Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Jerry Tung

The Socialist Road

Character of Revolution in the U.S. and Problems of Socialism in the Soviet Union and China


This collection, The Socialist Road, has been compiled from Party documents and verbal presentations made to Communist Workers Party (CWP) leadership conferences between October and December 1980.

The main part of the collection deals with political economy. Many points have been added to the original pieces to make the theoretical argument more vigorous. I have rearranged and reworded some of the original documents and added new sections, including an introductory remark to the essay on revisionism, in order to lend perspective, and to make the presentations follow one another more logically. I establish our understanding of political economy before going into the questions of revisionism and foreign policy.

A separate document on the Cultural Revolution and Mao’s contributions is being prepared by the CWP Central Committee for publication.

The focal point of this collection is the relationship between lessons of today’s socialist countries, particularly some of their difficulties, and the character of the working class revolution in the United States.

By “character of revolution,” we mean the targets, motive forces, and the prospects of our revolution. The general principles of Marxism are, without doubt, the most advanced understanding about ourselves and our society. By its penetratingly critical and revolutionary stand, viewpoint and method, Marxism has provided historical perspective and confidence to the working class and the oppressed of all countries on the inevitability of socialism and their emancipation. Marxism has already become synonymous with the course of social revolution and the banner of justice.

However, socialism today in the Soviet Union, China, and other countries manifests difficulties. These difficulties range from declining productivity to low social morale. Imperialism, on its deathbed, can no longer militarily take advantage of socialist countries’ problems. But it is trying to undermine socialism precisely in those weak areas. If these problems were unique to a few countries in contrast to others where socialism was vibrant (or at least had a handle on the problems), then we could safely point to one thing as clearly socialist and another as clearly revisionist. That was our state of mind in the late 60’s and early 70’s when we saw in the Cultural Revolution the tremendous vitality of the Chinese system, in strong contrast to the Soviet and Eastern European systems.

The situation in China after the coup d’etat, shortly after Mao’s death, with the reversal of the Cultural Revolution and the apparently total lack of mass roots for the four leftist leaders, confronted our basic assumptions. It forced us to examine our own theories, including our understanding of Mao Zedong Thought.

In a headlong attempt to build up the anti-revisionist party, being young and inexperienced, and lacking the necessary political tradition and Marxist training, we are strongly and spontaneously pulled to focus on class stand and proletarian ideology, rather than political line to deepen and broaden our Party’s work. There is a constant tug-of-war between professionalism and amateurishness, between pedagogics and politics, between instincts and organizational policy, between propaganda and agitation. Most often, the retrograde trend in the Party that goes against professionalism, politics, propaganda and tight organization has its expression in trying to build a party based solely on “anti-revisionism,” around the theory of “combatting and preventing” revisionism and “restricting bourgeois right.” That is precisely the one-sidedness that the Chinese communists suffered from in the Cultural Revolution.

Revisionism is primarily a political deviation. The ideological deviation, while it affects political line, is rooted in historical and material conditions which by themselves thoroughly shape one’s forces of habit. The Party’s line must be overwhelmingly class-oriented. The Party must be unmercifully locked into the political tasks of immediate, universal and all-rounded preparation to overthrow the criminal rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalists.

Given the unceasing commitment and sacrifices in fierce battles, the rapidly growing numbers of advanced elements following the Party’s banner, and the years of consistently learning Marxist political economy, the CWP today is in a position to comprehensively understand the world experience of socialism. The gains of the Party in the last few years have made us realize that the desire to transform oneself, though a most revolutionary and honest instinct, cannot be placed in the forefront of class struggle.

The critical and rapidly changing political situation in this country forces the CWP to all-roundedly sum up and step up our preparatory work in order to aid the development of an avalanche-like mass movement. The 80’s economic crisis will make the 30’s Great Depression look like a picnic. This decade’s galvanizing political situation, along with the crisis of the destabilization of capitalism worldwide, brings to the forefront the possibility of rallying the majority of American people in a head-to-head confrontation with the bourgeoisie. The American people are suffering as never before. They’re searching their souls for the reasons. The American political system is more fragile than ever before, due to the people’s own eye-opening experiences of the Vietnam War and Watergate. For the third time in history, it is possible that the majority in this country will draw the inevitable conclusion—the need to get rid of the capitalist hell.

The 80’s polarization will develop independent of the CWP or any other revolutionaries. The task is to focus it and lead it, or, as Lenin put it, to search for the forms of transition to socialism, so that the overwhelming majority (including a large section of the farmers and petty bourgeoisie and their representatives) will be brought face-to-face politically with the monopoly capitalist class and their representatives, the U.S. government. The Party must be able to rally the majority so the political situation will develop to the point where either one (the majority of people) or the other (the monopoly capitalists) will prevail. And for the majority to prevail requires communist leadership in spheres where we presently have little or no experience.

Theoretical recognition of the need to prepare all-roundedly, in all spheres of social activity without exception, which the CWP historically has had, is not enough. The task demands a much more mature and sharply focused political leadership. Our cadre core, a core to lead new recruits, is neither extensive, varied nor large enough. The CWP has the most determined core, but a vast array of seasoned revolutionary leaders from all walks of life must join the Party to effect that comprehensive preparatory work. Such was the content of the CWP Founding Congress line—the five-year framework.

In this regard, we must recognize the special circumstances of the Russian and Chinese revolutions. World Wars I and II brought about the immediate prospect for the seizure of state power because Russia and China were the weakest links in the imperialist chain. We must see the limitations in their motive forces. The character of their societies is vastly different from our own. Today, to make revolution in an advanced capitalist country, our preparation cannot assume the outbreak of World War III and fascism, with the development of a revolutionary situation and a nationwide crisis.

The danger of World War III exists and is still great. But the existence of many socialist countries, particularly the strongest, the Soviet Union, favorably tips the balance of forces against world war. Today there are new factors in the international arena. The rise of the third world countries, and the irreparable division between the United States and Europe and Japan, make the gathering of an imperialist alliance for a world war difficult. The material background now is less volatile than the period between World War I and World War II. This, of course, is not to underestimate the unprecedented casualties due to the nuclear arsenal that World War III could bring.

The main difference between our present and our past lines is the understanding that the Soviet Union is a socialist country. The Soviet Union is not a country with spontaneous economic forces and needs driving it blindly towards war. Therefore, though we see the great danger of World War III, we do not see war between the Soviet Union and the United States as inevitable. Based on the Soviet Union being a socialist country, the CWP upholds the policy of detente. We regard the struggle for detente as a major struggle for world peace. Independent of U.S. intrigues, policies of detente lessen the danger of World War III and thus create favorable conditions for peace, national liberation and the course of workers’ revolutions in all countries.

The Three Worlds Theory is wrong, as is the two worlds theory, because both assume that the Soviet Union is capitalist. The third world is and has been the focal point and storm center of struggle against imperialism, especially during the last two decades of capitalist stabilization. We uphold the third world countries’ right to use contradictions between the United States and Soviet Union in cases where the latter’s chauvinist policies have led to their clearly abandoning the stand of proletarian internationalism, and giving in to the bourgeois ideology of hegemonism. Every rift and contradiction between the smaller imperialist countries and U.S. imperialism is an indirect reserve for the revolutionaries and oppressed around the world. We welcome every anti-U.S. measure taken by the European countries and Japan, for each one further disintegrates the system of world imperialism, and benefits socialist and oppressed nations and workers of all countries.

This analysis also applies to the danger of fascism. As fascism is a way to put down domestic opposition and pave the ground for wars of aggression, fascism and war generally come together. The danger of fascism is greater in the 80’s than in the last two decades of capitalist stabilization. But the prospect for proletarian revolution and emancipation is also greater. That’s why the CWP does not look back nostalgically and model current struggles after the struggles of the 60’s. Rather we expect the struggle in the 80’s to be on a far grander scale, requiring far more sacrifices and yielding infinitely more results. Because we can’t base our strategy of mass insurrection on World War III or fascism, we must be “well-shod on all four feet,” as Lenin advised the European and American parties. An important lesson of the necessarily one-sided preparation for socialism in Russia and China due to special circumstances is that our preparation here must be all-rounded and in all spheres. Because the United States, the bastion of imperialism, is a bourgeois democracy with the most perfected form of state in history for the exploiting class, we are working on a more fertile yet more difficult ground.

Proletarian organization, like the rest of the superstructure in the United States, is highly centralized. This cuts both ways. The bourgeoisie have been able to use highly centralized media to confuse people, and use the labor misleaders to block workers’ unity. But these spontaneous organizations and networks are also the apparatus ready-made for us to turn against the bourgeoisie. The American people are beginning to see clearly the class “conspiracy” between the biggest bosses and the government. One indication is the American people’s distrust of the media (over 60% read between the lines, according to a recent poll), politicians, corporate giants and the government.

Without our profoundly grasping the problems of socialism, our preparatory activities will collapse into shortsighted exercises. And not engaging in all-round preparatory activities is tantamount to not understanding the reality of U.S. society and not being able to tap the strength of the American people. The natural outcome will be one of two varieties of sects: either one with reformist and economist practice in the mainstream, or one going down in glorious and self-satisfying isolation, red flag in hand.

In the final analysis, there is only one correct line, one course of action, to pursue in preparing for proletarian revolution in this country. Many Marxist-Leninists, (the CWP among them), who incorrectly claim that Soviet Union (and now China, too) has restored capitalism simply because of problems there, cannot possibly have a correct strategy of U.S. revolution, nor can they practice a materialist line based on a profound understanding of U.S. society. This petty bourgeois idealism views the world through rose-colored glasses, and sees socialism either as a problem-free paradise, or doesn’t see socialism anywhere. This same idealism gives rise to a voluntarist view on U.S. revolution—thinking the majority of people join the revolution through ideals and ideas rather than out of necessity.

This does not mean that all those who view the Soviet Union as a socialist country (many of whom have consistently supported it over a period of years) will automatically have the correct practice in the U.S. revolution. Many of them, like the Communist Party, USA, the Eurocommunists, and many among the democratic socialist or “democratic Leninist” formations are themselves revisionists further to the right than the CPUSA, the Communist Party of Soviet Union, and the Communist Party of China.

There are also many who treat the question of whether the Soviet Union is socialist or not as an academic problem only vaguely related to the struggle here. And others see it as an important international question and a formal line of demarcation without drawing substantial conclusions on the rights and wrongs of the practice of U.S. revolution.

The reversal of a revolution to capitalist rule, and the restoration of capitalism are, of course, possible. We have studied the Paris Commune, the German revolution around the time of World War I, and more recently, witnessed Chile. All these restorations occurred at the revolution’s initial stage.

The degrees of consolidation of socialist revolution vary. First, the working class state apparatus must be firmly in our hands, i.e., the dictatorship of the proletariat. That is the bottom line. Second, the basic industries and finances, pillars of the economy, must be under state ownership. Third, the step-by-step transformation of the small producers and the petty bourgeois class must be under way. Fourth, revolutionizing the superstructure—ideology, art and literature, etc.—is in process.

In none of the above cases of restoration was the old state apparatus thoroughly smashed and the new apparatus, particularly the military, organized and led by the working class parties, established.

The Russian and Chinese revolutions moved beyond the most dangerous point of the first stage, when the reversal can mostly easily occur. Differing with the revisionists and Eurocommunists, the CWP reaffirms the correctness of Lenin’s basic thesis on the class nature of the state. Both the Soviet Union and China have, in the main, accomplished the transformation of the ownership of the means of production, at least in the industrial sectors. This signifies the material consolidation of socialism. Those gains of socialism, going beyond war-time communism and the control of the state, cannot be easily reversed. This is in opposition to the contentions of Mao, and especially Chang Chun-chiao of the Four.

We try to show how the reversal of socialism cannot proceed economically from the managers, commune leaders or even individual proprietors. Politically, while revisionists can speed up or slow down the economy and the degree of consolidation of socialist revolution, capitalism cannot be “easily rigged up” from the top. Restoration requires the piece-by-piece dismantling of the socialist state apparatus and state ownership, the elimination of workers’ right to a job and to tenure, and the institution of capitalism throughout the national economy at all levels (including finance).

This absolutely did not happen in the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, we must draw a sharp line not only with Khrushchev, who made a caricature of proletarian internationalism, but also with the many metaphysical practices represented by Jiang Qing and the Four in combatting modern revisionism.

A major negative effect of the Cultural Revolution was that it destroyed a whole generation of very precious, rare and able cadres. The target of the struggle, bourgeois ideology and bourgeois right in general, was too broad when it was not put in the context of developing productive forces, the only basis to reinforce socialist consciousness in a constant and thoroughgoing way. Mao urged that the target of the Cultural Revolution be focused, but without a core of Marxist-Leninists guiding it, the dynamics of revolution from below was to “overthrow all.” This inflicted deep wounds that could not be healed and blocked the consolidation of the gains of the Cultural Revolution.

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

Mao and the four comrades, like the comrades who made anarcho-syndicalist mistakes in the Third International, cannot be equated with the modern revisionists. There is opportunism. But in the main the mistakes are deviations in the course of making proletarian revolution, the result of tackling problems that never before existed. These are deviations made by pathbreakers.

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

Mao’s initiative in calling for and leading the Cultural Revolution was not just something he wanted to do. It was a response to a problem demanding a solution in history; the problems had become obvious in Hungary, within the Soviet Union, and in China itself. Mao tried different things. Having made contributions to Marxism by solving the peasant agriculture question in China, in the political sphere he tried the “Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom” campaign and the Socialist Education Movement campaign, all attempts to address the problems that Hungary and the Soviet Union could not solve. In the last ten years of his life, he tried again and that attempt was the Cultural Revolution. The verdict of the Cultural Revolution can’t even be gauged by the simple “three parts bad, seven parts good” method Mao suggested. The Paris Commune failed too. Judging aspect by aspect, we can’t even pass a “three-seven” verdict on it, because obviously the errors of the Paris Commune outnumbered the successes.

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

The historical necessity of the Paris Commune, of the working class taking state power, made the attempt of Paris Commune great, glorious and correct. It was a path-breaking attempt. Just because in retrospect the basis was not ripe for the proletariat to seize and hold power, it does not mean that the Paris Commune was an ultra-left deviation. Its victories are mainly the lessons of its failures. Though it failed, it was a clarion call, a salvo which inspired generations to carry on the struggle and charted the road ahead.

By saying that the Soviet Union and China are socialist countries does not mean we endorse all their actions. We have to have a mature attitude toward socialism, instead of a simple love/hate relationship. We have to take a stand on the incorrectness of Soviet actions in Afghanistan and Poland, and of China’s pro-U.S. positions like its support of Seaga in the Jamaican election and its reactionary position on El Salvador. Moreover, we have to explain why these gross deviations are possible under socialism, but can be corrected, in fundamental contrast to the situation under capitalism.

We will show that socialist public ownership, at least in the main industrial sectors, does not necessarily mean a correct foreign policy will follow. The same is true for national oppression under socialism. Similarly, the completion of the socialist ownership of the means of production does not mean automatic and perfect balance among the consumption, production and military sectors, between agriculture and industry, and between different industrial sectors.

Under capitalism, a balance is achieved through spontaneity—market forces, competition, technological innovation, rationalization—through the law of value and monopolization. This results in tremendous destruction of productive forces, exploitative production relations, and an oppressive superstructure.

Socialism is an economic system which eliminates capitalism’s inherent destructiveness. This does not mean, however, that imbalances, waste, and even political and social repression are automatically eliminated. Socialism only eliminates the material basis, the inherent structural basis, for all the evils of capitalism. It merely achieves an economic basis for equality and justice. Most critically, it takes the problems inherent in capitalist society from the realm of determination by blind economic forces and places them in the hands of humans.

This is the most glorious accomplishment of humanity up to this point. For the first time we can consciously run our own lives, rather than allow the spontaneous forces of capitalism, which benefit a few at the expense of the majority, to run our society and our lives. That’s why socialism opens a whole new era for humanity—the greatest qualitative leap since the beginning of civilization.

The consciousness and know-how to run society is not necessarily at hand after the working class seizes power. Under socialism, human beings must determine the proper production relations according to assessment of the existing level of productive forces. People must plan, within the limits of their knowledge, the various sectors and their relations. But the human subjective factor, for example, the Party leadership in Soviet and Chinese societies, is also limited by historical circumstances and the level of productive forces. An aspect of the subjective factor is knowing the material conditions and their limitations, and making the best use of what is available. In the process, leaders make mistakes. But unlike capitalism where, in a sense, there are no mistakes because everything is done out of spontaneous necessity, shortcomings under socialism can be consciously corrected.

The art of political leadership is precisely the organization of society—the mobilization of every person and the utilization of the best people and resources—based on the leaders’ best perceptions of the limitations of the objective factors to bring the whole society forward. Lack of assessment or misassessment will lead to massive dislocations in the economy. Then political dislocation will ensue.

That’s why socialism is the greatest challenge to human abilities. For the very first time in history, the greater our knowledge and organization, the greater will be the direct benefits to the majority of society.