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


By 1965, modern revisionism worldwide had pretty much putrefied the communist movement. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution rejuvenated the international communist movement, of which we are part. The Communist Workers Party, U.S.A. was formed out of various anti-revisionist collectives, principally the Asian Study Group, and the Revolutionary Workers League, who came together in the Workers Viewpoint Organization. We developed from that particular streamlet, that historical chapter of class struggle.

We must come to terms with the fact that these roots and this particular branch of history are relatively narrow and limited. Our study and understanding of Marxism are necessarily one-sided. Lack of education on the historical materialist lessons and negation of the difficulties of the revolutions in the Soviet Union and China have blocked us from learning many lessons. We don’t understand what problems those countries have successfully resolved and what mistakes they have repudiated.

I can safely say that among the majority of Party leadership, the understanding of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought mainly centers on party-building up to 1905, with some grasp of the Stolypin reaction, the struggle against liquidationism and revolutionary activity in an ebb period. The lessons of Lenin after the 1917 revolution in Russia, those of Stalin and Khrushchev, and of Mao and Liu Shaoqi between 1949 and 1966 in China are not firmly grasped. We have accepted a view but not thoroughly studied the questions. Therefore, our understanding of Marxism and the last words of the Cultural Revolution was one-sided, not based on the rich foundation of all the historical experiences that led to the Cultural Revolution.

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

What is communism? Communism is a state of society which fulfills both material and spiritual conditions to end classes and class exploitation. The first condition is material abundance and the second is a level of consciousness. The struggle between right and wrong, advanced and backward, which exists in the party as well as society, continues, but the main evil is gone, so the horizon of human knowledge and the scope of freedom and necessity are much broader.

The working class seizure of state power is the first step to achieving communism. But to eliminate classes both material and ideological conditions must be created. We must deal with the relationship between achieving at any given point in any country’s development the material conditions and the spiritual conditions, the ideology. Our incorrect lines have objectively banked on ideology to change the material conditions. This ignored the concrete forms of ideology, such as developing organization and material basis, understanding the specific laws of both production and scientific experiment, and organizing the proletariat and remnants of old society to step up production.

Our own experiences and the study of history make it clear that without leadership to sustain them and take them to a higher level, spontaneous movements always subside. Without material conditions that organize in a new way, by seizure of state power or organization at a higher level, spontaneous movements always subside. Any particular spontaneous movement, or any wave of spontaneous movements, will last no more than five years without the reinforcement of organization or state power.

The struggle for socialism and communism is a steady, fiery struggle that includes increasing the material abundance and raising the organizational level from agrarian to industrial society, and at the same time engaging in ideological and political struggle to create spiritual conditions for communism. If production does not move forward and the standard of living does not improve, the ideological struggle will turn into its opposite. People will not buy it, and in fact will negate it.

The New Economic Policy (NEP) in the Soviet Union is a good example. The directive “All Power to the Soviets” was the battle cry for the final onslaught against the reaction based on forces rallying around the slogan of “Bread, Land and Peace.” But after the seizure of power, without the proletariat organizing itself against imperialist intervention, organizing industrial production, and rallying the peasantry through correct economic measures to consolidate the worker-peasant alliance, there would be neither peace, bread, nor land. This would present an opportunity for counterrevolution, for real restoration of capitalism and the smashing of proletarian power and its infant organization. It was the NEP, which organized state capitalism controlled by the Soviet workers’ state with the backing of the armed forces. It got economic life going again and created the basis for the Russian revolution to continue. The NEP was not a step backward. It was a necessary step forward. Even though it organized state capitalism, it was a pioneering, historic step in resolving the problems of production under proletarian leadership and in raising the material conditions to prevent counterrevolution and continue the revolution.

Of the two conditions for communism, material and spiritual, the material ones are fundamental, particularly in underdeveloped countries after the seizure of state power. If the masses’ standard of living is not steadily raised so people can see the success of socialism in their lives, no amount of mass meetings or Soviet congresses will convince them of the superiority of socialism and the necessity of staying on the socialist road. The correctness of ideological and political line, plan and policy are key after seizure of state power only if these lines include the correct practice of upgrading the material conditions of socialism. That was the significance of Mao’s 1969 slogan, “Unite to Win Still Greater Victories,” in order to implement his three directives for production, stability and the continuation of socialist education. The Cultural Revolution could not last for more than three years, without turning into its opposite. He said there should be cultural revolution every seven or eight years, but he did not advocate a permanent political revolution. He knew that would not solve the problems of revisionism and bureaucracy, but would, in fact, worsen them.

The fight for socialism requires “concentric attack,” to borrow a term from Engels, to raise the material standards and to raise the ideological/political level of the masses through various forms of class struggle. Concentric attack means simultaneous struggle on the practical/economic, political and ideological fronts. Without mass ideological/political campaigns to criticize revisionism and study Marxism, a tendency to stagnate will become a trend and bureaucracy will consolidate itself. Both productivity and people’s morale will go down. This problem manifested itself in the Soviet Union, in China, and in all parties as bureaucratism, and a lack of professionalism prevails. This harms a revolution by slowing it down. And it can lead to reversal and bloody counterrevolution when a revolution is young and when its political and military power is unstable. Socialist countries face many challenges after ownership of the means of production is transferred, in the main, to the proletarian state: productive forces must be developed and production stepped up, and at the same time ideological/political education carried out to unleash the masses’ sentiments and vigor.

The necessity for concurrent promotion of practical, political and ideological tasks applies before as well as after seizure of state power. The same problems face our Party. In revolutionary practice, we cannot have pedagogic, theoretical campaigns in the Party without directly engaging in economic and political struggle against the bourgeoisie. These three tasks must be in proper relation to each other, “in harmony” and complement each other to train and build the Party and the masses, and to deal more decisive blows to the bourgeoisie. As the revolutionary situation matures, this is the only approach to inspire greater confidence among larger and larger circles of people and draw them into conscious class struggle and the Party. The three tasks are overlapping, and must be viewed as a dialectical identity of contradictions in that they are not only mutually dependent but also always in struggle with each other. Their concurrent implementation is hard in the real world. The success of any working class party in doing so measures its fighting capacity and maturity.

The understanding of policies and concentric attack are critical in terms of continuity and growth for a party without state power. If organization is not crystallized at a higher level after each round of class struggle, with the party entrenched more deeply in political and industrial concentrations, and its roots sunk deeper in all strata, its line and agitation cannot motivate the new comrades and rally wider circles of masses to take on greater challenges, higher and more decisive struggle against the bourgeoisie. After each struggle, we must consolidate in terms of organization and in terms of the theoretical level of new party members and masses’ own experiences. Nonstop ideological/political struggle and pounding in past experiences without actually putting the line into practice will disintegrate the revolutionary movement rather than prepare it for the seizure of state power. Having one campaign after another will turn into its opposite if we do not use them to reach out to more people, build more factory nuclei and consolidate our gains in more areas. We will be divorced from the masses’ material conditions and we will be talking nonsense because the line struggle will not be focused on the real conditions and real demands of the class struggle.

There are two fundamental realizations in my political life. One is that you can never reason with the bourgeoisie. We should shed illusions about being reasonable with the capitalists—it is useless. I’ve weathered this harsh lesson all my life, and I want comrades to remember that. The other realization is that socialism is the very beginning of a new social system in human history, and we have to be kind towards it.

Since the beginning of class society, from primitive communalism to slavery, to feudalism, to capitalism, and to capitalism’s highest stage, imperialism, commodity production has reached higher and higher levels and we have achieved greater freedom in the struggle against nature. At the same time, the spontaneous character of the very organization by which we freed ourselves from nature has enslaved us with classes and class exploitation. From the qualitatively lower level of slavery to the height of modern industrial society, social organization has been essentially spontaneous in the struggle against necessity and for freedom of commodity production.

Humans control their lives only with regard to nature. We do not control our social lives. We do not have control over our destiny or fate in the social sense, which is the only human sense. This is true not only for the oppressed and exploited, the proletariat, but also for the bourgeoisie. As long as ownership is private, the relationships between people, between base and superstructure, are spontaneous. We are slaves to the spontaneous social organization, classes and class struggle, and we are trapped into a vicious circle of spontaneity. The exploiters benefit at the expense of the working class and oppressed nationalities, but even so, they are themselves slaves of capital.

When humans first discovered fire and began understanding how to use it, there was a qualitative leap in the development of homo sapiens, from animals in the realm of necessity totally subjugated by nature, to human beings utilizing nature to develop humanity and society. Use of fire separated human beings from the rest of the animals. Socialism, applying a fundamental understanding of political economy, represents a second qualitative leap forward since we have ceased being slaves to the phenomena of nature. In socialist society, we ourselves control the social organization for the first time. The 1917 October Revolution opened a whole new historical era—socialism is that significant.

As humans discovered and learned to use fire, there must have been thousands of people, entire families and villages, burned to death. But we cannot condemn human experiments with fire—they were attempts to control nature for our own benefit, thus freeing ourselves from nature and developing society to a higher level. Socialism is change of the same order. It opens up a new era, and controlling social organization is as hard for us as controlling fire was for early primitive humans. A million years ago humans looked at fire with awe, mystery, and respect. And it is with tremendous awe and respect that we look at socialism today. Because we do not understand its laws, we put it on a pedestal, elevated to a level where it’s all good and shrouded in superstition. Only by breaking the superstition will we understand socialism and the laws that govern it.

We should stop acting like primitive humans circling the fire with awe and amazement, sighing, “What a power!” We should take a step forward, plunge in and master it. Only thus, though we will burn ourselves, we may even lose our families and whole towns may burn, will we conquer it. This is our historical mission of socialism.

The proletariat is the last class, but it is also a very raw, new class historically. Only with that perspective can we understand socialist countries’ weaknesses, dissect them and apply the lessons to revolutionary struggle here. From that perspective it becomes clear why the communist parties of the Soviet Union, China and others have so much to learn and will make so many mistakes. At times those mistakes are repressive. No doubt certain individuals and opportunists benefit from the mistakes, and some will even consciously perpetrate those mistakes, but let there be no question that those attempts by the proletariat are great and glorious. The only way to look at such attempts is not with cynicism or pessimism, which the Communist Workers Party does not and has not, but with respect. We must actively learn and use what we learn to make revolution here and build socialism to a higher level.

The proletariat is a young class. It took thousands of years for humans to control fire. Socialism is only sixty years old. Why can’t we be more patient with socialism? Only with an historical perspective can we understand socialism as a science, and base our fight against the bourgeoisie on the last words of the science. I think the Communist Workers Party today is in a position to comprehensively understand the last words of socialism, and it is with that confidence that I am guiding the Party to change this line.