Alliance Marxist-Leninist: The Theory of the ‘Black Nation’ in the U.S.A.

Hard Copy Cover: Winslow Homer: The Cotton Pickers, 1876
Hard Copy Cover: Winslow Homer: The Cotton Pickers, 1876




i) Lenin’s First Citation: “Draft Theses On the National -Colonial Question”

ii) Lenin’s Second Citation: “New Data on the Laws Governing the Development of Capitalism in Agriculture”

iii) Lenin’s Third Citation : “Statistics and Sociology”

iv) Other Discussions by Lenin Bearing on This Theme – Upon Jews and the Bund

v) Polemics with Rosa Luxemburg


i) Stalin’s Definition Of A Nation

ii) Stalin On The Rights Of Minorities And The National Question

iii) Do Stalin’s Criteria Fit the Theory of the “Black Nation?”

iv) The Modern Day Line of The Black Nation In the USA


i) The Role of Zinoviev and Ultra-Leftism

ii) The Distortion of the Colonial Question From 1921 Onwards

iii) Ultra Leftism in the Trade Unions

iii) The Sixth World Congress


I) The Situation Before the Russian Bolshevik Revolution

ii) National Left Wing Conference: a new Leninist Communist Party

iii) Dual Unionism And Broad Front Work

iv) The Third Party – Farmer-Labor Party; the LaFollette Movement

v) The Factional Battles Come to the Sixth Comintern Congress

vi) The Black Movement In The USA

vii) The Attitude of Stalin to the American CP in 1928


The rights of national minorities versus the rights of nations are of central strategic concern to the Marxist-Leninist movement, as it strives for the proletarian revolution. Marxist-Leninists in North America are particularly interested in this question because of the capitalist, institutionalised racism rampant in both the USA and Canada. In the USA, this racism peaks with the Negro (or black, or Afro-American) population, and the Chicano (those of Mexican origin) populations. In both the USA and Canada the indigenous peoples, or the Native Americans, also bear the brunt of this problem.

We have already examined in Alliance 22, the views of Marx and Engels on the formation of the USA and the Civil War in the USA, and their views upon USA slavery. We noted that both Marx and Engels talked only in terms of a single unitary nation, the USA, and not in terms of a multi-national state.

We now examine how the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA) formulated their response to this issue, in calling for “SELF DETERMINATION OF THE BLACK NATION.” The policy of Alliance is to assist a principled debate to define the lines of the new evolving Marxist-Leninist party. Therefore we publish this view in an anticipation of a principled debate. We aim to ask here, whether the line adopted was objectively correct at the time, and if it is correct today. We examine as part of this, the formation of the CPUSA, and its functioning.

Marxist-Leninists have grappled with the central question over several generations. This is fortunate for us, since their writings can guide us. Both Marx and Engels wrote on the USA and the Negroes of America, and as seen, we have dealt with those views in Alliance 22. Later, both Lenin and Stalin also wrote extensively on the USA. Moreover, Stalin also wrote explicitly on the deficiencies of the former Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA). As Marxists-Leninists, we should take their views into account. How did these Marxist-Leninists view America? What positions did they take, and how did they arrive at their conclusions? Were their positions right then? Are their positions still right under today’s situation?

This list of questions, will force us to consider larger questions. These revolve around the character of the CPUSA and its leaders, and the role of the Comintern in its decisions. So far, the available histories of the CPUSA are either self-justifying revisionist accounts (into which category William Z. Foster‘s history fits); Trotskyite accounts (such as those by James Cannon); or bourgeois accounts.

One school of bourgeois historians, led by Theodore Draper allege that the Comintern subverted this and other lines of the CPUSA and imposed its will. Yet another school of historians led by Maurice Isserman reply this is untrue, and that the CPUSA made its own policies. This latter school, actually derives from the Old CPUSA itself. In addition some memoirs are relevant, such as the autobiography of HARRY HAYWOOD, entitled Black Bolshevik.

All these offer various useful facts. But all these perspectives, agree and take as a central premise that Stalin controlled the Comintern and that Stalin was in full control of the USSR. This viewpoint unites the bourgeois historians, the revisionist historians, the Trotskyites, and finally even those like Haywood. As the career of Khrushchev as a high priest of hidden revisionism shows, we argue that this viewpoint is no longer tenable.

Today, genuine Marxist-Leninists, are confronted by revisionism. This begs the question: “How did the movement fall into revisionism?” Marxist-Leninists are faced with a stark decision regarding the origins of international revisionism. Most genuine Marxist-Leninists today, reflexively defend the history of the Comintern from 1919 to 1943, partly because they believe any other response defends Trotsky. But this attitude is not adequate. To answer the question : “How did the movement fall into revisionism?” Three associated questions must be asked:

a) Was the line itself correct or incorrect?

b) Was the leadership of the Comintern Marxist-Leninist or was it revisionist?

c) Who formed the leadership of the Comintern?

Elsewhere we argue that the line of the Comintern was subverted under the leadership of GRIGORY ZINOVIEV, OTTO KUUSINEN, DIMITRI MANUILSKY AND GEORGY DIMITROV (See Alliance 5; 12; 19). We argue here, that the line of the CPUSA was also subverted. But it was subverted NOT by Stalin, as alleged by Theodore Draper, Trotsky and James Cannon. It was subverted, by others than Stalin – by hidden revisionists. In relation to the USA, the line was first disrupted by ZINOVIEV. Haywood notes that Zinoviev brought up the question of the Black Nation in the USA, when he was in charge of the Comintern, after Lenin’s death. Haywood also comments that his own initial reaction to this line was hostile:

“Apparently Zinoviev and others in the CI leadership were not satisfied with the formulation that had rejected the self-determination for U.S. Blacks. Zinoviev had instructed BOB MAZUT to investigate the question.. I was present at the meeting of the Young Communist League District Committee in Chicago in 1924 when Bob Mazut (then Young Communist International representative to the US) at the behest of Zinoviev… raised the question of self-determination… He had been shouted down by white comrades.. To me the idea of a black nation within US boundaries seemed far fetched and not consonant with American reality.”

(Haywood, “Black Bolshevik: Autobiography of An Afro-American Communist”; Chicago 1978; p. 226, 219).

Of course Zinoviev was exposed and removed from the leadership of the Comintern. All Marxist-Leninists accept that Zinoviev was revisionist. But his work was continued by MANUILSKY, and KUUSINEN, who ensured acceptance of the “Black Nation” theory in the USA. The first, and natural reaction of the CPUSA, including black activists such as Harry Haywood himself, had been to reject this line as a form of Black Separatism. Ultimately, by using a mixture of pressure and persuasion over a long period, elements such as Harry Haywood were won over by SEN KATAYAMA, and then by Kuusinen, to this line. We assert that Sen Katayama, Kuusinen and Manuilsky were revisionists.

REVISIONISM whether open or hidden, aims to subvert the socialist revolution. This line of the “Black Nation,” was calculated to overturn a class solidarity of white and black, and foster racial division between white and black workers. This line is and was, usually justified by honest Marxist-Leninists, as being directly traceable to Lenin and Stalin. But the evidence for these assertions does not exist. As Draper says:

“American Communists have claimed that Lenin spoke of American Negroes as a nation three times in his voluminous writings. Each of these citations fails on examination to bear out the extreme construction that has been placed on it.”

(Theodore Draper “American Communism and Soviet Russia”; New York; 1986; p. 335).

There is little doubt that this line of “The Black Nation,” was adopted by the CPUSA at the Sixth World Congress of the Comintern. It was held from 17 July to 1 September 1928 in Moscow and was dominated by NIKOLAI BUKHARIN. J.V. Stalin did not even attend the congress. From many accounts the Congress was in a state of some apprehension over the recent expulsion of Trotsky, and some were anticipating further ideological attacks including against Bukharin, the apparent head of the current Comintern. Draper alleges that Stalin foisted his views on the CPUSA because of his authority on the National Question:

“As the Russian party’s specialist on the national colonial question, Stalin considered the (Far Eastern University in Moscow), his ward.”

(Draper Ibid; p. 334).

The source cited by Draper, and by honest Marxist-Leninists, to support the thesis that Stalin directly supported the theory of the “Black Nation” is Harry Haywood, who is adamant that:

“Stalin was undoubtedly the person pushing the position (ie. That the Blacks were an oppressed nation -Ed).”

(Harry Haywood; Ibid; p. 223).

But in fact all authorities – whether those arguing for the line of “Black Nation” or those arguing against the line of “Black Nation” – acknowledge, that there is no smoking-gun in any text by Stalin, that can be linked to this adventure. Marxist-Leninist forces do point to some textual references by Lenin. But we here show by a full textual analysis, that these quotes are lifted out of context.

So, if the line did not come from Lenin and Stalin, where did it emanate from? Haywood, while firmly maintaining that the line on “Black nation” did emanate from Stalin, tells us that others actually imparted the “Word From On High.” As if Stalin in 1928-30 can not speak for himself! In fact, Haywood was sold this line by a chain of several revisionists – from Zinoviev to Sen Katayama to Otto Kuusinen. The role of Sen Katayama was central to the initial persuasion of those like Harry Haywood. Haywood states that:

“Sen Katayama had told us Black University Of The Toilers Of The East (Named after the Russian letters – KUTVA – Ed) students that Lenin had regarded U.S. Blacks as an oppressed nation and referred us to his draft resolution on the national and colonial question which was adopted by the Second Congress of the Comintern in 1920.”

(Haywood; Ibid; p.219).

Haywood adds that whilst he was in Moscow, Sen Katayama:

“Was a special friend of the Black students in Moscow. He was born to a Japanese peasant family, was educated in the US and became one of the founders of the Japanese Social Democratic Party in 1901. A member of the ECCI, he had spent several years in exile in the U.S., and was considered an expert on the Afro-American question. Katayama was most interested in our studies and our view on the situation in the US., particularly as it concerned Blacks. ‘Old Man’ Katayama knew all about white folks and we regarded him as one of us. We often came to him with our problems and he always had a receptive ear. It was Katayama who told us of Lenins’ earlier writings about U.S. Blacks and Lenin’s views on the Black belt. He died in Moscow in 1933 at the age of 74.”

(Haywood; Footnote; p. 656; Ibid).

But Sen Katayama had rather simplified Lenin’s views, as we will discuss later. Moreover, and most unfortunately given the influence he had over Haywood, it is clear that Sen Katayama was an early adherent of LEON TROTSKY. Trotsky, it will be recalled, just prior to the 1917 revolution had stayed in the USA, intending to remain as an emigre. But when the Clarion call to Russia came, he correctly went. But in the interim, he had been contending with two other Russians for control of the USA fledgling movement of communists. Acting on the behalf of Lenin’s Bolsheviks were Bukharin and Alexandra Kollantai. As Draper puts it:

“Lore and Katayama agree that Trotsky talked himself into the momentary command of the American left Wing.”

(Theodore Draper; “The Roots of American Communism”; New York; 1957; (Hereafter Draper 2); p. 82).

In fact Sen Katayma was explicit about his own role in that business:

“We intended to organise the Left wing under the direction of Comrade Trotsky, and Madame Kollantai was going to Europe to establish the link between the European and American Left Wing movements.”

(Katayama’s words cited in Draper 2; Ibid p. 82).

We suggest that it is most unlikely that Sen Katayma had shaken off his adherence to Trotsky, at that very time that he was busily influencing Haywood. The question then naturally arises, as to whether Trotsky himself is on record on the “Black Nation” question? Indeed he is. Trotsky was interviewed by ARNE SWABECK, a leader of the Trotskyite Communist Opposition in the USA, and later by C.L.R. JAMES, a militant Black Caribbean Trotskyite.

The two Trotskyites had arrived at the Master’s feet, to seek guidance on the line of the CPUSA on the Black nation. Far from attacking the line of the Comintern, Trotsky in fact, supported the “Black Nation” line. He had to persuade the Trotskyite Opposition in the USA to embrace this line. In fact, in a chain of argument to arrive at this position, Trotsky first asserts that it is a fact that Negroes are “a race and not nation.” However, Trotsky then states that Nationhood is “a question of their consciousness, that is, what they desire and what they strive for.” His full words were as follows:

“The Negroes are a race and not a nation. Nations grew out of racial material under definite conditions. The Negroes in Africa are not yet a nation, but they are in the process of forming a nation. The American Negroes are on a higher cultural level. But since they are under the pressure of the Americans they become interested in the development of the Negroes in Africa. The American Negro will develop leaders for Africa, that one can say with certainty and that in turn will influence the development of political consciousness in America. We of course, do not obligate the Negroes to become a nation; whether they are is a question of their consciousness, that is to say, what they desire and what they strive for. We say: If the Negroes want that then we much fight against imperialism to that last drop of blood, so that they gain the right wherever and when however they please, to separate a piece of land for themselves. The fact that they are today not a majority in any state does not matter.”

(Leon Trotsky ; “The Negro Question In America,” interview with Arne Swabeck 1933; In “On Black Nationalism and Self Determination”; New York; 1967; p. 24-25).

Having “manufactured a nation” from a wish; and denied the relevance of a “majority”; now Trotsky asserts that this slogan will attract the petty-bourgeois primarily, whilst deterring the workers. But he adds quickly, that this is irrelevant since the white & black workers are divided as it is!:

“That the slogan of ‘self-determination’ will win over the petty bourgeois more than the workers- that argument also good for the slogan of equality. It is clear that those Negro elements who play more of a public role (businessmen, intellectuals, lawyers etc) are more active and react more actively against inequality… If the situation was such that in America common actions took place involving black and white workers, that class fraternization already was a fact, then perhaps our comrades’ arguments would have a basis (I do not say that it would be correct); the perhaps we would divide the black workers from the white if we began to raise the slogan “self-determination.'”

(Leon Trotsky ; “The Negro Question In America,” interview with Arne Swabeck 1933; In “On Black Nationalism and Self Determination”; New York; 1967; p. 24-25).

The identity of Trotsky with the Comintern should give rise to pause for those adamant that the Comintern line was correct. Trotsky’s line is a complete chain of specious arguments. First from asserting the ability to “wish” a nationhood; over to asserting the leading role of American blacks for the “Negroes” in Africa; through to the excusing of a policy that promotes division – “because there is some division now!” Parts of this chain of argument are very similar to those that today, emphasise the “wishes” of a section of the Black petty-bourgeois. The “Black Nation” line as accepted by Trotsky, then became part of the policy of a prominent USA Trotskyite organisation, the SOCIALIST LABOR PARTY (SLP):

“The minority status of the Negro in the political divisions of capitalist America, even in the South, and the absence of a national Negro language and literature and of differentiated political history as in prewar Poland or Catalonia and the Ukraine of today, have caused in the past a too facile acceptance of the Negroes as a merely a more than usually oppressed section of the American workers and farmers… The desire to wipe out the humiliating political subservience and social degradation of centuries might find expression in an overpowering demand for the establishment and administration of a Negro state… The demand for a Negro state in America its revolutionary achievement with the enthusiastic encouragement and assistance of the whites , will generate such creative energy in every section of the Negro workers and farmers in America as to constitute a great step forward too the ultimate integration of the American Negroes into the United Socialist States of North America.”

(Socialist Workers Party Convention; July 3, 1939; “Results of The Discussions on the Right of Self-Determination and the Negro In the United States of North America”; in : Leon Trotsky ; “On Black Nationalism and Self Determination”; Ibid; p. 76-77).

It should be no surprise that the SLP, would later fully support MALCOLM X.

Some in the international movement, have privately dismissed the documentation amassed by Alliance and CL as “fictions,” but have so far not enlightened us as to any documentary counter evidence. Some honest advocates of the line of “Black Nation,” have argued in recent principled discussions with Alliance, that quotes from Lenin and Stalin can be used as “scripture,” to support “any position.” So, they argued, this was not a very useful way of confirming or refuting the correctness of the line of “the Black Nation In the USA.” They will also no doubt argue that the use of Trotsky’s words, as a negative example, is also open to “support any position.”

In general we agree that historically, the words of the Marxist-Leninists leaders have often been deliberately misused. But we argue that, since Haywood and many others, down to the present day – including organisations such as Working People’s News, Revolutionary Communist League (MLM), R.O. Light, Labour’s Champion, Communist Party USA Marxist-Leninist; and many others; all vigorously defend the line of the “Black Nation,” by themselves citing Lenin and Stalin, we must all re-examine these texts. This is why we will analyse Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin’s actual written works in relation to the “Black Nation” line. But, in any case, we will argue that whether or not Lenin or Stalin supported it then; the question should be whether or not the policy was correct? Furthermore, is it correct now?


The proponents of the “Black Nation” theory, insist that they derive their position from Lenin. In fact there is little doubt that Lenin did indeed, use the terminology “NEGRO NATION.” There are THREE MAIN CITATIONS of Lenin, usually described in any description of Lenin that discusses this question. We will analyse these. We also draw attention to other statements of Lenin that abut onto this question.

Before examining Lenin’s views as distinct from those of the earlier Marxist-Leninists, we will briefly examine Lenin on the Civil War. This is logical as Lenin’s views closely followed those of Marx and Engels. He echoed their views on the Civil War and the naivete of Kriege. In distinction however to them, he could closely analyse the phenomenon of Southern share-cropping. This had been firmly established after the Reconstruction period of the South, as Marx had noted. However, it had not yet had time to establish itself. Lenin had recognised as clearly as Marx and Engels had, the progressive nature of the Civil War in destroying old property relations of the Plantations:

“The representatives of the bourgeoisie understand that for the sake of overthrowing the rule of the slave owner, it was worth letting the country go through long years of civil war, through the abysmal ruin, destruction and terror that accompany every war.”

(Lenin: From “Letter to American Workers”; Aug 1918; Vol 28; pp.62-75; In “Lenin On USA”; p. 342. CW Vol 28; pp 69-70).

As we saw above, Marx had thought the plantation economy of Southern Slavery was in fact capitalist, though he had appended the term a “formal capitalism,” because of the fact of slavery as opposed to “free labour” being used. Lenin pointed out that the full erection of a capitalist agriculture had developed out of the Post-Reconstruction Land Deals that had been worked out:

“It was not the old slave holding economy of the big landowners that became the basis of capitalist agriculture (the Civil War smashed the slave-owners estates).. But the free economy of the free farmer working on free land – free from all medieval fetters, from serfdom and feudalism.”

(Lenin : CW: Vol 15; p. 140).

But as his other works show, Lenin knew that this had led to the institution of share-cropping. It is from this point that it is logical to examine in detail the views of Lenin on the Black National Question. We will examine in turn the citations cited by Harry Haywood and others. They cite Lenin thrice, in support of this line.

Lenin’s First Citation: “Draft Theses On the National-Colonial Question”

HARRY HAYWOOD in his autobiography, describes as a key ideological supporter of the theory of the “Black Nation,” one SEN KATAYMA. Katayama was a Japanese born member of the Comintern who had spent a great deal of time in the USA and had worked with the CPUSA at an early stage of its formation. We have already discussed in the introduction, Katayama’s Trotskyite adherence. Katayama claimed that his own support of the theory of the “Black Nation,” derived from Lenin. This claim, and Haywood’s own offered version of the translated text of Lenin’s “Draft Theses On the National-Colonial Question” is recorded by Haywood:

“Sen Katayma told us black KUTVA students that Lenin had regarded U.S. Blacks as an oppressed nation and referred us to his draft resolution on the national and colonial question which was adopted by the Second Congress of the Comintern in 1920…It first appeared in Lenins’s ‘Draft Theses On the National-Colonial Question’… The draft which was later adopted called upon the communist parties to Arender direct aid to the revolutionary movements among the dependent and underprivileged nations (for example Ireland, the American Negroes, etc) and in the colonies.”

(Cited by Haywood; “Black Bolshevik”; Ibid; p.219, p. 223).

Haywood himself is certainly aware that some have offered a different explanation of this citation. But Haywood relies only upon the views expressed by Katayama to him. Haywood argument is simple, that Katayama was there and must have known what “Lenin really thought”:

“Some have argued that Lenin’s reference to U.S. Blacks as a subject nation was merely a tentative deduction. When he submitted his draft, he asked the delegates for opinions and suggestion in 15 points, one of which was ‘Negroes in America.’ It was recorded however that the Colonial Commission of the Congress, which Lenin himself headed and in which Sen Katayma was a leading member, held lengthy discussion on the question of U.S.Blacks.. Sen Katayma told us of Lenin’s earlier writings about U.S. Blacks, and about Lenin’s views on the Black Belt.”

(Haywood “Black Bolshevik”; Ibid; p.223; and footnotes on p. 656).

This is only an indirect view that at the moment, because for lack of archival evidence, we cannot corroborate this. But furthermore, there is a problematic question of the exact translation of the text. Theodore Draper argues that there has been a mis-translation:

“This translation is based on the final text in German and Russian. The key phrase: ‘Among the dependent nations and those without equal rights,’ reads in German: ‘Aunter den abhangigen und nicht gleichberectigten Nationen’ (Protokoll des II Weltkongresses der Kommunistischen International, p.228) It reads similarly in Russian: ‘Azavicimykh ili neravnopravnikh natsiakh’ (Vtori Kongress Cominterna, revised edition, 1934, p.493 for resolution and p.648 for draft). The adjectival use of ‘without equality’ cannot be rendered literally in English.”

(Draper T; “American Communism and Soviet Russia”; New York; 1986; p. 337).

Draper comments correctly that:

“A strange fate awaited these few words. American Communists… Have known them in inaccurate English translations. In the official German and Russian texts of these, ‘without equal rights’ appears as an adjective before ‘nations’. Communist translations have changed ‘without equal rights’ into ‘subject’ or ‘subordinated’ nations, or have omitted it altogether. By accident or not, these mistranslations have oversimplified what Lenin may have had in mind for the American Negroes.”

(Draper; Ibid, p. 337-338).

What does the text actually say? A well recognised un-impeachable source for Comintern documents, is JANE DEGRAS, whose three volume text of the Document of the Comintern from 1922-1943 is a basic and much used source. The exact wording according to that text is this:

“(9). In regard to relations within States, the Communist International’s national policy cannot confine itself to the bare and formal recognition of the equality of nations expressed only in words only and involving no practical obligations, to which bourgeois democracies-even if they call themselves socialist- restrict themselves. Offences against the equality of nations and violations of all the guaranteed rights of national minorities, repeatedly committed by all capitalist states despite their “democratic” constitution, must be inflexibly exposed in all the propaganda and agitation carried on by the communist parties, both inside and outside parliament. But that is not enough. It is also necessary: first to make clear all the time that only the Soviet system is able to ensure real equality all the time that only the Soviet system is able to ensure real equality for the nations because it unites first the proletarians, and then all the masses of the working people, in the struggle against the bourgeoisie; secondly communist parties must give direct support to the revolutionary movements among the dependent nations and those without equal rights (e.g. in Ireland, and among the American Negroes), and in the colonies. Without this last particularly important condition the struggle against the oppression of the dependent nations and colonies, and the recognition of their right to secede as separate States remains a deceitful pretence, as it is in the parties of the Second International.”

(J.Degras : “Documents: The Communist International 1919-1943; Volume 1 1919-1922”; London; 1971 ; p.142).

On the text as it stands in Degras, it is certainly clear that Lenin did not view the “Black Nation” in the USA as an entity; but he viewed the position of the Negro as one of “without equal rights.” What did take place in the discussions in the Colonial Commission on this particular issue? It appears that the American Delegate to the Colonial Commission was JOHN REED who argued against the view that there was a “Black Nation” within the USA. Reed argued that the problem of U.S. Blacks was that of:

“Both a strong race movement and a strong proletarian workers movement which is rapidly developing into class consciousness.”

(Cited by Haywood; “Black Bolshevik”; Ibid; p. 223).

Most authors accept that this was how the matter was left, and accepted by the Comintern at that time, and by the CPUSA.

Lenin’s Second Citation: “New Data on the Laws Governing the Development of Capitalism in Agriculture”

The Second written piece of evidence from Lenin, that is usually quoted, including by Haywood, is “New Data on the Laws Governing the Development of Capitalism in Agriculture.” Only the first section entitled “Part One: Capitalism and Agriculture in the USA,” was ever completed. This magnificent piece was written by Lenin in 1918, to counter the views of Mr. Himmer, an “extreme left wing bourgeois,” who had argued that in the USA family labour and small scale farming was dominant. Haywood cites only this following paragraph in Negro Liberation. It clearly shows that Lenin recognised that the Negro in the South USA was in dire straits. In this quote, Lenin sees the Negro in a position similar to that of the serfs of 1860 Russia:

“The farmers we are discussing are not tenants in the European, civilized modern capitalist sense; they are mainly semi-feudal or – what is the same in the economic sense – semi-slave share tenants. The sharecropping region.. is the region of the greatest stagnation, where the toiling masses are subjected to the greatest degradation and oppression.. Segregated, hidebound, a stifling atmosphere, a sort of prison for the emancipated Negroes – this is what the American South is like.”

(In Haywood H: Negro Liberation; Chicago; 1976; p. 48).

It will be noted that Lenin does not here use the terminology of the “Black nation.” This is so for the rest of the document. But nonetheless the work is of major importance for us to understand the process of transition from the latifundia through to share cropping. In several places, Lenin reminds us that the transition from Plantation (or other forms of pre-capitalist agriculture) to capitalist agriculture, is not against Marxist predictions:

“In Volume III of Capital Marx had already pointed out that the form of landed property with which the incipient capitalist mode of production is confronted does not suit Capitalism. Capitalism creates for itself the required forms of agrarian relationships out of the old forms, out of feudal landed property, peasants commune property, clan property etc.. Marx compares the different methods by which capital creates the required forms of landed property.. In America this re-shaping went on in violent way as regards the slave farms in the Southern States. There violence was applied against the slave-owning landlords, Their estates were broken up and the large feudal estates were transformed into small bourgeois farms.”

(Lenin, In “The Agrarian Programme of Social Democracy In the First Russian Revolution 1905-07”); In “Lenin on the USA” Moscow 1967; From Vol 13; pp 275-76. p.40).

Lenin does not deny that the transition from slavery towards capitalism was slow:

“If we get down to brass tacks, however has it happened in history that a new mode of production has taken root immediately without a long secession of setbacks, blunders and relapses? Half a century after the abolition of serfdom there were still quite a number of survivals of serfdom in the Russian countryside. Half a century after the abolition of slavery in America the position of the Negroes was still very often one of semi-slavery.”

(Lenin: “A Great Beginning”; July 1919; Vol 29; p.425; In Collection “Lenin On USA”; Ibid; p. 397).

Nonetheless, the work New Data on the Laws Governing the Development of Capitalism in Agriculture does detail the transition into capitalism; and contrasts this passage as it occurred in the South, to that as it occurred in the North of the USA. In graphic detail, Lenin outlines the process by which the “freed” Negroes were re-enslaved; and how their actual “freedom” had still left them, on the whole illiterate:

“The South of the U.S.A was slave owning until slavery was swept away by the Civil War of 1861-65. To this day, the Negroes who make up no more than 0.7-2.2% of the population in the North and the West, constitute from 22.6% to 33.7% of the population in the South. For the U.S.A. as a whole the Negroes constitute 10.7% of the population. There is no need to elaborate on the degraded social system of the Negroes. The American bourgeoisie is in no way better than the bourgeoisie of any other country. Having ‘freed’ the Negroes, it took good care under ‘free’, republican-democratic capitalism, to restore everything possible and do everything possible and impossible for the most shameless and despicable oppression of the Negroes. A minor statistical fact will illustrate their cultural level. While the proportion of illiterates in 1900 among the white population of the U.S.A. of 10 years of age and over was 6.2%, among the Negroes it was as high as 44.5%! More than seven times as high!”

(Lenin, “Data On Development of Capitalism In Agriculture In the USA,” In “Lenin On the USA”; Moscow 1967; Ibid; p. 123-4).

Lenin goes on to describe the economic system – share cropping – that leaves them in this condition. He will later define share cropping in detail (See below):

“What then is the economic basis that has produced and continues to support this fine superstructure? It is the typically Russian, ‘purely Russian’ labour service system which is known as share-cropping. In 1910 Negroes owned 920,883 farms ie 14.5% of the total. Of the total number of farmers, 37% were tenants; 62.1%, owners; the remaining 0.9% of the farms were run by managers. But among the whites 39.2 % were tenant farmers, and among the Negroes -75.3% The typical white farmer is an owner. The typical Negro farmer is a tenant. This proportion of the tenants in the West was only 14%.. In the North the proportion of tenant farmers was 26.5% and in the South 49.6! Half of the Southern farmers were tenants. But that is not all. These are not even tenants in the European civilised modern capitalist sense of the word. They’re chiefly semi-feudal or- which is the same thing in economic terms-semi-slave share-croppers. In the ‘free’ West, share croppers were in the minority (25,000 out of a total of 53,000 tenants). In the old North, which was settled long ago, 483,000 out of 766,000 tenant farmers ie 63% were share croppers. In the South 1,021,000 out of 1,537,000 tenant farmers ie 66% were share croppers. In 1910 , free republican-democratic America had 1,5000,000 share-croppers of whom more than 1,000,000 were Negroes. And the proportion of share croppers to the total number of farmers is not decreasing, but is on the contrary steadily and rather rapidly increasing. In 1880, 17.5% of the farmers in the USA were share-croppers, in 1890 18.4%; in 1900 22.2% and in 1910, 24%. In 1910, free republican-democratic America had 1,500,000 share-croppers, of whom more than 1,000,000 were Negroes. And the proportion of share-croppers to the total number of farmers is not decreasing, but is on the contrary steadily and rather rapidly increasing. In 1880, 17.5% of the farmers in the USA were share-croppers; in 1890, 18.4%; in 1900 22.2%; and in 1910, 24%.”

(Lenin, “Development of Capitalism In Agriculture In USA,” In “Lenin On USA”; Ibid; p. 123-4).

Lenin then goes on to show that the tenant farms arose from the plantations of “considerable size from before the Civil War.” He quotes American statisticians to corroborate this. Lenin uses figures from the American Census to point out that conditions are so dreadful in the South, that the peasantry are “fleeing.” He later uses the term “displacement”:

“To show what the South is like, it is essential to add that its population is fleeing to other capitalist areas, and to the towns, just as the peasantry in Russia is fleeing from the most backward central agricultural gubernias, where the survival of serfdom have most greatly preserved.. To those areas of Russia which have a higher level of capitalist development, to the metropolitan countries the industrial gubernias and the South. The sharecropping area both in America and in Russia is the most stagnant area where the masses are subjected to the greatest degradation and oppression. Immigrants to America who have such an outstanding role play in the country’s economy and all its socials life, shun the South… The South is distinguished by the immobility of its population and by the greatest ‘attachment to the land’… Negroes are in full fight from the two Southern division where there is no homesteading: these two division provided other parts of the country with almost 600,000 ‘black’ people. The Negroes flee mainly to the towns, in the South, 77-80 % of all the Negroes live rural communities; in other areas only 8-32%.”

(Lenin; “Data On Development of Capitalism in Agriculture”; Ibid; p. 125; & Ibid; p. 123-24).

This leads on to a detailed analysis of the transition in the South of the USA in particular (as opposed to the North) from the LATIFUNDIA to “small commercial agriculture.” In the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary 1973, Latifundia are defined as: “Large estates.” Lenin’s working definition of Latifundia is given below:

“I designate latifundia farms with an area of 1,000 acres and over. In 1910, the proportion of such farms in the USA was 0.8% (50,135 farms) and they added up to 167.1 million acres, or 19.0% of the total amount of land.. During the 10 years from 1900 to 1910 the total acreage of the latifundia, but only of the latifundia, showed a decrease. The reduction was quite substantial: from 197.8 million to 167.1 million acres 30.7 million acres. In the South there was a reduction of 31.8 million acres.. Consequently it is in the South and in the slave owning South alone, that the latifundia with their negligible proportion (8.5%) of improved land are being broken up on a really vast scale. The inescapable conclusion is that the only exact definition of the economic process under way is – a transition from the slave holding latifundia, nine-tenths of which remained unimproved to small commercial agriculture. It is a transition to commercial farms.”

(Lenin Ibid; p. 129).

This transition to a commercial farming was to one of a state of dependency for the smallest farmers on landowners, which is the state of SHARE-CROPPING:

“There is no doubt that in America as in all the other capitalists countries a part of the handicapped farmer have to sell their labour power.. more than one third of the farmers are directly exploited by the landlords and capitalists (24% share-croppers who are exploited by former slave-owners in feudal or semi-feudal fashion, plus 10% who are exploited by the capitalists or altogether 34%). This means that of the total number of farmers a minority , hardly more than one-fifth or one-quarter neither hire labourers or nor hire themselves out or sell themselves into bondage.”

(Lenin Ibid; p. 133).

Because share cropping is in essence one step up from slavery, although free labour, it utilises very little machinery. It is the lowest rung of farms in post-Reconstruction USA in its use of machinery:

“The former slave owning South, the area of share cropping occupies a bottom place in the use of machinery. The value of implements and machinery per acre- for its three divisions – is one-third, one-quarter, one-fifth of the figures for the intensive states of the North. The latter lead the rest, and in particular are afar ahead of the West North Central states, Americas’ most agricultural area and her granary.. (moreover) In the Northern intensive states, capitalism is growing faster.”

(Lenin; Ibid, p. 144; p. 145).

What makes an agricultural system capitalist? is the central theme of Lenin’s article. The use of machinery is one major hallmark of the advent of capitalism in agriculture. Lenin warns against the equation of latifundia with capitalism, using purely the criteria of large size to mean capitalism. In addition to the importance of mechanisation for understanding the penetration by capital into the countryside, another factor limits the use of purely size as a characteristic of capitalism in agriculture. Lenin describes the universal tendency in systems which are disintegrating their “pre-capitalist farming systems,” for the continual break up of outdated modes of land owning into smaller fragments. This stands in contrast to the tendency under capitalism for an ever increasing farm size. But it does not change the character of capitalism in agriculture:

“It would be imprudent to confuse the latifundia with large-scale capitalist agriculture, and the latifundia are frequently survivals of pre-capitalist relationships- slave owning, feudal or patriarchal. A break-up, a parcelling out of the latifundia is taking place both in the South and in the West. In the North the total farm acreage increased by 30.7 million of which only 2.3 million is accounted for by latifundia, while 32.2 million belongs to big capitalist farms (175-999 acres). In the South the total acreage was reduced by 7.5 million. The latifundia decreased by 31.8 million acres. On the small farms there was an increase of 13 million, and on the medium farms 5 million acres.”

(Lenin; Ibid; p. 151).

This universal tendency for farms to grow in size under capitalism is due to the displacement or expropriation of the small farmers by the large farmers:

“In effect the fundamental and principal trend of capitalism is the displacement of small-scale by large scale production both in industry and in agriculture. But this displacement should not be interpreted merely as immediate expropriation. Displacement also implies the ruin of the small farmers and a worsening of conditions on their farms, a process that may go on for years.”

(Lenin; Ibid; p. 172).

“The tendency of capitalism to expropriate small scale agriculture is so strong that the American ‘North’ shows an absolute decrease in the number of landowners in spite of the distribution of tens of millions of acres of unoccupied free land. Only two factors still serve to paralyse this tendency in the U.S.A. : (1) The existence of the still unparcelled slave holding plantations in the South, with its oppressed and downtrodden Negro population; and (2) that fact that the West is still partly unsettled.”

(Lenin; Ibid; p. 190-191).

Part of this process entails the drift of the population, towards the towns (Now termed urbanisation). Lenin shows this process was at work, even in the ‘rural’ South of the USA:

“The general statistics show that the urban population is growing at the expense of the rural, the population is abandoning the countryside. The proportion of the urban population increased from 29.5% in 1880 to 36.1% in 1890, 40.5% in 1900 and 46.3% in 1910. In every part of the country the urban population is growing more rapidly than the rural population: from 1900 to 11910, the rural population in the industrialised North went up by 3.9% and the urban by 29.8% in the former slave holding South the rural population increased by 14.8% and the urban by 41.4%.”

(Lenin; Ibid.; p.187).

In conclusion in this work Lenin describes the passage of the Negro from slavery through into a form of capitalist agriculture – sharecropping. He depicts the misery of this existence. He shows the Negro “fleeing” and becoming “urbanised.” But as to the description of a Negro, or Black nation, this is not clearly described.

iii) Lenin’s Third Citation: “Statistics and Sociology”:

The Third piece of work cited by Haywood in Lenin’s writings regarding the “Black Nation” theory, is in an unfinished work entitled: “Statistics and Sociology” begun in 1917. Haywood cites only one fraction of the unfinished piece. The fraction cited by Haywood reads as follows:

“In the United States, the Negroes (and also the Mulattoes and Indians) account for only 11.1%. They should be classed an oppressed nation, for the equality won in the Civil War of 1861-65 and guaranteed by the Constitution of the republic was in many respects increasingly curtailed in the chief Negro areas (the South) in connection with the transition from the progressive pre-monopoly capitalism of 1860-70 to the reactionary monopoly capitalism (imperialism) of the new era.”

(As cited by Haywood p. 224-225).

Clearly, in this quote, and quite unequivocally, Lenin does use the term: “Oppressed nation” to describe the situation of the Negroes of the USA. But this truncation of the quote, is most unfortunate. Because in fact, the thrust of the article is slightly different. Lenin is describing an analysis of the diminution of national differences in 14 advanced countries, who have made “especially great strides in colonial policy.” Lenin is actually pointing out the rapidly disappearing significance of “nations” within states like the USA.

Just prior to the quote cited by Haywood, Lenin discusses the older states of Western Europe. Then just following the quote cited by Haywood, Lenin is referring to the “smoothing out” (or assimilation) to form a single “American nation.” We will therefore pick up Lenin after he has first discussed the significance of the advanced states of the Western Europe who have in the main got a homogenous population. He first calculates how many per cent within the population of those countries could be classed as “oppressed nations”; finds that this amounts a low figure, and asks way that should be? He then lists the features of these “advanced countries”:

“Obtaining 12 Western European countries with a total population of 242 million. Of these only about 9.5 million ie only 4% represents oppressed nations (In England and Germany – ie Ireland for England; and Germany Poles (5.47%) Danes (0.25%); and Alsace Lorraine (1.87 million) [of whom Lenin felt that ‘an unknown part of the latter’ undoubtedly incline toward Germany] – leaving ‘about 5 million of Germany’s population belonging to alien unequal and oppressed nations’. If we add together these sections of the population in all these countries we will get about 15 million, ie 6%.

On the whole consequently, this group of states is characterised by the following: they are the most advanced capitalist countries, the most developed both economically and politically. Their cultural level too is the highest. In national composition most of these countries are homogeneous or nearly homogeneous. National inequality as a specific political phenomenon plays a very insignificant part. What we have is the type of ‘national state’ people often refer to, oblivious, in most cases, to the historically conditional and transitory character of this type in the general development of mankind. But that will be dealt with in its proper place.”

He then asks whether this situation applies outside of Europe? It does in the USA and Japan, he replies. In the USA the Negroes form an “oppressed nation”:

It might be asked: ‘Is this type of state confined to Western Europe?’ Obviously not. All its basic characteristics – economic (high and particularly rapid capitalist development), political (representative government), cultural and nationals- are to be observed also in the advanced states of America and Asia: The United States and Japan. The latter’s national composition took shape long ago and is absolutely homogenous: Japanese make up more than 99% of the population. In the United States, the Negroes (and also the Mulattoes and Indians) account for only 11.1%. They should be classed an oppressed nation, for the equality won in the Civil War of 1861-65 and guaranteed by the Constitution of the republic was in many respects increasingly curtailed in the chief Negro areas (the South) in connection with the transition from the progressive pre-monopoly capitalism of 1860-70 to the reactionary monopoly capitalism (imperialism) of the new era which in America was especially sharply etched out by the Spanish-American imperialist war of 1898.”

(Lenin: “Statistics & Sociology” unfinished work; Vol 23: pp 273-76. In “Lenin On USA;” Ibid; p. 301-306).

But the significance of this oppression is not as intended by Haywood, since Lenin points out that as a consequence of the “advanced nature” of these countries, differences are being eliminated, in the forming of a single “American nation.” Lenin has introduced the concept of “smoothing out differences,” similar to “assimilation”:

“The white population of the US makes up 88.7% of the total and of this figure 74.3% are Americans and only 14.4% foreign born, ie, immigrants. We know that the especially favourable conditions for the development of capitalism and the rapidity of this development have produced a situation in which vast national differences are speedily and fundamentally, as nowhere else in the world, smoothed out to form a single ‘American’ nation.”

(Lenin; From “Statistics and Sociology”; Ibid; p. 306).


iv) Other Discussions by Lenin Bearing on This Theme – Critical Remarks on the National Question: On Jews and the Bund

Are there any other indications of how Lenin regarded minorities, and those who saw themselves as nations? The Jews were a group who crossed borders of countries and who certainly had some common identity, during Lenin’s life. Moreover they had the desire to be liberated from oppressions, and these desires frequently took the form of national aspirations. These were supported by the socialists of the Jewish “Bund.”

What was Lenin’s views on this? In his “Critical Remarks on the National Question,” Lenin is quite vocal that they are not a nation, that assimilation is the order of the day, and that they are often worse off than Negroes. In the following text, the term “PURISHKEVICH” derives from the landowner and monarchist, Vladimir Mitrofanovich Purishkevich; who founded the reactionary Black Hundreds organisations in the 1905-07 period in Russia to ward off revolution:

“It is the Jewish nationalists in Russia in general and the Bundists in particular who vociferate most about Russian orthodox Marxists – being ‘assimilators.’ And yet ..out of the ten and a half million Jews all over the word, about half that number live in the civilised world, where conditions favouring ‘assimilation’ are strongest, whereas the unhappy downtrodden disfranchised Jews in Russia and Galicia who are crushed under the heel of the Purishkeviches (Russian and Polish) live in conditions for ‘assimilation’ least prevail where there is most segregation and even a ‘Pale of Settlement’, a ‘numerous clausus’ and other charming features of the Purishkevich regime. The Jews in the civilised world are not a nation, they have in the main become assimilated, say KARL KAUTSKY and OTTO BAUER. The Jews in Galicia and in Russia are not a nation; unfortunately (through no fault of their own but through that of the Purishkevices) they are still a caste here.”

(Lenin ‘Critical Remarks on the National Question’ In Collection “Lenin On USA”; p. 87. Written 1913; Vol 20; pp 28-30, and 37).

Lenin moves from this overall discussion of assimilation to point out the rapidity of this process in the USA:

“A rough idea of the scale which the general process of assimilation is assuming under the present conditions of advanced capitalism may be obtained from the immigration statistics of the United States of America.. The 1900 census in the USA recorded over 10,000,000 foreigners. New York state.. grinds down national distinctions.”

(Ibid; p. 88).

He concludes that the plan for non-assimilation is reactionary, and directly links this with the introduction of “separate” school systems in the South of the USA:

“In practice the plan for ‘extra-territoriality’ or ‘cultural national’ autonomy could mean only one thing: the division of educational affairs according to nationality re the introduction of national curia in school affairs.. How utterly reactionary it is even for the standpoint of democracy let alone from that of the proletarian class struggle for socialism.. A single instance and a single scheme for the ‘nationalisation’ of the school system will make this point abundantly clear. In the USA the division of the States into Northern and southern holds to this day in all departments of life: the former possess the greatest traditions of freedom and of struggle against the slaveowners; the latter possess the greatest traditions of slave ownership, survivals of persecution of the Negroes, who are economically oppressed and culturally backward (44% of Negroes are illiterate and 6% of whites), and so forth. In the Northern states Negro children attend the same schools as white children do. In the South there are separate ‘national’, or racial, whichever you please, schools for Negro children. I think this is the sole instance of actual ‘nationalisation’ of schools.. In Eastern Europe there exists a country where things like the Beilis case are still possible, and Jews are condemned by the Purishkeviches to a condition worse than that of the Negroes. In that country a scheme for nationalisation Jewish schools was recently mooted in the Ministry. Happily this reactionary utopia is no more likely to realised than the utopia of the Austrian petty bourgeois.”

(Lenin ‘Critical remarks on the National Question’; Ibid; p. 88-89).

v) Polemic with Rosa Luxemburg – On “The Right Of Nations To Self-Determination”

Of course elsewhere Lenin talks of Stalin as “that great Georgian” who wrote on the National Question. But before examining Stalin on the National Question, what else did Lenin write on the National Question? In his polemics with ROSA LUXEMBURG, Lenin had a great deal to say about this. In his “The Right Of Nations To Self-Determination” written in 1914, Lenin firmly upholds the rights of nations to self determination, against Luxemburg’s hesitations. This is not controversial to Marxist-Leninists where there is proven to be a nation. Lenin also discusses issues regarding the multi-national state.

If there are indeed two nations within the USA, then the USA is a multi-national state. This would be composed of (as the Comintern, Harry Haywood, the CPUSA and all his later followers have maintained) the “Negro nation” and a “Euro-American” nation. [We leave aside for the moment the assertions that there are two other nations within the USA, the “Chicano Nation” and the “Native American” nation]. But Lenin holds that the “typical normal” capitalist state is one inhabited by a single nation:

“The tendency of every national movement is towards the formation of national states, under which.. Requirements of modern capitalism are best satisfied. The most profound economic factors drive towards this goals and, therefore for the whole of Western Europe, nay, for the entire civilised world, the national state is typical and normal for the capitalist period.”

(Lenin; “Right Of Nations to Self Determination”; Sel Ws; Vol 1; Moscow; 1977; p.569; C W 20; p 393).

Lenin goes on to say that the then Marxist Karl Kautsky agreed that multi-national states are formed in territories where the state structure remains “abnormal or underdeveloped” in relation to the needs of capitalist society:

“States of mixed national composition (known as multi-national states, as distinct from national states) are always those whose internal constitution has for some reason remained abnormal or underdeveloped (backward). Needless to say, Kautsky speaks of abnormality exclusively in the sense of lack of conformity with what is best adapted to the requirements of a developing capitalism.”

(Lenin; “Right Of Nations to Self Determination”; Ibid; p.569).

There were indeed remnants of the slave owning system in the South. But as Lenin pointed out, this was confined to the South where the USA state was not constructed. This USA state was constructed in the North, and this state forcibly destroyed, the Confederate State of the Southern slave owners during the Civil War of 1861-65. At this time the authority of the North was established throughout the territory of the United States. Moreover Lenin showed how rapidly the system of capitalism had transformed the slavery system into share-cropping; and that even though this held back capitalism, as compared to the North, this was only in a relative comparison to the North. Those factors then that would operate in forming multi-national states were NOT operating in the USA. This must of itself rise serious doubts about the presentation of the USA as a “multi-national state.”

In conclusion, Lenin was not in favour of the theory “Black Nation” as argued by the proponents of the “Black Nation” theory.


a) Stalin’s Definition Of A Nation

Lenin took the work by J.V.Stalin, “On the National Question,” as a useful starting point to understand the National Question. It is not remarked by the proponents of the theory of the “Black nation,” that in this work, Stalin speaks unequivocally of:

“The American nation.. At the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries.. The Americans.. already constituted a nation distinct from England.”

(J.V.Stalin “Works” Moscow; 1956; Vol 2; “Marxism and the National Question”; p. 311).

What does Stalin consider the definition of a nation? He explains that it is not dependent upon religion, nor upon a racial mixture. The famous succinct definition given by Stalin is that:

“A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.”

(J.V. Stalin Works, Moscow; 1956; Vol 2; “Marxism and the National Question”; p. 307).

Stalin pointed out, that under national oppression the workers suffer more than the bourgeoisie:

“Restriction of freedom of movement, disfranchisement, repression of language, closing of schools, and other forms of persecution affect the workers no less, if not more, than the bourgeoisie. Such a state of affairs can only serve to retard the free development of the intellectual forces of the proletariat of subject nations. One cannot speak seriously of a full development of the intellectual faculties of the Tartar or Jewish worker if he is not allowed to use his native language at meetings and lectures, and if his schools are closed down.”

(Stalin; Ibid; p. 304).

Therefore the National Liberation struggle was a key issue for the workers movement. But the national liberation struggle must also be supported for another reason. Because the national struggle is diversionary and obscures, it diverts, from the real workers struggle – for socialism:

“The policy of nationalist persecution is dangerous to the cause of the proletariat .. It diverts the attention of large strata from social questions, questions of the class struggle, to national questions, questions ‘common’ to the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. And this creates a favourable soil for lying propaganda about ‘harmony of interests’, for glossing over the class interests of the proletariat and for the intellectual enslavement of the workers. This creates a serious obstacle to the cause of using the workers of all nationalities.”

(Stalin; Bid; p.320-321).

And linked to this, moreover, nationalism allows a policy of “divide and rule,” again diverting from the main struggle:

“The ‘system’ of oppression to a ‘system’ of inciting nations against each other to a ‘system’ of massacres and pogroms. Of course, the latter system is not everywhere and always possible, but where it is possible- int the absence of elementary civil rights – it frequently assumes horrifying proportions and threatens to drown the cause of unity of the workers in blood and tears. The Caucasus and the South Russia furnish numerous examples. ‘Divide and rule’- such is the purpose of the policy of incitement. And where such policy succeeds, it is a tremendous evil for the proletariat and a serious obstacle to the cause of uniting the workers of all the nationalities in the state.”

(Stalin; ibid; p.321).

The Leninist position, and Stalin’s own position, was always that nations should have the full right to self-determination.

“The right of self-determination means that a nation may arrange its life in the way it wishes. It has the right to arrange its life on the basis of autonomy. It has the right to enter into federal relations with other nations. It has the right to complete secession. Nations are sovereign, and all nations have equal rights.”

(Stalin; Ibid; p.321).

But even if there is a nation, not all claims to nationhood are strategically defensible from the workers perspective. Obviously the Marxist-Leninist will not necessarily support all claims to nationhood if they obstruct the working peoples. For instance, the resurrection of beys’ and mullahs’ influence in Transcaucasia would not have been in the best interests of the toiling strata. The answer that is best for the workers and toilers depends upon the precise historical situation and must be carefully assessed on the precise facts:

“A nation has the right to arrange its life on autonomous lines. It even the has the right to secede. But this does not mean that it should do so under all circumstances, that autonomy or separation, will everywhere and always be advantageous for a nation; ie. For its majority, ie for the toiling strata. The Transcacausian Tartars as a nation may assemble , let us say, in their Diet and succumbed to the influence of their beys and mullahs, decide to restore the old order of things and to secede from the state. According to the meaning of the clause on self-determination they are fully entitled to do so. But will this be in the interest of the toiling strata of the Tartar nation? Can Marxists look on indifferently when the beys and mullahs assume the leadership of the masses in the solution of the national question?.. Should not Marxist come forward with a definite plan for the solution of the question, a plan which would be most advantageous for the Tartar masses?.. But what solution would be most compatible with the interests of the toiling masses? Autonomy, federation or separation? All these are problems the solution of which will depend on the concrete historical conditions in which the given nation finds itself.. Conditions like everything else change, and a decision which is correct at one particular time may prove to be entirely unsuitable at another.”

(Stalin; Ibid; p. 324).

b) Stalin On The Rights Of Minorities And The National Question

Another situation where this issue of nationhood, must be closely examined, is where there is one region with different minorities, or “proto-nations” lying side by side. There are different racial minorities in the same geographical area of the South of the USA. This is a special type of national problem. Such situations have been frequent, including in Stalin’s times. At that time, in the European world, the situation in TRANSCAUCASIA was an example. As a precondition to solve the problems of these areas, Stalin insisted that:

“The complete democratisation of the country is the basis and condition for the solution of the national question.”

(Stalin; bid; p. 373).

But, Stalin recognised that there was a possibility that independence and secession was necessary for some parts. However, he then considered the possibility that for some parts regional autonomy was preferable. This was so:

“For the Jews in Poland, the Letts in Lithuania, the Russians in the Caucasus, the Poles in the Ukraine and so on…”

This was for two reasons; namely, because it disposed of a fiction bereft of territory, and, it did not divide people by nation:

“The only correct solution is regional autonomy, autonomy for such crystallised units as Poland, Lithuania, the Ukraine, the Caucasus etc. The advantage of regional autonomy consists first of all in the fact that it does not deal with a fiction bereft of territory, but with a definite population inhabiting a definite territory. Next it does not divide people according to nations, it does not strengthen national barriers; on the contrary it breaks down these barriers and unites the population in such a manner as to open the way for division of a different kind, division according to classes… Of course, not one of these regions constitutes a compact homogeneous nation, for each is interspersed with national minorities. Such are the Jews in Poland, the Letts in Lithuania, the Russians in the Caucasus, the Poles in the Ukraine, and so on. It may be feared therefore that the minorities will be oppressed by the national majorities. But there will be grounds for fear only if the old order continues to prevail in the country. Give the country complete democracy and all grounds for fear will vanish.”

(Stalin; Ibid, p. 376).

The key issue for Stalin, was that there should be definite and clear democratic rights. So much so that he repeats this again:

“What the minorities want is not an artificial union but real rights in the localities they inhabit. What can such a union give them without complete democratisation? On the other hand, what need is there for a national union when there is complete democratisation? What is that particularly agitates a national minority? A minority is discontented not because there is not national union but because it does not enjoy the right to use its native language. Permit it to use its native language and the discontent will pass of itself. A minority is discontented not because there is no artificial union but because it does not possess it own schools. Give it its own schools and all grounds for discontent will disappear.. A minority is discontented not because there is not national union, but because it does not enjoy liberty of conscience (religious liberty), liberty of movement, etc. Give it those liberties and it will cease to be discontented. Thus equal rights of nation in all forms (language, schools, etc) is an essential element in the solution of the national question.. Complete democratisation of the country is required.”

(Stalin; Ibid.; p. 375-377).

c) Stalin On Multi-National States

Views regarding the formation of multi-national states are relevant to this discussion. Stalin’s view became the basis for Lenin’s viewpoint that echoed Kautsky (See above). This was that the formation of multi-national states, is a “special method” of the formation of states, and one which takes place in territories where certain conditions hold. These are:

1) Where more than one pre-nation (nationality) exists;

2) Where capitalism has not yet been eliminated; and

3) Where capitalism is feebly developed but is more developed in one of the pre-nations concerned than in the other (or others):

For Stalin the formation of multi-national states was more common in the East:

“Whereas in the West (of Europe-ed) nations developed into states, in the East multi-national states were formed.. This special mode of formation of states could take place only where feudalism has not yet been eliminated, where capitalism was feebly developed, where the nationalities which had been forced into the background had not yet been able to consolidate themselves economically into integral nations.”

(Stalin; J.V; Ibid; p.314).

Again, even in this context, Stalin’s view regarding the example of Transcaucasia holds. ie that Stalin favoured Democratisation and Regional Autonomy – equating with national status – within a larger federation.

IN CONCLUSION regarding the written views of Stalin upon nationhood:

Unless it can be demonstrated that there is a true Nation and not a national minority of blacks in the Southern areas, the implications of these views are self-evident. If Marxist-Leninists insist that their line does adhere to the line of Stalin, they have an onus to demonstrate exactly how this accords with a line of “the Black Nation.”

iii) Do Stalin’s Criteria Fit the Theory of the “Black Nation?”

Let us examine the criteria one at a time, as they apply to the “Negro Nation.”

Historically Constituted Stable Area

Clearly there is a historically constituted area of the South of the USA. It should be noted that this is not however, distinct from the historic continuity of the Whites in the South. Furthermore, it is not stable, as it has shown a major tendency of a drop in the numbers of Negroes resident in the South. The proportion of the total Negro population of the USA living in the “Black Belt” at the beginning of the 20th Century was 90%. (M.Ellison: “The Black Experience: American Blacks Since 1865”; London; 1974; p.58). This population of Negroes then was, it was true at that time, mainly located in the South:

“Thus by 1900.. African-Americans collectively.. Were larger by about 4.5 million over 1860. .. African-Americans numbered nine million by the turn of the century. Of that number fully 90% that is nearly 8 million, of all African-Americans still lived in the South. The percentage of urban dwellers varied across the South from a high of 27% in Tennessee to a low of 6% in Mississippi.. By 1940 the black population had grown by an average of only 9% that, slightly more than a million per decade or at an annual rate of less than 1%.”

(Denoral Davis, “Portrait of 20th Century African-Americans,” US Census in “Black Exodus”; Ibid; p.7).

But there was a steady and accelerating drift away from the South, by the Negroes. Here we cite figures summarising the so called “GREAT MIGRATION.” This had been described, it will be remembered by Lenin under the term “displacement”:

“During the Great Migration, 1915 to 1960, about five million rural southern African-Americans migrated to the northern industrialised cities of America. The immediate conditions for the ‘great migration’ were created after the Civil War when African-Americans were not given ‘forty acres and a mule’, the means of economic survival at that time.”

(Preface: “Black Exodus: The Great Migration From the America South”; Ed Alferdeteen Harrison; p. vii).

After the Second World War the pace of out-migration accelerated. In fact, it only slowed towards the end of the 1970’s, as the increasing post-war crisis of American industry was deepening:

“The post-1940 demographic trends of African-Americans.. The once closed black population of the South would over the next 4 decades become decidedly more open. In the 1940’s the South suffered a loss of 1.5 million of its African-American resident which represented a 1.5% drop in the region’s black populace. It was the most substantial net migration loss for any single decade ever. Nevertheless, during that decade the South’s black population increased by 6% and 543,000 in absolute numbers. The volume and the pace of the exodus was basically re-enacted in the 1950’s when another roughly 1.5 million black southerners absconded the region. The South’s black population again showed a net increase the time of 3% and 320,000 in absolute numbers for the decade.. A slight easing of the out-migrating pace of the past decades beginning in the 1960’s, for in the 1960’s nearly a hundred thousand free blacks forsook the South..The slowing of the black out-migrating in the 1960’s albeit only slightly, was tantamount to a turning point as the past two decades of migrating patterns were dramatically reversed. In fact by the early 1970’s there was emerging evidence of a black re-migration to the South. This early period of re-migration even resulted in a net migration increase for the South; it was the first time that had happened in 30 years.”

(p.11-12; D.Davis; “Portrait of 20th century African Americans,” Ibid).

Clearly, as unemployment and poverty in the Northern cities affecting the proletariat grew worse, under the crises of capitalism over the last few decades, there was a tendency which continues, for the Negroes or Blacks to move back to the South:

“From March 1985, until March 1988, of blacks in America, 586,385 went from the North back to the South. In these same three years only 326,842 blacks followed the original pattern of the Great Migration and went from the South to the North.. The present reverse emigration during the three years cited has brought 219,809 blacks.. back to the South east. Simultaneously only 51,083 blacks have taken this lane North. Along the far Western lane, comparable figures show 186,196 blacks returning to the South and only 92,085 journeying toward the states beyond the Rocky Mountains. The Midwestern lane.. from 1985 to 1988 back migration.. going in a Southerly direction totalled 183,083. Those going North were in aggregate 183,674.”

(Introduction in “Black Exodus”; Ibid; p. xvii-xviii).

Despite this, the net result has been an enormous demographic change:

“The impact nonetheless of three decades of out-migrating was enormous. African-Americans were by 1970 more geographically diffused across the American landscape than ever before. In general they were both less rural and southern. Fully 80% of African-Americans in 1970 were urban dwellers. In the South the figure was in excess of 70%. This compares with less than 50% of all African-Americas in 1940 and about one in four Black Southerners. In effect a dual migration had occurred with significant numbers of blacks leaving the South, one in seven to take up residence in the Northeast, Midwest, and increasingly the West – but at the same time non-migrating black southerners were exiting the rural South for its urban environs. And by 1970 blacks were more urbanized than whites nationally as Well as regionally.”

(D.Davis: “Portrait of 20th Century African-Americas”; Ibid; p.12).

There is little doubt that most of the Black migrants were going into the work places of capitalism, they were moving from share-croppers to becoming proletarians:

“Migrants were directed to specific industrial centers industries and jobs. Between 1910 and 1920 for example New York experienced a 66% increase in its black population; Chicago a 148% increase; Detroit a 611 % increase; and Philadelphia a 500% increase. By 1920 almost 40% of the black population in the North was concentrated in these four cities. The great bulk of migrants found their way into manufacturing industries with a 40% increase over levels found in 1910. Gains were most dramatic in the packing houses and steel industries in Chicago. In packing houses there were 67 blacks employed in 1910 and nearly 3 thousand in 1920. In steel black representation increased from 6% in 1910 to 17% in 1920.”

(Carol Marks: “Social and Economic Life of Southern Blacks”;in “Black Exodus” Ibid; p. 46-47).

Marks describes that the first to be able to move North were the best literate. When they got there of course, they got only the lowest paid, hardest and dirtiest jobs. These were the jobs that were available to them. Nonetheless, the industrialisation of the black sharecropper had transformed the political and social life of the Negro Americans.

See: Table 1.1: Shows the Persons Engaged in Manufacturing and Mechanical Pursuits as percentage of Total Gainfully employed By Selective Region 1880-1900 for the North East and South. (From Statistical Abstracts of the US; Washington DC Government Printing Office; 1932; Cited by C. Marks, Ibid, p. 39).


Table 1.2 shows the same picture in more detail for the period 1910-1920 for only the major Southern States. (Data from US Census of the Population 1910-1920). (p.43 Marks, Ibid).


Common Language

Stalin points out that a Common Language does not imply a nationhood of itself. Stalin refers to the Norwegians and the Danes who (Stalin; Ibid; p. 308): “Speak one language, but they do not constitute a single nation owing to the absence of the other characteristics.”

“A common language is one of the characteristic features of nation. This, of course, does not mean that different nations always and everywhere speak different languages, or that all who speak one language necessarily constitute one nation. A common language for every nation, but not necessary different languages for different nations!.. Englishmen and Americas speak one language, but they do not constitute one nation. The same is true of the Norwegian and the Danes, the English and the Irish.”

(Stalin; Ibid; p. 304).

Language then does not disqualify the Negroes from constituting a nation; but nor does it assist in establishing that the Negroes are a nation.

Common Territory

Those who present the Negroes in the “Black Belt” of the USA as a “separate nation” generally claim that it has a common territory in the “Black Belt.” As the ECCI resolution states:

“At least three-fourths of the entire Negro population of the United States.. live ..(and are-ed) settled in the ‘Black Belt’ and constitute the majority of the population.. In the South.. The main communist slogan must be: ‘the right of self-determination of the Negroes in the Black Belt.'”

(Political Secretariat, ECCI: Resolution on the Negro Population In the United States”; In; J.Degras (Ed): Volume 3; p. 125-126).

But this is certainly not true today. The counties where the Negroes constitute a “majority of the population” are shown in the map on the next page. Several points must be made regarding this map:


PLEASE NOTE: the original map accompanying this work has sadly been lost. It has been replaced with recent census maps. – E.S.

Firstly, the counties where the Negroes form a majority of the population – although lying generally but not absolutely within the “Black Belt,” form only a portion of it;

Secondly, these counties do not make up a contiguous territory, but are disconnected and scattered;

Thirdly, these counties contain a Negro population of only 11 million of the total Negro population of the USA.

Fourthly, even in these counties, more than 40% of the population is “euro-American,” i.e. white.

Fifthly, the number of counties where the Negro people constitute a majority of the population has shrunk rapidly throughout the present century, together with the Negro population residing in them (See Table 3):



1900 286 4 Million

1950 158 2 Million

1970 105 1 Million

Thus while it took 50 years (from 1900 to 1950) for the Negro population of such counties to drop by 50%, it took only another 20 years (from 1950-1970), for it to drop by a further 50%. Clearly the “Black Belt” can in no way be regarded as a “common territory” for the “Negro Nation” in the South USA. Stalin pointedly asks:

“What common territory can there be among people who inhabit different territories?”

(JVS: “Marxism and the National Question”; Ibid; p. 309-10).

Common Economic Life

The proponents of the Negro “Black Nation” theory generally claim that it has a “common economic life” in agriculture:

“The bulk of the Negro population (86%) live in the Southern States; of this number 74% live in the rural districts and are dependent almost exclusively upon agriculture for a livelihood.”

(PS ECCI: Resolution on the Negro Question, In J.Degras (Ed): Ibid; Volume 2; p. 553).

But the 1970 Census reveals that less than 3% of the occupied Negroes are engaged in agriculture. In the South the figure is only 5%. Even so, perhaps it is still a separate economic unit in the South? But even this is not the case. There is no integral economic unit more or less distinct from the economy of the rest of the USA either. Of course those proponents of the “Black Nation” deny this is the case:

“The ‘Black Belt’.. is not, either economically or politically, such an integral part of the whole US as any other part of the country.. The capitalist economic system there.. still has semi-colonial features.”

(PS ECCI; Degras; Vol 3; Ibid; p. 129, 130).

But as a result of the uneven development of capitalism, all capitalist countries have areas and regions which are more or less regions which are less, industrially developed. And moreover the regions which are less well developed generally have a kind of dependency or “semi-colonial” economic relationship to those areas which are more industrially developed. This does not mean however, that such a less industrially developed region of a country forms an integral economic unit more or less distinct from the economy of the rest of the country; such as would create the basis of separate nationhood.

For example the South of Italy, has long been industrially less well developed than the North, to which it has a semi-colonial relationship; but this does not mean that the South of Italy forms an integral economic unit distinct from the economy of the rest of the country, such as would create the basis of a separate “South Italian” nation.

The PS of the ECCI admitted that the question of the level of industrialisation was irrelevant to the national question in the USA:

“Industrialisation in the ‘Black Belt’ is not, as is generally the case in the colonies properly speaking, in contradiction with the ruling interests of the imperialist bourgeoisie which has in its hands the monopoly of the entire industry.”

(PS ECCI; Degras Vol 3; Ibid; p. 129).

In fact the ECCI went further, it actually admitted that the “Black Belt,” did not constitute an “integral economic unit more or less distinct from the economy of the rest of the country”:

“The ‘Black Belt’ is not in itself either economically or politically such a united whole as to warrant its being called a special colony of the United States.”

(PS ECCI; Degras Vol 3; Ibid; p.129).

A fall back argument was used by the ECCI, (and its later adherents) that the “Black Belt” was, and is now, an integral economic unit that is: “more or less distinct from the rest of the USA.” This argument rests on the grounds that its economy contains significant survivals of slavery, manifested in such “pre-capitalist” systems of exploitation as share cropping:

“The Negro…oppressed nation is in a peculiar and extraordinary distressing situation of national oppression…Above all because of considerable…remnants of slavery…At least three-fourths of the entire Negro population of the United States lives…most of them being peasants and agricultural labourers in a state of semi-serfdom settled in the ‘Black Belt’…The agrarian question…lies at the basis of the national question…In the ‘Black Belt’.. the capitalist economic system still has pre-capitalist…features.”

(PS, ECCI, Degras Vol 3; Ibid; p.125, 129, 130).

“The remnants of slavery in all their ramifications explain the basic content of the Negro question in the US. The chief factor which has preserve the area of Negro majority to the present time, in the face of the conflicting forces tending to redistribute the Negro population is the modern plantation system based upon forms of labour which are survivals of chattel slavery.”

(J.S.Allen: “The Negro Question in the United States”; London; 1936; p.169).

It is true that in the absence of land reform in the South, the plantation owners took great advantage of the weak economic position of the Negro Freedmen, to impose upon them forms of exploitation which may justly be described as “semi-serfdom.” And it is true, that out of these forms of exploitation, share-cropping emerged dominant as form of exploitation, that was best suited to the needs of the plantation owners:

“It (ie share-cropping) was the outcome of years of experimentation to find out what method would produce them to constant supply of submissive labour at the lower cost.”

(F.A. Shannon : “The Farmers’ Last Frontier: Agriculture : 1860-1897”; New York; 1955; p. 87).

But the system of sharecropping is not confined to Negroes, nor to the “Black Belt.” Furthermore, share cropping has rapidly declined in the South since 1930:

“Share cropping once typical of the cotton-growing areas of the South is now history…Share cropping tenancies…are today found only in the Mississippi Delta and on the coastal plains of the Carolinas.”

(A.N. Duckham and G.B. Masefield: “Farming Systems of the World”; London; 1971; p.113, 155).

The advent of the mechanised farming made possible by the invention of the Hopson mechanical cotton picker in 1944, was the final nail in the coffin of share cropping. This dramatically reduced the cost of picking cotton:

“Picking a bale of cotton by machine cost (Hopson) $5.26, and picking it by hand cost him $39.41. Each machine did the work of fifty people.”

(Nicholas Lemann; “The Promised Land”; New York; 1992; p.5).

But it should not be thought that the system was only in disintegrations during the war. The system had been crumbling even before then, ever since the price of cotton had fallen dramatically from $1.00 per pound in 1911 to $0.10 cents per pound in 1920; and the dramatic exodus of workers from the Cotton Belt to the North (Lemann, Ibid; p.15). And in any case, particular forms of exploitation (such as share-cropping for instance) do not make the region in which they are operating “an integral economic unit more or less distinct from the economy of the rest of the country,” to provide the basis of a separate nation. For example share-cropping remains the predominant form of agricultural exploitation in Lombardy and Emilia, but this does not mean that these regions form “integral economic units”; such as would provide a basis for separate nationhood for these regions of Italy. Thus even the PS of the ECCI was forced to acknowledge:

“The ‘Black Belt’ is not in itself, either economically or politically, such a united whole as to warrant its being called a special colony of the United States.”

(PS ECCI; Degras Vol 3; Ibid; p.129).

Common Psychological Make-up

The advocates a “Black nation” hold that there is a “common psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.” The ancestors of the present Negro inhabitants of the United States were brought from Africa to serve as slaves, for the most part on the plantations in the Deep South. But the social formations of the regions of Africa from which they came were those of the tribe and the tribal federation, from regions where pre-nations (nationalities) had not yet been formed, and they came from different regions having no common culture or common language. Clearly therefore the Negro community did not constitute a pre-nation – much less a nation – at the time the Negroes arrived in North America. If so – a common make-up was formed in the crucible of the USA. Some of those advocating that this occurred, point to a statement by Frederick Engels:

“The working class has gradually become a race apart from the English bourgeoises.. The workers speak other dialects, have other thoughts and ideals, other customs and moral principles, a different religion and other politics than those of the bourgeoises, they are two radically dissimilar nations.”

(F. Engels: “The Condition of the Working Class In England”; London; 1969; p. 154).

But it is clear that in speaking of the British capitalist class and the British working class as separate “nations,” Engels is speaking no more literally than when in the earlier sentence he refers to them as belonging to separate “races,” he is speaking metaphorically, in order to emphasise the differences in the common psychological make-up manifested in a common culture possessed by the two main antagonistic classes within the British nation.

But in addition to these radically dissimilar psychological make-ups and cultures which reflect class differences, the British capitalist class and the British working class have in common a certain “common psychological make-up manifested in a common culture” which reflect that both classes belong a single British nation.

Thus the fact that during the period of slavery, in North America, the Negro people a acquired a distinct “common psychological make-up manifested in a common culture” which reflected their social position as a slave class, and so was radically dissimilar from the psychological make-up and culture of other social classes in no way means they acquired a “psychological make-up manifested in a common culture” appropriate to a separate nation.

With the abolition of slavery, by the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution of December 18th, 1865 – the Negro people ceased to form a slave social class, and so in time, they ceased to have the “common psychological make-up manifested in a common culture” appropriate to a slave class. Though it is true that the features of minority oppression and racism did not ever disappear. It is true that this continues to be an issue every day for Negroes in the USA. But it is also true that this is not the basis for a national movement. It is also true that this can only be overcome by a joint Communist struggle with whites.

iii) Stalin and the “Black Nation” – What Evidence of Stalin’s support?

As seen, we have argued the case that Negroes are a minority. It is likely that Stalin’s views related to the Jewish minority fits the Negro population of the USA. Yet this formulation is quite different from “the Black Nation.” The manifest injustice then and now, to the Black people and in particular to the workers, underlies the subjective drive of many Marxist-Leninists towards this theory. This daily injustice spawns a subjective desire to assist their development, and to harness their manifest alienation from capitalist America. This must be considered honestly, as an honest confusion of subjective factors for objective factors.

Marxist-Leninists accept that Stalin was a great working class leader. Those who accept the theory of the “Black Nation,” claim therefore that this line had the imprimateur of Stalin on it. Perhaps, Stalin changed his mind in his later years well after having written his influential work? What evidence then is there that Stalin’s view was altered into one favouring “The Black nation?” Yet in all of Stalin’s written works, nothing suggests that he supported a policy of two nations in the USA. To the contrary, it appears that he always talked of one nation – The USA. However proponents of the theory claim to the contrary, that indeed Stalin did support this line. Where is the evidence of Stalin’s support for this line supposed to be? The Marxist-Leninist supporters of the “line of The Black Nation,” cite this evidence as lying in two sources:

One source of “evidence” that Stalin supported the line of the “Black Nation”; is the assumption that Stalin was in charge of the Comintern. We have already addressed to some extent, in previous publications, that this interpretation is contrary to the known facts (Please see Alliance Numbers 18; 12; 19). This analysis is left to the Marxist-Leninist international left to either reject by principled reply, or, to accept. In this document we discuss a little more, the circumstances of the Sixth World Congress of the Communist International. This supplements previous writings on this question from both the Communist League (UK); and ourselves.

Thus we argue, that the international Marxist-Leninist left needs an open and clear principled debate, on the nature of the Comintern, and its relationship to the rise of revisionism. Because Alliance is a small organisation, it may be argued that this renders it un-necessary to refute this line. Such comments have been voiced by some. We believe that this is akin to closing one’s eyes. Some international Marxist-Leninists have accused us of attacking Stalin by this analysis. We wonder at their understanding of a Defence of Stalin. Our record on Stalin speaks for itself in fact.

The second source of “evidence” that Stalin supported the line of the “Black Nation” lies in the verbatim comments, and memories of leading Black members of the former CPUSA, that the “Black Nation” theory originated with Stalin. We consider many of these verbatim comments and memories, as both biased and in contradiction to the written evidence of Stalin’s own writings. The enigma remains for Marxist-Leninist proponents of the “Black nation,” why it is that Stalin never burst into print with this? As Draper says:

“The man whose voice the American communists really heeded on the American Negro Question never made a public statement about it. For lack of other evidence, Stalin’s decisive influence in this area has hitherto been deduced or surmised from his decisive influence in all areas and his special interest in the national question.” (Draper; Ibid; p. 342).

To accept this notion that anything significant that happened in the Marxist-Leninist movement only happened if Stalin said “Yes!”, is to defer to the bourgeois and Trotskyite myth of the all-Powerful Stalin. Nevertheless, we examine these reminiscences. The first is from a prominent black member of the CPUSA who was at the famous “Far Eastern University for Toilers” in Moscow. Draper reports the memories of OTTO HALL:

“According to Hall, the little group of five Negroes (Otto Hall, and four other Negroes-ed) had not been at the Far Eastern university in Moscow more than a week when Stalin sent for them…The group was taken to the Kremlin…KARL RADEK who knew enough English to serve as interpreter was present…They drank tea and talked informally for several hours. Stalin held forth: ‘The Negroes represented the most oppressed section of the American working class. Therefore the American party should have more Negroes than whites. Why weren’t there more Negroes in the American party?” (Draper; Ibid; p. 334).

Hall answered that prejudice and discrimination within the party were largely responsible for the shortage of Negro members. Hall remembers Stalin as saying:

“‘The whole approach of the American party is wrong. You are indeed a national minority with some of the characteristics of a nation.’ He asked them to write memoranda on the question.. To Hall and the others, it sounded like Jim Crow in revolutionary guise.” (Draper; Ibid; p. 334).

But this terminology is far different from the terminology of a “Black Nation.” In fact it accords with the written views of Stalin in his work on the National Question that we have cited above. Otto Hall had one further memory also involving Stalin on this question:

“Otto Hall says that Stalin gave him and four other Negroes at the Far Eastern University their first intimations of a Negro ‘National Question’ in 1925. One more direct and one indirect association with Stalin has come to light. William F. Kruse recalls that about 2 years later, he and other American students at the Lenin School were invited to attend a discussion on the American Negro question in the Anglo-American Secretariat of the Comintern. To their surprise , among those seated around a long table was Stalin, flanked by two young Russian members of the Institute of Red Professors. One of the Russian professors read a long ‘thesis’ in support of the theory of self-determination as applied to the American Negro question. Stalin himself said nothing throughout the entire session, except for whispered consultations with the speaker. Kruse did most of the talking and upheld the older position that equality rather than self-determination constituted the revolutionary solution. The discussion ended without reaching any conclusion.” (Draper; Ibid; p. 343).

But there is NO indication as to Stalin’s thought. It is simply assumed what he thought!

In startling contrast to this picture of a vague, nebulous, mythical “support” from Stalin for the line, many known Ultra-Left revisionists in the international movement openly fostered the theory of the “Black Nation.” We have already discussed the role of Zinoviev, in the introduction. But after his exposure as a revisionist others continued to promote the line. For example, SALOMON LOZOVSKY. Again Draper cites the memories of CPUSA members:

“Finally another American student at the Lenin School, Joseph Zack, says that he first heard of the doctrine of Negro self-determination in the US from the head of Profintern, Lozovsky, who told him that it came from Stalin himself. Like most Americans, Zack reacted unfavourably. A week later, Lozovsky asked Zack to come to his apartment and showed him the outline of a thesis by Stalin on the subject, consisting of a few brief points.” (Draper; Ibid; p. 343).

Another memory comes from GEORGE PADMORE the West Indian born Communist. He remembered OTTO KUUSINEN as taking the lead role in promoting the theory. Kuusinen was the chairman of the Negro Commission of the ECCI. Padmore:

“Called Kuusinen the >genius behind the scheme’.” (Draper Cited p. 349).

Of course Draper reverts quickly to the given stereotype, and states emphatically – Especially important is it to be emphatic and dogmatic when there is only weak “evidence” – that:

“Kuusinen was no doubt entrusted with the management of this operation, but that he did not originate this theory, there can also be no doubt. If there was a ‘genius’ in this scheme, it was undoubtedly Stalin, whose bidding Kuusinen unfailingly obeyed.” (Draper Cited p. 349-350).

TO CONCLUDE: Neither do the writings of Stalin nor do the facts, support the view that Stalin promoted the line of a “Black Nation”;. We are forced then to consider why this line was adopted and who forced the line onto the CPUSA? We will suggest, there is good evidence that this came from the hidden revisionists in the Comintern such as Kuusinen, assisted by Radek, Lozovsky, and Manuilsky, as they took over, or hijacked, the Communist International. Furthermore this process was assisted by the intense factionalism of the CPUSA. This created the opportunity for frustrating the correct line in the USA. First, we briefly ask whether the line of “Black Nation” is still alive today?

v) The Modern Day Line of The Black Nation In the CPUSA

Is this line of the “Black Nation” still voiced in the USA? The answer is yes, and most emphatically. We will ignore the openly bourgeois and petty-bourgeois voices that articulate some form of Black Nationalism. We will only point out that many voices on the Marxist-Leninist Left still firmly accept the line of the ECCI nowadays. A number of parties and organisations follow this line, though they may vary on some aspects of this. Nonetheless, all are united on the line itself in broad measure. They are united in saying that the ECCI was correct; and they are united in pointing to the importance of Harry Haywood’s articles. Rather than perform a detailed analysis at this time, of each text by the various groups, we will concentrate on Haywood, since all groups follow his lead.

By the time that EARL BROWDER turned the party into open revisionism, the line of Black Nation was already in disrepute as it had failed to ignite Black workers. But by this time also, the victory of open right revisionism of the type of Khrushchev, enabled the militants still within the CPUSA, to argue that fighting revisionism, in part meant resurrecting the Black Nation line. In 1959, no doubt conscious that the line of a black nation was not developing according to a full adherence with the theory of Stalin, HARRY HAYWOOD counter-attacked those who had shown the temerity to disagree with him in this manner.

This included JAMES ALLEN, until then a prominent writer on this question who had favoured a “Black Nation” line. Allen had re-assessed the position, and came under sharp attack from Haywood. Haywood’s main attack was that in the present times of imperialism, all “classical” roads to nation formation were closed, and that new routes were needed. Haywood went so far as to say that the standard application of a Marxist Leninist set of criteria was “rigid.” Haywood made it clear that this meant the “classical” interpretation was “too rigid” to allow it to be used for the putative Black Nation of the Southern USA:

“The main question for us is: Does there exist the objective conditions for the development of a national revolutionary movement among the Negro people in the Deep South as a phase in their struggle for socialism in the USA. If there is even a possibility of such a development, the Party cannot withdraw support to the right of self-determination as the strategic goal of the Negro movement in the South. It is clear that the proponents of the draft resolution deny the possibility of such a movement. It is clear that the “new” line is against such a movement, and their arguments are designed to “prove” that there is no objective base for such a movement. In order to “prove” what they not wish to support is impossible or unnecessary, they distort Marxist-Leninist theory on the national question, setting up a rigid test which the Negroes in the Black Belt will pass before they will be accepted as a nation having the right to self-determination. In fact so rigid is this test, that very, very few oppressed nations in the contemporary period could pass such a test. For example where does Comrade Allen expect to find an oppressed nation in the epoch of imperialism taking the ‘classic road to the formation of a nation?’ And, particularly when we are dealing with a submerged nation in the heartland of US imperialism, the main bulwark of the collapsing capitalist and colonial system? These dogmatic unhistorical structures would make support to a national revolutionary movement contingent upon the ‘maturing of all elements of nationhood.'”

(Harry Haywood: “On the Negro question”; November 1959; In “Towards Victorious Afro-American National Liberation”; Boston; R.O. Light ; Appendix B; p.397).

Haywood correctly argues that Stalin pointed out some elements of what constitutes a nation. But he hastens to add that these conditions only apply to the formation of nation under pre-capitalist conditions:

“The elements of nationhood- language, territory, culture etc. do not fall from the skies, but were evolved gradually in the pre-capitalist period. But these elements were in a rudimentary state, and at best, were only a potentiality, that is given the constituted the possibility of a nation in the future given certain favourable conditions. The potentiality became a reality only in the period of rising capitalism with its national markets and its economic cultural centers.”

(The National Question and Leninism).” (Haywood, Citing Stalin “On the Negro question”; p. 398; Ibid).

Haywood completes this argument by stating that the “classic” means of nation formation is now unnecessary. This is because in the conditions of “present imperialist epoch,” the classic means of nation forming cannot occur. He argues that to insist upon a “Stalinist” line on this is to be “purist.” He advocates the model of China and the revisionist USSR of 1959:

“In the classic epoch the epoch of transition to capitalism, favourable circumstances for the conversion of this potentially into a reality were present in the bourgeois – democratic revolution – the overthrow of feudalism. In the present imperialist epoch, the epoch of transition to socialism, the essential condition for the dull development of oppressed nations is the overthrow of imperialist oppression and domination of weaker nations. It is socialism that offers the most favourable conditions for the consolidation and full development of oppressed nations and peoples. This is demonstrably proved by the experiences of the Soviet Union and the Peoples’ China in the solution of the national question, and the resultant flowering of the cultures of the formerly oppressed peoples.”

(Haywood “On the Negro question”; Ibid; p. 398).

Of course Haywood rather contradicts another point of Stalin’s, in “The National Question and Leninism.” Stalin points out that in nations in the usual sense, arise precisely in the era of capitalism and imperialism. There is only one distinction from the “bourgeois nation state”; and this is the socialist nation:

“The bourgeoisie and its nationalist parties were throughout this period the chief leading force of such nations. Class peace within the nation for the sake of ‘national unity’; expansion of territory of ones’ own nation by seizure of the national territories of others; distrust and hatred of other nations; suppression of national minorities; a united front with imperialism-such is the ideological, social, and political stock-in-trade of these nations. Such nations must be qualified as bourgeois nations. Examples are the French, British, Italians , North American and other Similar nations.”

(Stalin, J.V. “The National Question and Leninism”; Vol 11; Moscow 1954; p.353).

Leaving aside the differences with Stalin, there are further problems with Haywood’s analysis. He denies reality. Haywood, is forced to deny even the factual evidence of the “Great Migration”:

“Another claim that has no basis in fact is that there had been a ‘radical decline’ in the ‘ratio of Negroes to whites’ in the rural Black belt, the traditional area of Negro majorities. Negro majorities still exist in the rural counties. It is the cities which reduce the proportion of Negroes to whites, and in those cities an unprecedented majority in their population! For example the Negro population of Memphis Tenne., increased from 37.2 in 1950 to 51.2 in 1955. And by that same year, the Negro had become 49% of the population of Birmingham , Ala., 35% in New Orleans; 34.6% in Atlanta, Ga.; 38% in Charlotte, N.C.; and from 20.3% to 42.5% in a number of other cities in or near the Black Belt…The growth of the Negro urban population is unquestionable But is it correct to assume that Negroes residing in towns and villages are, ipso facto, urban workers? Perlo notes that ‘there are increasing numbers of Negro town and village dwellers who are farm labourers, migratory or seasonal workers. Consequently there has been an actual increase in the proportion of Negro people who earn their living mainly from agriculture.’ Perlo notes further that ‘the number of Negro people in the old south has remained stable,’ contrary to assertions that the Black Belt Negro community is no longer a stable community. He foresees on the basis of this study, a ‘sharp increase in the Negro population of the old South’ by 1970, and adds:

‘The potential increase in the proportion of Negroes among the farm population of working age is especially marked. In 1940, 46.7% of all farm children less than 5 years of age were Negroes. In 1950 this proportion had increased to 49% in the six states as a whole, and to more than 60% in South Carolina and Mississippi.’ The perspective then is for an explosive increase of the Negro population in the rural Black Belt, such as occurred in the period between 1910 and 1930 when, despite the mighty migrations of that period, it showed an actual increase of 192,000. Moreover in the Census South, the Negro population grew by some one million between 1930 and 1950.'”

(Haywood; “On the Negro question”; Ibid; p. 397).

These latter statements purport to be facts, and as such they can be either verified, or refuted. Unfortunately for Haywood’s theory, the facts do not confirm his analysis.

  • There are very serious implications in these statements by Haywood.
  • Modern day proponents of Haywood, those who call themselves today “Marxist-Leninists,” have a duty to the rest of the Marxist-Leninist movement.
  • This is to bring Stalin’s analysis of “the nation” up-to-date.
  • The rest of the movement, including Alliance, would be indebted to them if they can substantiate the deficiencies of Stalin’s analysis that demand such up-dating. Those of the Marxist-Leninists who have resisted “updating” Stalin on this and many other questions, should be shown the error of our ways!


We have in previous writings dealt in detail, with this theme. Here we summarise some key aspects to facilitate this review of the “Black Nation” theory.

  • The basic contention put by Alliance and Communist League of UK, is that the Comintern was increasingly led into incorrect lines.
  • In effect, it was hijacked after the death of Lenin, and by 1928, Stalin had been fully excluded from its running. A summary of this prior work, must encompass three facts:

1. That Zinoviev, as President of the Comintern, effectively moved the Comintern away from correct Marxist-Leninist lines after the death of Lenin.

2. That the subversion of the correct Marxist-Leninist line on the Colonial Question occurred in China (with the ECCI agent Borodin) in an alliance with the revisionist Communist Party of China; this led to Stalin’s exclusion at the 6th World Congress of the ECCI.

3. That, by and at, the 6th World Congress the ECCI was now effectively in control of the other remaining revisionists, Bukharin, Manuilsky and Kuusinen. They completed the perversion of the correct tactics in the colonial and semi-colonial countries.

At a time when the international Marxist-Leninist movement is re-forming itself organisationally, it is remarkable that uncomfortable historical facts are avoided by parties world wide. Even bourgeois historians now challenge the mythology of the “all controlling Stalin!” This leads Robert Conquest to fulminate against his fellow academic “revisionist historians,” who dare to challenge his own propagandist views of a “bloody dictator Stalin.” Yet, Marxist-Leninist forces have not risen to the challenge of re-assessing significant sections of their history; and if need be refuting assertions on the basis of a principled debate. In fact various of them state airily and from a great height, that this is all a myth. If so, a counter argument is merited.

i) The Role of Zinoviev and Ultra-Leftism

Even before Lenin’s death, the Comintern leadership, as President, was given to GRIGORI ZINOVIEV. The major thrust of the Comintern was under Zinoviev’s direction. But as Zinoviev himself stated the influence of Lenin whilst still alive was enormous:

“Inasmuch as in a thing like the Communist International one may speak about the role of an individual, one may consider it as Lenin’s creation.”

(Branko Lazitch and Milorad M. Drachovitch; Lenin and the Comintern Vol 1; Stanford 1972;” ; p . 50).

Zinoviev created a triumvirate that ran the Comintern, with Karl Radek, and Nikolai Bukharin. Zinoviev later formed close links with the Trotskyists, culminating in the anti-Bolshevik conspiracy. It is not surprising then that after Lenin’s death, the Comintern slid off track. This first revealed itself to Stalin over the issue of the attitude of the Comintern to the “Lenin Testament” so called (This is detailed in Alliance # 15). Lenin’s terminal illness became a pawn in the hands of the Trotskyites, who had isolated Lenin from Stalin on the pretence of illness. Trotsky then used a “Testament” against the wishes of the Bolshevik Central Committee to surreptiously attack Stalin. The documents were given to Max Eastman, and they were published as “Lenin’s Testament.” Stalin wished to fully expose this intrigue, by means of publishing the complete correspondence, but he was prevented by Manuilsky and Zinoviev (This is detailed in Alliance # 15).

By 1926 the British General Strike, had revealed intense struggles at the top levels of the CI. Stalin’s approach was to win over workers within reformist trade unions. Stalin opposed Ultra-leftists, who proposed setting up Red “paper” unions. The rationale of the Ultra-leftists was that the era was one of a decline of capitalism. In reality, capitalism was at this time undergoing only partial stabilisation. Opposing Zinoviev, Stalin’s general assessment of the General Strike was that it was “a provocation”:

“A provocation of the general strike by the British Conservatives, was capital’s attempt to solidify stabilization-that is in this case capital not revolution was on the attack…Stabilisation had not ended, although it has been and continues to be shaky.”

(“Stalin’s Letters to Molotov”; Edited Lars T. Lih; Oleg V. Naumov; and Oleg V. Khlevniuk; Yale 1995. Letter 16; 3 June 1926. Ibid; p.108).

Although this provocation would not succeed in its aim, it also was not likely to lead to success for the workers movement. The General Strike:

“Did not lead to a strengthening of stabilisation nor could it. But it also did not lead to a triumphant development of the workers revolutionary struggle or to the destruction of stabilization; moreover as a result of the strike some categories of workers were not able to preserve even their former conditions of work and struggle.” (J.V. Stalin; In “Stalin’s Letters”; Ibid; p.108).

  • The tendency to Ultra-Leftism was by no means confined to elements within the MINORITY MOVEMENT of Great Britain. Proposals emanated from Zinoviev and Salomon Lozovsky to:
  • Firstly, to break with United Front Tactics within the reformist trade unions; and;
  • Secondly, to build “minorities” movement outside the “reactionary trade unions”; i.e. to build so called “Red Trade Unions.”

But Stalin characterised Zinoviev’s overall position as “fundamentally incorrect”:

“Basically Zinoviev’s theses proceed from the premise that 1) Stabilization is ending or has already ended; 2) We are entering into or have already entered into a phase of revolutionary explosions; 3) the tactic of gathering forces and working in the reactionary trade unions is losing its viability and is receding into the background; 4) the tactic of a united front has outlived itself; 5) We must build our own trade unions by relying on the initiative for an outright break with the General Council. In the general historical circumstances, this entire premise is in my view, fundamentally incorrect because it plays into the hands of Amsterdam and the Second International and dooms our Communist parties to sectarianism.”

(J.V. Stalin; Letter 16, Ibid; p.108).

Stalin summarised his view of the international climate as one of a “continuing stabilisation”:

“As a result we do not have a new phase of stormy onslaught by the revolution but a continuing stabilization, temporary, not enduring, but stabilisation nonetheless; fraught with new attempts by capital to make new attacks on the workers, who continue to be forced to defend themselves.”

(J.V. Stalin; Ibid; Letter 16; p.108).

In terms of the practical decisions flowing from this analysis, Stalin warned against isolation, while coupling this with advice to expose the bourgeois leadership. These are complementary strands:

“Our task is to continue to gather forces and form a real united front; to prepare the working class to resist new attacks by capital; to turn this Defence into a broad based revolutionary attack by the proletariat against capital, into a transition to a struggle for power.

6)Hence the need for more intense work by the Communists in the reactionary trade unions for the purpose of internally transforming them and of taking control of them…

7) hence the need for a determined struggle against Zinoviev and Trotsky, who have been advocating splitting the trade union movement and have opposed a united front…

8) Hence a decisive rebuttal of Zinoviev and Trotsky’s line which leads to the Communist parties isolation from the masses and to the abandonment of the masses to a monopoly of the leadership by reformers….

10) Hence a decisive rebuttal of any attempt to take upon ourselves the initiative of splitting the Soviet Trade Union Council from the British trade union movement, since a break with the General Council under these conditions must surely lead to a break with the trade unions of England in favour of Amsterdam….

11) The break with the General Council will surely lead to a disruption in the policy of a unified trade union movement in France and Germany as well, since the reformers in France and Germany are not better than the British reformers….

15) Ruthless criticism of centrists and leftists in the General Council is absolutely necessary..

18) The trade union minority and the British CP should launch a vigorous campaign for new elections to the executive committee of the unions and the General Council aiming at the exclusion of the Thomas traitors and their hangers on among the leftists; the British party should support their replacement with new revolutionary leaders.”

(“Letter 15” “Stalin’s Letters”; Ibid; p. 108-9).

In fact as far Stalin was concerned, Zinoviev represented more of a danger than Trotsky.

This was due to his position in the Comintern. (Detailed “Letter” No. 21, written 25.6. 1926):

“1) Before the appearance of the Zinoviev group, those with oppositional tendencies (Trotsky the Workers’ Opposition, and others) behaved more or less loyally but were tolerable.

2) With the appearance of the Zinoviev group those with oppositional tendencies began to grow more arrogant and break the bounds of loyalty;

3) The Zinoviev group became the mentor of everyone in the opposition who was for splitting the party; in effect it has become the leader so the splitting tendencies in the party;

4) This role fell to Zinoviev’s group because:

  • a) it is better acquainted with our methods than any other group;
  • b) It is stronger in general than the other groups and has control of the Comintern Executive Committee (Zinoviev is) chairman of the Comintern Executive Committee, which represents a serious force;
  • c) because of this it behaves more arrogantly than any other group, providing examples of “boldness” and “determination” to those with other tendencies.”

(“Stalin’s Letters.” Ibid; p.115).

It was for this reason, that events in the Comintern took on special meaning, as Zinoviev and Trotsky manoeuvred to gain control within the USSR. Zinoviev allied with M.M. LASHEVICH to hold anti-party, underground and factional meetings in the USSR. They organized with international Ultra-Leftist including RUTH FISCHER (Germany) and BORDIGA (Italy) to try to disrupt the line:

“If Lashevich is organizing illegal meetings, if Zinoviev is organizing R. Fischer’s flight to Germany, & if Sokolnikov is being sent to France to the French CP V Congress- it means they have decided along with Trotsky to break the party through the Comintern.”

(Letter 20; dated 15 June 1926; Ibid; p.113. “Stalin’s Letters”).


Haywood writes that:

H.V. PHILLIPS and BOB MAZUT (A young Russian representative of the Young Communist International (YCI) to the Young Workers Communist League)…told me of a discussion he had on the eve of his departure from Russia. Zinoviev, then President of the Communist International, had asked him to look closely into the Afro-American Question in the United States and to see if he could find any confirmation for his belief and that of other Russian leaders that the right of self-determination was the appropriate slogan for Black rebellion. Zinoviev added that he had long believed that the question would become the ‘Achilles heel of American imperialism’. I told Mazut that…I didn’t feel that the slogan of self-determination was applicable to U.S. Blacks…Mazut nevertheless raised the question of self-determination for discussion in meeting of the Chicago District Committee of the YCL…He was literally shouted down by the white comrades.”

(H. Haywood: “Black Bolshevik: Autobiography of an Afro-American Communist”; Chicago 1978; p. 134).

Even after Zinoviev’s removal from the Comintern leadership, there were left ample enough revisionist leaders, that allowed a further pushing of the line of the “Black Nation.”

ii) The Perversion of United Front tactics in the Trade Unions

The suggestion that a new trade union international should be founded was made by Zinoviev, in March 1920, to the Congress of the Russian Communist Party. At a meeting in Washington sponsored in part by the Second International, there had been a development, for an international trade union council, which became the INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANISATION (ILO). Consequently the Russian trades unions joined the Comintern, and asked other trades unions to do the same. An international trade union council was formed to make preparations for an “international congress of trade unions.” A letter was sent by the ECCI to the trades unions of all countries. This proclaimed the following:

“The new trade union movement should throw overboard all vestiges of the craft spirit. It should make its task the direct struggle – shoulder to shoulder with the communist parties-for the dictatorship of the proletariat and the Soviet system…It should place in the foreground the weapon of the general strike and should prepare for combining the general strike with armed insurrection. The new unions should cover the entire mass of workers and not only the labour aristocracy. They should implement the principals of strict centralism and organisation by industry, not by occupation…The new unions should start a revolutionary struggle for the immediate nationalisation of the most important industries, while remembering that unless the proletariat establishes a Soviet regime no genuine nationalisation is possible.”

(Extracts from Letter From ECCI to the Trade Unions of All Countries”; J. Draper (Ed) A Vol 1; p.88-89).

These were in general correct tactics, that followed the spirit and letter of Lenin’s counsel on the approach to the reformist trade unions. This is shown by the letter that soon followed to the French Socialist Party. By July 1920 Red Trade Unions were being organised in France, but the counsel given by the Comintern was to stay inside the old reformist unions. However the letter also points out that there was being organised, at an international level the RED CONGRESS OF TRADE UNIONS; in opposition to the older reformist, yellow, AMSTERDAM, OR SECOND INTERNATIONAL unions. These were organised by the INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF LABOUR UNIONS (IFTU). The French were urged to participate:

“You ask what our attitude to the French trade unions is…We are opposed to revolutionaries and communist leaving the unions…Revolutionaries and communists must be where the working masses are…We ask our adherents in France not to leave the unions in any circumstances, On the contrary they are to perform their duty towards the Communist International they must intensify their work within the unions…We must wrest these unions from the control of the capitalists and social-traitors, and to do that we must be in the unions; to do that we must direct our best forces there. In every union and in every branch we must organise a communist group…We must open the eyes of the members…Red trade unions are beginning to be organised on an international level…An international congress of red trade unions is to be convened for August or September in opposition to the Amsterdam international of yellow trade unions. Support this move in France. Get your unions to associate themselves with the international of Red unions and to break once and for all with the yellow unions. This is the task of the revolutionaries in France.”

(Extracts From A Letter From the ECCI to the French Socialist Party; Septem July 1920; J. Draper (Ed) A Vol 1; Documents of the Communist International; Ibid; p. 1237-8).

At the Second Congress, Zinoviev reported the first and preliminary steps taken to found the RED INTERNATIONAL OF LABOUR UNIONS (PROFINTERN OR RILU). The line taken was to split the International movement away from the leaders and representatives of the reformists sitting in Amsterdam:

“We must split Amsterdam…’We can now say to every union: Leave the Amsterdam International. You now have an international of red unions and you should join it.”

(Introduction to : Extracts from a Manifesto to All Trade Unions On the Decision to Found a RILU; Sep 1920; In J.Draper (Ed); Vol 1; London; 1971 p. 185).

But despite the inflammatory verbiage, the line itself was correctly stated. The wording used terms such as taking over the existing unions and ridding them of reformist leadership:

“The Communist International summons all workers who stand for the social revolution and the proletarian dictatorship to fight vigorously for the adherence of their unions to the International Council of Trade Unions established in Moscow on 15 July by the Unions of Russia, England, Italy, Spain, Yugoslavia, France and Georgia…The Second World Congress of the CI summons you to active struggle for the unions. Take into your own hands these powerful organisations, not shrinking from the most resolute struggle against those who are distorting the workers’ organisations into instruments of bourgeois policy. They try to frighten you with splits and expulsions…The Communist International does not want to split the trade union movement, does not aim at it, but does not fear it either… It is not necessary to split the unions, but it is necessary to expel from them the treacherous group of leaders who are making the unions into a plaything of the imperialists.”

(Extracts from Manifesto to All Trade Unions On.. Found a RILU; Aug 1920; In J.Draper Vol 1; p.187-188).

But the sense of a dichotomy between national work (work within the unions) and the international line (split the unions) was confusing. For some, like those of the American International Workers of the World (IWW), the injunction to work within the unions was anathema. Alfred Rosmer recalls that after these theses had been adopted John Reed said to him:

“We cannot go back to America with a decision like that. In the American unions the Comintern has friends only in the IWW, and we are being sent into the AFL where it has nothing but bitter enemies.”

(“Manifesto to All Trade Unions On the decision to Found a RILU:; Cited J.Draper Ibid; Vol 1; p. 185).

This reflected the heavy base of Ultra-Leftism that was throughout, a major problem for the American party. In the ECCI however, even by 1922, a correct line was still being taken. This correct line was designed in fact to prevent splitting. It was carefully delineated that, if there were “splitters,” these were to be clearly seen as in fact the Yellow Second International – who wished by splitting, to hermetically insulate “their” workers against the revolutionary plague injected by the revolutionary elements inspired by the Comintern, working INSIDE the reformist unions:

“5. In the forthcoming period the task of the communists is to extend their influence in the old reformist trade unions to fight the splitting policy of the Amsterdam leaders, and to carry out carefully and consistently the tactics of the united front in the trade union movement. However large the minority within an individual union or trade unions Federation is, communists must see that this minority stays within its organisation and fights for carrying through the programme and tactics of the minority. The adherence of such trade union minorities to the RILU can only be an ideological one, which they must demonstrate by the practical execution of the decisions of the first congress of the revolutionary unions and by following the Profintern tactics.

6. Communists are obliged to work in favour of the individual unions affiliated to the RILU remaining inside the international trade and industrial secretariats.”

(ECCI Resolution on the Tasks of the Communists in Trade Unions Feb 1922; Degras Vol 1; Ibid; p.321).

And by December 1922, still the ECCI was adhering to the correct tactics. As late as June 1923 a correct line was taken; as expressed at the Third ECCI Plenum on the Trade Union Question. (In J. Degras; Ibid p.33 Vol 2). The 1922 expression still held. As it stated in 1922:

“Nothing weakens the proletarian resistance to the capitalist offensive so much as splitting the unions. The reformist leaders are well aware of this, but since they are also aware that they are losing ground…They are anxious to split the unions which are the irreplaceable instrument of the proletarian class struggle so that the communists will inherit only the fragments and splinters of the old trade union organisations…The reformists need a split. The Communists are interested in rallying all the forces of the working class against capitalism. The United Front tactic means that the communist vanguard must take the lead in the day-to-day struggles of the broad working masses for their most vital interests. In these struggles the communists are even ready to negotiate with the treacherous social-democratic and Amsterdam leaders. The attempts to the Second International to represent the United Front as the organisational fusion of all ‘workers parties’ must of course be decisively rebutted.”

(From Theses on Tactics Adopted by Fourth CI Congress, Dec 1922; In J. Degras; Ibid; Vol 1; p. 423-424).

But by 1929 there had been a significant change in the orientation of the ECCI towards the Unions. Now a dangerous ULTRA-LEFTISM had begun to enter. This was led by THAELMANN of the KPD, and by LOZOVSKY, and was expressed at the Fourth RILU congress (Moscow 17 March -3 April 1928):

“Thaelmann explained the concentration on unorganised workers as reflecting the shift of emphasis from the unions, which were becoming fascist to the factories; Lozovsky explained the ECCI’s approval of new unions in the US by saying that there 90% of the working class was unorganised. The CPGB had resisted the formation of a breakaway union from the Scottish miners, but their resistance had been overcome. We argued with the CPGB for about a year. Whether or not communist parties should start new unions was a question to be decided not theoretically but on practical grounds according to the given situation. Lozovsky had examined the resolutions and decisions of the Comintern and its sections on Trade unions, the industrial struggle, etc. He listed 94 defects and deficiencies… They ranged from underestimation of the radicalisation of the masses to underestimation of the use made of reformism by militarisation and imperialism; virtually all of them were right wing failures…The main Resolution at the Fourth Congress of RILU said…There must be a vigorous struggle against the idea of ‘unity at whatever price’, for unity is not a goal but a means to a goal. A single trade union international was still the goal, but this could only be attained by fighting the reformists and Amsterdam. The policy adopted against strong opposition, called for the ‘independent leadership of the industrial struggle’ by communist and RILU supporters.”

(Intro. To ‘Extracts from Theses of the Tenth ECCI Plenum on the Economic Struggle and Tasks of Communist Parties.’ July 1929; J. Draper Vol 3; Ibid; p.52).

In the Theses of the Tenth ECCI Plenum on the Economic Struggle and the Tasks of the Communist Parties, from July 1929, and printed in Inprecor on 4 September 1929, the new line was put under the heading “II. The Radicalization of the Working Class and the Reformist Trade Unions”:

“1…Just as social democracy is evolving through social-imperialism to social-fascism, joining the ranks of the vanguard of the contemporary capitalist State in the suppression of the rising revolutionary movement of the working class.. The social-fascist trade union bureaucracy is, during the period of sharpening economic battles, completely going over to the side of the big bourgeoisie… In this process of rapid fascization of the reformist trade union apparatus and of its fusion with the bourgeois state, a particularly harmful role is played by the so-called Left wing of the Amsterdam International (Cook, Fimmen etc) who under the cloak of opposition to the reactionary leaders of the Amsterdam International are trying to conceal from the workers the real significance of this process and are forming an active and constant part (and by far not the least important) in the system of social-imperialism.”

(“Theses Tenth ECCI Plenum, Economic Struggle and Tasks.” July 1929; J.Draper Vol 3; Ibid p. 54).

“3. The present stage of internal development in the reformist unions conforms to the general transitional period in the co-relation of class forces on the whole. The working class has already become sufficiently strong to be in a position to take up the counter-offensive. The trade union bureaucracy is still influential among certain sections of the workers, but the revolutionary trade unions and the revolutionary trade union opposition are increasingly winning over large masses of workers belonging to the reformist trade unions. This predetermines also the tasks of the communists in the reformist trade unions: not to withdraw from these unions but to contribute in every way to the acceleration of the process of revolutionization of the rank-and-file members of the reformist unions by placing themselves at the head of the class struggle of the proletariat.”

(“Theses Tenth ECCI Plenum, Economic Struggle and Tasks.” July 1929; J.Draper Vol 3; Ibid p. 55).

The same article goes on to delineate the way forward. Under the heading III. The Economic Battles and the revolutionary Trade Union Opposition, the “legalism” of the old unions and its residue on the new unions is assailed:

“3. In countries in which there are no independent revolutionary unions, trade union legalism is still the greatest shortcoming of the revolutionary trade union movement.

4. Another shortcoming in these countries is the fear to apply the new tactic of the revolutionary trade union opposition, believing that they would thereby weaken their positions within the reformist trade unions. This is exactly what the rights and conciliators are now harping on.”

(“Theses Tenth ECCI Plenum ..Economic Struggle and Tasks..” July 1929; J.Draper Vol 3; Ibid p. 56).

But the correct line was not fully jettisoned yet, as there remained a half-way house – this was the instruction to stay in the old unions: “Not to withdraw from the (reformist trade unions),” as noted above under Number 3. (“Theses Tenth ECCI Plenum ..Economic Struggle and Tasks.” July 1929; J.Draper Vol 3; Ibid p. 54). However very soon, by 1930, this half-way house had gone. As Degras comments of Lozovsky:

“The establishment of communist controlled unions had long been urged by Lozovsky. At the 16th Party Congress CPSU he argued that there was far too much ‘trade union legalism’ in the American, British, German and other communist parties; they submitted to trade union discipline in preference to party discipline and independent leadership. The old opportunist leadership of the Russian unions, he said, had sabotaged the RILU, interpreting the united front as fraternization with Amsterdam, and not as a revolutionary tactic to expose the IFTU leaders…A year earlier in the trade union commission of the ECCI (Feb 1929) Piatnitsky had been extremely critical of the CGTU and the communist unions of Czechoslovakia (where some members, he said, had acted as strikebreakers). The time might come when it would be necesary to split the German unions; the harder they worked in the reformist unions now, the better their chances later.”

(Introduction to “Extracts From a Circular Letter On Factory Cells of the Organisation Department of ECCI Endorsed by Polit Secr., Dec 1930; In Inprecorr 1930; Cited; Vol 3; J.Degras; p. 143).

“The 5th RILU Congress was held in Moscow in the latter half of August 1930.. The Resolution adopted said the congress ‘marked a turning point in the strategy and tactics of the RILU in Western Europe’. The congress ratified the decision of the revolutionary trade union opposition in Germany and Poland to drop the slogan of ‘into the reformist unions’. Parallel red trade unions were to be established wherever the situation warranted this step, in preparation for taking over the leadership of the class struggle. The splitting tactics of the social-fascist trade union leaders had to be vigorously combatted, but this did not run counter to the need to build independent unions.”

(Introduction to “Extracts From a Circular Letter On Factory Cells”; Ibid; Vol 3; J. Degras; p. 142).

iii) The Distortion of the Colonial Question From 1921 Onwards

The Marxist-Leninist line on the Colonial Question was hammered out by Lenin in intense debate with M.N. Roy at the Second Congress of Comintern. Over the next Comintern Congresses however it was perverted. The Comintern took a Leftist line advocated by Trotsky and initiated after the Chinese Revolution failed. The failure was used to remove Stalin and M.N. Roy from any effective control in the Comintern. At the 6th Congress of Comintern in 1928, a disastrous Ultra-Left line was taken that destroyed the Workers and Peasant’s Parties of India (See Alliance 5).

The Theses on the National and Colonial Question were adopted at the 2nd Congress of the Communist International in 1920. As Lenin stated, the issues raised by Roy were important . Lenin and the ECCI, had ended up stating that a united front with the revolutionary bourgeoisie was important to establish in the colonial and semi-colonial national liberation movements. But when Trotsky delivered the Main Report at the Third Congress of the CI in 1921, he rejected Lenin’s solutions.

According to Trotsky; all the bourgeoisie of a colonial type country is essentially a comprador bourgeoisie “intimately bound up with foreign capital,” and “represents a large measure an agency of foreign capital”; and the struggle of the bourgeoisie of colonial type country against foreign imperialism is not merely “inconsistent” and “half-hearted,” but “semi-fictitious.” Trotsky concluded that the development of a working class in such a colonial type country paralyses national-liberation aspirations on the part of the bourgeoisie; and that therefore even the national-democratic revolution can only achieve victory under the leadership of the working class. (L. Trotsky: Report in the World Economic Crisis and the New task of the CI, 3rd Congress CI, In : “First Five years of The Communist International.” Vol 1, London, 1973; p. 275).

This line of Trotsky was later taken over by the Comintern entirely, by the Sixth Congress. This is seen in the attacks launched on M.N. Roy and the struggle in India. To foist the revisionist take over, Comintern foisted the Communist Party Of Great Britain (CPGB) onto the developing Communist Party of India (CPI). To facilitate this take over, Roy was diverted on a special mission to the Communist Party of China in January 1927. Meanwhile Ben Bradley and Philip Spratt of the CPGB were given effective control of the CPI, and Roy’s position was heavily attacked. (C.V. Rao “Bharatha Communist Party Nirvana Charitrea” (“Formation of CPI)”, Vijyawadda 1943; p.26). But not all the CPGB leaders were compliant to the wishes of the Comintern. This was taken as reason to purge those leaders of the CPGB who did not prove sufficiently revisionist. They were replaced at the 10th Plenum of the CI in 1929. The new CPGB leadership was sponsored by the revisionist CI, and included the crypto-revisionist HARRY POLLITT (who later inaugurated the policy of the so called “Parliamentary Road to Socialism”) and R.P. DUTT.

Whilst in China Roy had followed Stalin’s Marxist-Leninist line. Unfortunately owing to the revisionism of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC), and another envoy of the ECCI, Borodin, this correct line was distorted. The resulting massacres of the Chinese workers were nothing less than a sabotage perpetrated by Borodin and the CPC itself (See Alliance/CL/MLCP (Turkey) (See “Joint Open Letter To Ludo Martens: Alliance, Communist League and MLCP (Turkey); Hamburg, 1996.- found on web site of CP Germany ML <;). The ensuing massacre of the Chinese workers and peasants was not due to Stalin or Roy. It was NOT Stalin who had prevented a timely rupture of the CPC with the counter revolutionary Kuomintang (Communist League, M.N. Roy Report, Part II, London; December 1977. p.1-35). It had been the Comintern ECCI revisionists.

But this Chinese failure, allowed Trotsky to launch an open attack on Stalin, which was rebuffed. However Dmitri Manuilsky and Otto Kuusinen were more subtle. They used the debacle to distort the Marxist-Leninist line on the role of the revolutionary bourgeois. The ECCI, having first dislodged Roy as the leader of the Indian forces, now dislodged Stalin from the ECCI.

The Comintern at the Sixth Congress (17 July to 1 September 1928 in Moscow), now implemented a disastrous Ultra-Left Turn. In colonial type countries, this line denied the United Front with the revolutionary bourgeoisie. As part of this Ultra-Leftism, “non-pure” Communist organisations, such as the “Workers and Peasants Parties” were destroyed. Although Stalin was elected to the Presidium of the 6th Congress, to the commission to draft the “Theses on the International Situation and the Tasks of the Communist International,” and to draft the Programme of the CI – crucially, he attended only the opening session of the congress. Stalin took no part in the proceedings of the 6th Congress.

The Congress President was Nikolai Bukharin. But sections of the congress were dominated by Otto Kuusinen. Kuusinen later showed himself as a proven open revisionist (See his participation at the infamous 20th Party Congress of the CPSU). At the Sixth Comintern Congress in 1928, Kuusinen attacked the powerful Workers and Peasants Parties of India:

“For a time some comrades considered the advisability of ‘labour and peasant parties’.. It is now clearer than before that this form is not to be recommended, especially in colonial and semi-colonial countries. It would be an easy matter for the labour and peasant parties to transform themselves into petty bourgeois parties, to get away from the Communists, thereby failing to help them to come into contact with the masses.”

(O.Kuusinen, Report on the Revolutionary Movement in The Colonies and Semi-Colonies, 6th Congress, CI In: “International Press Correspondence”, Volume 8, No. 70; October 4th, 1928, 1230-1).

The cryptic “Some Comrades” meant Stalin – who had favoured the formation of such parties in the colonial type countries:

“In countries like Egypt and China…a revolutionary bloc of the workers and peasants and the petty bourgeoisie…can assume the form of a single party, a workers and peasants party, provided however, that this distinctive party actually represents a bloc of two forces-the Communist Party and the party of the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie…In countries like India…a revolutionary anti-imperialist bloc…can assume, although it need not always necessarily do so, the form of a single workers’ and peasants’ party, formally bound by a single platform.”

(Stalin, “The Political Tasks of the University of the Peoples’ of the East”, Vol 7; CW; Moscow, 1954; p.149,150-1).

But the attack on the Workers and Peasants Parties (WPP) was entirely in line with the documents written by Trotsky in June 1928, and submitted to the congress:

“The cardinal question for us here as everywhere and always, is the question of the communist party, its complete independence, its irreconcilable class character. The greatest danger on this path is the organisation of so-called “Workers and Peasants Parties” in the countries of the Orient…Stalin advanced the formula of the ‘two-class Workers’ and Peasants’ Parties” for the Eastern countries…It is a question here of an absolutely new, entirely false and thoroughly anti-Marxist formulation of the fundamental question of the party and of its relation to its own class and other classes.. Without a relentless condemnation of the very idea of workers and peasants parties for the East, there is not and cannot be a programme for the Comintern.”

(Trotsky : “Summary & Perspectives of Chinese Rev”, In “Third International after Lenin” Lond; 1974; p.162-71).

The considerable opposition to the 6th Congress Theses was crushed. As Kuusinen said:

‘Our greatest weakness there is the fact that we have not established ourselves as a Communist Party, A good many Indian Communists have worked in the ranks of the “Workers And Peasants Party” (WPP). We have advised them to endeavour to induce these Parties to reorganise themselves, to assume another form, in keeping with the principles of Leninism.”

(Overstreet G.D. and Windmiller M; “Communism In India”; Berkeley; 1960; p.139).

The Ultra-Left turn devastated the CPI and its mass links, the WPP.

iv) The Sixth World Congress

As stated above, a major presence at the congress was Bukharin, as the Secretary of the ECCI. In fact Bukharin gave the main report on behalf of the ECCI. In this very long report, Bukharin presented the viewpoint that there had been a relative stabilisation of capitalism. Bukharin had departed from a normal and expected practice of delegations. Instead of discussing the Report as a draft with the members of the CPSU(B) delegation – his own delegation – he simply presented them to the CPSU(B) at the same time, as it was being distributed to the foreign delegates. This created the potential dilemma of a fait accompli. This dilemma was put by Stalin:

“The theses proved to be unsatisfactory on a number of points. The delegation of the CPSU(B) was obliged to introduce about twenty amendments to the theses. This created a rather awkward situation for Bukharin. But who was to blame for that? Why was it necessary for Bukharin to distribute the theses to the foreign delegates before they had been examined by the delegation of the CPSU(B)? Could the delegation of the CPSU(B) refrain from introducing amendments if the theses proved to be unsatisfactory?”

(J.V. Stalin, “Speech On Right Deviation in the CPSU(B); to “Plenum of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission of the CPSU(B),” Works; Moscow; 1955; Volume 12; p. 21).

At the Congress this had not been clear. This was only first exposed, in a speech made by Stalin to the Plenum of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission of the CPSU(B), entitled The Right Deviation In the CPSU(B)”; in April 1929. This was of course, a full 8 months after the ending of the 6th World Congress. That it had taken eight months for a full exposure of the events at the Sixth Congress, is another indication of how little Stalin “controlled” the Sixth Congress.

The delegation to the Congress of the CPUS(B), had concentrated its counter-attack, on the major thrust at the Congress. This was the characterisation of the world period. It is on this that certain “Disagreements in Regard to the Comintern,” were reversed by the Marxist-Leninist members of the CPSU(B) delegation. What were these disagreements, that forced some corrections by the CPSU(B) delegation? Stalin states these totalled 20, requiring amendments; but there were four major ones Stalin comments that these amendments in entirety had that amounted to “practically new theses on the international situation” (Stalin; “Speech On Right Deviation in CPSU(B);” Ibid: p. 22). The most important of these related to the “character of the stabilisation of capitalism”. Bukharin had alleged that capitalism was reconstructing itself. Stalin points out that:

“According to Bukharin’s theses it appeared that nothing new was taking place at the present time to shake capitalist stabilisation, but that, on the contrary, capitalism is reconstructing itself and that on the whole, it is maintaining itself more or less securely. Obviously the delegation of the CPSU(B) could not agree with such a characterisation of what is called the Third period, ie the period through which we are now passing. The delegation could not agree with it because to retain such a characterisation of the third period might give our critics grounds for saying that we have adopted the point of view of so-called capitalist ‘recovery’, ie. The point of view of Hileferding, a point of view we Communists cannot adopt. Owing to this the delegation.. Introduced an amendment which makes it evident that capitalist stabilisation is not, and cannot be secure, that it is being shaken and will continue to be shaken by the march of events owing to the aggravation of the crisis of world capitalism. This question comrades is of decisive importance for the sections of the Comintern. Is capitalist stabilisation being shaken or is it becoming more secure?.. The amendment.. Is a good one, for the very reason that gives a clear line based on the.. prospect ..of maturing conditions for a new revolutionary upsurge. (Ed- And “Of a new revolutionary upsurge, a period of preparation for future class battles).”

(Stalin; Speech Right Deviation in the CPSU(B); Ibid; p. 25).

The three other major points, mentioned by Stalin related to the struggle within the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). In total, Bukharins’ steps would have strengthened the hand of the right wing led by Bukharin inside the International. These were the following:

1. The Wittorf and Thalmann case.

ERNST THALMANN was being attacked by “conciliators” in the CC of the KPD, on the weak grounds that he was associated with an embezzler. This was in violation of the Sixth Congress directive to fighting the Right wing deviationism. This was supported by Bukharin. This was fought by the CPSU(B) delegates. (Stalin Speech Right Deviation in the CPSU(B); Ibid; p. 25-26).

2. On The Brandler and Thalheimer factions of The KPD.

These had been expelled by the CPG. But Bukharin refused to make this an issue to be taken up and settled. Bukharin’s positions were rebuked. (Stalin Speech Right Deviation in the CPSU(B); Ibid; p. 27)

3. The recall of Heinz Neumann and rebuke of Thalmann

Bukharin demanded the recall of Neumann and the criticism of Thalmann for having criticised. This would strengthen the hand of the Right wingers in the international. The delegation of the CPSU(B) foiled this. (Stalin Speech Right Deviation in the CPSU(B); Ibid; p.28).

In summary, by the time of the Sixth World Congress the Comintern had been subverted from a clearly Bolshevik instrument, into a forum in which two forces contended:

1. Marxist-Leninist forces in a minority; in particular, Stalin had been excluded from effective participation.

2. Revisionist forces in a majority.




So far we have put the following views:

  • That the line of “Black Nation” cannot be attached to Marx, Engels, Lenin or Stalin;
  • That the Line was associated with certain revisionists – Zinoviev, Sen Katayama, Kuusinen, and Manuilsky.
  • That there are very good grounds to question the assumption that Stalin controlled the Comintern after the Sixth World Congress;

Thus far we have not offered:

  • a detailed explanation of how the Line of the “Black Nation” came to be accepted by the CPUSA.
  • We also have not examined what influence did Lenin and Stalin have on the developing CPUSA.

To do this; we must now enter the quagmire of vicious factionalism and in-fighting of the CPUSA. Of course, the masses were drawn into the conscious class struggle, by the CPUSA, for all its faults. But the intensity and the narrow-mindedness of the factionalism, was a good part of the serious problems of the CPUSA.

Here, we do have a smoking gun, in the shape of Stalin’s critiques.

i) The Situation Before the Russian Bolshevik Revolution

We left the American socialist movement at the time of Engels. (See Issue 22 of Alliance – Also on this web site listed as “MARXUSA.HTML”). Engels predicted that as the movement was at a low theoretical level, it would commit many mistakes. As well, Engels warned that the German Marxists, needed to become truly American – to enter the American movement, in order to help Marxist development. Only after the Bolshevik revolution was the passage from syndicalism and labour politics, through to conscious working class communist tactics navigated. Engels had described in the introduction to the American edition of “The Condition of the Working Class,” three forces in the US workers movement. To recapitulate these were the forces represented by Henry George; the Knights of Labour, and the Socialist Labour Party (SLP).

The best of the Germans were led by JOSEPH WEYDEMEYER, ADOLPH DOUAI; and FRIEDERICH SORGE, who we met earlier in the era of the Civil War and the abolition struggles against slavery. Although Sorge became the leader of the First International in the USA, the International was soon breached by the petty bourgeois elements of Steven Pearl Andrews and Victoria Woodhull. This effectively killed it by July 1876. (This is described in detail – Alliance 19- Please see web site of CP Germany ML for this document).

But only four days later, labour radicals and working men formed the WORKING MEN’S PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES. This was attended by Sorge and OTTO WEDEMEYER, Joseph’ son. With 2,500 members, it became in 1877 the SOCIALIST LABOR PARTY OF NORTH AMERICA. The SLP was overwhelmingly controlled by the German immigrants, but not of the type of Sorge and Wedemeyer. Initially the party was at the forefront of the strike waves of 1874-75. This included the mining strikes led by the Irish immigrant workers – the secretive “Molly Maguires.” But, the German provincials prevailed, they became a narrow party that entered purely electoral roads. Sorge was thereafter sidelined in this organisation, and his last 25 years were spent in reporting on the labor movement.

Even by 1890 the SLP was still overwhelmingly German. The SLP had become an electoral party by 1883, losing many members. Using this approach, it formed short lived alliances with Henry George and the “Single Taxers.” Shortly they separated ways again. Under the leadership of DANIEL DE LEON, it started to forge strong alliances with the Knights of Labor. But they first contended with the electoral POPULIST PARTY. The electoral programme of Populism, proposed the Government ownership of railways and against monopoly. They were also for the small farmer. As such they objectively represented a reactionary petty bourgeois current. By 1891, De Leon citing this, withdrew from alliance with them. Unfortunately he also withdrew from any broad front work with them, defining Populism as:

“A fake movement, which had confused the judgement of our people, weakened the spring of their hope and drained their courage. Hence the existing popular apathy. Hence the backwardness of the movement here compared with that of Europe.”

(De Leon Cited: David Herreshoff; “The Origins of American Marxism”; New York; 1967 p.118).

His rejection of the Populist movement had sectarian strands, with implications for the day-to-day work of the militants of the SLP. Nevertheless, De Leon now forged firmer links with Labour. The KNIGHTS OF LABOR were founded in 1869 by URIAH S. STEPHENS, and from their origins in the garment industry, they spread rapidly. The Knights were very progressive, having many Negro workers in its ranks and with 10% of members being women. Ideologically, the Knights were an eclectic mix of Marxism, Lassalleanism and “pure and simple” trade unions. Its program had a goal with the Lassalean objective:

“To establish co-operative institutions such as will tend to supersede the wage system by the introduction of a co-operative industrial system. It proposed a legislative program which included labor, currency, and land reforms, and also government ownership of the railroads and land reforms.”

(William Z. Foster; “History of the CPUSA”; New York; 1952; p.68-9).

For all its limitations, the Knights of Labour was described by Engels, as the first organisation of the whole working class in the USA. It had a large mass base. It:

“Was the most powerful movement of unskilled workers in America prior to the CIO.. It was a formidable rival to the American Federation of Labour. The Knights were an all-purpose labor movement deeply involved in political action and producers’ co-operatives as well as in strikes. They sought to organise the entire working class rather than restrict themselves to the skilled craftsmen as did the AFL, and while the AFL was plodding modestly ahead, they experienced huge gains and losses in membership in the middle eighties. When De Leon joined them the Knights were slumping rapidly. Having reached a peak membership of 7,000,000 in 1886, they had fallen off to half a million in 1887, a quarter of a million in 1888, and a 100,000 in 1890. The Knights ebbed away altogether before the turn of the century.”

(Herreshoff: Ibid; p. 121).

The disintegration of the Knights of Labor in large part, derived from a sectarian battle for influence within the Knights of labour between the Populists and De Leon’s SLP. Meanwhile the AMERICAN FEDERATION OF LABOUR (AFL) was formed in November 1881, from 6 trades or crafts – painters, carpenters, molders, glass workers, cigar makers, and iron & steel & tin workers. It had been set up in an opposition to the Knights of Labor, by elements who had objected to the central autocratic Knights; as well as its neglect of specific craft interests as opposed to the more political issues.

The AFL was dominated by SAM GOMPERS, P.J. McGUIRE, and ADOLF STRASER, who were bureaucratic labour lieutenants of capitalists. As such they were concerned to keep the labor movement “apolitical,” and “clean” from any socialist influence. Having organised the skilled, or craft workers, the AFL had no interest in going on to organise the semi-skilled and the unskilled workers. Early on, during the Eight Hours Movement, discussed by Marx and Engels, the AFL began to outstrip the Knights in membership. But the reactionary stance of the Gompers leadership retarded it to a large extent, and it also spawned the reaction of more militant working class unions.

The American Railway Union was an INDUSTRIAL-UNIONISM (as opposed to the CRAFT-UNIONISM of the AFL style) headed by EUGENE V. DEBS. In 1894 it was strong enough to proclaim a rail general strike. The Miners were also organising in separate unions. But both these and other industrial workers unions were repeatedly sabotaged by Gompers. The Haymarket Provocation by the capitalists in 1888, indicated the rising class tensions. In this battle Gompers displayed his class collaboration. In the 1887 trial of the Haymarket Martyrs, framed for deaths of workers, resulting from the violent provocations of police suppressing a strike, Gompers stated:

“I have differed all my life with the principles and the methods of the condemned.”

(Cited William Haywood: “Autobiography of Big Bill Haywood-1929”; 1983 ed New York; p.73).

This attitude disgusted working class militants. De Leon refused his members to have any contacts with the AFL, despising Gomperism. De Leon was a militant who understood the need for revolution, but this was sectarian and it alienated many workers. In addition he rejected any linkage with radical elements still under the sway of Populism. Furthermore, he embraced syndicalism, and rejected the dictatorship of the proletariat. All these issues came to a head in a struggle over De Leon’s dogmatism. This led to the formation of the SOCIALIST PARTY in 1900, led by MORRIS HILLQUIT and by Eugene V. Debs. Both the SLP and the SP were anti-imperialist. Debs and De Leon had both condemned the Spanish-American war, and both condemned the seizure of the Philippines by the USA. But the SP developed a policy of “neutrality” to the trade unions. This went to the other extreme, from the De Leon pole in its attitudes to Gomperism and the class collaborationist policies of the AFL.

Repugnance of the workers with the AFL led to a more representative and militant organisation – THE INTERNATIONAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD (IWW). This constituted what came to be called “Revolutionary Dual Unionism.” Dual Unionism was a term coined, because it was set up as a “revolutionary union” in parallel, and in opposition to, the reformist trade unions of the AFL. The IWW strongly argued for revolutionary and violent change to the existing order. The IWW was born at a meeting of the Western Federation of Miners in 1905. Its manifesto written and signed by WILLIAM HAYWOOD, MOTHER JONES and EUGENE V. DEBS amongst others, sounded a clear note linking labor union organisations and a political working class struggle against capitalism. It stressed violent revolution. In its political stance it became strongly syndicalist. Subsequently a Founding Convention was held in June 1905 in Chicago. The SLP with its own labor front, the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance took part. The De Leon tendency to syndicalism took firm hold in the militant IWW. IWW militants were hunted down by the state, and JOE HILL was only one of its members who were killed.

By the period of the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, the SP was quite dominant. The SP had 80,000 members in 1917, which soon shot up to 110,000 in 1919. Partly this was because of the entry of Seven “foreign language federations.” These were the Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Hungarian, South Slavic and Lettish. (Draper “American Communism and Soviet Russia”; Ibid; p. 18). The foreign immigrants had all formed their own groupings. These had a major influence on the movement. The LETTISH (or LATVIAN) immigrant movement, formed the bulwark of the left wing of the socialist party. The Dutch Left Wing exerted a great influence and this extended to the notion of “mass action.” They derived partly from S.J. RUTGERS and from ANTON PANNOEHK. But the Right wing of the National Executive Committee of the SP expelled them and this precipitated the call for the National Left Wing Conference, that pushed for the formation of an American Bolshevik party.

As the Russian Bolshevik revolution threw all other trends into ideological ferment, so it affected the American movement. All the leading elements embraced Bolshevism. These elements included LOUIS C. FRAINA; who had been till then in the SLP. He embraced the notions of the “mass action” and with MAX EASTMAN, FLOYD DELL AND WALTER LIPPMANN he edited the journal “The New Review.” This was the forerunner to the journals THE NEW INTERNATIONAL and the CLASS STRUGGLE. With LOUIS BOUDIN this latter journal published the first English collection of Lenin and Trotsky, and began to publish the first issues of the new journal the Communist in 1919. All these various forces came together to attempt to form a new party. But this was riven by factionalism from the very outset.

ii) National Left Wing Conference: Attempts to form a new Leninist Communist Party

The Conference was precipitated by the expulsion from the SP of the seven immigrant foreign language federations. The meeting took place on June 1919, with 94 delegates in New York City. They split over the question of whether they should wait for the Socialist party Chicago convention ten weeks later. The Foreign language federations demanded an immediate formation. The English language majority wished to delay. Whereupon the minority walked out and set up a separate convention in Chicago in September to form a Communist party. The majority elected a National Council to pursue a goal to take over the SP. However five weeks after this split, some of the majority walked back – including CHARLES RUTHENBERG, and LOUIS FRAINA. Others like JOHN REED and BENJAMIN GITLOW refused to do so, resenting the “bullying methods of the Russian Federation leaders (like Alexander Stokilitsky –ed)” (Draper Ibid; p. 19). Two CP’s then came into being, both organized in Chicago in September 1919. These were:

1. The Communist Party of America (CPA), with Ruthenberg as National secretary and Fraina as International Secretary & Editors , with most of the foreign federation.

2. The Communist Labor Party of America (CLP) with ALFRED WAGENKNECT as Executive secretary and JOHN REED as International Delegates.

The CP claimed that the membership of the CP was 58,000 members, and the CLP about 10,000. (Draper Ibid; p. 19.). Quickly the objective need to unite became apparent to both parties. Under the pressure of police attacks and arrests (the so-called PALMER RAIDS of 1920) both parties suffered. The CP underwent further splits. By May 1920 Ruthenberg’s minority group demanded unity with the CLP and left the CP. This led to the UNITED COMMUNIST PARTY, at the Bridgeman, Michigan meeting This had Ruthenberg as executive secretary. By 1921 this in turn united with the remaining CP into the Communist Party America (CPA).

By 1921, the TRADE UNION EDUCATIONAL LEAGUE (TUEL) had joined, under WILLIAM Z. FOSTER’s leadership. This latter was a significant gain for the party. The TUEL had its origins in the larger INTERNATIONAL TRADE UNION EDUCATION LEAGUE (ITUEL), which itself was formed in St. Louis in January 1915. It was based in Chicago under William Z. Foster’s secretaryship. The ITUEL was avowedly syndicalist in origin. But Foster had unionised large new sectors including the Chicago stock yards. He had been careful to keep good relations with the AFL, and Gompers even vouched for him in a Senate committee in 1919.

But further splits of the CPA occurred over the issue of whether to retain a legal party. The majority answered “yes” and formed the open American Labor Alliance. This was later to be the WORKERS PARTY OF AMERICA, led by JAMES CANNON, and CHARLES RUTHENBERG. But a break away came in response to this tactic and was also called the CPA. But it then set up its own legal apparatus the UNITED TOILERS. By 1922 Ruthenberg as secretary of the Workers Party proposed to dissolve the underground CP. This led to the factional struggle between the so called Geese and Liquidators.

The SECOND CONGRESS OF THE COMINTERN demanded the unification of the American CP and the United Communist parties. Even then, the Comintern had to send a delegation to the USA, consisting of CHARLES E. SCOTT, LOUIS FRAINA, and SEN KATAYMA to achieve the unity. But opposition to this unity continued. A Second Comintern Delegation was sent consisting of H.VALETSKI, JOSEPH POGANY, and BORIS REINSTEIN. During the COMINTERN FOURTH CONGRESS in November 1922 held in Moscow, Cannon and MAX BEDACHT met Leon Trotsky who also urged the two parties to unite. Written instruction to this effect were sent from the Comintern.

Finally it was only in the spring of 1923 (April 7th, 1922 at New York), that the legal and open WORKERS PARTY, united all three tendencies, as the single, and above ground, Communist Party. In 1925, the party was known as The WORKERS (COMMUNIST) PARTY of AMERICA. In 1929, the party was named the COMMUNIST PARTY, USA. Charles Ruthenberg said that the unified result had been only due to the interventions of the Comintern:

“Had there been no Communist International, no deciding and directing body with authority to pass upon questions of principles and tactics for the revolutionary workers in the US and to direct their movements into the right channels, the factional struggle might well have resulted otherwise than it did. It is not an exaggeration to say that if there is today in the US one party-the Workers Party-in which all Communist groups are untied, this is because of the persistent effort and tactful guidance of the International.”

(Draper ; “American Communism and Soviet Russia”; Ibid; p. 27).

But as events would show the root of the party was still beset by a rabid factionalism. This allowed serious errors of theory and practice to emerge. Furthermore, the Comintern had left a significant destructive “present.” This was the accession to leadership of JOSEPH POGANY alias JOHN PEPPER. He had come to the USA as a member of the Second Comintern delegation led by Valetski in 1922. The Secretary of the new party was Ruthenberg. The Central Executive was balanced between the two factions of the Geese and the Liquidators (The story goes that as the “Geese” had complained of the proposed dissolving of the underground wing by the Liquidators – they were accused of cackling; to which they promptly replied that the cackling of geese had once saved Rome from invasion).

To break the deadlock between Geese and Liquidators, two so-called “non-factional” members were appointed. One was John Pepper, and the other was William Z. Foster. John Pepper was born in Hungary, and was a leader of a Soldiers Soviet in Budapest in 1919. However he initially supported Count Karolyi’s policies. In that role he arrested some of the Communist leaders. But he switched sides. By March 1919, when the Hungarian Socialist and Communist parties merged, he was one of five who signed the document for the socialist party. He played a part in two failed revolutions, the Hungarian and the German:

“When the Hungarian Soviet Republic was proclaimed that month, he became the peoples’s commissar of national defence, then deputy commissar of foreign affairs, and finally commissar of public instruction; he was also a member of the party’s control commission. When the Hungarian Soviet Republic fell he fled to Vienna and then to Moscow, where he held important positions in the Comintern apparatus for about ten years. In March 1921 he went with Bela Kun to organise the March Action of the KPD; after its defeat he returned to Moscow and.. was sent to the US where.. He became the de facto head of the CP America.. In the Fifth Congress of the Comintern he was the American party’s main spokesman and member of the political commission.”

(B. Lazitch & M. M.Drachovitch; “Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern”; Stanford; 1973; p. 314-315).

Pepper’s history of adventurism was perfectly suited to disrupt the developing CPA. Draper alleges that Zinoviev promoted Pogany against Lenin’s views (Draper; Ibid; p. 59). Pepper’s star American pupil was JAY LOVESTONE. In opposition to the growing power of John Pepper and Lovestone, by 1924, an opposing faction was in effect formed of, James Cannon, Earl Browder and William Foster. The key supporters for Pepper, Lovestone and Ruthenberg in Moscow were Zinoviev, and then following his exposure, Bukharin. The key supporter of the Foster group was Lozovsky. These factions hardened into place after the debacle of the Farmers and Labourers’ Party.

iii) Dual Unionism And Broad Front Work

The previous era struggles, of the radicals and Marxists in the USA resulted in a complex co-existence of opportunism and a fierce ultra-leftism. The legacy to the Workers Party, or the Communist party of the USA, was a fertile Ultra-Left base. In this base germinated many anti-Leninist weeds. The concrete issues that the party disputed were the nature of work with non-communists, the broad front and the Third Party, and work within trade unions.

In a natural reaction to the class collaboration of Sam Gompers, the IWW Ultra-leftism and syndicalist thought took hold. This was expressed as a conscious policy of One Great Industrial Union, to amalgamate all workers. The IWW said it would work for not only economic but also social and poetical change. This would culminate in the seizure of power by the union. The IWW was thereby consciously syndicalist, thinking that unionism culminates in the seizure of state power. To this end, the IWW organised in conscious opposition to the AFL, to build up revolutionary unions. This policy was therefore one of DUAL UNIONISM.

The TRADE UNION EDUCATION LEAGUE (TUEL) was organised in November 1920. It was not a factor in the trade unions until 1922. As Foster explains the predecessor of the TUEL had been openly syndicalist:

“A syndicalist organisation, the ITUEL was anti-political endorsed industrial unionism, and opposed the war. It held that trade unions as such were essentially revolutionary, whether led by conservatives or revolutionaries.. they were class organisations…the ITUEL falsely assumed that the (trade unions) could eventually culminate in the overthrow of the capitalist class by the economic power of the trade unions.. By spring 1917, the ITUEL had disappeared.”

(Foster, “History CPUSA” Ibid; p. 137).

After its collapse, the leading militants of the ITEUL continued to organise. Still under Foster’s leadership, the CHICAGO FEDERATION OF LABOR organised the railroads. This resulted in an unofficial strike of 200,000 members. Fairly soon after came the meat packing industry, which had never before been unionised. The AFL had dismissed the industry as “impossible to organise.” From 1917-1918 the Chicago stockyards were fully organised legally and had obtained dramatic improvements in work conditions. There were many Negro workers in this section, about 20,000 of 200,000. Thereafter the steel industry was part organised, against the massive forces organised by Gompers and the AFL. The TUEL was formed in 1920, and was largely the result of the lost steel battle. As Foster says:

“It was an important source of recruits for the CP.. The TUEL was not so definitely syndicalist as its predecessors.. Foster was invited to the First Congress of the Red International of Labor Unions (RILU), on July 3rd, 1921. There the RILU definitely repudiated dual unionism.” (Foster, “History CPUSA” Ibid; p. 185).

The leftism and anarcho-syndicalist tendencies of the previous era were confronted by the Comintern. The IWW, and the SWP had refused to work with or within the AFL. The Comintern Second Congress instructed communists and militants to do so. In this struggle to convince the American trades unionists and communists of the importance of Leninism versus syndicalism, the TUEL became important. The TUEL under Foster had for long been a supporter of the “boring from within” point of view. Foster had acquired this belief from the French syndicalists, and this led him to jettison his connections with the IWW, by 1913. By 1917 he could write:

“The trade unions will not become anti-capitalist through the conversion of their members to a certain point of view or by the adoption of certain preambles; they are that by their very makeup and methods.”

(Cited Draper; Ibid; p.64).

This viewpoint put him at odds with the IWW, who could not conceive that the unions of the AFL were “progressive” to any extent. For the IWW, a union was only progressive if it adopted its viewpoint of the unity of the economic and revolutionary struggle. Foster meanwhile could continue to work with the AFL, and Sam Gompers in fact vouched for him at a Senate Committee in 1919.

Lenin had long criticised ultra-leftism in work with both trade unions and with Social Democratic parties, such as the Labour Party of Britain. Lenin again called for work within the “reactionary trade unions,” in 1921. This call hit the USA movement hard. But Foster had already come to a viewpoint close to this. Accordingly he went by invitation of the first Comintern delegation to the First Profintern Congress in Moscow in 1922. At this time, Foster became close to Lozovsky, who later was his supporter in Moscow:

“A pact was struck between the TUEL’s leader, Foster, and the Profintern=s leader, A.Lozovsky (S.A.Dridzo), and for many years thereafter Lozovsky served as Foster’s chief mentor and protector in Moscow.”

(Draper; Ibid; p. 70.).

For his part Foster was quite clear that the Comintern had broken “Dual Unionism” in the USA:

“To the Third International, and particularly to the Russians at the head of it, is due the credit for breaking the deadly grip of dual unionism in the American labor movement”

(Draper; Ibid; p. 70).

One logical extension of breaking Dual Unions was an amalgamation of the already split unions. At first, Foster was successful in achieving this, which angered Gompers, who then ruptured his links with Foster. By the fall of 1922, the Workers Party had considerable influence within the unions by this policy. Foster followed a policy of supporting progressive elements inside the unions against the AFL hacks. He was aided by the President of the Chicago Federation of Labour, JOHN FITZPATRICK. By this stage, JAMES CANNON and EARL BROWDER, who had both worked with Foster at various earlier stages, found their way to the Workers party. Foster publicly denied his links with the Workers Party, working through Browder and Cannon. Initially, Fitzpatrick was positive in his dealing with the Workers Party. Under the sectarian influence of Pepper however, this would soon change. This became clear in the moves to the Farmers and Labourers Party. After this, moves to amalgamation came to an abrupt end.

iv) The Third Party – Farmer-Labor Party; the LaFollette Movement

Foster=s work in the Chicago trades unions, stimulated a strong relationship with a progressive faction within the FARMER-LABOURER party (FLP), which had broken away from the Conference For Progressive Political Action (CPPA). This created an opportunity for the new CP to find a mass forum within which to work. The FLP was formed by John Fitzpatrick when, incensed by a recent failure of a machinists strike in 1918, he urged a “Labour party.”

But the leftism of the Workers Party had to be overcome. Lenin had been urging the British CP to join the Labour Party at the Comintern Second Congress. Lenin discussed this with Louis C Fraina, who argued against him. This was consistent with the American Party’s view. But at the Third Comintern Congress, Lenin again raised the issue, this time meeting with the entire American delegation. (Draper; “American Communism and Soviet Russia”; Ibid; p. 32). Although Lenin’s advice was directed mainly at the British party, to consider a united front with elements of the reformist Labour Party, the same concept applied to the USA. The FLP had called for the nationalisation of all public utilities, basic industries, natural resources, and banking and credit systems, an for workers participation in industry. In the climate of intense victimisation of workers, the call by the FLP to a Conference for the Progressive Political Action for February 1922 acquired major significance. But the Communists were not invited, partly because their first program had made clear to even their own sympathisers, their reluctance to get involved. They proclaimed:

“There can be no compromise either with Labourism or reactionary Socialism.” (See Draper; Ibid; p. 31).

But Lenin had proposed not a compromise but a tactical alliance. The confusion between the two was never resolved in the minds of the leaders of the Workers Party. ALEXANDER BITTLEMAN, one of the executive leaders of the CP later admitted:

“And only after the party became more intimately familiar with the United Front tactics of the Comintern and particularly with Lenin’s advice to the British communists, to fight for admission into the labour party, did the central executive committee finally feel justified in adopting a complete thesis which committed the party to a labor-party policy.” (Draper Cited Ibid; 32).

By 1922 the party came out in a modified line, in the pamphlet “For A Labour Party.” But it was still very leftist in tone, and insisted for example upon a pure “class party.” Its actions confirmed its beliefs. This tendency was to destroy moves to a labour party.
The Second CPPA conference was held in Cleveland in December 1922. The FLP led by Fitzgerald, supported the right of the CP to be present. The FLP tried to commit the CPPA for a move to form a new party. But the CPPA vote went against this resolution due to AFL reformist pressure. The FLP resigned from the CPPA in March 1923. The FLP now moved to organise such a party in Chicago. The FLP leaders – Fitzgerald and EDWARD N. NOCKELS and JAY G. BROWN had worked for some time with the Chicago Communists: ARNE SWABECK, EARL BROWDER, JACK JOHNSTONE.

But the New York leadership of the Workers party led by Pepper and Ruthenberg, insisted upon personal control of all contacts with the FLP. Pepper and Ruthenberg, alienated the FLP leadership. By the time of the convention, Fitzpatrick suggested a delay. Partly, this was because the FLP call was boycotted by the AFL and other unions, and the SP. But although Ruthenberg was prepared to accept this, Pepper refused. This sealed a confrontation with the FLP. At the Conference, some 6,000,000 workers and farmers were represented in Chicago in July 1923. At the meeting the Communist leadership of Pepper and Ruthenberg split the forces, by pushing though a move for a new separate party, one that was distinct from the FLP, and led by the Communists. This was called the FEDERATED-FARMERS’ LABOUR PARTY (F-FLP). As Fitzpatrick said:

“What have they done? They have killed the FLP, and they have killed the possibility of uniting the forces of independent political action in America, and they have broken the spirit of this whole thing so that we will not be able to rally the whole forces for the next twenty years.” (Draper Cited Ibid; p. 46-7).

And so it proved, because the victory of the Workers Party was a hollow one, for the links with a wider labour circle were in effect broken by the sectarian battle fought and won by the Workers party.

The line of Pepper and Ruthenberg had a Left Sectarian approach to the whole matter of labour and progressive alliances. The membership of the F-FLP was in effect the same membership of the WP. These tactics cost the TUEL the tremendous support it had won. It had even to been able to challenge Gompers by the proposed amalgamation of all Trade unions. But now, the embittered Fitzpatrick turned against any dealing with the sectarian Workers Party. In fact later, in 1957, Foster publicly declared at the American Communist Convention in 1957 that the error had been one of the two biggest in party history.

Yet another opportunity was lost for the creation of a broad labour front at the time of the La FOLLETTE movement of 1923. Senator Robert La Follette, of Wisconsin, was a representative of the petty bourgeoisie who had begun to rally the former Farmers and Labourers supporters behind him in a move for a Third party. This was going to contest the Presidential elections. The party only gave luke warm support to this movement, but recognised it as a potential for united front activity to draw in as yet, uncommitted radicals. At first both the Pepper wing and the Foster wing was united on this point. The Communists pitted the remnants of the old FLP against La Follette’s movement. As it became clear the FLP wanted to back La Follette more definitely, the Workers Party split on the issue. One part wanted to have a separate FLP candidate, preferably and either control. Another section wanted to hew close to the FLP wish and select La Follette if that was the wish of the convention of May 30, 1924. The latter faction, led by Foster won.

An internal factional struggle for power in the Workers Party had broken out between two factions:



At the Workers Party Third Convention, of December 1923, the Foster faction had won the majority. They won the seat of Chairman for Foster, with Cannon as Assistant Secretary and Ruthenberg remained as Executive Secretary. But the controlling margins were in Foster’s factions: By a vote of 8:5 in the Central executive Committee and a vote of 4:3 in the Politbureau. The issue of the Third Party was a major point of division between the two factions. Foster supported it, and Pepper did not.

The two factions appealed to the Comintern for “arbitration.” Pepper asked the Comintern to remove Foster and vice versa. Because Lore had initially been a Trotskyist, Pepper used this historical fact to attack Foster in 1924. The Plenum of the ECCI in April-May 1924 was the “judgement” ground. Here Zinoviev held sway, after the death of Lenin. But he was forced to deal with an attack from Trotsky. Trotsky alleged “opportunism” included the policies of alliances of the US Workers Party with LaFollette. Zinoviev used this attack from Trotsky, to denounce cooperation with social democratic parties. This applied to the American Party.

At the Fifth Plenum Zinoviev put the Resolution of the fifth congress Comintern on the Report of the ECCI (26 June 1924), which said:

“12. Right wing deviations were also apparent on the question of the united front in England and America, and on the attitude of the CP to the Labour Party leaders (In America, the so called Third party). The Executive was able to convince the English and the American comrades of the necessity to revise their ideas; the new and peculiar problems of the revolutionary movement in the Anglo-Saxon countries were considered in great detail by the Executive many times, and the parties there will need much greater attention in future from the international leadership.” (In J.Degras; Vol 2; Ibid; p. 105).

And, in the July 1924 Theses On Tactics Adopted by the Fifth Comintern Congress, the line of Pepper was endorsed by Zinoviev. In fact the germs of a future revisionist idea were laid, that of the identity of social democracy with fascism:

“In America a great fuss is being made abut the foundation of a “third” party of the bourgeoisies (the petty bourgeois). In Europe social democracy has already become , in a certain sense, the “third” bourgeois party. This is particularly obvious in England where, in addition to the two classical bourgeois parties which took it in turn to rule, a Labour Party which in fact pursues a policy close to that of one of the two wings of the bourgeoisies…For a number of years social-democracy has even been caught up in a process of change; from being the right wing of the labour movement, it is becoming one wing of the bourgeoisie, in places even a wing of fascism. That is why it is historically incorrect to talk of a ‘victory of fascism over socials-democracy.’ So far as their leading strata are concerned, fascism and social-democracy are the right and the left hands of modern capitalism.” (J.Degras; Ibid; Vol 2; p. 147).

Swiftly the factional leaders of the US party jumped towards this policy. The furthest jump was made by Foster, who now discarded his previous support of it. Foster went even further – he actually proposed that the Workers Party run its own candidates against the FLP (Draper; Ibid; p.109).

At the same time the Comintern took the step of agreeing with Foster that Pepper should be removed form the Workers Party, and be instructed to return to Moscow.

It is clear that various factions in the USA were being “picked up” at various times by various of the Comintern revisionists. Already we have noted that Foster was supported by Lozovsky and Zinoviev. But, Radek (then head of the American Commission of the Comintern) said of Foster:

“As far as the work of Comrade Foster is concerned, I believe that we may have serious difficulties with this comrade.” (Comments of Lovestone; Cited; Draper; Ibid; p. 110).

Radek supported Pepper and later, Pepper’s pupil, Lovestone. Pepper was able to attend the Comintern’s Fifth Congress (June 1924), and became chief of the Comintern’s Information Department. Zinoviev was also supporting Pepper at various times. The conclusion grows clear that the Comintern itself was assisting and fanning the factionalist fires at various times.

The Comintern’s verdict was against the Third Party, and the result was that the communists stood separately from the FLP, for election, with Foster as Presidential nomination and BENJAMIN GITLOW as vice president. This effectively killed the last support that FLP members had for the communists. The votes were:

Coolidge 15,720,000 votes;

Davis 8,380,000;

LaFollette 4,825,000;

Foster 33,300.

Bittleman attacked later, the sectarian mistake that had been made:

“All our tactics all our literature, all of our slogans formulated, were based on this general idea of the third party alliance, and then at a certain moment the Comintern said to our party you cannot do it, and the Central executive committee was confronted with a very critical situation…Completely reorientating ourselves practically within 24 hours.. A reorientation…Under the fire of the enemy, because… at the same time La Follette and Gompers opened their attack on… the communists.” (Draper Ibid; p 113).

Even the Comintern itself now reversed itself. At the Fifth Enlarged Plenum of the ECCI, meeting in March-April 1925, 34 sections attended. The Plenum, came fairly close to admitting that moves to a Labour Party were in fact correct:

“The American delegation was as usual, sharply divided. The majority of the CC led by Foster and Cannon, disappointed by their failure to make headway in LaFollette’s Farmer-Labour Party, argued that the policy of trying to form a labour party on the British model was opportunist, and wanted to concentrate on capturing the unions. The minority led by Ruthenberg and Lovestone disagreed, and were supported by the ECCI. The Workers Party said the resolution drafted by a commission composed of Bukharin, Zetkin and Kuusinen, should not proceed immediately to the formation of a labour party, but should try to get support for the idea among the unions. The US had overcome the economic crisis at the expense of the working class and small farmers. The working class though not revolutionary, was becoming more class conscious; the politically inexperienced masses followed the La Follette party, which acted as a capitalist safety valve.” (Introduction to Fifth Plenum; by J.Degras; In Degras; Vol 2; Ibid; p. 186-87).

As cited by Draper, the Comintern gave:

“Full credit to LaFollette for an important victory in the elections.” (Draper; Ibid; p.137).

The Comintern of course, had one year prior stated clearly and vigorously, along with Trotsky, that even the idea of a Third party was incorrect! BUT this view was contrary to that of Lenin before that statement; and Stalin after that statement! The ECCI had to some extent in that year, trimmed sail, in order to sail the factional seas of the US party better.

But the retraction of the ECCI was only partial. That Stalin fully agreed with Bittleman, that a sectarian mistake had been made, IN THE USA, even as late as 1927, is easily inferred. This is from the comments he made in his interview with members of the First USA Labour Delegation. After first answering their questions, he then asked them if he could put some to them, in return. One question that Stalin posed was:

“How do you explain the absence of a special mass workers’ party in the United States? The bourgeoisie have two parties the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, but the American workers have no mass political party of their own. Do not the comrades think that the absence of such a mass workers’ party, even like that in Britain (The Labour Party) weakens the working class in its political fight against the capitalist?” (JV Stalin: “Interview with the First American Labour Delegation”; Works; Vol 10; Moscow; 1954; p. 146).

It appeared from the answers that Stalin got, that he was not satisfied with the analysis offered by the US Labour representatives. The history of the American attitudes to the FLP and the LaFollette movement show, that the CPUSA did not take firm note of Lenin on the United Front. Indeed it appears that the Comintern knowingly ignored Lenin on these matters.

v) The Factional Battles Come to the Sixth Comintern Congress

The factional struggle in the CP was notorious. But it reflected the factional, more hidden battles of the ECCI itself. As we saw, the Foster faction held control of the party. Zinoviev at the Fifth Plenum of 1925, (where there had been partial retraction of the mistaken ECCI line on the LaFollette episode) tried to impose a continued Foster majority, But Ruthenberg refused, and the ECCI was no longer quite so dominated by Zinoviev. A decision was taken that at the forthcoming American Fourth Congress, a “neutral comrade” from the ECCI was to have powers to settle matters at the “Parity Commission.” This “neutral comrade” was a delegate of the ECCI named SERGEI IVANOVICH GUSEV. Gusev had been an Old Bolshevik, and had been a member of the Revolutionary Military Council under Trotsky. But he had sided with Stalin against Trotsky in the disputes over the Southern Front (Draper; Ibid; p. 141).

At the Fourth Congress in Chicago August 21, 1925, Foster was elected chairman by a large vote. Certain sections of the party had “armed themselves with pistols, and barricaded” in the expectation of a split. (Draper; Ibid; p. 143).

But Gusev intervened with instructions sent by cable from the ECCI. These ensured in the demands; that Ruthenberg would get 40% Central Executive Committee seats; and that Ruthenberg be considered “more loyal to the ECCI than Foster”; that Ruthenberg be retained in post of secretary; that Lovestone be placed on the Central executive; demanded the Foster majority to refrain from factionalism. (Draper, Ibid; p.144).

The majority left to the Foster faction was even further constrained. This was shown in the statement made by Gusev at the first meeting of the new Central executive committee on September 1; 1925. Far from being “neutral” Gusev had been given instructions to always support the Ruthenberg faction:

“Of course we now have a parity CEC, but it is not exactly a parity CEC. With the decision of the ECCI On the questions of the groups in the American party there goes parallel instructions to the CI representative to support that group which was the former minority… Although we have a nearly parity CEC, we have a majority and a minority in the CEC.” (Draper Ibid; p. 147).

Since at this time the ECCI was under Bukharin’s increasing control, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that both Ruthenberg and Lovestone were the favored sons of Bukharin. The line of the TUEL was swung away from Foster’s control now. It was now “converted” into a broad left bloc organisation. Foster’s mentor, Lozovsky tried to intervene in his capacity as Profintern head (Draper Ibid; p. 220.) When the Workers Party under Gitlow and Ruthenberg moved to disrupt an anthracite strike using the name of the party and not the TUEL, they failed. This allowed Foster and Lozovsky a counter weapon. The strike at Passaic mills, saw the emergence under party direction of a “Red Union” in the shape of an United Front Committee which was acting as if it was a new union (Draper; ibid; p. 225).

At the Sixth Plenum of the ECCI in February 1926, the Foster faction was given control of the Trade union committee. Despite the ECCI granted control of the Central Committee to the Ruthenberg faction. This was decided at the American commission, and so important was it that Zinoviev Bukharin and Stalin – all attended (Draper Ibid; p. 228).

Following Ruthenberg’s death, in March 1927, the party leadership was seized by his protege Jay Lovestone. At the Seventh Plenum of the ECCI in Moscow a precarious balance between the two factions was again achieved, appointing Foster and Lovestone as “Joint secretaries.” But this was then disrupted by further factionalism from the Foster group, who formed an “Opposition Bloc” (Draper Ibid; p. 261). The balance was over-turned in the ensuing squabble, and factional infighting. Now Kuusinen could ensure that Lovestone was the “first” of two secretaries-the other being Foster (Draper Ibid; p. 264).

The line of Lovestone was to follow the assessment’s of the ECCI under Bukharin’s domination. As such, the ECCI had endorsed the views of EUGENE VARGA. Varga had pronounced that American capital was in healthy situation. The 1925 Resolution by he ECCI on America took a similar line, and Varga proposed at the Comintern Sixth Plenum. that “American capitalism was on the ‘upgrade'” (Draper Ibid; p. 270). As the January 1926 ECCI Agitprop Theses for Propagandists on the Second Anniversary of Lenin’s Death expressed it:

“1. The 5th World Congress of the CI noted an improvement in the position of world capitalism…

4… The US which changed its former debtor position in regard to Europe into an uncontested financial and economic hegemony and with emerged from the world war as the strongest imperialist war…With the London conference of 1924, which adopted the Dawes Plan, America began to bring Europe under its economic and political control…

6. ..The US and the England have won the economic hegemony of the capitalist world, but the rivalry between them for sole supremacy reflects…Inner contradictions of capitalism…The rivalry can be summarized in simple formula-America is trying to break up the English world empire from within, by bringing the Dominions particularly Canada and Australia under its financial and hence its political sway.” (Degras; Vol 2; Ibid; p. 237-8).

This view that USA capitalism had achieved stability, and was not yet at its peak, allowed the poor impact of the American CP to be somehow “excused.” Bukharin endorsed this. However, an attack was launched by M.N. ROY at the Comintern Seventh Plenum of Comintern, on whether or not the American party had assessed the stage of US capital correctly:

“I must declare before the the plenum of the Communist International that the general view prevailing in the Comintern regarding the strength of the American party is absolutely incorrect. The American party is not a negligible factor.” (Roy, Cited; Draper; Ibid; p. 272.)

Furthermore, at the Fourth RILU Congress Lozovsky now attacked the American party. But since he had been switching toward the policy of the Red Unions, he attacked saying that the American party was “afraid of dual unionism.” (Draper, Ibid; p. 287). In the March 15, 1928 issue of The Communist International, Lozovsky told:

“The Americans to ‘stop dancing a quadrille the whole time around the AFL and its various unions.” (Draper, Ibid; p. 289-90).

This ultra-pseudo leftist attack of Lozovsky, enabled a critical mine strike that had been long prepared by the CP under the slogan of “Save The Union” to be completely destroyed. In the process an alliance with John Brophy, a key Progressive in the Union Mine Workers, was destroyed also (Draper, Ibid; p. 290). A strange alliance now arose between Pepper (who had returned to New York against Comintern instructions to go to Korea); and Lovestone and Foster. This was consummated at the plenum of the American party in May 1928. They took as the starting point the issue a resistance to Lozovsky’s instructions on Dual Unionism in the USA. This position of Foster had been long integral to his political thinking. He could not jettison it now.

The Foster coalition fell apart and Cannon spear-headed an attack on Foster. During this process Cannon and Lozovsky were to be proven incorrect by the push of the AFL and the CIO, to form new unions. Now the Workers Party set up a presidential campaign. By the time of the Comintern Sixth Congress, in July 1928; there were two dividing issues that had caused major upheaval. The attitude of American stabilization -ie American Exceptionalism; and the attitude to the new formation of Dual Unions.

But despite the apparent unity of Foster and Lovestone regarding the issue of the new unions, their “alliance” fell apart in the Comintern Sixth Congress. They were both aware that Bukharin was himself attacking verbally the “Right wing.” They both jumped onto this bandwagon, in an attempt to curry favour. Foster had to relinquish the battle to his henchmen Bittleman and Cannon as he could not himself face the issue of New Unions. But Foster still was a key member and secured an interview with Stalin. He claimed that Stalin had supported him. As we shall see this was not correct, in writings made available in 1929.

At the Sixth Congress, the resistance of the Americans to the critiques on “American Exceptionalism,” were to be dealt with again. In the meantime, James Cannon had discovered Trotskyism and so was born American Trotskyism. And the Negro Nation line was put.

vi) The Black Movement In The USA

Even in the early days of the Abolition movement against slavery, there was a tension between “Afro-American Nationalist” separatists and the integrationists. The differences between MARTIN ROBINSON DELANY and FREDERICK DOUGLASS reflected this:

“Some Negroes in America showed an interest in Africa before the 1860’s – usually in the face of the criticism of the black abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass who considered the African dream a dangerous diversification of energies which were needed in the fight for emancipation and civil rights at home.” (George Shepperson, “Notes on Negro American Influence on African nationalism”; J African Hist; 1, No 2; 1960, p.301; Cited by Harold Cruse; “Crisis of the Negro Intellectual”; New York; 1984; p.4).

In 1852 Martin R.Delany stated whilst advocating a Negro nation on the eastern coast of Africa for “coloured adventurers from the Untied states and elsewhere,” that:

“We are a nation within a nation, as the Poles in Russia, the Hungarians in Austria, the Welsh, Irish, and Scottish in the British dominions.” (Cited Draper; Ibid; p.317).

Douglass disagreed and argued for betterment of Negro life and full equality in the USA. Other advocates of a “Back To Africa” movement in the post Civil War era included Bishop HENRY M. TURNER. There were some attempts to form a predominantly Negro state in parts of Oklahoma or Texas. These came to naught. (Draper; Ibid; p.317).

This tension was to echo down to through Garveyism, to the speeches of Malcolm X more recently. But other trends of the Negro movement also developed. Openly subservient leaders were always available, such as BOOKER T. WASHINGTON, who accepted a subordinate state of the Negro. Wilson Record gives an overview of Washington:

“The Negro was to accept the biracial system and this subordinate status. He was to seek advancement within the confines of his segregated black world. He was to develop the friendship of the influential whites and use their assistance. By cultivating habits of hard work, thrift and honesty he was to demonstrate his claim to wider acceptance and better treatment. Above all he was never to present any organised challenge to the existing order of things or engage in movements which might be regarded by whites as detrimental to their economic and political interests.” (Wilson Record: “The Negro and The Communist Party”; Chapel Hill, 1951; p. 6).

The original strength of Washington’s movement, rested on the Educational college at Tuskegee Alabama, which he had founded in 1881. It was this that gave rise to the term “The Tuskegee Machine.” This machine was oiled by Washington’s assiduous cultivation of rich and prominent people. This began when he came to national attention in 1895 at the Atlanta Cotton Exposition, where he gave a speech (Dubbed the “Atlanta Compromise” by Dubois), only seven months after the death of Frederick Douglass. In this speech he offered the labour of the Negro to the rulers of the South. “Cast down your buckets where you are;” was his call to the Negroes to prevent further out-migration from the Cotton lands. He said to the white planters in turn, that this offer of labour form the Negroes, was to be matched by Planters “casting down their buckets” into the labor of the Negro, and hiring them. Washington later organised the NATIONAL NEGRO BUSINESS LEAGUE in 1900. We can agree with Haywood’s description of Booker T. Washington:

“Here definitely was the voice of the embryonic Negro middle class.” (Cited by Foster in “Negro People In American History”; New York; 1954; p. 414).

By the turn of the century, significant Negro intellectuals were repudiating both the “Back To Africa” movements of Delany and the servile fore lock tugging of Washington. They formed the NIAGARA movement, which was focused on the personality of W.E.B. DuBOIS:

“Its purpose was to form a national protest organisation with branches in a number of states to wage a fight against segregation and discrimination on all forms. It was extremely critical of Booker Washington, who along with this may white friends, in turn vigorously opposed it. The Niagara movement floundered for a few short years…a few years later a number of its leaders were instrumental in organising the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLOURED PEOPLE (NAACP), which took over a number of important points in its programme.” (Wilson R; Ibid; p. 10).

The NAACP was founded in 1909, from amongst others, the leadership of WILLIAM WALLING ENGLISH, FLORENCE KELLEY, – both socialists of the Socialist Party; and many progressive reformers like OSWALD VILLARD , RABBI STEPHEN WISE, REVEREND JOHN HAYNES HOLMES. This grouping unified a number of Negro protest groups. Later JAMES WELDON JOHNSON was to join. From the beginning the mandate of the NAACP was somewhat divided, but Dubois was its best element. He recognised clearly what role Washington was playing:

“The vested interests who so largely support Mr. Washington’s programme.. Are to large extent men who wish to raise in the South a body of labouring men who can be used as clubs to keep white labourers from demanding too much.” (David Levering Lewis; “W.E.B. DuBois – Biography of a Race. 1868-1919” New York; 1995; ; p. 401).

The NAACP worried those conservative whites who supported Washington, and they
formed the National Urban League in an attempt to counter the influence of the NAACP.

Although the NAACP contained socialists of the SP, these socialists did not yet think in a Leninist way. The lessons of Lenin, including those of correct work in broad front organisations had not yet penetrated the Socialist Party. As Foster says:

“There were it is true, several prominent Socialists among the founders of the NAACP; but they acted more in the spirit of liberals that socialist Party members. There were no trade unionists among this group…Few Negroes became socialists. Dr. Dubois joined the party in 1911, but sinking no roots in its infertile soil, he quit in 1912.” (Foster; “Negro People In America History”; Ibid; p. 429).

Although DuBois was a powerful Black fighter, he failed to see the unity of Black and white transcended capital. He said in 1940:

“The split between white and black workers was greater than that between white workers and capitalists; and this split depended not simply on economic exploitation but on racial folklore grounded on centuries of instinct, habit and thought…This incontrovertible fact, imported Russian Communism ignored, would not discuss.” (Cruse H “Crisis of the Negro Intellectual”; Ibid; p. 176-77)

In the Socialist or Communist movement, there was a general neglect of the Black movement. At worst there were the chauvinist positions of the Socialist Party’s Southern based branches. They went so far as to call for segregation of Negroes and whites in a “Socialist” separate America. Although Debs did not agree with this, he said simply that:

“The Socialist Party is the party of the whole working class regardless of colour – the whole working class of the world.” (Cited Wilson “Negro and CP”; Ibid; p.19).

Whist this was true, it did not attempt to make any specific strategy for the special oppressions of the Negro workers in the USA. There were insufficient attempts by the SP to organise in the black working class. The IWW upheld the battle against racism, and issued many Negroes with membership cards. In the meantime further Black movements were forming that were to later enter the Communist movement. These were centred on the “Messenger.”

THE MESSENGER was established in 1917 by a group of Negro intellectuals and trade unionists including A.PHILIP RANDOLPH, CHANDLER OWEN, RICHARD B. MOORE, AND CYRIL BRIGGS. They were influenced by the Socialist Party, in fact. Other Negro members of the SP, despite its low total Negro membership, included such prominent Negro socialists as OTTO HUISWOOD, LOVETT FORT WHITEMAN. Huiswood later became the Executive secretary of the Comintern’s International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers. A. Philip Randolph went on to organise the negro-led Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. He did not drift towards the communists.

By 1920 there was for the:

“First time in the Negro’s history, a left wing or radical core,” proclaimed the “Messenger.” (Cited Wilson “Negro and CP”; Ibid; p.19). Both Huiswood and Fort-Whiteman gravitated quickly to the Communists.

It was Cyril Briggs who married “self-determination” strands to Socialist strands. He promoted his ideas that were influenced to some extent by Garveyism (See below), in the Amsterdam News, a Harlem paper, he explained in terms reminiscent of Delany:

“Security of life for Poles and Serbs – Why Not for coloured Americas?…Considering that the more we are outnumbered, the weaker we will get, and the weaker we get the less respect justice or opportunity we will obtain, is it not time to consider a separate political existence with a government that will represent, consider, and advance us? As one tenth of the population…We can with reason and justice demand our portion for purposes of self-government and the pursuit of happiness, in one-tenth of the territory of continental US.” (Cited; Draper Ibid; p. 323).

Interestingly he thought the “coloured autonomous states” should be in either Washington, Oregon, Idaho, or California or Nevada. Not in the Southern US. Briggs started “The Crusader” in 1919, and now began urging the Negro state should be in Africa, South America, or Caribbean. The Crusader attacked the Garvey movement, for its “one-man movement”; meaning that Garvey rejected the offers to combine forces with Briggs. Briggs went on to form the magazine THE AFRICAN BLOOD BROTHERHOOD (ABB), calling for African Liberation and redemption. One of its eight points incorporated anti-capitalist struggle. Although smaller than the Garvey separationist movement, it was to link with the American Communist movement. Zack was put in charge of the task of developing the Negro movement for the Communists. He got in touch with Briggs and Richard B Moore. Most of the ABB joined the party. It became the cadre of the American Negro Communists, supplying many later important figures including such as OTTO HALL AND HARRY HAYWOOD.

The tensions between “integrationist” and “segregationist-nationalist”, were seen also in the career of MARCUS MOSES GARVEY. He was born in the West Indies where he started in 1914, the UNIVERSAL NEGRO IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION (UNIA). When he came to the USA, at Washington’s invitation, the UNIA took root. Growing very fast, it developed branches all over the USA. Its programme was for a militant struggle against Negro oppression of all forms. But, this was to culminate in a “Back to Africa” movement. A complex and absurd hierarchy (Knights of the Nile, Dukes of Nigeria etc) was adopted and a pseudo-army was made. Huge embezzlements of the Negro people, were undertaken to float the “Black Star Line,” which would transport the Negroes back to Africa. This venture collapsed, though the extent of Garvey’s personal involvement in the financial corruption is unclear. But Garvey was imprisoned until his release by Presidential pardon in 1925. The whole Garvey movement had collapsed in the interim, leaving many disillusioned followers. Yet, in the high flown anxiety to find “legitimate” predecessors of the later “Black Nation” line, William Z. Foster and Harry Haywood, find the charity to make Garvey a forerunner of the Black Nationalists:

“The UNIA was a Negro bourgeois nationalist movement, a sort of Negro Zionism; and Garvey was a bourgeois nationalist leader. Garvey talked mainly in terms of ‘race’; but on the whole import of his movement was in the sprit of a Negro ‘nation’. Often in fact, Garvey did speak in definitely nationalist terms. This was the meaning of his whole concept of an African empire with a nobility and army and state trappings. Garvey said: ‘The Negro must have a country and a nation of his own.’ …Authorities on the Negro Question are generally agreed that Garvey was an outspoken Negro nationalist. Haywood correctly sums up the Garvey movement as follows: ‘The movement led by Garvey cannot be explained purely by the personality of its leader…Garvey.. had a deep feeling for the intrinsic national character of the Negro problem.'” (Foster, “Negro People In American History”; Ibid; p. 450-1).

The CPUSA was supportive of Garvey, despite the overtones of “Negro Zionism.” Just prior to the collapse of the UNIA, ROBERT MINOR a prominent CPUSA central committee member in charge of the work on Negroes, continued to praise them:

“A breaking up of this Negro association would be a calamity to the Negro people and to the working class as a whole…The organisation itself represents the first and largest experience of the Negro masses in self-organisation…It is composed very largely, if not almost entirely of Negro workers and impoverished farmers, although there is a sprinkling of small business men. In any case the proletarian elements constitute the vast majority of the organisation…We believe that the destruction of such an organisation of the Negro masses under the circumstances would be a calamity.” (Record; “Negro & the CP”; Ibid; p. 41).

Yet Garvey was not only mystical and obscure, he was reactionary:

“Early in the 1920’s Marcus Garvey came out against the Communist movement as follows: ‘I am advising the Negro working man and labourer against the present brands of Communism…As taught in America, and to be more careful of the traps and pitfalls of white trade unionism in affiliation with the American Federation of white workers aor labourers.” (A.J. Garvey, cited Cruse “Crisis of the Negro Intellectual”; Ibid; p. 46).

At the 1921 Comintern third congress, a proposal from the South African delegation came forward to study the “Negro question or the proletarian movement among the Negroes.” At the Fourth congress a Negro communists took part for the USA party for the first time. This was Otto Huiswood. Against opposition from the party, the famous Black poet, CLAUDE McKAY, also took part as a “special delegate.” (Cruse H: “Crisis of Negro Intellectual”; Ibid; p. 54-55). There, McKay accused the American Communists of discrimination, and also of giving a over-optimistic gloss to the likelihood of American revolution at that time. (Draper; Ibid; p. 327; & Cruse H: “Crisis of Negro Intellectual”; Ibid; p. 54-55). The Comintern appointed the Negro Commission which wrote the “Theses on the Negro Question,” which were presented at the Fourth congress. In these it is stated that:

“The history of the Negro in America fits him for an important role in the liberation struggle of the entire African race…in a single world Negro movement.” (Draper; Ibid; p. 327).

The leadership of African liberation struggles was placed in the hands of the American Negro. At this stage the ECCI and its Commission were confronting the notion of the “Black Nation.” The Program commission of the Fifth congress reported back that it could not substantiate the Black Nation. AUGUST THALHEMIER reported:

“It was pointed out that a number of national questions exist in countries like the US with an extraordinary national mixture of populations where it cannot be said that the slogan of the right of self-determination is the solution for all national questions, in which the race question is also involved…The Program Commission was of the opinion that the slogan of the right of self determination must be supplemented by another slogan: ‘National equality for all national groups and races.'” (Cited; Draper; Ibid; p. 328-329).

Draper points out that the Commission also decided that it was “virtually impossible” to define the concept of nation to satisfy all requirements. (Cited; Draper; Ibid; p. 328-329). It is obvious that these formulations are remarkably similar to those of Stalin when dealing with the issue of the complex geographical areas such as Transcaucasia. The party and Pepper noisily agreed. Fort-Whiteman however demanded further emphasis on “race,” and stayed on in Moscow. The Comintern stayed firm at this stage, that the primary goal was the proletarian revolution.

The problem of Garvey-ism was at this stage seriously impeding organisation in the Negro working classes. The Comintern advised the formation of an AMERICAN NEGRO LABOR CONGRESS (ANLC). This was established in October 1925. The national organiser was made Fort-Whiteman; and the communist H.V. PHILIPS was made National Secretary. It was consciously seen as United Front that could bring the party into touch with Negro masses. The ANLC was bitterly attacked by the AFL and branded “disruptive.”

It never made bridges effectively, and within 5 years was dissolved into the League For Struggle for Negro Rights. The leadership of the broad Negro movement had already been contested by the NAACP they had:

“Held an uncontested position as spokesman for Negroes in their fight for legal justice and civil rights. At the time the NAACP was composed largely of individuals from the white and Negro middle classes. It was not hostile to the labor, but lacked any important ties with the trade unions movement. Its aim was to secure by judicial and legislative action a more equitable role for the Negro in the major phases of American life. It was opposed to the Communist programme, and had consistently refused to be drawn into any joint activity with the leftists.” (Record; “Negroes & CP”; Ibid; p. 36).

The NAACP clearly had the widest circle that should have been penetrated by the Communists. They had relinquished tactics of fighting for Negro rights within the trade unions and had isolated themselves there. The NAACP, despite its hostility was also “avoided” by the CP. As Record comments:

“During the period from 1919 to 1928, the Party took a definitely hostile position towards practically all moderate Negro organisations. The NAACP and the National Urban League were in particular vigorously condemned. There was some basis in fact for such criticism. The NAACP had been extremely cautious in its legal and legislative work for Negroes during the early 1920’s, and the National Urban League (NUL) had applied a questionable role in a number of the large industrial strikes during the immediate post-war period.” (A. Record; “Negroes & CP”; Ibid; p. 38).

In a further direct challenge to the NAACP, the CP set up the INTERNATIONAL DEFENSE LEAGUE (ILD). But although the CP had some reasons to distrust both the NAACP, and the NUL, it had effectively isolated itself in yet another key front, this time the Negro front.



The factional fights had not only played a part, but they were central to obstructing the formation of a clear and a correct Marxist-Leninist policy on any question! American Exceptionalism was an excuse to avoid the reality – that there was not a united party. The Comintern had played its part in the factional battles. In the middle of these factional battles, the incorrect theory of the “Black Nation” was endorsed.

vii) The Attitude of Stalin to the American CP in 1928

What do we know of Stalin’s attitude to the American CP? It so happens that we are fortunate to know a great deal. After the Sixth World Congress, Stalin was to speak his mind in front of the Presidium of the ECCI that had been struck to examine the question of factionalism in the American party, and their allegations of American Exceptionalism. It will be remembered that they had put the thesis that American capital had stabilized itself and was therefore to some extent immune from the crisis of capitalism. They had drawn this “theory” from two primary sources, Eugene Varga and Nikolai Bukharin. The attack launched by Stalin on the issue of stabilization of capital has already been discussed in his address to the Plenum of the CC CPSU(B) in 1929. He had also previously attacked the notion of capitalist “stabilization” at the 15th Congress of the CPSU(B).

At this juncture, Stalin was trying to assess the way forward for the USA party. He saw the position of the CPUSA as of immediate and great world significance. But the weaknesses of both the minority and the majority factions were “opportunist.” Moreover Stalin points out that in the context of the inner-Comintern struggle then going on, it was not surprising that significant errors had been made by the CPUSA:

“It has become evident during the course of the discussion that both groups are guilty of the fundamental error of exaggerating the specific features of American capitalism. You know that this exaggeration lies at the root of every opportunist error committed both by the majority and the minority group. It would be wrong to ignore the specific peculiarities of American capitalism…But it would be still more wrong to base the activity of the CP on these specific features, since the foundation of the activities of every communist party, Including the American Communist Party, on which it must base itself, must be the general features of capital, which are the same for all countries and not its specific features in any given country…Specifics features are only supplementary to the general features. The error of both groups is that they exaggerate the significance of the specific features of American capitalism and thereby overlook the basic features of American capitalism which are characteristic of world capitalism as a whole. Therefore when the leaders of the majority and the minority accuse each other of elements of a Right deviation, it is obviously not without some measure of truth. It cannot be denied that American conditions form a medium in which it is easy for the American Communist Party to be led astray and to exaggerate the strength and the stability of American capitalism. These conditions lead our comrades from America, both the majority and the minority, into errors of the type of the Right deviation.” (Stalin’s Speech to the Presidium in the American Commission of the ECCI; May 6th; 1929; In “Stalin’s Speeches on the American Communist Party”; as re-printed in “The Communist International In America; Documents 1925-1933”; by the Bolshevik League of the US New York, nd; c.1982; p. 80).

Stalin leaves no doubt that in his mind these “opportunist errors” stem from factionalism in CPUSA and Comintern:

“What are the main defects in the practice of the leaders of the majority and the minority?

Firstly that in their day-to-day work they, and particularly the leaders of the majority , are guided by motives of unprincipled factionalism and place the interests of their faction higher than the interests of the Party.

Secondly that both groups and particularly the majority are so infected with the disease of factionalism, that they base their relations with the Comintern, not on the principle of confidence but on policy of rotten diplomacy, a policy of diplomatic intrigue.” (Stalin Ibid; p.81)

To illustrate this, he describes the behavior of the two factions in trying to curry favour:

“Let us take a few examples. I will mention such a simple fact as the speculations made by the leaders both of the majority and the minority regarding the differences within the CPSU(B). You know that both groups of American Communist Party, competing with each other and chasing after each other like horses in a race, are feverishly speculating on existing and non-existing differences within the CPSU. Why do they do that? Do the interests of the CPA demand it? No of course not. They do it order to gain some advantage for their own particular faction and to cause injury to the other faction. Foster and Bittleman see nothing reprehensible in declaring themselves ‘Stalinites’, and thereby demonstrating their loyalty to the CPSU. But, my dear comrades, that is disgraceful. Do you not know that there are no ‘Stalinites’, that there must be no ‘Stalinites’? Why does the minority act in this unseemly fashion? In order to entrap the majority group…of Comrade Lovestone, and to prove that the Lovestone group is opposed to the CPSU, and hence to the basic nucleus in the Comintern. That is of course incorrect. It is irresponsible. But the minority cares nothing about that: their chief aim is to ensnare and discredit the majority in the interests of the faction of the minority.” (Stalin Ibid; p.81)

Having shown the Foster group in “disgraceful behavior,” he describes the Lovestone group as “even more disgraceful”:

“And how does the Lovestone group act in this connection? Does it behave more correctly than the minority group? Unfortunately, its behavior is even more disgraceful than that of the minority groups. Judge for yourselves. The Foster group demonstrate their closeness to the CPSU by declaring themselves ‘Stalinites’. Lovestone perceives that his own faction thereby may lose something by this. Therefore in order not to be outdone, the Lovestone group suddenly performs a ‘hair rasing’ feat and at the American party Congress, carrels through a decision calling for the removal of Comrade Bukharin from the Comintern. And so you get a game of rivalry on the principle of who will outdo whom. Instead of a fight on principles you get the most unprincipled speculation of the differences within the CPSU.” (Stalin Ibid; p.82)

The Comintern had made several demands that Comrade Pepper return to Moscow. The CC of the CPA had resisted and:

“In fact ignored a number of the decisions of the ECCI regarding Pepper. Thereby the majority of the American CP demonstrated its fellowship with Pepper, whose opportunist vacillations everybody knows…Fosters’ group utilizes this situation against the Lovestone (and Gitlow-ed) group, stating that the majority group within the CPA is against the Comintern. Accordingly the Lovestone groups performs another ‘hair-raising’ feat and expels Comrade Pepper. The same Pepper whom only the day before they had defended against the Comintern. How can we explain the resistance to the decisions of the Comintern regarding Pepper on the art of the majority group? Not of course in the interests of the Party. It was exclusively in the interests of the majority faction. Why was it that the majority made a sudden right-about-face and unexpectedly expelled Pepper from the party? Was it in the interests of the Party? OF course not. It was purely in the interests of the Lovestone faction, who were anxious not to surrender a trump card to their enemy, namely the Foster-Bittleman factional group. Faction interests above all!” (Stalin Ibid; p.82-3)

Stalin’s prescription was clear: End factionalism:

“In order to put an end to these foul methods and place the American Communist Party on the lines of Leninist policy, it is necessary first of all to put an end to factionalism in that Party…What is the solution? Comrade Foster mentioned one. According to this proposal the leadership should be handed over to the minority. Can that solution be adopted? No, it cannot. The delegation of the ECCI committed an error when it sharply dissociated itself from the majority, without at the same time dissociating itself equally sharply from the minority. It would be very unfortunate it the commission of the Presidium repeated the error of the delegation of the ECCI. I think the Commission of the Presidium of the ECCI should in its draft dissociate itself both from the errors of the majority and from the errors of the minority. And for that very reason that it must dissociate itself from both, it must not propose to turn over the leadership to the minority. …The American delegation proposed a different solution directly contrary to the proposal of Comrade Foster. …Ten points. The substance of this proposal is to the effect that the leadership of the majority should be fully rehabilitate, the factional work of the majority should be considered correct that the decision of the Presidium to eh ECCI to withdraw Comrade Lovestone should be annulled and that thus the practice of suffocating the minority should be endorsed. Can this solution be adopted? No, it cannot, for it would mean, not eradicating factionalism, but elevating it to a principle.” (Stalin Ibid; p. 86-7)

“What then is the solution?

1. The actions and the proposals of the delegation of the ECCI must in the main be approved, with the exclusion from the proposals of those points which approximate to the proposals of Comrade Foster.

2. An open letter must be sent in the name of the ECCI to the members of the American Communist Party setting forth the errors of both sections of the party and sharply emphasizing the question of eradicating all factionalism.

3. The action of the leaders of the majority a the Convention of the Communist party of America particularly on the question of Pepper, must be condemned.

4. And end must be put to the present situation in the CPA, in which the questions of positive work, the questions of the working class against the capitalists, questions of wages, working hours, work in the trade unions, the fight against reformism, the fight against the Right Deviation, – when all these questions are kept in the shade, and are replaced by petty questions of the factional struggle between the Lovestone group and the Foster group.

5. The Secretariat of the Executive Committee of the American CP must be reorganized with the inclusion of such workers therein as are capable of seeing something more than the factional struggle, the struggle of the working class against the capitalists, who are capable of placing the interests and the unity above the interests of individual groups and their leaders.

6. Comrades Lovestone and Bittleman must be summoned to be placed at the disposal of the Comintern, in order that the members of the American CP should at last understand that the Comintern intends to fight factionalism in all seriousness.” (Stalin Ibid; p.87-88)

Lest any one was deceived, Stalin made it clear that this was not any ordinary party, because it had a job of work that was “decisive” for the “world revolutionary movement.” There was all the more reason to get it right in the CPUSA:

“A word or two regarding the tasks and the mission of the American Communist Party. I think comrades that the American CP is one of this few CP’s in the world upon which history has laid tasks of a decisive character from the point of view of the world revolutionary movement. You now very well the strength and power of the American capitalism. Many now think that the general crisis of world capitalism will not affect America. That, of course, is not true. It is entirely untrue, comrades. The crisis of world capitalism is developing with increasing rapidity and cannot but affect American capitalism. The three million now unemployed in America are the first swallows indicating the ripening of the economic cris in America. The sharpening antagonism between America and England, the struggle for markets and raw materials, and finally, the colossal growth of armaments-than is the second portent of the approaching crisis. It is essential that the American CP should be capable of meeting than historical movement fully prepared and of assuming the leadership of the impending class struggle in America. For that ed the American CP must work for the complete liquidation of factionalism and deviations in the Party. For the reestablishment of unity in the American CP … To forge a real revolutionary cadre and a real revolutionary leadership of the proletariat, capable of leading the many millions of the American working class towards the revolutionary class struggles.” (Stalin: Speech May 14th, 1929 to the Presidium of The ECCI On the American Question: In ; p. 91).

Second speech:

Unfortunately the factions continued their own way even after this clear, but comradely upbraid from Stalin. In between the first and the second of the speeches that Stalin made on this question, the members of the American Majority delation – Gitlow and Lovestone made a declaration. This contravened the standards of the Comintern in that it ruled out the agreement of the American delegation to any of the declaration of the ECCI Presidium. Stalin called attention to this:

“The fundamental nature of this declaration is that it proclaims the thesis of non-submission to the decisions of the Presidium of the ECCI. That means the extreme factionalism of the leaders of the majority has driven them into the path of insubordination, and hence of warfare against the Comintern.” (Stalin: Speech May 14th, 1929 to the Presidium of The ECCI On the American Question: In ; p. 91).

Of course Stalin agreed that discussion and principled debate, was right, and he upheld the Communist’s rights to disagree. But he pointed to the need for individual rights to bow, after a full and principled discussion to the view of the majority:

“It cannot be denied that our American comrades like all Communists, have the right to disagree and the have the right to oppose it. And as long as they confine themselves to the exercise of that right, there is not, and cannot be anything wrong. But the trouble is that the declaration of May 14th does not stop there. It goes further: It considers that the fight must be continued even after the draft becomes the decision of the Presidium of the ECCI. Therefore we must put it the question squarely to the members of the American delegation: when the Draft assumes the force of an obligatory decision of the Comintern, do they consider themselves entitled not to submit to that decision?” (Stalin: Speech May 14th, 1929 to the Presidium of The ECCI On the American Question: In ; p. 91).

Stalin goes on to expose the manoueverings and “petty-fogging” and “deceit” of the Majority (He uses those words – ed). He then turns to the Commission’s draft:

“What is the basis of the draft of the Commission which is now offered for the consideration of the Presidium the ECCI? It is based on the idea of maintaining the line of the Comintern, on the idea of Bolshevizing the American Communist party, on the idea of fighting the deviation form the Marxist line, and, above all, the Right deviation, on the idea of Leninist Party unity, and finally, and above all on the idea of completely liquidating factionalism. For it must be realized after all, comrades, that factionalism is the fundamental evil of the American Communist Party.” (Stalin: Speech May 14th, 1929 to the Presidium of The ECCI On the American Question: In ; p. 95).

Again Stalin points out that both wings were being factionalist. But he also points out again, but in more detail, why it is that factionalism is weakening to the party. He mentions three reasons. The First:

“Wherein consists the evil of factionalism within the ranks of a Communist party? Firstly in that factionalism weakens the party spirit, it dulls the revolutionary sense and blinds the Party workers to such an extent that in the factional passion, they are obliged to place the interests of the faction above the interests of the party.. Did not Comrade Lovestone and his friends know that they should have held themselves aloof from Pepper and they should have repudiated him so as not to compromise themselves as revolutionaries.. Factional blindness compelled them to place the interests of the factions above the interests of the party..Did not Comrade Foster know that he should have held aloof from the concealed Trotskyites that were in his group? Why.. did he not repudiate them at the time. Because he behaved first and foremost as a factionalist.” (Stalin: Speech May 14th, 1929 to the Presidium of The ECCI On the American Question: In ; p. 96.)

Stalin points to the second reason for fighting factionalism as being its interference with:

“The training of the Party in the spirit of a policy of principles.” (Stalin: Speech May 14th, 1929 to the Presidium of The ECCI On the American Question: In ; p. 97).

And, the third reason:

“that factionalism by weakening the will for unity in the party and by undermining its iron discipline, creates within the Party a peculiar factional regime, as a result of which the whole internal life of our Party is robbed of its conspirative protection in the face of the class enemy, and that party runs the danger of being transformed into a plaything of the bourgeoisie.” (Stalin: Speech May 14th, 1929 to the Presidium of The ECCI On the American Question: In ; p. 97)

He now paints the consequences of the actions of the American factions:

“The evil of factionalism lies in the fact that it completely nullifies all positive work done in the party, it robs the workers of all desire to concern themselves with the day-to-day needs of the working class (wages, hours, the improvement of the material welfare of the workers etc); it weakens the Party in preparing the working class for the class conflicts with the bourgeoisie and thereby creates a state of affairs in which the authority of the Party must inevitably suffer in the eyes of the workers.” (Stalin: Speech May 14th, 1929 to the Presidium of The ECCI On the American Question: In ; p. 98).

Stalin advised that Lovestone and the others should accept the proposal of the ECCI Presidium. As they comforted themselves with being popular, he advised that their popularity would vanish if the Comintern rejected them; because the masses followed the line of the Comintern. But Lovestone and Gitlow rejected this.

  • A second speech by Stalin on the same day, to the same Presidium, pointed out that eight of the ten American delegates had refused to accept the draft of the Commission.

Stalin reminded them, that the Bolshevik CC had been divided on some occasions, such as in the 1907 controversy to partake in Duma elections. But, Stalin pointed out, that at that time the minority had bowed to the wishes of the majority. He pointed to the ability to act collectively, to conform will of individuals to the “will of the collective,” as the major test of “Bolshevik” behavior. He then pointed out that Gitlow, Lovestone and Bloor had stated, that their consciences did not allow them submit to the Presidium. Stalin commented:

“What they said amounted to this, that since they do not agree with the decision of the Presidium, they cannot submit to that decision and carry it into effect. But only Anarchist can talk like that, not Bolsheviks, not Leninists…Members of the American delegation, do not think that the conscience and convictions of Comrade Gitlow are above the conscience and convictions of the overwhelming majority of the Presidium of the ECCI Do you begin to understand that if each of us starts to act according to his own will without reckoning with the will of the collective, we shall never come to any decision; we shall never have any collective will, nor any leadership?” (Stalin Second Speech of May 14th In Ibid; p. 106).

The factions of Lovestone were expelled for intransigent disregard of the Comintern injunctions against factionalism. In the middle of all this, the theory of the “Black Nation” became part of the CPUSA programme. Summarising the overall international state, at the 1930 Meeting of 16th CPSU Congress, Molotov reported that the:

“Comintern had 53 parties and 3 sympathising national-revolutionary parties. He said that right-opportunist tendencies had been so marked in a number of central committees (he mentioned Czechoslovakia, Sweden, and the United States) that their composition had to be changed.” (Cited in Degras J. Vol 3; Ibid; p. 102).


We believe that we have shown good evidence that:

1. The CPUSA was riven with factionalism.

2. The Line of the “Black Nation”; is not supported by a thorough reading of the Marxist-Leninist literature; nor by facts of Negro migrations and their lives.

3. There were serious departures from Marxism-Leninism in the Comintern that allowed the mistaken theories of Red Trade Unionism; and Black Nation to arise in the CPUSA.

4. The general pattern of Ultra-Left sectarianism, impeded the implementation of a correct policy to a Labour Party in the USA.

These questions must be further examined. Let the Marxist-Leninist movement shred this analysis – if it so chooses. But it should for the movement’s sake, do so only on the basis of factual and scientifically reasoned Marxist-Leninist analysis. We have had enough dogma.

Failing that, we are condemned to more self-serving opportunism, or honest meanderings between Africa and the home of the USA blacks – the USA. In the process more false routes will inevitably divert our best and most militant youth. In this article we have not analysed some of the later mistaken routes: the Black Panther Movement and the Malcolm X phenomenon. We will endeavour to do so shortly.

The formation of a Marxist-Leninist party of the USA and Canada is an urgent priority.




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Claims and Facts About the Right of Nations to Self-determination

Published in Evrensel, 23 October 2017.

Reprinted with permission.

Claims and facts about the right of nations to self-determination, following the independence referendums in Iraqi Kurdistan and Catalonia.


Following the independence referendums in Iraqi Kurdistan and Catalonia, the right of nations to self-determination has become a popular debate. Here are some of the claims and facts about this right:

Claim 1. Defending the right of nations to self-determination ignites separatism

The right of self-determination is a way of respecting a nation’s right to live the way it chooses to. Lenin states that this right applied even to the most ‘extreme’ options, including the ‘right to secession’. For this reason, the right of nations to self-determination forms the ‘right to establish a separate state’. This means that even if a majority of a nation now calls to ‘break off from’, i.e. ‘secession’, this right must be recognised. However, Lenin did not want this right because he wanted a separation, but because he wanted to advocate a genuine fraternity and unity among peoples. According to the programme of the Bolsheviks, the solution to the national question was to recognise the right of self-determination, and through this, removing all national privileges under a single state framework as a voluntary union based on equal rights. In order for the peoples to live together, the ‘right to secession’ must be recognised. Prohibition of this right encourages separation. For example, the more the demand of Turkey’s Kurds to have autonomous life is repressed, the more the Kurdish people gain a sense of need for ‘separation’. Therefore, the right of nations to self-determination does not mean to advocate separation but to defend the removal of national privileges and the conditions of voluntary unity.

2. The national question has already been resolved in Iraq. Language, cultural freedoms and autonomy have been provided. The Kurds are no longer an oppressed nation. The referendum serves the interests of Barzani, the President of Kurdistan Regional Government.

It is true that the recent independence referendum is linked with Barzani’s political interests. However, reducing the national question to the issue of language and culture is a liberal approach. For example, why has the national question in Catalonia not been resolved? They have their language, culture, local government and own parliament, but the national question still was not resolved. There is a similar situation in Iraqi Kurdistan and the Kurdish question in Turkey. Even if we assume that language and cultural equality were to be provided, the Kurdish question would not be resolved without the demands of the Kurds for autonomy were met. The national question cannot only be seen as a cultural rights issue. The problem will continue as long as the Kurds request for autonomy is interfered with and prevented from the outside. In the final analysis, the national question is the rejection of the right of a nation to self-determination. In some cases, this will include matters such as language, culture and so on (just like the situation in Turkey for instance) and not in others (Catalonia and Iraqi Kurdistan). And so the national question can not be solved without the recognition of the right to self-determination. For this reason, Turkey’s left’s refusal of this right in ‘good faith’ opens the way to the nationalism of the oppressive nation.

3. To defend the right to a referendum that will clearly lead to separation is to support separatism through the rhetoric of ‘principles’ and ‘rights’.

A socialist from Turkey cannot handle this issue abstractly without taking into consideration the historical context as if they were living in Australia. In Turkey, the nationalism of the oppressive nation is institutionalised and is highly effective among the working people. This nationalism is based on anti-Kurdishness and therefore there is a hysterical hostility to a possible Kurdish state. Establishing a state is seen as a privilege that the Turks hold and therefore a Kurdish state is not deemed appropriate. This is why socialists of Turkey firstly have the duty to help the working people gain an internationalist consciousness and to oppose all national privileges.

The question is as follows: How will an equal friendship-fraternity relationship be established between the Turkish workers and the Kurdish workers? How will the common struggle be achieved? If socialists of Turkey will not respect the will of the Kurds demanding independence in Iraqi Kurdistan, can equality and fraternity even be considerable? The only way to establish trust, fraternity and equality between the nations in the medium term so that a common way of fighting is achieved is only through the recognition of the right to self-determination.

4. Those who support the right to self-determination do not care about the common struggle of the peoples.

For the common struggles and fraternity of peoples and show to them that we are brothers, it is necessary to respect their preferences in order to break the prejudices of a people who have been massacred for centuries. This is the foundation of voluntary unity. The right to self-determination is not only a defence of an abstract principal but also a compulsory principle to provide for the fraternity, common struggle and voluntary unity of the peoples.  As Lenin says “Humanity … can only achieve the inevitable union of nations by getting over a transition period when all oppressed nations are liberated, i.e. when they have the freedom of secession from the oppressive nation.”

5. Kurdish parties did not support the referendum. Therefore, the referendum does not reflect the will of the Kurdish nation.

It is true that there are differences between the Kurds and their parties. However, the objection of Kurdish parties is not to the referendum itself, but Barzani’s desire to make the referendum an instrument to serve his own political future. Nearly all Kurdish parties criticized this and called for a ‘yes’ vote the day before the referendum. There will always be division and political infighting within a national movement; their existence does not invalidate the right of people to self-determination; especially for the socialist of another country.

6. In the age of imperialism, the right of people to self-determination is invalid. It is not possible. Small countries get annexed to imperialism.

This is exactly the content of Lenin’s polemics with Luxemburg on the right of people to self-determination. Lenin naturally defends the right of people to self-determination as the solution to the national question. As the right of people to self-determination does not solve patriarchy, press freedom or lowered wages problems, nor does it solve the problem of imperialist economic hegemony.

In his polemic with Luxemburg, Lenin argued this democratic principle not as a solution to all the problems in the world but as an idea to put an end to the national oppression in a multinational country. Of course, this country will be united with the struggle against imperialism and its stance under revolutionary conditions, i.e. progressive or socialist party leadership of the nation. This is the call of the III. International and we defend it. Unfortunately, this is not what is happening in the case of Iraqi Kurdistan.

7. While the concept of the right of people to self-determination is the revolutionary concept of yesterday, this question cannot be discussed ‘idealistically’ unless the concept of imperialism in others dependent on itself is seen today.

Imperialism wants to use the right of people to self-determination to serve its own interests. This was done in Yugoslavia. This, however, requires the socialist not to reject the right of people to self-determination, but the perspective to struggle against and combat imperialism. Big monopolies may suggest control of unregistered employment, in part due to the fact that it is an element of “unfair competition”. As seen in WTO meetings, some representatives of imperialist countries may oppose low pay in countries like Bangladesh, in fear of competition. Imperialist countries such as the USA and Russia may fight against ISIS. All this does not require socialists to give up on these claims and defend ISIS. However, it requires one to struggle and act in a revolutionary context. Therefore, apparent defence of this principle by imperialists in some cases cannot be an excuse for socialists to give up. As Lenin expressed in the then current circumstances, “Just as in the example of Latin countries, conditions, where people were lied to with republican slogans and these were used by financial oligarchy for financial pillage cannot be a reason for social-democrats to give up on republicanism; in the same way, in the fight for freedom against the imperialist state, the condition that this could be used by another ‘bigger’ imperialist state for imperialist intentions of same order, cannot be a reason for social-democrats to reject the right of people to self-determination”.

8. If the national movement is collaborative or bourgeois-led, the right of people to self-determination cannot be defended.

If a national movement was not led by the bourgeoisie, there would be no debate on the right of people to self-determination. The reason for the debate is the bourgeois nature of national movements. Thus, the right of people to self-determination is valid under conditions of bourgeois-led national movements; or even co-operation with imperialism. Socialists recognize it but fights against the nationalistic exercise of this right. For example, some in the Turkish left opposition to the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan openly reject the right of people to self-determination. The referendum is to be respected. The fact that the referendum was brought about by Barzani for various reasons is an internal problem for the people of Kurdistan. When these internal problems are dealt with, there will be no such thing as the right of people to self-determination. Excuses such as “Talabani is a compromiser”, “Goran is a nationalist”, “PKK is nationalist” etc. to deny the right of people to self-determination will never seize to exist. Because an immaculate national movement in human history can never be found. Therefore, it is not the referendum that we should oppose. What we should criticise is Kurdish support for Barzani. And our friendly call to Kurdish workers and labourers is thus: “Do not support Barzani, the representative of the Kurdish co-conspirator bourgeoisie, take your fate into your own hands, do your own politics. Do not let independent Kurdistan become a toy for imperialism.” This call is a sign of our friendly, revolutionary support and solidarity, not a “lecture”. The right of people to self-determination and support for Barzani are two separate things. This is what separates internationalists from Kurdish nationalism.

9. For Lenin, the right of people to self-determination was not a principle but a tactic.

It was beyond a dilemma of whether it was tactics, principles or strategy. It was all of them; tactical principle and strategic principle. Along with being a democratic principle, it was the only way to safeguard the unity of the working class. From this point of view, it had an unbreakable connection with socialist goals. By his statement; “Wherever we see ties relating to international oppression – without preaching for the need to separate – we will vigorously defend the right to self-determination and the right to separation for each nation. To defend, recognise and side with this right means: to defend equal rights between nations; to resist oppression; to fight against national privileges of any nation; and hence, to develop the class struggle between workers of every individual country”.

10. Independent Kurdistan will be a second Israel in the region.

The basis of this thesis is clearly the traditional bourgeois-nationalist sensitivity to an independent Kurdish state. If it remains in Barzani’s leadership, Kurdistan will indeed be an important figure in US imperialism, and therefore Israel’s anti-Iran strategy. It will be a co-conspirator state. However, it will not be a second Israel because there is no Palestine in Kurdistan, there is no Zionism. As a co-conspirator administration to imperialism, it will look more like Turkey than Israel. However, with its size, population and economic dependency it will probably be a weaker partner than Turkey.

11. Kurdistan will be an advanced outpost of imperialism.

It seems likely to be so under the collaborator Barzani administration. At the referendum, the decision was for independence. It must be implemented in accordance with the right of people to self-determination. However, there is great opposition amongst Kurds too. Perception of an independent Kurdistan as an “unchanging, collaborator country” is also linked to the nationalist hysteria of hate against the Kurds. Barzani can be overthrown, independent Kurdistan can advance in a popular, anti-imperialist and democratic line. This popular option is not blocked by independence. In other words, Kurdistan does not have to be an imperialist outpost just because it is Kurdistan. Kurdish people harbour a vigorous vein of opposition in their collective historical memory that advocates the opposite.

12. Independent Kurdistan will trigger a war in the region.

Independent Kurdistan is not a disaster. In fact, Kurdish autonomous region operates like an independent country already. The administration is now a collaborator of imperialism. For that reason, unless war originates from hostility to Kurds; it should be seen as a disaster for the region. Disaster can only happen when politics of Kurdish hate leads to a war, started by reactionary countries in the region. In that case, it is not the Kurds demanding independence, but the reactionary states of the region that should be blamed and fought against.

13. ‘Socialists’ on Turkish left that reject the right of the people to self-determination are fascists.

Of course, rejection of the right of people to self-determination is a step in support of oppressive state nationalism. However, some parties that reject this right on a theoretical level defend recognition of the results of the referendum and oppose military action or oppression against Kurdistan. These parties and movements cannot be accused of fascism. What we see is the result of being influenced by a deviation to the right and oppressive state nationalism.

14. Lenin defended the right of revolution to self-determine, not right of people to self-determination.

Lenin’s perspective was undoubtedly revolutionary. He addressed the solution of every problem with a revolutionary perspective. For this reason, he unfalteringly defended the right of people to self-determination. He did not point to a tautology of “right of revolution to self-determine” because revolution cannot be expressed in terms of a right; it is a matter of power. When sufficient power is gained, neither counter-revolution nor revolutionary forces will be trapped in an abstract notion of right. Revolution does not take place by rights but by the force. However, the right of people to self-determination is defensible and defended as a right and principle.

15. Independence of Iraqi Kurdistan will also open Turkey’s borders to debate.

It is a pity that this argument came from the ‘left’. Of course, the struggle cannot be carried out without considering existing borders. However, today’s borders were drawn by imperialists on the basis of oppression and division of Kurdish peoples. It is the duty of socialists to defend their unity on the basis of equal rights and not act as “border guards” in a geography where peoples are oppressed and massacred, and in order to do this unfailingly, they must recognize the right of people to self-determination.

16. The father of the right of people to self-determination is US President Wilson. Lenin quickly adopted this principle to gain the support of colonial peoples against Wilson.

This principle entered socialist agenda long before Wilson expressed it. This principle was included in the decisions of the Second International Congress held in London in 1896. It has been in the program of Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDIP) since its first Congress.

17. Lenin defended this principle not in the era of imperialism but in the era of socialist revolutions.

The right of people to self-determination was the subject of a further four comprehensive discussions for Lenin and the Bolsheviks after being re-admitted into the 1903 program. First; In 1913, the right of people to self-determination was defended against the Austrian national-socialist Otto Bauer’s “national cultural autonomy” formulation and its reflections in Russia. In 1914, Lenin defended the right of people to self-determination in the Bolshevik Party against rising national movements, and in opposition to those who claimed it will inflame apartheid. In 1916, Lenin again explained in detail the right of people to self-determination against the Bukharin and Kievsky thesis that “the right of people to self-determination cannot be realized in the era of imperialism” and that “it will serve imperialism”; he described their opposition as “Marxism’s cartoon” and “imperialist economics”. Finally, it was proposed by Lenin in the Third International, expanding the scope of the formulation of the struggle against the imperialism of the colonial countries.


The Soviet Industrial Revolution: the Results of the First and Second Five-Year-Plans

The following are economic statistics from the Soviet Union’s First and Second Five-Year Plans with my commentary giving some context and helping you better interpret the numbers.

The four periods depicted in these statistics are the following:

1) The last Czarist census of 1913. This represents the height of the economic development of the Russian Empire. The economy of the Russian Empire declined during WWI (1914-1917).

2) The NEP figures of 1929. These figures depict the state of the economy before planned economy was fully implemented. During the NEP industry was largely nationalized but farming was mostly done by private producers and there existed a private sector of capitalist manufacturers. The goal of the NEP was to rebuild the country after the devastating Civil War (1918-1922). At the beginning of the NEP the Soviet Economy was in shambles and production at a worse state then in 1913.

3) The First Five-Year Plan (1928-1932). The implementation of Planned Economy, Industrialization and the Collectivization of Agriculture. All sectors of the economy grew during this time especially industry but also food production, consumer goods production and military spending.

4) The Second Five Year Plan (1933-1938) Consolidation of Collective Farming, the completion of the vast industrial projects of the first plan, massive increase in military spending. The 1937 constitution: implementation of free healthcare, free compulsory schooling. Massive improvements in education: construction of thousands of schools, academies and institutions of higher learning, cinemas, theaters and cultural institutions for the common people.


Co-operative farming and use of modern technology allowed the cultivation of previously unused land. Area under crops increased both compared to the last Czarist census of 1913 and the NEP figures. The bad weather of 1932-33 caused a temporary decrease:

The trend of fast growth continued and intensified during the Second Five-Year Plan:

Most of the land was cultivated by Collective Farmers while the remaining land was cultivated by private farmers and the State Sector:

The Collective Farm Movement that had existed in Russia since at least 1905 gained new energy after the October Revolution and fastened it’s pace even more during the NEP. In 1928 it became an official government campaign and reached a tremendous speed. The rate of collectivization in 1930-32 was blindingly fast, even too fast. Stalin said the Collective Farm Activists were being “Dizzy With Success”. In 1933-38 the speed was reduced to a more manageable rate:

The amount of food crops produced increased tremendously during both Five-Year Plans as did the production of industrial crops. Notice the fluctuation in the level of sugar-beet farming: The 1929 figure represents the aftermath of the devastating Civil War that destroyed the economy, production increased massively in 1930. In 1931-32 the sugar-beet sector was reorganized which also caused a temporary reduction. In 1933 production began to increase yet again:

During the Second Five-Year Plan the growth continued at a more consistent rate. At first glance you might think the production of grain actually didn’t increase much however this is not true: the production of grain increased from 1929 and from 1933 figures which were lower then the 1913 pre-War numbers. Secondly although grain production was only 118,6% of the pre-War figures it was achieved with a vastly smaller proportional work force. During the 1930s the USSR had gone from an agrarian country to an industrial country. Millions of people had moved from the countryside to the cities and an increasing amount of farmland had been harnessed for farming industrial crops. Despite all of this food production was greater then ever before!

“A peasant population rising from 120.7 to 132 million people between 1926 and 1940 was able to feed an urban population that increased from 26.3 to 61 million in the same period.” ~Ludo Martens (Another View of Stalin)

The amount of livestock decreased during the First Five-Year Plan. The reasons were twofold:

1) The sabotage by Kulaks and the Middle Peasants under Kulak influence. Almost all draft animals used to be owned by Kulaks. This allowed them to kill such a high number of them. (The idea that killing of animals was widespread among poor peasants is a myth, since the poor peasants typically owned no animals at all.) This caused serious economic damage to the USSR.

2) The breeding of animals was done almost exclusively by the Kulaks. It took several years for the Kulak animal breeding to be replaced by Collective Farm animal breeding since during the First Five-Year Plan most Collectives focused on crop production:

During the Second Five-Year Plan the number of livestock increased as animal breeding was taken over by Collective Farmers. The number of horses increased less then other animals because draft horses were being replaced by tractors more and more:

The development of industry, construction of machine building plants greatly benefited agriculture. The number of tractors used by peasants went from basically nothing to tens and hundreds of thousands. The Soviet State setup Machine and Tractor Stations (MTS) which supplied the Collective Farmers with machinery:

As new tractor plants were built the amount of tractors also increased in State Sector Farms:


Amount of tractors used doubled during the Second Five-Year Plan:

During the Second Five-Year Plan the amount of combines grew by 600%. Amount of lorries by more then 700%, cars by 240% and other vehicles by around 150%:


The 1930s Great Depression devastated the economies of the Capitalist countries but had little impact on the economically blockaded Socialist Soviet Union. On the contrary the USSR was developing at a staggering rate due to it’s policy of industrialization. Soviet GDP growth at the time was fastest in the world:

The growth was biggest in the industrial sector. While the Capitalist economies stagnated and collapsed the USSR’s output more then tripled that of the Russian Empire, UK, USA, Germany and France:

The USSR’s industrial output doubled between 1929-1933!

During the First and Second Five-Year Plans (1928-1938) the industrial output of the USSR more then quadrupled! During this time Capitalist countries had only negligible growth:

Industrial output by sectors. The bulk was State Industry but a substantial chunk belonged to worker Co-ops and a small amount to remaining private producers and foreign corporations with trade deals with the Soviet government:

By the end of the First Five-Year Plan big industry had become 70% of the GDP. The USSR had become an industrial nation!

Machine and Factory Building compared to Consumer Goods production at the end of the First Five-Year Plan. Construction of machines doubled while production of consumer goods increased by 60%:

While in the Russian Empire most industry was involved in raw materials (mining and especially cotton) in the USSR Machine Building became the leading branch of industry:


National trade. Steady increase in the sale of  consumer goods, commercial products, trade among collectives, co-ops and State enterprises:

Freight traffic increased together with increased trade and as a result of the building of new roads, railways and channels:


According to the last Czarist census of 1897 literate people made up 28,4% of the population while only 13% of women were literate. Among the rural population the number was only 19%. It is estimated that in 1917 around 30% of the population was literate but during the civil war the number decreased.

In 1919 the Bolsheviks began the literacy campaign Likbez. In 1926 51% of the population were literate. By the end of the Second Five-Year Plan male literacy was 90.8% and female literacy 72.5%.

Amount of elementary schools increased by four thousand between 1933-1939. Amount of secondary schools doubled. The number of public libraries, worker clubs and cinemas also increased. Before the industrialization & electrification campaign most people had never seen movies or had access to a library. In fact most people couldn’t even read.

The number of schools quadrupled as 16,000 were built between 1933-38!

The amount of people graduating from the new Soviet Higher Educational Institutions doubled between 1933-1938:


In the 1937 Soviet Constitution healthcare was guaranteed as a human right.

According to the 1913 Czarist census life expectancy among the population was 32.3 years. By 1958 the life expectancy had doubled to 68.6 years.

After 1937 life expectancy increased rapidly:

Its quite dramatic that the Russian life expectancy has not really increased after the dissolution of the USSR! In the mid-late 90s it actually decreased. In 2012 Russian life expectancy was 69 years:


Russian imperial census (
Russia U.S.S.R.: A Complete Handbook New York: William Farquhar Payson. 1933. p. 665.
Stalin’s peasants New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 225-6 & fn. 78 p. 363. 

The Russian Federation Before and After the Soviet Union, Alexey Shumkov

Official data of soviet statistical bureau available here

Life expectancy


Molotov on Mao

“How did you like Mao Tse-tung?

He offered us tea. And he talked about meeting Stalin and when it would be convenient….Stalin hadn’t received him for some days after he arrived. Stalin told me, “Go and see what sort of fellow he is.” He stayed at Stalin’s dacha Blizhniya.

I talked with Mao and then suggested to Stalin that he receive him. He was a clever man, a peasant leader, a kind of Chinese Pugachev. He was far from a Marxist, of course–he confessed to me that he had never read Marx’s Das Kapital.

Only heroes could read Das Kapital. When I was in Mongolia talking with the Chinese ambassador–he was nice to me–I said, “You want to create a metals industry quickly, but the measures you have planned–backyard blast furnaces–are improbable and won’t work.” I criticized the Chinese, and our people reproved me later. But it was such obvious stupidity!…Backyard blast furnaces to produce worthless metals–nonsense.”

– Felix Chuev, “Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin Politics” (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1993), p. 81.

Molotov on Khrushchev

“MOLOTOV: Khrushchev opposed Stalin and Leninist policy. He wanted changes in the Leninist policy pursued by Stalin and ultimately by all of us who supported Stalin. You know what the rightists were after? In the party? The rightists wanted to block us from pressing for the liquidation of the kulaks; they were champions of a pro-kulak policy. Even after the kulaks had been destroyed they continued to hold right-wing political views. So they maintained afterward that Stalin had pushed things too far, and that this had been a mistake. We saw this in Khrushchev, and spoke about it, and this was even openly acknowledged by the Central Committee under Stalin. Everyone makes mistakes. Lenin made mistakes, and Stalin made mistakes. Khrushchev was no exception. I had my own mistakes. Who is infallible? If, however, one has good intentions but is in error, he must be corrected …

Khrushchev hinted that Stalin had Kirov killed. There are some who still believe that story. The seeds of suspicion were planted. A commission was set up in 1956. Some twelve persons, from various backgrounds, looked through a welter of documents but found nothing incriminating Stalin. But these results have never been published.

CHUEV: Who else was on that commission?

MOLOTOV: As far as I can recall, Shvernik was on it, I think, Suslov, Kaganovich, Furtseva, Procurator-General Rudenko, also someone who used to work in the Cheka … what’s his name? In all, there were ten or twelve people. I don’t remember exactly. I think Mikoian was there, too. But I can’t be absolutely sure. Voroshilov, I think, wasn’t included in that commission. Or he might have been there after all. I can’t recall all of them.

The KGB made a special report. Rudenko’s group authenticated and examined the material–and there was a great deal of material. We used all the materials sent to us as well as those we managed to obtain ourselves.

The commission concluded that Stalin was not implicated in Kirov’s assassination. Khrushchev refused to have the findings published since they didn’t serve his purpose.

Khrushchev got by because we had many Khrushchev supporters. Stalin was firm, a firm hand–that was Stalin–and under that strong hand everyone sang the same tune. But as soon as that hand grew weak, everyone began to sing his own tune.

In 1957 Khrushchev was relieved of his duties for three days. This happened at one of the Politburo sessions. This, of course, had to be announced. He was chairing Politburo sessions; he was merely relieved of the chairmanship. Nothing more occurred then. He wasn’t removed from his job, and he couldn’t be removed. The Central Committee plenum would decide this. How else could he have been removed?

At the XXth Party Congress a Presidium consisting of eleven members had been elected. Later, in 1957, we decided to remove Khrushchev. At the Politburo he chaired its sessions; we decided to replace him with Bulganin. The point was that starting with Lenin–and it was always so–the chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars always chaired sessions of the Politburo. This was a Leninist tradition. From the beginning, Lenin chaired–when he was ill, Kamenev sat in for him– then Rykov chaired, then I, then Stalin. Khrushchev was the first to break with this Leninist tradition. He began to act like a regional party secretary … He was not chairman of the Council of Ministers, nevertheless he chaired Politburo sessions … Now we had Bulganin chair.

CHUEV: Did Khrushchev remain silent?

MOLOTOV: No way! He screamed, he was furious … But we had already reached an agreement. We were seven out of eleven, and his supporters were but three, including Mikoian. We had no program to advance. Our only goal was to remove Khrushchev and have him appointed minister of agriculture. Commotion could be heard behind the door. Furtseva, Serov, Ignatiev were there. They convened the members of the Central Committee.

The Central Committee plenary meeting was held the following day. Furtseva and Suslov were Central Committee secretaries who played roles. Serov played a major role. He employed the staff to best advantage. He had all the Central Committee members promptly summoned to Moscow. They all gathered in Suslov’s office. Serov helped out, though his role was purely technical. Inasmuch as Khrushchev remained the first secretary of the Central Committee, the entire staff was in his hands.

Suslov is such a small-minded politician! And he is a big bore, too.”

– Felix Chuev, “Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin Politics” (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1993), p. 346-360.

Labour Party of Iran (Toufan): Long live the raging movement of the people of Iran!

Revolution is the midwife of every old society, which is pregnant with a new one. The grassroots movement in Iran that is entering its 5th day is an expression of the rejection of the totality of the criminal mafia in power; a power that is not accountable to the people and is trying to squeeze the life out of the poverty-stricken masses.  

This is a movement of wisdom against ignorance, a movement against poverty, unemployment, corruption, multi-milliard dollars embezzlement by the officials, looting of the meager savings of the millions of working people, and political repression. This is the cry of anger of millions of people who have waited patiently for years and are now challenging the regime of the Islamic Republic and are shaking its base.

The recent uprising is expression of the accumulated anger and dissatisfaction of the masses from the neo-liberal economic policies of the regime. This anger has built up during the past several decades.

The regime of the Islamic Republic has intensified the implementation of the dictates of the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.  Consequently, the economic condition of the masses has declined rapidly, the level of poverty has risen, inflation has skyrocketed, the cost of living has sharply increased, the purchasing power of the general population has declined, the price of water, gasoline, electricity, and other fuel has increased.

In the past several years, especially in 2017, there were many strikes, demonstration and protests by different sectors of the society; workers, teachers, retirees, unemployed, nurses, many thousand individuals who are the direct victims of looted bank savings, etc. It was expected that a general protest will develop in response to this condition.

Adding to this is the intensification of the inner fight between the factions of the regime of the Islamic Republic.  The protesters used this fight in their own service and targeted all factions of the regime of the Islamic Republic.

 All social and political sectors of the society are participating in these protests, from communists to revolutionaries, from ordinary masses to organized forces, from the monarchists to reactionary and pro-imperialist Mojahedeen and to individual agents of Zionists and imperialists. This uprising is spontaneous, mainly by the youth, does not have an organized leadership at this moment. Despite all shortcomings, this uprising is a genuine expression of discontent of the general population from four decades criminal rule of the Islamic Republic. The protest movement started with economic demands and is moving forward towards political issues.

The Party of Labour of Iran (Toufan) hails the just and bold movement of Iranian people against the Islamic Republic that has ruled for nearly forty years using repression and extreme violence. We insist on the unity of the masses and on a clear and sharp stand against the aggressive imperialist powers and their agents who try to derail the movement.

 There is not yet sign of an increase in the number of workers in the streets. A general strike will force the regime to retreat and will provide the opportunity for the street demonstrators to continue protesting with a lower cost. The unbalanced class forces, the lack of political organization and leadership, and the exhaustion of the street protesters will not produce a condition in favor of the movement.

In the Middle East, the U.S. imperialists and Israeli Zionists are trying to penetrate any movement against the regimes that do not bend to their dictates. This is particularly true about Iran. The presence of agents and lackeys of the US imperialists and Israeli Zionists in a movement does not necessarily express the nature of the movement. In the present uprising in Iran, the role of these agents is not dominant. This is a spontaneous movement from bottom-up and not from top-down.  At the same time, the communists, left, and progressive forces must be very vigilant and analyze the erroneous slogans and stands that are expressed in the marches and expose the nature of them to the masses.

If the demands “bread, job, housing, liberty, social justice, and the republic” are more clearly expressed, if the slogans in support of the overthrown old order – the hereditary monarchy-  and the slogans that compromise with faction of the regime are rejected from the ranks of the movement, then one can hope,  with the rise of revolutionary forces in particular the Marxist-Leninists who are the true representatives of most radical social demands and who are strongly opposed to imperialist interventions, that the movement will achieve its goals.

The Party of Labour of Iran calls on the masses in the streets to be vigilant and avoid the premature violence. The agents of imperialists and Zionists and the sel-out circles do not value the human life. They only look for their interest. Every call on the masses should be carefully examined  and its source be investigated. 

The rights to formation of independent guilds, the right to employment and housing and unemployment insurance, the freedom of association and assembly, the separation of religion from the state and education, the abolition of gender segregation and compulsory veils and dress code, and the freedom of all political prisoners are part of the demands of the street demonstrators. The Party of Labour of Iran gives its whole hearted support to these demands and believes that no faction of the Islamic regime has the will to fulfill these just and popular demands of the masses.

The  Party of Labour of Iran ( Toufan) strongly condemns the brutal killings of the protesters and calls on the fraternal Parties and Organizations in the ” Internatinal Conference of the Marxist Leninist Parties and Organizetions” and on the revolutionary and progressive forces and individuals to condemn the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran for its crimes and to demand the immediate and unconditional release of all detained street protesters.

The remedy for the workers and the working people is unity and organization! 

The Party of Labour of Iran (Toufan)

January 1, 2018

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia on the Great October Socialist Revolution

Great October Socialist Revolution

the first victorious socialist revolution in history, accomplished in 1917 by the Russian working class in alliance with the poor peasantry under the leadership of the Communist Party (formerly, the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party [Bolshevik]), headed by Lenin. The name “October” comes from the date October 25 (November 7, new style), when the Russian Provisional Government was overthrown and state power passed into the hands of the soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ Deputies. As a result of the October Revolution the power of the bourgeoisie and landlords in Russia was abolished, the dictatorship of the proletariat was established, and the Soviet socialist state was founded. The Great October Socialist Revolution represented the triumph of Marxism-Leninism and opened a new era in the history of humanity—that of the transition from capitalism to socialism and communism.

The socialist revolution in Russia as a product of historical laws. On the basis of a profound study of world history and of the conditions under which capitalist society arose and developed, its laws of development, and the antagonistic contradictions it contained, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the founders of scientific communism, discovered the objective laws of social development. They also proved the inevitability of socialist revolution, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the transition of society from the capitalist socioeconomic system to that of communism. V. I. Lenin further developed all aspects of the Marxist theory of socialist revolution in the age of imperialism, the period when revolution came onto the agenda as an immediate practical task of the proletarian class struggle. Lenin scientifically proved that the world capitalist system had fully ripened for the socialist revolution by the beginning of the 20th century and that the imperialist stage is the eve of the socialist revolution. On the basis of the law of uneven economic and political development of the capitalist countries in the age of imperialism, Lenin concluded in 1915 that a proletarian revolution could first be victorious in several countries or even a single country. He developed the well-founded theory of the transformation of a bourgeois democratic revolution into a socialist one. He elaborated a strategy and tactics for the working class and its party and worked out the problem of the allies of the proletariat in the revolution. The Bolshevik Party set a classic example of the way to lead a victorious socialist revolution.

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, Russia entered the imperialist stage of capitalist development, almost simultaneously with the most advanced capitalist countries. Monopolistic conglomerates such as Prodamet, Truboprodazha, Produgol’, and Prodvagon held the dominant positions in industry. At the beginning of World War I there were more than 150 monopolies in operation in Russia, and they controlled all the basic branches of industry. Prodamet, a merger of 30 major metalworking enterprises and joint-stock companies, owned more than 70 percent of all the share capital invested in the country’s metalworking industry and was responsible for more than 80 percent of all metal production. The Railwaymen’s Union, which had been formed as early as the 1880’s, was responsible for as much as 75 percent of all rail production. The Prodvagon syndicate had concentrated into its hands virtually all production of railroad cars in the country. The Produgol’ syndicate controlled 70 percent of all coal selling. As much as 80 percent of all kerosene sales in Russia were the domain of the Nobel’-Mazut Company. The sugar manufacturers’ syndicate controlled 90 percent of sugar production, and that of the match manufacturers controlled 95 percent of match production. During World War I about 900 new joint-stock companies came into existence, with capital assets of more than 1.6 billion rubles. Monopolistic associations of the trust type and financial groups whose working capital figured in the billions of rubles appeared—for example, the concerns of I. I. Stakheev and N. A. Vtorov. Lenin wrote that “the number of large stockholders is insignificant; but the role they play, like the wealth they possess, is tremendous” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 32, p. 109). Major banking associations arose alongside the industrial monopolies. These included the Russo-Asiatic Bank, the St. Petersburg International Commercial Bank, and the Azov-Don Bank. As much as 80 percent of all banking capital was concentrated in the hands of the 12 largest banks. Russia stood at the head of the major capitalist countries in the extent to which its banks had concentrated capital. Banking capital was intertwined with industrial capital, and finance capital appeared and attained an increasingly important position in the Russian economy. Similarly, the state apparatus and the capitalist monopolies became increasingly involved with each other. At the same time, monopoly capitalism was undergoing a process of transformation into state monopoly capitalism, a process that was accelerated during the war by the need to mobilize and regulate the economy for military purposes. State regulatory agencies came into existence, seeking to centralize the administration of many different branches of industry.

Thus, the extent to which industry had become monopolized and banking capital concentrated and the high level to which state monopoly capitalism had developed testified to the fact that the material prerequisites for the socialist revolution in Russia had matured sufficiently. The objective conditions for the transition to socialism had come together, and the transition to socialism, according to Lenin, was “merely the next step forward from state-capitalist monopoly” (ibid., vol. 34, p. 192).

Imperialism in Russia, not essentially different from that of the advanced capitalist countries, did have a number of special features. A highly advanced industrial and financial capitalism existed alongside the general backwardness of the country. Besides the monopolistic forms of capitalism, there were vast stretches of the country where capitalist relations were only beginning to take shape. The specific features of economic development and its social structure in Russia were the interconnection between the most highly developed forms of capitalism and premonopolistic forms and the fact that capitalist relations were permeated with the very powerful elements surviving from feudal serfdom. Russia’s economy was dependent on foreign finance capital to a considerable degree. In spite of important successes in industry, transport, and banking, Russia remained a technologically and economically backward agrarian country in comparison with the United States, Britain, Germany, and France. It held fifth place among the great powers.

Large landholdings belonging to lords continued to exist in Russian agriculture. At the beginning of the 20th century the nobility alone still owned 61.9 percent of all private landholdings in the country. The Russian village suffered from land hunger and high rents. Lenin characterized the situation in the country at the beginning of the 20th century thus: “The most backward system of landownership, the most ignorant peasantry on the one hand, and the most advanced industrial and finance capitalism on the other” (ibid., vol. 16, p. 417).

Capitalism developed under specific conditions in Russia and found itself entangled in a mesh of elements surviving from feudalism and serfdom. Lenin’s profound understanding of the dialectics of this intertwining of socioeconomic relationships in the country led him to conclude that revolution was inevitable. “Russia’s backwardness,” he wrote, “merged in a peculiar way the proletarian revolution against the bourgeoisie with the peasant revolution against the landowners” (ibid., vol. 38, p. 306).

Besides the existence and development of the economic prerequisites, the social forces for a revolution headed by the working class grew and became strong in Russia. In 1917 the total number of urban and rural proletarians reached 15 million persons, among whom factory workers were about 3.5 million. Although the proletariat constituted only about 10 percent of the total population (in 1913, 159.2 million), its strength did not lie in its size relative to the rest of the population, but as Lenin put it, “in the fact that the proletariat economically dominates the center and nerve of the entire economic system of capitalism, and also because the proletariat expresses economically and politically the real interests of the overwhelming majority of the working people under capitalism” (ibid., vol. 40, p. 23).

A highly concentrated working class was typical of Russia. In 1915 about 60 percent of all industrial workers were employed at major enterprises which had work forces greater than 500; in the United States the corresponding figure was only 33 percent. More than 35 percent were employed in factories where the work force exceeded 1,000 persons; in the United States, the figure was 17 percent. As much as 64 percent of the industrial proletariat was employed in the Petrograd and Central industrial regions. Other major proletarian centers were the Urals, the Donbas, the Krivorozh’e, and Baku. This concentration of large masses of workers in major enterprises in the most important centers of the country, their savage exploitation by the capitalists, their total lack of political rights, and the crude, arbitrary way in which the ruling classes dealt with them resulted in a high level of political maturity and revolutionary spirit among the Russian proletariat. The special features of their situation promoted the wide circulation and acceptance of socialist ideas among the Russian proletariat, the heightening of their consciousness and level of organization, and the formation of a revolutionary vanguard—the working-class party. Such a party, a Marxist party of a new type, was created at the beginning of the 20th century, under Lenin’s leadership, by the Russian proletariat. Surging forward to make the revolution, the working class of Russia had at its head the heroic party of the Bolsheviks. By 1917 the Party had gained vast experience in political struggle and had a scientifically based program for the socialist transformation of society. The Russian working class, led by the Marxist party of the Bolsheviks, became a mighty social force in the country and the dominant organization in the revolution.

The Russian proletariat had wide support among the semiproletarian masses of the town and village. The millions of poor peasants, who had an interest in the eradication of vestiges, of feudalism and above all in the liquidation of the large landlords, allied themselves with the working class in the approaching socialist revolution. In 1905, 30,000 of the largest landlords in Russia owned 70 million desiatinas (1 desiatina = 1.09 hectares), and 10.5 million peasant households (more than 109 million people in 1913) owned only 75 million desiatinas. If a large landlord estate had on the average 2,300 desiatinas, the peasant household had on the average only seven to 15. Half the peasant households had only one or two desiatinas. The peasants were forced to rent land from the large landowners on extremely unfavorable terms. By 1917, 30 percent of the peasantry had no horses, 34 percent had no farm equipment, and 15 percent raised no crops of their own. Because of mobilizations for the army, only 38.7 percent of the able-bodied male population remained on the peasant farms. The village poor suffered especially severely at the hands of the large landlords, the kulaks, and the tsarist authorities. The poor constituted 65 percent of the rural population and were the most reliable allies of the working class. There was also broad support for the working class among the nonproletarian urban working people. In 1917 a significant proportion of the population in Russia’s cities (a total of over 22 million inhabitants) were craftsmen, peddlers, and lower-echelon office workers, all of whom were exploited and lacked political rights.

One of the peculiarities of Russia’s historical development was its multinational character. The numerous nationalities (more than 100) that were part of the Russian empire were cruelly exploited by tsarism, the Russian and local national bourgeoisie, and the feudal lords. Tsarism transformed Russia into a prison for all the peoples by following a policy of cruel oppression of the non-Russian nationalities—one of forced Russification, suppression of national cultures, and encouragement of prejudices and chauvinist disputes between nationalities. The most severe national contradictions were typical of Russia. Thus, the entire course of objective social development drew the oppressed peoples of Russia (of whom the absolute majority were poor peasants) into a joint revolutionary struggle with the Russian working class against social and national oppression.

The combination of feudal, capitalist, and national oppression with the political despotism of the autocracy made the situation unbearable for the masses of people and lent special sharpness to the class contradictions in Russia.

At the beginning of the 20th century Russia became the focal point of the contradictions of world imperialism, the weakest link in the imperialist chain. Here the economic and social prerequisites for the coming revolution had matured. During this time the center of the revolutionary movement shifted from Western Europe to Russia. A revolutionary situation developed in the country and resulted in the first Russian bourgeois democratic revolution of 1905-07. This was the prologue and dress rehearsal of the October Socialist Revolution.

Lenin wrote: “The first revolution and the succeeding period of counterrevolution (1907-14) laid bare the very essence of the tsarist monarchy, brought it to the “utmost limit,” exposed all the rottenness and infamy, the cynicism and corruption of the tsar’s clique, dominated by that monster Rasputin. It exposed all the bestiality of the Romanov family—those pogrom-makers who drenched Russia in the blood of Jews, workers, and revolutionaries” (ibid., vol. 31, p. 12).

The Russian proletariat approached the decisive political battles of 1917 with a great revolutionary tradition. It already had behind it the experience of the people’s revolution of 1905-07 and the subsequent class battles. The ripening of a new revolutionary situation was sharply accelerated by World War I (1914-18), which laid bare the sharp socioeconomic and political contradictions in Russia and the rottenness of the tsarist regime and revealed that, to all appearances, the further existence of the bourgeois-feudal order meant disaster for the country. The war resulted in tremendous destruction of the productive forces. There was a general breakdown in industry, transport, and agriculture. During the war, 3,884 major enterprises shut down, or 37.8 percent of a total of 9,750. The railroads were unable to handle the freight load because of the shortage of locomotives and railroad cars. Industry suffered from a severe shortage of fuel and raw materials. The grain harvest in 1916 was reduced from that of 1913 by 1.6 billion poods (a pood = 16.38 kg). The sown area was also greatly reduced. Russia’s financial dependence on foreign governments grew tremendously. Only decisive revolutionary measures directed against the autocracy and capitalism could save the country from imminent economic disaster. In the fall of 1916 a pre-revolutionary situation developed and a new popular revolution grew inexorably closer. Lenin wrote: “The war has created such an immense crisis, so strained the material and moral forces of the people, has dealt such blows at the entire modern social organization, that humanity must now choose between perishing or entrusting its fate to the most revolutionary class for the swiftest and most radical transition to a superior mode of production” (ibid., vol. 34, pp. 197-98). The war and the resulting militarization of industry led to a further concentration of production and sales in the hands of monopoly finance capital. “The dialectic of history is such,” wrote Lenin, “that the war, by extraordinarily expediting the transformation of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism, has thereby extraordinarily advanced mankind toward socialism” (ibid., p. 193). The conditions for a victorious revolution had ripened in Russia.

The course toward socialist revolution. A step of utmost importance on the road to the socialist revolution in Russia was the February bourgeois democratic revolution of 1917, which overthrew the autocracy. During and after the February Revolution, as a result of the creative initiative of the broadest revolutionary masses throughout the country, soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies were created, as well as soviets of peasants’ deputies and soldiers’ committees in the active-duty army and the rear garrisons. At the same time, trade unions and factory committees became widespread and units of workers’ militia and the Red Guard were formed. The victory over tsarism set all classes of the society into motion. A power struggle for control of the country began. The two major social forces, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, stood in opposition to each other. Based on the armed power of the people, the soviets had the opportunity to take all power in the country into their own hands. But this opportunity was not realized because the leadership of the soviets had been seized by the petit-bourgeois parties of the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries (SR’s), who followed a policy of collaboration with the bourgeoisie and its main party, the Cadets.

The SR-Menshevik leadership of the soviets considered Russia not to be prepared for the socialist revolution and assumed that in the process of the bourgeois democratic revolution power could go to the bourgeoisie. Therefore, this leadership came to an agreement with the capitalist-landlord parties of the Constitutional Democrats (Cadets) and Octobrists and created conditions allowing them to take power. On March 2 (15) the bourgeois Provisional Government was established, headed by Prince G. E. L’vov. The Provisional Government was able to retain power only because of the cooperation of the soviets. In fact, dual power had been established in the country: it consisted of the Provisional Government, the organ of the bourgeois dictatorship, on the one hand, and the soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies, the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants, on the other. Lenin regarded the lack of sufficient political maturity and organizational effectiveness of the proletariat as the social cause of this dual power situation. Roughly 40 percent of the cadre, the most well-tempered in class attitude and revolutionary mood, had been mobilized for the front. Another social source of the situation was the unparalleled activization of petit-bourgeois layers of the population, who constituted an absolute majority in the country. Lenin wrote: “A gigantic petit-bourgeois wave has swept over everything and overwhelmed the class-conscious proletariat, not only by force of numbers but also ideologically; that is, it has infected and imbued very wide circles of workers with the petit-bourgeois political outlook” (ibid., vol. 31, p. 156).

The February Revolution did not resolve the fundamental questions on the minds of the people, questions concerning an end to the imperialist war and the conclusion of peace, the elimination of the system of large land-ownership, labor questions, and the abolition of national oppression. The bourgeois Provisional Government, supported by the collaborationist parties of the Mensheviks and SR’s, pursued an imperialist policy against the popular interests. The revolutionary Russian proletariat could not stop at the bourgeois democratic revolution, and as Lenin foresaw, its transformation into a socialist revolution was inevitable. Only a socialist revolution could resolve the pressing problems of social progress—the need to eliminate the bourgeois-landlord system in Russia, put an end to all forms of social and national oppression, and establish a dictatorship of the proletariat with the aim of building a socialist society.

A concrete and theoretically well-grounded program of struggle for the transition from the bourgeois democratic revolution to the socialist one was worked out by Lenin. In his Letters from Afar in March and in his April Theses he defined a course for the Communist Party to take toward the victory of the socialist revolution. He also delineated the driving forces of the revolution and the Party’s strategy and tactics. According to Lenin’s strategy, the power of the bourgeoisie and landlords would be overthrown by the forces of the revolutionary alliance between the working class and the poorest peasantry. The task was presented to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat in the form of a Soviet Republic—the best form of political organization for society, given the conditions in Russia, during the period of transition from capitalism to socialism. Lenin did not call for the immediate overthrow of the Provisional Government at this time, since it had the support of the soviets. Considering the peculiarities of the historical moment, Lenin warned against ultra-left adventuristic attempts to make a frontal assault upon the Provisional Government, as well as a right-opportunist attitude of confidence in it. He put forward the demand of “no support to the Provisional Government.”

Basing his policies on his estimation of the class forces in the country, Lenin directed the Party toward winning over the masses by broad and patient educational work to expose the counterrevolutionary nature of the Provisional Government and the betrayal of popular interests by the petit bourgeois parties that called themselves socialists, the Mensheviks and SR’s. In fact these parties represented the left wing of bourgeois democracy and were the main base of support of the state power of the imperialist bourgeoisie. The basic political line of the Bolsheviks, worked out by Lenin, was to transfer power to the soviets. But the SR-Menshevik leadership did not want that. The Bolsheviks strove to dislodge the Mensheviks and SR’s from their positions in the leadership of the soviets, win the majority in the soviets over to the Bolshevik side, and change the policies of the soviets. This was an orientation toward a peaceful development of the revolution. The transfer of power to the soviets would mean an end to dual power. “Humanity has not yet evolved and we do not as yet know of a type of government superior to and better than the soviets of workers’, agricultural laborers’, peasants’, and soldiers’ deputies,” wrote Lenin (ibid., p. 147).

In the April Theses an economic program for the transformation of Russia was also formulated. It provided for workers’ control over national production and distribution of goods, the amalgamation of all the banks in the country into a single national bank and the establishment of control over it by the soviets, confiscation of all landlords’ estates, nationalization of all the land in the country, and so forth. In the theses, Lenin also proposed that the Party’s program be revised and the Party be renamed, and that it was necessary to take the initiative in creating a Communist International.

The Bolshevik Party that emerged from the underground after the February Revolution had about 24,000 members. The Petrograd organization had 2,000, Moscow 600, and Kiev 200. The Party rallied around the platform developed by Lenin in the April Theses. It developed broad open political and organizational work among the masses and won to its ranks primarily the most active members of the working class. By the end of April it had a membership of more than 100,000 and was the mass political party of the Russian proletariat.

The Seventh (April) All-Russian Conference of the RSDLP (Bolshevik), which was held April 24-29 (May 7-12), played a large role in preparing for the socialist revolution. This conference, which was equal in importance to a Party congress, fully supported Lenin’s line on making a transition to the socialist revolution and elaborated the policies of the Party on all the fundamental questions of the revolution: war, the Provisional Government, the soviets, and agrarian and national questions. A new Central Committee of the Party was elected at the conference, with Lenin at its head.

Armed with Lenin’s April Theses and the resolutions of the conference, and above all with the slogan “All power to the soviets,” the Bolsheviks put all their energy into the work of winning the support of the popular masses and mobilizing them for the socialist revolution. They did an enormous amount of work in the soviets, trade unions, factory committees, the army, and cities and villages, exposing the collaborationist line of the Mensheviks and SR’s and winning the toiling masses over to their side, educating them, and establishing an alliance of the working class and the poor peasantry as the decisive force in the struggle for the victory of the socialist revolution. At countless meetings, assemblies, rallies, conferences, and congresses the best orators of the Bolshevik Party spoke out. The head of the Party, Lenin, spoke himself at many meetings, rallies, and congresses. The Bolsheviks organized the publication of many newspapers (in October there were as many as 80), leaflets, magazines, and pamphlets. Pravda did tremendous organizational, political, and ideological work. From March 5 (18) to July 5 (18), 1917, 99 issues were published, with a combined total of about 8 million copies. The daily printing run was 85,000-100,000 copies. On the pages of Pravda, issue after issue, the leading articles by Lenin and the appeals and resolutions of the Central Committee of the Party were published, as well as such items as the resolutions of meetings and rallies. As the class struggle continued, the Party’s aim was to convince millions of workers, soldiers, and peasants through their own experience that the Party’s policies were correct and should be defended in open struggle against the forces of counterrevolution.

One of the most crucial questions was that of war and peace. In a diplomatic note of April 18 (May 1) the minister of foreign affairs, P. N. Miliukov, expressing the Provisional Government’s desire to carry the war through “to a victorious conclusion,” aroused broad indignation and brought the revolutionary masses out in open antigovernment demonstrations. On April 20-21 (May 3—4) about 100,000 workers and soldiers of Petrograd, and after them the workers and soldiers of other cities, led by the Bolsheviks, demonstrated under banners reading “Down with the war!” and “All power to the soviets!” The mass demonstrations resulted in a crisis for the Provisional Government. Under pressure from the revolutionary forces, two ministers were removed from the Provisional Government, Miliukov and A. I. Guchkov, the minister of the navy. The SR-Menshevik leaders decided to created a coalition cabinet. Thus the first coalition government was formed on May 5 (18), with Prince G. E. L’vov as chairman. Joining the government along with representatives of the bourgeois-landlord parties (the Cadets and Octobrists) were the two Mensheviks I. G. Tsereteli and M. I. Skobelev and the two SR’s A. F. Kerensky and V. M. Chernov. The creation of the coalition government did not change the class nature of the government or the antipopular policies that it pursued.

The First All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies convened on June 3 (16), 1917, in Petrograd. At the congress the Bolshevik Party had 105 delegates, the Mensheviks 248, and the SR’s 285. The congress majority adopted SR-Menshevik resolutions—in particular, one of support for the Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks, headed by Lenin, exposed the policies of the conciliators at the congress. Bolshevik influence among the masses grew stronger. Mass worker dissatisfaction with the policies of the government was growing all over the country.

On June 18 (July 1) about 500,000 workers and soldiers in the capital demonstrated for the demands “All power to the soviets,” “Down with the war,” and “Down with the ten capitalist ministers.” Carrying out the wishes of American, British, and French imperialists, as well as Russian imperialists, and with the support of the Congress of Soviets assured, the Provisional Government opened an offensive against the Germans on June 18 (July 1), but it soon collapsed. The news of the offensive and its collapse intensified the struggle of the proletariat and the soldiers. A new crisis for the Provisional Government began on July 2 (15). On July 3 (16) spontaneous demonstrations of workers and soldiers began in Petrograd, demanding that power be turned over to the soviets. The Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) provided leadership to the spontaneous movement of the masses in order to keep it peaceful and well-organized. On July 4 (17) a peaceful demonstration was held in Petrograd with more than 500,000 participants. By order of the Provisional Government, and with the knowledge of the SR-Menshevik leaders of the All-Russian Executive Committee of the Soviets, there was an armed attack by military officers and cadets against the demonstrators. Fifty-six people were killed and 650 wounded.

The July events represented the last attempt by the revolutionary masses to solve the problem of power by peaceful means. On July 4(17) demonstrations took place in Moscow and other cities. The SR-Menshevik Central Executive Committee published an appeal in which it declared: “We have recognized the Provisional Government as the government of revolutionary salvation. We have recognized that it should have unlimited powers and unlimited authority.” A period of repression began. On July 5-6 (18-19) attacks were made on the editorial offices and printing presses of Pravda and on the Palace of Kshesinskaia, where the Central Committee and the Petrograd Committee of the Bolsheviks were located. On July 7 (20) a government decree ordering the arrest and trial of Lenin was published. He was forced to go underground, just as he had been under the tsarist regime. Bolsheviks began to be arrested, workers were disarmed, and revolutionary military units in Petrograd were disbanded or sent off to the front. On July 12 (25) the Provisional Government published a law introducing the death penalty at the front. The formation of a second coalition government, with Kerensky as chairman, was completed on July 24 (August 6). It was composed of Cadets, Mensheviks, and SR’s. Dual power came to an end. The possibility of a peaceful road of revolutionary development disappeared for the moment. Power passed completely into the hands of the counterrevolutionary Provisional Government. Lenin wrote: “The counterrevolution has become organized and consolidated and has actually taken state power into its hands” (ibid., vol. 34, p. 1). The betrayal of the SR’s and Mensheviks had resulted in a situation in which the soviets, under SR-Menshevik leadership, had already ceased to be organs of power. They had been transformed into mere appendages of the counterrevolutionary Provisional Government. Because of this, Lenin posed the question of temporarily dropping the slogan of “All power to the soviets.”

With the elimination of dual power, the development of the revolution entered a new phase. After analyzing every side of the situation that had developed in the country, Lenin concluded that the Party had to make a transition to a new tactic of struggle. He worked out this tactic in July in his theses entitled The Political Situation and in the articles “Three Crises,” “On Slogans,” “Constitutional Illusions,” and others like them. Lenin directed the Party toward armed insurrection as the only way of winning a victory for the revolution in the situation that had developed. In proposing that the Party drop the slogan “All power to the soviets,” which had formerly expressed an orientation toward a peaceful development of the revolution, Lenin explained that this would not mean an abandonment of the struggle for a republic of soviets. He was convinced that the soviets, once freed of domination by the petit-bourgeois parties, would become genuine organs of struggle for the proletarian dictatorship.

Lenin’s arguments were the basis of the resolutions adopted by the Sixth Congress of the RSDLP (Bolshevik), which was held semi-legally in Petrograd from July 26 to August 3 (August 8-16) and which represented a party that already had 240,000 members. Lenin guided the congress from underground through the Central Committee (he was then in Razliv). Those reporting at the congress included Ia. M. Sverdlov and J. V. Stalin. The congress approved the new tactics worked out for the Party by Lenin and oriented the Party toward preparations for an armed insurrection to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. The congress also approved the economic platform that Lenin had earlier proposed in the April Theses. It especially stressed the importance of the alliance between the proletariat and the poor peasantry as the main prerequisite for the victory of the socialist revolution. The new Central Committee elected by the congress and headed by Lenin appealed to the people with a manifesto calling for preparations for a decisive confrontation with the counterrevolution.

“In 1917 the Leninist Party presented a great example of historic initiative and of a correct assessment of the balance of class forces and the specific features of the moment. At the different stages of the revolution the Party applied flexible and diverse tactics, utilizing peaceful and nonpeaceful, as well as legal and illegal, means of struggle, and demonstrating its ability to combine these means to move from one form or method of struggle to another. This is one of the fundamental aspects of the strategy and tactics of Leninism that distinguishes it from both Social Democratic reformism and petit-bourgeois adventurism” (“Fiftieth Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution,” in Theses of the Central Committee of the CPSU, 1967, p. 8).

The struggle of classes and parties for power grew sharper every day. The distinctions between the conflicting sides became greater, the political isolation of the bourgeoisie and the petit-bourgeois parties grew deeper, and the influence of the Bolshevik Party increased. The bourgeoisie, headed by the Cadets, set out to unleash civil war and attempted to establish an open military dictatorship in the country. A conspiracy of the imperialist bourgeoisie against the revolution was begun, headed by General L. G. Kornilov, who had been supreme commander in chief since July 18 (31). This conspiracy was actively supported by the reactionary forces of Britain, France, and the United States. The Provisional Government convened the so-called State Conference in Moscow on August 12-15 (25-28). Its aim was to organize and mobilize all the forces of the Russian counterrevolution headed by Kornilov, Kaledin, Kerensky, Miliukov, Purish-kevich, Rodzianko, Riabushinskii, and others. In response to a Bolshevik appeal, Moscow’s working class greeted this congress of reactionaries and conspirators with a protest strike of 400,000 workers. The Moscow workers were supported by strikes and protest rallies by workers in Kiev, Kharkov, Nizhny Novgorod (now Gorky), Ekaterinburg (now Sverdlovsk), and other cities. After the Moscow conference, the counterrevolution, headed by the Cadet Party, moved toward the practical realization of its aims. The military-political center for preparations for the coup was set up at the supreme headquarters of the commander in chief in Mogilev. On August 25 (September 7), General Kornilov began a military revolt and started troops moving toward Petrograd (General A. M. Krymov’s III Cavalry Corps). The conspirators also planned offensives against Moscow, Kiev, and other major cities.

The Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) appealed on August 27 (September 9) to the workers, soldiers, and sailors of Petrograd to come to the defense of the revolution. The Bolshevik Party mobilized and organized the masses to defeat the Kornilov revolt. The Red Guard in the capital, which by then numbered about 25,000 fighters, was supported by the garrison of the city, the Baltic sailors, the railroad workers, the workers of Moscow, the Donbas, the Urals, and other proletarian centers, and the soldiers at the front and in the rear. The revolt was suppressed. The defeat of Kornilov’s revolt disorganized and weakened the counterrevolutionary camp, demonstrated the strength of the revolutionary forces, increased the authority of the Bolsheviks, and proved to be one of the decisive stages in the struggle for the victory of the socialist revolution. It signified the unswerving determination of the workers, soldiers, and poor peasants to deal a mighty blow to the forces of counterrevolution and indicated the tremendous growth of influence of the Bolshevik Party among broad segments of the working people of Russia.

A nationwide crisis had matured in the country, embracing all spheres of social, economic, and political relations. The policies of the bourgeois Provisional Government, opposed to popular interests, had brought the country to the brink of a national catastrophe. Disorder in industry and transport had intensified, and difficulties in obtaining provisions had increased. Gross industrial production in 1917 had decreased by 36.4 percent from what it had been in 1916. From March to October 1917 more than 800 enterprises had been closed down in the country. The production of cast iron, steel, coal, and petroleum had declined sharply. In the autumn, as much as 50 percent of all enterprises were closed down in the Urals, the Donbas, and other industrial centers. Mass unemployment had begun. At the same time, the cost of living increased sharply. The real wages of the workers fell about 40 to 50 percent from what they had been in 1913. The government resorted to issuing more paper money and contracting new loans. From the beginning of the war until February 1917 more than 8.2 billion rubles in paper money had been put into circulation, but in the following eight months a total of 9.5 billion was released. In 1917 new paper money was used to cover some 65.5 percent of budget expenditures. Russia’s national debt in October 1917 had risen to 50 billion rubles. Of this, debts to foreign governments constituted more than 11.2 billion rubles. The country faced the threat of financial bankruptcy.

The class consciousness of the proletariat in the fall of 1917 was indicated by the increased activity of the factory committees, which had been organized at plants and factories everywhere, the growing number of trade unions, and the strengthening of Bolshevik influence in these unions. In October 1917 there were more than 2 million factory and office workers in trade unions. The strike movement at that time was remarkable for its exceptional stubbornness, high level of organization, and political determination. In September and October there were strikes by the Moscow and Petrograd proletariat, the miners of the Donbas, the metalworkers of the Urals, the oil workers of Baku, the textile workers of the Central Industrial Region, and the railroad workers on 44 different railway lines. In these two months alone more than a million workers took part in mass strikes. Workers’ control over production and distribution was established in many factories and plants. This was an indication that the workers’ movement had risen to the highest stage of development. As a result of the political and economic struggle, the working class had to take power into its own hands.

The working-class movement, which was socialist in character, pulled the democratic movement of the peasants along behind it. Until October 1917 there were about 4,250 peasant uprisings against the landlords. In August, 690 peasant actions were recorded, and in September and October more than 1,300. When the Provisional Government sent out punitive detachments it only enraged the peasants. They would burn, seize, or destroy the landlords’ estates and take personal reprisals against the most hated landlords. Millions of soldiers came over to the side of the revolution, especially the garrisons in Petrograd, Moscow, and other cities, the Northern and Western fronts, and the sailors of the Baltic Fleet, who in September openly declared through their elected representative body, the Tsentrobalt, that they did not recognize the authority of the Provisional Government and would not carry out any of its commands.

The national liberation movement of the oppressed peoples in the outlying areas also grew stronger. The Provisional Government did not and could not resolve the national question. In local areas the old apparatus of oppression, hostile to the native population, was left in charge with almost no change. This great power chauvinist policy stirred deep discontent among the oppressed peoples in the outlying regions of the country. Bourgeois nationalist organizations were created in the following national areas: the Central Rada in the Ukraine, the Byelorussian Rada, the National Soviets in the Baltic region and Transcaucasia, and Shura-i-Islam in Turkestan. The national bourgeoisie tried to make use of the national liberation struggle of the oppressed peoples for its own narrow class interests. The nationalists tried to distract the workers from the all-Russian revolutionary struggle. They organized national military units (Ukrainian, Muslim, Moldavian, and Estonian) in order to seize power. The national liberation movement was not and could not be homogeneous in its class composition and political aims. Two sharply counterposed tendencies became apparent—the bourgeois nationalist and the revolutionary democratic. The Bolsheviks exposed the counterrevolutionary essence of bourgeois nationalism and encouraged the delineation of class distinctions within the national liberation movement, striving to provide leadership to its revolutionary democratic tendency. The latter, which combined workers, class-conscious toiling peasants, and the revolutionary democratic layer of the local intelligentsia, became more and more massive. Revolutionary democratic national organizations were created to counterbalance the organs of the bourgeois nationalists.

Only the Leninist Party had a program that could really solve the national question. The Bolsheviks linked the resolution of that question with the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat and for the republic of soviets. At the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets, Lenin declared: “Let Russia be a union of free republics” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 32, p. 286). The energetic activities of the Bolshevik organizations in the Baltic region, the Ukraine, Byelorussia, Moldavia, the Caucasus region, the Volga region, Central Asia, and Siberia guaranteed the unity of the struggle for soviet power being waged by the Russian working class and the proletarian and semiproletarian masses of the oppressed peoples.

With the defeat of Kornilov’s revolt, a new stage in the Bolshevization of the soviets began. Before that, the soviets of Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Riga, Kronstadt, Orekhovo-Zuevo, and Krasnoiarsk had supported Bolshevik positions, and after August, the soviets of Ekaterinoslav, Lugansk, and some other cities had as well. During and after the defeat of Kornilov a mass turn of the soviets toward the Bolsheviks began, both in the central and local areas. On August 31 (September 13) the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and on September 5 (18) the Moscow Soviet of Workers’ Deputies adopted Bolshevik resolutions on the question of power. The Bolsheviks won a majority in the soviets of Briansk, Samara, Saratov, Tsaritsyn, Minsk, Kiev, Tashkent, and other cities. In one day alone, September 1 (14), the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of Soviets received demands from 126 local soviets urging it to take power into its own hands. On instructions from the Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik), local Party organizations began a campaign for new elections to the soviets. The new elections gave the Bolsheviks a chance to win a majority in the soviets. In many cities prominent Party figures were elected as presidents of local soviets—for example, in Moscow, V. P. Nogin; in Baku, S. G. Shaumian; in Samara, V. V. Kuibyshev; in Cheliabinsk, S. M. Tsvilling; and in Shuia, M. V. Frunze. The Bolshevization of the soviets of peasants’ deputies proceeded more slowly. The slogan “All power to the soviets” was once again placed on the agenda, since the majority of them were now under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party. But the slogan now indicated the need to wage a struggle to transform the revolutionary Bolshevik soviets into insurrectionary organs aimed against the Provisional Government, organs of struggle for the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The Provisional Government, in a state of chronic crisis but still trying to retain power, proclaimed Russia a republic on September 1 (14) and created a directorate (a so-called Council of Five headed by A. F. Kerensky) to rule the country, proclaiming this to be a ruling body independent of the Cadets, who had organized the Kornilov revolt. In their effort to save the rule of the bourgeoisie, the Socialist Revolutionary-Menshevik Central Executive Committee convened the Democratic Conference of September 14-22 (September 27 to October 5), which selected from its own membership the Provisional Council of the Republic (the so-called Preparliament). The Bolsheviks boycotted the Preparliament, exposing its antidemocratic nature and calling for the convening of a Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, and at the same time preparing the masses to wage a battle against capitalism. At the same time the ideological and organizational disintegration of the petit-bourgeois conciliationist parties began. A left wing took shape in the SR Party and at the end of November declared itself the independent party of the Left SR’s. Opposition from the left within the Menshevik Party and the division within the organization grew stronger. There was a massive flow of members out of the Menshevik and Right Socialist Revolutionary parties. By October their influence within the working class had been reduced to nothing.

The creation of a new coalition government on September 25 (October 8), consisting of six capitalist ministers and ten “socialist” ministers, met with resolute protests on the part of the Bolshevik soviets. The political mood of the broad revolutionary masses was expressed especially strongly at provincial and regional congresses of soviets and at citywide conferences of soviets which were held on the eve of the October Revolution.

During the course of the revolutionary process the strength and solidarity of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) had grown. Between March and October the Party membership increased 15 times. The Party numbered about 350,000 members, of which as many as 60 percent were progressive workers. The forces of the Party were distributed throughout the regions as follows: Moscow and the Central Industrial Region, 70,000 (20 percent); Petrograd and its province, 60,000 (17 percent); the Ukraine, Moldavia, the Southwestern and Rumanian fronts, and the Black Sea Fleet, 60,000 (17 percent); the Baltic region and the Northern Fleet, 30,000 (8.5 percent); Byelorussia and the Western Front, 30,000 (8.5 percent); the Volga Region, 20,000 (5.5 percent); the Caucasus region, the Caucasian Front, and the Don region, 20,000 (5.5 percent); Siberia and the Far East, 15,000 (4.5 percent); and the rest of the country, 10,000 (3.5 percent).
The Party, inseparably linked to the masses, was in a state of combat readiness for the approaching class battles. Lenin wrote: “At the decisive moment, at the moment of taking power and establishing the Soviet Republic, Bolshevism was united; it attracted all the best of the trends of socialist thought akin to it and rallied around itself the entire vanguard of the proletariat and the overwhelming majority of the working people” (ibid., vol. 39, p. 216).

In September, Lenin gave a general analysis of the nationwide crisis. This crisis was expressed by the mighty revolutionary movement of the working class, led by Lenin’s Party and moving directly toward the conquest of power and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the form of the soviet; the broad sweep of the peasant movement, which assumed the character of a peasant war for the land; the adherence of the mass of soldiers to the revolutionary side and their willingness to support the workers’ and poor peasants’ struggle with arms; the upsurge of the national liberation movement and the nationwide peace movement against the imperialist war; and the Bolshevization of the Soviets. On the other hand, there was a chronic crisis in the Provisional Government and disorder and disintegration in the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois parties.

In Lenin’s writings, “The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It” (September), “The Crisis Has Matured” (end of September), and “Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power?” (end of September to October 1), and in his letters to the Central Committee, the Petrograd Committee, and the Moscow Committee of the Party (September and October), he indicated that the crisis had matured. Those at the bottom no longer wished to live in the old ways, and those at the top could no longer rule in the old way.

Lenin’s deep analysis of the new political situation in the country led him to the conclusion that “we have the following of the majority of the class, the vanguard of the revolution, the vanguard of the people, which is capable of carrying the masses with it. We have the following of the majority of the people … our victory is assured” (ibid., vol. 34, p. 244).

The victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution. By the autumn of 1917 the conditions for a victorious socialist revolution had matured in Russia. Its success depended on the political and organizational activity and the correct tactics of the Bolshevik Party. In September 1917, Lenin sent a letter to the Central Committee and the Petrograd and Moscow Committees of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) entitled “The Bolsheviks Must Assume Power” and another one to the Central Committee of the Party entitled “Marxism and Insurrection.” In these letters he posed the idea of preparations for an armed insurrection as a practical task for immediate action by the Party. He warned the Central Committee against adventurism and conspiratorial plots aimed at the “seizure” of power. “To be successful, insurrection must rely not upon conspiracy, not upon a Party, but upon the advanced class.… Insurrection must rely upon a revolutionary upsurge of the people. … Insurrection must rely upon that turning point in the history of the growing revolution when the activity of the advanced ranks of the people is at its height, and when the vacillations in the ranks of the enemy and in the ranks of the weak, half-hearted, and irresolute friends of the revolution are strongest” (ibid., pp. 242-43). All of these conditions existed. He recommended that the Party regard insurrection as an art, and he called upon it to concentrate its entire attention upon the military-technical preparations for the insurrection, create an overwhelming superiority of class forces, and ensure that a crushing blow would be struck at the decisive moment and the decisive place, first in Petrograd and Moscow. Lenin outlined a concrete plan for carrying out the insurrection which involved organizing a headquarters for the insurgent units; deploying forces; sending the main forces (Red Guard units, revolutionary regiments, and the fleet) to the key points—the telephone and telegraph centers, railroad stations, and bridges; arresting the General Staff and the Provisional Government; and ensuring the decisive defeat of any attempts at armed action by the counterrevolution.

On October 10 (23) the question of armed insurrection was discussed at a session of the Central Committee of the Party. Lenin, who had illegally returned to Petrograd from Finland, gave his report. By a vote of ten to two (L. B. Kamenev and G. E. Zinoviev), the Central Committee adopted Lenin’s resolution recognizing that the time was ripe for insurrection and that it was inevitable. The Central Committee advised all Party organizations to be guided by this resolution in their practical everyday work. At this Central Committee session a new Political Bureau, headed by Lenin, was elected. On October 12 (25) the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet adopted a statute creating the Military Revolutionary Committee (MRC), which became the legal staff for preparing the armed insurrection. The Central Committee resolution on insurrection was unanimously approved by the Moscow regional bureau of the Party on October 14 (27) and by the Petrograd Committee on October 15 (28), and both committees adopted specific plans of action. On October 16 (29) the Central Committee held an expanded session, with leading Party workers of Petrograd and representatives from trade unions and military organizations present. This session approved the Central Committee resolution of October 10 (23) on armed insurrection, Kamenev and Zinoviey again spoke emphatically against the armed insurrection. They argued that there were “no grounds for insurrection” and urged that “defensive tactics of watchful waiting” should be adopted. On the same day, at a closed session of the Central Committee a Party Military Revolutionary Center was elected to provide leadership for the insurrection, consisting of A. S. Bubnov, F. E. Dzerzhinskii, Ia. M. Sverdlov, J. V. Stalin, and M. S. Uritskii. This Party center joined the MRC and became its main nucleus. Among those active in the work of the MRC were V. A. Antonov-Ovseenko, G. I. Bokii, P. E. Dybenko, K. S. Eremeev, S. I. Gusev, N. V. Krylenko, S. V. Kosior, M. Ia. Latsis, K. A. Mekhonoshin, V. I. Nevskii, N. I. Podvoiskii, A. D. Sadovskii, N. A. Skrypnik, and G. I. Chudnovskii, as well as the Left SR’s P. E. Lazimir and G. N. Sukhar’kov. All the work in preparation for the insurrection was directly guided by V. I. Lenin.

In the October armed insurrection the Bolshevik Party relied on strong armed forces. The Petrograd Red Guard was in the vanguard of these; in the course of the struggle it had grown to nearly 40,000 fighters. This armed vanguard of the revolution had the support of 200,000 Red Guards in other cities in Russia. At the beginning of the insurrection the revolutionary soldiers in the Petrograd garrison numbered more than 150,000, according to the statistics of the MRC; the Baltic Fleet, which was on the side of the Bolsheviks, had more than 80,000 sailors and about 700 combat and auxiliary ships. These mighty armed forces of the revolution had the support of millions of revolutionary soldiers at the front (especially the Northern and Western) and in the rear-echelon garrisons. In turn, these armed forces rested upon the support of the revolutionary workers and poor peasants of the entire country, who were ready to wage war against capitalism.

A very important step in the preparations for the insurrection took place October 20-24 (November 2-6), when the MRC assigned its own commissars to the Peter and Paul Fortress, the military units, the naval vessels, the munitions depots, and a number of factories and other key points in the capital.

The Provisional Government, relying on the Cadets, Mensheviks, and SR’s, gathered together on its side the armed forces of counterrevolution. The military command staff brought forces loyal to it close to Petrograd and carried out a mobilization of counterrevolutionary forces in the capital and the suburbs. The cadets from Peterhof and Oranienbaum were called to Petrograd, the special alert order was given to the three Cossack regiments quartered in Petrograd, and all the cadet academies were placed on military alert. The garrison of the Winter Palace was increased to 2,700. Orders were sent to the supreme headquarters in Mogilev and the command headquarters of the Northern Front in Pskov to expedite the movement of troops toward the capital.

However, the Bolsheviks had created an overwhelming superiority of revolutionary forces over those of the counterrevolution. The position of the Provisional Government was hopeless.

The armed insurrection began on October 24 (November 6). On that day, by order of the Provisional Government, an attack was made by cadets on the print shop of the Bolshevik newspaper Rabochii put’ (as Pravda was called at that time), and an order was issued for the arrest and trial of members of the MRC. An attack was being prepared against the headquarters of the revolution—Smol’nyi, where the Central Committee of the Party and the MRC were located. On instructions from the Central Committee, the MRC sent soldiers of the Lithuanian regiment and a sapper battalion to the print shop. These forces repulsed the cadets and the printing of the paper was resumed. Central Committee members decided not to leave Smol’nyi and deployed their forces to lead the insurrection in its most important areas. The delegates to the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets were gathering at Smoi’nyi. Red Guard units of about 1.300 fighiera, detachments of revolutionary soldiers and sailors, and communications personnel from military units and factories in various parts of the city were called out. Cannon, machine guns, and armored cars were placed around the building. Over the radio station of the cruiser Aurora an appeal was issued by the MRC of Petrograd to the garrisons to defend the approaches to the city, urging them “to act firmly and with discretion, but where necessary, ruthlessly” to prevent even a single counterrevolutionary unit from entering Petrograd.

In the afternoon of October 24 (November 6) the cadets tried to raise the drawbridges across the Neva River in order to cut the workers’ districts off from the center of the capital. The MRC sent Red Guard units and soldiers to the bridges and placed almost all of them under guard. Toward evening soldiers of the Keksgol’m regiment occupied the central telegraph offices, a unit of sailors took over the Petrograd telegraph agency, and soldiers of the Izmailovskii regiment took the Baltic railroad station. Revolutionary units blocked off the Pavel, Nikolai, Vladimir, and Konstantin cadet academies. Telegrams were sent from the Central Committee and the MRC to Kronstadt and the Tsentrobalt calling on naval vessels of the Baltic Fleet to bring an expeditionary force. The order was carried out.

The situation called for decisive and offensive action by the revolutionary forces. However, some members of the MRC were still sluggish about moving ahead to attack the main centers of the counterrevolution—the headquarters of the Petrograd military district, the Winter Palace, and so forth. Some of them wanted to postpone the seizure of power until the Second Congress of Soviets had convened (the evening of October 25). The influence of the chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, L. D. Trotsky (who favored postponing the insurrection, which was equivalent to breaking it off), was felt, as was that of Kamenev and Zinoviev, who on the very eve of the insurrection argued that it was doomed to defeat.
Lenin, who still continued to function conspiratorially and feared for the fate of the insurrection, wrote to the Central Committee members on the evening of October 24 (November 6): “With all my might I urge comrades to realize that everything now hangs by a thread; that we are confronted by problems which are not to be solved by conferences or congresses (even congresses of soviets), but exclusively by peoples, by the masses, the struggle of the armed people… . We must at all costs, this very evening, this very night, arrest the government, having first disarmed the officer cadets (defeating them if they resist), and so on.”

“We must not wait! We may lose everything!”

And further: “The government is tottering. It must be given the death blow at all costs.

“To delay action is fatal” (ibid., vol. 34, pp. 435, 436).

On the evening of October 24, Lenin arrived at Smol’nyi and took direct leadership of the armed struggle. The Central Committee made his arrival known to all the districts, factories, and military units. With Lenin at their head, the revolutionary forces decisively went on the offensive. The planned seizure of strategic points in Petrograd continued. At 1:25 A.M. on October 25 (November 7), Red Guards from the Vyborg district, soldiers of the Keksgol’m regiment, and revolutionary sailors occupied the main post office building. At 2:00 A.M. the first squad of the 6th Reserve Sapper Battalion took Nikolai Railroad Station (now Moscow Station). At the same time, a Red Guard unit occupied the central power plant. At about 6:00 A.M. sailors of the naval guards seized the State Bank. At 7:00 A.M. soldiers of the Keksgol’m regiment occupied the central telephone station. At 8:00 A.M., Red Guards of the Moscow and Narva districts seized Warsaw Station. During the night, the cruiser Aurora had anchored off the Nikolai Bridge (now the Lieutenant Schmidt Bridge) and the naval vessel Amur anchored off the Admiralty Embankment. By morning the capital was in the hands of the insurgent people. On the morning of October 25 (November 7) the MRC adopted Lenin’s appeal “To the Citizens of Russia.” This stated: “The Provisional Government has been deposed. State power has passed into the hands of the organ of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies—the Revolutionary Military Committee, which is leading the Petrograd proletariat and the garrison.

“The cause for which the people have fought—namely, the immediate offer of a democratic peace, the abolition of landed property, workers’ control over production, and the establishment of Soviet power—this cause has been secured.

“Long live the revolution of workers, soldiers, and peasants!” (ibid., vol. 35, p. 1).

On the afternoon of October 25 (November 7) the revolutionary forces took the Mariinskii Palace, where the Preparliament was in session, and dispersed it. Sailors occupied the military port and the main admiralty building, where the naval high command was arrested.

At 2:35 P.M. a special session of the Petrograd Soviet began. An announcement was made on the deposition of the Provisional Government, followed by a report by Lenin on the existing situation. At 6:00 P.M. revolutionary units began to move toward the Winter Palace. At 9:40 P.M., at a signal from the Peter and Paul Fortress, a round of artillery from the cruiser Aurora thundered, and the storming of the Winter Palace began.

At 10:40 P.M. on October 25 (November 7), the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies began in Smol’nyi. At the opening of the congress, 390 of the 649 delegates who had arrived were Bolsheviks. The congress proclaimed the transfer of all power to the soviets. At 2:00 A.M. on October 26 (November 8) the Winter Palace was seized and the Provisional Government was arrested. On October 26 (November 8) the Congress of Soviets adopted the Decree on Peace and the Decree on Land, based on a report by Lenin. In the Decree on Peace, the Soviet power proposed to all the belligerent countries that negotiations begin immediately for a just and democratic peace without annexations or indemnifications. By the terms of the Decree on Land, landlord ownership was abolished; landlord estates and crown, monastery, and church lands, with all livestock, implements, and buildings, and everything pertaining thereto, were given to the peasants without any compensation. The right of private ownership of land was abolished and replaced by all-national ownership of the land. As a result of the implementation of this decree, the peasants received more than 150 million hectares of land and were freed from annual rent payments to landlords amounting to 700 million gold rubles. The congress elected an All-Russian Central Executive Committee and formed the first Soviet government—the Council of People’s Commissars (or Sovnarkom), headed by Lenin. With the establishment of the Soviet government began the building of the Soviet state—a state of a new type, a dictatorship of the proletariat.

The counterrevolutionary forces, headed by the former prime minister Kerensky, who had fled to the Northern Front area on October 25 (November 7), General P. N. Krasnov, commander of the III Cavalry Corps, and N. N. Dukhonin, the chief of staff to the supreme commander in chief, rebelled and began a civil war with the aim of overthrowing Soviet power. The enemy began an offensive, occupied Gatchina and Tsarskoe Selo, and went to the heights of Pulkovo, thus creating a direct threat to revolutionary Petrograd. In the capital the counterrevolutionaries formed a Committee for the Salvation of the Homeland and the Revolution, and on October 29 (November 11) they started a mutiny of the cadets, which was suppressed on the same day. On October 31 (November 13) revolutionary troops drove the forces of Kerensky and Krasnov back from Pulkovo, and on November 1 (14) they forced them to capitulate. Krasnov was arrested and Kerensky fled.

Following the victory of the insurrection in Petrograd, which was almost bloodless, the armed struggle began in Moscow on October 25 (November 7). A Party Center whose members included M. F. Vladimirskii, V. N. Podbel’skii, O. A. Piatnitskii, V. N. Iakovleva, and Em. Iaroslavskii, and an MRC whose members included V. P. Nogin, P. G. Smidovich, G. A. Usievich, A. Lomov, and A. S. Vedernikov were established to lead the insurrection. In Moscow the revolutionary forces encountered extremely bitter opposition from the organized counterrevolution. From October 25 (November 7) there was stubborn fighting. Red Guards from Petrograd, Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Shuia, Podol’sk, and other cities and sailors from the Baltic Fleet arrived to support the Moscow proletariat. The Moscow workers and revolutionary soldiers of the garrison disrupted the counterrevolutionaries’ plans to create a so-called all-Russian center of struggle against Soviet power in Moscow. On November 2 (15), Soviet rule was established in Moscow. The victory was won at the cost of great sacrifices; about 1,000 people had been killed during the insurrection.

The victory of the socialist revolution in Petrograd and Moscow laid the basis for the triumphal march of Soviet power throughout the country. The Party Central Committee, headed by Lenin, along with all the local Party organizations, led the struggle to establish Soviet rule in local areas. In most of the country this was done quickly and peacefully.

Two factors played a decisive role in the immediate victory of the revolution all over the country. The first was the existence of finished forms of proletarian power, such as the soviets, the decrees on land and peace, and the Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia; these expressed the spirit and aspirations of the toiling people and had an enormously revolutionizing effect. The second factor was the departure of the masses from the influence of the petit-bourgeois parties, the Mensheviks and SR’s, who were openly allied with the counterrevolution; this raised the authority of the Leninist Party of the Bolsheviks and its political and organizational activity in the eyes of the workers.

Soviet power was established in Central Russia at the same time as the armed insurrections in Petrograd and Moscow and immediately after them. On October 25 (November 7) it was established in Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Vladimir, Briansk, and the industrial cities of the Moscow region; on October 27 (November 9) in Yaroslavl; on October 28 (November 10) in Nizhnyi Novgorod, Kaluga, and Tver’; and on October 30 (November 12) in Voronezh. As a result of active resistance by the petit bourgeois parties, the establishment of Soviet power was somewhat delayed in the following cities: in Orel, until November 25 (December 8); in Kursk, until November 26 (December 9); in Tula, until December 7 (20), 1917; and in Tambov, until January 31 (February 13), 1918.

During November and December, Soviet power was established in most of the cities and factory settlements of the Urals. On October 26 (November 8) the Ekaterinburg and Cheliabinsk soviets and the Ufa Province MRC took power, and on October 27 (November 9) the Izhevsk Soviet did also. The SR’s and Mensheviks offered stubborn resistance to the establishment of Soviet power in Perm’, the administrative center of the Urals. There the struggle for power lasted right up until the convening of the provincial Congress of Soviets on December 16 (29).

A very difficult armed struggle for Soviet power developed in Orenburg Province, where one of the most dangerous centers of the Russian counterrevolution developed, headed by the cossack Hetman A. I. Dutov. Basing himself on cossack units, he seized Orenburg, Cheliabinsk, and a number of other cities of the Southern Urals and set up the so-called Cossack Army Government. As a result of decisive steps taken by the Soviet government, the Dutov antisoviet rebellion was crushed, and on November 20 (December 3), Soviet power was restored in Cheliabinsk. On January 18 (31), 1918, Orenburg was liberated from Dutov’s forces. In the industrial cities of the Volga Region, Soviet power was established immediately after it was established in Petrograd and Moscow. On October 26 (November 8), after overcoming two days of resistance by the counterrevolutionary forces, there was a Soviet victory in Kazan, and on October 27 (November 9) in Samara and Saratov. The workers and soldiers in Saratov were forced to fight for two days thereafter to suppress a counterrevolutionary rebellion, which surrendered on October 29 (November 11). In Tsaritsyn, Soviet power was established by peaceful means over the period from October 28 (November 10) to November 4 (17). The struggle in Astrakhan took a more complicated course. Combat between the revolutionary forces and the Astrakhan cossacks lasted from January 12 (25) until January 25 (February 7), 1918, and ended with the victory of the workers and soldiers.

Having become Soviet, Central Russia served as the base for the socialist revolution throughout the country. The news of the revolutionary victory in the capitals and other cities spread rapidly to the active-duty army. The military fronts nearest Petrograd and Moscow, the Northern and Western fronts, and the Baltic Fleet held an important place in Lenin’s plan for armed insurrection. The Bolshevik Party organizations in the army and the fleet made timely preparations to support the armed insurrections in Petrograd and Moscow and to take action on the fronts themselves. This was of the greatest importance, for as Lenin noted, without winning the army to the Bolshevik side, the socialist revolution could not succeed. The soldiers of the Northern and Western fronts and the sailors of the Baltic Fleet welcomed the socialist revolution and Soviet power. At the end of October and November, MRC’s were created everywhere at the fronts in the army. These took power within the army and introduced control over the command staffs of the Northern Front and Baltic Fleet. The commander of the Western Front was removed. The fleet and army units at the fronts placed their power at the disposal of the Soviet government. The victory of the revolution on the Northern and Western fronts made it possible to eliminate the main center of the counterrevolution, the headquarters of the supreme commander in chief at Mogilev, on November 18-20 (December 1-3). This headquarters had prepared the conspiracy against the socialist revolution.

The victory of the socialist revolution at the military fronts closest to the capital and in the Baltic Fleet were a major success for the Bolsheviks and had tremendous importance for the further development of the revolution. As Lenin wrote: “Resistance on the part of the armed forces against the October Revolution of the proletariat or against the winning of political power by the proletariat was entirely out of the question, considering that the Bolsheviks had an enormous majority on the Northern and Western fronts, while on the other fronts, far removed from the center, the Bolsheviks had the time and opportunity to win the peasants away from the SR party” (ibid., vol. 40, p. 10).

At the end of October and beginning of November, Soviet power was established throughout the part of the Baltic region that was not occupied by German troops. On the side of the revolution were 40,000 Latvian riflemen, who played a major role in establishing Soviet power in Latvia. The Minsk Soviet took power on October 25 (November 7). On October 27 (November 9), the Northern and Western Regional Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) passed a resolution creating a Revolutionary Committee, later called the MRC of the Northwestern Region and Western Front, which assumed authority for the Western Front and all of Byelorussia. The working people of the Ukraine had to overcome serious resistance on the part of the Central Rada (rada = council) in their struggle for the victory of the socialist revolution. The armed insurrection in Kiev against the Provisional Government began on October 29 (November 11) and was victorious on October 31 (November 13). However, power was usurped by the bourgeois nationalist Central Rada, which had powerful armed forces at its disposal. On November 7 (20) it proclaimed itself the supreme governing body of the so-called Ukrainian People’s Republic. The Central Rada began to fight against Soviet Russia, launched a campaign of terror against the revolutionary forces, and became one of the main centers of the all-Russian counterrevolution. The Bolsheviks everywhere in the Ukraine took up the struggle against the Central Rada for the establishment of Soviet power. The workers of the Donbas established Soviet power in Lugansk, Makeevka, Gorlovka, Kramatorsk, and other cities immediately after the victory of the armed insurrection in Petrograd. A major historical event occurred for the Ukrainian people with the convening of the All-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets, held December 11-12 (24-25) in Kharkov, where Soviet power had been established on November 10 (23). The Congress of Soviets on December 12 (25) proclaimed the Ukraine a Soviet republic and elected a Central Executive Committee of the Soviets of the Ukraine. This body organized the first Soviet Ukrainian government, the People’s Secretariat, composed of F. A. Artem, E. B. Bosh, V. P. Zatonskii, and N. A. Skrypnik. In December 1917 and January 1918 the armed struggle for Soviet power spread and developed throughout the Ukraine. The rebellions against the Central Rada established Soviet power in Ekaterinoslav on December 29 (January 11, 1918), in Odessa on January 17 (30), and in Poltava, Kremenchug, Nikolaev, Kherson, and Vinnitsa in January. On January 5 (18), 1918, Soviet Ukrainian troops began an offensive against Kiev. On January 16 (29) the workers of Kiev, led by those of the Arsenal Plant, began an armed insurrection against the Central Rada. On January 22 (February 4), Soviet troops entered Kiev. By January 26 (February 8), after bitter street fighting, these troops, along with armed workers’ detachments, had swept the city clean of the Central Rada’s forces. During those days in January the insurgent people of Kiev suffered the loss of more than 1,500 lives. During February, Soviet power was consolidated throughout the Ukraine. It was victorious in the Crimea in January 1918, and in Moldavia at the beginning of January.

In the Don region (the Donskoe Voisko Oblast) the Hetman of the Don cossacks, A. M. Kaledin, began an anti-Soviet rebellion in October. After seven days of fighting, on December 2 (15), the cossacks took Rostov, where Soviet power had been established earlier, on October 26 (November 8). The cossacks then launched an offensive against the Donbas. However, a considerable number of cossacks did not support Kaledin. On January 10 (23) a congress of front-line cossack units, meeting in Kamenskaia stanitsa (large cossack village), declared Kaledin’s Cossack army government deposed and proclaimed Soviet power in the Don region, setting up the Don MRC with F. G. Podtelkov as chairman. Soviet troops commanded by V. A. Antonov-Ovseenko liquidated Kaledin’s revolt; Rostov was liberated on February 24, and Novocherkassk on February 25.

The struggle for Soviet power in the Northern Caucasus was waged under very complex conditions. On October 28 (November 10) the soviet of Vladikavkaz voted for the Soviet power, and on November 4 (17) it adopted a resolution, based on a report by S. M. Kirov, declaring support for the Sovnarkom headed by Lenin. In November, Soviet power was established in Petrovsk-Port (Makhachkala) and Groznyi. But the counterrevolution, finding support among the cossacks and Caucasus Mountain tribes, founded the so-called Terek-Dagestan government on December 1 (14) and crushed the soviets of Vladikavkaz, Groznyi, and other cities. Under conditions in which terror and clashes between nationalities prevailed, the Bolsheviks of the Terek Oblast carried out preparations for a congress of the peoples of Terek. The first congress was convened in January 1918 in Mozdok, and the second in March in Piatigorsk. The second congress established the Terek People’s Soviet Republic as part of the RSFSR. Soviet power was established throughout the Terek region and a significant section of Dagestan. In the Kuban region and along the Black Sea coast, furious resistance on the part of the Kuban cossacks had to be overcome in the process of establishing Soviet power. On December 1 (14), Soviet power was victorious in Novorossiisk, and in January in Armavir. On March 14 revolutionary troops fought their way into Ekaterinodar (Krasnodar) and took control of it.

The socialist revolution in Transcaucasia was not immediately victorious. On October 31 (November 13), Soviet power was established in the proletarian city of Baku but only in the spring of 1918 was it extended to several raions in Azerbaijan. On April 25 the Baku Soviet set up the Baku Council of People’s Commissars, with S. G. Shaumian as chairman. In Georgia and Armenia the revolutionary forces were unable to take power. In Georgia the Mensheviks seized control, and in Armenia the Dashnaks.

In Middle Asia the revolution was opposed by the bourgeois nationalists, the bais (wealthy stock raisers, merchants, or landowners), the clergy, the Russian officers, and the kulaks. The center of the socialist revolution in this vast region was Tashkent, where a strong Bolshevik organization was functioning, based on the railroad workers, the soldiers of the city garrison, and the “men of the rear” (workers from the local nationalities, recruited as rear-echelon workers during the war). Soviet power was established in Tashkent on November 1 (14) as a result of an armed insurrection and fighting that had lasted from October 28 to 31 (November 10-13). On November 15 (28) the Regional Congress of Soviets elected the Council of People’s Commissars for the Turkestan krai, with F. I. Kolesov as chairman. During the period from November 1917 to February 1918, Soviet power was established in Samarkand, Ashkhabad, Krasnovodsk, Chardzhou, Merv, and other cities. By the spring of 1918 the Soviets held power throughout Middle Asia, with the exception of the Khiva khanate and the emirate of Bokhara, where the old order maintained its rule until 1920. At the end of April 1918 the Turkestan ASSR was founded as part of the RSFSR. In Kazakhstan, the Syr-Dar’ia Oblast became Soviet in November, the Akmolinsk Oblast between November 1917 and January 1918, and the Bukeev Horde in December 1917. Soviet power was established in the Turgai and Semipalatinsk oblasts in January and February 1918 and in the Semirech’e Oblast in March and April, after the suppression of armed resistance on the part of the nationalists of the Alash Horde and the cossacks of Semirech’e, Orenburg, and the Urals. On January 1 (14), 1918, Soviet power was victorious in Pishpek (now Frunze), and on March 3 in Vernyi (now Alma-Ata).

In Siberia and the Far East the establishment of Soviet power was accompanied by serious resistance from the Siberian counterrevolution. Krasnoiarsk became Soviet on October 28 (November 10), Omsk on November 30 (December 13), after the suppression of a counterrevolutionary mutiny, Tomsk on December 6 (19), Novonikolaevsk (now Novosibirsk) on December 13 (26), and Irkutsk on December 22 (January 4, 1918), after nine days of fighting between the revolutionary forces and the mutineers. Soviet power was victorious in Vladivostok on November 18 (December 1), in Khabarovsk on December 6 (19), and throughout the Far East by March 1918.

The Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia, adopted by the Sovnarkom on November 2(15), was of great importance for the victory of Soviet power in the border lands and outlying regions of the country. This historic enactment of the Soviet government brought national oppression to an end and proclaimed the equality and sovereignty of all the nationalities in the country and their right to unrestricted self-determination, including the right to separate and form an independent state. The government removed all national and religious privileges and restrictions and guaranteed the freedom of all the peoples, nationalities, and ethnic groups inhabiting Russia. On November 20 (December 3) the Sovnarkom issued an appeal “To All Muslim Toilers of Russia and the East,” which informed the formerly oppressed peoples that the unequal treaties had been rescinded and political oppression ended. It called on them to support the gains of the socialist revolution and to establish Soviet power.

Summing up the results of the triumphal march of Soviet power, Lenin wrote in March 1918: “In the course of a few weeks, having overthrown the bourgeoisie, we crushed its open resistance in civil war. We passed in a victorious triumphal march of Bolshevism from one end of a vast country to the other. We raised the lowest strata of the working people, oppressed by tsarism and the bourgeoisie, to liberty and independent life. We established and consolidated the Soviet Republic” (ibid., vol. 36, p. 79).

The establishment of the Soviet socialist state. As a result of the victory of the October Revolution, the Communist Party became the ruling party. The working class, hitherto oppressed and exploited, became the dominant class, and a new state was established—the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The first task of the socialist revolution was to smash the old state machinery and construct a new one, the Soviet state. After destroying the bourgeois-landlord state, with its army, procurator’s office, courts, police, and bureaucratic-official apparatus, the revolution deprived the exploiting classes and their parties of their most powerful means of struggle to restore the old system.

The new Soviet state was the primary weapon for the defense of the conquests of the revolution against domestic and external counterrevolution and an instrument in the struggle for the construction of a socialist society. The Soviet government relied in its activity on the support of the soviets, which had become the governmental form of the dictatorship of the proletariat; on soldiers’, military-revolutionary, and factory committees; and on trade unions, detachments of the Red Guard, and revolutionary regiments. It also depended on the exceptional creative energy of workers, revolutionary soldiers, and peasants, and on the revolutionary intelligentsia. The All-Russian Extraordinary Commission (Chekha) for the struggle against counterrevolution and sabotage was organized under the auspices of the Sovnarkom on December 7 (20), 1917. A decree on justice was signed on November 22 (December 5). On the basis of the Sovnarkom decree of December 16 (29), the old army was democratized: all power in the army was transferred to the soldiers’ committees and soviets, commandership was made an elective post, and old titles and orders were abolished. On January 15 (28), 1918, a decree was adopted on the formation of the Worker-Peasant Red Army, and on January 29 (February 11), another on the formation of the Worker-Peasant Red Fleet. Establishment of the armed forces of the socialist state expanded, initially on a volunteer basis.

The Soviet regime instituted socialist reforms in the area of the economy. Following the nationalization of the land and its transformation into all-national property and the transfer of the State Bank to the control of the Soviet regime, a decree introducing workers’ control over production and distribution was adopted on November 14 (27), 1917. The nationalization of the so-called state enterprises (the Obukhov, Baltic, and Izhorsk plants, and others), the railroads, and many private enterprises began in November. Experienced Party figures and vanguard workers were assigned to state and economic work. The Supreme Council of the Economy (Sovnarkhoz) was created on December 2(15) for the direction of the national economy.

The Soviet regime liquidated the vestiges of feudal relations, the estate system, and inequality of rights in all areas of social life. Simultaneously with the liquidation of landlord ownership of land as the basis of feudal vestiges, decrees were issued abolishing the estates and civil ranks; establishing uniform citizenship (November 10 [23]), equal rights for women, and civil marriage (December 18 [31]); and separating the church from the state and schools from the church (January 20 [February 2, 1918]).

Responding to the popularity of the slogan for a Constituent Assembly, the Soviet government held elections for the assembly in November and convoked it on January 5 (18), 1918. Since the elections were conducted on the basis of lists of parties prepared by organs of the Provisional Government, and since they were held in the period when the Soviet regime was still just becoming established and a sizable portion of the population was not acquainted with its decrees, the majority of deputies to the Constituent Assembly turned out to be representatives of parties which had been overthrown by the October Revolution (Mensheviks, SR’s, Cadets, and the nationalist parties and organizations). The composition of the Constituent Assembly did not reflect the new correlation of class forces in the country. The mood of the majority of the Constituent Assembly was counterrevolutionary; they refused to recognize the Soviet regime and to confirm the Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited People. For this reason, the Constituent Assembly was dissolved on January 6 (19) by the resolution of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. This action was given general support by the workers, soldiers, peasants, and their soviets.

The Third All-Russian Congress of Soviets assembled on January 10 (23), 1918. The Third All-Russian Congress of Peasants’ Deputies was assembled at the same time, and on January 13 (26) the two congresses were merged. This accelerated the amalgamation of the soviets of peasants’ deputies and the soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies everywhere, a process that strengthened the political foundation of the Soviet state. The congress adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited People, which set forth the main tasks of the Soviet regime—the elimination of exploitation of any kind, the merciless suppression of exploiters, the establishment of the socialist organization of society, and the construction of socialism. The congress’s legislation made the creation of the RSFSR official.

In instituting socialist reforms, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and the Sovnarkom adopted a number of important decrees. In order to liberate the country from financial bondage, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee issued a decree on January 21 (February 3), 1918, anulling the foreign and domestic loans contracted by the tsarist government and the bourgeois Provisional Government. The merchant fleet was nationalized (January 23), as were foreign trade (April 22) and private railroads (September 4). A decree nationalizing all large-scale industry was issued on June 28.

The most creative initiative and revolutionary energy of the working class and all toilers were displayed in the socialist reconstruction of the national economy. The means of production in industry were collectivized and turned into public property; this signified a revolutionary upheaval that marked the destruction of the foundations of the old, capitalist mode of production and the establishment of a socialist sector of the economy. In industry, bourgeois productive relations were liquidated and new, socialist relations established. Collectivization of the means of production in agriculture, which entailed 15 to 16 million peasant farms, could not be carried out immediately. Nationalization of the land and collectivization of the means of production in industry created the conditions for the millions of toiling peasants to be shifted gradually in the direction of socialism.

Fundamental transformations in the sphere of culture began with the victory of the October Revolution. Elementary and secondary schools and higher educational institutions, libraries, theaters, and museums became the property of the working people. Work was done to eliminate illiteracy among the adult population. A cultural revolution began. The services of literature, art, and the press were enlisted for the communist training and education of the working people. The achievements of science and culture were put to use in the service of the working people. The Marxist-Leninist ideology became dominant in the country.

The very first revolutionary act of the Soviet regime fundamentally undermined the forces of the bourgeoisie, landlords, reactionary bureaucracy, and counterrevolutionary parties; it broke the economic power of the overthrown exploiting classes, ensured the concentration of commanding posts in the hands of the Soviet regime, and persuasively demonstrated the genuinely popular nature of the Soviet regime, which has only the interests of the working people at heart.

During its very first days, the Soviet government initiated action in the struggle for peace. A policy of peace became the unshakable basis of its entire subsequent foreign policy. Negotiations for the conclusion of a peace treaty with Germany and its allies were begun in Brest on December 9 (22), 1917. The far-reaching expansionist aspirations of German imperialism were exposed during the course of these negotiations. However, the Soviet government was forced to accede to the onerous conditions of the peace treaty in order to obtain a breathing space to strengthen the Soviet regime and establish the armed forces. There was a sharp struggle in the Central Committee of the Party and the Sovnarkom over the question of signing the peace treaty. The group of “left communists,” headed by N. I. Bukharin, opposed the Leninist line for the conclusion of the treaty; they conducted propaganda for a “revolutionary war” against German imperialism. Trotsky adhered to an equally adventuristic position, presenting the formula “neither peace nor war.” He headed the Soviet delegation in Brest and refused to sign the terms of the peace treaty. On February 10 (23), 1918, negotiations were broken off. Taking advantage of this circumstance, the German command violated the armistice and on February 18 began an offensive all along the front. The old army retreated, and the new army was still only being established. German troops occupied the Baltic region and a considerable portion of Byelorussia, invaded the Ukraine, and threatened Petrograd. The Soviet Republic was in terrible danger.

The Communist Party and the Soviet government called on the people to repulse the invaders. The Sovnarkom’s appeal, “The Socialist Homeland in Danger!” was published on February 21. The workers and toiling peasants arose in arms against the German imperialists. February 23, 1918, became the birthday of the Red Army. The enemy’s offensive against Petrograd was halted by the heroic resistance of detachments of the Red Guard and the first units of the new Red Army. The German government agreed to resume peace negotiations. On March 3, the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty of 1918 was signed. Soviet Russia left the war and obtained a peaceful respite.

Lenin proposed a program for the initiation of socialist construction in his work The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Power (April 1918). He considered the following to be urgent common tasks for the entire nation: organizing a nationwide system of accounting and control; implementing operations on a self-supporting financial basis; struggling to increase labor productivity; organizing socialist competition; and inculcating the people with the new, proletarian discipline.

In the countryside, the policy of the Soviet regime was primarily directed toward implementing the agrarian reforms of the October Revolution—the Decree on Land. Lands held by landlords were confiscated and distributed. As the socialist revolution unfolded further in the villages, the class struggle between the poor peasants and the kulaks intensified. In the spring and especially in the summer and fall of 1918 the kulaks embarked on an open struggle against Soviet power. The middle peasantry showed signs of great vacillation. With the economy in a state of general decline, the anti-Soviet sabotage of the kulaks, who hid grain and hampered state grain purchases, caused hunger in the industrial centers. Workers and their families abandoned the cities; the factory proletariat decreased by half from what it had been in 1914.

The struggle for bread became a fight for the salvation of the Soviet Republic. Lenin said that the struggle for bread was ultimately the struggle for socialism. On May 13, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and Sovnarkom adopted the decree “On Granting the Commissar of Food Emergency Powers in the Struggle Against the Village Bourgeoisie, Which Is Concealing and Speculating in Grain Supplies.” Lenin called on workers to declare a “crusade” against the kulaks and unite with the village poor in the name of the salvation of the Soviet State. The creation of special food detachments composed of the most class-conscious workers began at the end of May 1918. They were sent to the grain-producing provinces. A decree on the organization of Committees of the Poor in the villages was adopted on June 11. The organization of these committees signified a further deepening of the socialist revolution in the countryside. With the arrival of the workers’ food detachments in the countryside and the organization of the Committees of the Poor, the struggle against the kulak class entered a new phase. The socialist revolution reached the most remote villages. With the aid of the food detachments, the Committees of the Poor not only provided enormous assistance in the resolution of the food problem but also began to redistribute kulak land and stock. The socioeconomic face of the countryside changed; by the end of 1918, the proportion of poor peasants—65 percent of the population in 1917—had declined to 35 percent; the middle peasantry, which had been 20 percent, was now 60 percent; and the kulaks, who had composed 15 percent were now 5 percent. At the end of 1918 the middle peasant became the leading figure in the village. The political and economic positions of the kulak class were greatly undermined. The alliance of the working class and the poorest peasantry was cemented, and the dictatorship of the proletariat strengthened.

The Fifth All-Russian Congress of Soviets, meeting July 4-10, 1918, adopted the first Soviet constitution (July 10)—the Constitution of the RSFSR, which legislatively consolidated the soviet socialist social and governmental system born of the Great October Socialist Revolution.

The overthrown exploiting classes unleashed a civil war to restore capitalism. In essence, this war began immediately after the victory of the October armed uprising in Petrograd. The united forces of the domestic bourgeois landlord counterrevolution and foreign imperialism stood in opposition to Soviet power and socialist reforms. Relying on the financial, military, and political aid of the Entente, the forces of counterrevolution succeeded in creating a massive army of White Guards. In 1918 and 1919 they managed to seize the Northern Caucasus, the Don, Siberia, the Far East, the Urals, northern European Russia, and part of the Volga Region, and then the Crimea, Ukraine, and Transcaucasia. Soviet power was overthrown throughout these vast territories, the old regime was reestablished, and White terror was installed. The Russian working class and toiling peasantry, under the leadership of the Communist Party headed by Lenin, put an enormous strain on their military, material, and spiritual resources and thus routed the troops of the interventionists and domestic counterrevolutionaries, driving them from the country’s territory. Soviet power was reestablished in all regions except for the Baltic, where the national bourgeoisie, aided by German troops, was able to maintain the capitalist order and create bourgeois republics. Bessarabia, which was occupied by Rumania, was not liberated.

As a result of the Civil War, the Russian proletariat and toiling peasantry and the Soviet armed forces—the Red Army and the navy—defended the conquests of the Great October Socialist Revolution, preserving and strengthening the first worker-peasant state in the world.

The worldwide historical significance of the Great October Socialist Revolution. The October Revolution was fundamentally different from all preceding revolutions. It overthrew the rule of the capitalists and landlords, established the dictatorship of the proletariat, liquidated capitalism in Russia, eliminated the exploitation of one man by another, abolished social and national oppression, and opened the way to the construction of socialism and communism. The inspirer and organizer of the revolution was the Communist Party headed by Lenin, which based its activity on knowledge of the laws of social development and skillfully united into one revolutionary movement such diverse revolutionary currents as the pandemocratic movement for peace, the peasant democratic movement for land, the national liberation movement of oppressed peoples for national equality, and the socialist movement of the proletariat for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The Russian proletariat was the basic moving force in the revolution. The Party organized an alliance of the working class and the poor peasantry, which became decisive in the victory of the socialist revolution. The powerful workers’ and pandemocratic movements that had begun in the West and the East and the profound sympathy and active support of the workers and toilers of all countries toward the October Revolution were extremely important for the victorious development of the October Revolution.

The following assessment of the October Revolution was made by the Central Committee of the CPSU:

“The October Revolution opened the way for resolving the fundamental problems presented by the entire preceding course of development of world history: the problems of a future society, of the nature of social progress, of war and peace, and of the fate of world civilization.

“The victory of October confirmed the Leninist theory of socialist revolution. The Marxist-Leninist doctrines passed the test of history:

“on the inevitable downfall of capitalism and the consolidation of socialism;

“on the vanguard role of the working class, led by the Communist Party, in the revolution and in the construction of a new society;

“on the dictatorship of the proletariat and its role in the struggle for the victory of socialism;

“on the soviets as the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the organs of genuine popular sovereignty and socialist democracy;

“on the alliance of the working class, peasantry, and other strata of toiling people—under the leadership of the working class—as the decisive force in the struggle for social liberation;

“on the industrialization of the country and the socialist transformation of agriculture;

“on the roads to the resolution of the national question; and

“on raising the standard of living of the toiling people and carrying out a cultural revolution” (“On the Preparation for the 50th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution.” Resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU of Jan. 4, 1967, pp. 4-5).

The October Revolution broke the front of world imperialism and opened a new era in the history of humanity—the era of the downfall of capitalism and the triumph of socialism and communism. As a result of the October Socialist Revolution, the world split into two opposing systems—the system of socialism and the system of capitalism.

The Great October Socialist Revolution “accelerated the course of historical events in the world. The ideas of Marxism-Leninism and of October spread all over the earth; they lifted peoples up to struggle for their freedom and independence against oppressors. The achievements of the October Revolution became a mighty base for revolutionary transformations in all parts of the world.… The creation of a worldwide socialist system is the continuation of the revolutionary renewal of the world that was begun by October.

“The October Revolution revealed the worldwide historical role of the working class as the standard-bearer and main fighter for socialism, the most progressive and militant class force of the present era. It gave powerful impetus to the revolutionary movement of the international working class, placing this class in the center of the current epoch” (ibid., p. 17).

The October Revolution was a watershed in the development of the national liberation movement. It initiated the crisis of the colonial system and opened the epoch of national liberation revolutions in the colonial and dependent countries. It merged into a single current the struggle of the proletariat and other revolutionary forces and the struggle of oppressed peoples against national colonial oppression.

The October Revolution had an enormous revolutionizing influence on all the peoples of the world; it awakened the oppressed peoples, raised the broadest strata of the toiling masses to active political life, and helped strengthen the organization of the international proletariat. It was the cradle of the contemporary worldwide communist movement, which has become the greatest political force of modern times.

By its existence and its worldwide historical and social transformations, the Soviet socialist state born of the October Revolution inspires people all over the earth in the struggle for peace, democracy, and socialism.

As a result of the victory of the October Revolution and the construction of the Soviet socialist state, humanity found a trusty bulwark in its struggle against wars of aggression and for peace and security. The October Revolution outlined the high road to socialism for all humanity.


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Vsemirnaia istoriia, vols. 7, 8. Moscow, 1958-61.
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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

J.V. Stalin on the Final Victory of Socialism in the U.S.S.R.

Ivan Philipovich Ivanov, staff propagandist of the Manturovsk District of the Young Communist League in the Kursk Region of the U.S.S.R., addressed a letter to Comrade Stalin requesting his opinion on the question of the final victory of Socialism in the Soviet Union.


Dear Comrade Stalin,

I earnestly request you to explain the following question : In the local districts here and even in the Regional Committee of the Young Communist League, a two-fold conception prevails about the final victory of socialism in our country, i.e., the first group of contradictions is confused with the second.

In your works on the destiny of Socialism in the U.S.S.R. you speak of two groups of contradictions – internal and external.

As for the first group of contradictions, we have, of course, solved them – within the country Socialism is victorious.

I would like to have your answer about the second group of contradictions, i.e., those between the land of Socialism and capitalism.

You point out that the final victory of Socialism implies the solution of the external contradictions, that we must be fully guaranteed against intervention and, consequently, against the restoration of capitalism.

But this group of contradictions can only be solved by the efforts of the workers of all countries.

Besides, Comrade Lenin taught us that “we can achieve final victory only on a world scale, only by the joint efforts of the workers of all countries.”

While attending the class for staff propagandists at the Regional Committee of the Y.C.L., I, basing myself on your works, said that the final victory of Socialism is possible only on a world scale. But the leading regional committee workers – Urozhenko, First Secretary of the Regional Committee, and Kazelkov, propaganda instructor – described my statement as a Trotskyist sortie.

I began to read to them passages from your works on this question, but Urozhenko ordered me to close the book and said : “Comrade Stalin said this in 1926, but we are now in 1938. At that time we did not have the final victory, but now we have it and there is no need for us at all to worry about intervention and restoration.”

Then he went on to say : “We have now the final victory of Socialism and a full guarantee against intervention and the restoration of capitalism.”

And so I was counted as an abettor of Trotskyism and removed from propaganda work and the question was raised as to whether I was fit to remain in the Y.C.L.

Please, Comrade Stalin, will you explain whether we have the final victory of Socialism yet or not, Perhaps there is additional contemporary material on this question connected with recent changes that I have not come across yet. Also I think that Urozhenko’s statement that Comrade Stalin’s works on this question are somewhat out of date is an anti-Bolshevik one.

Are the leading workers of the Regional Committee right in counting me as a Trotskyist? I feel very much hurt and offended over this.

I hope, Comrade Stalin, that you will grant my request and reply to the Manturovsk District, Kursk Region, First Zasemsky Village Soviet, Ivan Philipovich Ivanov.

(Signed) I. Ivanov.
January 18, 1938.



Of course you are right, Comrade Ivanov, and your ideological opponents, i.e., Comrades Urozhenko and Kazelkov, are wrong. And for the following reasons :

Undoubtedly the question of the victory of Socialism in one country, in this case our country, has two different sides.

The first side of the question of the victory of Socialism in our country embraces the problem of the mutual relations between classes in our country. This concerns the sphere of internal relations.

Can the working class of our country overcome the contradictions with our peasantry and establish an alliance, collaboration with them?

Can the working class of our country, in alliance – with our peasantry, smash the bourgeoisie of our country, deprive it of the land, factories, mines, etc., and by its own efforts build a new, classless society, complete Socialist society?

Such are the problems that are connected with the first side of the question of the victory of Socialism in our country.

Leninism answers these problems in the affirmative.

Lenin teaches us that “we have all that is necessary for the building of a complete Socialist society.”

Hence we can and must, by our own efforts, overcome our bourgeoisie and build Socialist society.

Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and those other gentlemen who later became spies and agents of fascism, denied that it was possible to build Socialism in our country unless the victory of the Socialist revolution was first achieved in other countries, in capitalist countries. As a matter of fact, these gentlemen wanted to turn our country back to the path of bourgeois development and they concealed their apostasy by hypocritically talking about the “victory of the revolution” in other countries.

This was precisely the point of controversy between our Party and these gentlemen.

Our country’s subsequent course of development proved that the Party was right and that Trotsky and company were wrong.

For, during this period, we succeeded in liquidating our bourgeoisie, in establishing fraternal collaboration with our peasantry and in building, in the main, Socialist society, notwithstanding the fact that the Socialist revolution has not yet been victorious in other countries.

This is the position in regard to the first side of the question of the victory of Socialism in our country.

I think, Comrade Ivanov, that this is not the side of the question that is the point of controversy between you and Comrades Urozhenko and Kazelkov.

The second side of the question of the victory of Socialism in our country embraces the problem of the mutual relations between our country and other countries, capitalist countries; the problem of the mutual relations between the working class of our country and the bourgeoisie of other countries. This concerns the sphere of external, international relations.

Can the victorious Socialism of one country, which is encircled by many strong capitalist countries, regard itself as being fully guaranteed against the danger of military invasion, and hence, against attempts to restore capitalism in our country?

Can our working class and our peasantry, by their own efforts, without the serious assistance of the working class in capitalist countries, overcome the bourgeoisie of other countries in the same way as we overcame our own bourgeoisie? In other words :

Can we regard the victory of Socialism in our country as final, i.e., as being free from the dangers of military attack and of attempts to restore capitalism, assuming that Socialism is victorious only in one country and that the capitalist encirclement continues to exist?

Such are the problems that are connected with the second side of the question of the victory of Socialism in our country.

Leninism answers these problems in the negative.

Leninism teaches that “the final victory of Socialism, in the sense of full guarantee against the restoration of bourgeois relations, is possible only on an international scale” (c.f. resolution of the Fourteenth Conference of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union).

This means that the serious assistance of the international proletariat is a force without which the problem of thefinal victory of Socialism in one country cannot be solved.

This, of course, does not mean that we must sit with folded arms and wait for assistance from outside.

On the contrary, this assistance of the international proletariat must be combined with our work to strengthen the defence of our country, to strengthen the Red Army and the Red Navy, to mobilise the whole country for the purpose of resisting military attack and attempts to restore bourgeois relations.

This is what Lenin says on this score :

“We are living not merely in a State but in a system of States, and it is inconceivable that the Soviet Republic should continue to coexist for a long period side by side with imperialist States. Ultimately one or other must conquer. Meanwhile, a number of terrible clashes between the Soviet Republic and the bourgeois States is inevitable. This means that if the proletariat, as the ruling class, wants to and will rule, it must prove this also by military organization.” (Collected Works, Vol. 24. P. 122.)

And further :

“We are surrounded by people, classes and governments which openly express their hatred for us. We must remember that we are at all times but a hair’s breadth from invasion.” (Collected Works, Vol. 27. P. 117.)

This is said sharply and strongly but honestly and truthfully without embellishment as Lenin was able to speak.

On the basis of these premises Stalin stated in “Problems of Leninism” that :

“The final victory of Socialism is the full guarantee against attempts at intervention, and that means against restoration, for any serious attempt at restoration can take place only with serious support from outside, only with the support of international capital.

“Hence the support of our revolution by the workers of all countries, and still more, the victory of the workers in at least several countries, is a necessary condition for fully guaranteeing the first victorious country against attempts at intervention and restoration, a necessary condition for the final victory of Socialism,” (Problems of Leninism, 1937. P. 134.)

Indeed, it would be ridiculous and stupid to close our eyes to the capitalist encirclement and to think that our external enemies, the fascists, for example, will not, if the opportunity arises, make an attempt at a military attack upon the U.S.S.R. Only blind braggarts or masked enemies who desire to lull the vigilance of our people can think like that.

No less ridiculous would it be to deny that in the event of the slightest success of military intervention, the interventionists would try to destroy the Soviet system in the districts they occupied and restore the bourgeois system.

Did not Denikin and Kolchak restore the bourgeois system in the districts they occupied? Are the fascists any better than Denikin or Kolchak?

Only blockheads or masked enemies who with their boastfulness want to conceal their hostility and are striving to demobilise the people, can deny the danger of military intervention and attempts at restoration as long as the capitalist encirclement exists.

Can the victory of Socialism in one country be regarded as final if this country is encircled by capitalism, and if it is not fully guaranteed against the danger of intervention and restoration?

Clearly, it cannot, This is the position in regard to the question of the victory of Socialism in one country.

It follows that this question contains two different problems :

1. The problem of the internal relations in our country, i.e., the problem of overcoming our own bourgeoisie and building complete Socialism; and

2. The problem of the external relations of our country, i.e., the problem of completely ensuring our country against the dangers of military intervention and restoration.

We have already solved the first problem, for our bourgeoisie has already been liquidated and Socialism has already been built in the main. This is what we call the victory of Socialism, or, to be more exact, the victory of Socialist Construction in one country.

We could say that this victory is final if our country were situated on an island and if it were not surrounded by numerous capitalist countries.

But as we are not living on an island but “in a system of States,” a considerable number of which are hostile to the land of Socialism and create the danger of intervention and restoration, we say openly and honestly that the victory of Socialism in our country is not yet final.

But from this it follows that the second problem is not yet solved and that it has yet to be solved.

More than that : the second problem cannot be solved in the way that we solved the first problem, i.e., solely by the efforts of our country.

The second problem can be solved only by combining the serious efforts of the international proletariat with the still more serious efforts of the whole of our Soviet people.

The international proletarian ties between the working class of the U.S.S.R. and the working class in bourgeois countries must be increased and strengthened; the political assistance of the working class in the bourgeois countries for the working class of our country must be organized in the event of a military attack on our country; and also every assistance of the working class of our country for the working class in bourgeois countries must be organized; our Red Army, Red Navy, Red Air Fleet, and the Chemical and Air Defence Society must be increased and strengthened to the utmost.

The whole of our people must be kept in a state of mobilisation and preparedness in the face of the danger of a military attack, so that no “accident” and no tricks on the part of our external enemies may take us by surprise . . .

From your letter it is evident that Comrade Urozhenko adheres to different and not quite Leninist opinions. He, it appears, asserts that “we now have the final victory of Socialism and full guarantee against intervention and the restoration of capitalism.”

There cannot be the slightest doubt that Comrade Urozhenko is fundamentally wrong.

Comrade Urozhenko’s assertion can be explained only by his failure to understand the surrounding reality and his ignorance of the elementary propositions of Leninism, or by empty boastfulness of a conceited young bureaucrat.

If it is true that “we have full guarantee against intervention and restoration of capitalism,” then why do we need a strong Red Army, Red Navy, Red Air Fleet, a strong Chemical and Air Defence Society, more and stronger ties with the international proletariat?

Would it not be better to spend the milliards that now go for the purpose of strengthening the Red Army on other needs and to reduce the Red Army to the utmost, or even to dissolve it altogether?

People like Comrade Urozhenko, even if subjectively they are loyal to our cause, are objectively dangerous to it because by their boastfulness they – willingly or unwillingly (it makes no difference!) – lull the vigilance of our people, demobilise the workers and peasants and help the enemies to take us by surprise in the event of international complications.

As for the fact that, as it appears, you, Comrade Ivanov, have been “removed from propaganda work and the question has been raised of your fitness to remain in the Y.C.L.,” you have nothing to fear.

If the people in the Regional Committee of the Y.C.L. really want to imitate Chekov’s Sergeant Prishibeyev, you can be quite sure that they will lose on this game.

Prishibeyevs are not liked in our country.

Now you can judge whether the passage from the book “Problems of Leninism” on the victory of Socialism in one country is out of date or not.

I myself would very much like it to be out of date.

I would like unpleasant things like capitalist encirclement, the danger of military attack, the danger of the restoration of capitalism, etc., to be things of the past. Unfortunately, however, these unpleasant things still exist.

(Signed) J. Stalin.
February 12, 1938.

14 February 1938


Bill Bland: The Soviet Campaign Against Cosmopolitanism: 1947-1952

A paper presented to the Stalin Society, London, on 1 November 1998
by Bill Bland. First Published on the web February 2000 by ALLIANCE ML (NORTH AMERICA)



“The word ‘cosmopolitan’ is derived from two Greek words, ‘kosmos’ meaning ‘world’ and ‘polites’ meaning ‘citizen.'”

(Eric Partridge: ‘Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English’; London; 1958; p. 122, 508).

In its etymology, therefore, a cosmopolitan is a “citizen of the world,” rather than a citizen of a particular country.

Now, in ordinary usage the word “cosmopolitan” carries positive connotations, connotations of sophistication. One’s first reaction to the Soviet campaign against cosmopolitanism, therefore, may well be to wonder why on earth the Communist Party should want the Soviet working people to be boorish.

The explanation lies in the fact that Marxism-Leninism is a science, the science of politics, and to Marxist-Leninists the term “cosmopolitan” has a more specific, more negative, connotation than in everyday language.

The Treatment of the Anti-Cosmopolitan Campaign in the Western Media

The most common “explanation” of the anti-cosmopolitan campaign put forth in the Western media was that anti-cosmopolitanism was a euphemism for anti-Semitism.

Critics speak of:

“The anti-Semitism lurking behind the term as used by Stalin.”

(Timothy Brennan: ‘At Home in the World: Cosmopolitanism Now’; Cambridge (USA); 1997; p. 21).

But this “explanation” cannot be made to fit the known facts.

Firstly, we know that Stalin strongly condemned anti-Semitism:

“Anti-Semitism, as an extreme form of racial chauvinism, is the most dangerous vestige of cannibalism…Hence Communists, as consistent internationalists, cannot but be irreconcilable, sworn enemies of anti-Semitism….Under USSR law active anti-Semites are liable to the death penalty.”

(Josef V, Stalin: ‘Anti-Semitism’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 13; Moscow; 1955; p. 30).

Secondly, even Jewish writers like Benjamin Pinkus, Professor of Jewish History at the Ben-Gurion University in Israel, admit that:

“….It is important to emphasise that in these attacks (the anti-cosmopolitanism campaign Ed.) there was no anti-Jewish tone, either explicitly or implicitly.”

(Benjamin Pinkus: ‘The Jews of the Soviet Union: The History of a National Minority’ (hereafter listed as ‘Benjamin Pinkus (1989)’; Cambridge; 1989; p 152).

Thirdly, the artists most strongly criticised in the anti-cosmopolitanism campaign, the poetess Anna Akhmatova and the satirist Mikhail Zoshchenko were not Jewish:

“The chief victims . . . were two non-Jews – the satirist M. Zoshchenko and the poetess A. Ahianatova.”

(Benjamin Pinkus (1989): ibid.; p. 151).

Fourthly, Jews:

“Took an active part in the anti-cosmopolitanism campaign”;

(Benjamin Pinkus (1989): ibid.; p. 157)


“The philosopher and member of the Academy of Sciences Mark Mitin; the journalist David Zaslavsky, and the orientalist V(ladimir –Ed.) Lutsky.”

(Benjamin Pinkus (1989): ibid.; p. 157)

Marxism-Leninism and National Distinctions

To Marxist-Leninists, a cosmopolitan is one who disparages national distinctions.

It is true that Marxist-Leninists envisage that, in the socialist world of the future, national distinctions of language and culture would eventually disappear:

“I have always adhered and continue to adhere to the Leninist view that in the period of the victory of socialism on a world scale, the national languages are inevitably bound to merge into one common language, which, of course, will be neither Great Russian nor German, but something new.”

(Josef V. Stalin: Reply to the Discussion on the Political Report of the Central Committee to the 16th Congress of the CPSU (B), in: ‘Works’, Volume 13; Moscow; 1955; p. 5).

However, Marxist-Leninists recognise that until that time in the distant future distinctions of national language and culture will remain. As Stalin told the 16th Congress of the CPSU in June 1930:

“National differences cannot disappear in the near future, . . . they are bound to remain for a long time even after the victory of the proletarian revolution on a world scale.

(Josef V. Stalin: ibid.; p. 4-5).

“We have abolished national privileges and have established national equality of rights. We have abolished state frontiers in the old sense of the term, frontier posts and customs barriers between the nationalities of the USSR. . . . But does this mean that we have thereby abolished national differences, national languages, culture, manner of life, etc.? Obviously it does not mean this.”

(Josef V. Stalin: Political Report of the Central Committee to the CPSU (B), in: ‘Works’, Volume 12; Moscow; 1955; p. 376).

Indeed, the policy of Marxist-Leninists is to do everything possible to encourage the fullest flowering of national languages and cultures. As Stalin told the students of the University of the Peoples of the East in May 1925, the tasks of the Communist Party are:

“To develop national culture, to set up a wide network of courses and schools for both general education and vocational-technical training, to be conducted in the native languages. The slogan of national culture became a proletarian slogan when the proletariat came to power. .Proletarian universal culture does not exclude, but presupposes and fosters the national culture of the peoples.”

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The Political Tasks of the University of the Peoples of the East’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 7; Moscow; 1954; p.138, 140, 142).

And as he said in his political report to the 16th Congress of the Party in June 1930:

“It may seem strange that we who stand for the future merging of national cultures into one common (both in form and content) culture, with one common language, should at the same time stand for the flowering of national cultures at the present moment. . . . But there is nothing strange about it. The national cultures must be allowed to develop and unfold, . . in order to create the conditions for merging them into one common culture with one common language in the period of the victory of socialism all over the world. . . . It is just this that constitutes the dialectics of the Leninist presentation of the question of national culture.”

(Josef V. Stalin: Political Report of the Central Committee to the 16th Congress of the CPSU (B), in: ‘Works;’, Volume 12; Moscow; 1955; p. 380).

It is on the basis of these Marxist-Leninist principles that the Soviet Communist Party opposed cosmopolitanism, which, as we have seen, disparages national cultures.

The Soviet Campaign against Cosmopolitanism

Criticism of cosmopolitanism in Russia did not begin with the socialist revolution. The 19th century literary critic Vissarion Belinsky wrote:

“The cosmopolitan is a false, senseless, strange and incomprehensible phenomenon. . . . He is a corrupt, unfeeling creature, totally unworthy of being called by the holy name of man.”

(Vissarion Belinsky, in: Benjamin Pinkus (1989): op. cit.; p. 153-54).

Already during the Second World War, Aleksandr Fadayev, Chairman of the Union of Soviet Writers, had written:

“The German invaders were deliberately encouraging rootless cosmopolitanism, which stems from the so-called idea that everybody is a ‘citizen of the world.”‘

(Aleksandr Fadayev, in: Norah Levin: ‘The Jews in the Soviet Union since 1917’; London; 1990; p. 464).

Later it was pointed out that the concept of a cosmopolitan Europe was a continuation of the Nazi ideology of a “new order in Europe”:

“Yesterday this reactionary cosmopolitan idea of a world state meant the Hitlerite ‘new order in Europe’, trampling on the national sovereignty and independence of the European peoples.”

(R. Miller-Budnitskaya: ‘Cosmopolitanism of the Literary Hollywood’, in: ‘Novy Mir’, no. 6, 1948, in: Benjamin Pinkus; ‘The Soviet Government and the Jews: 1948-1967: A Documentary Study’ (hereafter listed as ‘Benjamin Pinkus (1984)’; Cambridge; 1984; p. 183).

Already in an article in June 1945, the writer N. Baltiisky declared that:

“Communism has nothing in common with cosmopolitanism, that ideology which is characteristic of representatives of banking firms and international consortiums, great stock exchange speculators and international suppliers of weapons and their agents. Indeed, these circles operate according to the Roman saying ubi bene, ibi patria (where there is profit, there is one’s motherland — Ed.).”

(N. Baltiisky, in: Benjamin Pinkus (1989): op. cit.; p. 151).

It was in 1946, however, that anti-cosmopolitanism took the form of a systematic, intensive campaign. In the spring of 1946, for example, at the 11th Plenary Session of the Union of Soviet Writers, the Union’s Chairman, Aleksandr Fadayev, launched a severe criticism:

“Against Yitzhak Nusinov ‘s treatment of Pushkin in his book ‘Pushkin and World Literature. . Fadayev denounced the ‘denationalisation’ of Pushkin by Nusinov.”

(Nora Levin: op. cit.; p. 468).

Fadayev charged that:

“The fundamental idea of the book is that Pushkin’s genius does not express the uniqueness of the historical development of the Russian nation, as a Marxist ought to have shown, but that Pushkin’s greatness consistsd in his being ‘European.'”

(Benjamin Pinkus (1989): op. cit.; p. 152).

The campaign against cosmopolitanism

“spread throughout the Soviet mass media – radio, press. literature, cinema, theatre, scientific and popular lectures, wall-notices at places of work.”

(Benjamin Pinkus (1989): ibid.; p. 155).

The campaign was not directed against foreign influences in general. As the writer Ilya Ehrenburg expressed it:

“It is impossible to toady to Shakespeare or Rembrandt, because prostration before them cannot humiliate the worshipper.”

(Ilya Ehrenburg, in: Nora Levin: op. cit.; p. 466).

It was directed against presenting inferior foreign works of art, even those with an anti-socialist content, as admirable. A leading article in ‘Bolshevik’, the theoretical organ of the CPSU, during 1947 said:

“Traces of subservience to bourgeois Western culture have found expression . . in . . . bowing and scraping . . . to bourgeois Western scholarship.”

(‘Bolshevik’ No. 16, 1947, in: Benjamin Pinkus (1989): op. cit.; p. 152).

In the campaign it was made very clear that opposition to cosmopolitanism was in no way to be confused with opposition to internationalism. Speaking to a conference of music workers in 1948, Andrei Zhdanov, the Central Committee Secretary responsible for cultural affairs, stressed:

“Internationalism in art does not spring from the depletion and impoverishment of national art; on the contrary, internationalism grows where national culture flourishes. To forget this is to…become a cosmopolitan without a country. It is impossible to be an internationalist in music or in anything else unless one loves and respects one’s own people. . . . Our internationalism in music and respect for the creative genius of other nations is therefore based on the enrichment and development of our national musical culture, which we can then share with other nations.”

(Andrei A. Thdanov: Concluding Speech at a Conference of Soviet Music Workers, 1948, in: ‘On Literature, Music and philosophy’; London; 1950; p. 62-63).

A milestone in the anti-Cosmoplitanism campaign was the August 1947 report by Zhdanov, which strongly criticised certain Soviet writers and artists who were alleged to have sunk into cosmopolitanism:

“Leningrad’s literary journals started giving space to cheap modern bourgeois literature from the West. Some of our men of letters began looking on themselves as not the teachers but the pupils of petty-bourgeois writers and began to adopt an obsequious and awestruck attitude towards foreign literature.”

(Andrei A. Zhdanov: Report on the Journals ‘Zvezda’ and ‘Leningrad,, in: ibid.; p. 31).

The campaign against cosmopolitanism, of course, defended not only the national culture of Russia, but that of:

“All the nations in the Soviet Union.”
(Benjamin Pinkus (1989): op. cit.; p. 154).

The campaign was greatly intensified in the first months of 1949, to become:

“an attack on an organised group, which had supposedly practised . . . an attempt to create a kind of literary underground.”

(Benjamin Pinkus (1989): ibid.; p. 155).

At this time it was directed particularly at an organised group of revisionist dramatic critics who were slating good Soviet plays and praising worthless foreign plays for their “sophistication”:

“An anti-patriotic group has developed in theatrical criticism. It consists of followers of bourgeois aestheticism. . . . These critics. . represent a rootless cosmopolitanism which is deeply repulsive and inimical to Soviet man.. .The sting of aesthetic-formalist criticism is directed not against the really harmful and inferior works, but against the progressive and best ones.”

(‘On an Anti-Patriotic Group of Theatre Critics’, in: ‘Pravda’, 28 January 1949, in: Benjamin Pinkus (1984): op. cit. ; p. 183-84).

“This group, hostile to Soviet culture, set itself the aim of vilifying the outstanding events of our literature and the best in Soviet dramaturgy.'”

(Benjamin Pinkus (1989): op. cit.; p. 155).

The anti-cosmopolitanism campaign:

“lasted in a subdued form until the second half of 1952.”

(Benjamin Pinkus (1984): op. cit.; p. 164).

The Domestic and International Background to the Campaign

It is clear from what has been said that the Soviet campaign against cosmopolitanism was fully in accord with Marxist-Leninist principles, which stand in our era for the fullest development of national cultures, not for their impoverishment.

The question arises, however: why was it felt necessary to organise an intensive campaign against cosmopolitanism precisely in 1947-52?

The reasons are partly domestic, partly international.

In the Soviet Union, revisionists in the cultural field felt that after four years of bloody war, moves towards light, escapist culture would have popular support. The Russian-born American journalist Alexander Werth noted:

“In Moscow, in particular, there were extraordinary signs of frivolity and escapism. The famous chansonnier and diseur Alexander Vertinsky, after spending more than twenty years as an idol of the Russian emigres in Paris, New York and Shanghai, turned up in Moscow. His recitals of ‘decadent’ songs drew immense crowds….Although he was never reviewed or advertised in the press, posters announcing Vertinsky recitals were stuck up all over Moscow….Both songs and films were tending to become escapist, . . . In 1944 the cinemas were showing American films, among them a particularly inane Deanna Durbin film. It was even widely suggested that light reading would be encouraged. Thus, there was a scheme for starting a library of thrillers and detective stories in Russian — mostly translated from English.”

(Alexander Werth: ‘Russia at War: 1941-1945’; London; 1965; p. 939-41, 942).

In the international field, we know now from official documents that in May 1945, within weeks of Germany’s surrender, Churchill was already planning

“..a massive attack against the Red Army leading to the elimination of Russia”,

(‘Guardian’, 2 October 1998; p. 7).

to be:

“supported by 100,000 defeated German soldiers.”

(‘Guardian’, 2 October 1998; p. 7).

However, the chiefs of staff committee considered the plan unworkable, as:

“beyond our power”;

(‘Guardian’, 2 October 1998; p. 7).

Nevertheless, in March 1946 Churchill made his famous speech at Fulton, Missouri, heralding on the one hand

“Special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States.”

(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 6; p. 7,771).

and on the other hand declaring cold war on the Soviet Union:

“A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lightened by the Allied victory…An iron curtain has descended across the continent.”

(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 6; p. 7,771).

In March 1947 US President Harry Truman initiated the “Truman Doctrine”

“ prevent the further spread of communism”,

(‘Encyclopedia Americana’, Volume 18; New York; 1977; p. 328).

In June 1947 US Secretary of State George Marshall announced the Marshall Plan,” euphemistically titled the “European Recovery Programme” (ERP), presented as generous American “aid” to war-devastated Europe, but by which:

“…containment was extended effectively to Western Europe.”

(‘Encyclopedia Americana’, Volume 27; New York; 1977; p. 176).

In July 1947, the Soviet government broke off negotiations with the Western Powers on the “Marshall Plan”:

“…and announced that the machinery envisaged under the Plan would infringe on the national sovereignty of the participants.”

(Adam B. Ulam: “Stalin: The Man and his Era”; London; 1989; p. 659).

Indeed, the Marshall Plan soon became a US intelligence operation. In June 1948, the US National Security Council:

“Approved a top secret document . . . establishing a covert arm within the existing CIA. The new covert organisation was soon named the ‘Office of Policy Coordination’. From its creation in 1948 until 1952 when the Marshall Plan was terminated, the OPC operated as the plan’s complement.”

(Sallie Pisani: ‘The CIA and the Marshall Plan’; Edinburgh; 1991; p. 70).

It was:

“Under State Department control but funded by the CIA.”

(John Ranelagh: ‘The Agency: The Rise and Decline of the CIA’; London; 1986; p. 116).

being in reality:

“An American initiative in the cold war with Russia.”

(John Gimbel: ‘The Origins of the Marshall Plan’; Stanford (USA): 1970; p. 4).

In September 1947, the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform) was founded, and at its inaugural meeting Zhdanov declared:

“That two blocs had materialised since the end of the war, an imperialist and anti-democratic bloc led by the USA, and an anti-imperialist and democratic bloc led by the Soviet Union. . . . The first bloc was planning an aggressive war against the second.”

(Andrei A. Zhdanov: Speech at Founding Session of Cominform, September 1947, in: ‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 6; p. 8,920).

The new international situation was summed up by Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov on the 30th anniversary of the October Revolution in November 1947:

“Today the ruling circles of the USA and Britain are at the head of an international group which has made it its purpose to . . . establish the dominance of these countries over other nations.”

(Vyacheslav Molotov: Speech of November 1947, in: ‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 6; p. 8,940).

In March 1948, a military alliance known as:

“the ‘Brussels Treaty’ was signed by Britain, France, and the ‘Benelux’ countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg).”

(Richard B. Morris & Graham W. Irwin (Eds.): ‘An Encylopaedia of the Modern World: A Concise Reference History from 1760 to the Present Day’; London; 1970; P. 586).

In April 1949, the foreign ministers of twelve states — Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and the USA — signed a broader military alliance: the North Atlantic Treaty, establishing the ‘North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’ (NATO). (‘Statesman’s Year Book: 1998-1999’; London; 1998; p. 37).


“was the logical extension of the ‘Brussels Treaty.”

(D. C. Watt, Frank Spencer & Neville Brown: ‘A History of the World in the 20th Century’; London; 1997; p. 650).

It was therefore clear to the Soviet government that it was faced with a real threat of aggression from the Western Powers, and that cosmopolitanism was an ideological weapon in that threat.

The Soviet campaign against cosmopolitanism of 1947-52 was thus a campaign of defence for itself and other countries whose independence was threatened by imperialism.

In his speech at the inaugural session of the Cominform, Zhdanov asserted:

“One of the directions of the ideological campaign which accompanies the plans for enslaving Europe is an attack on the principle of national sovereignty, an appeal for the renunciation of sovereign rights set off by the idea of a ‘world government.'”

(Andrei A. Zhdanov: Speech at Founding Session of Cominform (September 1947), in: ‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 6; p. 8,020).

A typical article in the campaign declared:

“Cosmopolitanism is the militant ideology of imperialist reaction in our time. By disseminating the corrupt ideology of cosmopolitanism., the American imperialists are trying ideologically to disarm freedom-loving people who stand up for their national independence, to foster in them indifference to their own motherland, to cultivate national nihilism, and to weaken their vigilance. . .
The ideologists of American imperialism declare that in our century such concepts as the nation, national sovereignty, patriotism, etc., are ‘out-worn’, and must be thrown overboard.

The right-wing socialists, the faithful servants of American imperialism, are active preachers of cosmopolitanism.”

(E. Dunayeva: ‘Cosmopolitanism in the Service of Imperialist Reaction’; in: ‘Current Digest of the Soviet Press’, Volume 2, No. 16 (3 June 1950); p. 18).

and some articles went so far as to compare cosmopolitanism with atomic and bacteriological weapons:

“Cosmopolitanism occupies a prominent place in the arsenal of contemporary imperialism, along with the atom bomb and bacteriological warfare.”

(E. A. Korovin: “For a Patriotic Science of Law’, in: ‘Current Digest of the Soviet Press’, Volume 2, No. 2 (25 February 1950); p. 13).


These days, some forty years on from the great Soviet campaign against cosmopolitanism, we hear little mention of the term.

But that is not because cosmopolitanism has disappeared. On the contrary, it has merely acquired a new name: globalisation.

Indeed, globalisation has become a new branch of sociology, known as ‘World System Theory’, attributed to the American sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein.


Sovereignty is simply:


(‘Oxford English Dictionary’, Volume 16; Oxford; 1989; p. 79).

and one of the principal attributes of a state’s sovereignty is the power to impose measures of protection.



“Can be defined as any policy measure which discriminates between home and foreign supplies”;

(H. Peter Gray: ‘Free Trade or Protection? A Pragmatic Analysis’; Basingstoke; 1985; p. 1).

to the disadvantage of the latter. Protection may be carried out by the imposition of “tariffs” or duties, a tariff or duty being:

“A tax levied on imported goods . . designed to protect domestic producers against competition from imports”,

(‘Encyclopedia Americana’, Volume 26; New York; 1977; p. 295).

by the imposition of quotas, a quota being:

“the maximum number of . . . imports allowed to enter a country within a set period.”

(‘Oxford English Dictionary’, Volume 13; Oxford; 1989; p. 52).

or by the imposition of export subsidies, that is,

“financial aid furnished by a state or a public corporation”;

(‘Oxford English Dictionary’, Volume 17; Oxford; 1989; p. 60).

to an exporter.

In general, technically advanced capitalist countries, imperialist countries, benefit from and want a maximum of free trade, defined as a:

“system by which foreign goods are allowed to enter a country in unlimited quantities and without payment”;

(‘Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English’; Harlow; 1987; p. 412).

of any taxes. This is because in the absence of protection, superior technique of production gives countries possessing them an advantage over more technically backward countries.

On the other hand, more technically backward countries benefit from and want the sovereign right to impose protective measures, since without them their industries cannot compete with cheaper imports from the more technically advanced countries. These are the essential motives behind the drive by imperialist states to build and extend “free trade areas,” a free trade area being an area of the world with right to impose protective measures. Furthermore, such a free trade area enables the participating states to pool their resources for more effective competition with their rivals.

Since the Second World War, three rival blocs of imperialist powers have developed in the world: these are, in fact:

“Three growing superstates and blocs: the EC (European Community — Ed.) led by Germany; the USA-dominated North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico; and the Pacific area headed by Japan.”

(John Boyd: “Britain and European Union: Democracy or Superstate? (After Maastricht)”; Merseyside; 1993; p. 14).

Each of these three blocs came to sponsor globalisation measures centred upon itself.

European Sponsored Globalisation

Proposals for a United States of Europe go back many years. Lenin commented on these proposals:

Temporary agreements between capitalists and between the powers are possible. In this sense the United States of Europe is possible as an agreement between the European capitalists . . . but what for? Only for the purpose of jointly suppressing socialism in Europe, of jointly protecting colonial booty against Japan and America. . . . Under capitalism, the United States of Europe would mean the organisation of reaction to retard the more rapid development of America.”

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘The “United States of Europe” Slogan’. in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 140-41).

The proposals for a United States of Europe made practcal advances only after World War II.

In April 1951,

“Belgium, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Luxmbourg and the Netherlands signed the Treaty of Paris, establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The treaty provided for pooling of coal and steel production and was regarded as a first step towards a united Europe.”

(“Statesman’s Yearbook: 1998-1999′; London; 1998; p. 42).

In March 1957,

“The European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EAAC or Euratom) were . . . created under separate treaties signed in Rome. . . . The treaties provided for the establishment by stages of a common market with a customs union at its core.”

(“Statesman’ s Yearbook: 1998-1999”; London; 1998; p. 42).

According to the preamble to the Treaty of Rome, its aims were:

“To lay the foundations of an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe.”

(Preamble: Treaty of Rome, in: Richard Owen & Michael Dynes: ‘The Times Guide to the Single European Market: A Comprehensive Handbook’; London; 1992; p. 50).

At first, British imperialism stood aside from the developing EEC, in favour of continuing dependence on United States imperialism, the so-called ‘special relationship’:

“Atlanticism remained the main pillar of British ruling class strategy.”

(Dave Packer: ‘Wnere is Europe going?’, in: ‘Maastricht: The Crisis of European Integration’; London; 1993; p. 9).

Indeed, in November 1959, the British imperialists:

“Joined Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland . . . to form a European Free Trade Association EFTA’s members undertook to remove all tariff and quota restrictions on industrial trade among them in 10 years.”

(‘Encyclopedia Americana’, Volume ; New York; 1977; p. 706).

EFTA came formally into existence in May 1960. (‘Statesman’s Yearbook: 1998-1999’; London; 1998; p. 56).

But by this time it was already clear:

“That EFTA did not have the size or political clout to make it a credible competitor or alternative to the EC.”

(Thomas Pedersen: ‘The Wider Western Europe: EC Policy towards the EFTA Countries’; London; 1988; p. 3).

So in 1961, barely a year after Britain had been instrumental in setting up EFTA:

“British capitalism made a belated turn towards Europe.”

(Dave Packer: op. cit.; p. 9).

“To apply for full membership.”

(Richard Owen & Michael Dynes: op. cit.; p. 51).

of the EEC.

In 1963:

“The British application was vetoed by de Gaulle . on the grounds that Britain’s ties were transatlantic rather than European. It was renewed by Harold Wilson in 1966, and again vetoed by de Gaulle.”

(Richard Owen & Michael Dynes: op. cit.; p. 51).

In April 1965:

“The common institutions of the three Communities were established by a treaty signed in Brussels.”

(‘Europa World Year Book: 1998’, Volume 1; London; 1998; p. 152).

In July 1968,

“The removal of internal tariffs was completed, accompanied by the erection of a common external tariff to protect the new common market.”

(Richard Owen & Michael Dynes: op, cit.; p, 50).

In January 1973, Britain, Denmark and Ireland:

“Finally became EC members”;

(Richard Owen & Michael Dynes: op, cit.; p, 51).

Greece joined the EEC in January 1981, Portugal and Spain in January 1986, Austria, Finland and Sweden in January 1985. (‘Statesman’s Yearbook: 1998-1999’; London; 1998; p. 42).

The heart of the Single European Act, signed in December 1985:

“Was the commitment to a single European market by 31 December 1992, and the agreement that the EC had the right to lay down policy throughout the Community in areas from taxation to tourism.”

(Richard Owen & Michael Dynes: op, cit.; p. 58).

The Madrid summit of June 1989 gave:

“The go-ahead to develop a three-stage plan for economic and monetary union, with phase one beginning on 1 July 1990.”

(Richard Owen & Michael Dynes: op, cit.; p, 58).

Cooperation between the EFTA and the EEC culminated in May 1992 in the Treaty of Oporto setting up the “European Economic Area” (EEA) between the European Community (EC) and EFTA. (Therese Blanchet, Risto Piiponen & Maria Westman-Clement: ‘The Agreement on the Economic Economic Area (EEA)’; Oxford; 1994; p. 1);

For the EFTA countries, membership of EEA, would it was thought:

“Ease the way towards full menbership of the Union”:

(Therese Blanchet, Risto Puponen & Maria Westman-Clement: ibid.; p.x).

The Treaty of Maastricht, of December 1991:

“Established a ‘European Union’. . . . The aims of the Union were defined as . . . the creation of an area without internal frontiers and, . . . a single currency; . . . the introduction of a citizenship pf the Union.”

(Richard Owen & Michael Dynes: op, cit.; p. 60).


“European central bank and the currency union are to be established by 1999.”

(T. David Mason & Abdul M. Turay (Eds.): ‘Japan, NAFTA and Europe: Trilateral Cooperation or Confrontation?’; Basingstoke; 1994; p. 3).

The Maastricht Treaty marked

“A fundamental change in the constitutional basis of the British state. Considerable political power will be shifted from Westminster to the European Commission, which is not elected nor can it be removed by democratic means.”

(‘Maastricht: The Crisis of European Integration’; op. cit.; p. 3).

It went:

“Further than any previous treaty towards a European state. It establishes the concept of ‘European citizenship’, sets out procedures and timetables for a single currency as part of an economic and monetary union, establishes a common policy on judicial affairs, and provides for a common foreign, security and defence policy…Economic power will be shifted from both the national governments and national banks to a completely unaccountable European central bank.”

(Dave Packer: op. cit.; p. 6).

Of course:

“Integration will be on the terms of the richest and most powerful member — Germany.”

(Dave Packer: ibid,; p. 10).

which forms the heartland of:

“A German-dominated Europe.”

(Dave Packer: ibid.; p. 10).

Furthermore, Maastricht must be seen as:

“a weapon directed against the working class. .Cutting ‘excessive government spending’ (Article 104c) has already led to the first anti-Maastricht strikes in Italy and Greece. In Italy, massive cuts in the welfare state brought hundreds of thousands on to the streets, protesting at attempts to roll the wheel of history backward towards the 19th century.”

(Dave Packer: ibid; p. 10).

From November 1993, the EEC:

“Was formally changed to the European Community (EC) under the Treaty on European Union. . . . The new Treaty established a European Union (EU) which introduced citizenship thereof and aimed to increase inter-governmental cooperation in economic and monetary affairs, to establish a common foreign and security policy, and to introduce cooperation in justice and home affairs.”

(‘Europa World Year Book: 1998’, Volume 1; London; 1998; p. 152).

Before Britain joined the European Communities, the British government’s 1971 White Paper pledged:

“There is no question of any erosion of essential national sovereignty.”

(White Paper: ‘The United Kingdom and the European Communities’, in:
‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 18; p. 24,862).

and promised that:

“Our economy will be stronger and our industries and people more prosperous if we join the European Communities than if we remain outside them.”

(White Paper: ‘The United Kingdom and the European Communities’, in: ‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 18; p. 24,864).

In fact, in joining the EC:

“Britain gave up sovereign rights over trade, agriculture, steel, shipbuilding, energy, transport, . . fishing rights and monopoly mergers. Britain also accepted the burden to subsidise the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and abandoned former trading partners by foregoing the sovereign right to purchase cheaper food products from around the world.”

(John Boyd: op. cit.; p. 3).


“. . the economic promise offered by EC membership proved to be a mirage”;

(Brian Burkitt, Mark Baimbridge & Stephen Reed: ‘From Rome to Maastricht:
A Reappraisal of Britain’s Membership of the European Community’; London;
1992; p. 3).


“The EC proved to be a major contributory factor in Britain’s relative economic decline”,

(Brian Burkitt, Mark Baimbridge & Stephen Reed: ibid.; p. 6).

After Britain joined the EC:

“The relative decline of British manufacturing not only continued but accelerated…Before membership, the UK enjoyed annual surpluses in manufacturing trade with . . . the EC.”

(Brian Burkitt, Mark Baimbridge & Stephen Reed: ibid.; p. 3, 10-11).


“In the 1980s Britain finally became a substantial net importer of manufactures after being in. . .surplus since the industrial revolution.”

(Brian Burkitt, Mark Baimbridge & Stephen Reed: ibid.; p. 19).


“Largely because of EC membership Britain and its people have experienced:

an industrial decline without precedent in world history – over 4 million employees being removed from manufacturing according to the 1991 census; fewer than one in four men now works in manufacturing and more than half are employed in the service sector; 80% of working women are in service industries and only one in eight in manufacturing; the manufacturing workforce fell by 338,000 in 1991, and by 263,000 in 1992;….the near disappearance of the merchant fleet and virtual abandonment of the western ports’… the demise of the fishing fleet and fishing ports with foreign fleets fishing out of British waters under the Common Fishing Policy of the EC.”

(John Boyd: op. cit.; p. 27-28).

Furthermore, instead of the benefits promised to British manufacturers by the opening up of the European market:

“Britain now experiences huge trade deficits. . . . The 1992 trade deficit with the EC was £5,074 millions and of this £3,000 millions was with Germany.”

(John Boyd: ibid.; p. 28).

American-Sponsored Globalisation

In January 1988, a:

“Free-trade agreement between the USA and Canada . . . was signed.”

(‘Europa World Year Book: 1998’, Volume 1; London; 1998; p. 203).

In June 1990, US:

“President George Bush set forth his vision of free trade from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.”

(Sidney Weintraub: ‘NAFTA: What comes next?’; Westport (USA); 1994; p. 80).

and in December 1992 the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement was extended to include Mexico 1992 by

“The ‘North American Free Trade Agreement’ (NAFTA)”;

(Sidney Weintraub: ibid.; p. xxi).

The Canada-US Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA:

“Impose strict and binding controls on Canadian governments from which the only escape is repudiation”;

(Preface to: Maude Barlow & Bruce Campbell: ‘Take back the Nation: 2: Meeting the Threat of NAFTA’; Toronto; 1993; p. vii).

As a result:

“NAFTA has become the supreme law of Canada with powers to override both federal and provincial legislation. . . . NAFTA is resigned to transfer power away from democratically-elected governments and place it in the hands of transnational corporations”;

(Maude Barlow & Bruce Campbell: ibid.; p. 92).

so that:

“Canada faces extinction as an independent nation.”

(Preface to: Maude Barlow & Bruce Campbell: ibid.; p. vii).

The principal benefits of NAFTA have accrued to US manufacturers who have transferred some or all of their production facilities south of the border into northern Mexico, where:

“The labour costs were one-tenth the US level”,

(Maude Barlow & Bruce Campbell: ibid.; p. 74).


“Labour productivity was surprisingly higher than in the US.”

(Maude Barlow & Bruce Campbell: ibid.; p. 74).

The blatant loss of sovereignty which globalisation has brought on Mexico is well illustrated by the case of the Mexican gynaecologist, Dr. Alvarez Macham, who in 1990:

“Was seized by Mexican bounty hunters from his office in Guadalajara and delivered to (US — Ed.) federal agents waiting across the border. The United States action . . . was later upheld by the (US — Ed.) Supreme Court.”

(‘New York Times’, 22 June 1993; p. A11).

Japanese-sponsored Globalisation

Held back by its defeat and occupation in the Second World War, the most recent imperialist power to sponsor globalisation has been Japan:

“Barely a generation ago, Japan accounted for less than 2% of the world economy, while the United States accounted for about 35%. By 1980 Japan’s share of the world economy had ballooned to about 19%. . . . In the meantime, America’s share had dropped to about 20%.”

(Ellen I. Frost: ‘For Richer, for Poorer: The New US-Japan Relationship’; New York; 1987; p. 6).

In other words, in relation to each other:

“Japan has gotten richer and the United States has gotten poorer”;

(Preface to: Ellen I Frost: ibid.; p. ix).

In September 1980:

“A non-governmental international seminar to explore the Pacific Community idea . . . was held at the Australian National University in Canberra . . . and with it the Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference (PECC) was born. The original participants in the Canberra seminar were the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the five ASEAN* countries, South Korea, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Tonga.”

(Pekka Korhonen: ‘Japan and the Pacific Free Trade Area’; London; 1994; p. 177).


“is a regional intergovernmental organisation formed by the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.”

(‘Statesman s Year-Book: 1998-1999’; op. cit.; p. 75).

Then, in November 1989:

“The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’ (APEC) was founded to devise programmes of cooperation between member nations. . . . It was institutionalised in June 1992 after a meeting in Bangkok, at which it was agreed to set up a secretariat in Singapore. APEC is now the primary vehicle for promoting open trade and practical economic cooperation in the region. . . . Its member economies had a combined GDP (Gross Domestic Product — Ed.) of over $13 trillion in 1995. . It had 19 member countries in Jan. 1998. Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea (Republuc of), Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and the USA.”

(‘Statesman’s Yearbook: 1998-1999’; ibid.; p. 74).

The second meeting of APEC economic leaders in 1994 adopted:

“The Declaration of Common Resolve, whereby it was agreed to achieve the goal of free and open trade and investment in the region no later than 2010 for the industrialised economies, 2020 for the developing economies The Osaka Action Agenda, adopted by leaders in Osaka, Japan, in 1995, draws up a blueprint for implementing the commitment to this goal.”

(‘Statesman’s Yearbook: 1998-1999’; ibid.; p. 74).

and resolved that:

“APEC can be a major force for global trade liberalisation.”

(Asia-Pacific Econonic Cooperation: 1994; in: Pekka Korhonen: op. cit.; p. 168).

It is clear that any Asian Pacific regional free trade area would be dominated by Japanese imperialism:

“There is little doubt about the importance of the role which Japan will play in the Asian Pacific region. . . . As a dominant trade partner for almost all the countries in the region, as well as a major source of aid, finance and technology, its presence is already one of the vital determinants of the region’s future.”

(Shibusawa Masahide: ‘Japan and the Asian Pacific Region: Profile of Change’; London; 1984; p. 157).

In the June 1993 issue of “Atlantic Monthly,” an open letter was published from Akio Morita, Chairman of the Sony Corporation, proposing that:

“North America, Europe and Japan might be able to work together to remove barriers to the free-market system and make it more open, more inclusive and freer than it is at present.

The proposal I ask you to consider is that we begin to seek the way and means of lowering all economic barriers between North America, Europe and Japan — trade, investment, legal and so forth — in order to begin creating the nucleus of a new world economic order that would include a harmonised world business system with agreed rules and procedures that transcend national boundaries.”

(Akio Morita: Open Letter to the G7 Leaders, in: ‘Atlantic Monthly’. June 1993; p. 88).

The Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI)

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is:

“The rich nations’ club…95.4% of the largest transnational corporations in the world today are headquartered in member countries of the OECD.”

(Tony Clarke: ‘The Corporate Rule Treaty: The Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) seeks to consolidate Global Corporate Rule’, in: ‘Revolutionary Democracy’ Volume 4. No. 1 (April 1998); p. 4, 5).

In May 1995 the OECD instructed the organisation to prepare a Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), the aim of which would be:

“To establish a whole new set of global rules of investment that will grant transnational corporations the unrestricted ‘right’ and ‘freedom’ to buy, sell and move their operations whenever and wherever they want around the world, unfettered by government intervention or regulation.”

(Tony Clarke: ibid.; p. 4).

In short, the aim of the MAI is:

“. . to impose tight restrictions on what national governments can and cannot do in regulating their economies.”

(Tony Clarke: ibid.; p. 4).

In fact, the MAI:

“Amounts to a declaration of global corporate rule.”

(Tony Clarke: ibid.; p. 5).

Under the MAI:

“Foreign-based corporations or investors are to be accorded special rights and privileges. Not only will governments be required to provide corporations from other countries treatment that is ‘no less favourable’ than that given to companies within their own countries, but that treatment must include ‘equality of competitive opportunity.'”

(Tony Clarke: ibid.; p. 6-7).

The MAI:

“Includes a number of measures which serve to strengthen the political power of corporations.”

(Tony Clarke: ibid.; p. 8).

giving them, for instance:

“The power to directly sue governments over any breach of MAI provisions which causes (or is likely to cause) loss or damage to the investor or his investment.'”

(Tony Clarke: ibid.; p. 10).

World System Theory

As we have seen, the concepts of cosmopolitanism/globalisation form the basis of a new branch of sociology called “world system theory and pioneered by Immanuel Wallerstein:

“As Immanuel Wallerstein and others have observed, what we are now witnessing is the development of a ‘world system’, whose defining characteristic is the transoational role of capital.”

(Joseph A. Camiltari & Jim Falk: ‘The End of Sovereignty: The Politics of a Shrinking and Fragmenting World’; Aldershot; 1992; p. 77-78).

For Wallenstein:

“the ‘world economy’ is now universal, in the sense that all national states and national economies are in varying degrees integrated into its central structure.”

(Joseph A. Camilleri & Jim Falk: ibid.; p. 78).

In many respects, the view that the world is moving towards a transnational economy is a revival of Karl Kautsky’s theory of ultra-imperialism. In Lenin’s words:

“Kautsky writes that from the purely economic point of view it is not impossible that capitalism will yet go through a new phase, that of the extension of the policy of the cartels to foreign policy, the phase of ultra-imperialism, i.e., of a super-imperialism, a union of world imperialism and not struggles among imperialisms; a phase when wars shall cease under capitalism, a phase of ‘the joint exploitation of the world by internationally united finance capital’. .
Monopoly cannot . . . eliminate competition in the world market completely and for a long period of time (and this, by the by, is one of the reasons why the theory of ultra-imperialism is so absurd.”

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 86, 91).

Because capitalism develops unevenly in different enterprises, different regions and different countries, international agreements to share out markets, dependencies, can be no more than temporary:

“The only objective, i.e., real, social meaning Kautsky’s ‘theory;’ can have is that it is a most reactionary method of consoling the masses with hopes of permanent peace being possible under capitalism…Deception of the masses – there is nothing but this in Kautsky’s ‘Marxian; theory…

We will presume that these imnperialist countries form alliances against one another in order to protect and extend their possessions, their interests and their spheres of influence. . .This alliance would be an alliance of ‘internationally united finance capital’. . . . Is it conceivable’ . . that such alliances would be more than temporary?

The question only requires stating clearly enough to make it impossible for any but a negative reply to be given; for there can be no other conceivable basis under capitalism for the sharing out of spheres of influence, of interests, of colonies, etc., than a calculation of the strength of the participants, . . . their general, economic financial, military strength, etc. And the strength of these participants in the share out does not change to an equal degree, for under capitalism the development of different undertakings, trusts, branches of industry or countries cannot be even. . .

Therefore, ‘inter-imperialist’ or ‘ultra-imperialist’ alliances, in the realities of the capitalist system … are inevitably nothing more than a ‘truce in periods between wars.”

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 109-10).


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Fidel Castro’s Reflections: The duty to avoid a war in Korea

Originally published in 2013

A few days ago I mentioned the great challenges humanity is currently facing. Intelligent life emerged on our planet approximately 200,000 years ago, although new discoveries demonstrate something else.

This is not to confuse intelligent life with the existence of life which, from its elemental forms in our solar system, emerged millions of years ago.

A virtually infinite number of life forms exist. In the sophisticated work of the world’s most eminent scientists the idea has already been conceived of reproducing the sounds which followed the Big Bang, the great explosion which took place more than 13.7 billion years ago.

This introduction would be too extensive if it was not to explain the gravity of an event as unbelievable and absurd as the situation created in the Korean Peninsula, within a geographic area containing close to five billion of the seven billion persons currently inhabiting the planet.

This is about one of the most serious dangers of nuclear war since the October Crisis around Cuba in 1962, 50 years ago.

In 1950, a war was unleashed there [the Korean Peninsula] which cost millions of lives. It came barely five years after two atomic bombs were exploded over the defenseless cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which, in a matter of seconds, killed and irradiated hundreds of thousands of people.

General Douglas MacArthur wanted to utilize atomic weapons against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Not even Harry Truman allowed that.

It has been affirmed that the People’s Republic of China lost one million valiant soldiers in order to prevent the installation of an enemy army on that country’s border with its homeland. For its part, the Soviet army provided weapons, air support, technological and economic aid.

I had the honor of meeting Kim Il Sung, a historic figure, notably courageous and revolutionary.

If war breaks out there, the peoples of both parts of the Peninsula will be terribly sacrificed, without benefit to all or either of them. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was always friendly with Cuba, as Cuba has always been and will continue to be with her.

Now that the country has demonstrated its technical and scientific achievements, we remind her of her duties to the countries which have been her great friends, and it would be unjust to forget that such a war would particularly affect more than 70% of the population of the planet.

If a conflict of that nature should break out there, the government of Barack Obama in his second mandate would be buried in a deluge of images which would present him as the most sinister character in the history of the United States. The duty of avoiding war is also his and that of the people of the United States.

Fidel Castro Ruz

April 4, 2013

Alliance Marxist-Leninist: The Problem of Pablo Picasso

The Problem of Pablo Picasso


Pablo Picasso — Early Years
Developing Cubism
Guernica — The Bombing
Guernica — The Painting
Impact of Picasso and Guernica on Russian Discussions Upon Socialist Realist Art
Post Second World War – ‘Becoming a communist, Picasso hoped to come out of exile’.


Picasso poses a problem for the supporters of Marxist-Leninist view of socialist art.

What ideology – both subjectively and objectively – did he represent? What are the advocates of realism in the arts to make of Picasso’s love of gross anatomical distortions? How do most people react to his, perhaps most famous work – “Guernica” – and what does it signify? And finally, what was his relation to the Communist Party?

We contend that Picasso’s story is one of a gifted artist, who was situated at a major turning point in history, between the time of the “pure, isolated individual” and a time that history was rushing forwards because of the consolidated action of masses. At this time, artists (like everybody else) were confronted with a choice. Many took the wrong turn — towards an isolationism, towards a “renunciation of reality.” One art historian explains this as the end of approximately 400 years of art history that had been till then, steadily moving towards a goal of more and better “reality.” In its place was substituted a “form of existence surpassing and incompatible with reality,” an existence that is “ugly”:

“The great reactionary movement of the century takes effect in the realm of art as a rejection of impressionism change which, in some respects, forms a deeper incision in the history of art than all the changes of style since the Renaissance, leaving the artistic tradition of naturalism fundamentally unaffected. It is true that there had always been a swinging to and fro between formalism and anti-formalism, but the function of art being true to life and faithful to nature bad never been questioned in principle since the Middle Ages. In this respect impressionism was the climax and the end of a development which had lasted more than four hundred years. Post-impressionist art is the first to renounce all illusion of reality on principle and to express its outlook on life by the deliberate deformation of natural objects. Cubism, constructivism, futurism, expressionism, dadaism, and surrealism turn away with equal determination from nature-bound and reality-affirming impressionism.

But impressionism itself prepares the ground for this development in so far as it does not aspire to an integrating description of reality, to a confrontation of the subject with the objective world as a whole, but marks rather the beginning of that process which has been called the “annexation” of reality by art (Andre Malraux: Psychologie de l’art). Post-impressionist art can no longer be called in any sense a reproduction of nature; its relationship to nature is one of violation. We can speak at most of a kind of magic naturalism, of the production of objects which exist alongside reality, but do not wish to take its place. Confronted with the works of Braque, Chagall, Rouault, Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Salvador Dali, we always feel that, for all their differences, we are in a second world, a super-world which, however many features of ordinary reality it may still display, represents a form of existence surpassing and incompatible with this reality. Modern art is, however, anti-impressionistic in yet another respect: it is a fundamentally “ugly” art, forgoing the euphony, the fascinating forms, tones and colours, of impressionism.”

Hauser, Arnold. “The Social history of Art” — Volume 4: ‘Naturalism, Impressionism, The Film Age'”; New York; nd; p. 229-230.

We will argue that Picasso took the ‘wrong turn” – rejecting realism – only to partially correct himself under the influence of a political realisation of the horrors of war and capitalism.

Picasso forsook his earlier brilliance in works of a realistic nature, to ‘invent’ Cubism. Both Cubism, and other related art movements such as Surrealism, and Dadaism — were pained attempts to come to terms with a rapidly changing society in the midst or the wake of the catastrophes of the First World War. It was the expression of an intense “hopelessness” of man’s possibility of changing anything — for example, averting the First World War. It was also explicitly anti-rational:

“It arose from a mood of disillusionment engendered by the First World War, to which some artists reacted with irony, cynicism, and nihilisim…. the name (French for ‘hobby-horse’) was chosen by inserting a penknife at random in the pages of a dictionary, thus symbolizing the anti-rational stance of the movement. Those involved in it emphasised the illogical and the absurd, and exaggerated the role of chance in artistic creation…… its techniques involving accident and chance were of great importance to the Surrealists and … later Abstract Expressionists”;

I. Chilvers, H. Osborne, D. Farr. “Oxford Dictionary of Art”; Oxford; 1977; p.147.

In the 1918 Berlin Dada Manifesto for instance, life is characterised as where:

“Life appears a simultaneous muddle of noises, colours, and spiritual rhythms, which is taken unmodified, with all the sensational screams and fevers of its reckless everyday psyche and with all its brutal reality.”

Cork, Richard “A Bitter Truth — Avant Garde Art & The Great War; London 1994; p.257.

Dadaism involved a “nihilism” [“”total rejection of current religious beliefs or morals.. A form of scepticism, involving the denial of all existence,” “Shorter Oxford English Dictionary” Volume 2; Oxford 1973; ; p.1404.]. The nihilism of these movements “not only questions the value of art but of the whole human situation. For, as it is stated in another of its manifestos, “measured by the standard of eternity, all human action is futile”:

“The historical importance of dadaism and surrealism (lies)…. in the fact that they draw attention to the blind alley …. at the end of the symbolist movement, to the sterility of a literary convention which no longer had any connection with real life …. Mallarme and the symbolists thought that every idea that occurred to them was the expression of their innermost nature; it was a mystical belief in the “magic of the word” which made them poets. The dadaists and the surrealists now doubt whether anything objective, external, formal, rationally organized is capable of expressing man at all, but they also doubt the value of such expression. It is really “inadmissible” – they think, that a man should leave a trace behind him. (Andre Breton: Les Pas perdus, 1924). Dadaism, therefore, replaces the nihilism of aesthetic culture by a new nihilism, which not only questions the value of art but of the whole human situation. For, as it is stated in one of its manifestos, “measured by the standard of eternity, all human action is futile.” (Tristn Tzara: Sept manifestes dada, 1920).”

Hauser, Arnold. “The Social history of Art” — Volume 4: ‘Naturalism, Impressionism, The Film Age'”; New York; nd; p.232-233.

Paradoxically, contrasting to the Dadaists, at least in some ways, Picasso exalted the individual. One can also see in him the epitome of the bourgeois view of an artist as someone obsessed by not only “art,” but of acting the part of “an artiste” – so that their life story is in itself a “work of art.” So Picasso said of artists that what was important was “who they are, not what they did”:

“It is not what the artist does that counts, but what he is. Cezanne would never have interested me a bit if he had lived and thought like Jacquestmile Blanche, even if the apples he had painted had been ten times as beautiful. What forces our interest is Cezanne’s anxiety, that’s Cezanne’s lesson; the torments of Van Gogh – that is the actual drama of the man. The rest is a sham.”

Berger, John.”The Success & Failure of Picasso”; New York; 1980; p.5; quoting Alfred H. Barr; “Picasso: Fifty Years of His Art”; Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1946.

Berger perceptively places Picasso’s exalted view of “artistic creativity” – as a remnant of the Romantics of the 19th century, for whom “art” was a “way of life.” Berger goes on to show that this was a form of a reaction to the bourgeois, monied “Midas” touch — a touch that changes all relations including artistic relations — to one of a mere commerce. While this exaltation of “creativity” was of value to the Romantics, in the 20th century nexus of individual versus masses, this self-centredness could be and was, hideously out of place.

Pablo Picasso – Early Years

Picasso was born in Spain, but lived and worked most of his life in Paris. His artistic mediums included sculpture, graphic arts, ceramics, poster design, as well as fine art. He was probably the most famous and prolific artist of the 20th century. As a son of a painter, he was a precocious master of line, even as a child. It is said that as a baby, is said to have been ‘lapiz’ – pencil. His work incorporated a number of styles, and he denied any logical sequence to his art development:

‘The several manners I have used in my art must not be considered as an evolution, or as steps toward an unknown ideal of painting. When I have found something to express, I have done it without thinking of the past or future. I do not believe I have used radically different elements in the different manners I have used in painting. If the subjects I have wanted to express have suggested different ways of expression, I haven’t hesitated to adopt them.’

I. Chilvers, H. Osborne, D. Farr. “Oxford Dictionary of Art”; Oxford; 1977; p. 431.

At this early stage (1900-1904) Picasso expressed artistic sentiments on behalf of the under-priviliged. For example, during his “Blue Period,” he painted several examples of a realistic and moving art:

“he took his subjects from the poor and social outcasts, the predominant mood of his paintings was one of at bottom opposed to the irrationalist elements of slightly sentimentalized melancholy expressed through cold ethereal blue tones

(La Vie, Cleveland Museum of Art, 1903). He also did a number of powerful engravings in a similar vein (The Frugal Repast, d 1904).” [See below].

I. Chilvers, H. Osborne, D. Farr. “Oxford Dictionary of Art”; Oxford; 1977; p. 431.

Pablo Picasso. “Woman Ironing” (La Repasseuse), 1904.

Pablo Picasso, “Le Repas Frugal,” 1904.

By 1904 Picasso now in Paris, was influenced by the Fauvist movement, as well as African sculpture and Cezanne’s works. He began to distort anatomical forms, in order to “disregard any conventional idea of beauty” (“Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (MOMA, New York, 1906-7)[ See below]. At that time, these results were not viewed favourably, and “d’Avignon” was not publicly exhibited until 1937. But it marked the start of Cubism, which Picasso began with Braque and Gris from 1907 up to the First World War.

Pablo Picasso, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” 1907.

Developing Cubism

So what was Cubism? It was a movement begun by Picasso with Braque, and later Gris, and was named after their tendency to use cubic motifs, as can be seen above:

“Movement in painting and sculpture, … was originated by Picasso and Braque. They worked so closely during this period – ‘roped together like mountaineers’ in Braque’s memorable phrase – that at times it is difficult to differentiate their hands. The movement was broadened by Juan Gris,…he name originated with the critic Louis Vauxcelles (following a mot by Matisse), who, in a review of the Braque exhibition in the paper Gil Blas, 14 November 1908, spoke of ‘cubes’ and later of ‘bizarreries cubiques.'”

I.Chilvers, H. Osborne, D. Farr. “Oxford Dictionary of Art”; Oxford; 1977; p. 144.

The cubists rejected an “apparent” reality to be conveyed by normal rules of perspective and modelling. They aimed to show all sides of reality, by displaying a moving history of how objects look over time, and from simultaneously observed but differing, vantage points. It was a “cerebral” exercise therefore, and it rejected any simple notion of how “an object looked”:

“Cubism made a radical departure from the idea of art as the imitation of nature that had dominated European painting and sculpture since the Renaissance. Picasso and Braque abandoned traditional notions of perspective, foreshortening, and modelling, and aimed to represent solidity and volume in a two-dimensional plane without converting the two-dimensional canvas illusionistically into a three-dimensional picture-space. In so far as they represented real objects, their aim was to depict them as they are known and not as they partially appear at a particular moment and place. For this purpose many different aspects of the object might be depicted simultaneously; the forms of the object were analysed into geometrical planes and these were recomposed from various simultaneous points of view into a combination of forms. To this extent Cubism was and claimed to be realistic, but it was a conceptual realism rather than an optical and Impressionistic realism. Cubism is the outcome of intellectualized rather than spontaneous vision. “

I. Chilvers, H. Osborne, D. Farr. “Oxford Dictionary of Art”; Oxford; 1977; p. 144.

As a movement, following its’ birth with “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”, it rapidly evolved into other movements — but it was one of the key sources of abstractionism in art:

“The harbinger of the new style was Picasso’s celebrated picture Les Demoiselles d`Avignon (MOMA, New York, 1907), with its angular and fractured forms. It is customary to divide the Cubism of Picasso and Braque into two phases-Analytical’ and ‘Synthetic’. In the first and more austere phase, which lasted until 1912, forms were analysed into predominantly geometrical structures and colour was extremely subdued-usually virtually monochromatic – so as not to be a distraction. In the second phase colour became much stronger and shapes more decorative, and elements such as stencilled lettering and pieces of newspaper were introduced into paintings…Cubism, as well as being one of the principal sources for abstract art, was infinitely adaptable, giving birth to numerous other movements, among them Futurism, Orphism, Purism, and Vorticism…”

I. Chilvers, H. Osborne, D. Farr. “Oxford Dictionary of Art”; Oxford; 1977; p. 144.

But all these new movements propound a view of life that is “form-destroying.” Picasso thus easily flips in and out of several art movements, all the time exploring ever more “un-real” and deconstructed forms. At the same time, he is intent upon eroding any sense of a “unity” – whether of personality, of styles, view of the world etc. All reflect the deep contradictions of 20th century capitalism:

“Cubism and constructivism, on the one side, and expressionism and surrealism, on the other, embody strictly formal and form-destroying tendencies respectively which now appear for the first time side by side in such sharp contradiction. […]

Picasso, who shifts from one of the different stylistic tendencies to the other most abruptly, is at the same time the most representative artist of the present age.

Picasso‘s eclecticism signifies the deliberate destruction of the unity of the personality; his imitations are protests against the cult of originality; his deformation of reality, which is always clothing itself in new forms, in order the more forcibly to demonstrate their arbitrariness, is intended, above all, to confirm the thesis that “nature and art are two entirely dissimilar phenomena.” Picasso turns himself into a conjurer, a juggler, a parodist, [….]

And he disavows not only romanticism, but even the Renaissance, which, with its concept of genius and its idea of the unity of work and style, anticipates romanticism to some extent. He represents a complete break with individualism and subjectivism, the absolute denial of art as the expression of an unmistakable personality. His works are notes and commentaries on reality; they make no claim to be regarded as a picture of a world and a totality, as a synthesis and epitome of existence. Picasso compromises the artistic means of expression by his indiscriminate use of the different artistic styles just as thoroughly and wilfully as do the surrealists by their renunciation of traditional forms. The new century is full of such deep antagonisms, the unity of its outlook on life is so profoundly menaced, that the combination of the furthest extremes, the unification of the greatest contradictions, becomes the main theme, often the only theme, of its art.”

Hauser, Arnold. “The Social history of Art — Naturalism, Impressionism, The Film Age. Volume 4”; New York; nd; p. 233-234.

Since Picasso is so adept technically, he can continue to simply adopt and then drop styles as he pleases. In 1917 Picasso went to Italy, where he was impressed by Classicism, and incorporated some features of so-called “Monumental Classicism” into the work of the 1920’s (Mother and Child), but he also became involved with Surrealism, and with Andre Breton. The surrealists were interested in “irrationalist elements, and exaltation of chance, and equally to the direct realistic reproduction of dream or subconscious material.” I. Chilvers, H. Osborne, D. Farr. “Oxford Dictionary of Art”; Oxford; 1977; p.431.

During this time, he explored images of the Minotaur, the half man half beast drawn from Cretan mythology. Now, the Spanish Civil War erupted. This led to his most famous work, Guernica (Centro Cultural Reina Sofia, Madrid, 1937), which was produced for the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1937 to express horror and revulsion at the destruction by bombing of the Basque capital Guernica during the civil war (1936-9).

By this time, Picasso had already become a very rich man already:

“Picasso was rich. Dealers began to buy his work in 1906. By 1909 he employed a aid with apron and cap to wait at table. In 1912, when he painted a picture on a whitewashed wall in Provence, his dealer thought it was worthwhile demolishing the wall and sending the whole painted piece intact to Paris to be remounted by experts on a wooden panel. In 1919 Picasso moved into a large flat in one of the most fashionable quarters of Paris. In 1930 he bought the seventeenth-century Chateau de Boisgeloup as an alternative residence. From the age of twenty-eight Picasso was free from money worries. From the age of thirty-eight he was wealthy. From the age of sixty-five he has been a millionaire.”

Berger, John.”The Success & Failure of Picasso”; New York; 1980; p.5.

Guernica – The Bombing

On 26 April 1937, the German air force was asked by General Franco to bomb the city of Guernica. This city was the ancient heart of the Basque nation, an oppressed nation within the multi-national state of Spain. It had resisted the Francoite fascists, and Franco was determined to subdue it. The city had no defences, and no military importance. The correspondent of ‘The Times” reported on the destruction:

“Guernica, the most ancient town of the Basques and the centre of their cultural tradition was completely destroyed yesterday afternoon by insurgent air raiders. The bombardment of the open town far behind the lines occupied precisely three hours and quarter, during which a powerful fleet of aeroplanes consisting of three German types, Junkers and Heinkel bombers and Heinkel fighters did not cease unloading on the town bombs. And incendiary projectiles. The fighters, meanwhile, plunged low from above the centre of the town to machine gun those of the civil population who had taken refuge in the fields.

The whole of Guernica was soon in flames, except the historic Casa de Juntas, with its rich archives of the Basque race, where the ancient Basque Parliament used to sit. The famous oak of Guernica, the dried old stump of 600 years and the new shoots of this century, was also untouched. Here the kings of Spain used to take the oath to respect the democratic rights (fueros) of Vizcaya and in return received a promise of allegiance as suzerains with the democratic title of Senor, not Rey Vizcaya.”

Antony Blunt. “Picasso’s Guernica”; Toronto; 1969; Oxford & Toronto, p.7-8.

Perhaps however the real measure of the horror is best given by the first eye-witness account, from a priest — Father Alberto de Onaindia:

“We reached the outskirts of Guernica just before five o’clock. The streets were busy with the traffic of market day. Suddenly we heard the siren, and trembled. People mere running about in all directions, abandoning everything they possessed, some hurrying into the shelters, others running into the hills. Soon an enemy airplane appeared … and when he was directly over the center he dropped three bombs. Immediately airwards we saw a squadron of seven planes, followed a little later by six more, and this in turn by a third squadron of five more. And Guernica was seized by a terrible panic.

I left the car by the side of the road and we took refuge in a storm drain. The water came up to our ankles. From our hiding place we could see everything that happened without being seen. The airplanes came low, flying at two hundred meters. As soon as we could leave our shelter, we ran into the woods, hoping to put a safe distance between us and the enemy. But the airmen saw us and went after us. The leaves hid us. As they did not know exactly where we were, they aimed their machineguns in the direction they thought we were traveling. We heard the bullets ripping through branches and the sinister sound of splintering wood. The milicianos and I followed the flight patterns of the airplanes, and we made a crazy journey through the trees, trying to avoid them. Meanwhile, women, children, and old men were falling in heaps, like flies, and everywhere we saw lakes of blood.

I saw an old peasant standing alone in a field: a machine-gun bullet killed him. For more than an hour these planes, never more than a few hundred meters in altitude, dropped bomb after bomb on Guernica. The sound of the explosions and of the crumbling houses cannot be imagined. Always they traced on the air the same tragic flight pattern, as they flew all over the streets of Guernica. Bombs fell by the thousands. Later we saw bomb craters. Some were sixteen meters in diameter and eight meters deep.

The airplanes left around seven o’clock, and then there came another wave of them, this time flying at an immense altitude. They were dropping incendiary bombs on our martyred city. The new bombardment lasted thirty-five minutes, sufficient to transform the town into an enormous furnace. Even then I realized the terrible purpose of this new act of vandalism. They were dropping incendiary bombs to convince tie world that the Basques had torched their own city. The destruction went on altogether for two hour. and forty-five minutes. When the bombing was over the people left their shelters. I saw no one crying. Stupor was written on all their faces. Eyes fixed on Guernica, we were completely incapable of believing what we saw.”

In Martin, Russell. “Picasso’s War. The Destruction of Guernica, and the Masterpiece that Changed the World”; 2002, New York; p. 40-42.

Colonel Wolfram von Richthofen, commanded the Condor Legion, and planned that first blast bombs would destroy all city-centre buildings; then that the townspeople would be strafed with machine-gun fire; and finally, that incendiary bombs would set fire to the rubble. Four days later, he reported his success:

“Gernika literally levelled to the ground. Attack carried out with 250-kilogram and incendiary bombs-about one-third of the latter. When the first Junker squadron arrived, there was smoke everywhere already [from von Moreau’s first assault]; no, body could identify the targets of roads, bridge, and suburbs, and they just dropped everything right into the center. The 250s toppled houses and destroyed the water mains. The incendiaries now could spread and become effective. The material of the houses: tile roofs, wooden porches, and half-timbering resulted in complete annihilation…. Bomb craters can still be seen in the streets, simply terrific. Town completely blocked off for at least 24 hours, perfect conditions for a great victory, if only the troops had followed through.”

In Martin, Russell. “Picasso’s War. The Destruction of Guernica, and the Masterpiece that Changed the World”; 2002, New York; p. 42-43.

Russell Martin points to the innovative strategy that was utlized of air-raid induced terror:

“The three-hour campaign had been efficient, accurate, highly effective, and it was precisely what was proscribed in German military strategist M.K.L. Dertzen’s Grundsdtze der Wehrpolitik, which had been published two years before and which von Richthofen had taken very much to heart: “If cities are destroyed by flames, if women and children are victims of suffocating gases, if the population in open cities far from the front perish due to bombs dropped from planes, it will be impossible for the enemy to continue the war. Its citizens will plead for an immediate end to hostilities.”

In Martin, Russell. “Picasso’s War. The Destruction of Guernica, and the Masterpiece that Changed the World”; 2002, New York; p. 42-43.

Guernica – The Painting

Picasso had not been especially political up to this time, although as a youth in Barcelona the vigorous anarchist movements there had influenced him. But with the onset of the Spanish Civil War, Picasso took sides. In May 1937 he made his position clear in a public statement:

“The Spanish struggle is the fight of reaction against the people, against freedom. My whole life as an artist has been nothing more than a continuous struggle against reaction and the death of art. How could anybody think for a moment that I could be in agreement with reaction and death? When the rebellion began, the legally elected and democratic republican government of Spain appointed me director of the Prado Museum, a post which I immediately accepted. In the panel on which I am working which I shall call Guernica, and in all my recent works of art, I clearly express my abhorrence of the military caste which has sunk Spain in an ocean of pain and death…”

Barr, Alfred. “Picasso: Fifty Years of His Art”; New York; 1946; p.202; cited by Blunt A; Ibid; p. 9.

“‘No: painting is not there just to decorate the walls of a flat. It is a means of waging offensive and defensive war against the enemy.”
Cited at:

He immediately did a pair of etchings entitled Sueho y mentira de Franco (‘Dream and Lie of Franco) which he issued with an accompanying poem.

Picasso, “Dream and Lie of Franco,” 1937.

In January 1937, the Republican elected Government, invited Picasso to paint a mural for the Spanish Pavilion in the International Exhibition of Paris in 1938. Following the bombing of Guernica, Picasso worked in a frenzy completing the huge work in ten days.

The cover of “Alliance Marxist-Leninist” Issue 52 shows the painting. But for a larger view go here:

Web-site for Guernica at:

Picasso, “Guernica,” 1937.

Blunt describes the large canvas as follows:

“The painting is on canvas and measures 11 ft. 6 in. by 25 ft. 8 in. It is almost monochrome, that is to say, it is executed in various shades of grey, varying from a completely neutral tint to slightly purplish and bluish greys at one extreme, and brownish greys at the other.

The scene takes place in darkness, in an open space surrounded by schematically indicated buildings, which presumably stand for a public square in the town of Guernica. At the top is a strange lamp in the form of an eye, with an electric bulb as the iris.

The actors in the scene fall into two groups. The active protagonists are three animals – the bull, the wounded horse, and the winged bird just visible in the left background-and two human beings, the dead soldier, and the woman above and to the right, who leans out of a window and holds out a lamp to illuminate the whole stage. They are accompanied by a sort of Greek chorus of three women: the screaming mother carrying a dead baby on the left, the woman rushing in from the right, and above her one falling in a house which is collapsing in flames.
These figures – human and animal – and the symbolism attached to them were not evolved at a single blow but have a long and complicated history, not only in the work of Picasso himself but in European art of earlier periods.”

Blunt, Antony, “Picasso’s Guernica”; Toronto; 1969 OUP, p.13

Apart from a general sense of horror -what does it all mean? What are the bull and the horse doing here so prominently?

“As regards the meaning of the picture, Picasso has only supplied a slight clue about the central symbols. The horse, he said in an interview, represents the people, and the bull brutality and darkness. When pressed by his interlocutor to say whether he meant that the bull stood for Fascism, he refused to agree and stuck to his original statement. … These indications are tantalizingly slender, but it is possible, by a study of Picasso’s previous work, particularly in the 1930’s, to deduce more about the symbols used in Guernica and about the artist’s intentions in general. The central theme, the conflict between bull and horse, is one which has interested the artist all his life…”

Blunt, Antony, “Picasso’s Guernica”; Toronto; 1969; p.14.

Prior to Guernica, Picasso had long been depicting battles between good and evil, where the Minotaur takes a prominent place. But these symbolic interpretations are much less important than the overall first impact – of the weeping women. There can be little doubt that any spectator who is first shown this picture more likely reacts immediately to the wailing women – one with an obviously dead child, one in a burning house, and the dead or gravely injured soldier holding a weapon who is being trampled by a terrified horse. The general effect is one of a terrible searing scene. Moreover, an original draft had an equally potent image – a clenched fist:

“In…the drawing of 9 May…the main interest is now focused on the dead soldier, who fills the whole left-hand part of the foreground, lying with his head on the right, his left hand clasping a broken sword,” his right arm raised and his fist clenched. That is to say, Picasso has taken the theme of the raised arm with clenched fist, which in the drawing played a quite minor part in a corner of the composition, and has given it a completely new significance by attaching it to the central figure of the composition. The arm of the soldier now forms a strong vertical, which is emphasized by the axis of the lamp, continued downwards in a line cutting across the body of the horse, and by another vertical line drawn arbitrarily to the left of the arm. The vertical strip thus formed is made the basis of the geometrical scheme on which the composition is built up.”

Blunt, Antony: “Picasso’s Guernica”; Toronto; 1969 OUP, p.39.

The drawing can be seen at:

Picasso, “Guernica,” original sketch, 1937.

However Picasso then removed the raised arm. Why? What we can be sure of is that at that time Picasso was not associated with the Communist party, and the symbol of the clenched fist was and is – an explicitly communist one. Therefore, the overall sense of the painting remains one of a horror — and not that of a RESISTANCE to the hells of war.

And naturally, the “distortions of forms” – the late Picasso speciality – remains. But — having said that – what impact has the painting had on the numerous people who have seen it or its reproduction? An interesting experience is to watch those who are looking at this gigantic painting – they are mesmerised and yet, horrified at the same time.

There is absolutely no doubt that the picture has become iconic in its symbolic rejection of war and the brutal inhumanity of war.

For those who might still be sceptical of this viewpoint, it should be remembered that during the prelude to the inhumane, and illegal 2003 war against Iraq, a tapestry copy of “Guernica” – that hangs in the foyer at the United Nations HQ at New York, was shrouded during televised interviews.

Why does it seem that this painting evokes such resonant feelings? After all, it is in its form-distortions – anti-realistic. In fact “abstract” painting rarely evokes a “positive” audience reaction. Recall for instance the furore as the “critics” – the servants of the capitalist classes waxed eloquent about the piles of bricks at the Tate – the public roared its’ incomprehension and its’ disapproval. But this has not ever happened with “Guernica.” Why?

It is possible that people have become simply more visually sophisticated than they used to be – under the influence of mass printings. Or possibly the knowledge of what happened at Guernica is so widespread – that people can make a quick connection between the intent of the painting – despite the distortion of forms. But, a third point has to be made. That is that perhaps despite the bias of the painter, whose loyalty to “form-distortion” was so deep – it is in fact pretty “realistic.” The horse screaming in agony is – evidently just that. The women howling – can be heard. The heat on the woman burning the bomber house – is felt scorching us. The sounds of the horse trampling on the dead soldier – are bone-jarringly “real.”

Maybe Picasso was a “cubist.” But he left his intellectualised system to one side when he painted this picture.

Picasso also made other great paintings that attacked war, [See “The Charnel House”; MOMA, New York, 1945] and the later Korean War [“Korean women and children being butchered by white men – Massacre in Korea” – see below:]

Pablo Picasso, “Massacre in Korea,” 1951.

All show marked “form-distortion,” but they nonetheless, do convey a clear message. In fact, the non-realistic pictures do resonate. The editors of the “Oxford Dictionary,” claim that:

“In treating such themes Picasso universalized the emotional content by an elaboration of the techniques of expression which had been developed through his researches into Cubism.”

I. Chilvers, H. Osborne, D. Farr. “Oxford Dictionary of Art”; Oxford; 1977; p. 144.

Clearly, these works are not ‘realist’ in any usual meaning, but their meaning is surely explicit. So — are these propagandist posters, or are they art? We would argue that they are more within the realm of progressive propaganda. But, the boundary line is certainly very narrow.

Impact of Picasso and Guernica on Russian Discussions Upon Socialist Realist Art

A mythology prevails, that there was no discussion – nor knowledge of Western art movements in the socialist years of the USSR (up to 1953). But this is patently false, as there is absolutely no doubt that the Russian artistic scene, was affected by currents in the West. Indeed, the height of knowledge and sensible debates about these various movements is the lie to the general bourgeois line that “there was no debate” and “purely dictatorship” in the USSR. Artistic events in the West were treated very seriously and openly. Undoubtedly post-Second World War there was a renewed debate about the principles of “Socialist Realism”:

“At the ninth plenum of the orgkomitet (Organising Committee of the Union of Soviet Artists) held May 1945, some of speakers from the floor brought up the question of innovation in painting, suggesting a new openness to questions of form…Even court painters and official spokesmen of socialist realism appeared with new faces. The critic V Gaposhkin made a visit to Alexandr Gerasimov’s studio and praised highly his unfinished painting of “A Russian Communal Bath’ – a major composition of female nudes with no ideological pretext (plate 230).

That the mood among some artists and critics, was distinctly rebellious may be may be gleaned from a lecture, entitled ‘The Problem of the ‘Impressionism & the problem of the Kartina’, delivered by Nikolai Punin to the Leningrad artists’ union on 13 April 1946 – and from the reaction to it.

Punin’s address was an attempt to install impressionism as the basis for the work of Soviet painters; it amounted not only to a revision of the attitude to impressionism which had been imposed in the art press after the debates of 1939-40, but also to a rejection of some of the entrenched principles of socialist realism. He stressed the variety apparent in the painting of the impressionists extolled them as ‘honest’ and ‘contemporary’. He criticised the characterisation of impressionism as some kind of a system…”

Cullerne Bown, Matthew. “Socialist Realist Painting”; New Haven; 1998; p.223.

Picasso and his evident partisanship, as expressed in “Guernica” became a part of the debate in the USSR:

“At the discussion on 26 April the artist Petr Mazepov pointed out that impressionism led to the formalist art of cubism and fauvism, in which ‘there is no social struggle, the class soul, the party soul, the great soul of the people is absent’. At this point Mazepov was interrupted from the floor: ‘And Picasso?’ ‘And Cezanne?” And ” Guernica, he’s a Communist, a party member.” A little later Mazepov was interrupted again: ‘An artist doesn’t have to take up a proletarian position to express his idea’. [….]

Over the course of both days’ debate, Punin received broad support from well-known Leningrad painters such as Pakulin and Traugot, and from voices from the floor. He summed up on 3 May: ‘If we take cubism or futurism, if we take the work of Picasso, then I personally do not see any formalism in this.’”

Cullerne Bown, Matthew. “Socialist Realist Painting”; New Haven; 1998; p.223.

Punin’s denial of “formalism: in the works of cubism, or futurism – is untenable. Punin was using the works of the 1930’s of Picasso, that had already mutated away from “non-realistic” painting. Actually, it is very telling that the argument “What about Guernica?” – could be used in the midst of this discussion. Even the staunchest supporter of the principles of socialist realism in the USSR, simply had to concede that the painting had emotional power. But the use of Picasso’s open allegiance, by various revisionist sections of the French Communist party even more blatantly.

Post Second World War – ‘Becoming a communist, Picasso hoped to come out of exile’.

Already, his painting of Guernica had shown that Picasso was a republican. During the war years, he stayed in Nazi occupied Paris. On the liberation of Europe, Picasso was to show very publicly his allegiance to the Communist party:

“On October 4 1944, less than six weeks after the liberation of Paris, Pablo Picasso, then 63, joined the French Communist party. To his surprise, the news covered more than half of the front page of the next day’s L’Humanité, the party’s official newspaper, overshadowing reports of the war…….. “Shortly after, in an interview for L’Humanité, Picasso claimed that he had always fought, through the weapons of his art, like a true revolutionary. But he also said that the experience of the second world war had taught him that it was not sufficient to manifest political sympathies under the veil of mythologising artistic expression.

‘I have become a communist because our party strives more than any other to know and to build the world, to make men clearer thinkers, more free and more happy. I have become a communist because the communists are the bravest in France, in the Soviet Union, as they are in my own country, Spain. While I wait for the time when Spain can take me back again, the French Communist party is a fatherland for me. In it I find again all my friends – the great scientists Paul Langevin and Frédéric Joliot-Curie, the great writers Louis Aragon and Paul Eluard, and so many of the beautiful faces of the insurgents of Paris. I am again among brothers.'”

Five days after joining the party Picasso appeared at a ceremony at the Père Lachaise cemetery, organised as a joint memorial for those killed during the Commune of 1871 and in the Nazi occupation of Paris.”

Gertje R Utley. “Picasso was one of the most valued members of the French Communist party – until a portrait of Stalin put him at the centre of an ideological row”. October 21, 2000 The Guardian;,3605,385610,00.html

Elsewhere he rhetorically asked:

“Have not the Communists been the bravest in France, in the Soviet Union, and in my own Spain? How could I have hesitated? The fear to commit myself? But on the contrary I have never felt freer, never felt more complete. And then I have been so impatient to find a country again: I have always been an exile, now I am no longer one: whilst waiting for Spain to be able to welcome me back, the French Communist Party have opened their arms to me, and I have found there all whom I respect most, the greatest thinkers, the greatest poets, and all the faces of the Resistance fighters in Paris whom I saw and were so beautiful during those August days; again I am among my brothers.”

Berger, John.”The Success & Failure of Picasso”; New York; 1980; p.173.

His allegiance extended to numerous art-related activities. His efforts were recognised by a Stalin Prize, for his famous Poster for Peace, using the image of a dove [See below].

“He also presided over the infamous gathering of the Comité Directeur du Front National des Arts, which drew up the list of artists to be purged for collaborationist activities during the occupation. In 1950 he was awarded the Stalin prize for his involvement in the Mouvement de la Paix, for which he had designed the emblem of a dove. The movement, … was inaugurated in Wroclaw under the aegis of Andrey Zhdanov, secretary of the Soviet central committee.”

Gertje R Utley. Ibid;. October 21, 2000 The Guardian;,3605,385610,00.html

In addition he was lavish with his money:

“he generously donated time and money to the FCP and associated organisations. He marched with the Front National des Intellectuels and the Front National Universitaire and accepted honorary positions on boards and in organisations. His contributions mostly took the form of paintings donated for sale. In November 1956 alone, the dealer Kahnweiler wrote that he gave on Picasso’s behalf a cheque for FFr3m for Christmas gifts for Enfants des Fusillés de la Résistance, FFr500,000 for the Comité de la Paix, FFr300,000 for the Patriote de Toulouse, FFr750,000 more for the children of war victims and FFr3m (half a million more than the previous year) for a yearly Communist party event. (To give some perspective to these figures, Chrysler bought Picasso’s Le Charnier in 1954 for FFr5m.) “

Gertje R Utley. Ibid;. October 21, 2000 The Guardian;,3605,385610,00.html

So upon Stalin’s death, it was not un-expected that he would be asked to paint his picture. He had pervasively been asked – on Stalin’s 70th birthday – and refused. This time he agreed. However an orchestrated campaign of vilification suggested that the portrait was “an affront to Stalin” as it “neglected to reflect the emotions of the people.” Picasso had wanted a portrait of “a man of the people.” The French Communist Party was of course under revisionist control at this time. As we have previously described, the revisionists wished to perpetuate a “cult of personality.” Picasso had reverted to a “realistic” style, at a most inconvenient time for them, and in a most inconvenient manner. He “had to be rebuked”:

“In 1953…Stalin died on March 5. Aragon and editor Pierre Daix were preparing an issue of the communist journal “Les Lettres Françaises” when the news broke. Aragon immediately sent a telegram to Picasso. … requesting a drawing of Stalin. Daix and Gilot knew that Picasso, who until then had successfully foiled any hope that he would paint a portrait of Stalin, could not refuse this time. The artist’s homage for Stalin’s 70th birthday in 1949 had been nothing more than a drawing of a glass raised to the dictator’s health, which had shocked the party faithful with its breezy caption, “Staline à ta santé.” [….]

He seems to have used old newspaper photographs as a reference. The portrait shows the young Stalin, face framed by thick, cropped hair, mouth partly hidden under a bushy moustache. The eyes under the strong eyebrows are those of a dreamer and offset by the prominent jawline. Picasso told Geneviève Laporte. [….] that he had wanted to show Stalin as a man of the people, without his uniform and decorations. [….] Aragon and Daix were relieved to find the portrait to their liking. Daix opted for the neutral caption “Staline par Pablo Picasso, March 8 1953”. [….]

The first negative reaction came from the employees of France Nouvelle and L’Humanité, the two papers that shared the same building as Les Lettres françaises, who were appalled by what they considered an affront to Stalin. Daix suspected – correctly, as it turned out – that this was instigated by the party leaders, who saw publication of the portrait as an incursion against the personality cult, and by Auguste Lecur, hardline party secretary, who welcomed this opportunity to chastise Aragon and Les Lettres françaises for the relative independence they claimed. [….]

From the moment the paper appeared at kiosks on March 12, the editorial offices were flooded with outraged calls. On March 18 1953, a damaging communiqué appeared in L’Humanité from the secretariat of the French Communist party, “categorically” disapproving publication of the portrait “by comrade Picasso”.  [….] Aragon was obliged to publish the communiqué in the following issue of Les Lettres françaises, as well as a self-criticism in L’Humanité. The major reproach [….] was that the portrait neglected to reflect the emotions of the public – “the love that the working class feel for the regretted comrade Stalin and for the Soviet Union” – and that it did not do justice to the moral, spiritual, and intellectual personality of Stalin.“

Gertje R Utley. Ibid;. October 21, 2000 The Guardian;,3605,385610,00.html

But Picasso refused to rise to the bait, and refused to attack the party.

“Picasso, besieged by journalists eager to have him admit that his portrait sought to mock Stalin, refuted any such suggestion. nor did the attacks against him entice Picasso to disparage the party, as some had hoped. “Despite various reports that quoted Picasso as saying that one did not criticise the flowers that were sent to the funeral or the tears that were shed, Gilot [Picassos’ then lover — editor] recalled a more detached attitude. According to her, Picasso replied that aesthetic matters were debatable, that therefore it was the party’s right to criticise him and that he saw no need to politicise the issue. “You’ve got the same situation in the party as in any big family,” he said. “There is always some damn fool to stir up trouble, but you have to put up with him.”

Gertje R Utley. Ibid;. October 21, 2000 The Guardian;,3605,385610,00.html


In private, Picasso gave a rather amusing — if somewhat coarse — attack on the bureaucratic slavish mentality behind this imbroglio:

“In conversation with Daix, who was sent by Aragon to appease him, Picasso speculated:

“Can you imagine if I had done the real Stalin, such as he has become, with his wrinkles, his pockets under the eyes, his warts. A portrait in the style of Cranach! Can you hear them scream? ‘He has disfigured Stalin! He has aged Stalin!'” He continued: “And then too, I said to myself, why not a Stalin in heroic nudity? Yes, but, Stalin nude, and what about his virility? If you take the pecker of the classical sculptor… So small… But, come on, Stalin, he was a true male, a bull. So then, if you give him the phallus of a bull, and you’ve got this little Stalin behind his big thing they’ll cry: But you’ve made him into a sex maniac! A satyr!

“Then if you are a true realist you take your tape measure and you measure it all properly. That’s worse, you made Stalin into an ordinary man. And then, as you are ready to sacrifice yourself, you make a plaster cast of your own thing. Well, it’s even worse. What, you dare take yourself for Stalin! After all, Stalin, he must have had an erection all the time, just like the Greek statues… Tell me, you who knows socialist realism, is that Stalin with an erection or without an erection?”

When in the summer of 1954 (after Stalin’s death) Picasso, thinking aloud, asked Daix: “Don’t you think that soon they will find that my portrait is too nice?” On another occasion, he reflected: “Fortunately I drew the young Stalin. The old one never existed. Only for the official painters.”

Gertje R Utley. Ibid;. October 21, 2000 The Guardian;,3605,385610,00.html

What is even more interesting — is that despite his “saison en enfer” (season in hell) — Picasso never recanted his allegiance to the party. Even with the social-imperialists attacks on both Hungary (1956) or Czechoslovakia (1968):

“Picasso later called the year 1953 his “saison en enfer” — his season in hell. He admitted to some friends how shaken he had been by the accusations and humiliations of the scandal. The year is widely believed to signal the end of Picasso’s political commitment. Yet while his cooperation with the party was never again as close as it had been in the years 1944-53, his commitment did not stop. He continued to produce drawings for the press and for poster designs, made supportive appearances at party events, and readily signed petitions and protest declarations initiated by the party. He also never discontinued his financial support. While many left because of the party’s attitude during the Hungarian uprising in 1956, Picasso reaffirmed his loyalty. In an interview with the art critic Carlton Lake in July 1957, he once again confirmed his belief in communism and his intention never to leave the party. In 1962 he was awarded the Lenin prize. In August 1968, speaking with friends, he deplored the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, but failed to do so publicly. At the end of that year, he refused once again to speak out against his long-held political beliefs.‘

Gertje R Utley. Ibid;. October 21, 2000 The Guardian;,3605,385610,00.html

He clearly believed the lies of the revisionist Khruschev, given out at this so-called “secret speech.” But he asked whether “And the workers, are they still masters of their factories, and the peasants, the owners of their land?”:

“After Khrushchev’s “secret speech” at the 20th congress of the Soviet Union’s Communist party, in February 1956, in which he reported on the crimes of Stalin’s tyranny, it became impossible for anybody to claim ignorance. Picasso apparently was appalled: “While they asked you to do ever more for the happiness of men… they hung this one and tortured that one. And those were innocents. Will this change? Picasso’s response to detrimental news from the Soviet Union was: “And the workers, are they still masters of their factories, and the peasants, the owners of their land? Well then, everything else is secondary – the only thing that matters is to save the revolution”.

Gertje R Utley. Ibid;. October 21, 2000 The Guardian;,3605,385610,00.html

His answer was the workers were still in charge. Of course he was tragically wrong. But then – he was an artist, albeit a flawed one, always twisting away from reality. In the end he was somewhat “straightened” by his late found political allegiance. But – he was still only an artist – and not a political theorist or leader of the working classes. What in an artist is excusable, is inexcusable in those who claim to be “leaders of the vanguard of the working class.” Therefore we will agree, if we are charged that we view Picasso with a benign eye. We would simply counter that this is the same “benign eye” that Marx turned on artists in general, saying of the poet Ferdinand Freiligarth for instance:

“Write Freiligarth a friendly letter. nor need you be over-careful of paying him compliments, for poets, even the best of them, are all plus au moins [more or less], courtisanes and il faut les cajoler, pour les faire chanter [one must cajole them to make them sing]…

A poet, whatever he may be as an homme (man), needs applause and ADMIRATION. This I believe, peculiar to the genre as such. you should not forget the difference between a “poet” and a “critic.'”

Marx to Joseph Weydemeyer, January 16, 1852. Volume 39: Collected Works; Moscow; 1983; p.8.

See also Marx and Engels on Art at:

Equally, we cannot accept the line of John Berger, who writes:

“But as an artist with all his powers he was nevertheless wasted.”

Oddly, Berger writes this despite having already pointed out that Picasso had renewed himself by joining the party:

“As a result of Picasso’s joining the Communist Party and taking part in the peace movement, his fame spread even wider than before. His name was quoted in all the socialist countries. His poster of the peace dove was seen on millions of walls and expressed the hopes of all but a handful of the people of the world. The dove became a true symbol: not so much as a result of Picasso’s power as an artist (the drawing of the dove is evocative but superficial), but rather as a result of the power of the movement which Picasso was serving. It needed a symbol and it claimed Picasso’s drawing. That this happened is something of which Picasso can be rightly proud. He contributed positively to the most important struggle of our time. He made further posters and drawings. He lent his name and reputation again and again to encourage others to protest against the threat of nuclear war. He was in a position to use his art as a means of influencing people politically, and, in so far as he was able, he chose to do this consciously and intelligently. I cannot believe that he was in any way mistaken or that he chose the wrong political path.”

Berger, John.”The Success & Failure of Picasso”; New York; 1980; p.173-5.

Well, Picasso bloomed anew with the power of the peoples’ vision. How can Berger recognising this, then say that Picasso was wasted artistically? In the last period of his life, apart from the posters and the variations on the dove of peace he did, Picasso really only painted upon the ceramics made by others. In contrast to Berger, we might suggest that it was his political artistic work, that kept him “artistically alive.”


We argue that Picasso ultimately was on the side of the working classes. A “champagne socialist” he may have been – but he did not need to do what he did. As to the worth of his art – where he retained realist images and forms, he showed a power that people understood. But he was constantly reverting to decadent forms and images that placed at an immediate distance between the people and his art. At his best, he moved people.

And in that troubling work – “Guernica” – he undoubtedly has moved and affected generations who have seen it. Again, it is patently, not a piece of “socialist art,” but despite its obvious anti-realist forms, it conveys a very real, and realistic message: “Down With War!”


Used In this article
Berger, John.”The Success & Failure of Picasso”; New York; 1980;
Blunt, Antony. “Picasso’s Guernica”; Toronto; 1969.
Chilvers, I; H. Osborne, D. Farr. “Oxford Dictionary of Art”; Oxford; 1977;
Cork, Richard “A Bitter Truth — Avant Garde Art & The Great War; London 1994; Cullerne Bown, Matthew. “Socialist Realist Painting”; New Haven;1998;
Hauser, Arnold. “The Social history of Art” — Volume 4: ‘Naturalism, Impressionism, The Film Age'”; New York; nd;
Martin, Russell. “Picasso’s War. The Destruction of Guernica, and the Masterpiece that Changed the World”; 2002, New York.
Marx to Joseph Weydemeyer, January 16, 1852. Volume 39: Collected Works; Moscow; 1983.
Utley, Gertje R. “Picasso was one of the most valued members of the French Communist party – until a portrait of Stalin put him at the centre of an ideological row.” October 21, 2000 The Guardian;,3605,385610,00.html

Utley Gertje R “Picasso: The Communist Years”; Yale University Press, 2000.

Websites (NB: All web addresses were correct at time of writing).
“On Line Picasso Project” – a very comprehensive site on Picasso and his works.

Art and war – a wonderful site:


Djibouti: Chinese troops depart for first overseas military base

The Chinese navy has visited Djibouti previously, with a ship docking at the tiny African nation’s port in 2015

Ships carrying Chinese troops are heading to Djibouti to set up Beijing’s first overseas military base, reports state media.

China says the support base will be used for peacekeeping and humanitarian aid in Africa and West Asia.

It will also be used for military co-operation, naval exercises and rescue missions, Xinhua said.

China has ramped up investment in Africa, as well as rapidly modernised its military in recent years.

The Xinhua report said the ships departed from the port city of Zhanjiang in China’s southern Guangdong province on Tuesday.

It did not specify the number of troops or ships that departed for Djibouti, nor when the base would start operations.

The report said the Djibouti base came after “friendly negotiations” between the two countries. Previous reports said construction began last year.

The base is widely seen as a move by China to stake its military presence in the region.

But an editorial (in Chinese) on Wednesday in the state-run Global Times said that the “essential purpose of China’s development of its military might is to protect ‘China’s safety’, and is not about seeking to control the world”.

The newspaper pointed out that the US, Japan and France also have military bases in Djibouti.

Djibouti, a tiny country at the Horn of Africa, is favoured for its location as it sits near a busy shipping route. It is also seen as a stable country in an otherwise volatile region.

China has invested in a railway that connects Djibouti to the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa

In 2015, at a major summit with African nations, China pledged to invest $60bn(then £40bn) in Africa’s development.

Besides becoming the continent’s largest trading partner, it has also poured in funds and manpower for infrastructure projects.

Many of them are railways linking up African countries, including one that connects Djibouti with the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, as well as railways in Angola, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia.

In return, Africa supplies China with natural resources, minerals and energy.

China also embarked on its first foreign peacekeeping mission in South Sudan in 2015.



V.I. Lenin to American Workers

“The American people have a revolutionary tradition which has been adopted by the best representatives of the American proletariat, who have repeatedly expressed their complete solidarity with us Bolsheviks. That tradition is the war of liberation against the British in the eighteenth century and the Civil War in the nineteenth century. In some respects, if we only take into consideration the “destruction” of some branches of industry and of the national economy, America in 1870 was behind 1860. But what a pedant, what an idiot would anyone be to deny on these grounds the immense, world-historic, progressive and revolutionary significance of the American Civil War of 1863-65!

The representatives of the bourgeoisie understand that for the sake of overthrowing Negro slavery, of overthrowing the rule of the slaveowners, it was worth letting the country go through long years of civil war, through the abysmal ruin, destruction and terror that accompany every war. But now, when we are confronted with the vastly greater task of overthrowing capitalist wage-slavery, of overthrowing the rule of the bourgeoisie—now, the representatives and defenders of the bourgeoisie, and also the reformist socialists who have been frightened by the bourgeoisie and are shunning the revolution, cannot and do not want to understand that civil war is necessary and legitimate.

The American workers will not follow the bourgeoisie. They will be with us, for civil war against the bourgeoisie. The whole history of the world and of the American labour movement strengthens my conviction that this is so. I also recall the words of one of the most beloved leaders of the American proletariat, Eugene Debs, who wrote in the Appeal to Reason,[4] I believe towards the end of 1915, in the article “What Shall I Fight For” (I quoted this article at the beginning of 1916 at a public meeting of workers in Berne, Switzerland)[5]—that he, Debs, would rather be shot than vote credits for the present criminal and reactionary war; that he, Debs, knows of only one holy and, from the proletarian standpoint, legitimate war, namely: the war against the capitalists, the war to liberate mankind from wage-slavery.

I am not surprised that Wilson, the head of the American multimillionaires and servant of the capitalist sharks, has thrown Debs into prison. Let the bourgeoisie be brutal to the true internationalists, to the true representatives of the revolutionary proletariat! The more fierce and brutal they are, the nearer the day of the victorious proletarian revolution.

We are blamed for the destruction caused by our revolution. . . . Who are the accusers? The hangers-on of the bourgeoisie, of that very bourgeoisie who, during the four years of the imperialist war, have destroyed almost the whole of European culture and have reduced Europe to barbarism, brutality and starvation. These bourgeoisie now demand we should not make a revolution on these ruins, amidst this wreckage of culture, amidst the wreckage and ruins created by the war, nor with the people who have been brutalised by the war. How humane and righteous the bourgeoisie are!

Their servants accuse us of resorting to terror. . . . The British bourgeoisie have forgotten their 1649, the French bourgeoisie have forgotten their 1793. Terror was just and legitimate when the bourgeoisie resorted to it for their own benefit against feudalism. Terror became monstrous and criminal when the workers and poor peasants dared to use it against the bourgeoisie! Terror was just and legitimate when used for the purpose of substituting one exploiting minority for another exploiting minority. Terror became monstrous and criminal when it began to be used for the purpose of overthrowing every exploiting minority, to be used in the interests of the vast actual majority, in the interests of the proletariat and semi-proletariat, the working class and the poor peasants!”

– V.I. Lenin, “Letter to American Workers”

J.V. Stalin on Industry in Colonial Countries

“Some comrades think that industrialization implies the development of any kind of industry. There are even some queer fellows who believe that Ivan the Terrible was an industrialist, because in his day he created certain embryonic industries. If we follow this line of argument, then Peter the Great should be styled the first industrialist. That, of course, is untrue. Not every kind of industrial development is industrialisation. The centre of industrialisation, the basis for it, is the development of heavy industry (fuel, metal, etc.), the development, in the last analysis, of the production of the means of production, the development of our own machine-building industry. Industrialisation has the task not only of increasing the share of manufacturing industry in our national economy as a whole; it has also the task, within this development, of ensuring economic independence for our country, surrounded as it is by capitalist states, of safeguarding it from being converted into an appendage of world capitalism. Encircled as it is by capitalism, the land of the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot remain economically independent if it does not itself produce instruments and means of production in its own country, if it remains stuck at a level of development where it has to keep its national economy tethered to the capitalistically developed countries, which produce and export instruments and means of production. To get stuck at that level would be to put, ourselves in subjection to world capital.

Take India. India, as everyone knows, is a colony. Has India an industry? It undoubtedly has. Is it developing? Yes, it is. But the kind of industry developing there is not one which produces instruments and means of production. India imports its instruments of production from Britain. Because of this (although, of course, not only because of this), India’s industry is completely subordinated to British industry. That is a specific method of imperialism—to develop industry in the colonies in such a way as to keep it tethered to the metropolitan country, to imperialism.

But it follows from this that the industrialisation of our country cannot consist merely in the development of any kind of industry, of light industry, say, although light industry and its development are absolutely essential for us. It follows from this that industrialisation is to be understood above all as the development of heavy industry in our country, and especially of our own machine-building industry, which is the principal nerve of industry in general. Without this, there can be no question of ensuring the economic independence of our country.”

– J.V. Stalin, “The Economic Situation of the Soviet Union and the Policy of the Party”

ICMLPO: Resolution on Turkey

For the annullment of government decrees and an end to the state of emergency

In Turkey, the state of emergency declared by the Erdogan regime following the coup attempt last year is still in full force under the pretext of “the fight against the coup plotters”. Government decrees issued so far have made clear that this “fight” was not limited to the coup plotters, but rather, since Erdogan called it a “god sent opportunity”, the state of emergency is being used to realize a counter-coup against the progressive, democratic and revolutionary forces of the country. It is obvious that Erdogan regime wants to normalize the state of emergency or keep it at least until the presidential regime is fully established, as it gives thim freedom from accountability, to legitimise his arbitrary actions.

As European members of the ICMLPO, we demand the annulment of the government decrees issued as part of the state of emergency, which caused the dismissal of five thousand university lecturers and hundreds of thousands of people, the arrest of tens of thousands of people and the closing of dozens of newspapers, journals, TV channels and radio stations. We declare solidarity with the struggles of the democratic forces of Turkey who demand an end to the state of emergency, and engage ourselves in campaigns to achieve this.

Workers Communist Party of Denmark – APK
Workers Communist Party of France – PCOF
Organization for the construction of the Communist Workers’ Party of Germany (Arbeit Zukunft)
Movement for the reorganization of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE 1918-1955)
Communist Platform – for the Communist Party of the Proletariat of Italy
Communist Party of Spain (marxist-leninist) – PCE (ml)
Party of Labour – EMEP (Turkey)