Written: Fall, 1961
First Published: International Socialist Review, New York, Volume 22, No. 3, pages 107-114.
Transcription/Editing: 2005 by Daniel Gaido
HTML Markup: 2005 by David Walters
Public Domain: George Novack Internet Archive 2005; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.
The Draft Program to be submitted to the forthcoming Congress of the Soviet Communist party discloses the social pressures operating on the men in the Kremlin
A new program has been proposed for submission to the Twenty-second Congress of the Soviet Communist party this October. It will replace the Leninist program adopted by the Eighth Congress in March 1919. The two documents can serve as gauges to measure the great material advances and the no less weighty political retrogression the Soviet Union has undergone in the 42-year interval.
Khrushchev’s draft of 50,000 words is much longer than Lenin’s. Lenin limited the program he wrote largely to national tasks since the founding documents of the Third International, adopted the same month, took up broader questions.
The present document encompasses both domestic and world problems. Despite its wider scope, this new program, presented at the crest of Soviet world influence, is incomparably less internationalist in essential content than Lenin’s, written when the young Soviet Republic was fighting against counterrevolution and foreign intervention for its survival.
Nevertheless, this document is a major political landmark. Superseding Lenin’s program as the guide for the almighty organization heading the dominant country of the Soviet bloc, it sums up the outlook on national and world affairs empirically arrived at by Stalin’s heirs in the fast-changing eight years since the dictator’s death.
Today’s representatives of the Soviet oligarchy wield much more economic power, military might and diplomatic prestige than Stalin. These advantages give them greater assurance, flexibility and room for maneuver at home and abroad. However, while their strength has grown at the expense of imperialism, the Soviet leaders are more hard-pressed by their own masses, the East European satellites, China and the onrushing tide of colonial revolutions. The revised program reflects, among other things, the adjustments in their positions exacted by these changed conditions.
The unwieldy draft tries to serve conflicting purposes. It is directly addressed to the pride of achievement among the Soviet people, beseeching them to be patient a while longer for realization of their expectations for more freedom and a better life. It stresses, not ease and enjoyment, but “the need to work” harder and more efficiently for those ends.
The program contains many arguments to justify perpetuation of the ruling caste. It carries on a scarcely disguised polemic against the dissenting opinions of Peking on some of the key questions of world politics. It is framed to win over the “neutralist” countries by showing the colonial peoples that the Soviet Union is their most reliable source of material aid and by assuring the national bourgeoisie of Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America that the Kremlin will support them, not simply against the imperialists, but against their own insurgent masses.
Like so many things in Soviet life, this political treatise is extremely contradictory. Its exposure of the decay of capitalism and its recital of the world-shaking achievements of the Soviet Union since the 1917 October Revolution are as convincing as its restatement of the aims of socialism and its vistas of social, economic, educational, scientific advancement are inspiring. Facts and arguments pile up to prove how the socialist revolution of the twentieth century, despite its limitations and distortions to date, has irrevocably lifted mankind onto a new historical plateau which opens illimitable prospects.
The projected goals are all the more plausible because they are linked with the impressive progress registered by the Soviet Union and with the potential of its planned economy. Dramatized by the flight of the cosmonaut Titov in Vostok 11 a week later, the new program, backed by the mounting power of the Soviet Union, should have deep impact upon the masses and leaders of the colonial world and even upon advanced workers in the West.
The editors of the New York Post took care to warn the men in high places at Washington that the challenge of this “Communist Manifesto” cannot be countered by voting for Kennedy’s augmented military budget while slashing appropriations for education, social services and economic growth.
As an expression of the accomplishments and aims of the most powerful workers state, the program stands upon qualitatively higher ground than all the pronouncements of the capitalist statesmen. But much more is to be demanded of the political charter of the foremost Communist party than a manifest superiority over the ideological defenses of the old order.
To what extent does this revised program carry forward the scientific methods and proletarian principles of Marxism and Bolshevism? Does it meet the desires and demands of the Soviet people? Does it correctly express the interests of the world struggle for socialism? How useful is it as an aid to the socialist vanguard in America?
In all these respects the document is grossly deficient and misleading.
Khrushchev makes two claims for the program in connection with the traditions of Marxism-Leninism.
He explicitly asserts that the new program is the logical extension and faithful continuation of Lenin’s which, we are told, has been fully completed in the Soviet Union. It is “a major contribution to the development of Marxist-Leninist theory.” Khrushchev implicitly affirms that it abandons Stalin’s policies and practices.
Both claims are equally unfounded. Despite its obeisance to Lenin’s effigy, Khrushchev’s program slides away from Bolshevik positions on the most crucial questions of socialist doctrine and the class struggle. And despite the silence on Stalin, it reaffirms and formally sanctions the cardinal points where Stalinism broke with Bolshevism. Indeed, Khrushchev copies Stalin in his fraudulent claim to be Lenin’s heir.
Apart from allusions to an anonymous and unexplained cult of the individual, the document makes no mention of Khrushchev’s predecessor. Stalin has become an “unperson.” This impudent refusal to deal honestly with the 2 5-year record of the Stalin era demonstrates how alien the authors are to the spirit and methods of scientific socialism.
Historical materialists are obliged, if opportunist statesmen are not, to examine history with open eyes, analyze its course critically, and with full regard for the facts. This draft does not. It lowers the curtain on Soviet developments and disregards Khrushchev’s Twentieth Congress speech as though it was never delivered.1
As the newly published revised version of the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union likewise demonstrates, for all their bravado Khrushchev and his colleagues fear to face up to the real history of the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1953. An honest accounting would raise more questions than it would settle for them. The rulers cannot explain their own origin, evolution, misdeeds and special status because they deny their existence as a distinct group with separate interests. To believe them, only workers, peasants and intellectuals — but not bureaucratic locusts — exist in their homeland.
The different factions of the bureaucracy have obviously been unable to agree upon a common attitude toward their Stalinist legacy (forced collectivization, the fights against the Right and Left Oppositions, the Moscow Trials, the purges, terror and idolatry of Stalin, etc.) So, instead of a candid explanation to the Soviet people, they say nothing, hoping that time will efface embarrassing memories.
This awkward, unsuccessful effort to cover up the still painful past is mingled with a falsification and embellishment of existing conditions in the Soviet Union which further violates the first commandment of socialism: “Tell the truth, no matter how hard it may be to hear at the moment.”
Our discussion of this extensive and highly inconsistent document must be confined to such basic matters as the problems of the national economy, the status of Soviet democracy, the role of the state, the nature of Soviet society and the prospects of Soviet internal development.
The program sets forth at length the tasks of the party in the field of economic development. Even informed opponents of the Soviet system admit that its achievements since the Second World War, especially in science, technology and heavy industry, have been massive and spectacular. Thus a study made by the U.S. Air Force’s “Rand Corp.” shows that Russia’s gross national product doubled in the last decade and says this same rate of growth can be indefinitely sustained.
Communist leaders from East Germany to China are addicted to making high-flown claims and setting farfetched goals in their plans which require substantial correction. Khrushchev is no exception. But even if many of the magnified objectives listed in the program fall far short of realization within the time fixed, the solid foundations of the planned economy built since the 1920’s guarantee remarkable expansion in the next two decades.
While outlining the steps required for this expansion, the program skirts around the excruciating disproportions in production and consumption that impede the progress of Soviet economy. Heavy industry has moved ahead much faster and farther than light industry and farming.
Another of the Rand reports states that the average Soviet citizen today enjoys more than twice the goods and services of 1928 and lives on a “level almost two-thirds higher than in 1950.” Despite this welcome pronounced improvement, the population suffers from shortages of consumer goods and foodstuffs.
Supply lags behind demand in almost every essential item. There are endless time-wasting queues at the state stores for everything from dried fish to bread. The staple diet for most urban families remains tea, cabbage soup and black bread. Meat, milk, eggs and other farm products are scarce and expensive.
The more favored can buy washing machines, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, TV’s, even autos. But the quantities of most household conveniences are so restricted that even party members have to put their names on waiting lists. The majority lack adequate living space and yearn for a tiny apartment of their own. Although Soviet wage-earners spend less on rents, utilities and medical care, wages are low and wide inequalities of income are found among the various categories of workers.
The prevalence of these low-standard living conditions is negatively certified by the affirmations in the program that the next twenty years will bring immense gains in the available means of consumption. Bread and rent will be made free as well as medicine, education and vacation resort facilities. These will not only be plentiful but more fairly distributed.
The Soviet masses have heard similar promises before. But now they feel that a system capable of hurling astronauts into space and bringing them back can and should take better care of the most pressing material needs of the people. Their demands are not only impressed upon the document but give it a double edge. For the tremendous expectations it arouses can rebound against its sponsors if they cannot deliver the goods fast and fully enough.
Since Stalin’s death in 1953, his successors have been wrestling with the difficulties arising from the top priority given heavy industry over other departments of economic life. The official planners have kept twisting and turning, now pledging a larger share of national investment to light industry and then insisting upon the subordination of everything else to the requirements of basic industry. The document leaves un�resolved this central question of priorities in capital investment, signifying division and indecision in top circles on this point.
However, the attitude of the Soviet masses, and the workers in particular, on this matter is unmistakable. Wherever they could find ways to make their wishes known, they have called for more consumer goods and less emphasis upon heavy industry.
For example, in December 1959 Khrushchev announced that the Soviet Union had already outstripped the United States in the production of butter per person. This spring longshoremen in Odessa, where there appears to be a shortage of fats, went on strike in protest against shipments of butter to Cuba. They shouted: “Cuba s�, butter no.” This slogan expressed both their solidarity with the needs of revolutionary Cuba, embargoed by U.S. imperialism, and their demands for more performance and less propaganda from the regime. This one incident tells more about the conflicts within Soviet society and its economic realities than all the exaggerated assertions in the program.
Despite Khrushchev’s announcement of good harvests this year and the many measures taken to extend and improve cultivation, agriculture remains the weakest sector of Soviet economy and the hardest to develop. There are many reasons for the relative stagnation and inadequate growth of the countryside. Not least among them are the effects of the grave disproportions noted in the economic structure. The workers in the cities do not receive enough products from the country because the neglect of light industry cannot provide enough goods for the peasants to sustain and stimulate their output.
If it is realistic to anticipate that the Soviet Union can approach, and even move ahead of advanced capitalist lands in certain branches of basic industry, the pace will be much slower and the problems far more difficult in these other sectors of the economy closer to the consumer.
Everything else depends upon raising per capita productivity in industry and agriculture. The program contains numerous provisions for effecting this: further rationalization, mechanization, automation of industry, decentralization and other administrative measures. Many have been tried without achieving the desired results. But the projected modernization and improved technology in production will undoubtedly increase industrial efficiency considerably. More abundant consumer goods and greater equalization of wage rates would also help.
Productivity and Workers Democracy
The principal means for enhancing the productive powers of the economy and unleashing the untapped potential of its working force would be to give the workers the democratic control over its operations projected in Lenin’s 1919 program. This would involve reducing the arbitrary powers of the factory directors along with the wastefulness and maladministration of the party bureaucracy. Delegates elected by the workers would have to supervise and check all stages of the planning and productive process.
In his May 1 speech on economic planning, Che Guevara explained the shortcomings of Cuba’s production plan last year as follows: “We did not go to the masses. We made a laboratory plan. We estimated the capacity of the plants already installed, we estimated the production, and this was our working plan. Today we can see clearly that the masses did not participate in this plan, and a plan which lacks the participation of the masses is a plan which is always threatened with defeat.”
This indispensability of conscious participation and over-all control by the masses, impressed upon the Cuban revolutionists at the start of their national planning, is alien to the Soviet officialdom. A regime basing itself upon the omnipotence and infallibility of a chosen few on top cannot adopt this road of solution to the problem of productivity.
How can workers who have no control over their government expect it to grant them control over planning or production? They do not even have the right to strike in protest against the consequences of mis-planning. This absence of industrial democracy is the main brake upon the progress of Soviet economy. It goes hand in hand with gross inequities in the distribution of the national product.
The program pledges to eliminate the most glaring injustices. But so long as scarcities endure the possessors of supreme power are not likely to give up their priorities and privileges in amassing and enjoying the good things of life. La Dolce Vita, “the sweet life” at the expense of the masses, exists in different forms and on a different basis in the Soviet Union than in Italy . . . but it is there.
These evils exist — and persist — primarily because of underproduction and the lack of democracy. The draft proclaims, to be sure, that “the entire life of Soviet society is based on the principle of broad democracy . . . and makes it really possible for the people to exercise them. Soviet society ensures the real liberty of the individual.”
These are fine words. But who, apart from the most credulous, will take them as an accurate designation of Soviet life?
The 1919 program asserted that the “deprivation of political rights and restriction of liberty are necessary only as temporary measures to fight any attempts of the exploiters to maintain or restore their privileges. To the extent that the objective possibility of exploitation of man by man disappears, the necessity for such temporary measures will disappear, and the Party will strive to diminish these measures.”
Now, 42 years later, Khrushchev assures us that all exploitation has ceased and socialism has been instituted. Has Lenin’s program of proletarian democracy, then, been carried out? Far from it. The terror of Stalin’s time has been lifted. The ordinary Soviet citizen nowadays does not dread sudden arrest, trials on false charges, long-term imprisonment at hard labor in concentration camps.
Yet the workers do not even have those rights and liberties they won in 1917 and exercised until the advent of Stalinism. Democracy has been stamped out in the Soviets and the party. Functionaries are not made responsible or accountable for their actions. The entire toiling population has not been drawn into the work of state administration. Judges are not elected by the workers. The “ruling cadres” dominate and decide everything for the people.
The new program boasts that the Soviet people have full freedom of speech, press and assembly, the right to elect and be elected. What is the actual state of affairs? Soviet citizens are forbidden to read unauthorized publications, listen to foreign broadcasts, possess books and magazines from outside the Soviet Union. They cannot travel freely at home or leave the country without official permission. Dissenting opinions are not encouraged or allowed and their public expression is severely punished. Government functionaries and party censors keep culture and the arts under careful supervision lest too “dangerous thoughts” circulate through them.
In his August 17 speech on the Berlin crisis the Soviet Premier said: “It can already now be said with complete confidence that the entire Soviet people unanimously approve the draft program of our party.” This pompous pronouncement shows how much enforced conformity and how little democracy accompanies the birth of this very program. Contrary to Khrushchev, dissenters to it very likely exist not simply among the masses but in high places, even though their voices cannot be heard in public.
The democratic pretensions of the document are further belied by its retention of the dogma of the monolithic, monopolistic party together with the cult of the bureaucratic state. If such total harmony of interests and unanimity of views prevail as Khrushchev contends, what makes it imperative for the party to maintain its political monopoly and complete control over all domains of public life not only now but into the projected Communist stage? A system with unalloyed solidarity would need no permanent master-directors nor would the Communist party fear organized activities by its loyal members so much that it categorically forbids any manifestations of “factionalism.” If there was no widespread opposition to their policies or rule, the neo-Stalinists could easily maintain their leading role thanks to the correctness of their proposals, the persuasiveness of their ideas, the prestige of their deeds. The fact that the document reasserts the totalitarian primacy of the single party — and upholds that dogma by government coercion — in itself betrays the underlying presence of social and political conflicts that require suppression.
The “Classless” State
These same considerations apply to the draft’s treatment of the role of the Soviet state. Lenin taught that proletarian democracy would be expanded and the compulsive and bureaucratic features of the state progressively reduced as the powers of production multiplied to provide abundance for everyone, class antagonisms were eliminated, and the socialist revolution conquered in other countries.
Khrushchev claims that all these happy conditions have been realized. The government of this thoroughly harmonious society is so democratic it no longer has a proletarian class character. It is a “state of the whole people.”
If this be so, why did the rulers of the Soviet state this year reinstate the death penalty for economic crimes which Stalin abolished in 1947? Several people have already been executed under this law. Capital punishment has been illegalized in a number of capitalist countries. Clearly there must be overwhelming economic forces impelling citizens to commit offences against state property — and no less powerful reasons for the bosses of this allegedly “socialist” country to impose such savage retaliations. Khrushchev himself has recently divulged large-scale embezzlements, frauds and double-dealings by top party administrators. Thefts of state property occur at all grades of the social pyramid. Last year half the grain crop of the Ukraine remained unaccounted for! These anti-socialist practices, these vestiges of “bourgeois mentality” have both economic and political causes. They are engendered by continuing poverty, misery and inequality, by the uncontrolled rule of the bureaucrats, and by the helplessness of the masses to bridle them.
The new program holds out the prospect of far-ranging political and economic reforms to correct these abuses: secret ballots for choosing, removing, retiring, and replacing central political committees. But it likewise makes clear that the present commanders-in-chief do not intend to surrender any essential positions, powers or privileges.
The document proclaims that “Socialism has triumphed in the Soviet Union completely and finally.” Socialism, according to all Marxists before Stalin and his heirs, was not a nationally limited but an international system involving the majority of the human race and its most highly developed sectors. For socialism to acquire genuine economic substance, it must not simply have nationalized means of production and a planned economy but provide higher living standards than the richest capitalist countries. Khrushchev himself acknowledges that the Soviet Union of today, let alone the other members of the Soviet bloc, does not better satisfy the material needs of the people. The program only promises that in the next twenty years Soviet living conditions will rise rapidly, approach and then surpass those in the West — provided world peace is secured and the arms race slackens.
Such a pauper’s “socialism” in relation to capitalism is a contradiction in terms. This is only one of the many contradictions between Marxist theory and Soviet reality in this document. With an economy rapidly gaining on capitalism in science, technology and heavy industry but less productive and poorer in most fields catering to the consumer, with an ultra-bureaucratic regime denying elementary rights to its citizens, the Soviet Union today is still far from the socialist order projected by the creators and continuators of Marxism — or desired by the workers.
It would be more accurate and honest to admit these shortcomings and see Soviet society as a workers state directed toward socialism but held back economically by its insufficient productivity, politically by its privileged commanding caste, and internationally by the failure of the workers to take power in the fortresses of imperialism.
But the Soviet leaders need fictions to glamorize their regime, bolster their rule, and inject false hopes into their followers. That is why they misrepresent the nature of Soviet society, among so many other things. In their hands Marxism loses its scientific character and is converted into an instrument of apologetics for their costly stewardship.
The draft presents a highly simplified and sedative prospectus of Soviet evolution. There exists, we are informed, indestructible unity among the winkers, peasants and intellectuals alongside a firm fusion of the constituent nationalities. There is no ground for serious social antagonisms or political divisions. Economic, scientific, social and cultural progress will quicken all along the line as the USSR moves on from socialism to communism. Whatever inequalities remain will be erased together with the backwardness inherited from the past.
All this is guaranteed provided direction of affairs remains exclusively in the hands of the Communist party. The benevolent bureaucracy will shepherd the masses toward the bright Communist future.
In view of the relaxation of tensions and the bettered living conditions since Stalin’s death and in light of the achievements and potential of their work, the Soviet people may very likely be inclined to extend credit to the program’s promises and see whether the regime can deliver the goods.
Khrushchev has given another gigantic promissory note to his people. They will insist that more and more payments be made upon it. To the extent that the administration does not make good within the prescribed time, disenchantment and discontent will grow.
This would not be the first time in either modern or Soviet history that, by stirring up expectations without satisfying them, the promises and concessions of a reformist regime have prepared the way for independent mass actions and radical changes in the political situation and setup. Precisely this happened in Eastern Europe from 1953 to 1956.
After Stalin’s totalitarian terror, the Soviet people are going through their experiment with the reforms of his more “liberal” successors. It cannot be foreseen how long it will take for them to grasp the intrinsic limitations of Khrushchev’s rule. But the experience, and above all the exhaustion, of this period of the disintegration of the supports of Stalinism can become one of the major preconditions, not for the consolidation and perpetuation of bureaucratic domination, but for its undermining and eventual replacement by proletarian democracy. The Soviet people, we firmly believe, will sooner or later dislodge the bureaucracy and take full charge of their own house.
The Bolsheviks under Lenin did not assign a permanent paramount place in the march toward socialism to any country or its working class, including the Soviet Republic they established. Such national arrogance was repugnant to them, as Marxists. Lenin viewed the leading role of the Russian revolutionists as temporary in the world-wide historic process of overcoming capitalism and building socialism. He integrally linked the fate of the Soviet regime with the development of the international socialist revolution.
Despite their disclaimers, the current heads of the Soviet oligarchy talk and act as though they had been awarded a perpetual ascendancy, not only within the Soviet sphere, but in the world labor and socialist movement. Intoxicated and unbalanced by the powers they wield, they believe that all the necessary means for maintaining supremacy forever is in their hands.
When, in connection with the Berlin crisis, Khrushchev alluded to “our fight for the recognition of our grandeur,” this phrase reveals the chauvinism in the outlook of the caste he represents. The draft is permeated with this spirit of “national grandeur.” Where Stalin merely proclaimed the building of socialism in one country, regardless of conditions and events elsewhere in this world, his disciples, increasing the boast, are heralding the creation of communism in the same fatherland.
The program says: “In the Socialist camp, or, which is the same thing, in the world community of Socialist countries, none have, nor can have, any special rights or privileges.” Yet the authors reserve for their own regime the privilege of being the first to reach socialism and enter communism while the less fortunate contingents of mankind bring up the rear.
This perspective is not only illusory for the Soviet people; it is viciously reactionary and anti-Socialist in relation to the other states within the Soviet bloc. While the Soviet Union is on the way to communism, what is to happen in the other anti-capitalist countries from Albania to China? Are they to rest content trotting humbly behind — and so far behind — Soviet Big Brother?
Compared with 200 million people in the Soviet Union, there are 700 million living in China, most of them literally on rations. Are they supposed to creep forward on their terribly lower economic level as the Soviet Union bounds toward communist abundance? China needs increasing amounts of equipment to build its heavy industry. How can these demands be met by Moscow if, as projected, it will have to allot more of its own annual budget to light industry and farming?
The coexistence of have and have-not nations within the so-called “Socialist community” is as pregnant with national antagonisms as the presence of rich and poor in a single capitalist country is with class conflict. This is one of the major, if unspoken, sources of friction at work behind the scenes in Sine-Soviet relations.
The draft, believe it or not, devotes merely sixteen words in all to China and its Revolution, the most momentous event of the past fifteen years. But the difficulties and dissensions flowing from the perspectives of “communism in one country” will not be settled by hushing them up. Peking has not concealed its displeasure with the draft and will doubtless have more to say about the deepening divergences it is bound to stimulate.
* * *
If the lines of development projected for the Soviet Union and its bloc are not so simple or roseate as they are depicted in this document, neither are the perspectives of world events. Here we can deal only with two decisive problems: the danger of war and the fight for peace and the strategy of struggle for workers power.
The General Secretary of the Communist party has stated that his appraisal of the war-making powers of imperialism differs from Lenin’s. Lenin taught that war, like exploitation, was an irremovable feature of capitalism. “So long as both capitalism and socialism remain, we cannot live in peace,” he wrote, not once but many times. The only way to eradicate war and get world peace was through the abolition of imperialism in its main strongholds by the revolutionary working class.
In accord with Khrushchev’s innovations at the Twentieth Congress, which made official doctrine of Stalin’s revisionist practices, the new program discards the Leninist conception of imperialism and its corresponding revolutionary class struggle policies.
The draft correctly attributes prime responsibility for the war danger to imperialism. The collectivized, planned Soviet economy, unlike the system of the monopolist profiteers, does not benefit from military contracts or breed foreign wars to protect and promote private business interests. Insofar as the slogan of peaceful coexistence exposes the belligerence of the imperialist powers and underscores the peaceful aims of Soviet diplomacy, it not only accords with the facts but serves useful propaganda purposes.
But the policy pursued by the Kremlin and its followers under cover of peaceful coexistence has another meaning. It is stretched to cover, not only the maintenance of friendly relations between states with different social and political systems, to which there certainly can be no objection, but the maintenance of existing relations between classes with antagonistic interests. As implemented by the Communist parties, it does far more to hold back the working masses from struggling for their own demands and power than to check the warmongers.
It is proper for Moscow to negotiate at any level with Washington for agreements which can help preserve peace and safeguard the interests of the workers states. But in pursuit of such objectives it is misleading and disastrous to depict the representatives of the rich as partisans of peace, as Eisenhower was depicted when “the spirit of Camp David” was at its height.
The document fails to put the formula of peaceful coexistence to the test of living experience. Khrushchev’s reasoning and conclusions haven’t yet won over the White House, the Pentagon or Congress. Kennedy refuses to recognize the People’s Republic of China, supports Chiang, maintains the Seventh Fleet blockade. He and the CIA continue to conspire against Cuba. The new draft, however, does not mention Cuba at all or list it among the socialist countries.
Why this inexplicable inattention to Cuba and China, the countries most vulnerable to imperialist assault? Is it because the positions of these workers states upset the assumptions of peaceful coexistence and expose the fallacy in Khrushchev’s line? Even if Peking and Havana wished to believe in Washington’s peaceful intentions, the hostility of Kennedy’s administration would speedily dispel such illusions. The fact is, neither capital sees eye to eye with Moscow on this point.
To credit the new revelation, the capitalist states can be made to disarm and their war-waging capacities nullified, not through the capture of power by the workers, but through the shift in the world relation of forces pivoted around the overwhelming strength of the Soviet Union and its allies. War is therefore avoidable even though capitalist militarism continues to exist with enough H-bombs to annihilate humanity fifty times over.
Lenin supported antimilitarist mass struggles calling for the reduction and end to armaments in capitalist countries. But he always took care to point out that the monopolists and militarists could quickly rearm so long as they controlled the economy and government. Purely military disarmament would not be effective without the economic expropriation and political displacement of the capitalist rulers.
Khrushchev, however, implies that the attainment of total disarmament would in itself assure world peace. He further contends that the military superiority of the Soviet Union on one side and the superdestructive capacity of nuclear weapons on the other make it impossible, unthinkable, for any but madmen to initiate war or attack any socialist country.
The program insinuates that World War III has been prevented up to now by Soviet might and its policy of peaceful coexistence. In reality, the results of the Chinese and the other colonial revolutions in altering the balance of world forces have done more to restrain the imperialist war-makers than any other single factor. But this fact confirms Lenin’s line of intransigent struggle against imperialist power, not the Stalinist course of conciliation.
To avert the threat of war, the program pins great hope upon the leaders of the “neutralist” bourgeoisie in the less developed nations as well as upon the “peace-loving” elements among the Western capitalists. A qualitative distinction is drawn between two opposite types of capitalists: the warmongering and the peace-loving. The document declares: “Support for the principle of peaceful coexistence is also in keeping with the interests of that section of the bourgeoisie which realizes that a thermonuclear war would not spare the ruling classes of capitalist society either.”
It does not say where Kennedy is to be placed — among the peaceful coexisters or among the war fanatics. This calculated ambiguity on the role of the official head of U.S. militarism which so offends the Chinese Communists gives away the anti-Leninist foundations of Moscow’s peace policy. Khrushchev is extending Stalin’s policy of “collective security” with the capitalist powers and Popular Front collaboration with the progressive, peace-loving bourgeoisie which disoriented the workers in the 1930’s but failed to prevent the Second World War.
Lenin’s program hinged the struggle for peace, for socialism, for the defense of all revolutionary gains, not upon the resources of the Soviet Union alone, but upon the extension of the proletarian revolution on the world arena, and above all to the central strongholds of capitalist power in Western Europe and North America. The solution of all problems depended upon the development of the class struggle culminating in the conquest of power by the workers in one country after another.
Khrushchev’s program sets forth a different course. The multiplying economic successes must prove so overwhelming that they will not only dispose of all basic problems at home but demoralize all opposition in the other parts of the globe. The preponderant power, prestige, and pressures of the “socialist community” will impose peace, force the imperialists to disarm, frustrate their schemes of reconquest. Moreover, by strengthening the position and morale of the workers, the advances of the Soviet bloc will create the conditions for easier transfer of power to the anti-monopolist coalitions and ensure the transition to socialism by peaceful, gradual steps even in some capitalist countries.
There are many phrases about the need for struggle in the document aimed at reconciling discordant interests and opposing views by giving deceptive meanings to words. The partisans of nationalism and internationalism, of class compromise and class struggle, of Stalinism and Bolshevism can all find passages in the text to sanction their positions. Thus, immediately before the statement about the peacefully inclined section of the bourgeoisie, we are told that the conception of peaceful coexistence “constitutes a specific form of class struggle” which “affords more favorable opportunities for the struggle of the working class in capitalist countries.” Thus the line of peaceful coexistence is recommended on the grounds that it both promotes the class struggle of the workers and fits in with the interests of their peace-loving class enemies! Who can distinguish one side clearly amidst such deliberate confusion?
In reality, the summons to struggle is decorative and in practice subordinated to the main line of seeking some kind of collaboration and compromise with the progressive, peace-loving bourgeoisie. Indeed, if the successes of Soviet “socialism’) can ensure peace and do so much else, where is the life-and-death necessity for the workers under capitalist domination to get rid of their oppressors and exploiters as soon as they can?
The tenor of the neo-Stalinist line is that the socialist forces can conquer all opposition even in the imperialist centers, not by the example of internal class power, but by the external power of Soviet example. Evolution, gradualism, take precedence over independent class struggle and revolutionary mass action. This expectation, which shaped the thinking of Utopian and reformist socialists, has become the cornerstone of Moscow’s strategy in world politics.
The trouble is that the class enemies of the workers can learn equally well from the advances of the workers states. Will the imperialists continue to retreat and stand inactive as the Soviet Union proceeds from “socialism” to “communism” and undermines their power and prestige? Will they gracefully give up their rule and privileges — or fight to the death to retain them? Cuba provides a fresh example of how intransigent they can be.
It would be folly for serious socialists to bank on the most favorable development, and still worse to follow Moscow and make it the axis of practical political policy. The workers need less tranquillizers and more energizers to arouse them to the perils of the decadent capitalist system and inspire them to end it through their own conscious action.
Be realists, says Khrushchev to the Washington policy-makers. Recognize the new balance of world power and come to agreement on Berlin. But the imperialists are unyielding primarily because they fear the consequences of further shifts to their disadvantage. They will hardly permit an indefinite erosion of their power without taking drastic countermeasures.
How then is peaceful coexistence between the forces of capitalism and socialism and their states to be maintained for decades ahead in a world convulsed by colonial revolutions, mass movements of all kinds against the old order, and the stubborn refusal of Big Business to let such events attain their aims? This fundamental question of world politics is barely raised, and certainly not answered, in this document.
It appears untimely, even unseemly, to advance peaceful coexistence as the panacea for peace while tension tightens over Berlin. Let us assume that this crisis, like others between the Soviet bloc and the Western powers, is overcome. What guarantees are there that the ultimate showdown can forever be circumvented if the militarists and monopolists maintain their sway in Washington, London, Paris, Bonn and Tokyo? The document gives no iron-clad guarantees; it is hedged with conditions. But it is precisely the efficacy of the most important of these conditions, the restraints against war present among the capitalist possessors of power, that is the point at issue. So long as the masterminds in the Kremlin cannot stand bond for the triumph of the pro-peace elements in the imperialist camp — and even if they did — their advice to stake the fate of humanity upon this turn of events is, to say the least, questionable.
The program’s preventives for war rest upon a hypothesis that remains to be tested and is ill-founded. It assumes that no circumstances will drive the imperialists to nuclear war because it is contrary to their self-interest. Only madmen would take such a course. Yet even today in Washington there are voices urging the risk of war over Berlin. Doomed classes are the most prone to unreasonable actions to ward off their downfall.
At bottom the policy of peaceful coexistence relies, not upon the overwhelming strength of the Soviet Union and surely not upon the conquest of power by the workers, but rather upon the capitalists’ fearful recognition of the consequences of nuclear war to themselves. Sober calculation should convince them, even if socialist opposition does not compel them, that peace is better than atomic holocaust. They will embrace retreat, defeat, dispossession, rather than unloose the horrors of nuclear destruction.
This position shifts the basis of the struggle for peace from one class force to its opposite. Lenin held that the thrust toward war was inherent in imperialism and the danger would not lessen but increase as its system was more threatened. President Kennedy stated in a recent speech that the policy of this country is based ultimately on military power. The stepped-up arms race and attitude of the NATO allies over Berlin testify to the truth of Lenin’s approach which the document dismisses as outdated.
Khrushchev’s program blunts the edges of class struggle in favor of class collaboration. Just as it tells the Soviet workers to place full confidence in the enlightened and reformed successors of Stalin, so it advises the workers in the West to stake all upon changing the character and course of the ruling bourgeoisie. Instead of relying upon their own independent class organizations and actions for attaining their ends and defending their welfare, they are to look for alliances with the most amenable segments of the capitalist rulers.
What this means for American socialists can be seen in the following policy statement by Gus Hall, General Secretary of the Communist party USA, published in the July 16 Worker. “The situation requires that the main direction of the attack should be at the warmongering and fascist forces, who are pressuring the Kennedy Administration further to the Right. At the same time, every policy or action of Kennedy that plays into the hands of the Right should be sharply opposed and criticized, building up the pressures upon the Administration for a change in policy in the direction of peaceful coexistence and defense of democracy.” Here is the concrete application of the neo-Stalinist program in the dominant capitalist country. Kennedy is not seen as the political leader of the monopolists and militarists but as the victim and target of the reactionaries and fascists. The main task of the progressive forces today is not to combat and expose his role as the principal executive of imperialist policy but to exert counterpressure enough to redirect his administration into democratic and progressive channels. The precedent, Hall tells us, is Franklin D. Roosevelt, signer of the Smith Act, who, as we all know, ended his regime in the midst of peace and democracy.
This is the real meaning of the Communist party’s line of peaceful coexistence in the political life of the United States today. As followers of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, we reject such opportunism. It has already inflicted too much damage upon American and world socialism for us to accept it, even on the exalted authority of Khrushchev.
1 Although its substance has been imparted to Communist party members, this speech has not yet been published by the Soviet press. The Soviet people, who are most concerned, remain the least well informed about this historic exposure of the crimes of Stalin. Honest delegates to the Twenty-second Congress may have difficulty squaring this suppression with the assertion in the draft that “the party considers that the paramount task in the ideological field in the present period is to educate all working people in a spirit of ideological integrity...”