This article is not my work. It was originally printed in the journal of the ICMLPO (Unity & Struggle) in the May 2008 issue #16. It was published under the title “Concerning Certain Distortions of Stalin’s Work and L. Martens Revisionist View of Socialism.” You can find it here: http://anasintaxi-en.blogspot.com/search/label/Ludo%20Martens. It appears here with no alteration.
It has been more than ten years since the book “Another view of Stalin” by Ludo Martens was published. This book was hailed by many unsuspected and well intentioned communists all over the world as an “excellent pro-Stalin book”. However, at the same time a number of Khruschevian revisionist and opportunist parties that have traditionally adopted an anti-Stalinist line advertised and promoted the book in many ways. Taking into account the virtually unchanged ideological and political line of all these parties, Marxists-Leninists-Stalinists should be suspicious about the “sudden” urge to publish a book about Stalin. Indeed, a careful look at the contents of this book we will find out that, at least, in three very fundamental questions, the answers to which delineate Marxists-Leninists-Stalinists from Khrushchevian revisionists, Martens maintains essentially revisionist views.
Question of Stalin: The question of Stalin, that is, the revolutionary theoretical and practical work of the great communist leader of the world proletariat and classic of Marxism, has been, since the middle of 1920s, at the centre of a sharp ideological-political struggle between the revolutionary communists and all kinds of counter-revolutionaries (social democrats, Trotskyites, anarchists, titoists, Kruschevians and others). All the fundamental issues of socialism and the revolution come down to this. It marks the boundary that separates the real Marxists-Leninists and all kinds of revisionists and opportunists.
In the first and most important question of the revolutionary movement, the question of Stalin, to which all the fundamental issues of socialism and the revolution come down to, Ludo Martens propagates, not the crude anti-Stalinism of Khrushchev, but a more refined and camouflaged version that appeared in the communist movement between the mid-50’s and the beginning of 60’s, namely the “mistakes’ theory”. The latter is usually comes from various “anti-Khrushchevian” opportunists and it is formulated in certain clichι phrases such as: “Stalin was great but he made mistakes”. It is exactly this “mistakes’ theory”, of an allegedly “left orientation”, that is adopted by L. Martens in his “criticisms” of Stalin and exposed in the chapter “Weaknesses in the struggle against opportunism”.
In this context, Ludo Martens blames Stalin that “this struggle was not done to the extent that was necessary”, that “he was not able to formulate a consistent theory explaining how classes and the class struggle persist in a socialist society”(!) that he “had not completely understood that after the disappearance of the economic basis of capitalist and feudal exploitation, that there would still exist in the Soviet Union fertile ground for bourgeois currents”(!), that Stalin “was not able to formulate a theory about the struggle between the two lines in the Party” and “did not appreciate” the dangers of “bureaucracy and technocratism” and many other things that Stalin “was not able to do…,understand” etc.
But if there was any grain of truth in any these accusations related to Stalin’s views on the most fundamental question of the revolutionary communist movement, namely the one of socialism-communism, any person of good intentions would ask the following: in which, then, questions Stalin developed Marxism-Leninism further if not in this question and how can he be considered a classic of Marxism since he “committed”, according to his critics, so grave “mistakes” in such fundamental, theoretical and practical, questions of the communist movement?
Question of socialism: Stalin, as a Marxist, had, first and most importantly, a scientific view of socialism and, secondly, approached the question of the construction of socialism-communism in a materialistic, historic-dialectic way in contrast to all the representatives of the various bourgeois-revisionist currents. He understood the construction of socialism – the first stage of the communist society which constitutes a period of class struggle that is inevitable as long as classes still exist during which the dictatorship of the proletariat is absolutely necessary” (Lenin) – as a long process of revolutionary transformations that passes through different phases of historical development wherein a class struggle is waged in all levels that becomes sharper as the construction of socialism proceeds. The transition period from capitalism to communism, as Lenin pointed out, “cannot be but a period of struggle between the dying capitalism and the newborn communism or in other words: between the defeated but not yet liquidated capitalism and the, new born but still very weak, communism”.
Ludo Martens, as mentioned above, blames Stalin that “he was not able to formulate a consistent theory explaining how classes and the class struggle persist in a socialist society”.
First of all, the theory of the “persistence of classes” in socialism even after its economic basis has been constructed, is an anti-Marxist, bourgeois theory because: in the first place, it contains the bourgeois revisionist view of socialism according to which the exploiting classes and the proletariat will be preserved; in the second place it revises the Marxist-Leninist theory of the classes when it maintains that there can be exploiting classes without private property, that is, after the construction of socialism’s economic basis and in the third place it completely contradicts the final goal of the revolutionary communist movement which is the liquidation of all exploiting classes in socialism and, subsequently, of all classes in communism.
Contrary to the groundless attack of Martens, it is obvious that Stalin, as a Marxist, neither had formulated, nor could he have done so, a theory on “how classes persist in a socialist society”, that is, a bourgeois-revisionist theory because it would directly oppose the theory of scientific socialism-communism. On the contrary, he followed and put into practise the Marxist theory on the liquidation of the exploiting classes in socialism and, subsequently, of all the classes in communism. This liquidation proceeds gradually and it is completed together with the construction of the economic basis of socialism, that is, with the establishment of the social ownership on the means of production in the form of state- and kolkhoz-cooperative property and the transition to the unified type of communist property.
Persistence of the exploiting classes in socialism after the construction of its economic basis? By purporting the theory “on how the classes persist in a socialist society”, L. Martens doesn’t specify either which classes (exploiting or not) or which exactly historical stage of the socialist society (before or after the construction of its economic basis) he is referring to; this is an characteristic example of the anti-historical, anti-dialectic approach of socialism. It is obvious, however, that he means the persistence of the exploiting classes after the construction of its economic basis, and concerning the Soviet Union, in particular, he refers to the phase after the Constitution of 1936 was voted when Stalin pointed out that in this phase “all the exploiting classes were liquidated, leaving the working class, the peasants and the intellectuals” (I.V. Stalin “Questions of Leninism).
Stalin in his report on the Draft Constitution of USSR (1936), having scientifically analyzed the new economic, social, class reality of the socialist Soviet Union, rightly concluded that the country’s class structure had changed since the 1924 the year the then Soviet Constitution was established: “The landlord class, as you know, had already been eliminated as a result of the victorious conclusion of the Civil War. As for the other exploiting classes, they have shared the fate of the landlord class. The capitalist class in the sphere of industry has ceased to exist. The kulak class in the sphere of agriculture has ceased to exist. And the merchants and profiteers in the sphere of trade have ceased to exist. Thus all the exploiting classes have now been eliminated. There remains the working class. There remain the peasants. There remains the intelligentsia”.
The above extract from the report should convince even the most recalcitrant opportunist that Stalin doesn’t talk about “absence of classes” or “elimination of classes” in the Soviet Union of that period but only about elimination of the exploiting classes, of landlords, capitalists, kulaks, merchants-profiteers whereas the classes of workers, the peasants, and intelligentsia remained.
It is necessary to emphasize that Stalin’s analysis of the Soviet Union’s society at that time is the only one carried out on Marxist lines and its scientific conclusion is absolutely correct, that exploiting and antagonistic classes neither existed nor could exist since they had been deprived of the means of production: there are no that exploiting and antagonistic classes without the existence of capitalist property on the means of production. “With the term bourgeois class we mean the class of modern capitalists who own the means of social production and exploit wage labour. With the term proletariat we mean the class of modern wage labourers who sell their labour power in order to survive since they don’t possess no means of production at all” (Engels).
In the Soviet Union of that period, there were no antagonistic classes but remnants of exploiting classes and the new bourgeois elements that inevitably appear during the transition period from capitalism to communism. Of course, it is perfectly possible that the numerous remnants of the exploiting classes and the bourgeois elements (which are not classes according to the Marxist since they had lost their domination in the means of production) can form illegal organisations and wage their struggle against socialism-communism in a coordinated way and in increasingly acute forms.
It is therefore obvious that when the revisionist L. Martens attacks Stalin blaming him that he hasn’t formulated a “theory on how the classes persist” in socialism, in essence, he criticises him for applying the Marxist theory on liquidation of the exploiting classes in the course of socialist construction instead of the bourgeois theory on the “persistence of the classes” (in other words, of the exploiting classes)!
The class struggle during socialism. L. Martens falsely claims that Stalin didn’t formulate a theory explaining “how class struggle persist in a socialist society” when, as known to everybody, the theory maintaining the continuation of class struggle in socialism had already had already been enunciated by Lenin – “the dictatorship of the proletariat is period of class struggle which is inevitable as long the classes are not liquidated” – and it was defended and further developed by Stalin who stressed that “the progress we make, the more successes we achieve, the sharper forms of struggle these remnants (of the exploiting classes) will adopt, the more harm they are going to cause to the Soviet State, the more desperate methods of struggle they are going to employ, as the last resort of people doomed to disappear”.
Consequently, the further development of the theory maintaining the continuation of class struggle in socialism by Stalin lies in the thesis that the more socialist construction advances, the sharper the class struggle becomes, a thesis that was fully confirmed by the historical course of USSR when, following Stalin’s death, the dictatorship of the proletariat was overthrown.
When the opportunist L. Martens claims that Stalin “thought that the class struggle in the ideological sphere would continue for a long time”, he distorts his thesis even more: first because he restricts the class struggle only in the ideological sphere and second because he rejects the thesis of the sharpening of the class struggle with the advance of socialist construction.
But this is not sufficient for L. Martens since, as we saw, he makes the provocatively false claim that Stalin allegedly didn’t even have a theory on “how class struggle persist in a socialist society”, obviously implying that he allegedly deviated from Leninism, that is, he had abandoned the theory of class struggle already formulated by Lenin!
Another claim made by L. Martens is that “this struggle was not done to the extent that was necessary” and that “after 1945, the struggle against opportunism was restricted to the highest circles of the Party”, rendering, thus, Stalin responsible for the appearance of revisionism which is refuted by the activity of the Bolshevik Party during that period: first, during the war and afterwards, the Bolshevik Party headed by Stalin waged a continuous ideological-political struggle against the bourgeois-revisionist ideology and the various degenerate phenomena; there are the well-known party decisions and wide discussions held on questions of art-literature (1946), philosophy (1943 and 1947), political economy (1947-1952), music (1948), linguistics (1950) etc. Second, the revisionist counter-revolution didn’t prevail during Stalin’s lifetime but after his death. Stalin’s great historical contribution to the construction of socialism lies in the scientific analysis of the competitive and the non-competitive contradictions in the soviet socialist society and the successful and victorious waging of the class struggle against the internal and external enemies, preventing thus the restoration of capitalism.
We conclude with two brief observations: the one has to do with Martens’ claim that Stalin “was not able to formulate a theory about the struggle between the two lines in the Party” and the other with the claim that he “had not completely understood the dangers emanating from bureaucracy”. Regarding the first claim, we note that Stalin as a Marxist could have never formulated a revisionist theory “about the struggle between the two lines in the Party” which presupposes the existence of two factions in a party and, as a result, leads to the negation of the revolutionary party of a new type defended by Stalin. A revolutionary, communist party has only one line: the Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist line and fights all revisionist, opportunist deviations. As for the second claim, there is nothing to be said except that it emits the unpleasant odour of Trotskyism.
The question of the dictatorship of the proletariat. As all the “anti-Khrushchevian” versions of contemporary revisionism, Ludo Martens doesn’t raise the issue of the overthrow of the dictatorship of the proletariat after Stalin’s death and in combination with the 20th Congress of the CPSU – the first and absolutely necessary condition for the gradual restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union. It is more than obvious of every Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist that the open, official domination of the Khrushchevian revisionist counter-revolution was preceded by the violent overthrow of the dictatorship of the proletariat and its replacement with a bourgeois-revisionist dictatorship. Domination of the Khrushchevian revisionist is tantamount to the overthrow of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the ousting of the working class from power, the beginning of the capitalist restoration. The overthrow of the dictatorship of the proletariat was ratified by the 20th Congress and the counter-revolutionary, social-democratic line it adopted.
Question of the capitalist restoration. L.Martens, just like the “K”KE leadership, regards the period of Khrushchev-Brezhnev, the period of capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union, as a period of “socialist construction” and believes that the breach with socialism took place in the Gorbachev era. He writes that it is only the 28th Congress, on July 1990, that “clearly affirms a rupture with socialism and a return to capitalism”. At the end of his book, after having quoted an excerpt from the “History of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of the USSR” in which, among others, is mentioned that “it is from within that fortresses are more easily captured”, Martens makes the following comment: “thus Stalin had foreseen what would happen to the Soviet Union the day a Gorbachev or a Yeltsin entered the Politburo”. This comment is quite indicative and revealing because it confirms the fact that L. Martens is identified with “K”KE leadership on this important issue.
But the communists, the Marxists-Leninists-Stalinists, know very well that the fortress was captured from within not in the time of Gorbachev and Yeltsin, who are anyway legal “heirs” of Khrushchev and Brezhnev, but almost 40 years earlier, after Stalin’s death, by the agents of international imperialism Khrushchev, Mikoyan, Brezhnev, Kuusinen, Suslov and others. Moreover, contrary to the claims of the Belgian revisionist “the breach with socialism” – first in the level of political power, and subsequently in other levels – didn’t take place in the 28th Congress (1990) but shortly after Stalin’s death and this breach was officially inaugurated in the 20th Congress which paved the way for the gradual liquidation of the socialist productive relations, through the introduction of capitalist reforms, and restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union.
There is nothing paradoxical that the parties of Khruschevian revisionism – including “K”KE – have published and promoted the book of the Belgian revisionist L. Martens. Essentially, it expresses their own views on the questions of Stalin, socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Without abandoning any of these views, they found an opportunity to wear a “pro-stalin” mask. The “K”KE in particular, was unmistakeably carrying out its class mission – as it was when it funded the publication of D. Volgogonov’s anti-Stalinist abortion “Triumph and tragedy” in 1989 – assigned one of its chief ideologues, Eleni Bellou, to conclude the book review in “Rizospastis” with a lengthy presentation of the infamous “mistakes theory”.
Even within the current of contemporary revisionism – expressed in the “mistakes theory” – the views L. Martens are clinging to the right. This is shown by the criticism that these views received by a party that belongs to the same ideological current as L. Martens’ Workers’ Party of Belgium, namely the Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany (MLPD). Stefan Engel writes:
”To pose the question of power – dictatorship of the bourgeoisie or the proletariat – is tantamount, for L. Martens, to the “scholastic restriction of reality. In this way, he rejects the ABC of Marxism. Lenin clearly emphasized that “there can be nothing intermediate between the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Any dream for something else is a petty bourgeois attitude. The vacillating character of the petty bourgeois thinking is typical for neorevisionism, When Gorbachev appeared in 1985, the petty bourgeois immediately promoted him. In total euphoria, L.Martens got attached to this current writing, in 1991, that “in this ideological confusion comrade Gorbachev emerged; he unleashed himself like a hurricane all over the hibernating country to steer up the dormant consciousness of the people” (Ludo Martens, “The USSR and the velvet counter-revolution”).
“The bedazzled L. Martens used this chance in order to introduce a new appraisal for the Soviet Union after 1956 and to revise the programmatic basis of the Workers’ Party of Belgium declaring that: ”New appraisal means also to take into account that the economic basis and the core of the political structure remained socialist despite the influence of the dominant revisionism. New appraisal means, finally, to take into account the possibility of a positive development, of a Marxist-Leninist rebirth”(ibid)
“When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, neorevisionists regarded Gorbachev as the main culprit. But Gorbachev didn’t bring the restoration of capitalism, as the Workers’ Party of Belgium argues. Rather, it is the restoration of capitalism itself that brought Gorbachev. He completed the capitalist restoration and took openly the side of the international social democracy. Neorevisionism covers up the fact that the restoration of capitalism started in Khrushchev’s time”.
“According to L. Martens: it is possible today to get over the divisions among the Marxist-Leninist parties, broken up in pro-Soviet, pro-Chinese, pro-Albanian and pro-Cuban factions and achieve their re-unification”. Such a conglomeration is doomed to fail” (Stefan Engel: Der Kampf um die Demkweise in der Arbeiterbewengung, Essen)
“Concerning the defeat of socialism, the contemporary revisionists reproduced the bourgeois propaganda: For Erich Honecker, it was “the greatest defeat of the worker’s movement in global scale”, for the former president of the German Communist Party Herbert Mis it was “the greatest defeat of socialism” and for the president of Workers’ Party of Belgium Ludo Martens it was “an important regression for the communist and progressive forces al over the world” (Stefan Engel: Der Kampf um die Demkweise in der Arbeiterbewengung, Essen).
In a speech in Wuppertall (May 9th, 2002) Stefan Engel underlines that: “A variety of multi-colored currents of revisionism exists all of which we have summed up under the term neo-revisionism.
Thus the leader of the Party of Labor of Belgium (PTB), Ludo Martens, in an adventurous explanation, says on the times subsequent to the Twentieth CPSU Party Congress:
This great strength of the socialist system could still be felt even when the party leadership chose the path of revisionism, that is, the path of the progressing renunciation of Marxism-Leninism. In 1975, the Soviet Union had reached the peak of its power …, but this power was already thoroughly undermined by the ideological and political currents which were soon to destroy it. Breshnevism is the continuation of a great strength inherited by Stalin and, simultaneously, an ideological and political degeneration which deepened progressively and which resulted in the complete destruction of socialism under Gorbachev. (“Leonid I. Brezhnev and the National-Democratic Revolution,” p. 1; our translation from the German)
What an absurd theory!
On the one hand, the CPSU party leadership is said to gave gone the path of revisionism since 1956. On the other hand, the Soviet Union, in spite of this, could remain a socialist country and even gain strength until 1975. This means: socialism can exist and take a positive development even on the basis of revisionism.
This is not a Marxist-Leninist analysis, this is saying farewell to Marxism-Leninism, Mr. Martens!”
Concluding, we want to underline once again that Ludo Martens is a neorevisionist, anti-Stalinist (“mistakes’ theory”) that has developed as a prima ballerina of the international Khruschevian revisionism and supports counter-revolutionary reactonary positions such as that “Parties who used to belong to different tendencies, who support the positions of Mao Zedong or Brezhnev, of Che Guevara or Enver Hoxha, can unite on the basis of Marxism-Leninism, proletarian internationalism and the struggle against revisionism” (Speech of Ludo Martens in Leningrand Conference, 1997).
Movement for the Reorganisation of the
Communist Party of Greece (1918-55)