First Published: Revolution, Vol. 3, No. 2, March 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
EROL Note: This article was one of three polemicizing against the Guardian newspaper that appeared in a special supplement to the March 1975 issue of Revolution. The other two are here and here.
“Every bit of evidence I can lay my hands on points to this conclusion: Premier Khrushchev represents the progressive forces within the CP who insist on things being done differently, on clearing away old dead wood.” These were the words of Guardian correspondent Wilfred Burchett in hailing “the end of the Stalin era” in 1956.
The fact that during the late 1950s and early 1960s the Guardian lauded Khrushchev and his “democratic” attack on Stalin and dismantling of the Soviet dictatorship of the proletariat could perhaps be chalked up to ignorance. After all, the National Guardian (as it was called then) didn’t consider itself communist or even vaguely Marxist at the time.
But the Guardian’s stubborn defense of the Soviet revisionists in the late 1960s, complete with Guardian tours of the Soviet Union, has even less recourse to that excuse because the struggle against revisionism had developed considerably both internationally and in the U.S., and the USSR had clearly emerged as a full scale social-imperialist power.
The Cultural Revolution in China, on one hand, and the USSR’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, and later attack on China at Chenpao Island in 1969 on the other, made the difference between socialism and capitalism, proletarian internationalism and social-imperialism, a living fact, recognized by many revolutionary forces everywhere, including in the U.S.
The Guardian approvingly reprinted Fidel Castro’s speech in support of the invasion of Czechoslovakia and took no stand of its own. It glossed over Soviet social-imperialist aggression against China. And as for the Cultural Revolution, if you only read the Guardian in those years you wouldn’t have known it was going on.
The Guardian’s attitude toward what they called the ”Sino-Soviet dispute” was to condemn “the intemperate language of the debate.”
“We do not agree,” the Guardian wrote in June 1971, “with the position that capitalism has been restored in a section of the socialist camp.”
In 1972, as Nixon prepared to visit China and the USSR, the Guardian warned against “Nixon’s pretensions to play off one socialist country against another.” Regarding Vietnam, the Guardian wrote: “Unified action by the socialist world–in the first place China and the Soviet Union–is both necessary and possible. Such action must be both military, diplomatic and tactical.”
“The U.S. has been forced,” wrote the Guardian in June 1973, “to pay lip service to the idea of coexistence between capitalist and socialist governments. This profoundly historical development will be crowned June 16 by the visit to the U.S. of Soviet Communist Party Executive Secretary Leonid Brezhnev.” And shortly after this visit: “The existence of two superpowers–the U.S. and the Soviet Union–has been a central characteristic of our era since World War 2.”
These statements made a mockery of China’s struggle against revisionism and the growing exposure of Soviet social-imperialism everywhere. The Soviet and U.S. revisionists undoubtedly appreciated these words, for these were the very lies they had been most exposed in.
The Guardian repeated the revisionists’ line that the USSR remains socialist, that there is a socialist camp, that the USSR gives real aid (and not sham aid and real betrayal) to national liberation movements, that socialist countries and the proletariat and oppressed people everywhere should unite with the USSR, and that the relations between the U.S. and USSR are based on peaceful coexistence, and not on the contention and collusion of two imperialist powers. The Guardian mocks the difference between capitalism and socialism, between the socialist Soviet Union under Stalin (“since World War 2”) and the capitalist Soviet Union under the new tsars today.
When the Guardian said all this openly (up until quite recently), it was long after the question had been clear in the communist movement and to a great number of non-communist but revolutionary and progressive forces in the U.S. as well. Today, it’s widely accepted that the Soviet Union is an enemy of the world’s peoples and not a socialist country. So now that the Guardian is making the claim that it should be represented “in the councils of the new communist movement,” it has to clean up its act a little.
In its 1975 New Year’s editorial, the Guardian announced a slightly slicker version of its old line on the Soviet Union. Today, “there is a process of capitalist restoration in the world’s first socialist state.”
This is exactly the formulation the Communist League (now the “Communist Labor Party”), last year’s “rising star” and today a thoroughly exposed Trotskyite sect, uses to hide its pro-social-imperialist line. The Guardian’s claim that the restoration of capitalism is still going on in the USSR-as though it has not yet been restored–is no different from CL’s claim that “Soviet opportunists are locked in a life and death struggle with the Soviet working class. While they control the state apparatus they have not yet been able to fully destroy the socialist relations of production.”
This isn’t a matter of a slight difference. To say that revisionism is in power in the USSR and claim that it’s not yet a capitalist country means saying that it’s possible to have socialism without the dictatorship of the proletariat. It means saying that socialism is just a matter of state ownership, not a matter of the working class ruling society.
In 1964, Mao Tsetung said, “The rise to power of revisionism means the rise to power of the bourgeoisie.’ (our emphasis) What does the Guardian say as it runs to catch up 11 years later? “Chief among these [setbacks–ed.] has been the transformation of the Soviet Union into a social-imperialist superpower and the consolidation of revisionism in most of the world’s communist parties under Soviet domination...The revisionists have counselled social pacifism for others while pursuing aggressive policies themselves.”
And since its New Year’s editorial, the Guardian has given us even a further refinement of its line. In its February 19 issue, in an editorial note introducing a series entitled “Is the Soviet Union Capitalist?” the Guardian said: “In the view of the Guardian, capitalist class relations have clearly reemerged in Soviet society and a class of state monopoly bureaucrats exercises effective control over the means of production. At the same time, we do not believe that this process has been thoroughly consolidated or that capitalism has been fully restored in the Soviet Union.”
What sort of Marxism is this! Either the relations of production in the Soviet Union are socialist or capitalist-they can’t be both! If “a class” of “state monopoly bureaucrats” “exercises effective control over the means of production,” then how can there be socialism – the working class in power? Does this mean that the Soviet Union, in the Guardian’s murky vision, is 50% capitalist and 50% socialist? 95% capitalist and 5% socialist? Can a society be ruled by capitalists and still not be capitalist? Does the Guardian think that the nationalization of certain industries in Sweden or Britain means that these are now “partially socialist”? Was government control of the post office a sign of “socialism” in the U.S.?
Of course not! The essence of capitalism is not the forms of private ownership and control of the means of production-whether by an individual capitalist, a certain bloc of capitalists, or the entire capitalist class through the state-but the relations of production–the fact that the working class is exploited to produce profits for a tiny class of parasites. This is precisely what has happened in the Soviet Union, and this is what we attempt to show in Red Papers 7: How Capitalism Has Been Restored in the Soviet Union and What This Means for the World Struggle, which we hope the Guardian will attempt to refute!
Of course, if the Soviet Union has “consolidated revisionism” and is in “the process of capitalist restoration” but is not yet capitalist, perhaps the Guardian is trying to say that what it means by the term social-imperialism is a bad set of policies–that the Soviet revisionists are behaving badly but can still be pressured into using a good set of policies.
This, in fact, is exactly what the Guardian means. In their New Year’s editorial, we are told that the principal contradiction in the world today is between “U.S. imperialism and the oppressed peoples and nations of the world,” flying right in the face of what the Chinese say and what is in fact the truth – that the worldwide united front today must be against imperialism and social-imperialism.
Later in the editorial, to try to cover this over a little, we’re told that “sooner or later” “all peoples must stand up against the two superpowers.” Sooner or later? All this means is that the peoples of the world should not stand up now to the social-imperialists. But if they don’t stand up now to the social-imperialists then what are they supposed to do in regard to them? The answer is obvious, even if the Guardian prefers to save embarrassment by not saying it: ally with the social-imperialists (we may only have to fight them “later”) against the U.S. imperialists.
In the last two issues of Revolution, in showing how the October League in effect labels the USSR rather than both the USSR and U.S. as the principal enemy in the world, we explained how this meant that the OL’s “advice” to the U.S. people and people of the world comes down to the idea of uniting with U.S. imperialism against social-imperialism. In calling U.S. imperialism rather than both it and social-imperialism, the main enemy, the Guardian seems to be taking the opposite view from its OL brothers and sisters.
But appearances can be deceiving. In reality, both views reflect the same line because each advises unity of the working class and oppressed people with one superpower against the other. We suspect the reason why the Guardian and OL “differ” on the question of which imperialism to unite with has to do with the particularities of how each of them is trying to make a career out of the revolution. Interesting, but not really the crux of the matter, for what is essential, as always, is the question of line. And as far as line is concerned, both the Guardian and OL (along with the Trotskyite “CLP”) are dead wrong and what they say amounts to class collaboration ism. Today, the correct line is not a worldwide united front, including one superpower, against the other superpower; it is a worldwide united front against all imperialism, and aimed especially at both imperialist superpowers.
And both superpowers are the greatest enemies of the world’s people not because they have “aggressive policies”–although they certainly do-but because of their monopoly capitalist nature which necessarily impels them to struggle for hegemony, both between the two and between each of the two and the world’s people.
To win their independence and liberation and carry out revolution, nations and peoples must stand up against both of the superpowers right now–not “sooner or later.” That’s why China, as a country where the working class is in power and taking the stand of the proletariat of uniting the people against all oppression, calls for a united front against the two superpowers.