Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Jerry Tung

Questions and Answers


First Published: The Socialist Road, 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: Jerry Tung

Q. Why are there so many Soviet emigrants to the United States if there is no exploitation in the Soviet Union?

A. There are differences between the two societies (Soviet Union and U.S.) in terms of productive forces. The majority of the population is still divided into advanced, middle and backward. They are affected by material conditions, particularly the middle and backward. If they have relatives abroad, they probably want to go there and join them. A contributing factor is the incorrect policy of socialist countries towards artists, petty bourgeoisie, and professionals–not allowing them to express themselves fully and not being able to utilize their talents. The incorrect policy reflects inability to struggle out the superiority of socialist culture and inability to assimilate varied groups. But the reason for emigration in the overwhelming number of cases is material conditions, which is not an indictment of the political system, but of the inherited historical conditions.

For example, historically there were far less people migrating from the Soviet Union westward than people migrating from socialist China to Hong Kong. Even at the height of the Cultural Revolution and in the 70’s under Mao’s leadership, there were more people wanting to leave China for Hong Kong, Taiwan, or third-rate capitalist or colonial countries than there were people wanting to leave the Soviet Union for advanced capitalist countries like the United States or Europe.

That does not mean that China’s socialist system was inferior to the Soviet Union’s. And it doesn’t mean that colonial countries are better off than capitalist countries. In no way is this migration a testimony to the superiority of one political system or another. It has to be viewed from a larger and long-term perspective.

Certainly there are people, for instance peasants in China, who want to go to Hong Kong, if they feel that instead of working seven days a week and 11 hours a day, they can work six days a week and 10 hours a day in Hong Kong. That doesn’t mean socialism isn’t working. It is simply a reflection of harsh inherited historical conditions. After leaving socialist countries for the country of their choice, many emigres (like the Soviet Jewry in the United States) want to return home. Many regret the decision to leave.

Emigration from the Soviet Union to Israel has decreased, not because the Soviet Union prevents it, but because fewer people want to go, having gotten a real picture of life in Israel. A lot of Polish-American workers and overseas Chinese choose to retire to Poland and China even though they don’t like communism. I know many people who left China would say they have been deserters of the socialist cause. They’re conscious that it was wrong and they know that in China they’d be fighting for a better system. But due to family considerations or other personal reasons, many people, particularly with middle and low-level consciousness, can’t resist the apparent material temptations of the West. People in all societies must learn from their own experiences. And people suffer from short-sightedness at times because of lack of historical perspective and knowledge.

Q. Why is there anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, and what about political repression?

A. Anti-Semitism and Han chauvinism definitely exist in both the Soviet Union and China. The fact that both countries have a socialist economic base does not at all mean that there is no bourgeois ideology. And even though socialism has destroyed the material basis for national oppression–the ruling class’ need to divide workers to maintain their class position, their need to scapegoat a particular nationality to explain away capitalism’s economic problems, their need to justify imperialist ventures by racist imagery of foreign people, and their need to make superprofits–chauvinist ideology still exists.

Capitalism itself is formed on the basis of national oppression. A key component in the formation of capitalist nations was colonial conquest. U.S. capitalism developed by scalping Indians and enslaving blacks; and today, the capitalists need national oppression to maintain themselves and their class position. But that doesn’t mean that once the material basis is gone, the chauvinist ideology will disappear. A peculiar characteristic of ideology is that it has relative independence and that’s why chauvinism persists.

For example, the infighting between the Soviet Union and China leads to justification of the “yellow peril,” which definitely affects the Soviet people and Asian nationalities within the Soviet Union. The fact that many Jews, especially scientists, migrated to Israel gives rise to anti-Semitism, wholesale labeling of people of Jewish background as unreliable, and the claim that “they’ll leave you after you train them.” One’s religious and national background has become a criterion for acceptance into science institutes, colleges, and industry. Fear of trained personnel leaving the country and embarrassing their superiors is a hidden cause of anti-Semitism.

National chauvinism among the Han people of China is historically very strong due to isolation and lack of understanding of different nationalities. For example, the Han people in the coastal areas of China never meet Tibetans or Mongolians, just as they never meet white people or foreigners. Provincialism and isolation give rise to prejudices. While the material conditions in the United States developed long ago for the integration of different nationalities, over there the low level of productive forces and the isolated feudal localities with subsistence economies make it very difficult ideologically to overcome such prejudices. In fact, those prejudices go beyond nationalities. Chauvinism against people from different provinces, townships, and kinships, is even greater and deeper than racism in the United States. Those are historical conditions especially perpetuated by the older generations and backward elements.

Socialism is not a miracle. We should combat the idealist conception of socialism. Socialism is a step-by-step elimination of class exploitation and national chauvinism, a step-by-step construction of communism. There is no instantaneous, magic way. Workers will believe us more when we lay out the scientific basis for socialism than when we promise pie in the sky. Under socialism we will still have to fight backward ideas and struggle for the new political system to develop socialist economy towards communism. We will still need to fight for world revolution so that socialist superiority will be fully unleashed and we can move towards a world without exploitation and chauvinism.

Q. How do we deal with the Soviet Union’s chauvinism?

A. The only correct way to deal with the Soviet Union’s chauvinist policies (or any other socialist country’s chauvinist policies) is to support it as a socialist country and never to interfere. Revolutionaries in any country have to apply Marxism-Leninism to their own concrete conditions. We should respect their striving to be self-sufficient and not dependent on any aid as the sole factor in their victories. They must rely on people in their own countries and their own understanding of Marxism and its application. That is also the history of our party here.

This is not petty bourgeois independent radicalism. This is very much related to the view that revolution is developed from within, not based on external factors or exported.

For third world and socialist countries, the main thing is to develop economic independence. They should at all times promote trade for the mutual benefit of socialist countries. We must uphold their right to trade with non-socialist and even imperialist countries. Economic independence is necessarily the backbone of political independence and an integral part of the correct line on developing revolution from within. It is the best way to make revolution, and the best way to deal with the chauvinist deviation of socialist countries.

For the same reason, we uphold all third world and weaker socialist countries’ right to utilize contradictions among imperialists and contradictions with countries having incorrect chauvinist policies towards them.

Q. How should we view the CPUSA and other revisionist parties in western capitalist countries? What is the line of demarcation in the international communist movement?

A. Seizure of state power by the CPSU and CPC gave an early glimpse of socialism to the entire world, and it has become the major force in the world today. We should also understand the historical limitations of their examples, as they emerged at the weak link of imperialism. U.S. imperialism still ties them down, as 11-12% of the Soviet economic growth is drained every year into national defense against U.S. imperialism.

Our foremost duty is to destroy U.S. imperialism here at home. That’s our proletarian internationalist duty. The only way to do that is understand and practice the principles: Workers of all countries, unite’. Workers of the world, unite with oppressed peoples and oppressed nations! Oppose imperialism and reaction in all countries! Strive for world peace, national liberation, people’s democracy and socialism! Consolidate and expand step-by-step to complete victory and establish a new world without imperialism, without capitalism, and without exploitation of man by man!

That’s the only correct starting point for us in relation to the General Line. Our relationship to the CPSU and CPC flows from this concrete analysis of concrete conditions in the world today. It is not based on your degree of liking for the Soviet Union or China or your judgment of their particular weaknesses. Our relationship to those parties has to derive from our duties because their problems and our duties are interwoven. If we do our job right, they could change significantly.

We should have a mature view of socialist countries. If we know they are doing something wrong and repeating an error (with historical experience going against it, and a specific situation not warranting it), then we should disagree. It’s like developing a mature relationship with parents or family. It’s not either love and raise no criticisms, or criticize them all the time and negate love for them. That may be the case when you are young, but when you mature, the relationship matures too. Our approach to the socialist countries should be to support them on the good things they’re doing, and criticize the incorrect in the context of supporting socialism and socialist revolution and performing our duty here.

There is such a thing as “flunkyism.” CPUSA and CPML (Communist Party Marxist-Leninist) types are flunkies. We are not raising intellectual anarchist criticism, divorced from the fight against U.S. imperialism. They all shrink from their proletarian internationalist duty. The Party’s practice has qualified us to raise differences with the Soviet Union and China, and support them in a mature way without making independent radical kind of criticism or being flunkies ourselves. Flunkyism is uncritically adopting the official lines and following the experience of other countries. Flunkies don’t apply Marxism to the concrete conditions in their own countries. This is alien to the basic spirit of Marxism. The CPUSA is obviously such a party, and in fact they are to the right of the CPSU. While the CPSU has indirectly repudiated (though without public and extensive repudiation) Khrushchev’s line of peaceful transition to socialism, CPUSA still follows it. That is the ultimate negation of proletarian internationalism–when you don’t believe in the violent overthrow of U.S. imperialism and think somehow you can grow peacefully without interference. That happens only if you are irrelevant and don’t fight the bourgeoisie. The CPUSA, for example, recently dropped out of the coalition they helped initiate against the Red Squad in Chicago, leaving the rest of the coalition out in the cold. The CPUSA made a deal with the U.S. government: as long as the government doesn’t put them under surveillance, they will drop the fight. They’re scabs and renegades trying to save their own skins. Their incorrect line makes them traitors to the working class.

In terms of relating other groups in the United States, a correct view towards the Soviet Union and China is a good starting point. That correct stand is necessary for us to build a positive relationship, but we also have to judge maturity in terms of a group’s theoretical development and whether it’s a relatively new group or an old group.

But supporting the Soviet Union as a socialist country does not necessarily mean a revolutionary line on fighting the U.S. bourgeoisie. For example, the PWOC (Philadelphia Workers Organizing Committee) and Line of March have a correct line on the Soviet Union, but they tail the labor aristocrats and oppressed nationalities in this country. PWOC views Winpisinger (president of the International Association of Machinists) as the hero of the working class and Joe Lowery as the leader of the Afro-American people. From the incorrect line of the CPC towards the Soviet Union, we concluded that the CPC absolutized ideology and did not put politics in command. PWOC has a correct view on the Soviet Union, but they recently initiated an ideological campaign against white chauvinism worse than anything we would ever do even with an incorrect line. It’s nothing but opportunism on their leadership’s part to whip their cadres into line, blaming them for problems instead of blaming the organization’s incorrect line.

As for the line of demarcation in the international communist movement, while a correct stand towards socialist countries and a materialist understanding of socialism are prerequisites, the main thing is proletarian internationalist duty, along the General Line I just quoted: Workers of all countries, unite! Workers of the world, unite with oppressed peoples and oppressed nations! We must investigate a party’s positive practice and struggle with different shades of line in our working relationship with them. But if, for example, they have a national chauvinist position towards colonial countries, towards uniting with workers in other countries and towards socialist countries and in practice support their own imperialist bourgeoisie, we would draw a line of demarcation. For example, we would draw the line with the French Communist Party’s opposition to the Algerian revolution.

Q. There are a number of questions related to the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward. We are working on a comprehensive position on these, so let me just answer a few questions.

A. First of all, as I said before, we have to support the Cultural Revolution because socialism is not magic. It’s just like any other science. It’s a materialist science, based on practice, direct and indirect, and based on historical experience. It’s a new science, historically destined to be the leading science that liberates mankind from the system where man exploits man. But the limitation of that and the real class struggle in the real world causes breakdowns in the course of socialist revolution. The problems – such as the Hungarian uprising, the Czechoslovakian uprising, bureaucracy, incorrect handling of reactionary forces and incorrect handling of contradictions among the people–all contribute to the growth of reactionary forces. And like a religious pogrom, the more you suppress it, the more it grows. That was the basis of the Hungarian uprising. Mao learned from that experience. He tried to solve the problem with the campaign of “Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom, Let a Hundred Schools of Thought Contend,” the mass socialist education campaign, and the Great Leap Forward, as an alternative to the mechanical model of the Soviet Union.

The Great Leap Forward took place under the concrete conditions of revisionist Khrushchev cutting off all aid, violating the proletarian internationalist principle, and having more faith in U.S. imperialism, particularly Kennedy, than in the Chinese leadership and the CPC. Khrushchev sided with U.S. imperialists against Mao and the Chinese communists. Russia even signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty against China. Out of historical necessity, Mao led the Chinese revolution to self-sufficiency, questioned the revisionist policies and tried to find alternatives to them.

As he did this, one trend covered another. It did cause many mistakes, mistakes of violating objective laws. But the mistakes were corrected and more experiences summed up by Mao and those are contributions. Like everything else, if you push something revolutionary too far, as Lenin said, it turns into its opposite. The Cultural Revolution, like Poland today, represented an attempt at self-correction. There are inevitable breakdowns, and the masses will rise up. So socialism has to be able to check itself.

The party leadership, particularly under Mao’s leadership, attempted to correct itself and rectify itself in the Cultural Revolution. It is one of those bold steps that needs to be learned by communists and applied to different conditions, but this must be done scientifically. You have to boldly arouse the masses, but at the same time educate them on the line so they can differentiate right from wrong and not indiscriminately knock everything, which only causes a backlash like in China today.

We do support the Cultural Revolution, just as we support the Polish workers’ struggle. The first was party self-correction, while the other is clearly beyond that. Marxism has definitely been enriched both in the positive contributions and negative lessons. We don’t subscribe to Hu Yao-bang’s (General Secretary of the CPC) view that the Cultural Revolution was 100% wrong. He said the only good to come of it were the negative lessons. This is a revisionist and ahistorical view of proletarian revolution. By his criterion, you’d pretty much conclude that most revolutionary struggles, except perhaps the 1917 Russian Revolution and the 1949 Chinese Revolution, should be denounced since they didn’t lead to victory. Only those acts of successful uprising should be supported. To him, all the rest only resulted in casualties. From this viewpoint, the Paris Commune was a total flop, an impetuous act by the immature proletariat. That’s why Hu Yao-bang is a revisionist and we’re Marxist-Leninists.

Q. What is the likelihood of world war? Is it still inevitable?

A. No. Given the concrete conditions now and for the forseeable future, world war is not inevitable. The view that it was inevitable was based on the Soviet Union being a capitalist country driven to export capital. That analysis is wrong. We must differentiate between incorrect adventurist policy, chauvinist policy and the inevitability of aggression due to imperialism.

Inevitability means that independent of anyone’s will, individuals are consistently driven. In the case of imperialist war, both sides have to export capital and a clash is inevitable. I haven’t seen hard evidence on the Soviet Union’s exporting capital. They do take advantage of loans, and they export low-quality, bulky, obsolete military equipment to other countries. But they are not driven by internal basis to export capital. Incorrectly, they justify what they do with claims that because of a mass assembly line, they have to make 1,000 units, can only use 500 units, and thus sell the other 500 to reduce the unit cost. Or they claim new technology is for Russians and obsolete products are for other people. They are taking advantage other countries, but that’s not the same as exporting capital.

In their relations with the United States, the Soviet Union has been very cautious. If anything, they lean towards capitulationism, and on occasion flip to adventurism. There is still danger of world war. The Soviet Union could go berserk. If they menace second and third world countries as their sphere of influence, there could possibly be a big clash with the United States. But the main source of war is U.S. imperialism. Certainly we shouldn’t underestimate the frenzied character of U.S. imperialism, which may instigate or initiate a war, but it takes two to make it inevitable.

There are tremendous contradictions between the United States and Europe/Japan. Indications are that if the United States wants to fight a war, Europe/Japan probably would not go along. That lessens the danger of world war. Third world countries are very clear on the role of U.S. imperialism, so the bullies cannot rally their resources either. The strength of the second world countries (Europe, Japan and Canada) and third world countries makes the situation quite favorable.

The main area endangered by the possibility of a U.S. war of intervention is El Salvador. Even that is unlikely in the next year or two, because the Reagan administration has to deal with inflation. War and further commitment of troops in El Salvador would only fuel inflation. That is also why the United States will not send troops to Arab countries, unless its oil routes are completely cut off. Any engagements will likely be brief, because any indication of the United States being dragged into a protracted land war would make the economy take right off into hyperinflation. The economy would then face imminent collapse, with immediate repercussions on the imperialist economic system worldwide.

The internal vulnerability of U.S. imperialism and Western economy based on the dollar favorably checks the danger of World War III. Even if the United States were to send troops directly into El Salvador, the Soviet Union would not do the same. Direct clash is unlikely. U.S. imperialism is still recuperating from its defeat in Southeast Asia and having a hard time doing so. Its armed forces are disintegrated. The switch to a volunteer army is not working. Morale is low. The weaponry is relatively outdated because of no consistent plans for growth. Reagan and the U.S. bourgeoisie have to consider these factors. Both Carter and Reagan assume a posture of strategic defense to consolidate internal forces and regain strength. A precondition is to check inflation. If they succeed in doing that, then the danger of World War III will be very great again. The United States is still consolidating what they have. The United States has not changed its nature and is still preparing for war.

Q. In professionalizing, are we saying “black cat, white cat, whichever cat catches mice is the good cat,” and using pragmatism instead of organizing the oppressed masses?

A. First of all, pragmatism under socialism is actually a very short-sighted view of how to develop socialism. For example, instead of talking to workers about politics and the overall situation, the role of their particular plant and industry in relation to that, pragmatists only want to squeeze more productivity out of the workers. They only want to work through material incentives. Then everybody works for his own interests–managers, foremen, and workers included–with a minimum of cooperation. As a result, the contradictions between managers and workers and among the workers intensify to the point where production actually slows down. That’s one result of pragmatism.

There’s another danger. That is the danger (and the situation in our party now) of a lot of talk and discussion, but no strict requirements for comrades to implement and act upon decisions. Lack of an organizational system to check up on decisions means many ideas flow through and remain ideas. This in fact slows down the training of comrades and the development of revolutionary leadership in this country. This actually demoralizes advanced elements rather than unleashing them and helping them professionalize.

We must stress the active aspect of our line. One problem is the lack of political discussion and organizational system and therefore the lack of consistent political education. One aspect is the organizational weakness. It’s not a lack of desire to study, because comrades feel frustration and impatience to study more. The other aspect is weakness in comrades’ ability to do political education. There is weakness in leadership’s ability to teach scientific Marxism, to use Marxism and illustrate and elucidate problems; in its turn, this discourages study and grasp of the lines. Lack of system, lack of practice and implementation feed the situation so people don’t want to talk about the line or have political education and they drift into their own things. The danger of internalization and withdrawal from the class struggle grows.

There are two poles to the problem, and they exist together in a unity of opposites. The political education, line discussion, size-up, and the day-to-day revolutionary struggle are interwoven. If you don’t do both well, or consistently, over a period of time you will inevitably lack scope and orientation, and at the same time lack vigor in getting involved in or sustaining class struggle.

Comrades are concerned that in stressing professionalizing and promoting those able comrades who come through, we are using pragmatism instead of organizing the oppressed masses. There is such a danger. But by professionalizing, we mean professionalizing as a whole, making concentric attack through an integral system. The revolutionary struggle against the bourgeoisie, organizing the oppressed masses to fight and our own political education and line struggle are opposite sides of the same coin. The more we do one, the more favorable the conditions for the other. We are saying that the Party in this period will put more emphasis on performance and the active aspect of revolutionary struggle than on the internal discussion aspect.

We do not have the same expectations of oppressed workers and youth who are just getting involved with the Party and class struggle. There is a danger of not letting them come to communism in their own ways. We can’t demand professionalism from them. We wouldn’t be using mass line, understanding people as they are, and understanding how to develop them into communists and leaders. We’d be yanking them out of their natural orbits. This expectation of professionalism applies mainly to older comrades, comrades who’ve been in the Party for some time and studying for some time. Performance orientation has to be emphasized for Party leadership. If you don’t stress the performance but bank on class background and strong feelings against oppression, the broad masses of workers and oppressed nationalities will not be organized. Our line will not reach them, and this can only breed frustration and more feelings of impotence, all because of our lack of professional leadership.

We have to understand the workers in terms of their problems, day-to-day necessities and responsibilities. It’s up to leadership to understand their lives, and give them proper tasks which can be done with an appropriate amount of time and ability and consistency. This will unleash them politically and ideologically, and give them confidence for the next higher form of task and commitment. A pragmatic attitude of giving big tasks and guidance, but not hanging out and helping them with their problems, is dangerous. The more performance-oriented we are in terms of concentric attack as professional communists, the more we can organize the oppressed masses. We focus not only on performance, but also on the ability to seize opportunities based on political size-up and more appropriate forms of attack on the bourgeoisie. We have to be opportunity-oriented and performance-oriented.

You must study theoretical questions, speak on them in forums and participate in struggle to learn theory. After preliminary size-up, you must plunge into the thick of class struggle to know the political situation and involve the masses. The prophecy of “right-wingers taking over the country and masses becoming reactionary” can be self-fulfilling. The bourgeoisie’s mind game, the claim of a consensus for the right, will in fact be fulfilled if you aren’t actively involved in class struggle in this country.

Organizationally, unless you plunge in and stick to the policy of strict division of labor, implement whether you fully understand it or not, you can’t grow beyond a roving band. Worse, you won’t even understand why you can’t grow. Blame falls on individuals rather than on the incorrect line of not grasping organizational policies.

This active aspect of Marxism is the soul of Marxism. As Marx said, the point is not just to know the world, but to change it. Knowing is necessary for changing, but the process of changing itself further enriches the knowledge. The Party knows enough now about the enemy, and the ins and outs of class struggle. The only way to know more is to get actively involved on all fronts, including the theoretical front. Comrades have to man their posts and do a good job.

Stressing the active aspect, the practice aspect, of Marxism does not mean pragmatism. At times you may feel it’s pragmatism when you plunge in relatively blindly. But only real life will tell you if it is or isn’t. That is Marxism, not pragmatism.