Source: Militant International Review, no. 1 (autumn 1969)
Transcription: Francesco 2010
Proofread: Fred 2010
Markup: Niklas 2010
The document of the world communist conference held in June marks a new stage in the break-up of its component parts. Many leftward-looking workers in the labour movement are infected by the seemingly easy policies advocated by King Street [the headquarters of the old Communist Party of Great Britain were situated in 16 King Street, Covent Garden, London, until the 1970s when they were sold off, Editor’s note]. In fact, they merely supplement the policies of the right wing and disorient many leftwards workers trying to find the road to Marxism. They reinforce the prejudices of the Tribune wing [left reformist wing of the Labour Party, Editor’s note] and of the trade union “lefts”. That is why we make no apology for extensive quotations and analysis of this alleged Marxist document. Members of the Communist Party who are conscientiously trying to use Marxist methods must make it their duty to analyse and explain the differences within and between the Communist parties and the “socialist” countries that exist at the present time.
The document concentrates on three things: the struggle against imperialism, the struggle for peace and the Vietnam War, and the relationship between “communist” countries and parties.
“The meeting discussed urgent tasks of the struggle against imperialism and problems of united action by communist and all other anti-imperialist forces.”
Many correct points are made but no real explanation as to the causes of imperialism and the means of fighting it are put forward. One point that is made is that,
“It has been possible to prevent the outbreak of a world war, thanks to the growing economic, political and military might and the peace-loving foreign policy of the Soviet Union and other socialist states; to the action of the international proletariat and of all fighters against imperialism; to the struggle for national liberation; and also to the massive peace movement. Socialism, which has triumphed on one third of the globe, has scored new successes in the world-wide struggle for the hearts and minds of the people.”
It is true that the mighty economic forces built up by the Soviet Union due to the October revolution and the destruction of landlordism and capitalism in a third of the world is one factor in the situation. But this does not explain why war has taken place even on a local scale every year since the end of the Second World War and why wars are raging in Vietnam and Nigeria at the present time. If world war has not broken out it has been in spite of the so-called “peace-loving” policies of the Russian bureaucrats, who, by their policy in relation to China, and vice versa, and by the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the brutal suppression of the Hungarian revolution have played into the hands of imperialism.
Nowhere in the document is a real analysis of imperialism undertaken. It is not explained that it grows directly from capitalism and is inseparable from both democratic and reactionary politics. Imperialism, as Lenin explained painstakingly in his book on the subject is a necessary outgrowth of the development of capitalism and the export of capital which this involves.
It is not innate weakness or original sin which dictates the policy of the capitalist powers but the necessary result of the internal and external contradictions. Capitalism has had an enormous economic upswing since the Second World War (*) in spite of the fact that one third of the world is non-capitalist, in spite of the struggles of peoples of the colonial countries for national freedom, and, even to a subordinate extent, because of it. It is this upswing which has been the basis for the growth of the “liberal” policies of the capitalist class in the last quarter of a century. While, as the document correctly says, the share of the working class in the total national product has dropped in relative terms, big sections of the working class in the main capitalist countries have increased their share in absolute terms. Thus the economic basis is laid at one and the same time for the reforms and the strengthening of the working class and an expansion of the power of the ruling class. But the struggle against imperialism can only be waged successfully if the working class is given a clear internationalist lead. It is true that,
“Each imperialist power pursues its own aims. At the same time together they form the chain of a world system of imperialism.”
“Present day imperialism, which is trying to adapt itself to the conditions of the struggle between the two systems and to the demands of the scientific and technological revolution, has some new features. Its state monopoly character is becoming more pronounced. It resorts even more extensively to such instruments as state stimulated monopolistic concentration of production and capital, redistribution by the state of an ever-increasing proportion of the national income allocation of war contracts to the monopolies, government financing of industrial development and research programmes, the drawing up of economic development programmes on a country-wide scale, the policy of imperialist integration and new forms of capital export.”
“However, state monopoly regulation exercised in forms and on a scale which meets the interests of monopoly capital and is aimed at preserving its rule, is unable to control the spontaneous forces of the capitalist market. Practically no capitalist state has been able to avoid considerable cyclical fluctuations and slumps in its economy, in some countries periods of rapid industrial growth alternate with periods in which there is a slowdown and often a drop in production. The capitalist system is in the grip of an acute monetary and financial crisis.
“The scientific and technological revolution offers mankind unprecedented possibilities to transform nature, to produce immense material wealth and to multiply man’s creative capabilities. These possibilities should serve the general welfare, but capitalism is using the scientific and technological revolution to increase its profits and intensify the exploitation of the working people…
“Even in the most developed capitalist countries, millions of people suffer the torments of unemployment, want and insecurity. Contrary to assertions about the ‘revolution in incomes’ and ‘social partnership’, capitalist exploitation is in fact increasing. The rise in wages lags far behind the growth rates of labour productivity and the intensification of labour, behind the social needs and even more so behind the growth of monopoly profits. The position of the small farmers continues to deteriorate, and the living conditions of a considerate part of the middle strata are becoming more difficult.
“The instability of the capitalist system has increased. Social and political are breaking out in many countries, in the course of which the working people are becoming aware of the necessity of deep going and decisive changes.
“This became primarily evident from the events in France in May and June 1968, from the powerful strike movement there, in which the communists played an important role and the working people made considerable gains. A serious clash took place in that country between the working class and considerable sections of the intellectuals and students on the one hand, and the Gaullist regime and monopoly rule on the other. This clash opened up new possibilities for the struggle for democracy and socialism.”
All these factors should lead the Communist parties in the West, if they had remained revolutionary tendencies to prepare the way for a struggle for power. The middle strata of peasants, white-collar workers, small businessmen and shopkeepers can be won only by irreconcilable struggle against capitalism, which is the mother of imperialism. On the contrary, the policy of the Communist parties, with the approval of Moscow, is for an agreement with the so-called “progressive” section of the capitalist class. The document notes with approval that the Finnish Communist Party is in the government. Lenin all his life fought against the policies of “coalitionism” or its modern version, “popular frontism”. Behind the back of the popular front reaction will prepare its forces. Only a class programme, an explanation in class terms, of the contradictions of capitalism and of socialist solutions, can solve the problems of the working people. So-called “democratic front” governments can only pave the way for disillusionment and despair within the working class and the mass of the people. It is not enough to “expose” the theories and fallacies of capitalism, but to provide an alternative. It is not an accident that constantly references are made to imperialism where capitalism would be a better word. And yet mixed up with the demagogic demand for popular frontism that,
“Everywhere the monopoly capitalists try to create the illusion that everything the working people aspire to can be achieved without a revolutionary transformation of the existing system.”
But how can a revolutionary transformation be achieved without an overthrow of capitalism and preparing the people for this overthrow?
Coalition as all history has demonstrated is a gigantic trap for only the working class. It only takes place when the capitalists can find no other means of holding the mass of the people in check. Coalitions or popular fronts take place only at a time of great difficulty and of social crisis for capitalism. Why should the capitalists or so-called “progressives” who represent capitalism come to an agreement with the forces of the working class if the working class and the masses supporting them are not strong enough for its overthrow? If they are strong enough to overthrow capitalism, on the other hand, why should they allow themselves to stop short of precisely overthrowing capitalism and making a “revolutionary transformation of the existing system”? If the capitalists agree to having communists and socialists in the government that can only be for the purpose of discrediting them in the eyes of the working class. What would be altered in Italy, for example, if the “communists” were added to the coalition of the Christian democrats and the socialists, which held power formerly?
It is not enough to catalogue the crimes of imperialism, of the “guilt for two world wars”, of the racialist maniacs, of Hitler and Mussolini. It is capitalism that gave birth to imperialism. Therefore, only the destruction of capitalism can prevent the rise of new racial maniacs under conditions of social crisis. It is big business which financed armed and organised the fascist bands for the purpose of destroying the organisations of the working class. It is a crime, a snare and a delusion to imagine that the needs of the working class, that the interests of the working class, can be served by any other means than by the taking of power and by the establishment of a workers’ democracy. It is not for nothing that nowhere in the propaganda and “theory” of the so-called Communist parties is an analysis made for the reasons of the victory of fascism in Germany, Italy and Spain. Nor what happened to the post-war coalitions of “progressive forces” with the Communist parties in Western Europe. Once they had done the dirty work of saving capitalism from the immediate social crisis they were ignominiously expelled from the government. They played the same role which was played by the Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionaries in the Russian revolution. Every conscientious and communist worker should study the lessons of the revolutionary victory in 1917, and of the crushing defeats which were brought by Stalinism and reformism in the advanced countries.
The section of inter-imperialist contradictions shows the real ideas of the ruling clique in Moscow, and of the satellites.
“Contradictions are also growing deeper within the ruling circles of imperialist countries, between the most belligerent groups who gamble on extreme measures, on war, and those who take into account the new relationship of class forces in the world, and the growing might of the socialist countries, tend to take a more realistic approach to international problems and to solve them in a spirit of peaceful co-existence between states with different systems.”
It is necessary and even imperative that in their diplomacy the deformed workers’ states, like Russia under Lenin and Trotsky, must conduct diplomacy for the purpose of splitting the capitalist countries, and if possible preventing them from presenting a united face to the Bonapartist workers’ states. Lenin and Trotsky conducted such policies. But Lenin openly spoke of the need to ally with the brigands of one group of capitalist countries in order to balance them against the gangsters of another group of countries. At the same time, he explained that it is necessary for the parties of the proletariat, including the Russian Communist Party to explain to the working class that this only represented a temporary relationship of forces. Under no conditions were the Communist parties to subordinate themselves to “good” capitalist powers as against “bad” capitalist powers. The fact that the Soviet Union belonged to the League of Nations did not and could not prevent the break up of this organisation, and the involvement of most of the countries of the world in the bloody disaster of the Second World War. All the capitalist powers were responsible for the Second World War as they were for the first. It was not only the German capitalists who supported Hitler and brought him to power, (leaving aside the criminal responsibility of the Communist and Social Democratic parties for Hitler’s victory), but the capitalists of France, Britain and America. They helped Hitler to re-arm, to take over Austria and Czechoslovakia, because of their fear of the alternative. Fascism came to power because the ruling class at that particular stage could no longer tolerate the existence of the workers’ organisations. In the next epoch the problem will be posed anew of either the working class taking control into their own hands or suffering new and more terrible defeats. It is impossible for agreements between the powers to prevent the development of the social contradictions within the capitalist countries. The United Nations—or in reality the dis-United Nations—merely represents a forum for the solution of secondary problems. It could not even prevent a war between Honduras and El Salvador! It was used in the Congo and in Korea in the interests of imperialism. It, like diplomatic agreements, can only solve secondary problems, but cannot solve the problems of so-called co-existence of states.
“The main link of united action of the anti-Imperialist forces remains the struggle against war and for world peace, against the menace of thermo-nuclear war, and mass extermination which continues to hang over mankind”.
It should be noted too that Stalin in his role of dictator of the Soviet Union and representative of the bureaucracy, with the dream of “peaceful co-existence” and of so called “collective security” helped to precipitate the Second World War. The policies of the Communist parties were subordinated to the chimera of the League of Nations and of the “peace loving powers”. For five years Communist parties, or rather the Communist International as it then was, ceaselessly propagandised the false notion, hardly to be described as a “theory”, of “peace loving” and “war mongering” powers. They demanded an alliance between France, Britain, America and Russia to hold Hitler in check. Then doing a somersault Stalin signed a pact with Hitler which by demoralising the workers of France prepared the way for Hitler’s victories and the attack on the Soviet Union. The Communist parties did a hundred [and eighty] degree turn and discovered the war mongers in the former “peace loving” powers, even demanding peace on Hitler’s terms. Hitler had been transformed into a “peace lover”. Then with the attack on the Soviet Union the “warmongers of imperialism”, Britain, France and America once again became “democrats and lovers of peace”.
Through the whole of the period during the attack on the Soviet Union the Communist Party ceaselessly agitated for a second front to help the sore need of the Soviet Union. Anglo-American imperialism continued to pile up resources of men, materials and munitions, grudgingly supplying the Soviet Union with 3 percent of its production. The calculations of the ruling class were clear. Truman in America who later became president, Moore-Brabazon, who was in the Cabinet in Britain, blurted out the truth, which the communist leaders concealed, that the more Germans and Russians that killed each other the better for Britain and America, i.e. of the ruling classes of these countries. At the most critical moment of Hitler’s invasion Stalin asked for a million British troops, who curiously enough were strung out across Persia and the Middle East, with even more curiously a million Russian troops facing them, to fight on the Eastern front together with the Red Army. This was supposed to be in lieu of a second front which Churchill said was not possible at that time. Churchill, as the representative of British Capitalism, “generously” offered to garrison the Caucasus and the Baku oilfields with his million troops for service with their comrades on the Eastern front. Even Stalin understood what that meant and rejected the offer.
The war dragged on in Europe as a war to the death between fascist Germany and the Soviet Union. The most developed areas of the Soviet Union were laid waste and the Soviet Union was bled white. Only owing to the traditions of the October revolution, of the advantages of the planned economy, and of the vastness of Russia, did the Soviet Union survive the attack. Then counter-attacking and advancing from Stalingrad 2,000 miles into Germany. It was only when it became apparent that if they did not make haste they would meet the Russians on the Channel that the “Allies” launched the second front.
At times these facts which were commented on even by bourgeois historians, are blurted out by the Russian leaders and the leaders of the Communist parties, at various times of friction between Russia and Anglo-American imperialism. But neither at the time nor since was the position explained, as Lenin would have done to the peoples of the world. The leaders of the Communist parties of the West have begun to swallow and become infected by their own propaganda, while the Russian and Chinese bureaucracies cynically play one tune now and then the opposite, according to the shifting and swaying tides of their own interests. What remains out of the reckoning is the class analysis of national policies. While from the point of view of the working class there is a vital difference between fascism and democracy (the democratic rights of the working class form the elements of a new society which from the capitalist point of view it is the task of fascism to erase) both democratic and fascist countries remain imperialist because of the class nature of the state. In a confused way this document inconsistently says this when it categorises the countries of imperialism. Marx and Lenin emphasised again and again the need not to play with phrases but to make a class analysis of countries and the policies which will be derived thereby. While the monopoly capitalists, the banks and financiers control the economy, it is they, however complex the inter-relations may be, who determine the policies of the state. This is even more true in this epoch where the monopolies at this stage are intertwined in what the document calls state monopoly capitalism, under modern conditions, than at any other time in history.
“A new world war can be averted by the combined effort of the socialist countries, the international working class, the national liberation movement, all peace loving countries, public organisations and mass movements.
“The defence of peace is, inseparably linked up with the struggle to compel the imperialists to accept peaceful co-existence with states with different social systems, which demands observance of the principles which sovereignty, equality, territorial inviolability of every state, big and small, and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, respect for the rights of every people, freedom to decide their social, economic and political system, and the settlement of outstanding international issues by political means through negotiation.”
To start with, these principles are trampled on at every turn by the great powers and especially the super-powers. The Russian bureaucracy itself in fighting for the national interest of the ruling caste has brutally suppressed the right of the Czechoslovak peoples, and previously of the Hungarian people, to “choose” in the one case a regime of workers’ democracy, and in the case of the former even a liberal democratic reform which did not alter the basic character of the state, but ended the totalitarianism of Novotny and Rakosi.
The area the Russian bureaucracy regarded as their sphere of influence, and would not permit the peoples of Eastern Europe to decide for themselves. If this is the case in countries where capitalism has been destroyed (although it proves that neither democracy nor liberty exist in the Soviet Union and the other Bonapartist workers’ states how much more does it apply to capitalist countries? Nor does the unedifying sight of border battles between Russia and China with the conventional methods of modern war, tanks, planes and guns, provide a stimulating and inspiring example of peaceful co-existence to the working class of America, Eastern Europe and the World). How much more is it the case in the countries of imperialism which were so stingingly indicted in this very pamphlet? One does not educate the tiger to eat vegetables. No more can imperialism be tamed without destroying the basis of imperialism. What are “peace loving” countries in comparison with “war loving” countries? To pose the question is to show the ridiculous nature of the description.
For how long did Lenin tirelessly repeat the idea of Clausewitz that “war is the continuation of policy by other means”. The document indicts the French, the West German, the Italian, the American, the British and the Japanese imperialists. But they hold the power in all of these countries. Which then of the great powers is “peace loving”? At times the capitalist powers will support peace, at others war, depending on their interests and social stress. The document is shot through and through with contradictions. On the one hand a description of imperialism and its crimes, on the other hand mysterious “peace loving countries”. The class analysis of countries and policies is abandoned. Who is to bring peace? How is peace to be obtained? By what means can peace be successfully defended? Lenin said many times that the correct posing of questions provides a correct solution to the problems of the working class and of the working people. It is true that modern weapons, particularly those of the super-powers pose an even more horrifying dilemma than faced the peoples before the First and Second World Wars. The only thing that could have prevented the outbreak of these wars would have been the victory of the socialist revolution in the main capitalist countries. Lenin said that it was a fairy tale that the First World War was the “war to end wars”. The defeat of German and Japanese imperialism in the Second World War has not meant the blossoming of peace and culture. It has resulted in any even more horrifying arms’ race, and the wasting of the substance of the peoples on ever more horrifying means of destruction. Bacteriological, chemical and nuclear weapons are being manufactured. The solemn attempt by the super-powers to maintain nuclear arms for themselves alone has not succeeded. China, France and Great Britain also have nuclear arms. If world war has not taken place it is because war would not be in the interests of imperialism at the present time. It would inevitably result in a nuclear holocaust. It would destroy the goose that lays the golden eggs by destroying not only civilisation and the working class, but even possibly most or all of humanity, and turn the planet into a region of radioactivity.
But the most important reason why there has not been war has been the class relationship of forces. When Russia was at her weakest in 1945 in comparison with Anglo-American imperialism, at the end of the Second World War, it was the movement of peoples of Europe, Asia, and Africa and the radicalisation of the working class in America and Britain, which made it impossible for Anglo-American imperialism to attack the Soviet Union. But in the after-war period the defeats of the working class led to the victory of fascism in Italy, Spain and Germany and the defeat of the workers’ movements in France, Britain and other countries paralysed the working class and allowed the imperialists to take to the road of war. At the present time there is an awakening and radicalisation of the peoples in the main capitalist countries. But if this radicalisation, which draws behind it the middle class and the peasantry, does not reach fruition in the capturing of power by the working class then inevitably it will prepare the way for reaction, and the rise of new Hitlers and Mussolinis. If one imagined that the workers of America, Japan and Western Europe fail in the coming epoch to take power into their own hands then the victory of reaction which would thereby be prepared could lead to a third world war. A madman, an American Hitler, once in power would not hesitate to try a “first strike”. There would be no other way than war, as was the case with Hitler and Mussolini.
Democracy and the rights of the working class are elements of a new social system within capitalism, which it is the task of reaction and fascism to destroy. But the unstable balance of forces which exist at the present time between the classes cannot be maintained indefinitely. While the economic upswing continues the capitalist powers can come to a robbers’ agreement with each other, and with the Soviet and Chinese bureaucracies. But when the economic upswing will inevitably be succeeded by a downswing, they will regard the very existence of the workers’ organisations as an unacceptable impediment to their exploitation of the working people. At the present time they are making super profits and can therefore tolerate various reforms. The hour will strike when they can [no] longer do so if the working class fails to take advantage of the national and international contradictions of capitalism to take power into their own hands.
Only the socialist revolution can prevent a third world war and the destruction of humanity. The document says:
“Mass action against imperialism is a condition for implementing the policy of peaceful co-existence. Directed as it is against the war mongers, reactionaries and monopoly arms manufacturers, this policy meets the general interests of the revolutionary struggle against every form of oppression and exploitation, and promotes friendship between all peoples and the development of fruitful economic, scientific, technological and other spheres of co-operation between countries with different social systems in the interest of social progress.”
Who are the warmongers, who are the reactionaries and monopoly arms manufacturers?
“Recent class battles have struck a blow at the illusions spread by partisans of neo-capitalism and reformism, and has given fresh proof of the basic propositions of Marxism-Leninism. In contrast to the right and left opportunists, the Communist and workers’ parties do not counter-pose the fight for deep-going economic and social demands and for advanced democracy against the struggle for socialism, but regard it as a part of the struggle for socialism. The radical democratic changes which will be achieved in the struggle against the monopolies and the economic domination and political power will promote an awareness of the need for socialism among the people.”
The first part of this quotation is in entire contradiction to the one before and succeeding it. It [is] only by linking the struggles of the industrial and white-collar workers with the struggle for socialism that even the economic interests and demands of the working class and middle class can be realised for any length of time. There is no special section of the capitalist class which is, in and of itself, reactionary. Against a threat from the working class, the entire capitalist class will close ranks. Friendship between peoples, as the sad examples of China, Russia and Czechoslovakia show, is not a question of pious, pacifist whimperings. The interests of the working class of all countries are one and the same, because the enemy is the same, capitalism-imperialism. It is not a question of an abstract internationalism, but of the actual world division of labour created by capitalism, and reaching an unequalled intensity in the last quarter of a century, which created a basis for the union of peoples. It is maudlin sentimentality to talk of even co-operation between the capitalist powers themselves, except temporarily, let alone “between countries with different social systems in the interests of social progress”. It is like the parsons’ and priests’ declamations on the need to assist the poor and hungry and homeless and the “underdeveloped” world. This is precisely to ignore social realities and fall into the trap of the proponents of neo-capitalism and reformism.
“Socio-differentiation is developing in the newly independent countries. There is a sharpening conflict between the working class, the peasantry and other democratic forces including the patriotic-minded sections of the petty bourgeoisie on the one hand, and on the other imperialism and the forces of domestic reaction, the elements of the national bourgeoisie which are increasingly accepting a deal with imperialism.”
“The pressing problems of social development in these states are the object not only of a sharp struggle between the neo-colonialists and the people of these countries, but also of internal social conflicts.”
This is perfectly true but in and of itself poses the question of the struggle for power by the proletariat which can, as in the Russian revolution, carry to a conclusion the tasks of the democratic revolution; then passing over to the tasks of the socialist revolution, which in its turn cannot be solved on national lines alone. If the bourgeoisie in these backward countries cannot solve the tasks of even the bourgeois revolution which were solved in the past in the industrialised capitalist countries, then how can it even be posed that the “progressive” bourgeoisie of France, of Italy, of America for example, in the epoch of imperialist decay can solve the social tasks posed in these countries? The internal social conflicts in both backward and advanced capitalist countries do not arise at the arbitrary whim of this or that reactionary politician, but out of the economic relations of capitalism nationally and internationally.
“Countries which have taken a capitalist road have been unable to solve any of the basic problems facing them.”
This applies just as much to the main capitalist countries as to the backward countries. The document then goes on to say:
“The imperialists show special hostility towards states with progressive regimes… [They] organise counter-revolutionary activities through their agents and back reactionary elements in the state apparatus and the armed forces. They try to utilise anti-communist prejudices to spread discord among patriots.”
All this is undoubtedly true. But it does not get us any further forward. If, “confronted with rising popular discontent, the internal reactionary forces in these countries are intensifying with imperialist support their assault on democratic freedom,” if “they are kindling conflicts between national, ethnic, religious, tribal and linguistic groups”, if the imperialists are doing all this in the backward countries and finding allies in the local capitalists, then it is clear that only an implacable struggle nationally and internationally for the overthrow of the landlords and capitalists can solve the problems of the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America. And by the way, in a caricatured form even the much maligned theory of the permanent revolution is stealthily included in the section on Latin America—“the struggle for genuine national sovereignty and economic independence is intertwined with an acute class struggle against capitalist exploitation and above all, against the foreign or local monopolies of the latifundia.”
The only problem is that this is not linked with the idea of a socialist revolution as the only means of successfully achieving and consolidating economic, democratic and social demands. Instead, as in the imperialist countries, we are fobbed off with vague formulae. But if the national bourgeoisie in colonial or ex-colonial countries plays the reactionary role which is hinted at in this document, how can it even be suggested that in the main capitalist countries there is a “progressive” bourgeoisie which will not betray as in Spain, France, Italy and Germany, the aspirations of the people at a moment of danger into the hands of reaction?
Having shown the horrors of imperialism and, incidentally, this is repeated and emphasised on practically every page of the document, they then go on to deal with what should be done about this. With unconscious humour, they state: “The Communist and Workers’ parties represented at the meeting, aware of their historic responsibility proposed united action to all communists of the world, to all opponents of imperialism and to all who are prepared to fight for peace, freedom and progress.” The fact that the “communists” are not united on fundamental issues is a comment in itself. They then go on confidently to declare that “a new world war can be averted by the combined effort of the socialist countries, the international working class, the national liberation movements, all peace loving countries, public organisations and mass movements.”
We have already asked: what are “peace loving countries”? And we now add: what are “public organisations”? There is only one trifle overlooked in this declamatory statement, and that is the question of how? Wagging a finger at the imperialists and saying “naughty, naughty” will not even ruffle a hair of their heads. It is no accident that this conference was reviewed very calmly in the serious organs of the capitalist press in the advanced capitalist countries. It reminds one of the old nursery rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”. The only threat that the imperialists are interested in is the threat to their power, privileges, income and prestige, like all ruling classes and castes in history.
To defend their right to rule and defence of their profits, for temporary periods they are prepared to sacrifice a part of their income. But if a threat is posed, it cannot remain a question of words, because the imperialists will inevitably organise their resources for reaction, if only a partial attack is made. In France, for example, a great part of the gains made by the working class have already been cancelled out by inflation. This will provoke a further movement of the working class which, if derailed on to the lines of a popular front and not carried through to a conclusion, will prepare the way for savage reaction and civil war with countless unnecessary victims.
As these lines are written, the echoes of the demonstrations and of vicious repressive legislation are reverberating from Czechoslovakia. The next paragraph, following on the one quoted above piously and hypocritically declares:
“The defence of peace is inseparably linked up with the struggle to compel the imperialists to accept peaceful co-existence of states with different social systems which demands observance of the principles of sovereignty, equality, territorial inviolability in every state, big and small, and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, respect for the rights of every people freely to decide their social, economic and political systems, and the settlement of outstanding international issues by political means through negotiation.” (Their emphasis.)
Again we ask who is going to enforce this, and how? If the Soviet bureaucracy in defence of what it conceives to be its interests is prepared to flout the public opinion of the international working class and of “progressive” public opinion, how much more would the imperialists act in the same way, when they conceive their interests to be threatened? The invasion of Czechoslovakia involved two states with the same social system, where capitalism and landlordism have been overthrown, and which have the same type of ruling bureaucracy. The “defence of peace” is inseparably linked with the struggle for the overthrow of monopoly capital and of the rotting Soviet bureaucracy.
The actions of the Chinese and Russian Bureaucracies have assisted the capitalists in maintaining their hold on the public opinion of the middle class, and even of wide sections of the working class. That is why the statement like the following ring so hollowly.
“The attempts of imperialism to overcome its internal conflict by building up international tension and creating hot-beds of war, are hampered by the policy of peaceful co-existence. This policy does not imply either the preservation of the social and political status quo or a wakening of the ideological struggle. It helps promote the class struggle against imperialism on national and worldwide scale.”
Again the question that can immediately be asked is how this is done. Of course this is obvious that the Soviet Union and China are not interested in provoking a world war. Even the bureaucratic rulers of these countries, because of the abolition of capitalism and landlordism have not the same pressing need for markets and sources of raw material. It is true that they are bound to have to participate on the world market, and the world division of labour, but such participation is conditioned by the monopoly of foreign trade and the state ownership of the means of production. But for the capitalist powers, and this whole document is supposed to be against imperialism, imperialism is a condition for the existence of national identities. Though struggling against each other, they have a common solidarity, in the last analysis, against the working class and those countries where capitalism has been abolished. The document in the very next paragraph to that quoted then says:
“Determined class struggle for the abolition of monopolies and their rule for the institution of a genuinely democratic system, and for the establishment of socialist power, whatever may be the road leading to the achievement of this goal, is an inalienable right and duty of the working people and the Communist and Workers’ parties in the capitalist countries. The communists of the world are in solidarity with this just battle.”
Again, these are empty words in contradiction with the previous ideas. It is one thing for the states where capitalism has been overthrown to offer peaceful co-existence to the capitalist states (and even here it depends on the relationship of forces, nationally and internationally. Had the communists and socialists of Germany pursued a different policy it was the duty of the Red Army, if it had been true to the doctrine on which it had been founded to have gone to the aid of the German workers in order to prevent Hitler from coming to power. Such a policy linked to a correct international policy on the part of the Soviet Union and the Communist International would have led to the victory of the revolution in Germany and Europe and thus prevented the Second World War.) But the cynicism of bureaucrats knows no bounds. During the Second World War the Red Army invaded the small Finnish nation to protect the flank of Leningrad. This brought the Finnish capitalists into the war on the side of Hitler, and dealt an enormous blow to the standing and support of the Soviet Union in the eyes of the world working class. But like the Czech events the invasion was dictated, not by consideration of the need to maintain the support of the world working class, but purely from the immediate needs of the national bureaucracy.
If the question is put from the point of view of being for or against peace, only a madman, particularly under modern conditions, would be in favour of war. But every war in the modern capitalist world has been waged under the hypocritical banner of “a struggle for peace.” This did not prevent the outbreak of the wars. The condition for peace is precisely the waging of the class struggle to a conclusion, and the elimination of the causes of war. “Peaceful co-existence”, like “collective security” before it can only provide a breathing space. If the working class and its leadership fail to take advantage of this breathing space, however protracted it may be, they will pave the way for reaction, a new world war and perhaps the elimination of civilisation and even mankind.
The document is full of contradictions throughout. Not a single question is thought through to a conclusion in a manner of Marx or Lenin. Contradictory statements are piled one upon another to make a horrible stew of ideas. In the very next paragraph to the one quoted is this statement which is completely opposed to it:
“Mass action against imperialism is a condition for implementing the policy of peaceful co-existence. Directed as it is against the warmongers, reactionaries, and monopoly arms manufacturers, this policy meets the general interests of the revolutionary struggle against every form of oppression and exploitation, and promotes friendship between all peoples and the development of fruitful economic, scientific, technological and other spheres of co-operation between countries with different social systems in the interests of social progress.”
Who are the warmongers, reactionaries and monopoly arms manufacturers? It is true that between different sections of the capitalist class there are conflicting interests, but these pale into insignificance in face of their struggle against the working class. The policy of peaceful co-existence, which replaced that of the discredited theory of “collective security”, has now been followed for almost a quarter of a century. Yet never in history have more of the material means of civilisation been squandered in the arms’ race in all fields. The statement we quoted earlier on the military strength of the Soviet Union shows that she had been compelled, partly because of the reactionary policy of the Soviet bureaucracy, partly for the needs of defence, to pile up huge quantities of all weapons including nuclear arms and a competition with American imperialism. Thus the policy of the Soviet Union and of China should be the idea of “promoting friendship between all peoples and fruitful economic scientific and technological and other spheres of co-operation.” But how? By abandoning revolutionary methods? But even here the whole purpose is non-revolutionary and anti-socialist in ideology. To prattle about friendship between peoples without raising the class question is idle chatter. To facilitate mass action against imperialism would mean offering a joint plan of production over a number of years with the integration of the economy of the main capitalist countries with that of the Soviet Union, or of China, as the case may be, in the interests of raising the standard of living of all. This would be a means of mobilising the peoples of the Western countries and of Japan against capitalism. That is one of the reasons why neither the Chinese nor the Russian bureaucracy imprisoned in the national outlook of their bureaucratic needs cannot even raise the question in this way. Indeed, it is a sociological comment of the greatest significance that in this epoch where productive forces have outgrown the narrow boundaries of the national states created by capitalism, as well as the private ownership of the means of production, that the bureaucracies of Eastern Europe have proved incapable of abolishing the national boundaries and organising a socialist federation of the Balkans and Eastern Europe, together with Russia and China. That in Eastern Europe they are not capable of even achieving a limited economic integration which the capitalist powers of the six Common Market countries have achieved, however shaky and weak this economic co-operation might be. What is the point in demagogic references to a lone “socialist” system when they cannot even unite their economies into one single harmonious and fruitful economic, scientific and technological plan?
“To preserve peace, the most urgent task is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, and to enforce the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.”
It was this policy which was one of the reasons for the break between the Russian and Chinese bureaucracy. A potential super power, the Chinese bureaucracy was determined to have all the most modern weapons of destruction. They were not prepared to place themselves under the umbrella of the Soviet bureaucracy. Like the ruling classes in capitalist countries, the bureaucracy of the deformed workers’ states hate and fear each other, because they know each other for what they are. They would not trust each other when it comes to a question of their fundamental interests. Thus Britain and France, despite their economic weakness in comparison with the super powers, have attempted to maintain their own nuclear arms. Though the might of these arms in comparison with that of the super powers is like comparing the power of a revolver to that of a battery of artillery. What can prevent the spreading of nuclear weapons to the smaller imperialist powers if they decide that it is in their vital interests to obtain these? What can prevent West Germany, Japan, Sweden or Switzerland from manufacturing nuclear weapons if they so desire? And even so, there are now bacteriological and chemical weapons which can be as great a scourge to the peoples, and which any developed scientific and technological power can manufacture.
It is one thing to conduct agitation for nuclear disarmament and the destruction of nuclear weapons and stockpiles, in order to raise the level of understanding of the mass of the people, particularly of the middle strata. It is entirely a different thing to imagine that while imperialism or capitalism exists—i.e. the power of the capitalist class to control the economy, and thus to dictate policy—that such a ban could be successful. The whole idea of such a campaign from a Leninist point of view would be to link them with the tasks of overthrowing capitalism. So that in the struggle to ban nuclear weapons the people would come to realise the incompatibility of such a demand with the existence of capitalist power. The idea of the so-called “communists” is apparently to confuse rather than to clarify, because they conduct the struggle against nuclear weapons as if it was an end in itself, and could be achieved while capitalism still remains.
“The basic interests of the peoples demand the intensification of the struggle against militarism in all its forms, particularly against the military industrial complex of the USA and other imperialist states. To call on all peace loving forces to mount a struggle for a radical cut-back in military budgets and a general and complete disarmament under effective international control, so as to switch resources now absorbed by the arms race to improving the working peoples’ lives, promoting the health services and education and rendering assistance to the developing countries.”
This is a praiseworthy aim. In fact all the governments, parties and churches pay a lip service to this utopia. It is true that Russia under Lenin and Trotsky also issued propaganda for general and complete disarmament. But this was not to increase illusions but to expose the hypocrisy of the governments of the capitalist states. They emphasised and re-emphasised again and again that the sole road to disarmament lay in the socialist revolution, the elimination of frontiers and the fraternal collaboration of peoples. Time and again well-intentioned scientists and technicians have pointed out the enormous resources which harnessed, planned and organised could provide abundance for all. Want, poverty and deprivation could be abolished and the planet turned into an earthly paradise. Thus the idea empirically of collaboration of classes and nations for the good of all has been a standby of Protestant parsons Buddhists, Bhikkus and Catholic theologians. All should cooperate in harmony with all. Only one trifle is left out of account, the dialectic of conflicting interests; the struggle between classes and nations which arises as an inevitable result of the class structure of society. Thus general disarmament could only be achieved through the overthrow of the military industrial complex—i.e. capitalism.
“The interest of world peace calls for disbandment of military blocks”. It is true that in the legend Joshua blew on his horn and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. But paper thunderbolts will not have the same result in the real world. The walls of capitalism are powerful. They can only be breached by the working class armed with the teachings of Marx and Lenin. The army of the working class cannot be hardened and prepared by the preaching of empty pacifist illusions, nor the delusion that there is an easy road to peace in agreement between the capitalist rulers and the Soviet block and China.
The only references to the United Nations are the demands “for the restoration of the rights of the Peoples’ Republic of China in the United Nations” and “the complete implementation of the November 1967 resolution of the UN Security Council [on the Middle East—EG]. The paper resolutions of the United Nations like the statements at this conference are stillborn because of the differing interests of the participants. It is instructive to see how since the war the United Nations has been completely incapable of solving any questions considered of vital importance to the world blocks or their client states. If the United Nations is completely incapable of settling small wars and coercing such countries as South Africa, on the issue of its seizure of South-West Africa, how much less could it coerce the great powers and even less the super powers?
The whole document is confused with petit-bourgeois ideology. The class basis of racism, imperialism or war are not simply and clearly laid out so that they could be understood by any worker however politically backward, or the new layers of the middle class, such as the students, awakening to radical ideas. The…
“manifestations of fascism…demands the united action by all the anti-fascist forces…also greater international support from…democratic and progressive movements in every country.”
The only question which arises is who and what are democratic and progressive movements? Does it include those who benefit by the divisions between the working class and the peoples? Again middle class conceptions, ignoring the source of the ideology and practices of racialism. While all Marxists would support the democratic demand and the statement:
“We communists are convinced that it is impossible to put an end to a policy of imperialist aggression, to abolish colonialism and neo-colonialism once and for all and uproot fascism and racial oppression without resolute struggle against the power of monopoly capital and democratic demands which, once won, would weaken the position of imperialism as a whole and strike at the very foundations of its rule. Such a struggle would create favourable conditions for achieving the ultimate goals of the working class movement.”
But again the question can be asked—is not monopoly capital going to prepare its revenge unless it is expropriated? The Labour government in Britain passed a law making it compulsory to divulge information as to the subventions to political parties by companies. They probably thought that this would frighten the oligarchy. Instead, big companies and small are increasing their subsidies to the Tory Party, the party of big business in Britain. The only way to struggle against the power of monopoly capital is to prepare its expropriation. The real idea behind this phrase-mongering is shown when they call upon all organisations representing not only the workers and peasants, but
“…various groups and social strata…on realistically minded political leaders of the capitalist countries and on all democratic parties…We invite them all to join in a broad and constructive exchange of opinions on the widest possible range of issues bearing on the anti-imperialist struggle…for…united action with all progressive, patriotic and peace loving forces on a national, regional and international scale.” (Our emphasis)
Who are these realistically minded political leaders of the capitalist countries? Which are the democratic parties? Who are the progressive, patriotic peace loving forces? It is certain that this statement is not politically realistically minded. Do they mean in Britain, for example, the Tory and Liberal parties, or their equivalent in other countries? But these are the very representatives of that imperialism and neo-colonialism they are struggling against. They are asking Beelzebub to fight against Satan, the forces of vice to espouse the cause of virtue.
Without a thorough analysis of the class roots of fascism and of racialism, it is impossible to conduct a successful struggle against them. Over the decades the so-called communist parties have become more and more degenerate, partly as a result, of the bureaucracies of the deformed workers’ states, partly as a result of the pressure of capitalism and reformism in the advanced countries and partly as a result of the abandonment of Marxist theory under the pressure of Stalinism in the past. The striking impression that is made by the document on anyone with a Marxist training would be the lack of transitional demands linking the present consciousness of the working class with the need for a socialist revolution. The struggle for peace, for bread and for land was linked indissolubly by Lenin and Trotsky in 1917 with the need for the October revolution. While there is not a revolutionary situation at the present time, a pre-pre-revolutionary situation exists in Italy and the Communist Party sabotages the struggle by limiting it to economic and democratic demands. It should be remembered that the bourgeoisie changes from the use of a democratic facade, though with important concessions to the workers through the so-called democratic parties, and when this proves inconvenient, switches to support of the fascist parties, and when the situation demands it, back to support of “democratic” parties. They prefer democracy because a fascist regime or even a Bonapartist dictatorship is enormously expensive. In a fascist regime they only hold power indirectly. But their power can only be broken completely by the taking of the economic power out of their hands, by the accomplishing of the socialist revolution. There is no other way of guaranteeing peace, higher standards of living and ending imperialism and racialism. This is the only safeguard against reaction and fascism.
“The rise and development of the world socialist system, comprising 14 states and the inspiring influence of socialism on the entire world, have created the pre-requisites for accelerating historical progress, and have opened new prospects for the advance and triumph of socialism throughout the world.”
“Socialism has shown mankind the prospect of deliverance from imperialism. The new social system, based on public ownership of the means of production and on the power of the working people is capable of ensuring the planned, crisis-free development of the economy in the interests of the people, guaranteeing the social and political rights of the working people, creating the conditions for genuine democracy, for real participation by the broad masses of people in the administration of society, for all round development of the individual and for the equality and friendship of nations”.
This would be true if the workers and peasants had real control of the economy and of the state in their own hands. This was the society envisaged by Marx and Lenin as a society of transition towards socialism. But everyday new evidence appears from all the countries of the so-called world socialist bloc that only the state ownership of production and a plan, the bare bones of a workers’ state, exist at the present time. The jailing of the writers in the Soviet Union, the continued persecution of the Crimean Tartars, the lack of any real liberty or control by the people, the chaos in planning and the waste in the economy, indicate that the statements of this kind are based on the sheerest cynicism. The abuses and malpractice of the bureaucracy did not end with the exposure of the crimes of Stalin. The privileges, power and income of the ruling managers, party leaders, state officials, and army generals, the inequalities and injustices between the workers and the ruling privileged layers is as great or greater than in Stalin’s time. In China and in Cuba the “cult of the personality” rages round the figures of Mao and of Castro. The relations between Russia and China and Russia and Czechoslovakia are but symptoms of the relationship within the countries themselves. This, thirteen years after the 20th congress was supposed to have ended such abuses. If socialism was built in the Soviet Union and the other countries the state would have withered away and money, commodity production and the very existence of classes and of castes would have disappeared. At least the process would have begun and be accelerating. The swift economic development of these countries outpacing the economic development of the capitalist countries is proof of the superiority of state ownership and a plan in comparison with private ownership and the anarchy of the market. But the fact that in the decisive field of the productivity of labour the Soviet Union lags behind that of the mightiest, capitalist power, the United States, is proof that not even the foundations of socialism have been laid in these countries. Yet they boast in the Soviet Union of a transition to communism at the present time when there is far from a withering away of the state and an extension of liberty; in the usual zigzag a tightening up and a limitation of even the measure of reform under Khrushchev. Apart from Czechoslovakia, the revolution starting in backward countries, has meant that [with] the failures in the advanced countries, the revolution in these countries has been covered over with a layer of repulsive and even monstrous features, which exist in any totalitarian society. It is only the restoration in the Soviet Union and its introduction in the other countries of the so-called socialist bloc by a political revolution which can introduce, not socialism, but a higher version of the living democracy of the Soviet Union under Lenin and Trotsky. His successors, like Stalin, represent the ruling layers mentioned above. It is in their interests that the ideas of socialism and internationalism are perverted and corrupted. This whole statement is a proof of the degeneracy of the Communist parties, especially if one takes seriously the statement in the document of the “preponderance of the forces of peace, democracy and socialism over imperialism”!
The fiction that “socialism has been constructed in these countries” leads to the putting forward of all sorts of irreconcilable statements. “The building of socialism and its further development rests on the support, participation and initiative of the working people, inspired and led by the working class”! These lines are shot through with contradictions. Under socialism the state will have disappeared. And how under socialism would there be need for irreconcilable struggle against manifestations of bureaucracy and…the all round development of socialist democracy”? Socialism implies the administration of society and of industry by society itself. How then could there be manifestation of bureaucracy, when, as Lenin put it, when everyone is a bureaucrat, no one is a bureaucrat. Bureaucracy is not a question of red tape, but of the existence of a whole caste of officials who utilise their position in their own interests and against those of the people. Engels said that when art science and government remain the preserve of a minority, they will always use and abuse their positions in their own interests.
This must be so long as the mass of the people have to work long hours for the bare necessities of existence. The only way out of this vicious circle lies in the conscious control of the working class and in the international overthrow of capitalism in the advanced countries. It is true that in the Soviet Union today the economy is no longer that of the backward economy of 1917. Russia today is among the advanced industrial countries of the world. But in contradistinction with the time of Lenin and Trotsky the situation is now completely different. The workers and peasants have no political rights except to applaud the decisions of their rulers. From being caused by the backwardness of the economy, the bureaucracy, which played a relatively progressive role in assisting the industrial development of the Soviet Union, has now become a reactionary fetter. But having all the levers of power in its own hands, and abusing these in its own interests, they are not prepared to relinquish this power which would mean an end to their privileges, prestige and inflated incomes.
At the same time they are compelled hypocritically to pretend that greater and greater democracy is being introduced. Yet their intervention in Czechoslovakia was forced on the countries of the Warsaw Pact by their panic even in the face of the demagogic slogans of “socialism with a human face”. They talk of “irreconcilable struggle against manifestations of bureaucracy and by all round development of socialist democracy” when this flies in the face of all their actions. Socialist democracy can only be achieved with a full right of all tendencies to put forward their point of view. What is there to be afraid of when the advantages of socialism would be so obvious? Any suggestion of a return to the old system would be greeted with laughter. Far from this being the case the moment they feel their position being threatened they return to the methods of lies, of slander, of falsification, of repression, of beatings and even of imprisonment, which were a feature of the early years of the Stalin dictatorship. While they cannot return to the insane purges of Stalin’s later years, in which millions perished, even now according to the Times in an editorial statement there are a million political prisoners in the Soviet Union. It is significant that the Russian embassy which always picks up statements in such an authoritative journal of capitalist opinion as the Times, has not seen fit to issue a denial. How much cynicism and disgusting hypocrisy do these Communist parties of the world, represented at the conference, show when they refer to “the superiority of human and moral values” of the so-called socialist societies.
“The formation of the socialist world constitutes an integral part of the class struggle being waged in the international arena. The enemies of socialism are keeping up their attempts to undermine the foundations of the socialist state power, thwart the socialist society and restore their own role. To give a firm rebuff to these attempts is an essential function of the socialist state, which relies on the working people led by the working class and its communist vanguard.”
We have already explained that the only people inside these countries against whom the state is protecting itself are the working people. How can it be that imperialism or the forces of counter-revolution could have even the remotest possibility of undermining the foundations of the socialist state power if socialism has been achieved in 14 countries or more than a third of the world? If the society were no longer ridden with terrible contradictions, it should surely be the other way around. The imperialists would be powerless to prevent a socialist transformation of society throughout the world. In other words this is just a pretext to smear all opponents of bureaucracy and privilege as the agents of capitalism. Unfortunately for the bureaucracy it is no longer possible to return to the state of affairs under Stalin. This invention of plots and of enemies of socialism is as near as they can get to it. It is curious that the “enemies of socialism” are not named. Who can they be? Workers, peasants, intellectuals, the working people or perhaps the famous “manifestations of bureaucracy”? To pose the question is to give the answer. If a harmonious socialist society had been created, how could even the remotest support, apart from insane individuals, be obtained? If there were the “fullest socialist democracy” such attempts if made by the imperialists would be greeted with scorn.
From the point of view of the history of the Communist parties, this conference marked a new stage in the disintegration of the world “communist” movement. In the early years of the Communist International, there was a voluntary discipline and cohesion of the ranks. The parties based themselves on the ideas of Marx and Lenin, of an internationalism rooted in the interests of the world working class, to which the interests of all sections were subordinate. This in its turn was based on the world economy itself and the world division of labour which had been created by capitalism. Thus internationalism was not regarded as a sentimental phrase, but arose from the historical needs of the economy, and of the interests of the workers of all countries. This in its turn was predicated by the fact that socialism required the efforts of the advanced workers of all countries to achieve its consummation.
It is part of the contradictory processes of history that at a time when world economy and world division of labour are far more interdependent and intertwined than at any time in the past, the “communist” countries and the communist parties are moving in more and more diverse directions. The “theory” of socialism in one country has thus resulted in the complete wrecking of the internationalism of the communist movement. This at a time when distance has been abolished by modern methods of transport and the world is united under the shadow of collective destruction as the only alternative to federation and cooperation of the peoples.
“The delegates to the meeting reaffirmed their common views that relations between the fraternal parties are based on the principle of proletarian internationalism, solidarity and mutual support, respect for independence and equality, and non-interference in each other’s affairs.”
This comments for itself. But the next section speaks volumes as to the changes which have taken place since the days of Stalin and even of Khrushchev.
“All parties have equal rights. As there is no leading centre of the international communist movement, voluntary coordination of actions of parties in order effectively to carry out the tasks before them acquires increased importance”.
The Russian Communist Party was the dominant party even in the days of Lenin and Trotsky. However under their guidance there was a genuine internationalism on the part of all parties, including the Russian Communist Party, which all voluntarily accepted the discipline of in the International. Under Stalin all other parties were subordinated to the interests of the Russian bureaucracy and its foreign policy. In 1943 Stalin, without even calling a conference, contemptuously dissolved the International, but nevertheless the slavish subordination remained.
The split between Russia and Yugoslavia dealt death blows to this monolithic or totalitarian “unity”. The break with China gave it an irreparable shock.
Now each party is “independent”. There has been no return to the internationalism of the first years of the Communist International. On the contrary, in power and out of power, the bureaucracies of the communist parties are separated from each other on national lines. While independent of each other they are not independent in the advanced capitalist countries (and in the backward ones too), of their own national bourgeoisie, and of course are instruments of the ruling bureaucracies of a completely nationalist outlook, in the countries where capitalism has been dispossessed. Among other reasons the intervention of the Russians in Czechoslovakia was dictated by the fear not only of the infection of liberal ideas but a breaking away like that of Yugoslavia and of China. This in its turn would have led to the breaking away of all the countries of Eastern Europe and thus the domination of the Russian bureaucracy over the area. Pious phrases went out of the window when the concrete interests of the Russian bureaucracy were involved.
Brezhnev and the Russian bureaucracy called the conference in a desperate endeavour to gain support for their struggle against the Chinese bureaucracy but as the document eloquently testifies they failed signally to do so. Even this statement is riddled through and through and through with attempts at pious generalities, some parties—including the British party—refused to sign. It must be with a sense of humour that the declaration says that “united action by communists and workers’ parties enrich and creatively develop Marxist Leninist theory…” Some enrichment! Some creation! Presumably this creativity is in the following sentences which give a finished expression to the nationalist degeneration of the communist parties.
“Marxist Leninists are both patriots and internationalists: they reject both national narrow mindedness and negation or underestimation of national interests and striving for hegemony. At the same time the communist parties, the parties of all the working class and the working people are the standard bearers of genuine national interests, unlike the reactionary classes which betray these interests.”
Till they come to power the working class has no “national” interest. The working people have no country as Marx and Engels proclaimed in the Communist Manifesto in 1848. National interest by its very character is not above classes but reflects the interests of the ruling class. Who indeed are the reactionary classes if not the ruling class?
“The Communist and workers’ parties are conducting their activity in diverse and specific conditions, requiring an appropriate approach to the solutions of concrete problems. Each party, guided by the principles of Marxism-Leninism and in keeping with concrete national conditions, fully independently works out its own policy, determines the directions, forms and methods of struggle and, depending on the circumstances, chooses the peaceful or non-peaceful way of transition to socialism and also the forms and methods of building socialism in its own country. At the same time the diverse conditions in which the communist parties operate, the different approaches to practical tasks and even differences on certain questions must not hinder concerted international action by fraternal parties, particularly on the basic problems of the anti-imperialist struggle.”
This is a finished declaration of nationalist “socialism” and “national narrow-mindedness”. Like the parties of the Second International they will meet occasionally to discuss nothing in particular and formally it remains an International. But at least the Second International meets annually. If it is not to discuss “differences on certain questions” and tactics and strategy in the different countries what exactly is the point of meeting? If each country or rather each “Communist” Party arbitrarily “chooses” its “own” method of transition, and its “own forms and methods of “building socialism” what remains of Internationalism and of Marxism?
While it is true that a peaceful revolution is preferable to a “non-peaceful” one, that precisely is determined by the relationship of class forces, the attitude of the enemy and the planning and foresight of the leadership of the workers’ parties. The October revolution in Russia and the German revolution of 1918 were relatively peaceful. In France in 1968 the socialist revolution could have been accomplished peacefully. But [it is] precisely the craven attitude of the so called communist parties by encouraging the reaction and the “reactionary classes”, by a lack of resolution pushing over the peasants and middle classes, under conditions of crisis, to the side of the capitalists that can make bloodshed and even rivers of blood inevitable. And what are these “differences”? Is it not the duty of an “international meeting” of parties to discuss their differences openly before their members and before the world working class?
In Lenin’s day differences were raised openly and thrashed out so that the level of understanding of the membership should be raised. And without the raising of this level of understanding of the working class as a whole and the rank and file of the party claiming to represent the working class there can be no development of the instrument for achieving socialism. Socialism is not handed on a plate to the working class by a kindly “leadership”. In fact the level of understanding of the Communist parties is today, if anything, lower than that of the Social Democratic parties of the past. This despite the explosive character of the epoch and the terrible lessons of fascism, of the defeat of the Spanish and German revolutions, of the events after the war, of the Chinese revolution, of the Cuban revolution and of the revolutionary situations in France and Italy in the last years. In any event the transition to socialism requires the conscious control by the working class of all fields of activity—the state, industry and the party or parties of the working class themselves.
In the short statement on the communist and workers’ parties there are a whole series of references to these mysterious “differences” which are unspecified:
“Communists are aware that our movement, while scoring great historic victories in the course of its development, has recently encountered serious difficulties. Communists, however, are convinced that these difficulties will be overcome…To find a solution to existing problems which would meet both national and international interests…The communists and workers’ parties despite some differences of opinion, reaffirm their determination to present a united front in the struggle against imperialism…other divergences may last long.”
Again we would ask why not honestly bring out the divergences and clarify them? If this is not done it can only be because of the vested interests of the bureaucracies, of the parties in power and of parties which are not, [but are] organically opportunist because of the pressure of the economic upswing of the last quarter of a century and their policies over decades. Yesterday they were used as a tool of Russian foreign policy to put forward opportunist policies in the interests of the “Russian revolution”, in reality of the Russian bureaucracy. Now having lost all faith in the working class, opportunism has become part and parcel of their policies. They [pay] lip service to socialism but in reality they have gone the way of the Social Democracy before the First World War.
Coming a few paragraphs after the unspecified differences between “fraternal parties” and perhaps the Russians [who] have “eliminated the differences” with the Czechoslovak party in the recent period, after violating entirely the whole method of Marx and Lenin, it is the height of effrontery to talk about,
“…the policy of joint and imperialist action (which) demands the ideological and political role of the Marxist-Leninist parties in the world revolutionary process should be enhanced.”
The British party did not endorse the document not because of its eclectic character and its failure to work out a perspective for either the socialist or the capitalist countries but because of “reservations”.
“At the same time the Executive Committee is unable to give its assent to the document as a whole, since on some matters it has reservations. These reservations have, in the main, been indicated in the speech made by John Gollan in Moscow. They refer specifically to the paragraphs in section two dealing with relation between socialist countries and to most of section four dealing with the role and activity of communist parties and inter-party relations.”
Really what is meant is that the EC of the British Communist Party is objecting to the real purpose of the conference from the point of view of the Moscow bureaucracy; that is to mobilise support for their struggle against the Chinese bureaucracy and to try and reimpose a measure of control on the international movement. This is shown by the statement immediately following:
“While the principles of relations between socialist countries and between communist parties as laid down in the document are acceptable, the Executive Committee believes that their inclusion goes beyond the main purposes of the document as defined in the agenda”.
Surely in the history of the international working class movement, if we are to take it at face value, could there be a more light-minded and irresponsible reason for rejecting an “international document”. In effect it says we agree with the document but the problems were not defined in the agenda. Apparently it is only a question of procedure that separates it from its brother parties.
“Furthermore, if such questions were to be dealt with in the document then they should not have been confined to a mere statement of principle, but should have covered the implementation of these principles in actual life and so enabled a discussion in depth on the problems that have arisen in this field.”
While it is true that it is incredibly light-minded to include statements of principle without discussing them fully, nevertheless implementation of principles in actual life follows from the acceptance of these principles. In reality a discussion of the principles and their implementation would have split the conference wide open. But merely to reject in the most cowardly way the “decisions” because of a question of procedure and not a question of principle is to reach the lowest depths. This formula is meant not to bring out the differences but to cover them up; at the same time to guarantee the freedom of movement of the leadership of the British Communist Party for the future, unhampered by any party from abroad sticking their snouts into the national soil of Britain which is the prerogative of the “British” party.
A break away from Moscow’s tutelage would have been a progressive thing if a balance sheet had been adopted of the experience of the movement over the last five decades. But the breakaway of the communist parties of the West, and it has only been a half break, has taken place for entirely anti-revolutionary reasons, and with anti-revolutionary premises.
This is shown in the statement of Gollan, which like the document itself contains many correct points, but in effect adopts all the anti-revolutionary aspects of Moscow’s policy:
“The struggle to prevent world war, end the nuclear menace and achieve peaceful co-existence of states, irrespective of their social systems, is vital for humanity and a necessity for any strategy of social revolution. Only a fool would underestimate the danger of world war arising out of the aggressive policies of imperialism.”
We have already dealt with this question, so there is no need to develop it further here, except as it affects the policies of the Communist Party in Britain. Gollan proceeds further along to say:
“Two alternatives face Britain. Either to continue down the dangerous road it is treading, in alliance with Strauss and West German reaction and neo-Nazism; or to take up a policy of peaceful co-existence, and to work for the ending of military blocks in Europe, and their replacement by a system of European collective security, including recognition of the German Democratic Republic and the post-war frontiers. The first alternative is the road of nuclear menace and disaster. The second is the road to peace and security.
“We welcome the peace policy of the socialist countries. Their initiative in Europe through the Budapest appeal is finding an echo. There is a growing identity of views on European security between the people of Western Europe and the socialist countries.”
Which Britain is being referred to? The Britain of the working class or the Britain of imperialism? In the long run there can be no peace without the overthrow of the ruling class. The policy of West German imperialism is no better and no worse than that of British imperialism. Elsewhere we have dealt with the arguments in relation to Britain and space forbids that it should be dealt with here. But the cowardly position of the European communist parties comes out clearly on the section dealing with relations between “socialist states and communist parties”.
“The agenda for this conference is that which was agreed on at the February 1968 consultative meeting in Budapest, namely one main item—‘Tasks at the present stage of the struggle against imperialism, and united action of communist and workers’ parties and of all anti-imperialist forces’.
“In our view, therefore, the question of relations between socialist countries and between communist parties is not really appropriate for documents based on this item.
“Of course the differences between some socialist states hinder their cohesion and therefore do damage to our common cause of the struggle against imperialism. But the main document does not deal with differences, only the principles of relations.”
Comment would be superfluous, but Gollan then goes on:
“If the principles of relations between socialist states would be fully implemented there would be no problem of relations between them. The repetition of the principles, valuable and correct in themselves, does not get us too far. What is needed is to discuss what has gone wrong, and where and in what circumstances these principles have not been fully applied. Is it logical to argue that the conference document must contain paragraphs dealing with relations between socialist states, and that delegates should not discuss the concrete application of these principles to events which have been discussed in every communist party? …And this means that we should discuss not just the principles, but as they manifest themselves in actual life.
“It is on this basis, presumably, that many delegates have discussed China. Some delegates from socialist countries have also referred to the political positions of some parties in Western Europe. We have no wish to interfere with anyone’s internal affairs…The Communist Party of China is departing from Marxist-Leninist positions. However, we will not develop our position on this great issue here.” (Our emphasis)
This statement that “we have no wish to interfere in anybody’s internal affairs” really means “mind your own business, don’t interfere with us, let the other parties do as they wish, so long as we can do as we like.” This assumes a glaring expression when Gollan says:
“The question of relations between communist parties, and the principles governing their role and activity, is not, in our view, relevant to the agenda of this conference. Each party is sovereign. It alone, through highest authority, its national congress, can decide its policy, its activities and its role. There is not, and cannot be any collective body or directive centre which can usurp sovereign rights of parties and decide such matters for them.”
The material in this article is sufficient comment on the position put forward by Gollan and the Communist Party. It is a brilliant confirmation of the Marxist method that Trotsky forty years ago predicted the development of just this position on the basis of the “theory” of socialism in a single country.
(*) Material on this question has been published by Militant. No adequate explanation has been made by the communist parties internationally. The material in this document like all others published by the CP does not deal with the problem in a Marxist fashion.