First Published: Progressive Labor, Vol. 8, No. 3, November 1971
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Millions of working people in every corner of the world know that they can solve the fundamental problems of their class only by making proletarian revolution and winning the fight for socialism.
The history of this century can be summed up as the story of how working people came to embrace the goals of revolution, socialism, and communism and how they struggled to rid themselves of capitalist society by replacing it with socialist society.
Revolution and socialism would not be mass ideas today without the international communist movement of the past 100 years, which led hundreds of millions of workers and oppressed people in titanic class battles against capitalist exploitation.
The revolutionary movement has passed through successive stages of growth and deepened understanding in the five generations since the Paris Commune marked the first attempt by workers to seize and hold state power. As we have pointed out in the article Road to Revolution III, each of these stages–the Commune, the Russian revolution of 1917, the Chinese revolution, and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution–has enabled millions to absorb fresh lessons about class struggle and to advance the revolutionary process.
These lessons are embodied in the science of Marxism-Leninism. As the historical leaders of the international communist movement, Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and others attempted to discover the laws of class struggle and apply them to the revolutionary practice of the movement. The discoveries they succeeded in making were not the result of individual “genius” but rather the product of the collective experiences shared by masses locked in life and death struggle against the capitalist class.
Revolutionaries today refer to themselves as Marxist-Leninists because these discoveries point the way ahead for the communist movement everywhere. Marx and Engels discovered historical materialism (the science of history and society), dialectical materialism, the economic laws of capitalism’s development, and, most importantly, the need for violent working-class led revolution that would smash the state apparatus of the old bourgeoisie and replace it with a workers’ dictatorship. Lenin and his comrades in the Bolshevik party rescued Marxism from the opportunism of the social democrats. They brought to light Marx’s teachings about the Paris Commune and taught the working people how to seize political power. Their great discoveries were the theory and development of a revolutionary democratic-centralist party, the primacy of politics over economics (in his struggle against the “Economists,” Lenin outlined the key task of winning masses to revolutionary political consciousness–he defeated the revisionist idea that the fight for reform demands would “spontaneously” bring about revolution), the nature of imperialism, and the nature and function of the state under capitalism and socialism. Under the leadership of Mao Tse-tung, the communist movement developed the theory of protracted people’s war, and discovered the revolutionary potential of hundreds of millions of peasants.
Without these discoveries, the revolutionary movement could not advance today. They embody the living kernel of Marxism-Leninism and the hope of workers and oppressed people everywhere. However, revolutionary theory is not a catechism–a set of ideas and principles that work mechanically, as if by “magic.” Workers and revolutionaries must constantly evaluate their experiences in struggle and re-evaluate their ideas about these experiences. If working class revolution, proletarian dictatorship, and socialism correctly remain the goals of the revolutionary movement, there is no universally valid formula served up on a platter for achieving these goals.
The proof is in the pudding. On the one hand, the general trend of modern history is the revolutionary thrust of millions grasping and fighting for communist ideas. As an historical phenomenon, this process is irreversible. On the other hand, however, the working class has suffered many temporary defeats on the road to revolution and socialism. In every country where workers seized power and began to build socialist society, the bourgeoisie has reconquered state power, re-asserted its class dictatorship, and restored or begun to restore capitalism. The old communist movement, led by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, is dead as a revolutionary force. A new communist movement can and must develop to absorb the lessons of past defeats and carry forward the struggle to destroy capitalism.
The defeats suffered by the communist movement over the last 100 years did not simply “happen.” In every case, they occurred as the direct result of weaknesses within the movement. Since the Bolshevik revolution, the communist movement in all countries has applied the same strategy to make \consolidate revolution. When the Chinese Communist party seized power in 1949, it did so with essentially the same line that had been put into practice by Lenin’s party in 1917. The temporary reversal of workers’ power and socialism in the Soviet Union, the transformation of once-mighty communist parties elsewhere into revisionist agents of the international bourgeoisie, and the emergence of China’s “red bourgeoisie” as a ruling class after the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution make it critical at this time for revolutionaries to analyze the strategy of the old communist movement, identify its errors, and use this knowledge to turn defeat into victory. The purpose of this article is to study the communist movement’s traditional view of how to make revolution.
The Bolshevik strategy, which was virtually copied by the entire movement until the Great Leap Forward and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, includes four main points:
(1) The key point is to organize a democratic-centralist party made up of active militants. Lenin wrote, “The party, so to speak, embodies in itself the vanguard of the proletariat.” This set the Bolsheviks apart from all other socialist groups, all of whom opposed Lenin’s party concept.
(2) Through taking part in all sorts of progressive struggles the party wins the support of the masses of workers, professionals, intellectuals and so forth. This set the Bolsheviks apart from the syndicalists, the other major left-wing tendency of the early part of the century. The syndicalists believed only in trade union action.
(3) Through alliances with existing organizations or by a program proposing to parcel out the big landlords’ land to the rest of the peasantry the party wins the support of the peasants. This completely reversed the traditional Marxist attitude towards the peasants, which was that they could play no revolutionary role.
(4) By advocating equality and the right to independent statehood for all colonized nations the party wins the support of the bourgeoisie of colonized nations. This introduced an idea no Marxist before Lenin had built on, though Marx had anticipated the idea. During Lenin’s time all other groups of the socialist movement held that colonial freedom could come about only as the result of a successful revolution in the colonizing country.
Having achieved this great united front the party is in a position to take power, through required military action whose character depends on local conditions.
In other words the socialist revolution means the party taking power.
In order to understand this strategy we must discuss what Marxists think is the reason events happen as they do.
A certain set of material conditions lies at the base of every historical development and determines its limits at any given period. These material conditions are a given society’s forces of production and their relation to each other, which, taken together, Marxism-Leninism terms the mode of production. The development of the economic base is, in the long run, the cause of historical development.
The longer the time period we consider or the more important the historical event, the more forcefully does this point assert itself.
Marx and Engels held, and Marxism holds, that the “development of the economic base” proceeds through class struggle. But clearly it is possible to read the above quote from Marx and proceed to a very mechanical view that people always act in any given situation according to their economic interests. In fact the tendency within the Marxist movement has always been to think this way. The right wing within the Marxist movement has always interpreted events almost as if they were preordained by history; the right has always given primacy to economics. The left wing has always opposed this and based itself on politics, on conscious mass action rather than historical “inevitability.” The struggle between the deterministic and the political tendencies has been a constant and basic controversy within the movement. History demonstrates that the movement has been successful in making revolution only where the political approach was in charge.
The theory that class struggle determines how the economic base develops involves two related groups of ideas.
(1) Historical development depends upon the ideas that the various classes hold. People act according to what they think is right. On the one hand these ideas ultimately derive from the economic base. On the other hand ideology has a relative independence of development. Economic conditions ultimately determine the way in which existing ideas change and develop further, but they do so indirectly, through politics, law, literature and the other elements of the superstructure. The economic base is reflected indirectly and in a distorted form, and only analysis of the superstructure reveals its relation to the base. In other words, there is interaction on the basis of economic necessities, which are decisive in the long run.
There is never complete correlation between base and superstructure. Nor can every element in the ideological superstructure be traced back totally to economic conditions. The parallel between economic and ideological development emerges only when dealing with longer time periods.
Engels criticized himself and Marx for a certain omission in their work:
Marx and I are ourselves partly to blame for the fact that younger writers sometimes lay more stress on the economic side than is due to it. We had to emphasize this main principle in opposition to our adversaries, who denied it, and we had not always the time, the place or the opportunity to allow the other elements involved in the interaction to come into their rights. But when it was a case of presenting a section of history that is of a practical application, the thing was different and there no error was possible. (Correspondence, page 475)
Marx and Engels held that the final cause of any particular event was the interaction between base and superstructure. As their contemporary, the Russian philosopher Lavrov, put it:
Once these political forms, abstract ideas and concrete ideals, created by the economic forces, have arisen, once they have become elements of a culture, they often become independent social forces, and forgetting or denying their origin, take up the struggle for mastery against just those economic forces to which they owed their origin. There-by they have evoked new forms of economic needs, new economic forces on the stage of history.
(2) Until political struggle decides who wins there are only conflicting tendencies existing. But nothing in the world happens merely because some group of people wants it to happen. People who think that all you have to do is have clear ideas are called “voluntarists,” and they tend to get themselves killed without any useful results, as Che Guevara’s example points out.
All groups and classes have to contend with other groups and classes. Under capitalism, there are always two completely opposing interests. What benefits one hurts the other. If each interest is conscious of itself, has developed its view logically and is passionate about the justness of its cause, who will win? Whichever is actually stronger and fights better will win. One side may be potentially stronger; however, it is not potential strength but actual strength that wins. There is nothing inherent in any situation that determines what will happen. We can estimate in advance what might happen given the relative balance of forces. But the struggle itself is the only thing that determines what does happen.
Marxism does not hold that economic law rules political struggle. It is the other way around; class struggle determines the operation of economic laws. Marx writes, for example, of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. From this the determinists conclude that capitalism is inevitably doomed. But the rate of profit will not tend to fall if the workers allow the capitalists to increase their exploitation.
For example, the Bell Telephone Company is now attempting to maximize its profits by automating thousands of workers out of jobs. In July 1971, 500,000 Bell workers went on strike. Far from cutting Bell’s profits, the strike actually enabled the bosses to increase them, because the workers were misled by sellout union officials who had organized them into several different unions and led only one union out at a time. As a result, the linesmen’s and installers’ union was on strike while the operators’ and business representatives’ union was not. With the exception of certain situations where there was heightened class consciousness, the workers who were not “officially” on strike crossed the picket lines set up by the strikers and went to work. The union sellouts had cooked up a deal with management to institutionalize scabbing: “if the bosses don’t bother our picket lines, we’ll allow supervisors and non-striking unions through the lines.” Because of this sellout and because they were not organized to defeat it, the phone workers’ strike had little or no effect on the bosses. On the contrary: it enabled the bosses to operate the phone company at reduced costs, since they weren’t paying 500,000 salaries for the duration of the strike. In addition, the bosses could use this opportunity to plan the installation of more automated equipment that would pave the way for further mass layoffs.
By itself, the phone company’s desire for more profits did not determine the results of the strike. If all Bell workers had united to maintain mass picketing 24 hours a day, if they had shut down the entire industry by taking steps necessary to prevent anybody from getting through the lines, the results of the strike would have been far different, and the Bell bosses would not be able to gloat over the fat figures that appear in their profit column. The success or failure of any strike–or any other form of class struggle against capitalism–is fundamentally a political question, not a numbers game. Capitalism is doomed only if the working people decide to kill it and then organize to do so.
The victory of the Russian revolution was the historical proof of the correctness of the political as against the deterministic tendency in Marxism. (Interestingly, the Russian determinists condemned the revolution as “anti-Marxist.”) One cannot explain the Russian revolution at all without first granting the truth that class struggle develops the economic base. Trying to explain why the Russian revolution continued to develop despite the apparently overwhelming forces arrayed against it, the Bolshevik historian Pokrovsky wrote:
’Objective causes’ are now (the late 1920s) against us, and on this fact were founded the predictions both of our ’friends,’ who are gradually losing hope that we shall ’reform,’ and ’come to our senses,’ and of our enemies, who are also gradually losing hope that we shall fail. The objective logic of the old ’economic materialism’ is against us-and we go forward ... This means that there is something in the very ’nature’ of the proletariat of our country which gives it the possibility to conquer even when ’objective causes’ are not for it, but against it.
The Bolshevik revolution was successful contrary to the beliefs held by all revolutionary socialists at the time, contrary even to many beliefs held by the Bolsheviks themselves. These beliefs were highly deterministic. In relation to the movement as a whole the Russian Bolsheviks were the most political and the least deterministic. But the strategy of revolutionary nationalism they elaborated following their victory, which the new communist movement adopted, is also basically deterministic. This strategy had two drawbacks. First, only one party in the whole history of the communist movement was able to conquer state power by following it. This was the Chinese party, and their triumph came only after they made a major change in strategy replacing the main deterministic feature with a highly political one.
The second drawback is that in neither Russia nor China could the working people follow a political course that subordinated political consciousness to economic development and continue to hold power.
History shows that it is possible for communists to win state power even though they follow a strategy that contains fundamental errors that will lead to the eventual loss of power if they are not reversed. But when parties do win power by following a wrong course they are not able to use that power over any long period of time to produce socialism. The proletarian dictatorship is not able to maintain itself and the Leninist party is transformed into an exploiting class. This is the result of the deterministic errors that characterize revolutionary nationalist strategy.
Fighting for socialism during the period after the working class seizes control of the state means fighting for a type of economic and government structure and carrying out political struggles that advance an equalitarian, collectivist, anti-individualist way of life. The production of ever-increasing masses of people who struggle for this type of world is the main thing that socialist society must accomplish. The production of goods is secondary to this, must serve this, and must not obstruct this.
In the Soviet Union socialism came to be identified with higher living standards. The “battle for production” was the battle for socialism, and anything went so long as it increased production. When a new exploitative system was fully developed it was easy for it to achieve legitimacy as an administrative reform designed to improve production. Socialism was overthrown in the name of socialism.
Communist strategy went through four major phases.
(1) The first phase was marked by the Bolshevik triumph in Russia. But that triumph was not considered a victory for socialism by the Bolsheviks or by anyone else. At that time all revolutionaries confidently expected socialist revolution to triumph in western Europe, especially in Germany. They believed that only this triumph would create the conditions for transforming the Russian revolution into a socialist revolution. The task of the newly-founded Communist International (Comintern) was to help this European socialist revolution break out. This period ran from the outbreak of the First World War to 1921 and encompassed the Bolshevik triumph in 1917, the triumph and then failure of the Hungarian revolution in 1919, the Red Army’s march on Warsaw in 1920, which was defeated, and the German revolutions of 1919 and 1921, which were both crushed. A frustrated attempted coup in Germany in 1923 and the Bulgarian communists’ failure to act to prevent the overthrow of a comparatively liberal bourgeois regime also in 1923 (though they were the country’s major political party) were icing on the cake. By 1924 the Comintern could not avoid changing its line, adopting what we now know as typical communist strategy. Until 1923 the Comintern’s approach was still fundamentally the approach of the left-wing of the old social-democratic movement.
(2) With the failures of the first period came a re-evaluation of the Russian experience. What had earlier been thought of as an event that would trigger the socialist revolution was now seen as the socialist revolution itself. Accordingly the Russian experience was generalized to apply to all countries. As the revolutionary movement had just met a series of defeats in Europe and was on the defensive, European politics declined in importance in the Comintern’s view, replaced by Asia and the Middle East (especially China) where the Communist movement was successfully growing. As a result the peasant question and the alliance with the national bourgeoisie became the most important and characteristic features of communist strategy.
(3) With the Great Depression of the 1930s European and American political events eclipsed Asian developments in the Comintern’s estimate. But now the approach used was far different than that of the first period. Instead the approach which had proved so successful in building up the movement in Asia was adapted to Europe. We know it as the 7th Comintern Congress line, or the Dimitroff line.
(4) The fourth and final phase was the result of the Soviet victory in World War II. The Soviet army installed local communist parties in coalition governments with bourgeois parties. But the Soviets disarmed the bourgeoisies throughout eastern Europe and armed the Communists, creating conditions for the Communist parties to seize complete power, which the Czech communists did in 1948. In Yugoslavia and Albania, where the Communist parties controlled their own mass armies, they installed themselves in power right after the Russians crushed the German war machine. But everything done in Eastern Europe in this period was really the culmination of the preceding period. The partisan movements were built on the principles of the 7th Congress line, and the policies of the Communist-led governments emphasized economics and “material conditions” to the exclusion of revolutionary politics, in fact substituting economics for politics.
Because of the importance which Bolshevik policy toward the peasants came to have, it is important to review the development of this policy.
Marx and Engels, as we have seen, considered the peasants a reactionary survival of feudalism. They held that large-scale farming was a necessary feature of socialism, whereas the peasants demanded the division of the land into small-holdings.
In the 1850s a populist movement developed in Russia which held that the feudal common lands farmed by the peasants but not owned by them provided the basis for a future socialist society. This point became the focal point of controversy within the Russian socialist movement for the rest of the century.
In the 1880s a group of young Marxists split off from the populists. They held that capitalism would be necessary before socialism could be reached in Russia, and therefore rejected the populists’ vision of the peasant commune serving as the foundation of socialism. Plekhanov, the leader of the group, demonstrated that the commune could develop only into bourgeois forms.
Marx and Engels tended to support the populist view in the 1870s and 1880s but added the important qualification that a proletarian revolution had to take place in western Europe first so that material means would be available for a technological revolution to raise productivity in Russian farming. On that basis socialism could be developed. By 1893 Engels backed away from the populist position altogether. As far as he was concerned, capitalism was inevitable for Russia.
Lenin entered the scene in the 1890s as a supporter of Plekhanov’s views. The main theme of his early writings was that contrary to populist theories, capitalism was developing in Russia and that was good for the socialist revolution.
The common view of the Russian Marxists was that the peasants, no matter what their country, were at best a conservative force. Plekhanov wrote in 1892, “Apart from the bourgeoisie and the proletariat we perceive no social forces in our country in which opposition or revolutionary groups could find support.” Plekhanov foresaw a two-stage revolution, whose first stage established capitalism, and whose second stage overthrew it.
The first program of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party was drawn up in 1903. Although the party split between Lenin’s followers and Plekhanov’s on the issue of the party concept, on economic matters there was no split. All agreed that the proper program for the peasantry was to promote the development of capitalism in the countryside, get rid of feudal leftovers, and hasten class division.
The industrial workers touched off the 1905 Russian Revolution at the beginning of January. By February there were full scale peasant revolts in the Ukraine, in the Baltic provinces and in the Caucasus, and the revolts lasted until the summer of 1906. No faction of the Social-Democratic party sent organizers to the rebellious peasants. Lenin felt that “the peasants. .. desire, dream of and truly need (not the abolition of capitalism... but) to emerge from the mire of semi-serfdom...” This was not something the Social-Democrats could properly help the peasants do. (As Engels had writ ten, “We can win...the mass of small peasants only if we make them promises which we notoriously cannot keep.”) Instead the Social-Democrats threw all their meager forces into the urban industrial areas because–as Lenin wrote–“the Social-Democratic influence is as yet very very insignificant” within the proletariat.
Lenin concluded from the 1905 revolution that all the revolutionary measures taken by the peasants should be supported. He also proposed that the immediate goal of the revolution be a “democratic dictatorship of workers and peasants.”
All these principles of Marxism have been proved and explained in minute detail in general and with regard to Russia in particular. And from these principles it follows that the idea of seeking salvation for the working class in anything save the further development of capitalism is reactionary. In countries like Russia the working class suffers not so much from capitalism as from the insufficient development of capitalism. The working class is therefore most certainly interested in the broadest, freest, and most rapid development of capitalism. The removal of all remnants Of the old order which hamper the broad, free and rapid development of capitalism is of absolute advantage to the working class. The bourgeois revolution is precisely an upheaval that most resolutely sweeps away survivals of the past, survivals of the serf-owning system . . . and most fully guarantees the broadest, freest, and most rapid development of capitalism.
. . .The transformation of the economic and political system in Russia along bourgeois-democratic lines is inevitable and inescapable.
’The revolution’s decisive victory over czarism’ means the establishment of the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry . . .
.. .We must not be afraid of.. .Social Democracy’s complete victory in a democratic revolution . . . for such a victory will enable us to rouse Europe; after throwing off the yoke of the bourgeoisie, the socialist proletariat of Europe will in its turn help us to accomplish the socialist revolution ... in Europe the conditions for socialism have reached... maturity ... (We) set the revolutionary proletariat of Russia an active task: winning the battle for democracy and using this victory to bring the revolution into Europe ...
The time will come when the struggle against the Russian autocracy will end, and the period of democratic revolution will have passed in Russia; it will then be ridiculous even to speak of ’singleness of will’ of the proletariat and the peasantry, about a democratic dictatorship, etc. When that time comes we will deal directly with the question of the socialist dictatorship of the proletariat. . .
The “democratic dictatorship” is thus in theory a temporary, defensive, transitional period designed to defeat the “desperate counter-revolutionary struggle” in a country not yet ready for socialism. When the struggle against the autocracy is finished the need for the “democratic dictatorship” is over and the time for building socialism is at hand. The country is not ready for socialism now because the Marxist-Leninists have little influence over the masses. But despite this a revolution is imminent, and “since we are out to fight, we must desire victory.” This is the thrust of Lenin’s strategy.
Despite the fact that all social-democrats considered that large scale farming was a necessary part of socialism and that Lenin repeatedly argued that dividing up the land was only “the most consistent clearing of the way for capitalism” and the “strivings of the most radical of the bourgeoisie,” the Bolshevik revolution based itself precisely on this division.
At first this presented no problem, as the Bolsheviks held that their seizure of power did not mean that the introduction of socialism was an immediate task (see the Eighth of the April Theses, which Lenin wrote in April 1917 and which outlined the Bolsheviks’ revolutionary strategy).
But by August 1917 Lenin’s view had radically changed. He was now convinced that the time was ripe for the Bolsheviks to take power and felt that the revolution would be transformed into a socialist revolution at once. He was therefore able to take over completely the agrarian program of the populists he had fought for so long, a program whose great merit was that the bulk of the peasants supported it. This program called for nationalizing the land and dividing it up among the peasants for their perpetual use. Since the land was mortgaged, it could be nationalized only if the resistance of capital was broken. In December 1917 Lenin called on the Peasant Soviets to recognize that the land distribution was possible only on the basis of the workers’ socialist revolution of November and to support the November revolt as a socialist revolution. (The Peasant Soviets were controlled by the populists.)
In February 1918 the Bolsheviks and the left wing populists with whom they shared government power issued jointly the socialist land law. This law made the point that the purpose of a socialist land program was “to create conditions favorable to the development of the productive forces... by increasing the productivity of the soil, by improving agricultural technique ...” The last of five points explaining the purpose of the program was “to develop the collective system of agriculture as being more economic in respect of labor and of products, at the expense of individual holdings, in order to bring about the transition to a socialist economy.”
Lenin later conceded that equal distribution of the land was irrelevant to the socialist revolution, but was necessary to win the peasants. “We Bolsheviks shall help the peasantry to outlive petty bourgeois slogans, to make the transition as rapidly and easily as possible to socialist slogans.”
The land reform benefited the more prosperous peasants more than the poor peasants. Eighty-six per cent of the land was distributed to the peasants, 11 per cent became state farms and 3 per cent went to collectives (in all, these last two categories amounted to only a few hundred farms on the worst land.) By the end of the reform the typical unit of Soviet agriculture was a small farm of up to four desyatins worked by a peasant and his family, who usually owned one horse. In general, the rich peasants–known as the kulaks–controlled the countryside, including the Soviets and the state farms and collectives.
The Bolsheviks were confronted with the problem of feeding the cities. This was the impetus for the changes in farm policy. They had hoped to buy grain from the peasants but discovered the peasants wouldn’t sell.
We came to the conclusion that the measure on which we had staked so many hopes, namely exchange of goods, was not likely to prove particularly useful. Many cases occurred in which the peasants, seeing that we had no goods, declared: ’We will not give grain without goods.’ But when we brought the goods we did not get the grain . . . (Speech by the Peoples Commissar for Supply to the 5th All-Russian Congress of Soviets, July 1918).
Through the first six months of the revolution the Bolsheviks made no move to organize the poor peasants against the petty bourgeois kulaks. This was the result of the extreme Bolshevik weakness in the countryside, for at no point had they ever devoted any resources to peasant organizing. But as the kulaks resisted giving up the grain it was now necessary to attack them and get the grain. On June 11, 1918 the Committees of Poor Peasants were established and made responsible to the Commissariat of Supply. The committees were to confiscate grain from the kulaks and help the poor peasants organize themselves against the kulaks. According to Lenin, the organization of the poor peasant committees was the step by which “we passed the boundary which separates the bourgeois from the socialist revolution.” At the same time the first efforts were made to begin large scale agriculture. But all these policies failed to increase food production.
Many of the poor peasants who had benefited from the land reform now opposed any further revolutionary measures. They had become typical middle peasants. The poor peasant committees therefore tended to turn their fire on both the kulak and the middle peasant, with the result that even less was sown. Politically the poor peasant committees stood in opposition to the peasant Soviets. When the central leaders saw that production was being hampered by the activities of the poor peasant committees they disbanded them, merging them into the peasant Soviets at the end of 1918.
The new approach was to conciliate the middle peasant. This policy emerged in March 1919. He could be won to communist society “only . . .when we ease and improve the economic conditions of his life.”
The Bolsheviks were in a bind. Without agricultural produce not only could they not feed the cities, they also could not develop any light industry to manufacture commodities for the peasants.
Along with the policy of conciliating the middle peasant came the policy of relying on the old exploiters as managers and technicians of the larger farms. “No, if you yourselves do not know how to organize agriculture in the new way, we must take the old specialists into our service; without this we shall never escape from beggary,” said Lenin.
When the Soviet government was attacked at the Second Comintern Congress by a German delegate for giving in to petty bourgeois ways of thought in defending the middle peasants, Lenin replied that if the Soviets acted otherwise “the small peasant will not notice the difference between the former government and the dictatorship of the Soviets” and that “if the proletarian power does not act in this way it will not be able to maintain itself.”
A year earlier Lenin had pointed out:
If we could tomorrow give 100,000 first-class tractors, supply them with benzine, supply them with mechanics (you know well that for the present this is a fantasy), the middle peasant would say: ’Ií am for the commune (i.e., for communism).’ But in order to do this it is first necessary to conquer the international bourgeoisie, to compel it to give us these tractors.
As we know, relying on the middle peasants did not turn the trick, and in 1921 a new policy of relying on the kulaks was applied. This was accompanied by a general reversion to capitalist practices. The whole plan is known as the NEP (New Economic Policy) which lasted until the late 1920s. By this time the Soviet government was able to get certain imperialists to “give tractors” even without conquering them. Krupp, Ford, General Electric all played a role in helping make the Soviets dependent on the international bourgeoisie.
The result of all this was that never were the Bolsheviks able to introduce the Paris Commune type state they desired to introduce. How could they when the peasants were not committed to socialism?
The Bolsheviks were the victims of their own policies. Having abandoned the countryside (where 80 per cent of the population lived) before the seizure of power they were in no position to influence the peasants. Nor did they have any framework of peasant cadres to work with. After 1917 they were forced to reap what they had previously sown.
The reason for this abandonment of the countryside was a mechanical, deterministic one. As Lenin put it, the peasants neither need nor desire the abolition of capitalism. Capitalism is to the peasant what socialism is to the proletarian. This is all wrong.
First, why is the proletarian the “only consistently revolutionary class?” According to Marx it is because, whether or not he realizes it, his social problems cannot be solved short of socialism. Does not history prove that this is also true for the peasant? The experience of every single land reform without exception proves that the peasant cannot overcome his social problems short of the collectivization of the land, which is to say socialism. Cannot the world’s peasants today assimilate this knowledge?
Second, Lenin maintained that the proletariat could play a key revolutionary role because of the organizational skills it had acquired as a result of its collective experience in factories and with mass production. But the history of the Chinese and Vietnamese revolutions proves that the peasants are also perfectly capable of carrying out complex organizational tasks.
Third, in what way is the mentality of the average worker so different from that of the average poor peasant? If the worker owns his own home (as most in America do), if he is covered by union welfare plans and seniority protection, does he not feel a stake in the system? If he works in a place where there is a high proportion of petty supervisors to regular workers, as in the telephone company where there is a supervisor for every five workers, may he not tend to hope that he might become a supervisor too? Is there not a similarity between this and the desire to become a landowner? Yet all revolutionaries feel that the proletarian can be won away from class collaboration because in the long run and in general it cannot work. Why shy away from this same approach in the countryside?
Some argue that there is a qualitative difference between the proletarians and the poor peasants. Let us examine this briefly. A proletarian sells his labor power in exchange for enough commodities to keep alive, in working condition and to raise a family of future proletarians. He does not own what he produces. Capitalism produces two things, commodities and proletarians.
To attempt to prove a qualitative class difference between peasants and proletarians by characterizing the agrarian economies of most of the world as “semi-feudal” which the proponents of “revolutionary nationalism” do–is to confuse the form with the content of production relations. Capitalism is the dominant mode of production in all but the most remote corners of the world. It did not develop indigenously in many countries, but was imposed by imperialism. When the imperialists came they found various pre-capitalist systems already established. The imperialists incorporated many of the forms of these earlier systems into their new capitalist system. In other words, the essence is capitalist but the appearance may sometimes be feudal.
What are the fundamental criteria for the existence of capitalist production? How do we recognize it? Capitalism is a system of commodity production, production for the market mediated by a system of monetary exchange, and it is a system in which the actual producers do not own the means of production necessary to turn out a usable product. These means of production are owned by a class of capitalists who buy the labor-power of the producers, paying them only a certain portion of the total value they produce. The most developed and typical form in which producers are paid is by a money wage. But there are other forms characteristic of less-well developed capitalist systems, especially agrarian economies, and this has led to these economies being characterized as “semi-feudal.”
An example of what we mean is found in India, one of the most important agrarian capitalist nations (which, incidentally, is the scene of a vigorous struggle led by a Marxist-Leninist party along the lines of Lenin’s and Mao’s strategic approach). The agricultural population in India can best be divided in the following way (aside from big landlords):
(1) Rich peasants–owning or renting over 30 hectares and hiring numerous workers, either by the day or seasonally. Usually they pay their workers in money, but sometimes they pay in kind. They make up perhaps 10 percent of the rural population.
(2) Middle peasants – relatively self-sufficient in tools and labor power, but usually renting the land and paying money rent. They make up about 20 per cent of the rural population.
(3) Poor peasants or semi-proletarians–most commonly sharecroppers or tenants of a related type. They do not have enough land to be self sufficient and they own either no tools or pitifully meager implements. The capitalist farmer provides them with additional land and the necessary tools. He pays the tenants with a share of their output, which naturally varies according to the output. This is a piece-work wage paid in kind rather man in money. It may look like semi-feudal tenancy, but the sharecropper, owning little (if anything) more than his labor-power, is in essence a worker. He moves easily between sharecropping and working for day wages, often doing both within a single season. There are many forms of this type of relationship in India, their appearance complicated by their tie-in to the caste system (which is a precapitalist ideological system justifying relations of dependence). But all of these forms are merely transitional forms of capitalist relations. About40 per cent of the rural population is contained in this category.
(4) Agricultural proletariat–working for wages on larger farms or plantations (tea, jute, cotton, etc.). They are typical workers, completely separated from all means of production. They make up 30 per cent of the rural population.
This is the process of the disintegration of the peasantry (about which Lenin wrote, but much further developed than what Lenin knew). Originally a more homogeneous peasantry existed (but never a completely equal, petty-bourgeois-utopian peasantry). It was split along two lines. The bulk became increasingly proletarianized. Capitalist penetration has gone so far in India that today 70 per cent of the rural population is proletarian. The middle peasants, who are both theoretically and practically the core of Lenin’s strategy, are a transitional group rapidly being broken up.
What is true for India is true for the rest of the world. A separate article is being prepared for the next issue of PL magazine documenting this at great length. Here we may summarize the conclusion that the bulk of the world’s peasantry has already been proletarianized. There is no necessary qualitative difference between urban and rural workers, neither “objectively” nor “subjectively.”
As we have shown, it has traditionally been assumed that a certain relatively high level of productivity was required to effect the transition to socialism. But we have also shown that this is a mechanical viewpoint founded on the idea that the peasants can only be bought off. High productivity is what one is reduced to if the necessary political work has not been done. Even so, there is not the slightest evidence from anywhere in the world that buying off works. The evidence is that if you don’t succeed at the political struggle the socialist revolution fails and dies.
The Bolsheviks could not help but be concerned with the problem of oppressed nations, since the Russian empire was known as the “prison house of nations.”
Lenin drew his most direct inspiration from Marx and Engels’ 1869 position on the Irish struggle. Marx and Engels held that if Ireland became independent the power of the English aristocracy in England would be broken, and the power of the English bourgeoisie would be shaken. Most important, if the English workers supported Irish independence then there would be unity of the working class within England. This unity would crush the power of the bourgeoisie. Therefore for the English workers “the national emancipation of Ireland is no question of abstract justice or human sympathy but the first condition of their own emancipation.” Lenin said this was the attitude proletarians of “oppressing nations” should take toward all national movements.
Lenin felt that just as the proletariat of Russia was not strong enough to prevail over capitalism without being, able to rely on the peasantry, so the world proletariat could win power only in alliance with the world peasantry.
It is becoming quite clear that the socialist revolution which is impending for the whole world will not be merely the victory of the proletariat of each country over its own bourgeoisie. That would be possible if revolution came easily and swiftly. We know that the imperialists will not allow this, that all countries are armed against their domestic Bolshevism and that their one thought is how to defeat Bolshevism at home.
Union of the proletarians and working masses generally of all nations and countries for a joint revolutionary struggle to overthrow the landowners and the bourgeoisie. For this alone will guarantee victory over capitalism.
In this way Lenin merged the peasant with the national and colonial questions. His idea was twofold. On the one hand, destroy the various imperialist, multinational empires through secession, and on the other hand, unite the working classes of the separate nations organizationally. Just as the middle peasants are the core of the “democratic dictatorship” strategy, the national bourgeoisie is the core of the national liberation strategy. Lenin’s writings (and Stalin’s) on the national question are often contradictory tactical polemics intended partly to justify and mainly to work out the problems and contradictions inherent in this strategy.
Lenin’s main theoretical opponent on the national question was Rosa Luxemburg, German revolutionaries.
Luxemburg held, in her book “The Accumulation of Capital,” that imperialism would collapse everywhere in the world once it fell anywhere, because of its international nature. Therefore simultaneous socialist revolution in the advanced capitalist countries was the only possible strategy. According to her, national liberation was an impossible illusion, which only masked imperialist intrigues. The peasantry had no important revolutionary role to play. In common with Lenin and Stalin she pointed out that nationalism tended to make the workers follow the leadership of their national bourgeoisie, losing sight of general class interests they shared with workers of other nationalities.
At the beginning of 1914 Lenin wrote “On the Right of Nations to Self-Determination” to counter Luxemburg’s views. National antagonisms in Russia were becoming acute under the impact of the Balkan crisis that preceded World War I.
Lenin argued that:
(1) A genuine national liberation struggle is possible under imperialism. It will lead to state independence. This might not be complete independence (since economic independence may not be won) but it is a step forward because state independence sets the stage for the development of capitalism.
(2) The working class supports the bourgeoisie only in order to secure national peace (which the bourgeoisie cannot bring about completely and which can be achieved only with complete democracy), in order to secure equal rights and to create the best conditions for the class struggle . .. That is why the proletariat confines itself, so to speak, to the negative demand for recognition of the right of self-determination, without giving guarantees to any nation ...” (Lenin, Collected Works Vol. I, p. 647)
(3) The most dangerous nationalism is the oppressor’s nationalism. Not to oppose it is to assist it. “Inasmuch as the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation fights the oppressor, we are always ... in favor .... The bourgeois nationalism of every oppressed nation has a general democratic content which is directed against oppression and it is this content we support unconditionally. (Ibid, p. 649)
(4) National oppression causes the workers of the oppressing nation to become racist and chauvinistic, creating enormous obstacles to their own freedom. To combat all nationalism the equality of the various nations must be upheld. This means “educating the masses in the spirit of... rejecting the .. .privileges of any nation.” Propaganda for the equal right of all nations to their national state “is (at present) our principal task in the national question, for only in this way can we defend. .. the alliance of all proletarians .... This is the only propaganda to ensure the greatest chances of national peace in Russia, should she remain a multi-national state, and the most peaceful (and for the proletarian class struggle, harmless) division into separate national states, should the question of such a division arise.” (Ibid., p. 650)
None of this convinced Luxemburg, who restated her case in 1916 while in prison, in her “Junius Brochure.” She wrote again that national liberation had lost its significance, because imperialism could not be destroyed piecemeal, but was about to be destroyed by the socialist world revolution.
Only from Europe, only from the oldest capitalist countries, can the signal for the world-liberating social revolution come.... Only the English, French, Belgian, German, Russian, Italian workers jointly can lead the army of the exploited and enslaved of the-five continents. Only they will be able, when the time will have come, to redress the wrong perpetrated by capitalism through its century-old crimes against all primitive peoples and its work of destruction all around the earth.” (Junius Brochure, p. 91)
Luxemberg’s view has nothing in common with what the Progressive Labor Party is now advocating. Luxemburg argues the peasantry and the agrarian nations have no role to play. But in fact imperialism is being destroyed piece-by-piece presently by these same peasants. Lenin argued they were an indispensible reserve for the proletariat. We maintain the facts prove they are a main force of the socialist revolution.
Luxemburg’s argument errs even on its own terms. She states that revolutionaries must never ally with the national bourgeoisie because the latter will always sell out the struggle for “independence.” Nothing could be further from the truth. From the point of view of workers, peasants, and other oppressed people, there is no way to “sell out” a struggle for “national liberation”–because this struggle itself is a sellout in its very conception. The history of the past 50 years shows that national liberation movements are the political embodiment of the fight waged by local “national bourgeoisies” to accumulate large amounts of capital and establish themselves either as important junior partners of imperialism or as the rulers of an independent capitalist economy in their own right. The capitalist mode of production does not develop evenly. Even among bosses, there is a sharp relative division between “haves” and “have-nots.” The “have-nots” are constantly in competition with each other and the imperialists as they strive to become bigger exploiters. As we will show in future articles, the examples of India, Egypt, Indonesia, Ghana, Algeria, Chile, and many other countries show that “national liberation” struggles all represent attempts by local capitalist classes to use “their” workers and peasants as a battering ram to win the maximum amount of profits that international imperialism will allow. This view advanced by Luxemburg was the precursor of Trotsky’s position that only communists could guarantee the success of a national liberation struggle–in other words, that only communists were a sure bet to clinch maximum profits for local bosses by helping them win the workers and peasants to a program for more capitalism.
Lenin’s retort that communists should support national liberation struggles led by the local “oppressed” bourgeoisie amounts in essence to the same thing. As we have shown above, he held the view that the free, “democratic” development of capitalism in countries where such struggles took place represented the essential first stage on the road to socialism. Nowhere in the world, however, has a fight for more or “better” capitalism led either directly or indirectly to socialism. What difference does it make to workers and peasants that their oppressors call themselves capitalists or “communists” if a national “liberation” movement can achieve liberation only for local bosses?
The writings of both Lenin and Stalin are filled with warnings about the unalterably reactionary character of nationalism as an ideology. On occasion, they even go so far as to state that the national bourgeoisie of an “oppressed nation” is, after all, an exploiting class and must eventually be overthrown by its “own” revolutionary proletariat. But the experience of the Bolshevik party, both in Russia and internationally, indicates that on balance, Lenin and Stalin consistently supported national bourgeoisies in their struggle to develop “democratic” capitalism. Regardless of pure textual analysis, this is the inescapable conclusion that must be drawn from a study of the Bolshevik revolution, the NEP, the Seventh World Congress, and the Soviet conduct of the anti-fascist war.
In April 1920 Lenin wrote of the Bolshevik revolution having international significance in the broad sense that it influenced politics in all other countries. He maintained that its significance in the narrow sense–meaning by that the aspects of the Russian experience that were directly reproducible in other countries–was limited to the dictatorship of the proletariat and the party organization. Lenin failed to understand fully the broad significance of the Russian revolution. He considered Soviet Russia extremely backward as a socialist state: “It would be a mistake to lose sight of the fact that after the victory of the proletarian revolution in at least one of the advanced countries things will in all probability take a sharp turn–Russia will soon after cease to be the model country and once again become a backward country (in the “soviet” and the socialist sense): (Lenin, “Left-Wing Communism,” in Selected Works, Vol. Ill, p. 375).
Just two years earlier he had denied the possibility of Russia being any kind of socialist state on its own, let alone a model–albeit a poor model. Since he did not correctly forecast how the world revolution would develop he was unable to appreciate now important the communist consciousness of the rural working people would be. He failed to recognize who was truly advanced and who was truly backward, though he wrote many articles about the “advanced East” and the “backward West.” And so the ultimate result was that the communist movement substituted radical nationalist consciousness |for communist consciousness in the case of the urban working class as well.
All the Bolshevik leaders were sure that the European socialist revolution was about to break out. To hasten it was the point of all their work in the first period of Soviet power. They were ready for any sacrifice to help the international revolution. During the debate over whether to conclude peace with the Germans, Zinoviev held that the peace negotiations held back the German revolution and should be ruptured. Lenin replied that if Zinoviev were right in his estimate of the German situation then “we ought to sacrifice ourselves, since the German revolution will be far more powerful than ours.”
Revolutionary propaganda was immediately begun among the prisoners of war, and by April 1918 there were revolutionary groups of Germans, Magyars, Austrians and Yugoslavs, training organizers who were sent to work behind the enemy lines or to work at home. This work was the real foundation of the Third International. Bela Kun, the Hungarian revolutionary, told a mass meeting of war prisoners:
Sweep from the path all obstacles to the liberation of the enslaved, turn into ashes all castles, all palaces into which your wealth flows and from which your poverty and hunger are spread all over the country . . . Turn your weapons against your officers and generals and against the palaces. Let every one of you be a teacher of revolution in his regiment.
Millions were allocated for revolutionary work in Europe. Joffe, the Soviet representative in Germany, spent hundreds of thousands of marks buying guns for the social democrats and millions of marks for propaganda. In October 1918 Lenin wrote Joffe in Berlin: “We must publish 100 times more. There is money. Hire translators.”
At the end of October it seemed the revolution had arrived. Pro-Bolshevik mass demonstrations took place in Berlin, Paris, throughout Italy, in Scotland. In November soldiers’ and workers’ councils were being set up in many German cities. On November 9 the Kaiser abdicated and on the 10th the Berlin workers and soldiers council appointed a “Council of Peoples’ Representatives,” composed of three right wing and three left wing social-democrats. The next morning there were mass rallies in Moscow. Lenin spoke and when he appeared:
Tens of thousands of workers burst into wild cheering. Never have I (Karl Radek) seen anything like it again. Until late in the evening workers and Red Army soldiers were filing past. The world revolution had come. The mass of the people heard its iron tramp. Our isolation was over.
Two days later the Soviet Government annulled the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty.
All policies in this period were considered to be short range policies, because communist leaders believed that all noxious concessions to the bourgeoisie would soon be swept away by the revolution, as the Brest-Litovsk treaty had been.
In December 1918 the revolutionary left group within the left wing social-democratic party decided to split off to form the German Communist Party. Lenin greeted this with an article declaring that as a result of the Germans’ action “a really proletarian, really international, really revolutionary Third International, a Communist International, became a fact.” The new party tried to seize power in February. The attempt was easily suppressed by the rightwing social-democratic government. The two outstanding leaders of the party, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, were shot and the party declared illegal.
On March 2, 1919 more than 50 delegates from embryonic communist groups in 19 countries gathered in Moscow and founded the Communist International. Revolution was feared by all the heads of bourgeois states, as the revolutionary propaganda of the communists reached to more and more soldiers and workers. In the first few months of 1919 there were serious mutinies in the French fleet and in French army units stationed at Black Sea ports, whom the imperialists had sent to fight the Soviet government on the side of the Whites. The troops had to be withdrawn. Central European troops commanded by the British mutinied. British troops mutinied. The British Prime Minister declared that if he had to send more troops to Russia they would mutiny and England would go communist. American troops refused to fight. A strike wave swept over Britain, France, Holland, Switzerland, Italy. On March 21, 1919 a Soviet republic was established in Hungary. Early in April another Soviet Republic was proclaimed in Munich, capital of Bavaria. Lenin was moved to declare that “next July we shall greet the victory of the international Soviet republic.” Soviet “foreign policy” was based on “keeping aloof from all participation in any kind of combination of imperialist governments,” in the words of Chicherin, the Foreign Minister. It consisted of mutual aid to workers, revolutionary movements, and revolutionary governments. No more was necessary.
In its first year the Comintern was concerned with firmly establishing itself. It was to be the rallying point for all the sincerely internationalist and leftwing forces in the old socialist movement. It tried to attract all who supported soviet power, accepting even pacifists and syndicalists.
By the Fall the political situation had changed. Unable to mobilize the Prussian workers, the Bavarian Soviet republic fell on May 1. An attempted communist rising in Vienna was crushed in the middle of June. In August the Hungarian Soviet republic fell as a result of intervention by Rumanian troops backed by the western bourgeoisie. In Russia the Whites reached the peak of their success, controlling vast parts of Siberia, central Russia, the Ukraine and even marching on Petrograd.
In this position of relative weakness Karl Radek, Comintern secretary, declared, “If our capitalist partners abstain from counter-revolutionary activities in Russia, the Soviet government will abstain from carrying on revolutionary activities in capitalist countries.”
As far as the Bolsheviks were concerned the revolution in Europe was still imminent. Lenin justified signing a peace treaty in January 1920 with the Estonian government on the grounds that the workers were about to overthrow the government and a new Soviet government would conclude a new peace treaty. That seemed a reasonable prediction, since the Red Army was then crushing every one of the counter-revolutionary white armies in a victory that surpassed all expectations.
On April 28, 1920 Pilsudski, the former right wing socialist who was then ruler of Poland, proclaimed a general offensive into the Ukraine. He was backed by France and Britain. By May 6, Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, fell to the Polish army. The budding rapprochement with the imperialists, with its peaceful coexistence foreign policy, died at once. It was at this moment that the Second Comintern Congress met. The Comintern was now a going concern. Its prestige and effectiveness were never higher than at this time. A new revolutionary period was beginning.
Lenin wrote one of his most influential pamphlets, Left Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder, for this congress. Lenin’s estimate of the times involved two points. First Lenin believed that revolution in Europe was only a short time off–a matter of weeks or at most a few months. Second he believed that the tactics followed by the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917 would work in the other European countries. He and the other Bolsheviks interpreted European events according to the Russian pattern. For example, when discussing the Estonian peace treaty mentioned above Lenin made the point that Estonia was passing through its “Kerensky period.” Or, when, in September 1920, “councils of action” were established in Britain to organize opposition to military intervention in Russia, Lenin regarded them as Soviets with another name, concluded Britain had entered its February period of dual power, that the British Mensheviks were clearing the fields for the British Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks accepted this parallelism, and other leading communists from other countries felt the same way.
The leader of the Italian party commented: “What am I compared with comrade Lenin? He is the leader of the Russian revolution. I represent a tiny communist socialist party.”
Quite naturally, the very failures of the European revolutionaries to bring about the revolution they all agreed was imminent invested the successful Bolshevik leaders with greater and greater authority. The second Comintern congress set out to perfect the organizational form and lay down the basic policy for communist action on all major questions. The result, not the conscious intention but the result, was to ensure Russian leadership, for only the Russians had succeeded. A British delegate commented that the Bolshevik leaders “are quite prepared to admit that revolutions are not metaphysical in their origin; are the outcome of historical development; and that the social revolution must develop in each country along different lines; but they always return to the point that their tactics are the model on which all socialist method must be based.”
The theme of Lenin’s pamphlet is that Russian experience is the example the other revolutionary movements should follow. He made a series of recommendations as to what ought to be done to cause the gathering revolutionary storm to break through. Given what we know about his outlook at this time, these proposals were all short-term tactical expedients designed for the brief period between the time he wrote and the time the storm would break.
Lenin felt that the main danger to the revolution, which came from the opportunist right, and was represented by the social-democratic leadership, had been overcome. He was therefore concerned to defeat the left danger which tended, he thought, to isolate the movement from the masses. This was expressed in the refusal of the left German and English movement to take part in elections and in trade unions. Important parts of the American, French and Italian movements also had this policy. Lenin had tolerated their policy the year before, regarding it as a secondary question (support of soviet power was the primary question then). Now Lenin regarded these as primary questions.
Lenin also pointed out the need for the communists to maneuver as much as necessary to achieve temporary tactical advantages, to enter into alliances even with bourgeois parties in order to expose them and split the workers from them.
In his remarks to the Congress Lenin developed the point that imperialism would inevitably fall when the workers’ movement for a socialist Europe linked up with the liberation struggles of the Asian peoples.
He said that the central point of world politics was the struggle of the world bourgeoisie against the Soviet movement and the Soviet Russian Republic. One cannot now confine himself to proclaiming the need for closer union of the working people of various nations; now the policy must be unity of the liberation movements with Soviet Russia.
The CI should enter into temporary alliance with the bourgeois-democratic movements, but only on condition that communist parties are permitted to be formed in the national areas. The job of these local CPs is to fight the bourgeois-democratic movements within their own nations. “Only those bourgeois-democratic movements which allow the communist party to organize and educate the masses have a revolutionary and anti-imperialist content.” They should be called “nationalist-revolutionary.”
The foundation of the Soviet movement must and can be laid in the developing countries, but in this case, the main mass organization will be peasant Soviets as there is practically no proletariat. The important question is, can the peasant Soviets lead the backward nations to develop without going through a capitalist phase?
If the victorious proletariat conducts systematic propaganda among them, while the Soviet governments come to their assistance with all the means at their command–in that event it would be wrong to assume that the capitalist stage of development is inevitable for the backward nationalities.
The result of the Congress was to organize the Comintern as a single international party with national branches subordinate to the central leadership in Moscow. A document–the “21 Points” – defining the conditions of membership in the Comintern–was issued. Their import was to bar all centrists–those desiring to compromise with the old right wing socialist movement–from membership. It was the submission of this document to the various socialist parties that gave rise to the unified communist movement.
When the congress opened in the last half of July, the Polish war had taken a dramatic turn. The Red Army had driven the Poles out of the Ukraine and was marching on Warsaw without opposition. Warsaw’s fall, and the outbreak of the Polish revolution, seemed all but certain.
Zinoviev described the scene:
In the congress hall hung a great map on which was marked every day the movement of our armies. And the delegates every morning stood with breathless interest before this map. It was a sort of symbol: the best representatives of the international proletariat with breathless interest, with palpitating heart, followed every advance of our armies, and all perfectly realized that, if the military aim set by our army was achieved it would mean an immense acceleration of the international proletarian revolution.
One must realize that the Bolshevik leaders did not regard the Red Army as a Russian army, but as an international army. It did not serve national interests but class interests. At the beginning only workers and poor peasants were eligible to join it. Soviet troops had helped Red forces in Finland in 1917-18; they had helped to establish Soviet republics in Estonia and Latvia at the end of 1918; they would do the same in Georgia in 1921. In every case there were local communists in the lead. The march on Warsaw was different in that there were no local communists leading a political struggle. But Lenin, who convinced the others of the need to wage the revolutionary war, was certain that the Polish revolution was about to begin. Therefore the Polish workers would rise up and crush the bourgeoisie. Neither he nor anyone else thought the Red Army would defeat the Polish army.
The underground Polish communists were unable to organize a rising. The Red Army marched through eastern Poland, an area whose urban population was mainly Jewish, the Poles being mainly landowners and officials. Most of the communists were Jews. A heritage of centuries of carefully inculcated anti-Semitism was a powerful weapon against the revolution. The Red Army was itself too weak and ill-equipped, to defeat the Poles, who were being rushed French, British and even American munitions and officers. The failure of the Polish revolutionary war was not defeat so much for the Red Army as for the estimate that world revolution was imminent. In 1921 after yet another German uprising had failed, Lenin said that now the Comintern should spend its time studying and preparing. But this was not what it had been set up to do.
When the period of “imminent revolution” passed the Comintern became more and more downgraded and the status of the Soviet state rose correspondingly. From 1921 onward the communist parties concerned themselves not so much with organizing revolution as with “preparing” to organize for revolution, by defending democracy and the interests of a successful revolution–the Soviet state. This turned the communist parties into radical reform parties shorn of revolutionary perspectives. It produced impossible contradictions, because the tactical line of Left Wing Communism was not changed. The situation could be resolved only by holding absolute faith in the Soviet leadership, and that is the way the movement did resolve it. But blind faith in leaders is hardly the same as, raising the revolutionary political consciousness of the masses.
According to Lenin the Soviet state must unite with the liberation movements of the world, even though they are not socialist , implying that the diplomacy of socialist countries is a form of revolutionary struggle waged by the communist movement, and that a proletariat that has state power can use diplomacy to overthrow imperialism. Without entering into a discussion of whether diplomacy can be used in this way (and our judgement is that it cannot, that diplomacy with imperialists is by its nature anti-revolutionary) we must note that the diplomacy of the socialist states has always been intentionally anti-revolutionary. This was excused by the curious idea that there is a difference between “party” and “state” relations.
Socialist foreign policy was always based on the national interests of each state. It is a fine point to consider whether the socialist states were base areas for world communist revolution, or whether the world communist movement served as auxiliary to the “national interests” of the socialist states.
The communist movement never discussed, much less determined, the foreign policy of the socialist states, since this was always considered a prerogative of each socialist state. When a bloc of socialist states emerged from the second world war they coordinated their foreign policies, but the rest of the world movement was not consulted. Today of course, we know that the “consultation” was very one-sided. But wasn’t that inevitable?
A few years ago the Chinese attempted to resolve this problem (without, however, facing the basic question–the content of foreign policy) by advising fraternal parties to regard only party statements as authoritative. Government declarations could even be ignored; they were “only” diplomacy. We defy anyone to try to develop his politics along that path. When Chairman Mao welcomes the military dictator of Pakistan, for example, is that the “authoritative” Chairman Mao of the Communist party, or merely his first cousin once removed, Chairman Mao of the government?
But necessary compromises between the socialist countries and the imperialist countries do not require the oppressed peoples and nations to follow suit and compromise with imperialism and its lackeys.” So wrote the Chinese in the 1963 “proposal concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement.” What “necessary compromises” do they mean? Why is it proper for the communist movements in power to negotiate and compromise with the imperialists and their lackeys, but improper for the much weaker communists who are not in power?
Is power a hindrance to carrying out revolutionary struggle? In fact, that argument has been made: “We can’t do this, we can’t say that, because we hold power and it would be improper. We have relations with these people. It might be said we were pressuring them. But you can do it, you can say it.” This opportunism follows from divorcing state from party relations. Making revolution is what the party does, building socialism is what the state does. Therefore peaceful coexistence is the appropriate foreign policy.
Lenin’s principle of peaceful coexistence is very clear... Peaceful coexistence designates a relationship between countries with different social systems .... It should never be extended to apply to the relations between oppressed and oppressor nations .... The reason is that... it is absolutely impermissable and impossible for countries practicing peaceful coexistence to touch even a hair of each other’s social system.... The application of the policy of peaceful coexistence by the socialist countries is advantageous for achieving a peaceful international environment for socialist construction, for exposing the imperialist policies of aggression and war and for isolating the imperialist forces of aggression and war.” This is the line of the Chinese Communist Party today.
Another problem with Lenin’s strategy is that it presupposes an impotent, deaf-dumb-blind and stupid national bourgeoisie (and a perpetually sleeping imperialism.) If we accept the historical lesson that no ruling class gives up power willingly, it is hard to see why any bourgeois -democratic nationalist movement would ever ally with a local communist party which was doing its job of organizing the working people to fight for socialism. In Turkey, for example, the CP was outlawed, all communists were imprisoned or executed, and the Ataturk government had excellent relations with Moscow, whose advice it sought on how to outmaneuver the British. As a consequence the Turkish communists had the brain-wracking problem of supporting their own “objectively progressive” executioners. How would you organize behind that line? Why would anyone join–after all you can commit suicide without going to meetings or paying dues. Nobody ever solved this problem except the Chinese, who only did it verbally. They cut the gordian knot by negotiating an uneasy military truce with the “objectively progressive” Chiang and calling that a united front.
The united front policy of the Communist Party, headed by its brilliant leader Comrade Mao Tse-tung, was a policy of both unity and struggle, a policy of retaining independence and initiative in the united front, a policy of giving free reins to the masses and arming the masses without any restriction ... Only then could the revolutionary bases be developed in a spirit of independence and initiative, the War of Resistance to Japanese Aggression sustained, Chiang Kai-shek’s bureaucratic-capitalist group isolated and his successive counter-revolutionary offensives repulsed. This was a struggle ... to avoid repeating the mistakes of 1927. (Chen Po-ta, Stalin and the Chinese Revolution, p. 50)
The 5th congress repudiated the views of the first period and concluded that revolution in the west would be preceded by revolution in the east, and that the proletariat was not the bearer of the right to self-determination. A new era had dawned. But the CI warned that while it was good to support the national bourgeoisie struggling for power against imperialism, it was dangerous to support the victorious bourgeoisie in building capitalism. This declaration dodges the problem. What about a national regime enacting a protectionist tariff to foster national industry? This act is anti-imperialist and builds capitalism. What are communists to say and do about that?
Lenin had condemned Pan-Islamism at the 1920 Second Comintern Congress. But the leader of the Indonesian CP, Tan Malaka, felt Pan-Islamism was a useful force during the national-democratic phase of the revolution. He argued before the Fourth Congress, at the end of 1922, that the more the CP collaborated with the Pan-Islamists, the closer it would get to the peasants and workers.
All through 1922 the Indonesian CP had used religious phraseology to great effect. When a railroad strike took place the CP said, “God is mighty, but He has ordered it so that on earth the railroad workers are mightiest! The railroad workers are the executive committee of God in the world.” Malaka concluded that militant Islamism was the embodiment of the struggle for national emancipation and therefore anti-imperialist and progressive. Nothing is as convincing as success, so Lenin’s condemnation of Pan-Islamism was changed. Pan-Islamism was now to be considered relatively progressive in certain circumstances.
The Indonesian CP was very successful in 1922 in establishing a base for itself among the Moslem masses through collaborating with the Pan-Islamists. The Pan Islamist leadership dumped the communists in February 1923. This forced the CP (against its desires) to form its own movement aimed at both the Dutch imperialists and the national bourgeoisie.
In 1925 the impact of the Northern Expedition in China (which consolidated Sun Yat-sen’s revolution) and events in the Moslem world moved the Indonesian Pan-Isalmists apparently leftward. Nationalist unrest grew, especially among intellectuals, and with it, terrorism. Assassinating colonial police was a favorite tactic. Naturally this provoked increasing Dutch repression.
In these circumstances the CI advised the Indonesian CP to make an alliance again with the nationalist bourgeoisie and also to form a mass revolutionary party. But the communist leaders active within Indonesia (Malaka lived abroad), disgusted with the Pan-Islamists, themselves decided at the end of 1925 that the time was ripe to unleash an armed uprising. They planned one for the next year. Throughout 1926 preparations for armed rebellion and negotiations for bourgeois united fronting proceeded simultaneously.
Sometime in 1926 Malaka and the CI learned of the decision to start an armed uprising. They opposed it, calling it putschist, lacking in popular support and therefore not revolutionary. They insisted on concentrating on the united front with the national bourgeoisie. Finally, in August 1926, after long negotiations, the united front was concluded, with the CP and the Pan-Islamists forming the United National Liberation Committee. At the same time a flood of peasants was joining the CP controlled mass revolutionary party, strengthening their resolve to unleash armed rebellion.
On November 12, 1926 armed revolutionary bands opened fire on police and government troops throughout Java. Faced with this fact the CI tried to rally international support for the rebels. They were careful to point out that the slogans of the rebellion were purely national-democratic and not at all of a socialist nature. The Dutch crushed the rebellion and it took the communists 25 years and one more massacre–led by Sukarno–to rebuild a party.
The article of faith of the rebuilt party was that armed rebellion was impossible in Indonesia because of the country’s geography! Party chief Aidit wrote a pamphlet, published in many languages, explaining this theory. The rebuilt party followed essentially the same line as the 1920s party. The Chinese Communist Party frequently held it up as an especially successful example of how to go about making the revolution, suggesting that other parties study the Indonesian experience, especially its united front work. In 1965, the Indonesian CP was once again wiped out. A survivor from the leadership analyzed events this way:
Let me refer to our experience of cooperating with the national bourgeoisie in the past. In the past the party’s line deviated from Marxism-Leninism. It pursued the parliamentary road. It didn’t formulate in a concrete manner that armed struggle was the road to victory.
As a result of this wrong political line we put prominence in building a united front with the national bourgeoisie. Since the road followed was the parliamentary road, this cooperation was given a higher place than the interests of the proletariat. The interests of the proletariat were subordinated to the united front with the national bourgeoisie. In building the party we relied on cooperation with the national bourgeoisie. The party had a large membership but a low quality.
In our old documents we said we must place class interests below national interests. This was a great mistake. We didn’t understand the nature of contradictions. We saw the main contradiction as between the people and imperialism, while in fact imperialism acted through the reactionary forces at home who are in general representatives of the national bourgeoisie. We tried to classify the national bourgeoisie into “left,” “middle of the road,” and “die-hard.” There is always such a classification. But when it came to class interests, the interests between the three sections are the same. More important, power is in the hands of the national bourgeoisie, in the die-hard group, especially the military forces. Our main mistake was class collaboration. Seemingly it was collaboration with the Left, like Sukarno. But we tolerated the growth of the die-hards because when it came to fight, the left petty bourgeoisie had no courage to resist the die-hards and the middle-of-the-roaders.
Where did we learn about subordinating class to national interests? From Mao Tse-tung who used it in a vastly different situation, a situation of Japanese aggression. But in Indonesia there was no direct aggression. Imperialism exerted its power through the national bourgeoisie. So what we did was not in accord with the teaching of Mao Tse-tung, but a deviation from it. Also we ignored Mao’s teaching that we must have a peoples’ army led by the party to win power. Mao says we need a party, armed struggle and a united front that serves the armed struggle. In the past, by not having our own army and not formulating concretely the armed struggle, we placed the united front above everything else.
Despite what the Indonesian comrade says, the Indonesian party’s strategy and tactics were not in contradiction to Mao Tse-tung’s teachings. During the Cultural Revolution Mao repeatedly said that he–not Liu Shao-chi-had always set the line for foreign policy. The Indonesian party had a permanent delegation in Peking and a large and constant stream of visits and consultations with the Chinese leaders. Finally, the Chinese advised foreign parties to study and learn from the Indonesian experience, which they held up throughout the early 1960s as a model of how to build the party, how to organize the united front, how to do underground work. The Indonesian experience is New Democracy at work.
“New Democratic strategy” is a variant of Lenin’s scheme. But there is a difference between Mao’s ideas and Lenin’s and Stalin’s. Lenin and Stalin were ambiguous and contradictory on the question of national liberation. As we have seen they changed their minds and embraced opposite positions a number of times.
Mao has always been consistent and clear. He accepted Stalin’s 1918 conclusion that the Russian Revolution ushered in a new era of proletarian revolution. Rather than draw the conclusion that this means socialist political consciousness can and must now play the leading role in historical development and therefore working people should now be convinced to fight against their bourgeoisie for socialism, Mao merely applies Stalin’s conclusion to the “productive forces” theory. “No matter what classes, parties or individuals in an oppressed nation join the revolution, and no matter whether they themselves are conscious of the point or understand it, so long as they oppose imperialism, their revolution becomes part of the proletarian - socialist world revolution and they become its allies.” (New Democracy, Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 347.)
That’s why “Although such a revolution (any revolution in a colony or semi-colony directed against imperialism) is still fundamentally bourgeois-democratic in its social character . . . and although its objective mission is to clear the path for the development of capitalism... this revolution actually serves the purpose of clearing a still wider path for the development of socialism.” (p. 344)
For these reasons Mao has always been an unwavering supporter of nationalist revolutions:
The various types of contradictions in the contemporary world are concentrated in the vast areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America. These are the most vulnerable areas under imperialist rule and the storm - centres of world revolution dealing direct blows at imperialism.
The national democratic revolutionary movement in these areas and the international socialist revolutionary movement are the two great historical currents of our time.
The national democratic revolution in these areas is an important component of the contemporary proletarian world revolution.
The anti-imperialist revolutionary struggles of the people in Asia, Africa and Latin America are pounding and undermining the foundations of the rule of imperialism and colonialism, old and new, and are now a mighty force in defence of world peace.
In a sense, therefore, the whole cause of the international proletarian revolution hinges on the outcome of the revolutionary struggles of the people of these areas, who constitute the overwhelming majority of the world’s population.
Therefore, the anti-imperialist revolutionary struggle of the people in Asia, Africa and Latin America is definitely not merely a matter of regional significance but one of overall importance for the whole cause of proletarian world revolution ....
In these areas, extremely broad sections of the population refuse to be slaves of imperialism. They include not only the workers, peasants, intellectuals and petty bourgeoisie, but also the patriotic national bourgeoisie and even certain kings, princes, and aristocrats, who are patriotic. (A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement, March 30, 1963.)
But in order that the nationalist rebellion should develop properly, Mao added the idea of a communist-led peasant army, protracted communist-led people’s war for New Democracy, and a communist-led agrarian revolution to Lenin’s conception of the party, the united front and the democratic dictatorship growing into socialism in stages.
Nevertheless, in spite of the betrayal of the bourgeoisie our Party under the leadership of Comrade Mao Tse-tung, following the revolutionary lineline indicated by Comrade Stalin, independently opened up a broad road for the agrarian revolution, and thereby advanced the revolution onto a new stage. Led by Comrade Mao Tse-tung, the revolution retreated from the city to the countryside, and by combining this correct retreat with a correct offensive, the retreat became a new offensive. (Chen, op. cit., p. 45)
What areas then should be the key points of attack in the armed struggles at different times? In offensives will there be defensive actions or retreats? How should the offensive and defensive or retreat be interlinked? How should a defensive or retreat be changed into an offensive? Everyone knows that these questions constitute the major portion of Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s long struggle against opportunism .. . (ibid, p. 26).
The Chinese party did not wait until after it had won power to organize the poor peasants. Instead they organized the poor peasants and promoted class struggle in the countryside as the path to power. This was a big change, not only from accepted communist policy generally, but from their own immediately preceding policy.
Chou En-lai recounted this history this way:
The war (World War II) made Chiang strong. There was both American and Soviet support for Chiang. Outer Mongolia detached itself from China. The Northeast and Northwest of China became Soviet spheres of influence. The Soviet ambassador even accompanied Chiang to Canton after we took Nanking. The Chinese people wanted peace. From our standpoint, if Chiang would be in power a new war was bound to break out, especially since U.S. imperialism was coming in. But the desire for peace of the people was something we could not fail to take into account. At that time there appeared the correct line of MaoTse-tung and the revisionist line of Liu Shao-chi. Chairman Mao went to Chungking for negotiations and stayed for a whole year, until 1946. Marshall (then U.S. Secretary of State) engaged in mediation but actually he helped Chiang to wipe us out. So Mao’s revolutionary line was ’We will not give up the slogan of peace, but we will prepare for war.’
Roosevelt and Stalin wanted a coalition government headed by Chiang, like in France and Italy. But Mao wanted a coalition government headed by the Communist Party. We earnestly engaged in negotiations toward that end. Chairman Mao himself went to negotiate. If the negotiations had been successful they would have produced a government led by the proletariat. But our appraisal was that the negotiation would not be successful because U.S. imperialism was coming in and because of Chiang. So we carried out land reform in the liberated areas and won over the peasantry. We developed production. And we mobilized our troops. We had two tactics, but the point of emphasis was preparing for war. Liu Shao-chi wanted to take the path of Thorez and Togliatti.
Since the majority of the peasants need socialism they can become aware of this need in the same way other workers become aware of it, through the socialist program and propaganda of the revolutionary party. The peasants can be won to fight for socialism, just as the workers, the students, the intellectuals, the professionals can. The international revolution will advance only to the extent that they do fight for socialism.
However, the Chinese Communist Party never viewed the peasantry with this perspective in mind. CCP leaders thought that the war against Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang heralded the opening of “stage two” in the two-stage process that went from ”semi-feudalism” to bourgeois-democratic capitalism to socialism. But in order for the CCP to mobilize the peasants to fight for socialism, Mao, Chou, and the other leaders would have had to repudiate the line of New Democracy. They never made this self-criticism. Despite the massive class struggle led by poor peasants in China’s countryside prior to 1949, the party leaders immediately intervened to halt this struggle once they were in power. They reasoned that the CCP’s possession of state power and socialism were synonymous, that the reins of power would enable them to further develop the economic foundations of socialism, and that therefore the continued mobilization of the peasantry against the national bourgeoisie would harm this task because it would “obstruct production.” In essence, they copied the Soviet model by placing the development of productive forces ahead of the masses’ revolutionary socialist political consciousness. They did not understand that only the continued participation of the peasants in revolutionary class struggle could guarantee the development of socialism, and that the cessation of this struggle in favor of “production” could guarantee only the restoration of capitalism.
The communist movement’s old strategy and the strategy of New Democracy require several wrong assumptions about the nature of imperialism:
(1) That imperialism, especially its trading and financial mechanisms, creates a group of nations in which the native bourgeoisie desires to but is prevented from accumulating capital for its own account to build up local industry.
The imperialists choose to maintain pre-capitalist “semi-feudal” relations as the basis for agriculture (and the state organization). They drain off the surplus-labor-time of the peasants through unequal commodity exchange, thereby preventing its reinvestment by the national bourgeoisie.
There is therefore motivation for the bourgeoisie of these “semi-colonial” nations to enter a political movement aimed at creating an independent national framework for capital accumulation by winning political sovereignty and financial independence. Such a movement, because it is anti-imperialist, will also be anti-feudal, destroying the landlords who are a component of the imperialist arrangement and who prevent capitalist relations of production from taking hold in the countryside.
(2) But the national bourgeoisie, precisely because it has been divided and kept in a weak state by the imperialists cannot lead such a movement. The non-comprador national bourgeoisie can enter the united front as a subordinate partner. The anti -imperialist fight should be led by the proletarian party and manned by the peasantry.
(3) The largest part of the population is a petty-bourgeois group of peasants working with backward techniques in small-scale agriculture, crushed by feudal rents. True capitalist agriculture is minor, restricted to plantations owned by foreigners. So the rural proletariat is also small. The bulk of the peasants own their own tools and can therefore feed their families by working their own rented land with family labor. They do not hire out as laborers or employ labor as a rule. The only political program which can mobilize these peasants is “land to the tiller,” the destruction of the old landlord class, and the conversion of renters into land owners.
(4) The material conditions for socialist construction are absent, as is the class consciousness which would lead the peasants, as a mass, to follow socialist slogans. Before socialism is possible there must be a political and economic stage in which capitalism develops on the land from within the peasantry itself.
At the Second Plenary Session of the Central Committee held in March 1949, Comrade Mao Tse-tung pointed out that, for a considerable length of time following the victory of the revolution, it would still be necessary to utilize to the full the initiative of private capitalism in town and countryside to assist in the development of national economy.” (Chen, op. cit., p. 56)
(5) The national bourgeoisie is needed after the new-democratic coalition takes power because of its knowledge of the techniques of economic management. The proletariat itself is too small and too technically ignorant to develop industry on a fully socialist basis. New Democracy is, above all, the combination of political rule by the workers and peasants with economic management of the bourgeoisie.
A further important assumption is that the complex means of production and technical knowledge needed for industrial development will be provided by the socialist camp, once all links to imperialism have been broken. Implicit is the idea that socialism requires the kind of mechanized productive forces that Western capitalism has created. This idea ruled Soviet economic policy throughout, and was challenged in China only during the Great Leap Forward.
The national bourgeoisie is that section of the bourgeoisie which is willing to treat the socialist nations as sources of funds for capitalist accumulation. Since it takes two to tango, this requires a conception of socialism that allows the victorious parties of the socialist nations to lend themselves to this.
(6) While New Democracy is a stage in which capitalism is allowed, its development is to be limited by the state and by the existence of a rival socialist or state-capitalist sector which grows at the expense of private capital. Private capital is to be expropriated in a gradual, non-antagonistic process. As the nation passes from primarily feudal relations to socialism with only a truncated capitalist period, so the state becomes a multi-class dictatorship before it becomes a proletarian dictatorship.
All bourgeoisies must continue to accumulate capital on a larger and larger scale or perish; that is the law of capitalism. This law accounts for conflicts among capitalists. In the former colonial world, which is still dominated by imperialism, the local bourgeoisies stand to gain from the conflicts between the imperialists. In general it is to the interests of the whole bourgeoisie to unite against the main imperialist dominating a given country; they do so by allying with weaker imperialists, chiefly with the rising imperialist power which is globally challenging the dominant imperialist power. When the communist movement can work out an alliance against the “main enemy” between the workers and peasants on one side, and the bourgeoisie on the other, it is objectively forming an alliance with all the secondary imperialists fighting the same “main enemy.” In today’s world that means uniting with Soviet, Japanese, German, French, and Italian imperialists against U.S. imperialists. New Democratic strategy justifies this opportunism by pointing to the need for further local capitalist development.
However, as we have attempted to show in this and other articles, and as bosses themselves are showing daily all over the world, capitalism has no progressive role to play, locally or internationally. It has long since fulfilled its historic mission by producing the class necessary for its overthrow. The workers and peasants of the world do not need more capitalism, in any form. They need socialism. In order to win it, they need the leadership of communist parties that fight for the line that socialism and only socialism can bring about the liberation of oppressed people everywhere.
Because the old communist movement failed to provide this kind of leadership, the revolutions and struggles it won eventually turned into their opposite. The errors that brought about these reversals were not simply the subjective idiosyncrasies of a few individual party leaders. They reflect the course of class struggle–and particularly the ideological class struggle that raged within the movement for decades and that continues today. These errors demonstrate the power of bourgeois ideas within a revolutionary movement and the Achilles’ heel of parties that do not view as paramount the task of winning the masses to smash these ideas.
Capitalism can neither solve the problems of workers, peasants, and oppressed people nor meet their class aspirations. The living truths of Marxism-Leninism and the lessons absorbed by millions in the struggle of the past 100 years are still valid today. Communists must strive to make these truths and lessons the property of the international working class. There is no guarantee for the success of revolution other than the class hatred and communist consciousness of workers all over the world. This and this alone insures the eventual triumph of socialism, despite all obstacles and temporary setbacks.
Opportunism on the question of national liberation is the main form revisionism takes today. In and of itself, nationalism is not the problem–nor are the nationalists. The problem lies with opportunists who seek to use the revolutionary desires of the masses by parading themselves as communists. Beneath the skin of every so-called communist who puts forward “two stage revolution” and “revolutionary nationalism” quivers the flesh of an opportunist.
The communist movement must tackle this opportunism head-on. No one is won to socialism except through his own experience of political struggle against the ruling class for immediate reform demands. Communists must always involve themselves in every type of principled reform struggle in order to help workers and others draw correct conclusions from their experiences and understand the need for socialism. Members of the Progressive Labor Party are presently attempting to carry out this task.
Communists must also work within any nationalist movement that influences masses of people –not to perpetuate the illusion that the movement itself can gradually be moved to the left, but to win the rank and file of the movement to socialism and the party. We must support anti-imperialist wars by fighting for the defeat of imperialism, winning workers, students, and professionals to socialism, and calling upon comrades in the combat area to win workers, peasants, students and others there to socialism. Marxism-Leninism and the experience of the past 100 years teach us that only socialism can liberate the oppressed. Proletarian internationalism means supporting all workers in struggle against all bosses everywhere by fighting for socialism to smash imperialism.