Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Line of March Editorial Board

The International Communist Movement: A Reappraisal

First Published: Line of March, No. 9, November/December 1981.
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.

Editors’ Note: In addition to Line of March Editorial Board members, the collective which prepared this article included Tom Angotti and Ralph Beitel.

* * *

I. Introduction

A. Marxism and the Crisis of Imperialism

All abstract speculation concerning the nature and direction of the class struggle inevitably gives way before the reality of class struggle as it actually unfolds in life–this is a basic precept of Marxist theory and communist politics.

It was precisely this perspective that led us, when this journal was launched a year and a half ago, to place our examination of the communist movement in the context of the mounting crisis of imperialism today.[1] Such a framework was useful in underscoring our view that the real extent of what has widely been recognized as a crisis in the international communist movement can only be measured against its capacity to lead the proletarian forces and oppressed peoples to respond fully to what has been recognized even more widely to be a crisis in the imperialist system. Looking ahead to the last two decades of the twentieth century, the historic task of the communists to lead the international proletariat in ushering imperialism off the stage of history appears one hundred times more vivid, concrete and urgent than glimpsed by Marx a hundred years ago. The contradiction between the bourgeoisie and proletariat, between imperialism and socialism, has taken its time to mature in ways that could not be fully predicted beforehand–but mature it has, nonetheless. In broad, objective terms the opening declaration of the Communist Manifesto of 1848 holds true today–a spectre is haunting the world, the spectre of communism! It certainly haunts those who occupy the council chambers and war rooms in Washington D.C.

Yet as we noted in our first issue, “The irony of the present moment is that the crisis of imperialism has matured in conjunction with–and, indeed, to a certain extent, has been mitigated by–a crisis in the revolution.”

In our view, the crisis in the revolution cannot be understood simply at the level of the apparent splits and squabbling among communists, both internationally and within different countries. Rather, these struggles reflect the emergence of opportunist lines in the international movement–and of the opposition of Marxist-Leninists to such lines and practices. After all, of what value is it to the proletariat if the “communists” are united, but united around an opportunist line? The historical degeneration of the Second International and the more recent betrayals of Maoism more than prove the point.

Since our first issue we have deepened, refined and altered a number of our opinions; but this basic one remains intact.

However, there are differences and differences. Some require splits, others do not; some are serious but not yet matured in practice, others are overripe and sharp struggle is long overdue. How to keep the correct perspective on these matters is often far more easily said than done, to say nothing of the fact that sectarianism has been an unwelcome companion to the process of line struggle throughout the growth and development of the communist movement. Correctly steering the course for building and preserving the unity demanded by the realities of the class struggle, without at the same time sinking into a philistine pragmatism that glosses over differences and conciliates opportunism, is the hallmark of Leninism. Unfortunately, this standard has faded substantially in the practice of the international communist movement.

The key to maintaining the correct perspective on how to handle line differences among communists is to never lose sight of the bourgeoisie, to remain clear and firm on the actual battle lines as they are drawn by the deepening crisis of imperialism. Thus the international class struggle is the objective criterion which ultimately frames the unity of communists, the degree and significance of their differences, and the appropriate methods for struggle.

In short, every force in the international movement must be measured not just against what it says about revolution, class struggle, and socialism, but by where it objectively stands in relation to the real class struggle now taking place in the world on a global scale. It is in this context that theoretical differences among communists come alive as politics determine whether a “shade of difference” is crucial or mere hair-splitting. Only in this context can it be determined which lines produce confusion, vacillation and conciliation in the face of the class enemy, and which lines provide the basis to defend socialism, support national liberation and advance proletarian revolution. Finally, it is at the barricades that it becomes clear when opportunism has grown into active class collaboration, and, therefore, whether splits are necessary and must be pursued in a determined and thoroughgoing fashion.

Unfortunately, in the worldwide struggle against imperialism, it is not always easy to figure out exactly where the decisive battle lines have been drawn. If it were, communist unity would be quite a simple matter indeed! The proletariat is an international class; but it is composed of distinct detachments, and is further divided along national lines. The international class struggle can look quite different and be interpreted in a variety of fashions depending upon where one stands. Yet, despite this complexity, imperialism is an integrated, worldwide system; for this reason alone, class struggle is necessarily thoroughly and objectively international in scope. Communists understand this crucial point, which is what distinguishes them–or at least should distinguish them–from other popular forces in any country. Communists must continually struggle for a sense of the whole–the direction, motion and concentration points of the international class struggle–utilizing this vantage point to frame and inform the strategies for their respective revolutions.

In the era of imperialism, the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat has three distinct fronts. Likewise, the international proletariat has three detachments, distinct from each other, yet profoundly interrelated and interdependent–the socialist countries, the national liberation movements, and the working class movements of the advanced capitalist countries. To lose sight of this reality is to lose sight of the class struggle as it is actually unfolding in the twentieth century. To grasp it means understanding beyond a doubt that the crisis of imperialism is all-sided, irreversible and deepening steadily. Only by standing firmly on this ground can the communists keep their bearings through all the twists and turns of the class struggle. Only from this vantage point do the tremendous responsibilities of the international communist movement and the premium placed on our unity and cooperation become evident.

In those areas of the world where the imperialist system is being directly challenged–the oppressed countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America–the form and content of this front in the class struggle is unmistakable. Since the end of World War II, the most concentrated battles with the international bourgeoisie have been waged here. And in the post-Vietnam War era, the national liberation struggles have only quickened their pace and broadened their scope, especially in Southern Africa, Central America and the Middle East.

Any lingering illusions that imperialism would be shamed into surrender following its ignominious defeat in Vietnam have long since evaporated in the heat of gunfire. International capital has explicitly proclaimed its intention to proceed with a policy of direct military intervention. That policy is already being implemented full force, as demonstrated by the stationing of U.S. military advisors in El Salvador; the undisguised military threats to Nicaragua and Cuba; U.S. attempts to destabilize the revolutionary government in Angola, both directly through support to counter-revolutionary forces, and indirectly by backing South Africa’s military attacks; the series of deliberate provocations against Libya; Ronald Reagan’s assertion that the U.S. will not allow Saudi Arabia to go the way of Iran, etc. The U. S. has not indulged in such graphic expressions of interventionism on behalf of pro-imperialist regimes since the days of John Foster Dulles and the Korean War.

While some in the communist movement still indulge in irresponsible fantasies of “Soviet expansionism,” the real class struggle in the neo-colonial world continues to reveal in no uncertain terms that the actual plans, maneuvers, and actions of world imperialism are headquartered in Washington, D.C., as they have been for the past 40 years. Thus the struggle between world imperialism headed by U.S. imperialism and the movements for national liberation and socialism in those areas of the world where economic exploitation and national oppression are the twin pillars of the imperialist system remains the hottest battlefront in the international class struggle today.

International capital has absolutely no difficulty in grasping the essential truth–which many, even in the communist movement, still have trouble understanding–that there is an objective unity of interest between the anti-imperialist movements in the neo-colonial world and the socialist countries; and that active, persistent attacks on existing socialism remain necessary to the imperialist onslaught.

The unity of interest between national liberation and socialism is based on two simple facts: First, the goal of national liberation can only be realized and consolidated by each people as they break with the capitalist mode of production and move toward socialism, a process which requires at every step along the way–from the armed struggle to seize power to the crucial political, economic and military aid required for socialist construction–support and assistance from the socialist camp. Whatever illusions it may cultivate, whatever detours or setbacks it may encounter, each national liberation struggle must ultimately face up to this objective truth.

Second, the long term interests of the socialist countries are served by the weakening of imperialism and the growth of socialism elsewhere in the world. In fact, the advance of socialism in any particular country is objectively limited until the final worldwide victory against imperialism is achieved. This truth also forcibly imposes itself over time despite whatever opportunist line the ruling communist party in a socialist country may consolidate. The Polish communists are paying dearly for their failure to grasp this truth as demonstrated by their long-held opportunist illusions, in the construction of Polish socialism, concerning the exact nature of the international class struggle. Likewise Chinese socialism is also heading toward crisis so long as it clings to its erroneous policy of building a durable alliance with imperialism against the Soviet Union.

In short, existing socialism remains a vital threat to imperialism. Accordingly, in an epoch of intensifying anti-imperialist struggle, capital cannot help but target the socialist countries in its worldwide offensive. U.S. imperialism is objectively driven to strive for military superiority over the socialist camp–meaning first and foremost the Soviet Union. This direct confrontation between imperialism and the socialist countries is a decisive component of the international class struggle today; hence the active defense of existing socialism is objectively a task of the anti-imperialist front. It is the responsibility of communists to advance and defend this position steadfastly in the face of anticommunist, anti-Soviet prejudice and slander.

Finally, the imperialist offensive is also obliged to direct its aim at the working class “at home.” The worldwide political crisis of imperialism goes hand in hand with a deepening of the system’s internal economic contradictions. Rampant inflation, unstable currencies, increasing monopolization as well as intensifying competition between monopoly combines, and many other symptoms of capitalist instability have imposed on the bourgeoisie in every advanced capitalist country the growing necessity to intensify the rate of exploitation of the proletariat in imperialist countries. Programs of increased social austerity are increasingly a conspicuous and irreversible feature of the major capitalist countries, with England and the U.S. providing the most striking examples. In essence, the material basis for a substantial labor aristocracy within the proletariat of imperialist countries has been significantly weakened as more and more of the world is wrenched from the imperialist orbit and cemented by socialism. Surely we are witnessing a crucial moment in the spiral development of history in which the contradiction between the bourgeoisie and proletariat in the heartlands of capitalism is beginning to mature. Failure to take due note of this phenomenon will obscure the fact that the last decisive front in the struggle to overturn imperialism is heating up. Grasping its full significance, on the other hand, throws a spotlight on the various strains of opportunism which have far too long passed themselves off as Marxism-Leninism among the communist ranks in imperialist countries. It is in this sense that the class struggle, accurately assessed, can help shake our complacency and stagnation in the realms of communist theory and practice.

This is nowhere more true than in the U.S. communist movement. Our confusion, disunity and relative primitiveness are painfully underscored by the massiveness of the U.S. bourgeoisie’s program of militarization and war preparations (up to and including the real danger of nuclear destruction), the ferocity of its assault on the social wage of the U.S. working class, and the ease with which it has installed a program designed to maximize labor productivity and eradicate numerous restrictions on capital won by the working class over the past five decades. This “domestic” aspect of the imperialist crisis, then, is the third front of the international class struggle today, an integral component of that struggle.

The requirements of the international class struggle, in its complex, interrelated parts, frame the tasks of the conscious element From this historical materialist standpoint we can strive to maintain our Marxist-Leninist bearings in the course of analyzing the international communist movement, its boundaries, its unities, and the contradictions which make it up and move it forward.

In brief, our view is that the international communist movement has reached an important turning point. Maoism has degenerated into a completely retrograde trend, closing a chapter on the political and ideological struggles of the past quarter-century. At the same time, all is not well in the ranks of the international communist movement. A number of old, stubborn problems persist; new ones loom on the horizon. Various revisionist views continue to hold sway although they are thoroughly inadequate to meet the challenge of the imperialist attack. Pragmatism and its accompanying right opportunist illusions continue to inflict a form of paralysis and muddleheadedness which the communist ranks can ill afford. As a result, the struggle against opportunism likewise assumes a heightened urgency.

B. The International Communist Movement

To begin with, the notion of one international communist movement must itself be defended. It is certainly a reflection of the ravages of opportunism in the ranks of the international communist movement for the past quarter-century that the very conception of a single international movement has become a highly dubious proposition to many communists. Some explicitly oppose it, many are cynical about its prospects, while others view it as idealist speculation.

Eurocommunism today, Maoism yesterday, and Titoism the day before that, have all argued, in effect, that there is no legitimate basis for a single international movement. Viewing the national tasks of proletarian revolution and socialist construction as the exclusive concern of the working class in each particular country, these trends make it a matter of principle that the world proletariat cannot and should not concern itself with guiding and coordinating efforts in the course of the world revolution, including the process of transition from capitalism to socialism within each country. Indeed, such concern is viewed as inherently “interference” in the internal affairs of each party, inadmissible under any circumstances whatsoever. Some go so far as to argue that the international movement has no legitimate basis for such “interference” even when the socialist system itself may stand in danger of being overthrown. In essence, this view raises the notion of national sovereignty to an absolute principle standing above the class struggle.

The more sophisticated expression of this erroneous viewpoint in the communist movement is the argument that proletarian internationalism can essentially be reduced to the proletariat in each country making its own revolution. The corollary to this position is the notion of poly-centrism.

Now, there is no doubt that each particular revolutionary struggle makes its contribution to the world revolutionary process, and that organizing and guiding those struggles constitutes the principal task of the communist party in each country. Each detachment of the world proletariat must settle accounts first and foremost with that section of the bourgeoisie with which it is locked in a life and death struggle. But proletarian internationalism cannot be reduced to an orientation which in effect makes the organizing of each country’s revolution the sole internationalist task of its proletariat and party. In fact, there are undoubtedly times when the immediate dynamic of a particular revolutionary process must give way to certain considerations that shape the progress of the proletarian struggle as a whole. In addition, every successful socialist revolution has had to confront not just the power of the bourgeoisie of the particular country, but the collective hostility of international capital. And not a single decisive victory over imperialism could have been achieved had not detachments of the international working class movement taken responsibility for them to one degree or another. By the same token, the defense of socialism threatened in any particular country requires the concerted activity of the international proletariat.

In short, we reject all orientations which trivialize or liquidate the internationalist character, perspective or laws of the proletarian revolution. Of course, the actual transition from the capitalist epoch to the socialist epoch unfolds, in general, within distinct national frameworks; but its essential political motion is international and must be seen as such. Consequently, the proletariat has a profound materialist basis for its internationalism. Proletarian internationalism cannot be viewed as an additional factor which serves to strengthen the links of one revolution to another (although it certainly does that). It must be the fundamental starting point of each revolution because it scientifically reflects the actual reality of the class struggle in the era of imperialism. In other words, the world revolution is not merely a sum total of its parts. Such a view is in fact nothing but a mechanical materialist distortion of reality.

In the final analysis the relation of any part of the international movement to the whole must be based–as is all communist work–on the subordination of the part to the whole. To hold otherwise on this matter of principle is a form of opportunism.

Our starting point is a defense of the principle of a single international communist movement and a rejection of the notion of polycentrism. But the matter cannot be left at this level of abstraction. Such a broad statement does not settle the question of appropriate relations between forces in the communist movement We make no pretense that at our present state of party development we are able to appreciate the full complexity of this question, the nature of the problems and difficulties encountered. However, a few things are clear. The unity of the international proletariat is ultimately expressed in politics. For this reason, the cohesion of the international communist movement must not be viewed primarily in organizational terms, that is, a voluntary association of parties; nor can its center be reduced simplistically to the automatic leadership of any single party. Rather, the basic unity of communists internationally must be viewed in political and ideological terms, as forged around certain fundamental propositions and political lines. These fall into three categories: ideological, historical and political.

The ideological foundation of the international communist movement is Marxism-Leninism. Concretely, this means that all forces in the movement hold themselves accountable to the fundamental framework of scientific socialism, the class stand of the proletariat, and the method of historical, dialectical materialism. This is the basis of the common language upon which communists construct their movement, overcoming the numerous differences of language, custom and conditions.

But the communist movement is not merely an association of like-minded thinkers. From its inception it set out to become a decisive material force in the class struggle. Therefore it has a definite history which has given rise to lines of demarcation with those deviations it encountered within its ranks and the struggle against which has shaped its historical continuity. We identify three principal demarcations: the break with anarchism which crystallized the difference between scientific and Utopian socialism; the break with social democracy which affirmed the dictatorship of the proletariat and the defense of the Bolshevik Revolution; and the break with Trotskyism which defended the materialist law of uneven development in the unfolding of the world revolution and the notion that the Soviet Union could and must consolidate socialism in one country (which in turn laid the foundation for the development of Marxist-Leninist theory and practice in actual construction of socialism).

However, it is the political foundation for the international communist movement that is ultimately the decisive one. For it is only in the concrete politics of the class struggle that the true content of various “verbal unities” can be tested, the ideological foundations verified, and the adherence to the historic lines of demarcation determined objectively. Broadly speaking, the political criterion which defines the international communist movement in the present period consists in the recognition that the struggle against world imperialism, headed by U.S. imperialism, is the principal dynamic of this historical epoch, the central question before the world proletariat. Embodied in this understanding is identification of the unity of the three main components of the world revolutionary process in the present period: the socialist countries, the national liberation movements, and the working class movements of the advanced capitalist countries.

The struggle against world imperialism, headquartered in U.S. imperialism, is the central question before the world proletariat. As such commitment to stand with all detachments of the international proletariat in this struggle, in conjunction with a willingness to be held ideologically accountable to Marxism-Leninism and to the historic lines of demarcation with the retrograde trends, constitute the objective basis for defining the parameters of the international communist movement.

Within those parameters, of course, numerous disagreements and significant contradictions remain. The international communist movement is by no means a unified or tranquil domain. Nor should it be! Conditions of the class struggle alter, requiring new analysis. Incorrect lines surface and resurface within the communist movement–and will continue to do so as long as imperialism and classes exist Bourgeois ideology inevitably seeps into the communist ranks, naturally taking the most subtle and sophisticated forms. For these reasons, struggle is an integral and indispensable aspect of communist unity, the lifeblood of the communist movement. (This is a paradox which has long baffled not only our enemies but also our non-communist sympathizers.) Given this dialectic, it is all the more important to determine clearly the basic objective criteria for communist unity, the boundaries of the international communist movement, in order to avoid sectarianism and arbitrary splitting. The ideological, historical and political foundations of the movement set the conditions which determine which forces have the basis to advance their views and conduct struggle on a communist basis.

II. The Final Degeneration of Maoism

Not every opportunist line develops into an all-sided deviation from Marxism-Leninism, one whose maturation must inevitably result in a split. All differences on points of theory do not in and of themselves result in a demarcation.

Whether an opportunist trend has degenerated into an all-sided deviation which must be rooted out of the international communist movement can ultimately only be determined in the realm of politics, in the heat of the class struggle. Such a determination cannot be made simply on any question of politics. Rather, only an opportunist line, consolidated in both theory and practice, on the central question before the proletariat in a given historical period requires such a determination.

It was precisely on such a basis that the historical demarcations between Marxism-Leninism and both social democracy and Trotskyism were made.[13] And it is precisely on the same basis that it is inescapably clear that Maoism can no longer be considered a trend within the communist movement. Maoism as a trend has become an all-sided deviation from Marxism-Leninism which has betrayed the proletariat on the central political question of this historical epoch–the struggle against imperialism.

A. The Politics of Maoism: Class Collaborationism

It is hardly necessary to review in any great detail the series of events demonstrating Maoism’s political degeneration. Its sorry record of collaboration with imperialism for the past decade has been documented many times over. From the unseemly and untimely rapprochement of the Communist Party of China (CPC) with U.S. imperialism at the height of the Vietnam War to its active collusion with Washington in promoting counter-revolution in Afghanistan and Kampuchea, Maoism has stood side by side with the international bourgeoisie against the world proletariat for a decade. Its record is a roll call of treachery: political support to the fascist junta in Chile; unity with South Africa and the U. S. in supporting counter-revolution in Angola; provocations and armed attack against Vietnam; statements designed to encourage and justify a U. S. military attack on Cuba; and most of all, the political cornerstone of Maoism, the forging of an active alliance with U.S. imperialism against the Soviet Union, most graphically expressed by the establishment of a CIA base adjacent to the Soviet border in northern China.

These events speak for themselves as irrefutable evidence of Maoism’s final degeneration. Nor has the CPC attempted to disguise its stand. Rather, it has raised it to the level of theory, spelling it out forthrightly in the Theory of the Three Worlds. Of course, certain wavering international supporters of Maoism are trying, with understandable anxiety, to distance themselves from this theory, while downplaying its significance as the underlying political line defining their trend. But this cannot pass muster. It is clear that the Theory of the Three Worlds is the most concentrated expression of Maoism, the crystallization of all its diverse ideological strains into concrete politics. One cannot disguise the fact that the CPC offers the Theory of the Three Worlds as the contemporary equivalent of Lenin’s analysis of imperialism; that is, as the analytical underpinning by which the communist movement should base its understanding of the class alignments, balance of forces, and strategic assessment of the world today. The Theory of the Three Worlds is, in short, Maoism’s counter-proposal as the general line for the international communist movement. But it has become more than a theoretical proposal. It is now the operative line on which the CPC itself is based, its guide to action.

With this line, Maoism has objectively abandoned the cause of the proletariat on the central question of our epoch–the struggle against world imperialism headed by U.S. imperialism. The irony, of course, is that Maoism emerged as an international trend precisely by criticizing Krushchev and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) for wavering in the face of the struggle against U.S. imperialism. Many in the rapidly disintegrating Maoist trend, of course, still cling to the shattered remnants of what once constituted elements of a critique of revisionism. But the fact is that the period during which Maoism led in criticizing revisionism was quite short-lived; the critique of revisionism remained quite shallow; and Maoism’s critique itself was based in large measure on anti-Sovietism, a fact which surfaced after a number of years in the assertion that the USSR was an imperialist country, and in the strategy of the United Front Against Hegemonism.

B. Historical and Ideological Roots of Maoism

A closer look at the historical development of Maoism shows that there were no sudden, major changes in its theory or underlying ideological orientation. Rather, the erroneous theoretical and ideological foundations on which Maoism has always been based unfolded and matured gradually in the concrete politics of the class struggle.

This point will be (in fact already has become) a source of consternation and debate, especially among those forces in the communist movement–among whom we must include ourselves–whose political histories intersect to one degree or another with the rise and influence of Maoism internationally. Maoism’s initial posture as the revolutionary alternative to revisionism–and, indeed, the fact that for a short period there was a measure of coincidence between certain Maoist political propositions and a Marxist-Leninist view–has served to obscure the historical consistency of the opportunist deviation associated with Mao and his rise to power in the CPC. Likewise, the prestige of the Chinese Revolution, and Mao’s role within it, has lent a certain unwarranted credibility to the claims of Mao Zedong Thought as a creative development of Marxism-Leninism in the era of declining imperialism.

However, the long-standing opportunist basis of Maoism rests in the impulse toward a nationalist deviation within the CPC which was consolidated during the period of the national democratic revolution. This narrow orientation was expressed by Mao’s stated goal to “sinify Marxism,” a process which went far beyond, and hence distorted, the Leninist concept of the concrete application of Marxism-Leninism to the particular conditions of each revolution. It was also reflected in the Mao group’s consistent suspicion of, and hostility toward, the Comintern and the rest of the international movement, in particular the Soviet Union. This narrow orientation was itself an expression of the peasant-based, peasant-oriented world outlook of the Mao faction within the CPC, which drew its strength from the petit bourgeois social base of the party itself–the peasant masses and the anti-Western intellectuals.

Despite this nationalist impulse, the CPC’s general political line remained generally consistent with the interests of the international proletariat during the revolution and the first years after the seizure of power. First and foremost, the Chinese Revolution was in its national democratic stage, in which the principal task of the Chinese masses was to assert China’s national independence and wrench it out of the imperialist orbit, so that nationalism corresponded to its main goals. Further, on a practical, pragmatic level, the national tasks of the Chinese Revolution required direct assistance from the Soviet Union, both in the final stages of the struggle against the Kuomintang and its U.S. backers (1945-49),[14] and in the first period of consolidating power and socialist construction (1949-56). This reality served to check the full flowering of the nationalist deviation held by the CPC leadership.

But Krushchev’s opportunist, one-sided attack on Stalin in 1956 opened a Pandora’s box. In the confusion and demoralization which followed, opportunist tendencies gained ascendancy in almost every communist party in the world. The CPC was no exception. Mao, proclaiming that he was tired of being kept “like a Buddha on the shelf,” announced that China needed to find its own path to socialism. Soon, Mao’s ill-conceived and ill-fated Great Leap Forward–the attempt to establish communism in a giant leap, independent of the necessity of the painstaking development of the material foundations to do so–gave full reign to the tendency toward idealism and voluntarism.

Even this vainglorious departure from materialism had its origins in the underlying anti-Soviet, nationalist deviation, for it called for an explicit rejection of the Soviet experience in socialist construction as inapplicable to China[15] and demanded a unique Chinese path to socialism which would keep China independent of the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries. Lest there be any confusion, the popular slogan of the period was “China will be the first to communism.”

Mao’s idealist view of socialist construction was played out again on a grander scale a few years later with the Cultural Revolution.[2] This development in China struck a resonant note elsewhere in the world. It coincided with, and helped reinforce, a spontaneous wave of infantile leftism which was then developing in most of the advanced capitalist countries in response to the utterly reformist politics of the established communist parties. Maoism’s appeal was further enhanced by its critique of the line advanced from 1956 on by the Soviet party as a line which promoted a number of concepts which added up to a strategy of conciliation with imperialism in a period when the intensity of the class struggle was actually sharpening internationally, especially in the oppressed countries. In the revolutionary vacuum created by the rightist turn in the mass communist parties of Europe, Maoism gave anarchism an anti-revisionist cover and enabled it to re-invade deep into the ranks of the communist movement.

But while infantile revolutionism was the more conspicuous characteristic of the CPC and the international Maoist trend during the 1960s, Maoism’s fundamental deviation was still that of narrow nationalism. This is the essential continuity of Maoism, the opportunist thread that unites Mao and the Gang of Four on the one hand, and Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping on the other.

This point has become especially important recently as certain Maoists, unable to defend the class collaborationist policy of the CPC, have attempted to attribute this policy not to Mao but to the post-Mao leadership. But this is a vain enterprise. It was Mao–and no one else– who, at a time when he was still actively at the head of the party, first formulated the capitalist restoration thesis which underpinned both China’s class collaborationist foreign policy and the Cultural Revolution. Likewise, it was Mao himself who laid the foundations for the Sino-U.S. anti-Soviet alliance, an enterprise begun in 1971. The Theory of the Three Worlds may not have been Mao’s handiwork alone; but his name was attached to it while he was still alive and any careful examination shows that it is completely consistent with, and in fact represents an extension of, the rest of Mao Zedong Thought.

The present CPC leadership has been carrying on a campaign to downgrade Mao. But this campaign has been carefully restricted to Mao’s “mistakes” in the realm of domestic policy, particularly the line on the Cultural Revolution. The CPC continues to stand firm on Mao and Maoism on foreign policy, as this recent item from the Beijing Review clearly demonstrates:

An African state leader visiting China recently told his hosts that he had heard China was ’repudiating’ Chairman Mao and changing its foreign policy and this had him worried. However, he had been misinformed. If China were to totally repudiate Chairman Mao, which China is not, it would also include repudiating his correct foreign policy. . .. Chairman Mao’s strategic conception of the three worlds is correct. China will always be a member of the third world and never seek hegemonism. We will carry on the foreign policy Chairman Mao formulated during his last years.

Will China oppose only Soviet hegemonism but not imperialism and colonialism as it develops its relations with the U.S. and other developed countries?... Developing relations with the U.S. does not mean that China supports its erroneous policy toward some third world countries.[3]

This statement is illuminating not only because it firmly establishes the continuity of Maoism in the present CPC leadership, but also because it provides further evidence of how the CPC has abandoned the most fundamental tenets of Marxism-Leninism, particularly the Leninist analysis of imperialism as a system, the highest stage of capitalism, and not merely a policy of the bourgeoisie. The CPC (rather gently) chastizes U.S. imperialism for pursuing an “erroneous policy” in some instances. This sounds more like a statement from a bourgeois liberal than from a communist party–and that’s precisely the point! By what standard, we must ask, can U.S. imperialism be judged to have an erroneous policy? An erroneous policy can only be one that is not consistent with the real interests of the imperialist ruling class. This is hardly the case with U.S. policy today.

The CPC understands all too well what it is doing. The thinly disguised purpose for such nonsense is to forge the broadest possible front against the USSR.

When all is said and done, the heart of the CPC s nationalist deviation is its thoroughgoing anti-Sovietism. All the major theoretical and political deviations Maoism makes from Marxism are concentrated in the formulations developed to justify this anti-Sovietism. The most glaring departure from Marxism was the capitalist restoration thesis which provided the theoretical foundation for foisting naked anti-Sovietism on the international communist movement. In its effort to paint the USSR as operating under the objective laws of capitalism/imperialism, Maoism ignored or distorted almost every major concept of Marxist political economy.[4]

The philosophical propositions upon which this opportunist theory rests highlight the primitive dialectics adopted by Maoism–that is, grasping the law of contradiction, but not the law of development. Mao’s explicit rejection of the dialectical concept of the negation of the negation[5] was critical to his assessment that once revisionists gained dominance in the CPSU, the bourgeoisie, by definition, was in power, so that the socialist USSR reverted back to its opposite, capitalism. To Mao it was simple as that! There is undeniably an element of dialectical logic in this reasoning; but it is a thoroughly primitive dialectics, and thus constitutes an idealist distortion of historical reality.[6]

The programmatic expression of the capitalist restoration thesis is the Theory of the Three Worlds. Here the underlying nationalist deviation of Maoism expresses itself in the most explicit theoretical terms. This theory discards the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat as the motive force propelling history forward. In its place, it establishes a framework in which nations are the key actors on the stage of history. Classes and class struggle play a distinctly secondary role, hopelessly muddled amidst the different “worlds.” The progress and direction of this struggle become elusive. Profound pessimism pervades the whole strategy. The theory abandons the clarity with which Marxism’s scientific grasp laid bare the objective laws of history, substituting in its place a completely metaphysical and bourgeois framework.[7]

Far from being a new stage in the development of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought has led to an all-sided break with communism and the international communist movement. Ideologically, its major theoretic formulations are based on serious distortions of Marxist-Leninist theory–in philosophy, political economy, and political strategy. Maoism has conciliated and blurred the hard-fought historical demarcations with anarchism, social democracy, and Trotskyism–many elements of which have re-infected the communist ranks under the cover of Mao Zedong Thought. Politically, and most importantly, Maoism has crossed over the barricades to all-sided collaboration with imperialism, has abandoned support of national liberation struggles and has directed its main attack against socialism.

C. The Disintegration of the Maoist Trend and the Particularity of the CPC

Following its qualitative political and ideological degeneration, the Maoist trend has begun to disintegrate organizationally as well. Comparatively, Trotskyism and the Second International both displayed far more cohesiveness and durability than Maoism–in large part due to the disdain and lack of concern which Maoism’s center (the CPC) shows toward the rest of its own trend.

Within the CPC itself, the two wings of Maoism, voluntarist and pragmatist, which Mao himself held together in uneasy unity quickly fell apart after his death, with the arrest of the voluntarist Gang of Four and the rise of the pragmatist Deng faction. At more or less the same time, the simmering contradictions between the Albanian Party of Labor (PLA) and the CPC also reached the boiling point. Things quickly went from bad to worse. Over the past five years the most prominent feature of the international Maoist movement has been the splintering of almost every Maoist party or formation in the world, major or minor. A number have disappeared completely. Those that have survived have done so at the cost of major changes in their operative lines. The Communist Party of the Philippines, for example, the only Maoist party actually leading a mass revolutionary movement against U.S. imperialism, has had to abandon the Theory of the Three Worlds as an operative guide to its practice.

In the U.S. the preposterous infantile posturing that sprang from Maoism’s penchant for cliche-ridden melodrama has given way to a comic opera in which each performer plays from a different and dissonant score. But the essential contradiction on which U.S. Maoism has foundered is actually a replica of the contradiction which has wracked the CPC. So long as Maoism’s underlying nationalist outlook could be formulated in a manner that justified the infantile revolutionism of Western Maoism, the various U.S. sects were able to maintain their internal coherence. But the ouster of the Gang of Four, the revision of the verdict on the Cultural Revolution, the ascendance of the pragmatist Deng–who more and more looks shockingly like a latterday Khrushchev, and the CPC’s abandonment of even the rhetoric of revolution (it had long since abandoned the substance), plunged U.S. Maoism into irreversible crisis. The disunity which had long characterized the trend as a whole now penetrated into the ranks of each constituent sect.

It is hardly possible to trace the ups and downs of every Maoist group here. Nor would it be fruitful to do so. To attempt as much would afford most of them a notoriety totally unwarranted by history. Suffice it to say that Maoism can hardly be said to exist as a coherent trend any longer. Several major organizations have been rent asunder. Others have tried to modify the most blatantly unsupportable aspects of the Maoist line in an effort to maintain some standing in a movement which has finally begun critically studying Maoism and uncovering its theoretical shallowness. And of course, one or two diehard groups have attempted to stonewall the disarray of their trend in spite of the inescapable verdict of history.

Maoism has degenerated into a thoroughly retrograde trend. Despite its Marxist label, it is no longer part of the international communist movement. Whatever the difficult paths former Maoist parties, groups and individuals may have to travel, one thing stands out: to find their way back into the mainstream of the international revolutionary movement, they must break with Maoism in a sober and conscious fashion. Exactly how they accomplish this break will differ greatly with time, place, and circumstance; but the longer any of them endures Maoism’s class collaborationism in silence, the more corrupted and compromised their eventual break will be. At this point, it is questionable whether any Maoist formations–with a possible handful of exceptions–can regain their Marxist-Leninist bearings while remaining intact. Reality has long since posed to the communists within such formations the necessity of “voting with their feet.”

And here, ironically, is where the CPC requires some special analysis; for surely nowhere in the Maoist world are the conditions, time, and place as difficult and complex as those facing Chinese Marxist-Leninists.

The CPC is the headquarters of Maoism; it is also the only thoroughly Maoist party which holds state power. This contradiction is of paramount importance. On tactical grounds alone, it’s clear that it will not be so easy for the Marxist-Leninists within the CPC simply to “vote with their feet,” resign from the party and attempt to organize communists around another line–unless of course they were prepared to build a new party inside prison–a dim prospect indeed, which only a smug and irresponsible dogmatist could envision as a real solution.

To begin to analyze such a problem, it is necessary to remember that the historical transition from the capitalist mode of production to socialism will span an entire epoch, and that as it proceeds and matures it will continue to present us with new, contradictory phenomena, anomalies which neither Marx nor Lenin had a basis to predict, much less solve; but problems which nonetheless demand analysis, experimentation, and solution. Life is always a hundred times richer and more complex than theory. Marxism, as with other sciences, encounters the world of concrete, historical phenomena as both its raw material and as the challenge for the further development of its body of theory. Initial formulations, even when logically valid and correct in essence, often prove inadequate to explain reality in its full complexity. All realms of revolutionary practice, from the struggle to seize power through the construction of socialism, must confront this fundamental materialist proposition.

The point here is that Marxist-Leninist theory has not heretofore addressed the phenomenon of parties with a consolidated opportunist general line which hold state power. This situation is not unique to China. What distinguishes the CPC line today, however, is that it is thoroughly retrograde and class collaborationist. At the same time, this party has responsibility for one of the largest socialist countries in the world. And although the foundations of Chinese socialism remain relatively weak and unstable, the basic property relations have been transformed to the point where they can exert a powerful countervailing material force on the opportunist line of the party.

In the face of such a complex contradiction, it will do us little good to continue to shake our heads and mutter that it’s impossible, that it just can’t happen, that opportunist parties can’t hold power in socialist countries; or to redefine the essential categories of Marxism to show that China is not socialist The point is that reality is staring us in the face-parties with opportunist lines can obviously hold and maintain power in socialist countries for a considerable period of time, and the theory and practice of how to rectify this situation successfully is still undeveloped in the collective practice of the international communist movement.

In addition, the concrete negative consequences of this unprecedented situation on the worldwide struggle against imperialism and the construction of socialism are only now beginning to mature enough to present themselves in a forceful and vivid enough manner to shock the most complacent communists. The present crisis facing Polish socialism is of course the most prominent example, one which contains many lessons for the whole communist movement, not just the Polish party. The inherent instability in the Chinese party, reflecting the same anomaly, is likewise foreboding for the future of Chinese socialism.

We are certainly in no position to forecast, much less guide, the course of the line struggle within the CPC. But a few things are clear even from a distance.

First, Chinese socialism cannot be built in alliance with imperialism and in opposition to the socialist camp. So long as the present line dominates the CPC, it will continue to undermine socialism in China, embolden the bourgeois elements, and erode the gains of the working class. The net result is bound to be conspicuous class struggle both inside and outside the party.

Second, there is no guarantee that Marxism-Leninism will prevail in the short run. A form of capitalism could be restored in China, either through erosion of the socialist base or an explicit turn to private property relations. Sooner or later, the party would have to drop its pretense to Marxism-Leninism, since ideology cannot remain indefinitely at odds with its material base. This would inevitably pose a whole new set of questions regarding the class struggle and the tasks of Chinese Marxist-Leninists.

Third, short of this type of setback, the future of Chinese socialism is ultimately bound up with the rectification of the CPC despite its firmly consolidated opportunist line. This fact demands the application of a qualitatively different standard to the CPC than to those Maoist parties not in power which are actively collaborating with imperialism. The established socialist property relations in China provide a material countervailing influence on the party’s opportunist line, continually recreating the basis for inner-party struggle. Precisely because of China’s socialist economic base, many of the best revolutionary elements of Chinese society will continue to be attracted to the Communist Party. Despite the fact that the party’s dominant opportunist line will distort their training and orientation towards Marxism-Leninism, there will still be the basis for struggle as the ideals of communism, the theory of Marxism-Leninism, and the concrete needs of Chinese socialism come into conspicuous conflict with the line and practice of the CPC. Consequently, any cavalier dismissal of the CPC and the basis for the rectification of its line is the posture of a dilettante and not a communist. This is the same point of view we have taken toward the Polish United Workers Party (PUWP) in the midst of the Polish crisis, and we apply it to the CPC as well.

Finally, the defense of socialism in China is not solely the business of the Chinese party. The Chinese revolution deprived international capital of the means to exploit one fourth of the world’s population–a major blow to imperialism. Today however, China’s collusion with U.S. imperialism weakens and demoralizes the international united front against imperialism as well as threatening China’s socialist gains. In light of this, we would argue that the most determined and thoroughgoing exposure, critique, and isolation of international Maoism and the line and practice of the CPC essentially constitute a defense of Chinese socialism and should be pursued from that standpoint.

D. Our Trend and its Relationship to Maoism

The degeneration of Maoism is of particular interest to the anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend in the U.S. This trend, as a trend, emerged from Maoism; its entire history is bound up with the struggle for a common summation of those origins.

The immediate political turning point was the question of Angola in 1975 and 1976, not because the particular issue of support for the MPLA was in itself the basis for a demarcation between communists; but because Maoism’s stand on Angola was the most open and concentrated expression up until that time of the class collaborationist character of the CPC’s general line, which had remained somewhat hidden previously due to the breadth of the front maintained around Vietnam. Confronted with the harsh realities of the class struggle over Angola, the Marxist-Leninists took the first steps of a conspicuous break with Maoism, splitting what had been the Maoist-dominated New Communist Movement and marking the beginning of its demise.

Our trend’s initial break with Maoism was timely, but it was also incomplete. Once again, this trend is at a turning point. Its future maturation is thoroughly dependent on completing and consolidating the break with Maoism. This is especially critical at a time when Maoism is in an advanced state of disarray leading to a period of flux and realignment. This trend will be unable to mature as a Marxist-Leninist trend until and unless it confronts its own history and ties to Maoism with brutal frankness.

There are undoubtedly historically comprehensible reasons why so many revolutionary-minded activists came under the influence of Maoism in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Not the least of these was the disorientation and ineffectiveness of the revisionist party, the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) in the face of Maoism’s apparent credentials in leading the critique of revisionism. Added to this was the prestige of the Chinese revolution in a period when imperialism’s principal immediate targets were in East Asia. In addition, the nationalist deviation inherent in Maoism was not so readily discernible in a period when the upsurge of national liberation struggles was clearly the cutting edge of the struggle against imperialism.

Our trend’s past associations with Maoism were marked by many such “good intentions.” Unfortunately, they do not tell the whole story. We must also have the courage to acknowledge the other side of the coin, the influence on us of anti-communism, anti-Sovietism, and infantile leftism. Our introduction to and training in Marxism was, for the most part, unsystematic, with all kinds of New Left distortions incorporated. Continuity with our history and concrete links to the international communist movement were almost completely severed due to the inability of the revisionist party to capture and lead the mass struggles of the ’60s, which produced much of the human material which makes up our trend. The anti-Soviet propaganda which penetrates every pore of U.S. society left us extremely vulnerable to an anti-Soviet brand of Marxism. And the predominantly petit bourgeois social base of our movement naturally provided fertile soil for these prejudices to take root.

However, the very existence of our trend is partial testimony to the fact that, whatever the difficulties and disadvantages, whatever the twists and turns, the very force of the class struggle, the very logic of the proletarian revolution will inevitably draw the most persistent revolutionary forces back again and again to Marxism-Leninism, until it eventually begins to consolidate and take root as a material force shaping the class struggle. We have this potential. But our trend’s confusion in grasping the actual contours of the international class struggle in the years since Angola shows that we have not yet eradicated Maoism from our ranks. A number of Maoist propositions still have widespread currency in our trend. In particular, the political core of Maoism–anti-Sovietism–is the aspect of Maoism around which our trend still exhibits its greatest weaknesses and vacillations. These waverings must be settled decisively on the basis of seeing the Soviet Union as a socialist country and as an integral part of the world struggle against imperialism. Our trend cannot continue to hold on to any lingering versions of the view which holds that the Soviet Union is an enemy of the world’s peoples–whether modified by such words as “secondary,” or “frequently,” or “occasionally”–if the trend is to mature in the framework of Marxism-Leninism. Conciliating such a line will continue to produce the impulse toward centrism and vacillation which forces within our trend have already exhibited toward the actual battles which arise in Kampuchea, Afghanistan, Poland, etc. We certainly do not suggest that many of the outstanding theoretical and political questions concerning the USSR and the CPSU can be settled overnight, or by fiat. However, the basic socialist character of the USSR and its role in the anti-imperialist struggle cannot remain an unsettled question if our trend is finally to settle its accounts with its Maoist parentage.

Our trend must now move decisively toward the long-delayed summation of its own history. It must be able to identify what has previously been termed dogmatism, ultra-leftism, or “left” opportunism as being essentially an expression of the influence of Maoism–a historically definite, all-sided deviation from Marxism-Leninism which has degenerated into counter-revolution and class collaboration and which can no longer be considered a trend within the international communist movement. There can be no political future for our trend without such a summation.

III. The Struggle Against Opportunism in the International Communist Movement

A. Breaking with the Maoist Critique of Revisionism

What many Marxist-Leninists have not yet fully grasped or appreciated is that the break with Maoism requires a break with the distorted Maoist notions of revisionism. Indeed, we cannot begin to take up the struggle against revisionism in earnest unless this is done.

A basic tenet of Maoism is that revisionism consists of party people in power taking the “capitalist road.” What is meant by the “capitalist road” was spelled out graphically by the theory and practice of the Cultural Revolution with its arbitrary, primitive egalitarian attacks on the party and masses alike. The logic of this thesis, likewise spelled out by Maoism, is that when these “party people in power taking the capitalist road” succeed in having their program become the dominant line and guiding policy of the party, then capitalism has been restored. This equation of revisionism to capitalism, and revisionists to the bourgeoisie, turned Maoism’s initial shallow critique of revisionism into a qualitative distortion which grew increasingly ridiculous as time went on.

All of the class collaborationist policies of Maoism flow from this flawed premise. Contention between the capitalist U.S. and the socialist Soviet Union was called “superpower rivalry.” The Soviet Union itself became a “social-imperialist” superpower whose drive for expansion became the “chief danger of war in the world today.” The dictatorship of the proletariat in the USSR, naturally enough, was transformed into “fascism.” Soviet support to national liberation struggles, and Soviet preparedness to defend socialism when it was endangered, became “neocolonialism.” Soviet defense of socialism endangered was all too easily dismissed as “neo-colonial aggression.” And so on, ad nauseam.

As Maoism degenerated, even the pretense toward anti-revisionism was callously surrendered. Initially, the CPC had castigated the revisionist theories of Titoism and the influence of social democratic ideology on the mass communist parties of Western Europe and Japan.[16] Later, the Maoists discovered the virtues of “national independence” in parties, attributing a progressive character to every departure from Marxism-Leninism so long as it aided and abetted anti-Sovietism. Likewise, Maoism hailed the backward lines which emerged in the parties of several Eastern European countries solely because they represented attempts to fracture the economic, political, and military unity of the socialist camp.

This is the underlying unity of Maoism. The Gang of Four and Deng Xiaoping both maintain that the Soviet Union is capitalist, a “social-imperialist” superpower. Both the PLA and the CPC, despite the split between them, agree on this point. But even among those who claim to have rejected or surrendered the capitalist restoration thesis, there are some who still cling to this fundamental Maoist tenet. The lingering effects of the Maoist caricature of the struggle against revisionism can be found in the view that the Cultural Revolution may have suffered from some excess of zeal, but was nevertheless a worthwhile and commendable undertaking. Maoism also remains alive in that strange mixture of anarchist, social democratic, Trotskyist prejudices which prefers the lively “Chinese brand” of socialism over the “drab” revisionist (read: Soviet) brand.

It will be impossible to address the real problems of opportunism and revisionism in the international communist movement so long as we approach those problems from the simplistic Maoist framework. For this reason, our trend’s capacity to complete the break with Maoism and to recognize it as an all-sided deviation from Marxism-Leninism is the absolute precondition for our capacity to take up the critique of revisionism in any serious fashion. In fact, the very terminology of Maoism will probably have to be eliminated from our vocabulary, since terms which, on the surface, may appear to be merely descriptive carry with them all the basic propositions of the capitalist restoration thesis. For instance, referring to the U.S. and the Soviet Union as the “two superpowers,” a term which might seem to refer only to their size and all-around economic capacity, actually reinforces Maoism’s view which equates the socialist Soviet Union with the imperialist U.S. Even the term “modern revisionism” is a historically specific formulation developed and popularized by Maoism and, as such, inevitably bears the specific anti-Soviet connotation Maoism attached to it.

Our movement is surely in sore need of a more penetrating analysis and critique of the various revisionist currents within the international communist ranks, as well as renewed struggle concerning our line differences. However, the “anti-revisionist struggle” is bound to remain empty rhetoric, devoid of either substance of precision, unless we thoroughly reject the shallowness and distortions of the Maoist critique of revisionism.

B. Pragmatism: The Principal Ideological Deviation Within the International Communist Movement

How then shall we characterize the various opportunist currents which indeed dominate the international movement at present? What is the underlying ideological deviation upon which revisionism rests? These questions cannot be answered simply with a list of propositions supposedly adding up to a ready-to-hand definition, such as “the Three Peacefuls and the Two Wholes.” For as we examine the different tendencies within the international communist movement in their historical concreteness, it quickly becomes apparent that there are several distinct currents and qualitatively different degrees of opportunism which overlap and are interrelated, but also at times conflict with and contradict each other.

The revisionist parties exhibit a broad diversity. Some are characterized by the kind of revisionist illusions which produce lethargy and vacillation in the face of the long run demands of the class struggle, but do not crystallize into out-and-out betrayal and class collaboration until a revolutionary (or counter-revolutionary) situation confronts the proletariat and the time for debate among communists is past. In such cases, only in the aftermath of defeat and setback does it become painfully clear that certain doctrinal “shades of difference” were in fact crucially important to the cause of the proletariat. Other revisionist parties, while holding such illusions, may nonetheless be able to re-evaluate and adjust in time in the face of a revolutionary situation. This is especially true in the case of a number of revisionist parties in oppressed countries. Then, of course, there are those revisionist parties which are thoroughly corrupted and engage in shameless and incorrigible class collaboration. Contrary to some prevailing prejudices, the general line and practice of the Soviet party, while characterized by opportunism, is nevertheless closer to a Marxist-Leninist orientation on a number of key points than is the case with the other revisionist parties in the international movement. This last statement may appear startling to some in our movement. But once the blinders of the Maoist framework are cast off, it becomes virtually self-evident that the Soviet party still stands as the chief obstacle to the fullest fruition of the opportunism in the lines and practice of a number of other parties, especially in Eastern and Western Europe.

Nevertheless, there is a basic underlying unity shared by these diverse opportunist currents in the international movement. It is increasingly not so much on a whole range of political and theoretical formulations as much as a common philosophical perspective. Pragmatism is the dominant ideological orientation which the CPSU, the Eurocommunist parties, and the “pro-Soviet” parties like the CPUSA and the Tudeh Party in Iran all have in common.

Pragmatism is one of the most pernicious and pervasive forms of bourgeois ideology because it gives the impression of being materialist. In fact, pragmatism enters the communist ranks announcing itself as the defender of materialism against dogmatic distortions and claims to be the creative development of Marxist-Leninist theory and practice in light of new, concrete, and practical realities of the class struggle.

Based on the proposition that “whatever will work is correct,” pragmatism worships direct and immediate experience and undermines the guiding role of theory in the revolutionary movement. Denying the fact that what is essential is not always apparent, pragmatism has no patience with the long run of history; its concerns are exclusively with the immediately practical and verifiable. Pragmatism in politics produces an endemic tailism. It can only respond to the class struggle; it can never hope to lead it.

Pragmatism departs from dialectical materialism because it views the world statically. It makes judgments and analyses solely on the basis of where forces are at any given moment. It abjures any attempt to base strategy on development, on the way in which forces are developing or objectively must develop. Pragmatism views theory merely as a useful tool in the achievement of immediate objectives. As a result, pragmatism raises tactics to the level of strategy, and reduces the question of strategy to a matter of tactics, producing an absolute muddle theoretically and eroding the Leninist precision of communist politics.

Historically speaking, pragmatism is the philosophical world outlook most directly associated with capitalism. The huge advances in science made in the course of the development of capitalist production effectively undermined classical idealism as a means of either explaining or guiding social practice. And yet the very anarchy of capitalist production produced the philosophical view which held that only the immediately verifiable could be deemed true, and in which the achievement of immediate objectives (production of commodities, realization of profit, etc.) became the sole goal of science.

Pragmatism in politics invariably gives rise to reformism. This tendency found its classical expression in the economist trend which appeared in the early stages of Bolshevism. Lenin conducted a fierce struggle against the economists’ program which viewed “palpable results” in the class struggle–meaning immediate economic gains–as the principal goal of the movement. Lenin also sharply criticized the opportunism inherent in their “worship of spontaneity,” that is, their tendency to base all analysis and judgments on the state of the spontaneous movement at any given moment.

Pragmatism is, at bottom, the mirror image of dogmatism. Each, in fact, proclaims its legitimacy on the basis of the critique of the other. Pragmatism’s fetishization of immediate experience is matched by dogmatism’s worship of the “scriptures” set down for us by Marx and Lenin. Both rupture the relation between theory and practice. Dogmatism speaks in the name of the universal, without regard to the historically specific. Pragmatism speaks in the name of the historically specific but without regard for the laws of history and long range trends of social development.

On the basis of these considerations, let us briefly examine some of the opportunist currents which presently exert influence within the international communist movement.

C. Pragmatism in the General Line of the CPSU

We begin with the dominant line and orientation of the CPSU, not because it is the most opportunist in its theory and practice–it clearly is not–but because the Soviet party bears a special responsibility for the present crisis and confusion. First of all, the CPSU is the largest, most experienced, sophisticated, and influential party in the international movement. As such, it must be held particularly accountable–especially given its historical role–for the general ideological and political health of the movement. More to the point, the triumph of a revisionist orientation within the CPSU legitimized a number of opportunist propositions internationally, clearing the way for a broad and diverse tendency toward reformism to emerge within the communist movement–a historically significant development which even the Soviets at times consider to have gotten a bit out of hand. In this sense, the CPSU constitutes the headquarters of revisionism within the international movement. For these same reasons, checking and reversing this negative trend must also be bound up in large measure with the rectification of the general line and orientation of the CPSU.

The tendency toward pragmatism in the CPSU undoubtedly has a long and complex history, an analysis of which is beyond the scope of this article. Certainly the very demands of socialist construction and the tasks flowing from the reality of imperialist encirclement placed a political premium on the realization of immediate objectives. Indeed, it would be surprising if, under the life and death pressures of socialist construction, World War II, and the Cold War period, negative concessions to pragmatism did not creep into the work of the CPSU. Such negative tendencies, however, came to conspicuous and qualitative fruition within the CPSU only with the rise of Khrushchev, who advanced an avowedly pragmatist outlook. The wholesale alterations in Marxist-Leninist theory and in elements of the CPSU’s political line put forward by Khrushchev and adopted by the party as a whole, constituted the clearest expressions of this opportunist orientation.

Khrushchev held that, in light of the danger of nuclear holocaust, the struggle for peaceful coexistence between the U.S. and the USSR had become the principal dynamic shaping world events and the central concern of the international proletariat. The theoretical corollary of this thesis was the fantastic notion that the balance of forces on a world scale had changed to the point where the general form for the transition from capitalism to socialism would be peaceful. In line with this, Khurshchev naturally argued that the principal form of struggle between the two social systems would henceforth be economic competition.

The key tactical concern was peaceful coexistence. Although the Soviet Union had developed its nuclear capacity by 1956, the U.S. and the NATO powers were much stronger militarily than the USSR and the Warsaw Pact countries. At the same time, the imperialists’ concession that their Cold War intention of “rolling back” socialism was no longer a viable foreign policy–in the short run, at least–was a very recent development. Socialism needed a respite, a breathing space. It needed time to consolidate and to cement the economic transformation of those areas of the world where it had recently taken power. Soviet socialism needed time to rebuild the Soviet economy and close the military gap between the USSR and the U.S. Meanwhile, the likelihood of imminent proletarian revolution in the advanced capitalist countries was quite remote. The main danger to be guarded against was the possibility of being drawn into a military confrontation in some other part of the world (Vietnam, the Middle East, Latin America, etc.) which would provide the most rapacious sectors of the monopoly capitalist bourgeoisie with a pretext for widening the conflict into a military showdown with the Soviet Union.

Now, it must be acknowledged that these concrete considerations were not without merit It surely was in the interest of the entire proletariat to prevent a war between the U.S. and the USSR especially under conditions in which the military balance was not favorable to the Soviet Union. It is also true that in the tactical politics of the time, imperialist acceptance of the notion of peaceful coexistence implicitly meant acknowledgment of the new social system in the countries of Eastern Europe and East Asia. The capitalist encirclement of the USSR finally had been broken. This itself represented an incredible victory for the international proletariat. The benefit of a period for the consolidation of these gains was undeniable; nor was there anything intrinsically incorrect in holding that reality may dictate to the proletariat a period of defense and consolidation rather than a period of offense.

But here is precisely where the pragmatist orientation of the Khrushchev leadership departed fundamentally from Marxism-Leninism–the surrender of the long range goals of the world proletariat and Marxist-Leninist theory to the immediate concerns of the moment, no matter how pressing or how legitimate. The theory of peaceful transition was, in effect, proposed as a trade-off with imperialism in order to bring about a more favorable climate for peaceful coexistence. Khrushchev understood, and understood correctly, that this “slight” theoretical modification of Marxism would be interpreted in the West as a “live and let live” policy, a promise by the Soviets that they would no longer “foment revolution,” but would remain satisfied with their “expanded boundaries” in Europe and Asia, an indication that the ambitions about worldwide revolution associated with the “old Stalin period” had ended and that communism was maturing and becoming more “reasonable” and “practical.”

True, the immediate concern–preventing war between the U.S. and the USSR–was no minor consideration. But even that consideration was poorly served by Khrushchev’s ideological capitulation to the bourgeoisie. For the ripening of the crisis of imperialism and the sharpening of the class struggle (in particular in the colonial and semi-colonial countries) was an objective development that no amount of revisionist tampering with Marxist-Leninist theory could alter. Events soon proved that peaceful coexistence could not be a stable factor upon which the proletariat could base its actions, much less a centerpiece of its strategy for revolution. With the Bay of Pigs, U.S. military occupation of South Vietnam, etc., the imperialists made it crystal clear that Khrushchev’s proposal would be acceptable only if the communists agreed to stay behind the “Iron Curtain.” This opportunist line brought the Soviets face to face with the prospect of all-sided collaboration with imperialism.

Khrushchev’s abandonment of the Marxist-Leninist theory of the state, as embodied in the theory of peaceful transition, was an inexcusable concession to imperialism–even if we were to agree that the prospects for socialist revolution in the imperialist countries at the time were dim at best. Far better to acknowledge the weakness of the revolution at a given time and even declare that the struggle for power is not on the agenda than to claim that the struggle for power would take place principally in a peaceful fashion.

Such alterations in theory had devastating consequences for the communist movement, although the bourgeoisie, ironically, were not confused or fooled for a minute. Confusion spread in the ranks of the communist and workers’ movements. Illusions about the bright prospects of peaceful transition steadily eroded the Bolshevik character of the communist parties in imperialist countries, fostering the almost unbridled reign of reformism and liberalism. Peaceful transition as the centerpiece of strategy amounted essentially to surrender to bourgeois rule, no matter how many times the words “socialism” and “dictatorship of the proletariat” were sprinkled throughout party programs. Both the party cadre and leadership alike were corrupted by this opportunist line. Although the parties often maintained their mass base and character, they completely lost the capacity to function as a vanguard. The actual historical link between Khrushchev’s revisionism and today’s full flowering of Eurocommunism is unmistakable and irrefutable.

The leading role of the CPSU meant that the whole series of formulations advanced by Khrushchev and adopted by the CPSU at its Twentieth Congress were put forward as the general line for the whole international communist movement. This revisionist line displayed the pragmatic, opportunist subordination of strategic questions to tactical questions, of theoretical precision to practical considerations. Marx and Engels’ comments on the responsibility of communists to be, on the one hand, broad-minded and flexible on questions of tactics and politics, yet uncompromising on questions of principle, stands as a lasting rebuke to Khrushchev and the CPSU for their adoption of this revisionist general line.

Since Khrushchev’s ouster, the CPSU modified its most blatant revisionist formulations. More importantly, the Soviets have stopped short of all-sided collaboration with imperialism. The objective requirements of Soviet socialism and its pivotal position in world politics have survived as powerful checks on the full implementation of the revisionist line. This was most strikingly reflected in Khrushchev’s dismissal. (Its significance needs to be re-examined more carefully given the Maoist contention of its cosmetic nature. Clearly something much more substantial actually took place at the time.) The Brezhnev leadership significantly altered Khrushchev’s line, which was based on active collusion with the U.S. and far-reaching tampering with Marxist-Leninist theory. The party reversed all of Khrushchev’s major domestic policies, which had served to weaken the role of the party and had introduced a decentralizing momentum into Soviet economic planning. In foreign policy, the Soviets began to firm up their opposition to imperialist aggression in the most critical areas of contention–first and foremost Vietnam, Southern Africa, and the Middle East In fact, Soviet economic, political, and military support for the struggle against imperialism has become a critical factor in ensuring the signal victories in these areas.

The post-Khrushchev alterations in the Soviet line and practice have been critically important to the struggle of the international proletariat. But the Brezhnev leadership has not qualitatively rectified the pragmatist orientation. Key revisionist elements of the CPSU’s general line remain unchanged, formulations which we consider crucial “shades of difference.” In the view of the CPSU, the strengthening of existing socialism is still considered the cornerstone of the strategy for the worldwide defeat of imperialism. The CPSU acknowledges the importance of revolutionary struggles for national liberation and proletarian struggles in the advanced capitalist countries. But, for the CPSU, the pivot of the world revolutionary process–which it believes must be the pivot for all revolutionary forces–is the development, particularly the economic development, of socialism where it presently exists, the centerpiece of which is the USSR. We believe this strategy, however “realistic” it may appear, is incorrect, containing a long term fatal flaw.

However, we do not take issue with the Soviets with respect to the importance of defending existing socialism as one of the major tasks of the communist movement. Support for and defense of the socialist countries–the Soviet Union in particular–ideological work on their behalf, and the exposure of the anticommunist slanders which imperialism and its ideological henchmen on the “left” direct at existing socialism, is a cardinal task of the international movement. This task, we might add, is taken up far too halfheartedly and passively by communist parties not in power–even those closely linked to the CPSU. Those who hesitate in this task, or take a cavalier attitude toward it, do not understand the central importance the international proletariat must attach to safeguarding the gains it has already registered in those areas of the world where a section of the proletariat holds power.

Needless to say, the bourgeois propaganda assault is far more sophisticated today than in the 1920s and ’30s, so that defense of socialism can no longer be an idealistic, non-critical adulation of socialist societies. Rather, it must consist of an unshakeable stand that, from the point of view of the revolutionary proletariat, socialism represents a qualitatively superior social system over capitalist rule, in spite of its yet many unresolved problems, shortcomings, and distortions. Without this firm stand, the communists have lost the blow-for-blow ideological battle with the bourgeoisie from the outset.

We do take issue with the formulation that the strengthening of existing socialism is the central task assuring ultimate victory of the proletariat in this historical epoch. And we don’t think this is minor hairsplitting. The forceful seizure of power, the political revolution, remains the decisive turning point in overturning bourgeois rule and clearing the way for the construction of socialism. This truth holds not merely country by country, but also for the worldwide revolutionary process as well. Therefore, the decisive role in the class struggle in this epoch resides with those sections of the proletariat who still remain directly enslaved by capital, who have yet to accomplish their respective political revolutions–the revolutionary national liberation struggles and the proletarian revolutions in imperialist countries. Granted, existing socialism has become a crucial component in creating the favorable international balance of class forces for the accomplishment and consolidation of these other revolutions. However, the strengthening and defense of existing socialism will not in itself provide an easy surrogate for the actual seizure of proletarian power under the increasingly complex and difficult circumstances presented by a desperate, declining imperialism.

This may seem like a small difference to some; but assuredly it is not. The general line advanced by the CPSU serves to encourage illusions and foster complacency in the very detachments of the world proletariat who have the main responsibility to carry the world revolution against imperialism through to its completion. The CPSU line erodes the Leninist fiber of the communist movement at the juncture of history when it must be strengthened and advanced! And even on the question of strengthening existing socialism, we would argue a subtle, but important, difference with the Soviet line. The basis to qualitatively overcome the inherent limitations and distortions of existing socialism (huge military defense apparatus, recurring infiltration of bourgeois influences, etc.) depends in fact upon the worldwide defeat of imperialism–on the determination, capacity, and skill of those detachments of the internaŽtional proletariat not yet in power to persevere in the class struggle until victory, a consideration which should lead the CPSU to place a high premium on fostering Marxist-Leninist leadership and the struggle against opportunism worldwide.

Every major opportunist current to emerge in the history of the international workers’ movement has ultimately rested upon obscuring and distorting the centrality of the political revolution–the conditions and basis on which the proletariat can establish and consolidate its class rule. Unfortunately, this remains the character and thrust of the general line of the CPSU. Of course, its most vivid negative features and consequences are seen in the less sophisticated parties within the Soviet orbit, who utilize the authority and prestige of the Soviet line as a cover and justification for the most blatant vacillation and surrender in the face of the class struggle.

In our opinion, a sign of the continued hold of pragmatism and opportunism is reflected in its failure to provide the international communist movement with a summation of the Khrushchev years or with a public criticism of the theoretical propositions, line changes, and practices that he advanced. Quietly “retiring” Khrushchev and bringing Stalin’s body back to the Kremlin simply will not do! Our main concern here is obviously not with the figure of Khrushchev, who will prove to be as light as a feather on the scales of history, but rather with Stalin, whose role and significance is far more important.

The summation of Stalin’s leadership and the Stalin period is not the sole business of the CPSU, although they have behaved (irresponsibly) as though it was. Still, the CPSU must take the principal responsibility for Khrushchev’s subjective, opportunist attack on Stalin, and the incalculable damage it has caused. Khrushchev’s assault provided the imperialists with a gold mine of ammunition for its anticommunist propaganda machine, which even 25 years later is far from used up. It gave international Trotskyism a new lease on life. But most important, it thoroughly damaged the continuity and integrity of the international communist movement. Relative to the scope of this damage, the patchwork summation conducted thus far by the CPSU is grossly inadequate.

The current CPSU line on Stalin remains metaphysical to the point of embarrassment. On one hand, it needs to defend the overall correctness of the general line of the Soviet party during that incredibly difficult and trying period. At the same time, it tries in vain to blot out the role of Stalin in that process. The CPSU has worked itself into the ridiculous position of maintaining that the correct line of the party during the period of socialist construction when Stalin led the party (1924-1953) was merely a reflection of the “spirit of Lenin” that remained hovering over a somewhat anonymous central committee. Meanwhile, all the negative features of the Stalin period–the cult of personality, distortions of socialist legality, etc.–are conveniently attributed to Stalin. Gone are the real leaders, the actual struggles, the concrete conditions which framed it all. In its place a dubious fairy tale substitutes for serious historical analysis–a fairy tale that any thoughtful schoolchild can see right through.

If this were merely a question of the content of Soviet history textbooks, it could be left as principally a matter of the Soviets’ own business. But of course it is not The revisionist line on peaceful coexistence could never have been advanced as a serious proposal to imperialism without a frontal assault on Stalin and everything he had come to symbolize in the eyes of the international bourgeoisie. Whatever the shortcomings and mistakes of Stalin and the line and practice of the CPSU under his leadership, one thing stood out clearly–no strategic “guarantees” were offered to the class enemy concerning the possible Soviet role and relationship to the unfolding international class struggle. Flexibility in tactics (up to and including a temporary pact with Hitler) were combined with an uncompromising adherence to the ideological and theoretical precepts of Marxism-Leninism. In short the imperialists never trusted Stalin, never rested assured with his “agreements,” always suspected that he would foster and assist revolutions elsewhere whenever the opportunity presented itself!

Stalin has been accused of many crimes and shortcomings. But few have ever accused him of harboring illusions about the class struggle, its antagonistic nature, and its final outcome. Surely one of the most concrete indications of a thoroughgoing rectification of the CPSU line would be the Soviets’ placing the Stalin question back on the agenda of the international communist movement in a forthright and self-critical fashion. Such an event would undoubtedly strike fear into the hearts of the international bourgeoisie as well as the opportunists within the communist ranks.

In an attempt to re-evaluate and deepen our differences with the line of the CPSU, we have identified pragmatism as the key ideological deviation. This is an alteration from our earlier view that a “nationalist deviation” was the principal source of opportunism in the CPSU, and constitutes an important refinement.

Undoubtedly the CPSU and the Soviet Union have, from time to time, practiced a certain degree of big party and great nation chauvinism toward others, especially when the vital interests of the USSR are, or are thought to be, endangered. Taken as a whole, though, this cannot be the most serious criticism leveled at the Soviet communists and the Soviet people. It is no exaggeration to say that no other people have sacrificed as much for the interests of the world revolution as have the Soviet people. Even today, substantial portions of the surplus product of Soviet society are channeled in the form of economic and military assistance to other socialist countries, liberation struggles, and non-aligned nations.

The CPSU more than any other communist party in the world takes responsibility for the concrete defense of other socialist countries, for assistance to national liberation struggles, and for the general struggle against imperialism. Maoism charged that the Soviet Union mercilessly exploits Eastern Europe in a disguised form of neo-colonialism; but the very opposite is the case. Economic and trade relations between the Soviet Union and the other Eastern European countries are generally organized in such a fashion as to benefit the latter, who purchase certain basic resources (such as fuel) without reliance on the fluctuating world currency market, and who have a guaranteed outlet for their industrial goods. Vietnam, Angola, and Cuba stand as conspicuous proof that the CPSU takes on serious internationalist obligations at considerable expense and also considerable risk. Soviet intervention in Afghanistan was undertaken with the full realization that it would provide U.S. imperialism with an excellent pretext for stepping up its war preparations and anticommunist slanders against the USSR.

Of course, there are still instances when the Soviet Union unnecessarŽily subordinates its support for legitimate struggles against imperialism for certain immediate and narrow political or economic considerations of the Soviet state, witness past and present Soviet policy in relation to the Marcos regime in the Philippines, the Shah, and later the Khomeini government in Iran, etc. In our view, these incorrect policies are most accurately explained in the context of the pragmatist deviation which still persists in the CPSU.

Our earlier formulation of a “nationalist deviation” was partially accurate in terms of certain phenomena. However, it was inadequate to explain this seeming inconsistency in the CPSU’s line and practice. We believe that the present refinement improves our ability to understand the twists and turns of Soviet policy more precisely, to take note of those instances in which the pragmatist orientation makes negative concessions to imperialism and weakens the ideological fiber of the CPSU, as well as to appreciate the objective relation between the interests of the Soviet state and further progress of the world revolution.

D. The Revisionist Current in Socialist Construction

Thus far we have examined the impact of pragmatism in the general line of the CPSU on the orientation of the communist movement toward the struggle with imperialism–internationally and in particular countries. The other side of this coin is the impact of pragmatism on both the theory and practice of socialist construction. While the worst consequences of this revisionist current have come to international attention as the result of the ongoing crisis in Poland, the problem is by no means confined to Poland. Indeed, despite the fact that the CPSU is itself critical of some aspects of the line of the PUWP on socialist construction–and, in fact, represents that force on which the defense of Polish socialism may ultimately have to rely–a pragmatist view of socialist construction has had a negative impact in the Soviet Union itself. Nor is this problem confined to Eastern Europe and the USSR. Rather, the dangers of this general approach are posed in every country where the communists are attempting to lead the masses in the task of constructing socialism.

In our view, the underlying pragmatic orientation of these parties expresses itself mainly in two closely related forms of opportunism. One is the tendency to abandon the class struggle in the course of completing the transition from capitalism to socialism, both domestically and internationally. The second flows directly from the first–the tendency to underestimate the centrality of the political and ideological consciousness of the masses, the subjective factor, in the construction and defense of socialism–that is, a pronounced impulse toward economic determinism.

Of course, Maoism completely caricatured this struggle, distorting both of these considerations. The class struggle under socialism was seen principally in primitive, egalitarian terms as the masses against the state and the party. The notion of unleashing the subjective factor quickly became the voluntarist orientation of disregarding objective economic laws typified by the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

In spite of this costly Maoist detour, the fact remains that if the class struggle is relaxed and the dictatorship of the proletariat weakened, socialist construction will stagnate and falter. However, the real class struggle the proletariat faces as it undertakes to build socialism is not principally with party bureaucrats but with the real bourgeoisie and remnant bourgeois property relations. The class struggle takes place on three fronts. First, there is a struggle against the old ruling class which, for some considerable period of time, will continue to retain control over certain important areas of the economy and society in general. Marx and Engels pointed out that after the seizure of power, “the proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie.”[9] (Our emphasis.) The process of expropriation cannot take place all at once, so its completion is an ongoing class struggle. Of course, it proceeds under conditions much more favorable to the proletariat; but this does not disguise either its significance or its intensity.

Second, there is the struggle against all forms of petty commodity production which, in most of the countries where revolutions have occurred, is concentrated in agriculture. The struggle to collectivize agriculture is a key class struggle under socialism. Petty commodity production remains essentially a primitive form of capitalist production and produces bourgeois consciousness daily, hourly.

Finally, there is the struggle against world imperialism which poses a constant threat to proletarian power. Imperialism will never resign itself to socialist revolution, anywhere–especially since the internal logic of socialism is that it must eventually bring an end to the capitalist mode of production worldwide.

Today, the most graphic example of the consequences of abandoning the class struggle, weakening the dictatorship of the proletariat, can be seen in Poland. In 1956, emboldened by the Khrushchev “reforms,” the PUWP quickly consolidated an all-sided revisionist general line, which has since brought the Polish revolution to the brink of disaster. The party abandoned pursuit of the class struggle on all three fronts. It abandoned the struggle against the old ruling class via a series of negative concessions to the principal institution representing the interests of the remnants of the Polish bourgeoisie and Polish reaction–the Catholic church. It abandoned the struggle against petty commodity production by actually reversing the initial process of collectivization in agriculture and leaving the bulk of Polish agriculture indefinitely in the hands of peasant smallholders. It vacillated in the struggle against imperialism by weakening its economic ties with the socialist community and, as a result of the most profound illusions about the nature of the international class struggle which frames Polish socialism, by permitting extensive penetration by Western capital of the Polish economy.[10]

The second major expression of opportunism is a corollary of the first. Abandonment of the class struggle amounts to an attempt to find an easy road to socialism–the road of economic determinism. Again, Khrushchev’s avowal of “goulash communism” gave the green light and the concept was eagerly adopted by other parties. This is a thoroughly pragmatic approach, which sets raising of the material standard of living of the masses in place of the difficult task of their ideological transformation, assuming one will automatically follow from the other.

This will not do. Marxism, as a materialist science, recognizes the primacy of production (the economic) in shaping historical development, determining its contours and potentialities. However, Marxism is not mechanical materialism: within those contours and potentialities, human consciousness and scientific knowledge is itself a crucial force of production; in the interaction between society’s economic base and its political and ideological superstructure, the latter in turn affects the former. The ideological motivation of the masses–not merely on the basis of some short term, palpable increase in their standard of living (important though this is), but in terms of a long range vision of the motion of history and their role in it–is an indispensable factor in overturning imperialism and constructing socialism. Without such a motivation, the sacrifices required in aiding revolutionary forces elsewhere in the world and taking responsibility for the future of the movement as a whole will not be forthcoming. And without such a vision, the creative productive and intellectual energies of the masses will not be fully tapped or realized.

Revisionism pragmatically subordinates the long run to the short run, the intangible to the palpable, the class struggle to economic growth. As a result, false consciousness has re-emerged on a large scale among the workers in these countries, individualism has eaten away at their class consciousness, the struggle for socialism has been reduced to quantities of immediate, direct material benefits, and any understanding of the links between existing socialism and the raging worldwide struggle against imperialism has been significantly eroded–at times to the vanishing point. When such an ideologically corrupted working class becomes restive and discontent, and its movement gets captured by conscious counter-revolutionary forces–for it is incapable of distinguishing its friends from its enemies in any strategic sense given its low level of consciousness–the danger that it may re-enslave itself to imperialism becomes all too real. The Polish crisis is again the case in point.

This particular revisionist current among the parties holding state power bears a complex relationship to the CPSU. On the one hand, it is hard to imagine the full flowering of this opportunist trend without the “go” signal given by Khrushchev. Yet other parties have carried the spirit of “experimentation” much further than the Soviets. Besides this, the foundations of Soviet socialism are far stronger than many Eastern European countries, having been sealed in blood in the course of generations of sharp class struggle. So this revisionist trend actually develops partially in contradiction to the Soviets, who, while they themselves remain compromised and often ineffective, attempt to discourage and check the worst distortions and deviations in the dictatorship of the proletariat and the construction of socialism.

A number of parties justify their policies by arguing that each country must take its own “national road to socialism.” Any other course, they say, would simply be a futile, dogmatic attempt to arbitrarily impose the “Soviet model” of socialist construction. Now if all they meant was that each party needs to grasp the historical particularity of the class struggle as it unfolds in their respective countries, to take into account each country’s level of economic development and its national particularities in charting the course of revolution and the construction of socialism, no Marxist could quarrel with them. But clearly there is much more than resistance to dogmatism at stake.

There is, of course, on one level no such thing as a “Soviet model” for the construction of socialism, if by that term is meant the mechanical replication of the Soviet Union’s historically specific experience in the 1920s and ’30s. Fortunately for the rest of the socialist countries, they have no need to traverse precisely the same path that the Soviet Union did in trying to build socialism in a large, backward country in the midst of a capitalist encirclement and fascist onslaught. Precisely because the Soviet Union did succeed in the task of constructing socialism, all socialist countries since that time have enjoyed the enormous advantages of the economic, political, and military strength of the Soviet Union as a strategic reserve in building socialism.

However, having said this, it is also important to point out that on a higher level of abstraction the notion of the “Soviet model” is a legitimate one. The formative period of socialist construction in the Soviet Union was an advanced experience for the international working class movement as a whole. It does contain lessons and principles of broad applicability which cannot be reduced to a formula unique to the USSR, but rather embody the objective laws of development for the construction of socialism. As such, they cannot be lightly disregarded.

The hallmark of pragmatism, though, is precisely this rebellion against the universal, against the objective laws of development. Instead, pragmatism tries to solve the immediate problems of socialist construction by improvisation, disregarding Marxist-Leninist theory in pursuit of palpable results. Tito’s scheme was the classical departure from the “Soviet model.” Yugoslavia certainly has taken its own “national road.”

But that road led back to a form of capitalism with social production tied to market forces, the reproduction of the anarchy of production, unemployment, etc.

The Polish party had also long prided itself on taking their “own path to socialism.” But in the face of the present crisis it becomes painfully clear that such an “easy road” to communism may actually lead only to disaster. Of course, the incorrigible pragmatists within the Polish party may still remain convinced that with a few compromises and adjustments they can keep on the “easy road.” But surely the turn of events is forcing many Polish communists to surrender certain illusions about imperialism and the nature of the class struggle–and the price which is ultimately paid for abandoning that struggle.

E. The Revisionist Current Within the Imperialist Countries

Opportunism within the communist ranks in imperialist countries is extremely widespread, diverse, and deeply rooted. Revisionism dominates the established parties in virtually every imperialist country. Granted, the objective conditions in advanced capitalist countries provide favorable soil for the growth of opportunism. The strength and sophistication of imperialism ”at home” is often overwhelming. In addition, the relatively protected conditions of the proletariat have created the material basis for a stable and broad labor aristocracy. And although these conditions have been deteriorating steadily as imperialism continues to decline, bourgeois ideology remains deeply ingrained among large strata of the proletariat itself. Hence bourgeois ideology is a powerful material force in the realm of politics. The communists, naturally, are products of their respective societies; consequently these bourgeois ideological and political influences have a far-reaching impact within the communist ranks. This much is to be expected.

Yet it does not follow that opportunism is inevitable. This is where it becomes crystal clear that pragmatism is the mortal enemy of the communist movements in imperialist countries. The challenge posed to the communists, both practically and theoretically, is immense; the essence of class relations is not always apparent; the future and the path to victory at times are dim; and so on. Overawed by the strength of imperialism, fearful of challenging the backward prejudices among the masses, absolutizing the immediate reform struggles as a means to get a base or even a hearing among the workers–pragmatism in these parties adjusts the strategy accordingly and expresses itself in the virtual abandonment of proletarian revolution as the strategic goal. This general perspective in turn undermines the whole Leninist fabric of the party; for a party cannot retain its revolutionary elan, its democratic centralism, or its theoretical rigor when its purpose has become tied to the politics of reformism.

There actually exists among this detachment of the international communist movement a whole continuum of opportunism stretching from the “independent” Eurocommunist parties to the revisionist parties which retain strong links to the CPSU. Among these parties there is both an underlying unity as well as significant differences and struggle.

1. The Pro-Soviet Parties

The opportunism of the pro-Soviet parties is often modified by the views of the CPSU as it assesses the twists and turns of the class struggle internationally. However these parties, in the main, have taken off their agendas the central question for the proletariat–the political seizure of power–and replaced it with the struggle for peace and detente which is the concrete extension and application of the Soviet line on peaceful coexistence. Naturally enough, peace has not explicitly replaced revolution as the goal in the official programs of these parties. Instead, they have devised elaborate and belabored two-stage “strategies.” The first stage is a totally fantastic transition of political power in which, as the result of a principally legal and parliamentary process, the big bourgeoisie loses power to a broad popular front which the working class dominates but which can also include the “rational sectors” of the bourgeoisie itself. If this much can be conceived as the result of a fantastic imagination and wishful thinking, then the second stage of “peaceful transition” to socialism, may likewise appear plausible. But by that time, the realm of historical materialism has already been left far behind.[11]

This opportunist line claims to be the “creative development” of Marxist-Leninist theory in light of the new realities which have emerged in the latter half of the twentieth century. But when all is said and done, it is pragmatism pure and simple. While it is certainly true that the objective and subjective conditions are not yet ripe for socialist revolution in the imperialist countries and that the seizure of power is not an immediate, tactical question, it still remains the central question and must be the centerpiece of the program of the communists. It is certainly true that attempts to seize power in the heartland of imperialism will be particularly delicate in light of the real danger of a final desperate act on the part of a ruling class armed to the teeth with weapons of mass destruction. Still, the revolution will be forceful and most likely violent. The non-proletarian classes will waver and cannot be strategically relied upon to plunge the final stake into the heart of imperialism. The strategic reserve for the proletariat of imperialist countries at the time of their political revolutions will be the international proletariat and oppressed peoples–not some elusive “rational wing” of the bourgeoisie!

2. Eurocommunism

An important development within the revisionist trend has been the emergence of Eurocommunism as a distinct tendency within it This development adds a new complexity to the international communist movement and profoundly affects the revolutionary struggles of the proletariat not only in Europe but worldwide.

Though Eurocommunism emerged as a distinct political force only in the early 1970s, its historical origins go back much farther. The particular ideological and theoretical roots of Eurocommunism go back even before 1956, and can be traced to rightist elements in a number of European parties, grouped around Palmiro Togliatti of the Communist Party of Italy (PCI), who had influential positions within the Comintern. Togliatti and those around him displayed a distinct tendency toward right errors in the theory and practice of the United Front Against Fascism, glorifying bourgeois democracy, and tending to collapse the proletariat’s anti-fascist (democratic) and revolutionary (socialist) tasks. In a number of European parties in particular, this reformist impulse was closely linked to the perennial problem of national chauvinism in the imperialist countries–of the “European exceptionalism” type. The European countries were regarded as too sophisticated, too democratic–indeed, too civilized–for the dramatic, brutal and violent changes associated with the insurrectionary seizure of power by the working class and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

This rightist tendency in the international communist movement greeted the propositions put forward at the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU with enthusiasm–if anything, they felt that Khrushchev did not go far enough in his revision of “outmoded dogmas.” In particular, they wholeheartedly embraced the CPSU’s attack on Stalin and its new emphasis on peaceful coexistence and peaceful transition. Their reasons for embracing these views were somewhat different from the Soviet party’s: their starting point was the glorification of bourgeois democracy, particularly in the “civilized” European countries, while the CPSU’s concern was the need for the defense of existing socialism. But the main propositions around which the international revisionist trend actually took shape in the late ’50s and ’60s (peaceful transition, peaceful coexistence, caution in confronting imperialism, etc.), allowed this somewhat distinct rightist deviation to submerge itself in the general motion to the right without its different premises surfacing prominently.

By the early 1970s, however, a number of changes in both the objective state of the class struggle and the internal development of the communist movement led to the emergence of Eurocommunism as a distinct political tendency. The domination of U.S. imperialism was weakened in the course of the Vietnam war. The class contradictions were sharpening steadily within European countries. The mass uprisings of 1968 dramatically expressed the sympathy for left ideas. The situation in a number of European countries held forth the promise of increased communist influence, particularly for gains in the electoral sphere. This opening provided an opportunity for the rise and consolidation of the right opportunists in a number of European parties, particularly in Spain and Italy. It appeared that if only these parties could shed some of the “deadweight” which they carried (such as defense of unpopular actions of the USSR) and convince the masses that these communists were truly patriotic and committed in principle to bourgeois democracy, a share of political power was within their reach! Under these circumstances, they gave in to their long-suppressed desire to shed the twin albatross of a commitment to defend the USSR and a commitment to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Eurocommunism began to carve out its own independent identity within the communist movement.

Not surprisingly, this development caused some barely concealed, and at times open, friction between the Eurocommunists and the CPSU A number of polemics were launched against the Eurocommunists and, for the first time in years, we witnessed the phenomenon of the CPSU criticizing another communist party from the left. However, since the general line of the CPSU itself embraced many of the same right opportunist tenets as the Eurocommunists, the polemic remained relatively shallow and ineffective. Some parties were brought back into line away from the more extreme positions. The mainline Eurocommunists, however, have become bolder and bolder in their abandonment of both Marxism-Leninism and their commitment to the world anti-imperialist front.

Eurocommunism’s abandonment of Marxism-Leninism may already be qualitative. Through the ideas of a number of leading theoreticians and political figures (among them Nicos Poulantzas and Santiago Carrillo),[17] Eurocommunism presents itself as an all-sided alternative to Marxism-Leninism, with a fully developed alternative theoretical framework on the nature of the state, the transition to socialism, the role and character of the party, etc. It has already explicitly surrendered the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat along with any claims on the designation “Leninist.” Politically, Eurocommunism stands on the verge of naked class collaboration with imperialism, as evidenced in the willingness of a number of Eurocommunist parties to support NATO as a legitimate expression of the foreign policy of their respective governments and their increasing adoption of an anti-Soviet orientation on the crucial questions of international class struggle. In this sense, it may shortly become impossible to consider Eurocommunism–we speak here not of particular parties but of an all-sided ideological and political system which poses itself against Marxism-Leninism–as a current in the international communist movement. Increasingly, on all the key political questions of the day, it threatens to cross the class barricades to all-sided collaboration with imperialism, thereby leaving the communist movement from the right, as the Maoist trend has already done from the “left.”

F. The Revisionist Current in the Colonial and Neo-Colonial Countries: The “Non-Capitalist Road”

An opportunist line and practice on the struggle against imperialism has also gained a foothold where one would least expect it–in the colonial and neo-colonial world. It is concentrated in the theory of the “non-capitalist road of development,” representing the concrete application of the general revisionist formulations of peaceful coexistence and peaceful transition to the front in the international class struggle which, ironically, tends to be the most fierce and least peaceful! In general, revisionism has its weakest hold on this detachment of the communist movement; the sheer force of the class struggle tends to expose and isolate or tear apart these revisionist formulations. At the same time, the most consolidated revisionist parties often degenerate into naked class collaboration and treachery, betraying the cause of the working class as they vacillate in the face of ripe revolutionary conditions.

The communist movement has historically recognized that the anticolonial, national independence struggles have an objectively anti-imperialist character even when indigenous bourgeois and petit bourgeois forces succeed in placing themselves at their head. A number of regimes led by such indigenous forces have declared themselves “socialist” and “non-aligned” in an attempt to establish some measure of independence from imperialism. Their “socialism” usually amounts to no more than a measure of state intervention in the economy spiced with a variety of petit bourgeois, egalitarian illusions and prejudices. Their non-alignment, on the other hand, insofar as it represents the attempt to wrench a degree of independence from the grip of imperialism, is a real material force in international politics which plays a politically progressive role.[18]

But communists cannot afford to lose sight of the fact that only the emergence of the socialist camp as a political and economic power made the phenomenon of non-alignment historically possible, and that only the growth and strengthening of world socialism can ensure its continued viability. The actual victories of the world proletariat provide all non-aligned nations with a concrete alternative to throwing themselves on the tender mercies of their former colonial masters. These countries obtain some leverage vis-a-vis imperialism either by taking advantage of alternative links with the socialist camp or by “threatening” to do so if the West is too uncooperative or overbearing. Consequently, the economic and political relations non-aligned countries develop with the socialist camp objectively weaken the hold of imperialism. Their developing national economies tend to benefit from concrete aid and from their greater freedom to maneuver. Politically, these ties tend to draw them into a broad front against imperialist domination and aggression. From the long view of communists, therefore, the phenomenon of the non-aligned movement constitutes an important and significant force for neutralizing imperialism in its desperate period of decline. But by no means can non-alignment be seen as a substitute for revolution.

Herein lies the rub with revisionism. Marxism-Leninism should nurture no illusions that any force other than the proletariat can lead these countries to full and genuine national liberation, that is, to socialism, nor that anything but a social revolution in which the old capitalist property relations internationally and within the country are fundamentally broken can bring this process to fruition. The revisionist theory of “the non-capitalist road to development,” though, blurs this crucial point In return, it hopes that conciliating illusions about the revolutionary potentials of non-alignment may bring some tangible advantages in the immediate struggle to neutralize imperialism worldwide.

The theory, simply stated, starts out with the recognition that in the relatively underdeveloped countries, those emerging from feudalism and colonialism, the revolutionary struggle for independence is likely to be led by indigenous bourgeois and petit bourgeois forces. The working class may often be too small and too weak a force to be able to place itself at the head of the revolutionary struggle. Nevertheless, the theory goes on to assure us, such a country can develop its economy in a way which, while not socialist, is also not capitalist. The state can achieve this miracle by guiding the economy, allowing the productive forces to develop independently from imperialism. Of course, the country would have to establish close economic ties to the Soviet Union and the socialist camp to accomplish this. According to the theory, this path of development gradually creates the conditions for peaceful and smooth transition to socialism as the development of the productive forces brings a modern proletariat into being and ripens the basis for the working class to assume control of the state as a whole.

So once again we have good old mechanical materialism and the application of the thesis of peaceful transition in an area where it is least feasible.

There are many obvious theoretical difficulties with this line. It totally muddles the centrality of class struggle and the question of political power as the motive force in history and the decisive turning point for the proletariat. The view that the bourgeoisie or the petit bourgeoisie will lead a country to socialism, presented as the Leninist theory of two-stage revolution, is actually a profound distortion of that theory. For Lenin always understood that the essential condition for a strategy of two-stage revolution was the capacity of the proletariat (however small in numbers), in close conjunction with the international proletariat, to lead the violent national democratic revolution. Then–and only then– could the proletariat guide the united front forged in the course of the national democratic struggle in a smooth, non-violent transition to socialism. Such a strategy was successfully implemented in South Vietnam and Cuba, and we witness it underway today in Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, and Nicaragua. The essential point here is that in the first national democratic stage, the central question of political power has, in the main, been settled decisively in favor of the proletarian-led popular masses. Even if the revisionists confuse this crucial point the imperialists on their part do not–as the markedly different responses of imperialism to the “socialist victory” of Michael Manley in Jamaica vs. the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua clearly demonstrate.

For Marxists, class analysis is the scientific compass with which we maintain our bearings; without it, we are lost. Where the national bourgeoisie or petit bourgeoisie have firm hold of the national movement–even when a substantial degree of leverage has been gained vis-a-vis imperialism for the benefit of the masses and the nation as a whole– still the movement and subsequent ruling regime remain essentially bourgeois. In the era of imperialism, the national democratic revolution remains inherently unstable and incomplete under such bourgeois domination. The question of political power has not yet been settled decisively, nor can it be until proletarian-led forces resume, complete and consolidate the national democratic revolution, or surpass it with a socialist revolution. In either case, the key political battle with imperialism is yet to be fought and won–and this social revolution is bound to be forceful. The communist-led forces must remain alert and be prepared for it to be violent as well. We can expect the progressive bourgeois forces in the national front to cling to dreams of non-violence, but to encourage the spread of such illusions among communist ranks is inexcusable.

We realize that the practical considerations of how to strengthen the non-aligned movement against imperialism without at the same time compromising the communists and undermining the progress of the proletarian revolution in these countries presents an enormously complex and difficult challenge. Such conditions will certainly affect the forms the class struggle takes, the appropriate tactics, the role of communists, etc. Again, there is the same pressing need for new advances in both communist practice and theory in these countries as there is in the imperialist countries. Others are clearly in a much better position than we are to make concrete contributions in this arena. Yet even from a distance we maintain that nothing is served (except the interests of the bourgeoisie) by tampering with fundamental Marxist-Leninist principles, which is what the revisionist theory of “the non-capitalist road to development” and the opportunist strategy associated with it do. The complicated alignment of class forces does nothing to alter the underlying antagonism between the worker and peasant masses and the bourgeoisie, either internationally or within each country. The essential nature of the class struggle remains the same; hence the central political question of the forceful seizure of power can neither be taken off the agenda nor glossed over.

In practice, the concrete class struggle in a large number of countries has shown over and over again that this revisionist line leads to class collaboration. Illusions about “non-capitalist roads” and “peaceful transition” have led to the permanent subordination of the proletariat to the bourgeoisie and petit bourgeoisie. The pragmatic logic underlying this view is that if a particular regime attempts to remain politically independent of imperialism and forge closer ties to the socialist camp, then the responsibility of the communists in that country is to do nothing to jeopardize that delicate relation–such as persisting in the class struggle. This is an absolutely opportunist and mechanical application of the legitimate principle of subordinating the part to the whole and forming each revolution in the context of the worldwide struggle against imperialism.

At the level of tactics, some concessions may be acceptable and even positive. But to raise such considerations to the level of principle and strategy is thoroughly unacceptable. To do so is to sow illusions about the character of the bourgeois class among the masses in all countries.

Revisionist parties saddled with this line and orientation end up surrendering their vanguard role and becoming political detachments in the service of the indigenous bourgeois or petit bourgeois regime.

It may be, and has been, argued that as soon as such regimes stop playing a progressive role, the party can reassume its vanguard role. Or to put it more crudely, if these regimes move closer to imperialism, the communists will once again “turn on” class struggle. But such an argument is itself the height of pragmatism and is not at all practical. For one thing, only the motion of the class struggle itself can serve as an objective pressure on such regimes to move to the left. But what is worse, the revisionist line corrupts the party; it becomes ideologically and politically flabby, incapable of actually leading the class struggle. Therefore the threat to “turn on” the class struggle is an idle threat. The bourgeoisie faced with such a revisionist party is neither fooled nor frightened.

The negative consequences of this approach can be witnessed in the predicament of Egyptian communists who hailed Nasser as the model of “the non-capitalist road,” only to find themselves at a severe disadvantage when Sadat was able to reverse the course of his predecessor almost overnight. The communists in Iraq and Tanzania face a similar situation, while the Tudeh party in Iran appears incapable of gaining any critical distance from the anti-U.S., but thoroughly reactionary, Khomeini regime.

More futile still is the position of the revisionist party in the Philippines and similar parties in Latin America who hope against hope that the fascist regimes they face might somehow transform themselves into bourgeois democracies so that at least the party might have a chance to try to implement its opportunist strategy. Such “communist” parties have become completely isolated and historically irrelevant.

The Soviet party has placed its theoreticians completely at the service of this opportunist line on “the non-capitalist road.” In fact in many ways the Soviets are the main architects of this line. Consequently it is the height of obscurantism and liberalism to use the Soviet material support for the National Liberation Front (NLF) of Vietnam, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the Sandinistas, etc., in order to absolve the CPSU from any responsibility for its conciliation and outright sponsorship of the lines and practices of the Tudeh party in Iran, the revisionist parties in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, etc.

G. Summation

In this section we have attempted to frame and initially sketch out the main expressions of revisionism in the international communist moveŽment stemming from the pragmatist orientation and outlook which today dominates its leading parties.

We have emphasized the distinction between these expressions of opportunism within the international communist movement and Maoism which, as it has degenerated into all-sided class collaborationism, now stands outside the international movement On what basis do we make such a distinction?

As we previously pointed out, not all differences on points of theory in and of themselves result in a demarcation. Communists are obliged to make such ruptures only when differences manifest themselves in betrayals of the class struggle on the central questions of politics before the international movement. A hasty and premature demarcation with retrograde forces and lines is no less damaging to the communist movement than the failure to make a timely and appropriate one.

There can be little doubt that Maoism has betrayed the international proletariat on the central question of our epoch–the struggle against imperialism. This betrayal has been manifested not only in theory and line, but in the practice of the CPC over a considerable period of time. Nor can there be any doubt that its treachery comes precisely on the central questions of the class struggle. The CPC has become not just a retrograde party but a renegade party.

With the possible exception of the most consolidated forms of Eurocommunism and the practice of certain revisionist parties engaged in all-sided class collaboration, the same cannot be said of the revisionist deviation which characterizes the line and practice of the CPSU and a number of other parties. For the most part, these parties can still be held accountable to the key political, historical, and ideological considerations which mark the boundaries of the international communist movement the centrality of the struggle against imperialism and its three component parts–the national liberation movements, the socialist countries and the proletarian movements in the advanced capitalist countries; the historical lines of demarcation of the communist movement; and the theoretical constructs of Marxism-Leninism. Of course, it comes as no surprise that this opportunism manifests itself in the form of significant vacillation on one or more of these questions. But the avenues of ideological struggle remain open. And the pressing needs of the class struggle itself demand that we continue to struggle out these differences in the context of unity up to the point that the revisionists actually do cross over the barricades to all-sided collaboration with the bourgeoisie.

In addition, we must note the particularity of the CPSU. On the one hand, it objectively continues to function as the headquarters of this revisionist trend. Yet on the other hand, the CPSU, while itself characterized by a revisionist deviation, also opposes the most extreme forms of opportunism. This latter fact should not blind us to the central responsibility of the CPSU for the rise of opportunism in the international movement However much we may agree with the CPSU’s sharp criticism of the line and practice of the PUWP in Poland, we also hold that the CPSU must share the responsibility for its degeneration; the decisions and general orientation of the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU in 1956 unleashed the dynamic that has brought Poland to its present crisis. In the same way, however much we may agree with the CPSU’s polemics against Eurocommunism, we also maintain that the Soviet party must take some responsibility for providing the fertilizer which allowed this social democratic weed to sprout once again within the ranks of the international communist movement. And we know the current reformist outlook of the CPUS A flows directly from the CPSU’s line that the key task before the international movement is to strengthen existing socialism and defend peace. The Soviets might be disgusted by the CPUSA’s exceptionally vulgar slogan that “detente means jobs.” But revisionism among U. S. communists is cemented by the prestige and authority of the CPSU. Finally, the concept of “the non-capitalist road of development” is also very much the theoretical brainchild of the CPSU. What it shows is the Soviet party’s willingness to opportunistically conciliate the bourgeoisie in the neo-colonial world in exchange for certain immediate political advantages to the Soviet Union in curbing the aggressiveness of U.S. imperialism.

However, there are favorable objective conditions for criticism, struggle, and ulitimately rectification of the line of the CPSU. This is principally due to the fact that the USSR remains the strongest material base for socialism in the world, so that it continues to be the ultimate target of an imperialism desperate to save itself. As a result the CPSU must, and does, continue to take more concrete responsibility for the international proletarian struggle than any other party in the world. Again and again it encounters the negative consequences of the spread of opportunism in the international communist movement–and often pays for it.

In our opinion, any refusal to recognize this reality constitutes the infantile remnants of Maoism among anti-revisionist forces. On the other hand, exempting the CPSU from special attention in the struggle against revisionist currents in the international movement merely conciliates liberalism and pragmatism in the ranks of the communist movement.

IV. The Struggle to Re-establish the Ideological Hegemony of Marxism-Leninism in the International Communist Movement

Lenin’s comment that “the fight against imperialism is a sham and a humbug unless it is inseparably bound up with the fight against opportunism”[12] is especially timely at this historic moment. The class struggle is unfolding with ever greater intensity in every corner of the world today. That struggle pits a dying and increasingly desperate bourgeoisie against the international proletariat. The struggle breaks out everywhere from the Salvadorean countryside to the streets of Bonn and London, from Namibia to Southeast Asia. It has become the principal political dynamic of our epoch.

It is precisely this set of circumstances which has underscored the necessity for the struggle against opportunism. Unfortunately, the rejection and defeat of Maoism hardly completes the task of reestablishing the ideological hegemony of Marxism-Leninism within the international communist movement. Various revisionist lines continue to dominate the movement, crippling the capacity of the communists to provide effective leadership to the struggle against imperialism.

The struggle between Marxism-Leninism and revisionism is complex. This contention cannot be reduced to a simplistic organizational battle in which monolithic revisionist parties and monolithic Marxist-Leninist parties battle it out with each other for the loyalty of the masses. Such a view is nothing but an infantile myth perpetuated by Maoism as a cover for prematurely splitting the international communist movement and its irresponsible call for a split in virtually every communist party in the world.[19] Because the struggle against revisionism was centered in an opportunist headquarters over the past quarter of a century, Marxist-Leninist elements were to be found on both sides of the struggle and in most, if not all, parties.

To this day there are Marxist-Leninist and opportunist elements in virtually all communist parties. There are a number of parties in which a Marxist-Leninist line leads; but most parties are still under the leadership of one or another opportunist line. And the conditions for struggle within each party certainly vary considerably.

The Marxist-Leninist forces are scattered at the moment. They vary greatly in their levels of development, their organizational forms, and the degree of their self-consciousness. Taken as a whole, though, they represent the building blocks of an international Marxist-Leninist trend with the capacity to reforge the unity of the international communist movement on the basis of proletarian internationalism and a revolutionary general line. The development of this trend will, sooner or later, require the establishment of a Marxist-Leninist headquarters capable of challenging the dominant pragmatist orientation in the movement on all questions of theory, politics, and organization.

Who are these forces? We believe that there are Marxist-Leninist forces in every communist party in the world. In some, they hold leadership of the party, as shown by the fact that in both line and practice these parties uphold the role of the revolutionary vanguard internationally and in their own revolutions. In others, they are in active contention with opportunist forces in their own parties. In many cases, they are those proletarian class elements who have been steeled in the revolutionary struggle and who strive for a communist vantage point, but may have been temporarily led astray and mistrained by opportunist lines. Just as Marxist-Leninist forces are to be found among those who have broken with revisionism (even if they have not yet actively taken up the struggle against it), so, too, are such forces to be found among those who have broken with Maoism but have not yet summed up that break in an all-sided way. Some may still be found in existing parties. Others may not be in party forms at the present time. In short, the crisis of the international communist movement has created a situation in which Marxist-Leninist forces and opportunist forces cannot be identified principally on an organizational basis.

What do the Marxist-Leninist forces hold in common? They are, first of all, resolute anti-imperialists who have demonstrated both in theory and practice that they entertain no illusions about the essential nature of imperialism, headed by U.S. imperialism, as the enemy of the people of the world. They recognize the struggle against imperialism as the principal dynamic shaping the international class struggle today. Second, they are fully committed to the defense of socialism. They uphold the integrity of the socialist camp and will not voluntarily yield a single inch to the bourgeoisie (either in territory or politics) even when the bourgeois attack succeeds in exploiting negative developments and shortcomings within the proletarian movement Finally, they uphold Marxism-Leninism, not as a series of reified propositions, but as a living science affirmed in, and at the service of, the proletarian struggle.

A. Tasks of Marxist-Leninists in the International Communist Movement

What are the main political tasks facing these forces in the struggle to re-establish the ideological hegemony of Marxism-Leninism in the international communist movement?

The principal task, in our view, is the struggle to rectify the general line of the international movement and to re-establish a Marxist-Leninist center within it The struggle for a consistently revolutionary line on the struggle against imperialism will lay the basis for the movement to take up its ideological and organizational tasks. It will force to the surface those questions where revisionism has tampered with Marxist-Leninist theory and will establish the materialist foundation for either reaffirming that theory or developing creative refinements and additions which more accurately reflect the class struggle in the present epoch. The line struggle will also serve to identify the different forces in the movement, establishing who the Marxist-Leninist forces are and who represents opportunism–not by some subjective determination, but by the objective criterion of proletarian politics.

The struggle to rectify the general line of the international communist movement will, in our view, focus on three more particular questions: 1. Winning the movement as a whole to a reaffirmation of the necessity for, and legitimacy of a single, united international communist movement. The unity of the movement is not, in the main, an organizational question. The international movement’s unity of action will be secured primarily by its political and ideological unity. We are not here advocating the revival of a Comintern-like structure exerting organizational discipline on its member parties. At the same time, we strongly uphold the view that this rectification movement can, and should, give rise to a leading center prepared to assume responsibility for the political direction of the movement as a whole, although the exact form is not yet apparent. The material basis for such a leading center rests objectively in the international character of the working class, whose common class interests represent the basis for a commonly held revolutionary political line and conscious cooperation and deliberate coordination based upon that line.

Unfortunately, this perspective is not nearly as self-evident as it ought to be. Polycentrism in the communist movement has been a recurrent revisionist theme for more than two decades. However, the view of a multiplicity of centers in the movement is essentially an expression of opportunism, since it sets the conditions for individual parties to put the interests of the part ahead of the interests of the whole. In the realities of the class struggle, polycentrism will promote national chauvinism and national exclusivity and cannot help but provide favorable conditions for collaboration between the working class and the bourgeoisie in one arena of the class struggle at the expense of the movement as a whole. In fact, there is no essential difference between polycentrism and those who would challenge completely any sense of collectivity or accountability to the international movement.

On the other hand, we do not believe that any particular party can play the role of a leading center for the international movement simply by virtue of its size or history. What was correct in the ’20s and ’30s, when there was only one communist party holding state power, and the communist movement as a whole was at a much earlier stage of development, is no longer appropriate today. Instead, a leading center must be defined by its advanced political line and, of course, by its capacity to make that line into a material force in the communist movement.

2. Struggling for unity of the international communist movement on the basis of consistency in the struggle against imperialism, the defense of socialism, and the integrity of Marxism-Leninism. A thoroughly proletarian standpoint in the particularization of these principles cannot help but challenge all the principal expressions of opportunism in the international movement. We have argued here that the political touchstone of a proletarian stand is recognition of the fact that the struggle against imperialism constitutes the principal dynamic shaping the class struggle and world events today. But even this proposition is only a starting point for a communist political line. In real life, the class struggle is extremely complicated and communists can lose their bearings. In particular, the fiercely antagonistic nature of that struggle must be grasped as the precondition for a consistently proletarian stand. While striving to accomplish our goals through every form of struggle, the communists must be especially vigilant against all illusions promoting complacency as to the possible peaceful nature of this struggle, or any attempt to limit the pursuit of that struggle to an illusory dependence on the bourgeoisie’s own political process.

A consistent defense of socialism clearly encompasses more than hollow statements to the effect that communists will rise to the defense of the socialist countries should they become the victims of open military attack by imperialism. The struggle to prevent those attacks in the first place, to firmly uphold the revolutionary gains of the proletariat wherever they have been won, requires a rigorous ideological defense of the socialist countries in order to neutralize and defeat imperialism’s ideological assault on them–an assault which is part and parcel of the overall preparations for possible military confrontation. Above all, consistency in the defense of socialism requires the re-establishment of a sense of proletarian politics and internationalism. For if the communists cannot even wend their way through the bourgeoisie’s ideological booby traps in the twists and turns of its assault on socialism, how can we expect the working class to do so on its own?

Finally, upholding the integrity of Marxism-Leninism cannot rest at the shallow level of pious declarations of faith or restatements of the obvious. The Leninist principle that there can be no genuinely revolutionary movement without a revolutionary theory must become a systematic part of the life and practice of the international movement Revolutionizing the political practice of communists is thoroughly bound up with the creative development of Marxism-Leninism–deepening theory by bringing this science to bear on the new conditions and changing tasks before the proletariat, most especially the struggle against imperialism and the construction of socialism. Marxism-Leninism is a science and has the precision of a science–its continued verification is its capacity to illuminate the actual laws, motion, and direction of the proletariat’s struggle for power and for communism. But opportunist formulations cannot be granted a privileged status simply because they announce themselves as a “creative development” of Marxism under “new conditions.” After all, opportunism has always appeared in some such guise. Consequently, defending the scientific integrity of Marxism-Leninism also often entails the defense of “orthodoxy.”

3. Unfolding and deepening the critique of revisionism. Developing the critique of revisionism is the main internal dynamic pushing the communist movement forward and strengthening it Pragmatism presently has a firm hold on the movement. It has given rise to what seems at times an endemic liberalism and philistine attitude toward ideological and theoretical struggle. Diplomacy has often replaced active political and ideological line struggle among communists, both internal to parties and between parties. In some quarters, it is deemed inappropriate even to speak of errors in line and orientation of fraternal parties in an explicit and straightforward manner–unless of course a crisis (as in Poland) or a demarcation (as with the CPC) is already at hand.

However, the world is changing, and many old considerations no longer apply. Former policies are increasingly inadequate–the bourgeoisie’s attack upon and sabotage of the communist movement is increasingly sophisticated, so that differences among us are often effectively distorted, exaggerated, and manipulated. In addition, the proletarian movement itself has matured significantly; it is no longer besieged and in a defensive position, and the demands for the broad theoretical, ideological, and intellectual nourishment of the advanced strata of the international proletariat have grown by leaps and bounds. We refer, of course, to the long and widely held notion that open and forthright polemics (except under the most extraordinary circumstances) benefit the bourgeoisie, weaken and confuse the communist ranks, and harm the revolution.

We disagree.[20] Active polemics are merely the concrete expression of line struggle which is the lifeblood of the communist and workers’ movement as it continually struggles to cleanse itself of bourgeois illusions and opportunist lines which inevitably seep into its ranks. Determining how to maintain and organize such active struggle is more important now than ever before: we no longer have the arena of the Comintern which organized and directed such line struggles worldwide. Some have argued that pursuing our line differences in the “open” will allow them to fall into the hands of the enemy for use against us. The bitter truth is that it is precisely the intelligence network of the imperialists which intercepts, translates, cross-references, and distributes to their various military and police agencies many of the more frank and explicit exchanges between parties, while the class conscious workers and the rank and file communists all too often have no access whatsoever to the line debate, or must read it distorted through the prism of the bourgeois press, or are not equipped to grasp the subtleties of the polemic “raging” between the lines of what may appear on the surface as a dull treatise on some abstract theoretical matter. We would argue that such secrecy does us more harm than good since it holds back the maturation of the international communist movement and actually creates a state of confusion and ignorance which the bourgeoisie is often able to manipulate. But the bourgeoisie will not be easily able to manipulate line differences among communists which are taken up firmly within the context of the struggle for unity in the face of the actual needs of the class struggle against imperialism.

It is not surprising that the revisionist and opportunist currents which foster vacillation and blur the lines of struggle with imperialism also discourage active polemic and open line struggle as “unnecessary,” or “inappropriate,” as “interference.” This entire approach is steeped in pragmatism. Learning how to take up the struggle with revisionism in a principled fashion, while respecting the internal integrity of various parties, and avoiding unnecessary and premature splits, will be an ongoing test of the maturity of Marxist-Leninist forces. In short, the critique of revisionism must be waged within the context of unity in the struggle against imperialism and in defense of socialism.

B. Tasks of Marxist-Leninists in the U.S.

What are the implications of this orientation for U.S. Marxist-Leninists in general and the anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend in particular?

We believe there are several.

First we must renew the struggle for a broad internationalist outlook in the U.S. communist movement, recognizing that the crisis of our movement cannot be viewed in isolation from the turmoil within the international communist movement. Our movement must be thoroughly internationalist in outlook. Precisely because it stands in direct proximity to the heart of the world imperialist system, its accountability to the world proletariat assumes a special significance. The struggle against U.S. imperialism at home is a matter of great consequence for revolutionary struggles throughout the world, since it directly affects the capacity of the U.S. imperialists to fully realize their counter-revolutionary goals elsewhere. For these reasons, it would be naive to think that the U.S. revolution is either the concern or task of the U.S. communists alone.

Second, U.S. Marxist-Leninists must complete the break with Maoism. We will not be able to mature politically and ideologically, nor will we be able to link up with other Marxist-Leninist forces internationally, unless and until we fully settle accounts with the underlying ideological orientation and theoretical framework of Maoism. This question will become increasingly important as the Maoist trend disintegrates altogether and elements of it try to regroup under cosmetically altered political formulations which retain the essential elements of the Maoist framework. We will not be able to realign forces spinning off the Maoist trend if we retreat from the political and ideological gains already registered by our trend’s deepening critique of Maoism; instead our “left flank” will stay continually exposed to incursions of unstable, opportunist elements.

Even within the established boundaries of our trend, the break with Maoism has not been fully realized. Anti-Sovietism–presenting itself, of course, as militant anti-revisionism or opposition to “Stalinism”– remains a virulent current which leans heavily on our Maoist legacy. It produces a centrist form of political vacillation and opportunism in our capacity to accurately and firmly determine the battle lines in the international struggle against imperialism.

Finally, this orientation sets the basis for a deeper understanding of our relationship to the CPUSA. Objectively, our trend and the CPUSA are within the boundaries of a single international movement (Maoism, Trotskyism, anarchism, and social democracy are outside those boundaries.) However, our trend and revisionism represent two distinct and opposing trends within that movement As such, our relationship is characterized by both unity and struggle.[21] Our struggle with the CPUSA is over which line will exercise hegemony within the U.S. communist movement–a revisionist line or a Marxist-Leninist line. Our unity is that we hold ourselves accountable to the same underlying principles and broad political lines which establish the boundaries of the international movement. What this means is that in the period ahead, the principal contention within the U.S. communist movement will be between revisionism headquartered in the CPUSA and Marxism-Leninism as represented by our developing trend.

Of course, we have no illusions that the present leadership of the CPUSA will respond with anything but a sectarian stand toward this line struggle, at least for the time being. Their history since revisionism gained dominance indicates a total unwillingness to acknowledge the legitimacy of line struggle among communists, especially when that struggle is not contained within the framework of their party structure. But in the long run, politics and the life of the class struggle are far more powerful than organizational sectarianism. Organizational forms can act as a fetter on line struggle; but as the struggle ripens it will eventually burst asunder all organizational forms that impede its development. In the process new options, possibilities and new forms are bound to develop.

Our essential goal in this struggle is political–to struggle against revisionism and for the reaffirmation of Marxism-Leninism as expressed concretely in a leading line for the U.S. revolution. The maturation of a Marxist-Leninist trend in the U.S., not only politically and ideologically but also organizationally, will provide the CPUSA with the first serious challenge to its revisionist line and orientation in more than a quarter of a century. We have no doubt that this will be a protracted and difficult process which will go through numerous twists and turns in the heat of the class struggle. It will involve an ideological struggle in which every communist will be tested, not only within our trend, but in the revisionist party as well.

V. Conclusion

This article has been written with a diverse audience in mind. It is addressed to other Marxist-Leninists in the U.S., especially those in the anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend, in an effort to provide a sense of common definition and direction for this trend in its relationship to the international communist movement. In addition, it is addressed to those in the process of trying to break with the Maoist legacy. Our purpose here is to underscore the fact that this break requires a thorough re-evaluation and repudiation of the ideological and political legacy which, for many, has been the only communist life they have ever known. It is also addressed to the cadre and leadership of the CPUSA, both as an invitation and as a challenge to a process of ideological and political struggle among U.S. communists to determine an advanced general line, rooted in the particularities of U. S. society and consistent with Marxism-Leninism, as the principled basis upon which communists can unite in order to lead the proletarian struggle in the heartland of imperialism.

Finally, this article is also directed to an international audience. We offer it as our initial contribution to a dialogue which must take place within the communist movement based on a frank appraisal of the crisis of imperialism and the crisis within our own ranks. In advancing these propositions before the international movement, we have a sober awareness of their sweeping nature and somewhat awesome political implications. We realize that this can, and will be, viewed by some as audacious at best, arrogant at worst, especially since our trend is part of that section of the movement, both internationally and in the U.S., which has broken with Maoism and is yet struggling to complete and deepen that break as the basis for participation within the ranks of the international communist movement This onus is principally on us; and we intend to shoulder it.

If there is a certain boldness to our approach, it is accompanied by no small sense of trepidation. The issues and problems we have addressed here are, and have been, the concerns of parties which carry enormous responsibilities, have rich histories in the class struggle, and have long, unbroken continuity in the international communist movement, while we ourselves are a small and relatively insignificant grouping within the international movement. We are painfully aware of the fact that our trend has not yet matured to the point where it assumes any significant responsibility for the shape and direction of the class struggle in the U. S., much less internationally. Consequently, we can already anticipate the charge that before we can advance sweeping assertions on matters of such grave international importance, we should first “get our own house in order.” While recognizing a certain legitimacy (albeit also a certain backwardness) in such sentiments, we nevertheless assert both our right and responsibility to offer these comments, not only to communists in the U.S., but to the international movement as well.

Our individual shortcomings aside, we would point out that it requires a certain degree of collective audaciousness to even take up, with any degree of seriousness, the historic task facing the communists in the U.S. heartland of imperialism. Taking this standpoint in itself presents us immediately and squarely with a wide range of political and theoretical questions which can neither be avoided nor taken up in a sloppy, halfhearted fashion. Possibly more than any other detachment of the international communist movement, our objective location in the world revolutionary process requires that our capacity to conduct the class struggle with imperialism must be thoroughly bound up with the struggle against opportunism, especially if we are determined to rebuild the foundations of the U.S. communist movement on a strategic, more lasting basis.

It is impossible to conceive of our movement’s struggle with opportunism as a unique, domestic phenomenon. The crisis of the international communist movement has taken a particularly heavy toll in the U. S. The gap here in the heartland of world imperialism between what has been at times a truly vigorous spontaneous mass movement in opposition to imperialism and the abysmal weaknesses of the communist movement to lead and consolidate it, can hardly be secret to Marxist-Leninists throughout the world. The setbacks and negative consequences of the consolidation of revisionism in the CPUSA remain to this day keenly felt in the class struggle, and reflected in the widespread disorientation and fragmentation of those revolutionary forces who comprise the most advanced conscious elements in U.S. society. Likewise, the U.S. communist movement has had the opportunity to experience first hand the ultimate theoretical absurdities of Maoism and confront vividly the class collaborationist essence of its politics. Just as it is impossible to take up the U.S. class struggle outside of its international context, the task of reconstituting the communist movement in the U.S. clearly cannot be accomplished unless our own crisis is also addressed in an international context. For these reasons alone, we have sufficient basis to take up the burning questions before the international communist movement in spite of our trend’s relative inexperience and present primitiveness.

Our trend’s goals are ambitious, but they are objectively posed to us by history. And we fully realize that, in an immediate sense, there is no historical determinist guarantee we will succeed. Others have gone before us with similar intentions. The road which has led to much of the internal confusion and torment which today characterize the U.S. communist movement has certainly been paved with “good intentions.” However, cynicism is obviously no solution to the problem. What we intend to bring to this new effort is a breadth of vision, a flexibility in matters of politics and tactics, an unbending attitude toward questions of principle, and an optimism that the general line of the U.S. communist movement can be rectified, U. S. Marxist-Leninists united around it, and the party reforged. To the extent that we succeed and make progress in this venture, we will make a significant contribution to the worldwide struggle against imperialism and to the international communist movement as well.

Every passing day underscores the fact that the crisis within the international communist movement constitutes a strategic reserve of the bourgeoisie. As the imperialist system flounders desperately and therefore all the more dangerously in the throes of its own objective decline, communists cannot refuse to face up to the fact that opportunism has subverted our capacity to develop and lead a unified worldwide struggle against imperialism. It is precisely this consideration of the demands of the class struggle as it has actually unfolded and matured in life that has emboldened us to take up these questions, address them first and foremost to ourselves, and attempt to place them on the agenda of the entire international movement.

Reference Notes

[1] See Marxism and the Crisis of Imperialism, Line of March, # 1, May/June 1980.

[2] SeeThe Trial of the Gang of Four, Line of March, #6, May/June 1981.

[3] China Belongs Forever to the Third World, Beijing Review, #39, Sept. 28, 1981, p. 23.

[4] See Bruce Occena and Irwin Silber, Capitalism in the USSR? An Opportunist Theory in Disarray, Line of March, Nos. 3 and 4, Oct./Nov. 1980 and Jan./Feb. 1981.

[5] See Stuart Schram (ed.), Chairman Mao Talks to the People (New York: Pantheon, 1974) p. 226.

[6] For a fuller discussion of the philosophical significance of this question see Althusserian Marxism–A Beginning Critique, Line of March, Nos. 6 and 7, May/June and July/August 1981.

[7] See Robert Seltzer and Irwin Silber, Chairman Mao’s (or Deng Xiaoping’s) Theory of the Three Worlds is a Major Deviation from Marxism-Leninism, Line of March, #2, July/August 1980.

[8] See The Trial of the Gang of Four, Line of March, #6, May/June 1981, pp. 58-60.

[9] Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party (Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 1972) p. 57.

[10] See Poland–Where We Stand, Line of March, #4, Jan./Feb. 1981.

[11] See Ralph Beitel and Bruce Occena, Toward a Critique of the General Line of the CPUSA, Line of March, #2, July/August 1980.

[12] V.I. Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism in Selected Works, One Volume Edition (New York: International Publishers, 1971), p. 261.


[13] The demarcation with anarchism would appear to have taken place principally in the realm of ideology. However, in our view, this demarcation was essentially the condition for forging an international communist movement in the first place. Therefore, whether that movement would be based on scientific socialism (Marxism) or anarchist idealism was, in fact, the central political question before the communist movement in that period.

[14] Contrary to the official mythology of the CPC, the Soviet occupation of Manchuria was by no means “incidental” to the victory of the Chinese Revolution. On the contrary, it was of decisive political and military significance in positioning the CPC for the subsequent civil war against the Kuomintang.

[15] In our view, Mao’s assessment of this question was totally incorrect: the Soviet experience in socialist construction actually had considerable applicability to China. The Soviet struggle against capitalism in the countryside (the drive for collectivization in 1929-1933) routed the last stronghold of capitalism in the USSR, while the emphasis on industrial development not only firmly established the socialist economy, it transformed the Soviet masses from a largely peasant mass into a proletarian mass. There seems little doubt that the cause of socialism in China would have been far better served by such an orientation than by Mao’s notion of the party as the main site of class struggle and his critique of the “theory of the productive forces” which was used to downplay the central importance of industrial development for China.

[16] This more consistent anti-revisionist polemic was the work of those grouped around Liu Shaoqi, the Cultural Revolution’s chief “capitalist-roader,” not Mao’s group.[8]

[17] See, in particular, Eurocommunism and the State, by Santiago Carrillo, Lawrence Hill Publishers, Westport, CT.; and State, Power, Socialism by Nicos Poulantzas, New Left Books, London. A concentrated review of Poulantzas’ main views can be found in Althusserian Marxism–A Beginning Critique, in Line of March #6.

[18] There is nothing inherently progressive in non-alignment. For a country in the orbit of imperialism to move toward non-alignment is a progressive development. However, alignment with socialism is clearly more progressive than non-alignment And certainly for a socialist country to move toward non-alignment (e.g. Yugoslavia or China) is clearly regressive.

[19] Of course, we are not opposed in principle to splits. In some cases, they are absolutely necessary to rescue the communist movement and advance the revolution. But this is not always the case; in many instances, splits have been premature and hence irresponsible acts which actually served to weaken the position of anti-revisionist forces and set back the revolution.

[20] We recognize the utmost importance of secrecy in inter-party exchanges on matters of a delicate, tactical nature. We are speaking here of the exchange of conflicting opinions on matters of general political line and broad theoretical questions.

[21] Although we hold that the struggle between Marxism-Leninism and revisionŽism does not always and necessarily fall along neat organizational lines, in the present particularities of the U.S., the CPUSA is thoroughly consolidated on a revisionist general line and reformist practice. Nor is there yet any evidence of the kind of substantive inner-party line struggle that might lead us to re-evaluate this assessment.