Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Eileen Klehr

The CPUSA Is a Reactionary Force for War

An Exposure of Revisionism on ’Detente’


First Published: Class Struggle, No. 9, Spring 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Throughout the world, revolutionary and progressive people have hailed and celebrated the 60th anniversary of the glorious October Revolution. In light of the growing imperialist war danger, it is especially important for Marxist-Leninists to reaffirm the lessons of October on the questions of war and peace.

The Soviet Union, the world’s first socialist state, was born amidst the upheaval of the first imperialist world war. It ushered in a new era in human history–the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution. When the October Revolution was only two decades old, it again faced the onslaught of imperialist world war and the attempts of fascism to crush it. But again, the Soviet Union emerged victorious, with earth-shaking revolutions in China, Eastern Europe and the third world following in its wake.

The lessons of the October Revolution, then, are intimately connected with the question of war. However, to sum up these lessons in the light of today’s conditions, Marxist-Leninists must take into account the fact that the October Revolution has suffered a great reversal.

With the counter-revolutionary seizure of power by the Khrushchev revisionists in the 1950s, the dictatorship of the proletariat was overthrown in the Soviet Union and capitalism has been restored. Today, the Soviet Union is an imperialist superpower under the social-fascist rule of a new bourgeoisie. As a result, the world’s peoples now face a new war danger, an upheaval that is developing out of the worldwide rivalry for hegemony between the two imperialist superpowers, the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

In this context, the lessons of the October Revolution are just as valid today as they were 60 years ago. In fact, given the rise to power of revisionism, it is especially important to defend the basic principles of Leninism that developed over decades of war and revolutionary struggle.

The revisionists, for their part, have gone all-out to “celebrate” the 60th anniversary of the October Revolution with a massive campaign of lies, slander and distortion–all making a mockery of the heritage of Lenin and Stalin. The Communist Party U.S.A., for instance, published a special issue of its theoretical journal, Political Affairs, devoted to distorting the lessons of the October Revolution. Entitled “60 Years of Socialism,” the November 1977 issue highlights the revisionists’ reactionary theory of “detente,” claiming that imperialism has changed its nature and that a “new era” of “peace” is developing under its rule.


As the loyal servants of the Brezhnev fascist clique, the U.S. revisionists continue to paint the Soviet Union in “socialist” colors despite the growing worldwide exposures of the fierce repression of the Soviet workers and minority nationalities. Likewise, the CPUSA has nothing but praise for the Soviet social-imperialists’ armed aggression against the national liberation movements and countries of the third world, especially in Africa.

But the revisionists place their main emphasis on the theory of “detente.” In this way they hope to pull the wool over the eyes of the world’s people in the face of the growing war danger and especially the growing aggressiveness of the Soviet Union. Actually, there is nothing new in this theory. Prior to the outbreaks of both world wars, the rival imperialist powers were all great champions of “disarmament” and the “relaxation of tensions.” In the first years of their rule, the Hitler fascists were especially adept at this type of demagogy, as were the appeasers of the fascists in the rival camps.

It is both possible and necessary today to draw certain parallels between the present world situation and the conditions that existed prior to the First and the Second World Wars. In both cases, war was a result of the uneven development and rivalry of the “Great Powers,” with the newcomers demanding a redivision of the globe. Much like Hitler’s Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union today is an imperialist superpower on the rise. It is a newcomer compared to the other superpower, U.S. imperialism. It lags behind economically with a GNP that is only 55% that of its rival. As far as expanding its investments in other countries and its “spheres of influence” are concerned, the Soviet Union can make no advances in its bid for world hegemony without infringing on U.S. interests.

The drive for maximum profits on the part of both superpowers, and especially the challenge to the U.S. imperialists presently being made by their Soviet counterparts, has intensified their contention. Ultimately it is leading them towards the outbreak of a new world war. The Soviet Union, which represents the challenger in this contest for world domination, parallels Hitler’s Germany in this respect, as well as in the fascist nature of its regime at home. Because the Soviet Union lags economically and has fewer foreign holdings, it is forced to militarize in preparation for a new redivision of the world.

The present world situation calls for the most extreme vigilance and opposition on the part of the countries, nations and peoples of the world against superpower hegemonism and imperialist war schemes. At the same time, while opposing the war preparations of the superpowers and preparing for war’s outbreak, revolutionary people should keep in mind the lessons of history and the October Revolution. Imperialist war, while spreading tremendous death and destruction throughout the world, also creates, as Stalin put it, “favorable conditions for a direct assault on the citadels of capitalism.”[1] In other words, the peoples of various countries can “turn the imperialist war into a civil war” and score tremendous victories in advancing socialist revolution and the final defeat of the imperialist system.

A component part of this struggle in the U.S. and on a worldwide scale is to defeat the agents of the enemy within the ranks of the working class movement itself. These “mouthpieces” for imperialism and social-imperialism are found in the revisionist “communist” parties throughout the world, and in the CPUSA in this country.

The CPUSA and its “sister” parties play a role similar to Hitler’s “fifth-column” fascist parties. These groups worked in many countries to undermine the anti-fascist movements there and pave the way for the onslaught of the fascist troops. The CPUSA is working overtime today, in the same way, using the phony cover of “socialism” to build support for the aggression and war schemes of their social-imperialist masters. The use of the word “socialism” is also not really a new idea to make fascism and imperialist aggression palatable to the masses; Hitler called himself a “national-socialist.”


But today the revisionists are especially dangerous–and have become very adept at using the prestige of the once-socialist Soviet Union to mask their real intentions. This is evident in Gus Hall’s contribution to the November 1977 Political Affairs, in an article entitled “The First Sixty Years of New History.”

“The socialist world, and in a special way the Soviet Union,” says Hall, “have become a decisive element of present-day objective reality. No political, ideological or diplomatic event, no social or economic progress can take place in any part of the world without being in some way influenced by its power.”[2]

Hall is obviously enchanted with the fact that the Soviet Union is a global superpower. He sets this as his theme and as the major lesson to be drawn from the success of the 1917 revolution in Russia. From this “power,” Hall concludes that a “favorable anti-imperialist balance of world forces against imperialism”[3] exists in today’s world. It follows, according to his logic, that “imperialism has been forced to reconsider its use of military aggression... .As a result, world wars and wars of aggression are not now inevitable... .This is (an) area where the Soviet Union has changed the world and determined the nature of the epoch.”[4]

This view on war and peace is well worth examining, both from the standpoint of Marxist-Leninist theory as well as the actual conditions of the present world situation. Did the October Revolution initiate a “change” in the world that resulted in the elimination of imperialist wars? Is the world today witnessing a lessening of imperialist aggression and war preparations, a new “era of peace”?

Hall continues his argument as follows: “When imperialism was the unchallenged top dog, wars of aggression for redivision of the globe were inevitable. Wars and preparation for wars became an ever-present cycle. The birth of the Soviet Union cut that cycle.”[5]

Put aside, for a moment, the fact that Hall’s statement flies in the face of history. Since the October Revolution there has been one world war and a good number of imperialist wars of aggression. What was the actual effect of the October Revolution on the world system of imperialism? This question is answered clearly in Stalin’s article, “The International Character of the October Revolution”:

Having sown the seeds of revolution both in the centers of imperialism and in its rear, having weakened the might of imperialism in the ’metropolises’ and having shaken its domination in the colonies, the October Revolution has thereby put in jeopardy the very existence of world capitalism as a whole.

And further:

Capitalism may become partly stabilized, it may rationalize its production, turn over the administration of the country to fascism, temporarily hold down the working class, but it will never recover the ’tranquility,’ the ’assurance,’ the ’equilibrium’ and the ’stability’ that it flaunted before; for the crisis of world capitalism has reached the stage of development when the flames of revolution must inevitably break out, now in the centers of imperialism, now in the periphery, reducing to naught the capitalist patchwork and daily bringing nearer the fall of capitalism.[6]

The October Revolution thus greatly accelerated the process of capitalism’s decay, which was marked with the rise of imperialism, or monopoly capitalism, the highest and moribund stage of capitalism. It illuminated the path for the working and oppressed people of the whole world–the path of the complete overthrow of the capitalist system and the establishment of the rule of the working class. In Stalin’s words, the new Soviet state created a “world-wide open forum from which the aspirations and strivings of the oppressed classes could be expounded and formulated.”[7]

But Hall says something quite different. He claims that the October Revolution changed the very essence of the imperialist system itself. In his view, imperialism–arising in Europe, the United States and a few other advanced capitalist countries at about the turn of the century–underwent a fundamental change only a few years later in 1917. No longer was it characterized by “wars of aggression and for redivision of the globe.”[8] Hall’s assertion is backed up in an article that also appears in the same issue of Political Affairs, “Economic Competition between Socialism and Capitalism: The First Sixty Years,” written by revisionist economist Victor Perlo. Perlo echoes Hall with the claim that the “main struggle against capitalism has shifted to the economic sphere.”[9]

From this the revisionists conclude that the various imperialist powers are no longer, as Lenin put it, forced to “fight it out” in their rivalry over markets and spheres of influence. Rather, they can engage in “peaceful competition” with each other in the economic realm, and “peacefully” work out an equitable solution with regards to markets and profits.

Is it possible for imperialism to “change its stripes” in such a way? No, it cannot. As Lenin points out:

The capitalists divide the world, not out of any particular malice, but because the degree of concentration which has been reached forces them to adopt this method in order to obtain profits. And they divide it ’in proportion to capital,’ in ’proportion to strength,’ because there cannot be any other method of division under commodity production and capitalism.[10]

In other words, monopoly, which is the main characteristic feature of imperialism, by its nature gives rise to inter-imperialist contradictions that inevitably lead to conflicts and world wars. The present-day imperialists and social-imperialists, more highly monopolized than ever before, are still motivated by the same profit drive that compels them to expand their investments and spheres of influence, to divide the world among the various imperialist combines and imperialist countries and to use force to redivide the plunder. It is precisely this economic essence of imperialism that gives rise to its political characteristics–reaction all along the line. Rather than doing away with the contradictions that existed under pre-monopoly capitalism, the development of imperialism intensifies all these contradictions, including the drive towards annexation and war.

To return to Hall’s main justification for his view that imperialism has undergone a “fundamental change”–the power of the Soviet Union: “As the Soviet Union has become stronger,” he says, “as other countries have taken the path to socialism, and as the working class movements have grown and the forces of national liberation expanded, imperialism has been forced to reconsider its use of military aggression.”[11]

What is Hall covering up here? The truth is that the “strength” of the Soviet Union no longer represents the strength of the working class in power. Rather, it is the “strength” of a new class of imperialists, who maintain the cover of “socialism” only to better carry out their oppression and exploitation of the world’s people. Far from bringing about peace, it is precisely Soviet social-imperialism’s growing “strength” that has led it to challenge the former “top-dog” imperialist power for world domination and, as a result, increased the present imperialist war danger.

But what about Hall’s argument of the “strength” of the world’s anti-imperialist forces, including the national liberation and working class movements? Is it possible for the world’s people to develop a movement against imperialist war that can do away with the occurrence of such wars while imperialism still exists in the world?

Some of Gus Hall’s revisionist predecessors in Russia put forward such a view over 25 years ago. Their arguments were refuted by Stalin:

It is said that Lenin’s thesis that imperialism inevitably generates war must now be regarded as obsolete, since powerful popular forces have come forward today in defense of peace and against another world war. That is not true....

What is most likely is that the present-day peace movement, as a movement for the preservation of peace, will, if it succeeds, result in preventing a particular war, in its temporary postponement, in the temporary preservation of a particular peace, in the resignation of a bellicose government and its supersession by another that is prepared temporarily to keep the peace. That, of course, will be good. Even very good. But, all the same, it will not be enough to eliminate the inevitability of war between capitalist countries generally. It will not be enough, because, for all the successes of the peace movement, imperialism will remain, continue in force– and, consequently, the inevitability of wars will also continue in force.

To eliminate the inevitability of wars, it is necessary to abolish imperialism.[12]

The same holds true today. In spite of their far-reaching plans for war and world domination, there is nowhere the superpowers can go without meeting up with the opposition of the peoples of various countries. The U.S. has been more exposed recently and has suffered several significant defeats, such as those at the hands of the Korean and Indochinese people. But the “socialist” and “most reliable ally” covers used by the Soviet social-imperialists are also wearing thin, and the Soviet Union is increasingly being exposed. Recent examples include the defeat of their invasion of Zaire and the abrogation of the “friendship” treaties between the Soviet Union and Egypt and Somalia, as well as the expulsion of the Soviet “advisers” from both those countries.

The third world countries contain many of the valuable natural resources and strategic areas necessary for the superpowers to control in order to wage war. Consequently, the struggle of the third world is especially crucial to any postponement of imperialist war’s outbreak. Since war between the superpowers is inevitable as long as imperialism and social-imperialism continue to exist, the people of every country must get prepared. This preparation must be based on the possibility of fighting a major war sooner rather than later. However, the heightening of the struggle against superpower hegemonism and aggression can certainly delay the war’s outbreak. This will place the peoples of various countries in a more favorable position to take advantage of the war conditions to advance their revolutionary struggle.

Hall’s statements on war are revealing on two other counts. On one hand, he states that “world wars and wars of aggression are not now inevitable.” Here, rather than exposing the true nature of the imperialist system and its inherent contradictions and calling for imperialism’s overthrow, Hall covers up the most vicious characteristics of imperialism. Instead of hastening its demise, he is attempting to breathe new life into imperialism, calling for a program to reform it, make it a “more peaceful” and benevolent oppressor.

On the other hand, Hall follows up by saying, “They (imperialist wars) are still possible...” Here he is taking care to leave his options open–that is, when the superpowers unleash their war, Hall has laid the basis to jump in on the side of the Soviet social-imperialists.

Real facts reflecting real conditions in today’s world go even further to expose and refute the phony “theories” of the revisionists. This is especially true regarding their continuous propaganda about the Soviet Union being “socialist.”


Facts bear out that the system in the Soviet Union today is, in reality, highly-developed state monopoly capitalism. The USSR, much like the other superpower, lives off the profits sucked from its own workers and the less-developed countries.

The Soviet Union’s imperialist character can be seen very clearly through its policy towards the third world countries. In these countries, the Soviet Union carries out its exploitation chiefly under the cover of economic and military “aid.” Through these “aid” agreements, the social-imperialists reap tremendous profits. For example, under the “aid” signboard, the Soviets sell their commodities to India at prices ranging from 20% to 200% higher than world market prices. At the same time, they purchase Indian goods at prices roughly 20% lower than the world market prices.[13] The publication Statistics of Soviet Foreign Trade reveals that the Soviet Union imports natural gas from Asian countries for half the price that it charges for exporting the same gas to the West! This publication also reveals that a trade deal between the Soviet Union and Egypt arranged for the export of anthracite, pig iron and other commodities from the Soviet Union to Egypt at prices 80% to 150% higher than the prices for the same commodities exported from the Soviet Union to West Germany.[14] What else but the imperialist policy of “buying cheap and selling dear” do these examples illustrate?

Besides, the plunder of the less developed countries’ raw materials, the Soviet rulers engage in the profitable business of arms exports. Then by controlling the use of these arms and their replacement parts, the Soviets seek to control the policies of foreign governments. The Soviet Union has clearly learned quite a few lessons from the U.S. imperialists and is now the second biggest merchant of death in the world after the U.S. According to reports of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the 1974 arms sales by the Soviet Union totaled 5.5 billion dollars, which accounted for 37.5% of the world total in that year.[15]

With all their sweet-sounding talk of “peace” and “detente,” both the U.S. and the Soviet Union are arming themselves to the teeth. What is important to note, however, is the changing relationship of forces in various areas.

The Soviet Union, for instance, has a clear superiority in weaponry for waging a conventional war. It has twice as many troops as the U.S. In ground force equipment, it has more than four times as many tanks, almost twice as many armed personnel carriers, and three times as much artillery, including mortars and multiple rocket launchers.

In the area of strategic nuclear weaponry, the situation is more complicated. In ICBM missiles, the Soviets lead, 1450 to 1054. The Soviet ICBMs are also more powerful and capable of larger payloads. The Soviets lead in submarine-launched missiles as well, 880 to 656.[16]


The U.S. is still ahead in long-range bombers, 418 to 210. More important, however, is the fact that most U.S. missiles have multiple warheads, a process the Soviets have only begun to develop. Overall, this means the U.S. is capable of delivering 8,500 strategic nuclear warheads, as opposed to 3,300 for the Soviets. However, as the Soviets expand multiple warheads, this can change dramatically.[17]

All of this makes for a formidable confrontation between the two most advanced, well-equipped and deadly armed forces ever seen on the face of the earth. Both armies are geared to fighting on a world scale, not only to defeat one another, but to intimidate and terrify the popular forces around the world.

The Soviets are continuing to step up their war preparations, while harping on the “detente” and “disarmament” theme. “The main link of united action of the anti-imperialist forces remains the struggle against war, for world peace, against the menace of a thermonuclear world war and mass extermination which continues to hang over mankind,”[18] announces CPUSA spokeswoman Marilyn Bechtel in her article, “U.S.-Soviet Relations: Detente Is the Key,” in the recent Political Affairs. But if the Soviets are so interested in “disarmament,” why are they spending approximately 15% of their total GNP on arms production? Since both superpowers have enough nuclear weapons to destroy each other several times over, why don’t they cut back in an area or two and challenge the other to do the same?

The revisionists’ argument that this tremendous war machine is “purely defensive” just doesn’t hold water in the face of facts. What is the purpose of the 500,000 or so Soviet troops presently deployed in Eastern Europe? What is the purpose of the one million troops stationed at the Russian-Chinese border? What is the purpose of the Soviet military bases and installations in the People’s Republic of Mongolia, Cuba and Africa; in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean? What is the purpose of the Soviet seizure of Norway’s Svalbard Islands and their occupation of Japan’s northern islands?

Even the revisionist spokesmen trip over their own feet when trying to explain these facts away. In a recent article in the revisionist publication New World Review, William Pomeroy, attempting to mock the genuine Marxist-Leninists, describes the Soviet Union in this way:

It (the Soviet Union) is imaged as an expansionist giant, its navies covering the seven seas, its militarily superior armies poised to sweep over Western Europe and China, its arms reaching to Africa, the Middle East, South East Asia, Latin America and to every other corner of the globe.[19]

What is interesting is that Pomeroy does not even bother to refute the facts of this “image.” Instead he simply declares that such conceptions of social-imperialism “unwittingly point to the strength and uncontestable development of socialism.”

The existence of two superpowers striving for world domination, then, is a fact that exists in the world today. While the revisionists try to disguise it in every way, the Soviet Union’s bid for the top-dog imperialist seat is a reality that is reflected in its economic policies, politics and the flexing of its military “muscles.”

In summary, through their sham praise of the October Revolution, the revisionists have exposed a number of features about themselves that make them a deadly enemy of the working class and the oppressed nations and peoples everywhere. First, the revisionists claim war is no longer an inevitable feature of imperialist rule. This can only lull the masses to sleep with pacifist promises and thus sabotage the genuine struggle against the growing danger of a new world war. Second, whenever a war instigated or exacerbated by the Soviet Union does break out, as in Zaire or the Horn of Africa, the revisionists drop their pacifist mask and praise imperialist aggression and subversion as “progressive,” trying to organize people to support it.

Thus the revisionists are actually a force for imperialist war rather than for peace. Both their theory and practice confirms one of the key lessons of the October Revolution summed up by Lenin: the struggle against imperialism is a sham and humbug unless combined with the unrelenting struggle against opportunism.


[1] J.V. Stalin, “Foundations of Leninism,” Selected Works (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1953), vol. 6, p. 76.

[2] Gus Hall, “The First 60 Years of New History,” Political Affairs November 1977, p. 4.

[3] Ibid., p. 5.

[4] Ibid., p. 5.

[5] Ibid., p. 5.

[6] J.V. Stalin, “The International Character of the October Revolution,” Selected Works, vol. 10, pp. 250-51.

[7] Ibid., p. 252.

[8] Gus Hall, “The First 60 Years,” p. 5.

[9] Victor Perlo, “Economic Competition Between Socialism and Capitalism: The First 60 Years,” Political Affairs, November 1977, p. 89.

[10] V.I. Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1975), p. 89.

[11] Hall, “The First 60 Years,” p. 5.

[12] J.V. Stalin, “Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR,” Selected Works (Davis: Cardinal Publishers, 1971), pp. 336-337.

[13] Jad-O-Jehad Weekly, Jammu, December 1973, and India Today, published in April 1974 by the Indian Workers Association in Britain, quoted in Chairman Mao’s Theory (Peking: Foreign Languages Press), p. 30.

[14] Statistics from Chairman Mao’s Theory, (Peking: Foreign Languages Press), p. 32.

[15] The Soviet War Machine (New York: Chartwell Books, Inc., 1976), p. 235.

[16] The Defense Monitor, February 1977 (statistics from U.S. Dept. of Defense.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Marilyn Bechtel, “U.S.-Soviet Relations: Detente is the Key,” Political Affairs, November 1977, p. 30.

[19] William Pomeroy, “Socialism’s Sixty Years,” New World Review, Nov.-Dec. 1977, p. 11.