Schafik Jorge Handal

100th Anniversary of the Death of Karl Marx

Speech by Schafik Jorge Handal at the Marx Centenary Conference


Date: April 11-16, 1983
Location: International Scientific Conference, East Berlin.
Translation: Intercontinental Press
Transcription/Markup: Reynaldo Contreras


Dear Comrades and Friends:

The Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front and the Communist Party of El Salvador, which forms part of the FMLN, wish to thank the Socialist Unity Party of Germany and Comrade Erich Honecker in particular for inviting us to participate in this worldwide homage to Karl Marx.

We want to express our appreciation to all the organizations and peoples represented here for the solidarity they are providing to the struggle of the Salvadorian people, who are advancing toward victory with the broadest international support.

Everything we have heard here — as if further arguments were necessary — refutes the claim that the thought of Marx the genius and his continuator Lenin, no less a genius, is dead or has been reduced in influence.

If in certain countries the ideas of Marxism-Leninism have lost ground in workers movements that have become reformist, this is above all the responsibility of the workers party, which at a certain point failed to comply with the day-to-day task of bringing scientific socialism to the labor movement and the entire working people, thus losing the ideological battle to the bourgeoisie, at least temporarily.

The fact is that this elementary task of the party of socialism can only be carried out — under capitalist conditions — by promoting the revolutionary struggle of the workers, aimed at the fundamental and unrenounceable objective of the conquest of power. Without this, socialism is impossible.

The conquest of power by the proletariat in order to put an end to capitalism cannot be brought about by voting or by electoral maneuvers. Without deprecating, of course, the useful contributions participating in elections can make to the cause of revolution, it is necessary to go back to Marx in order to underscore the fact that the main role in the development of the revolutionary process and its victorious culmination is played by revolutionary violence — the “midwife of history,” as Marx called it.

We speak of revolutionary violence in its broadest and deepest sense, without reducing the notion to armed struggle, which is one of its forms. the “rare and precious possibility” of the peaceful road can only take shape within the framework of a conjuncture set up through the development and spread of revolutionary violence at the national and/or international levels. This truth of Marx on the indispensable role of revolutionary violence has been confirmed a thousands times over, as we know, through action as well as through omission.

Marx discovered that revolution is an objective law of social progress. Taking advantage of this law in order to advance toward socialism calls for clarity and revolutionary qualities. Lenin brought to its full development Marx’s idea regarding the role of the subjective factor in the revolutionary process — that is, the decisive role of the party of the revolution, of the correctness of its line and tactics, and of its ability to apply these and take revolutionary initiatives.

Marxism-Leninism has nothing in common with mechanical and fatalistic determinism, according to which the objective conditions are the all-powerful master while the party of the revolution and its leaders are merely the submissive slaves. The conduct of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party in 1917 is a lasting model of clarity and revolutionary initiative.

Daring, audacity, continual initiatives, the spirit of an ongoing offensive, flexibility, and tactical creativity based on a revolutionary policy — that is the style that Marx and Lenin taught. That is the outstanding style of all true revolutions, even those that took place before Marx’s time.

The thoroughgoing defeat of the 1932 insurrection in El Salvador, which had been headed by our young Communist Party, plunged the party into a realm of timidity and later into reformism. The most clearsighted leaders of those times, headed by Farabundo Martí, did not survive the defeat in order to educate our nearly exterminated party about Marx’s notion that “[a] well-contested defeat is a fact of as much revolutionary importance as an easily-won victory.”[1] Instead, the judgment that “they should never have taken up arms,” — condemned by Marx in his defense of the communards of Paris — remained in force in the thinking of the Salvadorian communists for a long time, up until they began to be affected, if only partially and momentarily, by the vigorous shock waves of the Cuban revolution.

The victory of the Sandinista People’s Revolution, anticipating the revolutionary process in our own country, plus our own self-critical efforts, led us to make a thoroughgoing turn without splitting our party. (This was 20 years after the Cuban revolution: that’s how stubborn economism and reformism are.) Even today, the traces of that old style slow down our steps and reduce their practical boldness. The ideological struggle against those traces, in the framework of our revolutionary struggle, is promoting the development of our party and magnifying its contributions.

Explicitly or tacitly renouncing revolutionary violence, the struggle for power, and the dictatorship of the proletariat (I am not referring here to any of its particular forms) — in a word, renouncing revolution — gives rise to eclecticism, defensism, and even conformism. These are all attributes of the kind of reformism that results from degeneration and amounts to consummating the abandonment of Marxism-Leninism. It is no accident that the most consistent partisans of such an approach sooner or later end by officially giving up the honorable title of Marxist-Leninists.

Placing responsibility on “both blocs” for the growing tensions and the threat of extermination of civilization and life on our planet is, in our opinion, an example of defensism and eclecticism. This approach upholds a sterile evenhandedness that only serves to reduce the power and effectiveness of the struggle against the real warmakers and the instigators of the nuclear arms race.

To choose peace and détente obliges one to take a position against imperialism, especially against the most aggressive sectors of Yankee imperialism and its allies, represented today by the demented and cynical government of Ronald Reagan. To evade or water down this approach neutralizes a class outlook and negates the principled obligation to struggle without quarter for the hearts and minds of the peoples, above all of their toiling majorities, whose hands hold the future.

The struggle against the threat of a nuclear holocaust strikes at the heart of imperialism’s policies. It thereby takes on such a concrete character that even the pacifists and environmentalists who proclaim their apolitical nature have found it necessary to set up political parties and contend in the political arena.

None of this runs counter to the great breadth of the antinuclear and peace movement; rather, it entails such breadth, which clearly goes beyond the limits of classes, of ideologies, and of state interests.

The defense of peace is the main task of our time, not only because of the immeasurable destruction that must be prevented but also because imperialism uses nuclear blackmail in order to try to slow down and defeat the world revolutionary process, placing every revolutionary and progressive struggle — including the broad antinuclear movement — in the framework of the East-West confrontation, charging that these struggles are tools manipulated by the Soviet Union.

That is what Reagan says about the FMLN and the struggle of the Salvadoran people. He alleges that we have been created and are artificially sustained by Nicaragua, Cuba, and the Soviet Union. His defense secretary Caspar Weinberger warned insolently not long ago that those three countries should refrain from aiding the Salvadoran guerrillas, because the United States decided to protect the Central American democracies ...” By shamelessly granting that title to the bloody dictatorships of El Salvador and Guatemala and to the government of Honduras — which has been pushed by the CIA and the State Department onto a course of brutal and bloody repression against the Honduran people’s movement — Weinberger disregards world opinion and exemplifies the twisted thinking and criminal policy of aggression that the Reagan administration is applying in Central America.

At the same time, such warnings confirm U.S. plans to regionalize the war throughout the Central American Isthmus and the Caribbean. Reagan’s thundering and hysterical speeches in March [1983] repeated his threats against Cuba and extended them to the tiny and valiant revolutionary island of Grenada. He made clear as well his aggressive designs on all other independent processes in the region, among which it is fitting to mention the positive process of decolonization in Suriname and of course the defense of Panama’s national sovereignty: the conquests registered there through the Torrijos-Carter treaties are continually violated by the current Yankee administration.

Reagan’s aggressive onslaught in Central American [sic] and the Caribbean is an integral part of his overall policy of confrontation and aggression. He not only seeks to restore domination over Nicaragua and smash the revolutionary movements of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, to liquidate Costa Rican democracy, and to sweep away the Grenada revolution, but also to confront Cuba and thereby blackmail the entire world, directly and imminently, with the nuclear threat.

So, then, the flames that Yankee imperialism is already spreading in Central America are a real and immediate threat to world peace and not simply a violation of it.

Our revolutionary struggle has its roots in a half-century-long process of struggles for democracy and social justice. The Salvadoran people sought to advance toward their aims by peaceful means, including elections, until such possibilities were exhausted. The rich and recalcitrant oligarchy of the big capitalists and landlords and their instrument of domination, the reactionary military dictatorship, smothered those efforts and hopes in the torture chambers, in the jails, in exile, in the abundant blood shed by their butchery, and in the more and more open and widespread electoral frauds. As a result there arose in time the armed struggle.

Yankee imperialism has always backed that dictatorship and every one of its atrocities; it still does so today, with still greater determination. Its current siren songs about “clean elections” in the future, in which we are invited to participate after turning over our weapons, should not confuse anyone. This is a hypocritical move to bar the way to unconditional negotiations. It forms part of the military plans for escalating intervention in El Salvador during 1983. Washington forced the elections originally scheduled for 1984 to be moved up to December of this year. It wants to use the apparent legitimacy of the Christian Democratic Party — which has become its unconditional puppet- and a reformist constitution that is worth no more than the paper it is written on, to cover the heavy military blows being planned for well before the U.S. presidential elections.

Nothing is more legitimate and just in El Salvador than our armed struggle and our proposal for a direct dialogue with the enemy army and government, without prior conditions. The power of our struggle is rooted in the unlimited heroism and unshakeable will to win of the great masses of our people who have risen up in arms. Our people place confidence in the capacities of a revolutionary leadership that guides the closest and most solid unity among all forces of the left without exception, that combines in a more and more skillful way the armed struggle, the political struggle, and the diplomatic struggle.

The leadership has thereby established links and cooperation among the revolutionary and democratic forces, putting together very broad alliances and ensuring agreement against the main enemies among the most varied political and religious forces not only inside but also outside the country — in the United States itself and throughout the world, as shown by the repeated resolutions of the General Assembly of the United Nations and the Movement of Nonaligned countries, and in the individual or joint statements of numerous governments.

Reagan has proclaimed his determination to ensure our military defeat and at the same time has rejected the possibility of a negotiated solution. Simultaneously, his administration has launched the invasion against Nicaragua that it had been openly preparing in Honduras. It has adopted new methods of providing military aid and political support to the Guatemalan regime, which is engaged in the extermination of the Indian population in widespread zones of the country and in a campaign of executions against patriots.

To achieve his own re-election, Reagan has placed his hopes on a defeat of the revolution in Central America and the slight improvement in the U.S. economy. This is a dangerous decision, but an essentially defensive one. By escalating intervention in Central America and the Caribbean, Reagan is running big risks, because it is right there that the weakest link in his domination of our continent is to be found — one of the weakest links in his worldwide chain of domination.

In Central America a triumphant revolution has been established in power in Nicaragua. There are dedicated, growing, and tested revolutionary forces whose advanced process of struggle enjoys very deep and broad international support. We can therefore inflict a blow on Reagan and his demented policies that it will be difficult to recover from before the U.S. elections.

It is necessary and possible to stay Reagan’s aggressive hand and prevent him from setting fire to the world on the basis of his incendiary moves in Central America and the Caribbean. It is necessary and possible to stop him from turning back the wheel of Latin American history, and in this way to contribute to the electoral defeat of this Hitler-like group that rules the United States today.

In this lies the main international significance of the Central American and Caribbean revolutionary process.

We Central American revolutionists will not fail the world. The world forces of peace can count unfailingly on our unshakeable will-power, as well as on all the fighting skill that we have acquired at the price of our blood. They can count on the heroism of our peoples and on our political flexibility, determination, and consistency in the search for a negotiated political solution.

Therefore, in order to achieve this, we call for a prompt and decisive increase in international support for our struggle, which is one of the front lines in the worldwide struggle for peace, freedom, and social progress.

The work of Marx, Engels, and Lenin is crystallized in the socialist community headed by the Soviet Union, the main bulwark of peace; in our intrepid, unshakeable, and internationalist Cuba; in the states of socialist orientation; in the victorious movements for national liberation; in the burning revolutionary struggles of the peoples of Africa, Asia, and Latin America; and in the broad struggles for peace and democracy in Europe, North America, and Japan.

To this powerful family of peace and progress we ourselves belong; with its power we are winning and will win.

United to fight until the final victory!

Revolution or Death — We will win!

Proletarians of all countries, unite!



1. Frederick Engels, Revolution and Counterrevolution in Germany, in Marx and Engels, Collected Works, volume 11, page 68 (New York: International Publishers, 1979).