There are experiences which people should praise and there are experiences which should make people grieve. Communists and revolutionaries in all countries should ponder and seriously study these experiences of success and failure so as to draw correct conclusions and useful lessons from them. – Declaration of the RIM.
4.1 The dawn of the twentieth century saw the consolidation of capitalist domination into the world-wide system of imperialist oppression, and a new phase of revolutionary proletarian struggle. The October Revolution of 1917 in Russia was an historic breakthrough for the proletariat and other oppressed peoples throughout the whole planet. For the first time in history, apart from the brief period of the Paris Commune, the proletariat, under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party, succeeded in establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat on an enduring basis. This brought about a decisive split in the international socialist movement as organised by the Second International between the revisionist elements who rejected the revolutionary road to socialism, such as the British Labour Party, and revolutionary forces, such as the Bolsheviks in Russia, who firmly upheld the fundamental principles of proletarian revolution in both theory and practice; The October Revolution was a great clarion call to the truly revolutionary forces throughout the world and the political struggles around the end of World War I culminated in the formation of the Communist International in 1919, a world-wide organisation of Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries dedicated to the twin and related objectives of leading the masses in revolutionary struggle for socialist revolution in the imperialist countries, and for national-democratic revolution against imperialism in the colonial and neo-colonial regions. The October Revolution has fundamentally changed the modern world because ever since this momentous upheaval successful revolution by the working class and oppressed masses throughout the world has been a real possibility.
4.2 By the mid-1920s the high tide of revolutionary upsurge following the convulsions brought about by World War I was on the ebb, despite the efforts of the Communist International to promote revolutionary insurrection. The Soviet Union was the only country in the world where the dictatorship of the proletariat was in force although it was established in far from the most favourable conditions. The devastation of the imperialist war was followed by a protracted revolutionary civil war in which the little industrial base this economically backward country had was largely destroyed. The only way some economic recovery and social stability could be brought about in these desperate conditions was by the proletarian state through its New Economic Policy promoting a certain amount of capitalist economic activity under state supervision, a policy of state capitalism. So the only proletarian state in the world was not only isolated in a world still dominated by capitalism but was itself located in a society still characterised by capitalist relations of production and lacking the developed industrial economic basis that socialists had always assumed was a prerequisite for the socialist transformation of society.
4.3 An intense ideological and political struggle arose in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) over what was the correct course of action for the Soviet state to deal with these difficult circumstances. A minority of the party, principally led by Leon Trotsky, put forward the line that it was not possible for an economically backward country with a small proletariat to engage in sustained socialist construction and transformation without assistance from a victorious proletariat in the advanced capitalist countries such as Britain and Germany. In the absence of proletarian revolution in the advanced countries the Soviet Union was doomed to extinction, both as a result of its internal contradictions and its external imperialist enemies.
4.4 This defeatist line was opposed by the majority of the CPSU under the leadership of Comrade Joseph Stalin. These comrades upheld the Leninist line that at the stage of monopoly capitalism, the chain of imperialism might well be expected to break at its weakest links, i.e. in some of the least capitalistically developed regions of the world, especially those dominated and exploited by the imperialist countries. While the proletariat was only a small minority in such countries it could lead revolutionary upheavals and transformation provided that it formed a strong and enduring alliance with the great mass of the people, the peasantry. In a country such as the Soviet Union where the proletariat had achieved state power as a result of its alliance with the peasantry it would be possible to begin socialist construction and transformation although the final victory of socialism would only be assured when a considerable number of countries were under proletarian rule. An important factor favouring the survival and development of the Soviet Union was the rising tide of revolt among the oppressed people in the colonies and neo-colonies which was weakening the imperialist powers and thus limiting the capacity of these reactionary forces to attack the Soviet Union.
4.5 After several years of intense struggle the defeatist Trotskyist line, essentially a gradualist, Menshevik policy, was overwhelmingly defeated by a vote of the whole membership of the CPSU taken in 1927. In 1928 the First Five Year Plan to begin the socialist transformation of industry and agriculture commenced. In the countryside the poor peasantry were mobilised in intense class struggle to expropriate the petit bourgeois farms and collectivise agriculture so as to apply modern methods and increase output. At the same time a massive industrialisation drive began to create the basic heavy industry necessary to develop a modern industrial economy. Under the leadership of the Communist Party the Soviet workers applied themselves with enormous revolutionary enthusiasm to the gigantic tasks they faded. By the late 1930s the Soviet Union had been transformed from a backyard agricultural society into one with a modern industrial economy. This astonishing achievement, unprecedented in its rapidity before or since was the most practical demonstration of the creative powers of the working masses when unconstrained by the chains of capitalism and when inspired with revolutionary fervour. The Leninist theory of socialism in one country, upheld and applied by Stalin and his comrades had proven itself in the most practical way.
4.6 This first great experiment in socialist construction was an intense learning experience for the proletariat and inevitably mistakes were made. Some of these mistakes provided the basis for new, correct courses of action, but other mistakes went unrecognised at the time. Despite the overwhelmingly positive side of this great revolutionary transformation there was also a subsidiary negative side which in the course of time would grow such as to subvert and overthrow socialism in the USSR. A clear distinction was not always made between contradictions among the people and contradictions between the people and the enemy. In particular, the struggle to collectivise the land was often conducted in an antagonistic way when non-antagonistic methods were appropriate. This considerably weakened the worker-peasant alliance and thus the whole basis of the proletarian state. Although the means of production were brought into state ownership the relations of production within the organisation of workplaces continued to be bourgeois ones with sharp divisions between managers and technicians on one side and workers on the other, in other words a continuation of the division between mental and manual labour. This was reflected in the ideological superstructure where education was organised in such a way as to select a minority of young proletarians for special training as a new elite of communist administrators. It was precisely these people who in the course of time eventually gained control of the state apparatus and economy and came to constitute a new capitalist class – the state bourgeoisie. Stalin and his comrades did not grasp the fact that the failure to thoroughly revolutionise the relations of production would result in new bourgeois elements being thrown up and at the same time as they were trying to suppress such reactionary trends these comrades were proclaiming the end of antagonistic class struggle. This reached a height in the 1930s, when the abolition of antagonistic class relationships was proclaimed, with the implication that the state was irreversibly proletarian. Thus continuing struggles to maintain proletarian politics in command were not undertaken.
4.7 Nonetheless, despite these errors this first experience at beginning socialist transformation was on the whole positive and without its fruits the Soviet people would never have been able to withstand and defeat the fascist onslaught which came in 1941. Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries are proud to uphold and defend the achievements of the Soviet workers and their communists during this period. In the struggle to develop revolutionary consciousness among sections of the working class it is vital that we present this experience for the great advance by our class that it really was and that we expose and spit upon the attempts of Trotskyists and other revisionists to denigrate the Soviet people and their Communist Party during this period under the leadership of Comrade Stalin.
4.8 At the same time as socialist construction was forging ahead in the Soviet Union, the class struggle in the imperialist countries was not going well despite the establishment of communist parties and the onset of a major, world-wide economic “depression. In particular, the triumph of the most extreme form of bourgeois reaction, fascism, in Germany, a country with a strong communist party, came as a deep shock to the international communist movement. In many of the communist parties of the imperialist countries there had never been a complete break with the parliamentary reformism of the Second International and now these wavering elements in the communist parties backed off from revolutionary struggle to overthrow capitalism and called for a defensive policy of working class alliance with the less openly reactionary bourgeois and petit bourgeois political forces against the parties of open fascist reaction. Thus the ground was laid for the policy of the United Front Against Fascism which was adopted at the Seventh World Congress of the Comintern in 1935. The policy incorrectly argued that it was possible to heal the split in the imperialist working class that Lenin had first analysed. It called for the election of Popular Front anti-fascist governments in the imperialist countries to maintain ’democracy’ and defend the position of the working class. Another force making for the adoption of this policy was that in the absence of proletarian revolution elsewhere the Soviet leaders were increasingly equating advancing the interests of the international proletariat with whatever manoeuvres were necessary to defend the Soviet Union. Consequently, a fundamentally false distinction was made between the ’fascist’ imperialist countries such as Germany, Italy and Japan who were seen as the enemy and the ’democratic’ imperialist countries such as Britain and France who were seen as having progressive possibilities. The working class was called upon to engage in reformist, parliamentary methods of struggle in the ’democratic’ countries and the oppressed people under the imperialist domination of these countries were urged to temporarily moderate their national liberation struggles. This United Front Policy was a revisionist line and resulted in many of the communist parties in practice abandoning revolutionary struggle for parliamentary reformism. The line called for, and in practice led to, the working class in imperialist countries allying with their own ruling class and defending the national interests of that ruling class. This policy marked a definite retreat from revolutionary proletarian internationalism as was evidenced by the dissolution of the Comintern in 1943. The consequence of the policy is that many of the European communist parties and those in the colonial and neo-colonial countries were unable to take advantage of the revolutionary possibilities thrown lip by World War II. This was a great setback for the international proletariat.
4.9 In the period following World War II the major breakthrough for the communist movement was in China where the workers and peasants and other anti-imperialist forces led by the Communist Party of China finally won the revolutionary civil war against the pro-imperialist Nationalist forces in 1949. The consolidation of this new democratic revolution was followed by revolutionary struggles to bring about socialist transformation from 1952 onwards. This great breakthrough, which brought one quarter of the world’s population into the socialist camp, was possible because the great strength of the Soviet Union, despite massive losses in World War II, made the western imperialists wary of waging all-out war to suppress the Chinese revolution. However, the main reason for the triumph of the revolution in China was the firm revolutionary leadership provided by the Communist Party of China. Although the communist forces engaged in various alliances with classes and strata other than the workers and the peasants in the 1930s and 1940s, they never for a moment abandoned the struggle to ensure that the proletariat had a leading hegemonic position in the national democratic revolution. Instead of allowing the revisionist line propagated by the Third International under the title ’United Front Against Fascism’ the Chinese communists led the workers and peasants in an alliance with other forces which capitalised on their progressive stances and attacked their weaknesses: it never sacrificed revolutionary interests for the narrow interests of the national ruling class or the pro-imperialist forces.
4.10 Meanwhile the eastern European countries which had been liberated from fascism by the Soviet Red Army and in some cases by their own communist led, anti-fascist forces were established as People’s Democracies. The regimes set up were based upon a range of progressive anti-fascist elements as well as communist parties. The intention was that while they were not proletarian states they would resist alliance with and incorporation into the US-led western imperialist bloc, while creating the opportunity that in the course of time, a developing revolutionary consciousness among the working class could lead to socialist transformation by means of full proletarian revolution. In reality what happened is that the communist parties in these countries, based on the power of the Red Army rather than popular mass support, fairly quickly removed other elements from the state apparatus and claimed that this, by itself, could lead to full socialist transformation. These ’revolutions’ from above were a major departure from the principles of Marxism-Leninism which asserts that socialism can only be built as a result of proletarian revolution from below to establish proletarian state power. Thus it was inevitable that no real socialist transformation would occur in these countries but instead forms of state monopoly capitalism emerged. The only exception to this dismal pattern was Albania where genuine socialist developments occurred. The tragic story of what has happened to the workers and peasants of Eastern Europe is to a considerable extent the result of applying right opportunist policies, of backing away from the unavoidable necessity for violent revolution, smashing the existing bourgeois state, to establish proletarian state power.
4.11 The political strength of the USSR was apparent for all to see during World War II when despite a tremendous fascist onslaught, the Soviet workers and peasants stood firm and sustained tremendous loss of life and destruction, but went on to completely rout the German Nazis and their allies. After World War II the Soviet people threw themselves into reconstructing the economy and infrastructure that they had struggled so hard to build in the 1930s, but there were no further mass struggles to carry forwards the revolutionary transformations of the relations of productions in workplaces. A new state bourgeoisie of managers and administrators was emerging within the very heart of the communist party. Examples of this emergent class were people like Krushchev and Brezhnev who came from solid proletarian backgrounds and had risen through the ranks of the CPSU but who as a result of the positions and roles they took up had developed a thoroughly bourgeois attitude and outlook. In the late 1940s and early 1950s Stalin and the other genuine Marxist-Leninists in the CPSU recognised the existence of such dangerous bourgeois tendencies within the communist movement but were unable to grasp what factors were generating such people. Instead of leading mass struggles to overthrow the capitalist roaders, Stalin and his comrades resorted to imprisonment and execution of such people thus dealing only with the symptoms of the illness and not treating its fundamental causes. Despite being the leader of a party and international movement which committed grave errors in the course of the revolutionary struggle, Comrade Stalin still stands out as a great proletarian revolutionary leader. Marxist-Leninists should uphold the correct revolutionary side of Stalin and staunchly defend him against the slanderous accusations of Trotskyists and other reactionary elements. If we throw away the sword of Stalin then we throwaway the sword of Lenin, which in turn means discarding the principles of proletarian revolution elaborated by Marx and Engels.
4.12 With the death of Comrade Stalin in 1953 the emergent state bourgeoisie in the Soviet Union, led by Krushchev, became bolder and intensified its struggle against the remaining revolutionary elements in the CPSU such as Molotov and Kaganovitch. By 1956 the capitalist roaders were strong enough for Krushchev to explicitly attack and denounce Stalin and many of his policies at a secret session of the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU. From that time onwards capitalist restoration has progressed by leaps and bounds within the USSR. Although the new bourgeoisie do not have formal, legal ownership of the means of production, it is nonetheless they, and not the Soviet working class, who have effective control over the: means of production. The state bourgeoisie exploit the working class by paying them wages less than the value of their labour power and use the Soviet state apparatus to suppress working class dissent. Furthermore, since this is a system of monopoly capitalism it has had increasingly to engage in imperialist expansion and exploitation so as to try to stabilise its internal economic and social contradictions. Through a combination of alliance with bourgeois comprador elements, unequal trading, export of capital and actual armed intervention, Soviet social imperialism has now become a major challenge to the US imperialist bloc in the struggle for world domination.
4.13 The loss of the Soviet Union as a bastion of socialism was a grievous loss for the international proletariat. The revisionist elements which had long been strong in the communist parties around the world were greatly strengthened by this development. In particular, Krushchev’s proclamation of the three principles of ’peaceful co-existence’, ’peaceful competition’ and ’peaceful transition’ were applauded by revisionists such as those who now dominated .the Communist Party of Great Britain, who had formally abandoned a revolutionary programme as early as 1951, although in practice they had abandoned a revolutionary stance a decade before. The revisionists within the international communist movement followed Krushchev’s lead in repudiating some of the most fundamental principles of Leninism. They proclaimed that war between the imperialist and socialist camps was not inevitable, that socialism could demonstrate its superiority over capitalism simply by overtaking the imperialist powers in terms of economic growth and living standards and that violent revolutionary war was not necessary to bring about the transformation from capitalism to socialism.
4.14 Twenty years of growing revisionist tendencies in the international communist movement meant that the genuine Marxist-Leninist elements were weak in most parties and thus poorly equipped to combat Krushchevite revisionism. It was the Communist Party of China, under the leadership of Mao Tsetung, and supported by the Party of Labour of Albania, which took up the struggle against Soviet revisionism. From the late 1950s throughout the early 1960s the Communist Party of China waged a vigorous ideological and political struggle against Soviet-led revisionism within the ranks of the international communist movement. It was precisely at this time that there were great upsurges in the national liberation struggles of the peoples of the colonial and neo-colonial regions of the world but in most cases they were not under proletarian leadership because the communist parties of these countries had been disarmed by revisionist politics. The outcome of the struggle within the movement was a split between the revolutionary and revisionist factions. In most countries the revisionists retained control of the old communist parties while the Marxist-Leninists set up new parties and organisations as happened in Britain. This was a very positive development. After years of political stagnation and decay the Marxist-Leninist movement began to be revitalised, throughout the world.
4.15 In China itself, socialist transformation had been proceeding since 1952. Especially important had been the progressive collectivisation of agriculture, which culminated in the setting up of the people’s communes in 1958. This had been carried out in a way which strengthened the worker-peasant alliance rather than weakening it, as had happened in the Soviet Union.
4.16 In 1956 all large scale industrial and commercial enterprises were brought into state ownership. Despite the abrupt withdrawal of Soviet technical aid the Chinese economy moved ahead by leaps and bounds and the general living standards of the people greatly improved. Even so, a section of the Communist Party of China, led by Mao Tsetung were deeply concerned about the capitalist restoration which was taking place in the USSR and feared that the same reaction would eventually be triumphant in People’s China unless revolutionary transformation was diligently carried forward. In particular in the spheres of education and culture old feudal and bourgeois ideas were very strong and many of the students in colleges and universities who would later take up important positions in society were having their outlook moulded by such reactionary influences. From the late 1950s onwards it was clear to Mao and his comrades that emergent bourgeois tendencies were growing stronger within the Communist Party of China and the Chinese state apparatus. In particular, these people peddled the ’forces of production’ theory which saw the key to China’s future development as being the acquisition of advanced technology from the western imperialist countries as opposed to the Maoist line which saw socialist development and transformation as being brought about by mass revolutionary struggle to unleash and apply the revolutionary zeal and creativity of the working masses. By the mid-1960s the capitalist roaders were rapidly gaining strength, especially in the spheres of education, literature and the arts.
4.17 In 1966 Mao and the revolutionary section of the Communist Party of China launched the great proletarian Cultural Revolution to overthrow and defeat the capitalist roaders and to carry out revolutionary socialist transformation, ’to continue the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat’. At first the struggle began among students in “colleges and universities to expose the teaching and learning of bourgeois ideas and practices and to remould students and teachers by sending them into the factories and communes to learn from the workers and peasants. Very quickly the struggle against the capitalist roaders spread into the factories and communes and the masses enthusiastically responded to Mao’s call for ’the working class to take leadership’ in everything and revolutionary committees were set up to take over the running of factories communes and communities. This was a revolution in every sense with very fierce mass struggles, sometimes involving armed clashes, taking place throughout China. For the first few years the capitalist roaders in the Communist Party of China including the leader of the faction, Liu Shao Chi, were thrown out of their positions and were often sent to reform themselves through labour under the supervision of the people. The Cultural Revolution also had great impact on people outside China all around the world. It showed in practice that capitalist restoration was not inevitable and that the working masses were capable of rising to a level of revolutionary consciousness and action previously unknown.
4.18 Some people thought that when Chairman Mao and his comrades launched the Cultural Revolution they exaggerated the strength of the capitalist roaders inside the CPC. Subsequent events have shown that this far from being the case. From the early 1970s onwards the capitalist roaders, especially the group led by Teng Hsiao Ping began to make a comeback, pretending that they had changed their political line and gaining courage from the imminence of Chairman Mao’s death. Although there were a number of mass struggles against these elements they were able to stage a coup d’etat and seize state power shortly after Mao’s death in 1976. Since then these Chinese revisionists have succeeded in consolidating their hold and have set about breaking up the socialist organisation of the economy and the superstructure and pushing forward an all-round programme of capitalist restoration. This emergent Chinese state bourgeoisie is a mortal foe of the Chinese working masses and the entire international proletariat and oppressed peoples, as their policies of conciliation with various imperialist and comprador bourgeoisies throughout the world demonstrates only too clearly. Proletarian revolution will be necessary to overthrow them and put China back on the socialist road.
4.19 The second capitalist counter-revolution in a socialist country within twenty years was a big blow to the anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist parties and groups which had begun to emerge in many countries. Many of them split and disintegrated. Some of the members tailed after the new revisionists in China while others simply fell into political inactivity or went over to the side of the bourgeoisie. After 1976 the Party of Labour of Albania, while attacking the revisionist regime in China, began openly to condemn the political line of Mao and the Cultural Revolution and in its place peddled a neo-Trotskyist perspective on revolution. Some of the Marxist-Leninists followed this left opportunist deviation. The fledgling new Marxist-Leninist movement quickly fell into disarray and by around 1980 there were only a few small parties and groups left upholding the revolutionary outlook of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought.
4.20 The once great socialist camp has in practice totally disintegrated. The Soviet Union and China were both sites of counter-revolution and capitalist restoration. Of the other states once in this camp, the countries of Eastern Europe have become satellites of the new Soviet social-imperialism. This new centre of oppression has also been able to subvert liberation struggles, as in Cuba and Mozambique, and turn these countries into neo-colonies; demonstrating the weakness of a liberation struggle without proletarian leadership. However, even such a struggle as that in Vietnam against United States imperialism has also succumbed to the new revisionist empire. Not obviously in the camp of either imperialist bloc remain the countries of Albania and North Korea. Albania was part of the revolutionary alliance against Soviet revisionism in the 1960s, but neither country now displays any significant contribution to, or support of, the revolutionary international struggle. Analysing their real nature and stance in the current world is an important question for communists to answer. But it is true that at present there is no socialist state which provides a base for the international struggle.
4.21 However, it is important to realise that the triumph of the counter-revolution in China was the occasion rather than the cause of the disintegration of the new Marxist-Leninist movement which was weak in ideological, political and organisational respects. Many of the revisionist errors of the old communist parties had lived on to some extent in the new communist organisations. The example of the Communist Party of China had included both positive and negative elements. The polemic on a ’General Line for the International Communist Movement’ in the 1960s had taken a proletarian revolutionary standpoint against Soviet revisionism. In particular they upheld proletarian dictatorship and the need for the revolutionary overthrow of the existing state. However they failed to reject some of the erroneous legacy of the Third International, in particular identifying one imperialist (the USA) as the main enemy; and in maintaining that there were still some national interests to be defended in the imperialist countries. Both errors have received new life in the more recent revisionist ’Three Worlds Theory’. Lastly the Communist Party of China also failed to take a lead in building a new international. But the main responsibility rests with the members of the communist organisations in various countries for failing to bring about a true unity of Marxist-Leninist theory and practice in the course of revolutionary struggles. Instead of really doing this many comrades had simply leaned on the Chinese crutch which proved to be as liable to break as had the Russian crutch a generation before. The failure of the new Marxist-Leninist movement to cope with the counter-revolution in China was because of the grave inadequacies of their political line in general.
4.22 It was ironic that just as capitalism was entering into another world-wide depression the revolutionaries should have been falling by the wayside. Nonetheless, the day-to-day class struggle necessarily continued and in their fights to revolutionise these struggles the genuine Marxist-Leninists began the difficult process of examining past errors and regrouping. A big step forwards was made when an international conference of Marxist-Leninist parties and organisations from a number of countries, including Britain, was held. After intense debate and struggle most of the participants agreed upon issuing a Joint Communiqué which upheld and affirmed the revolutionary proletarian outlook of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought. Subsequent to this the process of political regrouping and reorganisation continued and in some countries the Marxist-Leninists are participating in the class struggle at a very high level, at the level of mass armed struggle. In 1984 a second international conference was held which drew up the declaration which was the basis for the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement. The participating parties and organisations of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement are determined to rebuild the communist movement throughout the world and to form a new communist international. It is vital that we succeed in this task: it is the hope of the people of the world.
4.23 The major attempts at proletarian revolutions and socialist transformation have now been completely subverted. Some petit bourgeois pessimists would draw the conclusion that socialism and communism are just utopian fantasies. We Marxist-Leninists completely reject this view. It is an indisputable historical fact that the revolutionary upheavals in Russia, China and some other countries during this century have concretely demonstrated the possibility of establishing proletarian state power and commencing the massive task of socialist transformation. The fact that counter-revolution has been triumphant in these countries is no reason for revolutionary inclined people to throw their hands up in horror but rather should drive us to learn from the shortcomings and mistakes of these great revolutionary movements so that the same errors are not repeated on future occasions. The transition from capitalism to communism will last for many generations and during that historical epoch there will be many twists and turns, retreats and defeats as well as advances and victories for the proletariat and its allies. Marxist-Leninists must develop the maturity to take the complexity of the world-wide struggle for freedom from oppression and exploitation in their stride.
4.24 The Revolutionary Internationalist Contingent in Britain is proud to take its place in the ranks of the RIM. We have a solemn revolutionary duty to do everything in our power to rebuild the international communist movement. To this task we commit our unwavering support because we know that the struggle for socialist revolution in Britain is but part of the world-wide struggle against imperialism and for revolution.