Source: The Guardian, (newspaper) April 11, 1984.
Transciption: Josh Sykes
HTML Markup: Mike B.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2009). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
The question of the nature of the Soviet Union and its role in world affairs has always been an important and controversial issue for the U.S. left. In the following opinion, longtime Black activist Harry Haywood discusses what repercussions the view that the Soviet Union is "the main enemy of the world's peoples" had for a part of the U.S. communist movement in the late 1970s.
Haywood was a leading figure in the U.S. Communist Party from the 1920s until the 1950s. In the 1970s he was a member of the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist), a strongly pro-China part of the "new communist movement."
After a brief period of party building in the 1970s the new communist movement is now dead. It has fallen victim to organizational disintegration, political confusion, and ideological disarray. What was the source of our movement's collapse? How can we begin a political recovery? Today the questions have become more urgent as a new period of imperialist crisis begins to radically alter the world's balance of forces, and once again raises the danger of catastrophic depression and world war.
There were many factors which precipitated the crisis of the new communist movement and made it difficult to resolve. For one thing its class base reflected its origin in the anti-war student movement, the national movements and the anti-revisionist struggle. It did not have a large working-class base or composition and was characterized by its youth and inexperience. Its ultra-"leftism" prevented expansion into the larger sectors of U.S. society and it remained an isolated group of sects on the left.
Furthermore the political upheavals in China and the death of Mao contributed to the instability of the movement's political outlook. Inside the new communist movement there were difficulties over questions of democratic centralism—particularly on issues of party democracy. As a result many groups on the left had difficulty conducting serious political struggle. Finally the intensification of the world crisis in the 1970s rapidly changed political situations and presented problems that could not be resolved.
When the new communist movement began faltering in the later 1970s many comrades and organizations summed up either left sectarianism and dogmatism or right liquidationism as the cause of our demise. While there is a great deal of truth in these positions, they do not go to the crux of the problem. The essential question is what the general line that led our movement into crisis and collapse?
While many problems contributed to the crisis of the new communist movement, the underlying cause of its collapse was the incorrect strategic line of the Three Worlds Theory which our part of the party building movement uncritically adopted from the Chinese. This view that the Soviet Union is a social-imperialist country in which capitalism has been restored marked, for the Chinese, a fundamental change in the international balance of forces. It portrayed the Soviet Union not only as an enemy but the "main enemy" of the world's people. It led the Chinese at times into a tacit alliance with the U.S. It also created deep contradictions in the political line of the new communist movement.
The question of the Soviet Union is fundamentally a strategic one. This means we must address the first revolutionary question posed by Mao: "Who are our enemies? Who are our friends?" Is the Soviet Union a friend or an enemy of revolution? How we answer this question not only determines our international strategic concept but also shapes our line on a whole series of tactical problems.
Throughout the 1970s the Chinese answered this question with the Three Worlds Theory. In its most developed form the Three Worlds Theory argued that the Soviet Union was the "main enemy" of the world's people. It also said that, "Of the two imperialist superpowers, the Soviet Union is the more ferocious, the more reckless, the more treacherous, and the most dangerous source of world war," taking the offensive all over the world.
The Chinese argued that behind these international developments were dramatic political changes inside the Soviet Union. After the death of Stalin, revisionism had come into power with Khrushchev and Brezhnev. This in turn, the Chinese argued, led to the "degeneracy" of socialism and the restoration of capitalism. A new class, the "bureaucrat monopoly class" had taken power. It brought with it a "state monopoly capitalist" economy and a "fascist dictatorship" state.
For the new communist movement in the U.S. that looked toward China, these strategic aspects created serious problems in political line. On the one hand, the strategy of the Three Worlds Theory encouraged a strong U.S. military defense and a tacit alliance between the U.S. and China. On the other hand much of the new communist movement vehemently opposed any suggestion that for U.S. communists this meant unity ad a "people's front" with the U.S. bourgeoisie.
As a result, a deep political contradiction cut through much of the new communist movement. There was a logic inherent in the Three Worlds Theory which pushed it in the direction of U.S. imperialism.
The political and economic facts of imperialism's world crisis have forced the U.S., after a brief retreat provoked by the Vietnamese defeat, to try to reassert its hegemony and regain its former dominance through a massive arms build-up and a new projection of U.S. military might around the globe. The "new militarism" is being backed up by a revived "new cold war" offensive against the Soviet Union and the communist "threat" in the third world. A bellicose confrontational policy has now replaced détente and raised the specter of nuclear war over Europe.
Clearly, the main enemy in the world today is not the Soviet Union—it is U.S. imperialism. To be more precise it is the U.S. monopoly capitalists. For American communists this means grasping the fact that it, "our own bourgeoisie," here in the U.S., is the most dangerous source of war and the main enemy.
Another set of strategic problems that grow out of the Three Worlds Theory are related to the "main force" thesis and the historical periods which underlay this analysis. In brief the Three Worlds Theory advanced the strategic idea that the "countries and people of the third world constitute the main force combating imperialism, colonialism and hegemonism." The Chinese argued, for a variety of reasons, that the third world would play this strategic role "for a fairly long historical period."
While the "main force" thesis was correct about the role of the national democratic movement and the workers movement in the imperialist countries in the period between 1950 and 1970, it is not applicable to the new historical period that developed in the 1970s as a result of the world crisis of imperialism. This thesis contributed to an already existing underestimation of the revolutionary potential of the working class—especially in the advanced capitalist countries.
Finally, we must consider the thesis that capitalism has been restored in the Soviet Union. This is the main tap root of the Three Worlds Theory. It is a thesis which also takes us into questions about the nature of socialism. The belief that capitalism has been restored in the Soviet Union essentially comes from an idealistic concept of socialism. In the first place, it forgets the long, complicated, and tortuous struggle of the Soviets to establish the first socialist country.
At the moment of its birth the socialist revolution in Russia was attacked through an invasion by the allied forces in a "secret war" against the revolution. Then came the hard years of economic retreat and the civil war followed by the Great Industrialization of the 1930s; and finally a World War in which its land was invaded, one-third of its wealth destroyed, and over 20 million of its people killed. The Soviet Union bore the brunt of the anti-fascist war and played a decisive role in saving the world from fascism. All these events took place in a single generation. Thus, for it entire existence the Soviet Union has been under attack by western imperialism, led by the U.S. In order to survive, the Soviet Union had to develop a strong military defense. In the post World War 2 period it confronted a hostile and aggressive U.S. Faced with the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan and the constant threat of the atomic bomb, the Soviet Union armed itself with nuclear weapons. Andre Gromyko, on the use of the Soviet Union's strategic nuclear weapons, put forward a "no first strike" policy, which the U.S. has refused to adopt.
History demonstrates that, overall, Soviet foreign policy has been basically defensive and non-aggressive. This fact does not mean that everything the Soviet Union does is correct or that it cannot make serious mistakes or pursue wrong lines. For example, its relations with China and other socialist countries have been marked at times by chauvinism and hegemonism. But these problems do not make the Soviet Union a social imperialist power.
Without a monopoly capitalist class and without capitalist relations of production there is no fundamental and compelling logic in the Soviet economy that creates a need to export capital and exploit other countries through trade. As a result it also has no colonies and no empire to sustain.
One of the main lessons we can sum up from our experiences with the Three Worlds Theory and the changes in the international situation is the absolute necessity to develop an independent American communist line based upon the particularities of the domestic and international situation of the U.S.
The world as we have known it since World War 2 is now in great flux. Imperialism is bringing forth another world crisis. Fear is growing—fear of depression and fear of war. In the U.S. there are strong signs that the American people are beginning to respond to this crisis. In 1982 a half million people demonstrated for peace and against war. In 1983 over a quarter of a million marched on Washington to remember Martin Luther King and revive the civil rights movements. Over the last few years there have also been a number of large national labor demonstrations in Washington.
These events foreshadow a large mass movement centered around the issues of peace, jobs, and freedom. A left coalition, rooted in the alliance of the working class and oppressed nationalities and composed of a host of movements for democratic rights is now taking shape. The world crisis is creating conditions favorable for the development of a strategic alliance but communists in the U.S. are scattered, divided, and unprepared.
These developments make it all the more urgent for American communists to cast aside outmoded and incorrect political ideas so we can begin to give direction to the trends. Our first step is to begin to seeking a process of unity based around strategic direction that clearly recognizes U.S. imperialism as the center of world reaction, the main threat to world peace and the main enemy of the world's people.