Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Workers Party

Editorial: The Socialist Road


First Published: Workers Viewpoint, Vol 6, No. 20, May 25-May 31, 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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By 1965, modern revisionism worldwide had pretty much putrefied the communist movement. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution rejuvenated the international communist movement, of which we are a part. The Communist Workers Party, U.S.A. was formed out of various anti-revisionist collectives, principally the Asian Study Group and the Revolutionary Workers League, who came together in the Workers Viewpoint Organization.

We must come to terms with the fact that these roots and that particular branch of history are relatively narrow and limited. Our study and understanding of Marxism are necessarily one-sided.

Basically we have had an idealist view of socialism. We conceived of socialism as a paradise where all the problems are solved, even though we said class struggle continues and problems persist under socialism. We have lacked an historical materialist perspective on socialism in undeveloped countries like Russia, China and Zimbabwe. Those idealist conceptions have to be smashed. We must look at reality as it is, and proceeding from that, judge whether the struggles help the progress of humankind or hold it back. Only by that method and with that appreciation will we be able to genuinely perform our proletarian internationalist duty...

The proletariat is the last class, but it is also a very raw, new class historically. Only with that perspective can we understand socialist countries’ weaknesses, dissect them and apply the lessons to revolutionary struggles here. Then, it becomes clear why the communist parties of the Soviet Union and China have so much to learn and will make so many mistakes... But let there be no doubt that those attempts by the proletariat are great and glorious. The only way to look at such attempts is not with cynicism or pessimism, which the CWP does not and has not, but with respect. We must actively learn and use what we learn to make revolution here and build socialism to a higher level.. .Only with an historical perspective can we understand socialism as a science, and base our fight against the criminal rule of the U.S. bourgeoisie on the last words of the science. The CWP today is in a position to comprehensively understand the world experience of socialism, given the unceasing commitment and sacrifices in fierce battles and the years of consistently learning Marxist political economy.

It is with that history and confidence that the Central Committee of the Communist Workers Party, U.S.A., led by General Secretary Jerry Tung, is directing the entire party to study and change this line on the Soviet Union, in order to thoroughly and more consistently implement the immediate, all-rounded and universal preparation for workers’ rule.

We address the basic difference between capitalism and socialism from the viewpoint of how socialism has begun to resolve the basic contradiction of capitalism, the contradiction between the private ownership of the means of production and socialized production. We point out that the fallacies of the most advanced thesis on capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union center around Chang Chun-Chiao’s argument on the appearance and essence of ownership. We show how he fundamentally misses the essence of capitalist private ownership – capital. From this and critiques of the lines of Martin Nicolaus, Revolutionary Communist Party’s “Red Papers 7” as well as a concrete look at capitalism’s impoverishment of the proletariat, we show that capitalism has not been restored in the Soviet Union. Seizure of state power is the bottom line.

Socialism is the transition from capitalism to communism. It is obligatory to seize state power at the earliest possible time. Once this is done, the long-term superiority of socialism is dependent on, as well as limited by, the level of productive forces. Capitalism cannot be easily rigged up, especially after the state sector has been enlarged and the transformation of small producers is well on its way. The consolidation of socialism (the dictatorship of the proletariat) has a material foundation and the reversal to capitalism has to usurp the basic economic interests of the working class by dismantling the socialist state apparatus by violent means. Just as the class interest and political economic essence of bourgeois democracy is the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, the essence of socialism is the dictatorship of the proletariat. Despite problems of bureaucracy and revisionism, the dictatorship of the proletariat is a step on the tortuous socialist road to the communist future.

Under socialism, the material bases for revisionism are the underdeveloped productive forces, the non-state owned sectors of the economy, commodity production, the distribution principle of “to each according to work,” different grades of a wage-scale, exchange through money and bourgeois right. The relatively independent behavior of ideology also perpetrates bureaucracy and remnants of bourgeois or even feudal ideologies, which distort a correct working class and internationalist orientation. This kind of distortion often takes nationally specific forms such as Confucianism in China. But again, while it is important to formulate communist education, ideological and cultural campaigns, we must stress that the relatively independent behavior of revisionist ideology is secondary in importance to the role of material conditions. It is production relations such as bureaucracy which constantly reinforces these ideological deviations.

Under socialism the task of preventing revisionism is part of concentric attack in all spheres and is itself twofold. One aspect is the long-term development of socialist production relations through raising the level of productive forces. The second is the immediate and constant task of socialist education...

In those countries where the seizure of state power depends on relatively one-sided preparation (i.e., the main form of struggle is military), communists after the seizure of state power are most susceptible to spontaneity and revisionism in spheres where they have little experience. In advanced capitalist countries where preparation must encompass all spheres due to the more thoroughgoing and sophisticated nature of capitalist rule, the preparation for seizure of state power has to be far more comprehensive. And that requires a set of leaders, a cadre core with a set of experiences much more comprehensive than the Bolsheviks and the Chinese Communists had before their seizure of state power. This is an essential problem to solve in making revolution in the United States. This is why party-building is much more difficult in advanced capitalist countries. That explains why, to seize state power here, we need a set of leaders, a large and comprehensive cadre core comparable in experience, know-how and resoluteness to those undertaking the monumental task of making the transition from socialism to communism in socialist countries today. We must humbly learn from every advancement as well as every mistake committed by socialist countries. We must treat their experiences and lessons as our own. Only thus will we be able to prepare for socialist revolution here, benefiting from experiences of all countries. That is the universal link between preparation for and subsequent consolidation of socialism.

We see the role of the superstructure, of ideology, on the development of the material and spiritual conditions of socialism, particularly the impact of advanced or backward ideology, codified policies, plan, tradition and organization. Without seeing and understanding the impact of the superstructure and the relations of production on the base and productive forces respectively, it is impossible to understand the need to struggle against revisionism in the party as part of the working class leadership demanded on all three fronts – practical/economic, political and theoretical spheres – under socialism, and understand why revisionism can have a devastating effect on the transition from socialism to communism.

A sharp line has to be drawn, not only with Khrushchev, who made a caricature of proletarian internationalism, but also with the many metaphysical practices represented by Chiang Ching and the Four in combatting modern revisionism.

A major pitfall of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was that it destroyed a whole generation of very precious, rare and able cadres. The target of the struggle – bourgeois ideology and bourgeois right in general – was too broad when it was not put in the context of developing productive forces, which is the only basis to reinforce socialist consciousness in a constant and massive way. Even with Mao urging that the target should be clear, the dynamics of revolution from below, without a core of Marxist-Leninists guiding it, was to “overthrow it all.” This inflicted deep wounds which have not healed and blocked the consolidation of the gains of the Cultural Revolution.

Consolidating the gains of the Cultural Revolution in all spheres through establishing new laws, codes, policies and institutions, was not accomplished. The Ninth Congress call by Mao to “Unite to Win Still Greater Victories” could not be implemented. The training of a new generation of revolutionary successors was done too late. It is no wonder that as a result, weeks after Mao’s death, a rightist backlash occurred which is still causing tremendous disorientation among the Chinese people. The problem of the left deviation compounded by the rightist backlash leaves the Chinese people cynical towards the Communist Party of China and its great cause.

Mao and the Four, like the comrades who made anarcho-syndicalist mistakes in the Third International, cannot be equated with the modern revisionists.

There is opportunism. But in the main the mistakes are deviations in the course of making proletarian revolution, the result of tackling new problems that never before existed. These are deviations made by pathbreakers. That is our view towards the errors made in the Cultural Revolution.

The Cultural Revolution was both necessary and timely. That’s an historical verdict not to be disputed. Bureaucracy, problems of the separation between the party and the masses, and revisionism are objective developments that drag down all socialist countries. Dislocations developed in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, China and now in Poland, with workers spontaneously taking control, or the imperialists taking advantage of the situation. The workers demand changes in their party. The revisionists refuse and stubbornly hold onto their routine, calcified ways. The workers without their vanguard party behind them can’t make it in the long run, even though they certainly will rebel. That’s a monumental problem of socialism crying out to be resolved.

Mao’s initiative in calling for and leading the Cultural Revolution was not just something he wanted to do. It was a response to a problem that demanded a solution in history, after the problems became obvious in Hungary, the Soviet Union, and China itself. Mao tried different things. After contributing to Marxism by solving the peasant agriculture question in China, in the political sphere he tried the “Let A Hundred Flowers Bloom” and Socialist Education Movement campaigns, all attempts to address the problems that Hungary and the Soviet Party couldn’t solve. He tried again in the last 10 years of his life and that attempt was the Cultural Revolution. The verdict of the Cultural Revolution can’t even be gauged by the simple “three parts bad, seven parts good” method, as Mao suggested The Paris Commune failed, too. Judging aspect by aspect, we can’t give it even a “three-seven” verdict, because obviously there the errors outnumbered the successes.

You can lose the war even winning most battles and vice versa, you can lose most battles and still win the war big. This military analogy applies even more to political struggles of an historical nature such as the Cultural Revolution.

The historical necessity of the Paris Commune, of the working class taking state power, is what made the Paris Commune great, glorious and correct. Its victories are the many lessons of its failure. And even though it failed, it’s a clarion call, a salvo that charts the road ahead. We must look at the Cultural Revolution in the same way, for the problems of transition from socialism to communism are inevitable. The Cultural Revolution has universal significance for the parties of the advanced capitalist countries as we consistently show in illustrating the problems of preparatory work in our revolution here.

The Three Worlds Theory is wrong, as is the two worlds theory, because both assume that the Soviet Union is capitalist. The third world is the focal point and storm center of struggles against imperialism, especially during the last two decades of capitalist stabilization. We uphold the line of the third world countries’ right to use contradictions between the United States and the Soviet Union, especially given the latter’s chauvinist policies in cases where they clearly abandoned the stand of proletarian internationalism and gave into bourgeois power hegemonism. Every rift and contradiction between the smaller imperialist countries and U.S. imperialism is an indirect reserve for the revolutionaries and oppressed around the world. We welcome every anti-U.S. measure taken by the European countries and Japan, for each disintegrates the system of world imperialism and benefits socialist and oppressed nations and workers of all countries. We see the great danger of World War III. We do not see, however, war between the Soviet Union and the United States as inevitable. The Soviet Union is a socialist country without spontaneous economic forces and needs driving it blindly towards war. The CWP upholds the policy of detente. We regard the struggle for detente as one major struggle for world peace. Policies of detente, independent of U.S. intrigues, lessen the danger of World War III, creating favorable conditions for peace, national liberation and the course of workers’ revolutions in all countries.

Finally, we address the foreign policies of the Soviet Union and China from the angle of Lenin’s statement that “foreign policy is a concentrated expression of the domestic economy.” The Soviet Union’s chauvinism and the narrow nationalist reaction of China have a material and historical basis. But we see that policies and actions flowing from these contradict their socialist base and further aggravate their present problems in economic growth and ideological vitality. There will be more squabbling for years to come, but on the basis of materialist historical forces of internal necessity, we are confident of a rapprochement between socialist countries both in unity against U.S. imperialism and in the historical mission of the transition from socialism to communism.

Jerry Tung, General Secretary of the CWP, wrote this in his forthcoming book: The Socialist Road: Character of Revolution in the U.S. and Problems of Socialism in the Soviet Union and China:

This line change is consistent with the character and thoroughness of proletarian struggle: we seemingly succeed, but then regroup, arise once again, and mercilessly evaluate the whole process of our experience gained both in class struggle and the party internal life and line struggle. We reexamined our line, reviewed all the past lines, noted all the recurring problems, and it led us to reexamine our fundamental political lines. I don’t propose any instant solution. It’s not instant coffee. Basically we have to continue what we’ve been doing, but also deepen our study, critically analyze and use the international proletariat’s experience to better understand the basis.
I want the Central Committee to lead the CWP to tackle new responsibilities of class struggle in this country. This is not a luxury, but a life-and-death struggle and an absolute necessity. I don’t think we can take on the heavy historical mission of the 80’s without repudiating our line on the restoration of capitalism in China and the Soviet Union. I take this position not out of consideration for the Party or for myself. It’s for the working class and the world proletarian struggle.
The achievements of the CWP are undeniable. That the Party is the sole effective vanguard, pacesetting the fight against the monopoly capitalists, is undeniable. The fact that we possess the core of some of the strongest comrades who will shoulder the leadership responsibility of overthrowing their criminal rule is undeniable. The CWP’s fighting character and militant tradition are undeniable. However, as communists, as historical materialists, we must at all times reevaluate our work. There are times for minor adjustment and times for major reorientation. As we make this major reorientation, the future is indeed bright.
The fact that the CWP has saved an entire generation of revolutionaries from being burnt out in the 70ís, forged them into a party and trained them so they are now the actual leaders in the class struggle, giving the U.S. people a real’ fighting chance in the 80’s against war and fascism and for peace and socialism, are accomplishments that cannot be arbitrarily denied in any evaluation, even in our own most critical self-dissection. The line change will only affirm the truly vanguard and advanced character of the CWP. As Lenin said, a hallmark of a great party is not that it doesn’t make any mistakes. This is impossible for a real party in a real world. The ability to make self-evaluation, self-criticism and sum up the basis, the conditions for its mistakes is the sign of a great party. Only such a party is capable of shouldering our great historical responsibility.