Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

A.G. Firainz [Eugene D. Genovese]

The Crisis in the World Communist Movement

First Published: Marxist-Leninist Quarterly, Vol. I, No. 2, no date [1963]
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.

The crisis that has been rending the international Communist movement since 1956 can no longer be ignored or minimized. Until the dangerous confrontation over the Cuban missile bases and the subsequent dramatic intensification of the disputes between the Soviet and Chinese Communist Parties, it seemed wisest for Marxists to use considerable restraint in assessing developments, especially since reliable information was scarce and the issues unclear. With the substantial increase in information and the unmistakable depth of the differences, an assessment has become both possible and unavoidable. Unfortunately, the crisis is too often construed as merely a struggle between the U.S.S.R. and China. Undoubtedly, the Sino-Soviet dispute, arising in part from differences in historical development and national interest, has made a significant contribution to the creation and deepening of the crisis, but that dispute forms only a part of a much wider struggle over fundamental questions concerning the proper strategy and tactics for the international movement.

The crisis will probably not be resolved in the near future and, despite temporary accommodations between the U. S. S. R. and China designed to demonstrate the unity of the socialist camp against imperialist aggression, a split in the world movement is increasingly likely. Since the contending positions have been advanced primarily by the Soviet and Chinese Communists, analysis must focus on the Sino-Soviet dispute itself, but the wider issues affecting the fundamental outlook of the movement in all countries must be our primary concern. If we treat the subject from the vantage point of the Sino-Soviet dispute, it is only because it offers the quickest and most profitable way to present the wider issues. We are therefore concerned here only with the ideological differences between and within the parties, not those Sino-Soviet differences reflecting state-to-state difficulties.


The 20th Congress of the C.P.S.U. (1956) represented a turning point for the U.S.S.R. and the world movement. It is remembered primarily for Khrushchev’s remarkable attack on Stalin, but that attack was only a necessary overture to the enunciation of a new course in internal and international affairs. In particular, the Congress took note of the character of thermonuclear war and concluded that direct conflict with U. S. imperialism was to be avoided and that as few risks should be run as possible. The idea of coexistence was projected in a more sweeping form than ever before as an accord between socialism and imperialism to prevent world war, normalize relations, improve commercial and cultural ties, and restrict competition to non-military levels.

These estimates formed part of a long-range strategy that relied on the ability of the U.S.S.R. and the socialist camp to surpass the U.S.A. and the capitalist camp economically. The emerging states of the former colonial world ostensibly constituted a “zone of peace” contributing to the demise of imperialism and the strengthening of socialism. Loss of empire, reductions in arms spending to be brought about by negotiations and a prolonged period of peace, and the inherent contradictions of capitalism would wrack the capitalist world with crises and stagnation and smooth the way for a transition to socialism. Under such circumstances the underdeveloped countries would choose to follow the example of the growing socialist camp instead of the stagnating capitalist camp, and sooner or later the question of socialism would have to be raised in the capitalist countries themselves.

This view, which the Chinese did not openly criticize until 1958, rests on several questionable assumptions: 1) “sober circles” in the West realize that nuclear war would destroy the participating powers and are as anxious as anyone else to avoid it; 2) these circles prevail in the West and will continue to prevail if provocations on the Communist side are avoided – if they are not pushed too hard, too fast; 3) most underdeveloped countries have such fluid class structures that they will choose socialism over capitalism more or less rationally, or at least that the external example of a progressive socialism and a regressive capitalism will decide their internal character. As the editors of Monthly Review pointed out: “As compared to the Chinese, the Soviet position puts more emphasis on nations as actors on the world stage and less emphasis on classes.”

From the positions taken at the 20th Congress, the Soviet leadership had only to take a short step to the conclusion that, in effect, genuine peace between capitalism and socialism was possible. “We believe,” said Khrushchev at that congress, “that countries with differing social systems can do more than exist side by side. It is necessary to proceed further, to improve relations, strengthen confidence between countries and cooperate.” Khrushchev added, and the Soviets have often reiterated, that coexistence does not mean the end of class struggle and that internal class relations should not be confused with external national relations. Yet, an imperialist government entering relations “of confidence” with the socialist camp would have to have guarantees that its class basis and vital interests would not thereby be placed in jeopardy. The attempt to separate domestic and foreign issues is mechanical and untenable.

The Soviets can cite good reason for their fear of nuclear war. The U. S.S.R. lost almost twenty million people in World War II, and the Soviet leaders realize that nuclear war with the U.S.A. would destroy their country and possibly kill every person in it. The Soviet leaders have met the awful threat of war in a way indicative of their increasing reliance on dealing at the top rather than building from the bottom – i.e., on negotiations between capitalist and socialist statesmen rather than on the actions of mass movements. They have played up the war danger at home and abroad in such a way as to spread terror at the thought. This method wins acquiescence for negotiated settlements but simultaneously numbs the masses and saps their revolutionary will. The same deadly information and legitimate fears could be a powerful weapon with which to rally the Soviet peoples against imperialism and to greater efforts in support of those fighting the social system out of which the war danger arises.

However much we may sympathize with the desires of the war-weary Soviet peoples for peace after forty-five years of revolution, civil war, intensive collectivization and industrialization, the most devastating war in history, and then the relentless pressures of the Cold War, we dare not take less than full note of where the Soviet position leads. Consider, for example, the statement of Antonin Novotny, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia: “The devastation which would be brought about by another war would be too high a price for our victory; it would throw humanity back hundreds of years and would inflict great harm on the cause of the proletarian revolutionů We are fighting for the victory of life over death and therefore our banner is peace...” Logically, one should conclude that retreat in the face of imperialist pressure, or abandonment of the national liberation movements, or anything up to – and logically not excluding – capitulation would be justified. As some American leftists said in panic during the October 1962 nuclear confrontation: Better a living world in capitalist bondage than no world at all, for where life exists there is hope of something better. Novotny and Khrushchev would doubtless protest that they are not responsible for such sentiments, that they are neither pacifists nor cowards, and that they have no intention of capitulating. The logic of their position, not their qualifications, inconsistencies, or occasional tough statements, directs the Communist and mass movements; therefore, those following this rightwing line have, despite pretenses, increasingly surrendered to pacifism and opportunism.

To pose the great question of our time as “Peace or War” leads to retreat and disorientation. Rather, we must ask, “How can peace be imposed on imperialism?” and “How can socialism guarantee itself victory in any war imperialism does unleash?” In this sense, the Chinese position offers an internally consistent approach, class analysis, and a firm strategy.

That the Chinese oppose coexistence is a slander invented by the imperialists, spread by the Titoists, and now taken up by the Khrushchev-led right wing of the world movement. The Chinese have insisted that the mobilization of the masses everywhere and the armed might of the socialist camp can impose coexistence on a reluctant bourgeoisie. They have shown little interest in discrete distinctions between “sober circles” in the West and lunatics. Apparently, they believe that the soberest imperialists would sacrifice millions if they could win and that even most lunatics are not suicidal. The Chinese emphasize the need to confront imperialism with overwhelming force – nuclear and other weapons but, above all, an alert, militant, anti-imperialist world movement.

The Soviets emphasize negotiations between heads of states, including “quiet” (that is, secret) diplomacy, establishment of an atmosphere of confidence and trust between the socialist and imperialist camps, avoidance of provocative acts, and restraint in the face of imperialist provocations. Corollaries of this approach have been sympathetic treatment of particular imperialist leaders (“My good friend, President Eisenhower”), a policy of gradualism in the underdeveloped countries, and, despite all denials, of class collaboration in the advanced countries.

Alternatively, the Chinese argue that the only way to stay the hand of the imperialists is to confront them with the power to wipe them out, to teach them that exported counterrevolutions and local wars will be fought and won by an aroused people fully backed by the socialist camp, and to educate the masses everywhere in the spirit of class struggle and hatred for all imperialists, sober and otherwise. The great strength of the Chinese position lies in its implacable hostility to all measures and postures that encourage illusions and obscure the nature of imperialism.

The Chinese defend the fundamental tenet of Marxism that international issues are class issues, that the Cold War – as Adlai Stevenson put it – is a worldwide civil war. This view does not deny the possibility or importance of splits in the bourgeois camp, but it does view such splits with two qualifications in mind. First, a policy primarily based on splitting the enemy’s forces must fail, for it presents an optimum condition as essential to victory. Reliance must be placed primarily on rallying the peoples to anti-imperialist struggle and only secondarily on splitting the imperialist forces. Second, the main tactic for splitting the imperialists must be the organization of mass opposition, not negotiations or agreements with one or another imperialist power, although the latter forms of struggle do have their proper place. Whatever divisions have been opened up in the imperialist camp have been opened up by blows, not by unnecessary concessions or diplomatic flattery. The Cuban revolution has caused U.S. imperialism a great deal of trouble with its Latin American allies. The Algerian revolution caused deep hostility between the U.S.A. and France. The Laotian civil war and the Chinese rout of Indian troops on the border have reduced SEATO to ruins. If Soviet diplomacy has driven any deep wedges in NATO, they are not apparent, for the conflict between De Gaulle and Kennedy, for example, can be accounted for by intra-imperialist rivalries and conflicts over crumbling empires, without special reference to Soviet diplomatic moves, which De Gaulle has always treated with particular contempt.

The Chinese interpret coexistence as a state in which the bourgeoisie is confronted with such overwhelming force that it cannot wage world war and in which every attempt at local aggression is rebuffed. They believe that the bourgeoisie will accept coexistence only if it learns through experience that every resort to violence will be met with greater violence. The Soviets, on the other hand, speak of coexistence as a state of genuine peace and friendship and place their main reliance on their ability to work with sane elements among the ruling class. There is nothing “clever” about this Soviet view, and people who see it merely as a propaganda screen behind which Khrushchev winks at the world Communist movement and secretly encourages another view are merely deluding themselves. No amount of winks can undo the damage done by references to “My good friend, President Eisenhower,” “sober circles that genuinely want peace,” etc., for these clearly tell the masses that imperialism can overcome its own predatory nature under restrained and wise leadership. To put it bluntly, it is a swindle and reveals what little weight the present Soviet leadership gives to the ideological clarity and power of the masses.


In August 1957 the Soviets announced possession of ICBM’s; in October they startled the world with Sputnik. The Chinese have never placed their main emphasis on weaponry and had, especially since their own conquest of power, seen the people’s movements tipping the scales against imperialism; neither have they been naive about weaponry, for they have always seen it as an important element in the total relationship of forces. The differing Soviet and Chinese estimates of the military significance of the ICBM’s and Sputniks reflected differing estimates of the total relationship of forces. For convenience, we shall try to isolate the military aspect first.

In 1953 the Soviet General, Talensky, opposed traditional strategic ideas and insisted that the first phase of a nuclear war could determine its outcome. By 1955 the Soviet leadership appears to have accepted this viewpoint. Until 1957 the U.S.S.R. was highly vulnerable, for it was surrounded by U.S. bases. The Soviets could have devastated and probably overrun Western Europe but could not have effectively retaliated against the U.S. directly. The ICBM’s and Sputnik’s demonstration of tremendous rocket power changed the relationship of forces and brought the U.S.A. direct into the line of fire.

To the Chinese these developments constituted the long-awaited military breakthrough supplementing the fundamental political breakthrough of the post-World War II collapse of the great empires. They believed that the U.S. A. would never again be able to catch up in advanced weaponry. A leading Chinese editorial in 1957 claimed that, “The United States may achieve fruitful results in experiments and even come to possess both earth satellites and ICBM’s. But the Soviet Union is advancing at a faster speed than that of the capitalist countries. The United States is definitely lagging behind, and permanently so.” There can be no doubt that the Chinese judgment on this point was wrong, although some argue – unconvincingly in my opinion – that it might have been proven accurate under a different Soviet policy. In any case, the Chinese did not then and have never based their strategy on such a judgment, however much it may have influenced their thinking, for they have always insisted on the decisiveness of the struggles of the masses. Since part of the total relationship of forces is weaponry and since the Chinese saw the 1957 developments as a military turning point they seem to have demanded (all discussions of military matters have of course been heavily veiled, so we can never be sure) a policy designed to open the greatest possible gap between Soviet and U.S. nuclear capability.

The U.S.S.R. never agreed with Chinese estimates of the significance of the ICBM’s and Sputnik and rejected the idea that the U. S. S. R. was or could be militarily stronger than the U. S. A. The Soviets apparently believed that they had acquired sufficient power to deter U.S. aggression and that only “insane” imperialists would dare attack the U.S.S.R.

The U.S.S.R. has, especially since 1957, been forced to make agonizing decisions. The U.S.A. is a much richer country and can allocate many more resources with much less strain for arms. This simple fact has conditioned a U.S. policy, stated most clearly by Rockefeller, to slow down appreciably Soviet economic construction by forcing the U.S.S.R. to spend vast sums on nuclear weapons. The maximum diversion of resources and the consequent program of economic austerity would mean a postponement for decades of the dream of overtaking and surpassing the U.S.A. economically. The Soviets therefore regarded the Chinese call to maximum readiness as wrong on two counts: it represented a dangerous underestimation of U.S. technology and industrial power, which could match any Soviet military effort, and it represented a naive reaction to what, in effect, was viewed as an imperialist trap designed to frustrate socialist construction, terrorize the world with the spectre of a frantic Soviet nuclear build-up, alienate the Communist leadership from its peoples by forcing abandonment of long-standing promises, and prevent the U.S.S.R. from acting as a magnet for uncommitted peoples. The appeal of the Soviet position stems from the general recognition that Chinese hopes for a meaningful military advantage over the U.S.A. in the next few years is utopian.

The more cautious course followed by the Soviet leaders, whatever its merits and however correct it may be in some particulars, has been fraught with dangers. U.S. and other military experts have come to conclude that the Soviet dependence on minimal deterrence presented the imperialists with an opportunity to open up a big nuclear gap and to lay the U. S. S. R. open to devastation by a first-strike. We need not review the military side of the subject now, for David Gordon’s article in the last issue of MLQ provides an admirably succinct treatment (cf., “Inventory for Terror, ” pp. 53-71, esp. pp. 62-63).

The actual military capability of the U.S.S.R. constitutes only one side of the problem. The other side is the possibility that U.S. imperialism underestimates Soviet strength or believes that, in a direct confrontation, the U.S.S.R. would not use the strength it has. If provocative and adventurist acts can lead to a nuclear holocaust, so can a posture so defensive and timid that it encourages the aggressor to believe his foe cannot or will not fight. Kennedy’s decision to risk nuclear confrontation over Cuba represented implementation of a strategy of nuclear blackmail. Sooner or later the U.S.S.R. will have to stare that threat in the face and refuse to back away. However dangerous has been the Chinese illusion that a meaningful military advantage could have been or can be secured by the U. S. -S.R., their estimates of imperialism’s program and the way to fight it are every day being proven correct. Unfortunately, the Chinese argument has been greatly undermined among American and other Western Communists by the impression that the Chinese underestimate the devastation that would accompany nuclear war.


Tough Chinese pronouncements on nuclear war – “We are against it, but we are not afraid of it” – have led some to believe that the Chinese underestimate the effects of nuclear war and have led others, especially militant Communists, to assume that perhaps the fears of total or near-total destruction of the world have been unjustified. Critics have generally assumed that the Chinese have been made victims of their glorious past, in which they conquered power by protracted war and valuing people over weapons. Others have accused the Chinese of a cynical “Let’s you and him fight” attitude, which allegedly reflects Chinese confidence in the survival of 200,000,000 or more Chinese, whatever happens to the Soviets, Americans, and West Europeans. The latter point, so put, is sheer villification, although all Communists must take an internationalist outlook and prepare to have Communist forces take power in those areas of the world which survive a war unleashed by the imperialists.

Those who think that the Chinese underestimate the effects of nuclear war refer to Mao’s description of U.S. imperialism and nuclear weapons as “paper tigers” and to such statements as appeared in Long Live Leninism! (1960): “An awakened people will always find new ways to counteract a reactionary superiority in arms and win victory for themselves.. .It is certain that if the U.S. or other imperialists.. .should dare to launch a war using atomic or nuclear weapons, the result will be the very speedy destruction of these monsters encircled by the peoples of the world, and the result will certainly not be the annihilation of mankind.” The prediction that nuclear war will destroy imperialism but not mankind is a mere assertion; the Chinese have presented no scientific evidence to refute the growing conviction among scientists, supported by impressive data, that the continued stockpiling of nuclear weapons by the two great powers will soon reach a point at which the human race might not survive their delivery.

The Chinese know as much about the probable effects of nuclear war as anyone else, and, contrary to opportunist propaganda, they are far from being dogmatists incapable of understanding the implications of the new technology. Why then have they repeatedly underestimated nuclear weaponry? I should suggest three reasons: 1. their military position has made it difficult for them to do otherwise; 2. their estimate of the international situation is such that they do not believe that nuclear war can be ruled out and therefore they insist on preparation to win it, if it comes; 3. their fundamental approach is to combat all attempts to use the war danger to disorient the revolutionary cause and, on the contrary, to use it to advance that cause. Let us explore each in turn:

1. The Chinese Military Position – China does not have nuclear weapons – a fact easily taken for granted – and therefore finds itself in an unenviable position. U.S. imperialism has the power to wipe out much or all of China; the 7th Fleet alone is a wholly nuclear-armed fleet with the fire power to demolish the heavily populated China coast. The U. S.S.R. has not given China nuclear weapons and has in several instances proven an unreliable ally (e.g., by refusing to equip the Chinese with the equivalent of the sidewinder missile, which Eisenhower gave the Nationalists during the 1958 duel in the Taiwan straits and by the formidable support given to India). No one anywhere has solved the difficult psychological-political problem of how to tell the people the full story of nuclear weapons without disorienting them into a better-oppressed-than-dead attitude. For the Chinese government to have dwelt on the capabilities of weapons possessed by its enemies and its unreliable ally, but not by itself would have opened the door to unforeseen and dangerous popular reactions. The Chinese have generally insisted on a policy of telling the people the truth in order to arm and arouse them to struggle, but it would be unrealistic to expect them to have opened a Pandora’s box without at least a few years of careful thought and preparation.

China is expected to explode its first nuclear device in 1963 and to attain a limited nuclear capability by 1966. If the present analysis is valid, Chinese statements tending to play down the effects of nuclear war ought to recede with these developments, and, indeed, the celebrated reply to Palmiro Togliatti (December 31, 1962) took a long step toward blunt and realistic Appraisal of those effects.

2. The Chinese Estimate of the War Danger – The Chinese formulation that, ultimately, the decision to unleash nuclear war rests on the imperialists is correct and essential to an understanding of the present war danger. If the people cannot guarantee peace no matter how great their efforts, they must, while doing their best to pre vent war, prepare to win any war the imperialists start. We can recognize the possibility that war means the end of the human race – and therefore do everything in our power to prevent it – but we cannot raise that possibility to a certainty, nor can we place such stress on it as to disarm the people in the face of imperialist determination to wage war. The only rational course is to emphasize the possibilities for the survival of part of the human race and to prepare to mobilize that part for the socialist reconstruction. Such is the Chinese view. If the Soviets have something to counterpose to it, they have not said. Occasional brave words about dealing a “fitting rebuff” to any aggressor do not constitute a policy of mobilization of the masses against imperialism and preparing them to face the worst if necessary. When such words are coupled with repeated warnings against the horrors of nuclear war and the “sanity” of imperialist leaders in the face of those horrors, they merely provoke pacifism, fear, resignation, and reliance on top-level negotiations between states – all of which increase, not decrease, the war danger.

3. The Chinese Approach to Fighting for Peace – The great and insufficiently appreciated value of the Chinese line is that it strengthens the fight for peace and coexistence. If the imperialists face an enemy capable of destroying them, they would be unwilling to go to war except as a suicidal act. No one can guarantee that the imperialists would not choose to die, if they could wipe out their hated foes in one grand funeral pyre. The suicidal impulse would be much more easily checked if the imperialists knew that the forces of socialism would emerge triumphant in all surviving areas – in that case, they could wipe out the U.S.S.R. and perhaps even China, but they would be defeated by those flying the Communist banner anyway. To the extent that the bourgeoisie fights for its civilization and ideas, and not just for its property – and it is to this extent that the bourgeoisie will consider suicide – it can be encircled by the masses of the world.

The Chinese pronouncements on nuclear war, however clumsy or one-sided they may have been in the past, represent a plea for fundamental reliance on the people, not as a bit of cheap romantic posturing but as an urgent practical need. When the Soviets join the imperialists in raising the spectre of nuclear confrontations in every crisis, no matter how isolated or limited, they badly underestimate the fluidity of the world situation and the complexity of political forces and overestimate purely military considerations.

U.S. imperialism cannot, unless it is ready for suicide, opt for nuclear war over a revolution, say, in the Congo. Who even among the European imperialists, directly in the line of Soviet fire, would countenance nuclear brinkmanship directed against the U. S.S.R. over the seizure of power by the Lumumbists in Leopoldville ? Who would believe that the Soviets could stop such a revolution if they wanted to? Khrushchev apparently fears that such revolutions would bring U. S. intervention and compel Soviet counter-intervention. Perhaps so, but U.S. intervention has been and can be defeated by the people of a small country; counter-intervention has been and can be undertaken without provoking nuclear war, if the peoples of the world are mobilized in support – not paralyzed in fear of – anti-imperialist revolutions. U. S. imperialism could not use nuclear weapons in Laos and cannot in Viet Nam, for a military victory bought at such a price would be a catastrophic defeat. If U.S. imperialism were to threaten nuclear war over any change in the status quo and if it were ready to carry out that threat, war would at that moment become inevitable. Nothing except a willingness to surrender could then prevent war. Short of that fateful and improbable moment, the encirclement of imperialism by the forces of socialism and national liberation present* the best hope of forcing imperialism into coexistence and of winning any war it is inane enough to unleash.


The U.S.S.R. has provided important economic and military assistance to newly independent states, among which are many that brutally suppress Communist movements. The Soviets have repeatedly and proudly pointed to their principled abstention from attaching any political strings to such assistance. Ironically, they can make no such claims for their economic relations with such socialist countries as Albania and China, which have been subjected to the same kind of pressure for which Khrushchev attacked Stalin’s policy toward Yugoslavia. The Chinese have indicated opposition to major assistance, especially military, to regimes, even socialist ones like Yugoslavia’s, that are outside the socialist camp unless they are in armed struggle against imperialism or are pursuing a firm anti-imperialist foreign policy.

Khrushchev’s policy of supporting bourgeois nationalist regimes in underdeveloped countries is a traditional Leninist one. Given Lenin’s theory of imperialism, the most important objective for the socialist camp ought to be to guarantee that these countries shut out imperialist economic control, for the emergence of an economically independent Asia, Africa, and Latin America, even on a bourgeois basis, would weaken imperialism and cause mounting difficulties in the advanced capitalist countries. Toward this end, the U.S.S.R. has encouraged neutralism and the idea of a third camp forming a “zone of peace.” For the short run, Soviet policy is based on alliances with the national bourgeoisie of the underdeveloped countries and on a positive estimate of its willingness and ability to remain on guard against imperialist subjugation.

Against this approach the Chinese have juxtaposed a less orthodox analysis that, in effect, accuses the Soviets of inability to see the new world situation. The Chinese viewpoint may be summed up as follows: The increasing power of the socialist camp is forcing and will increasingly force each national bourgeoisie into an accommodation with imperialism in order to suppress its own revolutionary movements and protect itself against the power of the socialist camp, which, if nothing else, acts as a magnet attracting radical elements in its own country. For example, the national bourgeoisie of Latin America has shifted markedly to the right since the Cuban revolution. Although it still can play a positive role in certain early stages of anti-imperialist struggle, the national bourgeoisie is now wary of close alliance with the Left and is increasingly willing to compromise with imperialism rather than risk opening the road to power to some new Fidel.

A policy of encouraging all “neutralist” national bourgeois regimes can only end in strengthening counterrevolutionaries who will wipe out the leftwing elements in their countries, draw off resources badly needed by the socialist camp, disillusion and disorient the radical elements and the masses of the underdeveloped countries, compromise communism by identifying it with the bankrupt and self-defeating policies of the Kassems and Nassers, and create the illusion that one can be neutral between imperialism and socialism and that an organization like the U.N. can rise above its own class composition.

The new nations will force imperialism into more equitable relations anyway, for that much is in the interest of the national bourgeoisie, which, if it makes an accommodation without preserving substantial independence for itself and without wresting major concessions, only hastens the day of its own demise. From every point of view, the socialist camp ought to follow a policy of correct and friendly relations with bourgeois nationalists but ought to give important aid only to those revolutionaries who are in arms against imperialism or who carry their countries into close association with the socialist camp. Full encouragement ought to be given those who seek to sharpen the class struggle in the new nations and who fight for socialism. Any aid to a Nasser that is used against the Arab Left represents a double defeat: the deflection of aid that ought to have gone elsewhere and the strengthening of those engaged in crushing the forces of socialism. For the socialist camp the aim must be to win and build up as many solid allies as possible for the anti-imperialist struggle.

The Soviets see time on their side and think that a socialist victory in the economic race will eventually outflank each national bourgeoisie or even win it over to socialism. They look with favor on nationalization of industry and other state capitalist measures in underdeveloped countries as smoothing the way for socialism. The Chinese see the bourgeoisie of such countries accommodating themselves to imperialism and drifting back to the West.

Recent events, especially the adventurist and reactionary course of the Nehru regime, have no doubt strengthened this Chinese conviction. Nationalization in India, Indonesia, and the U.A.R., for example, seem to be strengthening regimes representing landlords, big bourgeois, and rich peasants. The arms sent to Iraq and Syria have been used to overthrow vacillating, opportunist regimes and to replace them with viciously anti-communist juntas seeking to arrest a leftwing drift and to “normalize” relations with Washington. The massive Soviet arms shipments to Indonesia were used to frighten the Dutch out of West Irian yesterday and may be used to undermine the proposed reactionary Federation of Malaysia today, but in the hands of General Nasution and his officer corps, they will probably be used against the Indonesian people tomorrow. As economic difficulties beset regimes unwilling to institute socialist planning, their leadership becomes more and more frightened of the masses, more disillusioned with the socialist camp, which can effect no miracles for them, and more willing to turn back to the West. The way to prevent such a turn is to strengthen and encourage the socialist forces in these countries so that leadership passes from the national bourgeoisie to the workers and peasants.

The Soviet and Chinese positions clash again over the question of what to do about wars of liberation and local wars. In January 1961, Khrushchev agreed with those Chinese spokesmen who had been insisting that just wars were inevitable so long as imperialism does not grant independence to the colonial peoples. He agreed also that Communists must give the forces of national liberation full support. Since Khrushchev has repeatedly condemned local wars he had to make some fine distinctions. Wars of national liberation are to be considered popular insurrections rather than wars between states. The problem is that the Kennedy administration has made it clear that it accepts no such distinction. In practice the Soviets tend to view each protracted struggle as cause for alarm since it raises the spectre of intervention and escalation. The Chinese see the Soviet attitude as one that discourages revolutionary movements, and they urge that such movements be given every possible encouragement. The Chinese do not believe that revolutionary struggles can be prevented or should be discouraged; they do expect U. S. intervention and escalation; and they insist on a policy of dealing blow for blow while being ready to match any serious imperialist attempt to negotiate honorably.


We cannot here review all the questions bearing on the dispute, but mention must be made of one. Soviet actions toward China, like those toward other socialist countries, have reeked with big-power chauvinism. The list of studied Soviet insults directed toward the proud Chinese people, who have suffered quite enough insults from the imperialists during the last 150 years, has reached appalling proportions. We need only mention Khrushchev’s proposal to have India, rather than China, represent Asia at a summit meeting on the Lebanese crisis of 1958, his tour of India at the very moment when Sino-Indian relations were deteriorating and when he might have been in Peking for the celebrations of the anniversary of the Sino-Soviet Friendship Treaty instead of in New Delhi warmly praising China’s enemies.

What can be said at the sight of an East German Communist convention at which the leader of the fraternal Chinese delegation is booed and hissed? We cannot overlook the arrogance and viciousness of such a party, which did not fire a shot in the face of Hitler’s ferocious counterrevolution. We cannot ignore the racist element in such a performance: the Chinese party represents the greatest noncaucasian socialist country; the German party represents a country long noted for its national chauvinism and racism. When we consider that the East German party does not make a move without Khrushchev’s approval, we cannot escape the conclusion that Soviet insults toward the Chinese are more than a matter of gauche behavior and that they represent the most dangerous kind of flirtation with bourgeois and even prebourgeois methods of struggle and ideological perversion.

Ironically, Khrushchev has defended his opportunist embrace of Tito as a correction of Stalin’s great-power chauvinism. That Stalin’s actions toward Yugoslavia contained elements of chauvinism need not be denied, but that is hardly reason to embrace Tito. Chinese hostility toward the Yugoslav government is based on irrefutable facts: that Tito helped the U.S.A. to suppress the Greek revolution; that the Titoists have encouraged Nasser and the Arab Baathists in their anti-Communist course; that the Titoists have developed and are spreading a large body of doctrine suggesting that revolution is no longer necessary and that the Marxist theory of the state is out-of-date; that the Titoists have been instrumental in organizing support for India against China in the border war; and that Yugoslavia has abandoned in theory and practice the Leninist theory of imperialism.

Khrushchev’s rapprochement with Tito represents his capitulation to Titoist revisionism and, if anything, has strengthened the chauvinistic tendencies in Soviet policy by widening the gulf with the Chinese and other noncaucasian Communist who are bearing the brunt of revolutionary struggle.


The Sino-Soviet disputes are the center of a crisis gripping the world Communist movement. Linked to Soviet fear of nuclear confrontation is the fear, unstated but undeniable, that the U.S. government would regard a socialist revolution in France or Italy as a cause of war against the Soviet camp. Many believe that the Communist Parties of Italy and France were in a position to strike for power in 1946 and perhaps later but that fear of U.S. intervention and the opening of a general war at a time when the U.S.S.R. was relatively weak caused the Communists to use great restraint.

Today, there is even greater fear that a socialist revolution in Italy, France, or West Germany would be the first blow of a nuclear world war. Our Italian and French comrades are therefore in an immensely difficult and dangerous position. It would be easy to condemn them for loss of revolutionary zeal, and perhaps they deserve it, but the case for restraint is strong. It does not follow that it ought to be applied elsewhere. On the contrary, the perilous European balance makes it all the more imperative that imperialism be encircled and outflanked. To deduce from a need for restraint in Europe – assuming such a need could be demonstrated – a need for restraint elsewhere is to follow a line of reasoning the logical outcome of which is capitulation to imperialism. The gravest fault of the Italian and French parties is their attempt to impose such a line on the world movement.

For the American Left it ought to be clear that ours is a special task: that of removing the war danger by tearing up its root, by overthrowing imperialism. If the forces for peace on a world scale compel the imperialists to coexist, and there is no general nuclear war, favorable opportunities will be opened up for a renewed socialist offensive in the United States. For the immediate future our task is to make the idea of socialism and the ideology of Marxism part of the thinking of the American people. Our commitment must be to open struggle for socialism and for open socialist propaganda. Our people must be made to see that only American socialism can guarantee peace and solve the general crisis that will undoubtedly deepen in the period ahead.

In reaffirming our commitment to an open struggle for socialism and for building a socialist movement, alongside a peace movement, we are taking a position wholly consistent with the interparty Declarations of 1957 and 1960. On the other hand, the American Communist Party’s support of Kennedy and its general abandonment of class struggle and the fight for socialism ostensibly because of the greater and separate need to fight for peace flatly contradict those statements.

It is now apparent that those Declarations, especially that of 1960, were unsuccessful attempts to compromise viewpoints that could not be compromised. The Chinese, the Soviets, the Italians, the French, and others have interpreted them quite differently, and there is little to be gained by insisting that one interpretation is the true one: Even if so, nothing is going to be settled and no one is going to be convinced of the correctness of a particular line by quotations from those documents. The question worth examining is the relationship of the CPUSA to those statements, for it is clear that the CPUSA is following a policy openly condoned by no group in the international movement, with the possible exception of the Titoists.

Let us assume for a moment that the Soviet line is correct. What then should be the policy of American Communists? Should they support the liberal wing of the Democratic Party in the hope that they represent the “sane and sober” circles of which Khrushchev so often speaks? Should they abandon the struggle for socialism on the grounds that it weakens the struggle for peaceful coexistence? Both these tactics have been embraced by the CPUSA, but neither is a logical deduction from the international line (at least as formally presented) to which it is committed.

There is no logical basis for assuming that liberal Democrats are less warlike than conservative Republicans, and often the reverse is true. A man like Charles Wilson, former president of GM and Secretary of Defense in Eisenhower’s cabinet, proved to be as “sober” as any important cabinet member in the last three administrations. What, on the other hand, can be said about the “sobriety” and “reasonableness” of Walter Rostow, Senator Douglas, Dean Acheson, or the Kennedys ? Obviously, Communist support of the liberals rests on a series of dubious assumptions such as that advocates of medicare are more likely to favor peace, that Communists should support any party enjoying the support of the trade union movement, and so forth. Such a policy is particularly opportunistic since its “mainstream” philosophy cannot explain how advocates of Cold War and even hot war policies can and do pose successfully as advocates of the welfare state and social reform. Consequently, progressives are led to support the Kennedys (why not the Rockefellers too?) because of their stand on certain domestic issues and are simultaneously and unwittingly led to support the cold war general staff.

There is, in any case, no excuse for abandoning the fight for socialism or for arguing that the fight for peace takes precedence. First, if the CPUSA still accepts the Leninist theory of imperialism, it must admit that there can be no guarantee of peace while U.S. imperialism exists. Therefore the fight for peaceful coexistence is a fight to establish favorable grounds for a transition to socialism. The fight for peace must proceed together with the fight for socialism. Second, no peace movement can expect to win millions to its banner unless it is able to indicate the source of the war danger – that is, unless it is able to expose the nature of imperialism and rouse the masses to anti-imperialist struggle. Pacifism has never been able to survive international crisis, for it has never been able to direct its blows against the main enemies of peace. In short, the policies of the CPUSA are the result of a long history of opportunism and of illusions about the liberal bourgeoisie; they are not valid deductions from the line that the Soviet party is presenting to the world.

It would nonetheless be an error to ignore the real bond between the CPUSA’s policies and the Soviet position. The opportunism of the Soviet line – its class collaborationsm – once accepted, can proceed, and here has proceeded, beyond the bounds set for it by Soviet theorists. The Soviet party has never officially condoned the line of the CPUSA and may even be appalled by it, but it has retained and will retain a policy of noninterference for reasons other than respect for party autonomy (it has not hesitated to condemn alleged leftist deviations). The Soviet party needs support in the present intra-movement struggle, and the support of those operating inside the imperialist colossus is especially useful. It is significant that a party as opportunist, revisionist, and capitulationist as the American is able, comfortably, to rally to the Soviet line and is willing to use administrative methods to shut off intraparty debate and expel those who demur.

For those who are working to build a party that is true to Leninism and free from slavish adherence to formulas and rituals, certain tasks are clear:

1. Recognize and fight to have others recognize, the correctness and urgency of a worldwide policy of anti-imperialist struggle, and specifically to repudiate all tendencies to fear struggle and to capitulate to nuclear blackmail;

2. Insist on our right and duty to make independent analysis while we adhere to the principle of disciplined proletarian internationalism;

3. Redouble our efforts to press the fight for a mass socialist movement in the United States and for a broader anti-imperialist peace movement;

4. Work for unity among American Leninists as part of a broader contribution to a reconstructed unity of Leninists on a world scale, on a program of firm opposition to imperialism and of primary reliance on mass action.