even when the class of exploiters is eliminated, the small-producer economy is replaced by a collective economy and socialist society founded; certain rotten, poisonous ideological remnants from the old society may still remain in the minds of the people for a very long period.
“The force of habit of millions and tens of millions is a most terrible force” (Lenin). The cult of the individual is also a force of habit of millions and tens of millions. Since this force of habit still exists in society, it can influence many government functionaries, and even such a leader as Stalin was no exception. The cult of the individual is a reflection in the minds of people of a social phenomenon, and when such a Party and State leader as Stalin is also influenced by this back. ward ideology, it reacts on society, bringing losses to the cause and hampering the initiative and creativeness of the mass of the people.
Contradictions and conflicts increased between the developing productive forces and economic and political systems of socialism on the other hand. The struggle against the cult of the individual which was launched during the 20th Soviet Party Congress is a great and courageous fight by the members of the Communist Party and the people of the Soviet Union to clear away ideological obstacles in the way of their advance.
It is naive to assume that contradictions can no longer exist in a socialist society. To deny the existence of contradictions is to deny dialectics. The contradictions in various societies differ in character as do the forms of their solution. But society develops at all times amidst continual contradictions. Socialist society also develops amidst contradictions between the productive forces and the relations of production. In a socialist or communist society, technical innovations and changes in the social system will continue to take place. Other. wise the development of society would come to a standstill and society could no longer advance. Humanity is still in its youth. The road it will yet traverse will be longer by no one knows how many times than the road it has already travelled. Contradictions, such as between progress and conservatism, advance and backwardness, positive and negative, will constantly arise under varying conditions and different circumstances. Things will go like this: one contradiction will lead to another; and when old contradictions are solved, new ones will arise.
Some people maintain that the contradiction between idealism and materialism can be eliminated in a socialist or a communist society. It is clear that this view is incorrect. So long as contradictions exist between the subjective and the objective, between the advanced and the backward, and between the productive forces and the relations of production, contradictions will continue between idealism and materialism in a socialist or communist society and will manifest themselves in various forms. Since people live in society, they reflect in different circumstances and to varying degrees the contradiction existing in each form of society. Even in a communist society not everybody will necessarily be perfect, since people will still have contradictions within themselves. There will still be good people and bad, people with comparatively correct thinking and others with comparatively incorrect thinking. There will still be struggle between people, but its nature and form will be different from those in class society.
Viewed in this light, the existence of contradictions between the individual and the collective in a socialist society is nothing strange. Any leader of the Party or State will inevitably become rigid in his thinking, and consequently make grave mistakes if he isolates himself from collective leadership, from the masses of the people and from real life. We must be vigilant against the possibility that some people, who obtain the high confidence of the masses because of the many achievements in the Work of the Party or the State, may use this confidence to abuse their authority and make mistakes.
The Chinese Communist Party congratulates the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on its important achievements in the historic struggle against the cult of the individual. The experience of the Chinese revolution, too, testifies to the fact that only by relying on the wisdom of the masses of the people, on democratic centralism and on the system of combining collective leadership with individual responsibility can our Party obtain great victories and achievements in times of revolution and in times of national construction. The Chinese Communist Party has waged continuous struggle in the revolutionary ranks against elevating the individual above the masses, and against individual heroism. The elevation of the individual above the masses and individual heroism will undoubtedly exist for a long period. Even when overcome, they re-emerge sometimes in one person, sometimes in another. When attention is centred on the role of the individual the role of the masses and the collective is often ignored. That is why some people easily fall into the mistake of vain-glory or superstitious faith in themselves or blind worship of others. We must, therefore, give unremitting attention to opposing the elevating of the individual above the masses, individual heroism and the cult of the individual.
To counter subjectivism in the method of leadership, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China issued a decision in June, 1943, on methods of leadership. In discussing the question of collective leadership in the Party, it is still useful for all members of the Chinese Communist Party and its leaders to refer back to this decision, which declared: “In all practical work of our Party, correct leadership can only he developed on the principle of ‘from the masses, to the masses’. This means summing up (i.e., co-ordinating and systematising after careful study) the views of the masses (i.e., scattered and unsystematic views), then taking the resulting ideas back to the masses, explaining and popularising them, until the masses embrace the ideas as their own, stand up for them, and translate them into action and through action of the masses their correctness is tested; then once more summing up the views of the masses and once again taking the resulting ideas back to the masses for their wholehearted support . . . and so on, over and over again, so that each time these ideas emerge with greater correctness and become more vital and meaningful. This is what the Marxist theory of knowledge teaches us.”
For a long time, this method of leadership has been described in our Party by the popular name of the “mass line.” The whole history of our work teaches us that wherever this line is followed, the work is always good, or comparatively good, and even if there are mistakes they are easy to rectify; and whenever this line is not followed, the work is marred by setbacks. This is the Marxist-Leninist method of leadership, the Marxist-Leninist line of work. After the victory of the revolution, when the working class and the Communist Party have become the leading class and party in the State, there is the great danger that leading personnel of the Party and State, attacked by bureaucratism from many sides, may use the organs of State to take arbitrary action, alienate themselves from the masses and collective leadership, practise commandism in violation of Party and State democracy. Therefore, we must give fuller attention to using the mass-line method of leadership, rather than neglecting it even to the slightest extent, if we do not want to be dragged down in such quicksand.
Definite systems have, therefore, to be set up to guarantee the thorough carrying out of the mass line and collective leadership. so as to prevent the elevation of the individual above the masses and individual heroism, which means divorce from the masses, and reduce to a minimum subjectivism and one-sidedness in our work which represent a departure from reality.
We must also learn from the struggle of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union against the cult of the individual by fighting dogmatism.
The working class and other sections of the people, guided by Marxism-Leninism, won the revolution and achieved State power. The victory of the revolution and the establishment of the revolutionary regime have opened boundless vistas for the development of Marxism-Leninism. Yet because Marxism is seen by all as the guiding ideology in the country since the victory of the revolution, quite a number of our propagandists, usually relying on the administrative power and the prestige of the Party, disseminate Marxism-Leninism to the masses as dogma, instead of working hard, marshalling plenty of facts, using Marxist-Leninist methods of analysis and the language of the people to explain convincingly the unity of the universal truths of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete situation in China.
Over some years, we have made some advances in research in philosophy, economics, history and literary criticism, but, generally speaking, there are many unhealthy phenomena, many of our research workers still have the dogmatic habit, thinking by rote, lacking independence of mind and the spirit of creating, and in certain respects are influenced by the individual worship of Stalin. It should be pointed out that the works of Stalin will still, as hitherto, he studied seriously. All that is of benefit in his works, especially much of his writing in the defence of Leninism and in correctly summarising Soviet experience in construction, we should take as an important historical legacy. To do otherwise would be a mistake. But there are two methods of studying them, the Marxist method and the method of dogmatism. Some people treat the works of Stalin dogmatically, with the result that many cannot analyse what is correct and what is incorrect, and even what is correct they take as a panacea and apply indiscriminately. Inevitably they make mistakes.
For instance, Stalin presented a formula that, in different revolutionary periods, the direction of the main blow was to isolate the middle-of-the-road social and political forces of the period. We must examine this formula of Stalin’s according to circumstances from a critical Marxist point of view. In certain circumstances it can be correct to isolate the middle-of-the-road forces, but it is not always correct to isolate them in all circumstances. According to our experience, the direction of the main blow in the revolution should be towards the major enemy and his isolation. To the middle-of-the-road forces, we should adopt the policy of both uniting with them and struggling against them, at least to neutralise them, making efforts, when circumstances permit, to change them from a position of neutrality to one of alliance with us, in order to help the development of the revolution. But there was a period (the 10 years of civil war from 192 7 to 1936) in which some of our comrades crudely applied this formula of Stalin’s to China’s revolution by directing the main blow at the middle-of-the-road forces, describing them as the most dangerous enemy. The result was instead of isolating the real enemy we isolated ourselves and inflicted losses on ourselves while benefiting the real enemy.
With this dogmatic error in mind, in order to defeat the Japanese aggressors, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China during the years of the anti-Japanese war put forward the principle of “developing the progressive forces, winning over the middle-of-the-road forces and opposing diehard forces.” The progressive forces referred to here were the forces of workers, peasants, and revolutionary intellectuals led by or capable of being influenced by the Communist Party. The middle-of-the-road forces were the national bourgeoisie, all democratic parties and groups and non-Party democrats. The diehard forces were the compradore-feudal forces, headed by Chiang Kai-shek, that practised passive resistance to Japanese aggression and active opposition to the Communists. Experience in practice proved that this principle of the Communist Party of China was suitable in the circumstances of China’s revolution and was correct.
The fact is always that dogmatism is valued only by those who are mentally lazy. So far from being of any use, it does incalculable harm to the revolution, to the people and to Marxism-Leninism. In the matter of raising the consciousness of the mass of the people, inspiring in them a vigorous spirit of initiative and bringing about the rapid development of practical and theoretical work, it is now still necessary to destroy the superstitious belief in dogmatism.
The dictatorship of the proletariat (which, in China, is the people’s democratic dictatorship led by the working class) has now achieved great victories within areas populated by 900 million people. Whether it is the Soviet Union, China, or any other People’s Democracy, each has its own experience in success and experience in errors. We should continuously sum up such experiences. We must he vigilant to the possibility that we may still commit errors in the future. The important lesson is that the leading organ of our Party must confine errors to particular, local, temporary errors, and should not let particular, local errors or those that have just shown themselves grow into nation-wide errors or errors of long duration.
The history of the Communist Party of China contains the experience of committing serious mistakes on several occasions. During the revolutionary period from 1924 to 1927 there appeared in our Party the erroneous line represented by Chen Tu-hsieu’s rightist opportunism. During the revolutionary period from 1927 to 1936, there appeared in our Party on three occasions the erroneous line of “leftist” opportunism. Of these, the most serious were the Li Li-san line and the Wang Ming line. The former occurred in 1930 and the latter from 1931 to 1934. The damage caused to the revolution by the Wang Ming line was particularly serious. In this period, in an important revolutionary base, there also occurred the erroneous Chang Kuo-tao right-opportunist line, which opposed the Party’s Central Committee and the Party. This line did serious damage to an important section of the revolutionary forces. With the exception of Chang Kuo-tao’s line, which was an error confined to an important revolutionary base, all the errors committed within those two periods were nation-wide. During the war of resistance to Japanese aggression, there again emerged within our Party the wrong line of rightist opportunism represented by Comrade Wang Ming. But because our Party had drawn the lessons from the previous two revolutionary periods we did not allow this wrong line to develop, and it was set right by the Party’s Central Committee within a comparatively short period. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Kao Kang-Jao Shu-shih anti-Party alliance developed in our Party in 1953. This anti-Party alliance represented the forces of reaction at home and abroad whose aim was to endanger the cause of the revolution. Had it not been for the Central Committee’s early discovery and timely destruction of this anti-Party alliance, incalculable damage could have been done to the Party and the revolutionary cause.
From this it will be seen that our Party’s historical experience is also that of being tempered in the course of its own struggle against various erroneous lines and because of this we achieved great victories in the revolution and construction. Local and particular mistakes often occur in work. It is solely due to reliance on the collective wisdom of the Party and wisdom of the masses of the people and the prompt exposing and overcoming of these mistakes that they have no chance to grow and become nation-wide, protracted mistakes and do not become major errors endangering the people.
Communists should adopt an analytical attitude to errors in the communist movement. Some people consider that Stalin was wrong in everything. This is a grave misunderstanding. Stalin was a great Marxist-Leninist, yet at the same time a Marxist-Leninist who committed several gross errors without recognising them for what they were. We should view Stalin from the historical standpoint, make an all-round, appropriate analysis of his rights and wrongs and draw beneficial lessons from it. Both his rights and wrongs were features of the international communist movement and bear the imprint of the times. The international communist movement is only a little over one hundred years old, and it is only 39 years since the victory of the October Revolution; experience in much of the revolutionary work is still inadequate. We have our great achievements, but also our defects and errors. As the emergence of one achievement is followed by the creation of another, so the overcoming of one defect or mistake may be followed by a new one which must, in turn, be overcome. Achievements always come in greater number than defects, and rights always in greater number than the wrongs, and the defects and mistakes will inevitably be overcome.
Good leadership consists not in committing no mistakes, but in treating mistakes seriously. There has never been anyone in the world who made no mistakes. Lenin said: “Frankly admitting a mistake, ascertaining the reasons for it, analysing the conditions which led to it, and thoroughly discussing the means of correcting it – that is the earmark of a serious party; that is the way it should perform its duties, that is the way it should educate and train the class and then the masses.” Following the behest of Lenin, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union is dealing seriously with certain serious mistakes committed by Stalin in directing the great building of socialism, and also the consequences of his mistakes. Because of the gravity of the consequences, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, while affirming the great merits of Stalin, deemed it necessary to expose sharply the essence of his mistakes and call upon the entire Party to take them as a warning and work resolutely to eliminate their unfavourable consequences. We Chinese Communists are convinced that through the sharp criticism at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union all the positive factors which were stultified before by certain erroneous policies will undoubtedly come to life generally, and that the Party and the people of the Soviet Union will be firmer than ever in their unity to struggle for the construction of a great communist society such as mankind has never yet witnessed and for lasting world. wide peace.
Reactionary forces the world over are ridiculing this event: they ridicule our overcoming of mistakes within our camp. What will come of this ridicule? There is not the slightest doubt that they will find facing them a still more powerful, an ever-invincible, great camp of peace and socialism headed by the Soviet Union, while the man-destroying enterprise on which those who direct this ridicule are embarked is not exactly in a pleasant situation.