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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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Dekrety Sovetskoi vlasti, vols. 1-4. Moscow, 1957-68.
Proletarskaia solidarnost’ trudiashchikhsia v bor’be za mir (1917-1924). Moscow, 1958. (Documents and materials.)
Ekonomicheskoe polozhenie Rossii nakanune Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii: Mart-oktiabr’, 1917 g. Dokumenty i materialy, parts 1-2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1957.
Petrogradskii Voenno-revoliutsionnyi komitet, vol. 1-3. Moscow, 1966-67.
Podgotovka i pobeda Oktiabr’skoi revoliutsii v Moskve: Dokumenty i materialy. Moscow, 1957.
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia na Ukraine: Fevral’ 1917—aprel’ 1918 g. Sbornik dokumentov i materialov, vols. 1-3. Kiev, 1957.
Bor’ba za vlast’ Sovetov v Moldavii. (Mart 1917-mart 1918 gg.): Sbornik dokumentov i materialov. Kishinev, 1957.
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia v Belorussii: Dokumenty i materialy, vols. 1-2. Minsk, 1957.
Bor’ba za pobedu Sovetskoi vlasti v Azerbaidzhane, 1918-1920: Dokumenty i materialy. Baku, 1967.
Bor’ba za pobedu Sovetskoi vlasti v Gruzii: Dokumenty i materialy (1917-1921 gg.). Tbilisi, 1958.
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia i pobeda Sovetskoi vlasti v Armenii. Yerevan, 1957. (Collection of documents.)
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia v Estonii: Sb. dokumentov i materialov. Tallin, 1958.
Oktiabr’skaia revoliutsiia v Latvii: Dokumenty i materialy. Riga, 1957.
Bor’ba za Sovetskuiu vlast’ v Litve v 1918-1920 gg. Sbornik dokumentov. Vilnius, 1967.
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia i grazhdanskaia voina v Kirgizii (1917-1920 gg.): Dokumenty i materialy. Frunze, 1957.
Pobeda Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii v Kazakh-stane: 1917-1918 gg. Sb. dokumentov i materialov. Alma-Ata, 1957.
Pobeda Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii v Turkestane: Sb. dokumentov. Tashkent, 1947.
Podgotovka i provedenie Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii v Turkmenistane: Sbornik dokumentov. Ashkhabad, 1954.
Podgotovka i provedenie Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii v Uzbekistane: Sb. dokumentov. Tashkent, 1947.

WORKS OF PARTY FIGURES

Bubnov, A. S. O Krasnoi Armii. Moscow, 1958.
Dzerzhinskii, F. E. Izbr. proizv., vol. 1, 1897-1923. Moscow, 1957.
Kalinin, M. I. Izbr. proizv., vol. 1. Moscow, 1960.
Kirov, S. M. Izbr, stat’i i rechi (1912-1934). Moscow, 1957.
Krupskaia, N. K. O Lenine: Sb. st. [Moscow, 1960.]
Kuibyshev, V. V. Izbr. proizv. Moscow, 1958.
Sverdlov, la. M. Izbr. proizv., vol. 2. Moscow, 1959.
Ordzhonikidze, Sergo. Stat’i i rechi, vol. 1 (1910-26). Moscow, 1956.
Stalin, J. V. Soch., vols. 3-4. Moscow, 1953-54.
Stuchka, P. I. V bor’be za Oktiabr’: Sb. st. Riga, 1960.
Shaumian, S. G. Izbr. proizv., vol. 2, 1917-18. Moscow, 1958.

MEMOIRS OF PARTICIPANTS IN THE REVOLUTION

Antonov-Ovseenko, V. A. V revoliutsii. Moscow, 1957.
Bonch-Bruevich, V. D. Na boeivykh postakh FevraVskoi i Oktiabr’skoi revoliutsii, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1931. (Reminiscences of V. I. Lenin.)
Bonch-Bruevich, M. D. Vsia vlast’ Sovetam. Moscow, 1964.
Podvoiskii, N. P. God 1917. Moscow, 1958.
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia: Sb. vospominanii uchastnikov revoliutsii v Petrograde i Moskve. Moscow, 1957.
Istoriia KPSS, vols. 2-3. Moscow, 1966-68.
Vsemirnaia istoriia, vols. 7, 8. Moscow, 1958-61.
Istoriia grazhdanskoi voiny v SSSR: 1917-1922, vols. 1-3. Moscow, 1939-57.
Mints, I. I. Istoriia Velikogo Oktiabria, vols. 1-2. Moscow, 1967-68.
Istoriia Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii. Moscow, 1967.
Oktiabr’skoe vooruzhennoe vosstanie: Semnadtsatyi god v Petrograde, books 1-2. Leningrad, 1967.
Oktiabr’ v Moskve. [Moscow], 1967.
Golikov, G. N. Revoliutsiia, otkryvshaia novuiu eru. [Moscow, 1967.]
Istoriia SSSR s drevneishikh vremen do nashikh dnei, 2nd series, vol. 7. Moscow, 1967.
Velikii Oktiabr’ i mirovoi revoliutsionnyi protsess. Moscow, 1967.
Volobuev, P. V. Proletariat i burzhuaziia Rossii v 1917 g. Moscow, 1964.
Gaponenko, L. S. Rabochii klass Rossii v 1917 godu. Moscow, 1970.
Golub, P. A. Partiia, armiia i revoliutsiia: Otvoevanie partiei bol’shevikov armii na storonu revoliutsii. Mart 1917—fevral’ 1918. [Moscow, 1967.]
Gorodetskii, E. N. Rozhdenie Sovetskogo gosudarstva, 1917-1918. [Moscow, 1965.]
Geroi Oktaibria: Biografii aktivnykh uchastnikov podgotovki i provedeniia Oktiabr’skogo vooruzhennogo vosstaniia v Petrograde, vols. 1-2. Leningrad, 1967.
Geroi Oktiabria (Kniga ob uchastnikakh Velikoi Oktiabr’skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii v Moskve). Moscow, 1967.
Zetkin, K. Oktiabr’skaia revoliutsiia. [Khar’kov], 1924.
Williams, A. R. O Lenine i Oktiabr’skoi revoliutsii. Moscow, 1960. (Translated from English.)
Reed, J. 10 dnei, kotorye potriasli mir. Moscow, 1958. (Translated from English.)
Uchastie trudiashchikhsia zarubezhnykh stran v Oktiabr’skoi revoliutsii. Moscow, 1967. (Collection of articles.)
Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia: Sb. vospominanii uchastnikov revoliutsii v Petrograde i Moskve.

G. N. GOLIKOV and M. I. KUZNETSOV

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Alliance Marxist-Leninist: The Problem of Pablo Picasso

The Problem of Pablo Picasso

(1881-1973)

CONTENTS
Introduction
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’.
Conclusion
Bibliography

Introduction

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: http://www.tamu.edu/mocl/picasso/tour/t05c.html

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: http://www.arts.adelaide.edu.au/personal/DHart/Images/WarArt/Picasso/Guernica/Guernica.JPG

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: http://www.arts.adelaide.edu.au/personal/DHart/Images/WarArt/Picasso/Guernica/DoraMaarsPhotos/State1-11May1937.JPG

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; http://www.guardian.co.uk/saturday_review/story/0,3605,385610,00.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; http://www.guardian.co.uk/saturday_review/story/0,3605,385610,00.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; http://www.guardian.co.uk/saturday_review/story/0,3605,385610,00.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; http://www.guardian.co.uk/saturday_review/story/0,3605,385610,00.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; http://www.guardian.co.uk/saturday_review/story/0,3605,385610,00.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; http://www.guardian.co.uk/saturday_review/story/0,3605,385610,00.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; http://www.guardian.co.uk/saturday_review/story/0,3605,385610,00.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; http://www.guardian.co.uk/saturday_review/story/0,3605,385610,00.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: http://ml-review.ca/aml/SocialistArt/Final-ME_LASSALLE.htm

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.”

Conclusion

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!”

Bibliography

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; http://www.guardian.co.uk/saturday_review/story/0,3605,385610,00.html

Recommended:
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. http://www.tamu.edu/mocl/picasso/tour/t60.html

Art and war – a wonderful site: http://www.arts.adelaide.edu.au/personal/DHart/ResponsesToWar/Art/StudyGuides/Picasso.html

Source

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)

Source

Russia is an Imperialist Country

Original article on massproletariat.info

The present world situation is defined by a system of capitalist-imperialist relations, and the principal contradiction on the global scale is between imperialist states and oppressed peoples. In Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism Lenin put forward a Marxist analysis of the nature of capitalist-imperialism, and it is to this document that we shall refer, so as to understand the nature of the contemporary inter-imperialist conflict.

It is important that we not fetishize armed conflict as the determining factor in assessing whether a country is an imperialist power. Lenin is quite clear that the military conflicts between imperialist powers are a result of the economic and political struggle between them. In his numerous discussions of World War I, he repeatedly referred to Carl von Clausewitz’s idea that “War is a continuation of politics by other means.”1 Therefore, we will repeat Lenin’s claim that “unless this [the economic essence of imperialism] is studied, it will be impossible to understand and appraise modern war and modern politics.”

So, what then is the economic essence of imperialism? It is the concentration of capital in monopolies, the fusion of banking and industrial capital into finance capital, the export of capital abroad, and the struggle between imperialist powers to repartition the world markets (which eventually and inevitably leads to war between imperialist powers). Russia exhibits all of these features, and is therefore a capitalist-imperialist country. This article offers some analysis of the Russian state and its role in the inter-imperialist conflicts around the world.

The Concentration of Capital in Russia

In Russia there is an extreme concentration of capital, to a degree that exceeds the imperialist powers of Lenin’s time. As Maoists we should be clear, that contemporary Russian imperialism was built upon the concentration of capital that existed in the Social-Imperialist USSR. The vast majority of this capital was not destroyed after the collapse of the USSR, but rather reorganized and concentrated in a small number of hands. The US-led imperialist bloc tried to seize control of this formation, but was unable to, which allowed the new bourgeoisie in the USSR to transform, in part, into an independent national bourgeoisie, independent from foreign domination and able to pursue imperial aims.

Based on the official statistics of the Russian state, the top 600 firms in Russia account for over 70% of Russia GDP.2 In Imperialism Lenin analyzed the concentration of production in a number of the imperialist countries at the time. Based on the statistics available to him, he demonstrated the economic basis of imperialism in the United States, where in 1909, the largest 3,060 firms accounted for 43.8% of the total GDP. From this it is clear that the concentration of capital in Russia today is much greater than it was in the US in the early 20th century. Thus, Russia clearly has the concentration of capital necessary to provide the economic foundation of imperialism.

Finance Capital in Russia

In Russian industry we can see a clear fusion of banking and industrial capital into finance capital. Lenin described this process:

“As banking develops and becomes concentrated in a small number of establishments, the banks grow from modest middlemen into powerful monopolies having at their command almost the whole of the money capital of all the capitalists and small businessmen and also the larger part of the means of production and sources of raw materials in any one country and in a number of countries. This transformation of numerous modest middlemen into a handful of monopolists is one of the fundamental processes in the growth of capitalism into capitalist imperialism.”

To demonstrate the degree of centralization of capital in the big German banks by 1913, Lenin showed that the ‘Big 9’ banks in Germany together controlled just under 50% of the total deposits in Germany. Today, Sberbank is the largest bank in Russia, and the 3rd largest bank in Central and Eastern Europe.3 It has an annual operating income of 28 billion USD, and deposits totaling 312 billion USD.4 This amounts to approximately 36% of the total deposits in Russia (849 billion USD5) concentrated in a single financial institution. The breakdown of the deposits, and their share of the total, of the five biggest banks (by total assets) in Russia today is as follows:

So we can clearly see that finance capital is a powerful force in Russia, with large financial institutions concentrating large amounts of capital, and large percentages of all the capital in the country. What’s more the concentration of capital in Russia exceeds that of many of the imperialist powers in Lenin’s time. This concentration of capital in the big banks changes their role, from simply functioning as payment intermediaries to playing a key role in planning and directing the economy as a whole, deciding which resources to extract, which companies to fund, which to avoid, and so on. This necessarily arises due to the concentration of capital, and the decreasing availability of credit from any other sources.

The executives (or at least the marketing team) of Sberbank are quite up-front about this on their ‘About’ page, saying that Sberbank is “the circulatory system of the Russian economy, accounting for one third of its banking system. The Bank provides employment and a source of income for every 150th Russian family.” and “the Bank is the key lender to the Russian economy and the biggest receiver of deposits in Russia.” Sberbank holds 44.9% of retail deposits, and issues 37.7% of retail loans and 32.7% of corporate loans in Russia.11 We can see clearly that finance capital exists in Russia, and is well-developed, with the majority of the banking market and capital controlled by a few very large firms which direct the affairs of the rest of the enterprises.

As another example, consider the Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom, which is also the largest company in Russia by revenue. Gazprom was originally created in 1989 when the Soviet Ministry of Gas and Industry was privatized, and has grown significantly since that point. Gazprom has annual revenues in excess of $100 billion and has a significant financial and investment wing.12 As we see above, one of its financial subsidiaries, Gazprombank, has the third most deposits of any bank in Russia, indicating the degree to which banking and industrial capital are fused internal to Gazprom.

Gazprom also has an effective monopoly in the gas industry in Russia (accounting for 83% of gas production in Russia, and 17% of the gas production in the whole world) and also has significant holdings in media, oil production, and other sectors. Gazprom is just one example of many finance-capital firms in Russia (others include LUKoil, the 10th largest oil company in the world13, and Sberbank). All of this definitively indicates that Russia also has the fusion of industrial and banking capital into monopoly finance-capital firms necessary to constitute an imperialist country.

The Export of Capital by Russian Firms

These large firms in Russia also export significant amounts of capital abroad. A few examples: Gazprom has subsidiaries in 36 countries outside of Russia, in 2016 Rosfnet (the 3rd largest company in Russia14) purchased a 98% stake in the India-based oil company Essar Oil for ~$13 billion,15 and overall Russian direct investment abroad exceeds $440 billion.16 While this pales in comparison the ~$5 trillion that the US has in foreign direct investment abroad, it still represents a significant export of capital.

It is also important to consider the overall picture of capital flowing into and out of a country, summed up by a set of figures called international investment position, which captures the assets, such as direct investments, as well as stocks, bonds, and other investments which are not counted as ‘direct investment,’ and all liabilities. This figure shows that Russia currently has about $1.2 trillion invested abroad,17 with a ‘net’ IIP (balance of assets vs liabilities) of over $200 billion. This means that, on balance, Russian capitalists are net exporters of capital, and that, while the sums involved are modest compared to that of the US, it is clear that capital is being profitably exported around the world from Russia.

As a concrete example of capital export we can look at the acquisitions that Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, has made in the past few years. According to their website, Sberbank counts 70% of Russian population among its customers.18 This is clearly a massive market share, but the bank has its sights set on breaking into other markets and expanding its presence, especially in central and eastern Europe. To this end, in 2011 it acquired a 100% stake in Volksbank International AG19, an Austrian bank which subsequently changed its name to Sberbank Europe AG20. This transaction, conducted for between €585 and €64521 million, was Sberbank’s first acquisition outside of the former USSR. The CEO of Sberbank, Herman Gref, said of the deal that “This will give us access to the attractive and growing markets of Central and Eastern Europe, and it will serve as a platform for organic growth and further acquisitions in the region.”22He wasn’t exaggerating, since the Volksbank International group (with its subsidiaries) was counted among the top 10% financial institutions in several countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, and Slovenia.

The next year, no doubt looking to diversify and push into other markets, Sberbank made a deal to purchase the Turkish bank DenizBank for $3.5 billion USD23, allowing for similar expansion in that market. Although Sberbank has also made significant domestic acquisitions, including paying $1 billion USD for the investment bank Troika Dialog in 201124, it is clear that expansion into foreign markets via acquisitions is the bank’s key strategy for expanding market share and ensuring consistent profits.

The Struggle Between Imperialist Powers

In recent years the contradictions between Russian imperialism and the US led imperialist bloc have sharpened. This is most evident in the Syrian Civil War, and the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine; however, it is also apparent in the shifting situation in Turkey, in the Italian and Hungarian governments’ opposition to the automatic renewal of sanctions against Russia, and in Rodrigo Duterte’s overtures to Moscow. All of these are concrete instances of the struggle between rival imperialist powers to redivide a world that has already been divided up. In particular, the shifting allegiances of client-states which were formally consolidated to the camp of US/European imperialism are a sign of the growing power of emerging imperialist states such as China and Russia.

While there has been much discussion of the trend of globalization since 2000, Lenin was clear that by the beginning of the 20th century capitalism was a global system: “For the first time the world is completely divided up, so that in the future only redivision is possible, i.e., territories can only pass from one “owner” to another, instead of passing as ownerless territory to an owner.”25Monopoly-capitalist blocs, whose interests shape the foreign policy of imperialist states, have a major interest in expanding their access to markets and territory, with which in turn comes access to natural resources, labor power, etc. This necessarily leads to inter-imperialist struggle, the struggle to redivide and re-partition the world and its markets, since the world is finite and the imperialist hunger for cheap labour power, capital, and raw materials is limitless.

Inter-imperialist conflict, at its most extreme, takes the form of world wars, which destroy huge quantities of productive capital and (in the two examples so far) have led to the death of many millions of people. However, world war is only the sharpest form of ‘politics by another means’ that occurs in inter-imperialist competition. Proxy-wars, annexation of territory, and expansionism are the constant foreign policy of imperialist states. This is visible in Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the ongoing warfare in Ukraine where Russian forces and Russian-backed forces are struggling to overthrow the US-aligned Ukrainian government. The struggle to repartition the world is also evident in Syria where the US and US-aligned forces are attempting to overthrow the Russia-supported Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

However, war and annexations are not the only manifestations of inter-imperialist conflict over access to markets and resources,26 which plays out in many different ways, from free trade agreements, and exclusive grants of mineral and oil rights, to access to shipping lanes and economic sanctions. In fact, escalation to wars or proxy wars are preceded by economic competition. For the purposes of this document, we will consider competition in the natural gas industry. This competition underlies both the conflicts in Syria and the Ukraine. Gazprom is a major supplier of natural gas to Europe, and has a partial monopoly in Eastern Europe. In 2016 Gazprom exported 179.3 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Europe (a 12.5% increase over the previous year).27 Additionally, the Russian gas industry’s market share in Europe has increased 23% in 2010 to over 34% in 2017.28 This has facilitated closer economic ties between Russia and various European countries, and threatens the US-led imperialist bloc’s dominance in the region.

To counteract this trend, the US worked with its allies in the Middle East to expand existing gas and oil pipelines, connecting them to Turkey and, through Turkey, to Europe. However, in 2009, Bashar al-Assad refused to sign an agreement which would facilitate the expansion of a natural gas pipeline from Qatar to Turkey, and the proposed expansions to existing oil pipelines stalled for similar reasons.29 At the same time, the US has been developing its internal natural gas industries and constructing pipelines to export this gas to European markets. The US and its allies have also imposed and continue to impose sanctions on the Russian state and Russian corporations.

It was only after years of this sort of economic competition that the contradictions between these rival imperialist powers sharpened to the point of armed conflict.30 At present, this armed conflict is largely conducted through proxies, but could eventually escalate to outright conflict between these imperialist camps.

In this regard, it is important to note that Russia has the sixth largest military in the world in terms of personnel (larger than even the United States)31, and the third largest military by budget.32Russia spends 4.9% of its GDP on its military every year, beating the US’ 3.3% spending.33Additionally, Russia has a huge reserve of nuclear weapons from the cold war era. All of this constitutes a significant military force. This large military, alongside the proxies that Russia supports with arms deals, training, and the like, are used by the Russian state in the military aspects of inter-imperialist competition.

Conclusion

We have found it necessary to outline these points to elaborate on the relevance of Lenin’s definition of capitalist-imperialism today. Absent a genuine revolutionary force, there are three possibilities for nation-states under capitalist-imperialism. They can be imperialist powers (of one strength or another), comprador client-states, or failed states subject to the plunder of competing imperialist powers. Failure to understand Lenin’s ideas invariably leads to various social-chauvinist positions, whether it’s ignoring the ways that the Assad government oppresses the people of Syria and Kurdistan, or denying that China’s export of capital to Africa is imperialist profiteering built on national oppression and super-exploitation. This sort of social-chauvinism also leads some to negate the increasingly fascist character of the Indian state, which is currently leading a fairly open war on its own people.

We have to be clear about the situation on a world level, and, as Lenin put it, practice “what is most important, that which constitutes the very gist, the living soul, of Marxism—a concrete analysis of a concrete situation,”34 lest our theory cease to be a guide for action, a tool for illuminating reality in a revolutionary way, and instead transform into a stale dogma, recited to justify social-chauvinism, imperialist-economism, and inactivity.

When analyzing the contemporary international situation it is necessary to grapple with Lenin’s ideas and concretely apply them to particular situations. If we do not we will be unable to distinguish comprador forces, who are dominantly in the camp of the enemies of the people, from revolutionary national forces, who can, in particular situations, play a key role as part of a united front. We will be unable to distinguish true proletarian internationalism, e.g. the assistance China gave to the Korean people to counter US imperialism during the Korean war, from imperialist aggression and proxy-wars, e.g. the Russian support for the Assad government. As Lenin said in the preface to Imperialism:

“Unless the economic roots of this phenomenon are understood and its political and social significance is appreciated, not a step can be taken toward the solution of the practical problem of the communist movement and of the impending social revolution.”35

The question of “who are our friends, who are our enemies?” is one of the most important questions we need to grapple with. It is our hope that this short document will demonstrate that the Russian state is not a friend of the people, but instead the representative of a bloc of monopoly-capitalists itching to secure “a bigger piece of the pie” through the incessant inter-imperialist struggle to redivide the world.

Updated 7/2/17: Fixed minor typos.

Updated 7/3/17: Corrected inaccurate statement describing Sberbank as the 3rd largest bank in Europe. Sberbank is the 3rd largest bank in Central and Eastern Europe, not Europe overall. Also fixed minor typos.

  1. c.f. War and Revolution, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/may/14.htm 
  2. Based on data from http://raexpert.ru/rankingtable/top_companies/2016/main/ 
  3. http://www.thebanker.com/Top-1000/Top-1000-World-Banks-Sales-bring-changes-in-CEE-but-Russia-still-rules?ct=true 
  4. http://www.sberbank.com/investor-relations/financial-results-and-presentations/key-data, retrieved 6-22-17, currency figures converted to USD from RUB 
  5. https://www.ceicdata.com/en/indicator/russia/total-deposits, retrieved 6-22-17 
  6. The VTB group also controls the 4th largest bank (VTB-24) as a wholly-owned subsidiary. VTB-24 has been omitted here since the VTB group counts the deposits of VTB-24 as part of its total. 
  7. http://www.vtb.com/ir/glance/, retrieved 6-22-17, currency figures converted to USD from RUB 
  8. http://www.gazprombank.ru/eng/ir/fin_stat/, retrieved 6-22-17, currency figures converted to USD from RUB 
  9. http://alfabank.com/f/1/investor/financial_reports/financial_statements_ifrs/ab_IFRS_audited_report_2016.pdf, retrieved 6-22-17 
  10. https://ir.open.ru/en/info, retrieved 6-22-17, currency figures converted to USD from RUB 
  11. http://www.sberbank.com/about, retrieved 6-23-17 
  12. http://www.chinapost.com.tw/business/company-focus/2015/04/30/434792/Gazproms-net.htm 
  13. Based on data from http://fortune.com/global500 
  14. Based on data from http://raexpert.ru/rankingtable/top_companies/2016/main/ 
  15. http://indianexpress.com/article/business/economy/brics-summit-2016-rosneft-partners-buy-essar-oil-for-13-billion-in-largest-fdi-deal-3084527/ 
  16. CIA factbook 
  17. http://data.imf.org/regular.aspx?key=60947518, retrieved 6-22-17 
  18. http://www.sberbank.com/about, retrieved 7-1-17 
  19. http://www.vsbank.ua/en/news/~sberbank, retrieved 7-1-17 
  20. http://banksdaily.com/info/vbi, retrieved 7-1-17 
  21. Between $668 and $737 million USD 
  22. https://www.rt.com/business/sberbank-volksbank-acquisition-100-183/, retrieved 7-1-17 
  23. https://www.sberbank.at/press-releases/sberbank-announces-agreement-acquire-9985-denizbank, retrieved 7-1-17 
  24. http://uk.reuters.com/article/troika-sberbank-idUSLDE72A0E420110311, retrieved 7-1-17 
  25. Lenin, Imperialism, Ch. 6. Available online: https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/imp-hsc/ch06.htm 
  26. A forthcoming document will address how this competition is currently playing out in the conflict in Syria and Iraq. 
  27. http://www.standard.net/Business/2017/03/01/Why-Gazprom-has-gained-market-share-in-Europe 
  28. https://www.platts.com/latest-news/natural-gas/moscow/gazprom-sees-gas-share-in-europe-growing-further-26885243 and http://www.standard.net/Business/2017/03/01/Why-Gazprom-has-gained-market-share-in-Europe 
  29. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/moscow-rejects-saudi-offer-to-drop-assad-for-arms-deal.aspx?pageID=238&nid=52245 
  30. In our document on the Syrian Civil War, we provide more in depth analysis of the situation there as an instance of inter-imperialist struggle. 
  31. International Institute for Strategic Studies (3 February 2014). The Military Balance 2014. London: Routledge. ISBN 9781857437225. p 180-192 
  32. “Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2016” (PDF). Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
  33. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/MS.MIL.XPND.GD.ZS, retrieved 6-24-17 
  34. Lenin, Collected Works, English ed., Moscow, 1974, Vol. 31, p. 166). Available online at: https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/cw/pdf/lenin-cw-vol-31.pdf 
  35. Lenin, Imperialism, Preface to the German and French editions. Available online at: https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/imp-hsc/pref02.htm 

Source

Party of Labour of Iran (Toufan): Condemn the ISIS (Daesh) Criminal and Terrorist Attacks in Tehran, Iran!

On Wednesday June 7, 2017, three men entered the visiting section of the Parliament (Majles) and opened fire on the security guards. A few minutes later, media reported on two suicide bombers in the Khomeni’s mausoleum in southern Tehran. According to the official reports, 12 people were killed and more than 40 were injured. The criminal Islamic State, ISIS (Daesh) gang, has claimed responsibility for these attacks.

1) ISIS and the events that are going on in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan,… are the product of the policies followed by the Western imperialist and their Saudi-led allies in the region. The disintegration of the countries of the region takes place according to the interests and expediencies of the Zionist Israel and imperialist USA.

2) The terrorist actions in Tehran is also the result of the President Trump’ visit to Saudi Arabia where he signed a 110 Milliard (Billion) dollars military contract with the Saudi Kingdom. Donald Trump fueled the tension in the region, especially between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The tension between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, due to the establishment of closer ties between Qatar and Iran, and the economic blockade of Qatar can be explained in this framework.

3) The terrorist attacks in Tehran, regardless of the reactionary nature of the Islamic Republic, is carried out with the goal of generating disturbance, anarchy, civil war, and eventually disintegration of the country. The killing and slaughter of the Iranian people cannot be acceptable by any progressive force or peace loving individual. The terrorist operation in Iran is strongly condemned worldwide.

4) To effectively fight against foreign plots and the imperialist’s terrorist policy of destabilization of Iran, the mass support is an absolute necessity. On the contrary, the regime of the Islamic Republic adopts the policy of exploiting the situation for its own interest and of intensifying the repression of the demands of the masses. Such a reactionary policy of the Islamic Republic cannot provide domestic security, stability, tranquility, and normality. Only the freedom, welfare and comfort, and the unity of the masses guarantee the victory over terrorism and over the lackeys of imperialism.

The Party of Labour of Iran (Toufan) expresses condolences to the families of the victims of the terrorist actions. We strongly condemn the barbaric and terrorist actions in Tehran, and calls on the people to be vigilant and united against the dangers that threaten Iran.

The Party of Labour of Iran (Toufan)

June 7, 2017

Grover Furr: New Light On Old Stories About Marshal Tukhachevskii: Some Documents Reconsidered


Grover Furr 
Montclair State University 

Originally published in RUSSIAN HISTORY/HISTOIRE RUSSE, 13, Nos 2-3 (Summer-Fall 1986), 293-308. 

The innocence of Marshal Tukhachevskii and the other military commanders condemned with him in 1937 has become firmly accepted by both Soviet and Western historians. [1] The current scholarly consensus also includes the view that “the nazi secret archives contain no sort of evidence of anything” like a plot between the Soviet military and Germany, that “not a jot of evidence has emerged from the German archives.” [2] The present article re-examines some of the material bearing upon the Tukhachevskii case which has come to light so far from the captured German Foreign Office files, and concludes that it suggests a plot of some kind involving Tukhachevskii and the German High Command may, in fact, have existed.

In 1974 a newly-discovered document from these files was examined by British historian Frederick L. Carsten. [3] It is a report concerning high-level rumors current in Munich in early 1937, which ended up in the Vienna Bureau of the Austrian Chancellor. Among other matters it deals with relations between the German and Soviet military commanders, about which it makes four points: 1) It claims that the top men in the German General Staff, including Generaloberst Freiherr Werner von Fritsch, Chief of Staff of the German Army (Chef der Heeresleitung), were at that time involved in trying to form an alliance with the Soviet military. 2) It claims that Marshal Tukhachevskii had been present at the German army’s autumn maneuvers in the past year (den vorjehrigan detuschen Herbstmanoevern). 3) At that time Tukhachevskii is said to have proposed a toast to the German Army “as the champion (Vorkempferin) against world Jewry.” and to Goering. 4) It claims that the German military was closely following the “power struggle presently taking place in Russia,” in hopes that Stalin would be overthrown in favor of a military dictatorship. [4]

Carsten denies the validity of the first three of these points on several grounds: 1) He claims that the last time any Russian officers attended German maneuvers was the autumn of 1933. 2) Though admitting that Tukhachevskii congratulated General Ernst Kestring, German military attache in Moscow, upon the German army’s successful occupation of the Rhineland in March 1936, Carsten avers that “this is a far cry from being a declared anti-semite and a sympathizer with the Nazi ideology. Even Karl Radek congratulated General Kestring on the same occasion in Moscow.” [5] 3) For Carsten, the existence of this document is explained by the story that Reinhardt Heydrich’s Sicherheitsdienst (SK, the intelligence division of the SS) was busy fabricating a dossier of forged materials to incriminate Tukhachevskii and decapitate the Soviet military. No doubt, then the SD would have been “spreading this kind of `news’ about Tukhachevskii, his sympathies with Nazism and his allegedly intimate relations with leading German officers.” [6]

The present article uses an analysis of this report from the Austrian Bundeskanzleramt (BKA) as a framework within which other documents, including those from the German Foreign Office files which bear on the Tukhachevskii case, are re-examined. It examines each of the assertions (one through four) in the document, and each of Professor Carsten’s objections (1 through 3).

General Ernst Kestring, former German military attache in Moscow, stated in memoires published in 1965 that “Autumn 1935 was the last instance of Russian officers participating (Teilnahme) in our maneuvers.” [7] Evidently Carsten has misinterpreted this passage, for Kestring says nothing to rule out Soviet attendance at, as opposed to participation in, German maneuvers in later years. In letters to Paris at the time General Renondeau, French military attach‚ to Berlin, reported that Soviet officers attended German army maneuvers in both 1936 and 1937. [8] Apparently either Komkor (corps commander) Orlov (according to Renondeau) or Komandarm (army commander) Uborevich (as Walter Gerlitz has it) were present at German maneuvers in autumn 1936. [9] Tukhachevskii, Uborevich, and Orlov were closely associated with the Soviet military cooperation with Germany under the Treaty of Rapallo. This association might account for the rumor, reported in the Austrian BKA document, that it was Tukhachevskii who had attended the 1936 German maneuvers (point one) — particularly since the marshal had visited Berlin at least once in 1936. [10] Thus the rumor is perhaps not very wide of the mark.

Carsten would have it (2) that it is hard to believe Tukhachevskii would have made such a pro-Nazi and anti- Semitic toast as the document recounts. In fact, the opposite is true: such a statement would have been entirely consistent with what was widely reputed to be Tukhachevskii’s attitude.

In 1928 a former French officer published a short biography of Tukhachevskii “Pierre Fervacque” — nom de plume of the French journalist Remy Roure — had been Tukhachevskii’s fellow prisoner-of-war in 1917 in the German officers’ camp at Ingolstadt, Bavaria. In his biographical sketch he set down the contents of several conversations he had had with the young Russian lieutenant during their captivity, among them the following:

— You are an anti-semite, then, I said to him. Why? — The Jews brought us Christianity. That’s reason enough to hate them. But then they are a low race. I don’t even speak of the dangers they create in my country. You cannot understand that, you French, for you equality is a dogma. The Jew is a dog, son of a dog, which spreads his fleas in every land. It is he who has done the most to inoculate us with the plague of civilization, and who would like to give us his morality also, the morality of money, of capital. — You are now a socialist, then? — A socialist? Not at all! What a need you have for classifying! Besides the great socialists are Jews and socialist doctrine is a branch of universal Christianity. … No, I detest socialists, Jews and Christians. [11]

Tukhachevskii never protested the contents of this well-known book. On the contrary, until shortly before his execution Tukhachevskii maintained friendly relations with Roure. He spoke with the French journalist at a banquet in Paris in 1936, and then three days later held another, private, conversation with him. Roure recalled in July 1937 that, in his book, he had portrayed the young Tukhachevskii as expressing horror and disgust for Western civilization and a juvenile love of “barbarism” in hair-raising tones (which, we note, could have come from the most radical Nazis). Twenty years later Tukhachevskii had mellowed, had become an admirer of French culture, but remained a “patriotic” pan-Slavic nationalist and imperialist who felt that, by serving Bolshevism, he had served his country. [12]

We have examined and rejected Carsten’s first two objections to the Austrian BKA report, and in so doing have determined that the second and third points made in that report accord well with facts attested elsewhere. We now turn to points four and one of the Austrian document. The fourth point is the claim that the German military was watching the “power struggle” (meaning the Moscow trials) in the USSR in hopes that a military dictatorship might replace Stalin. In December 1936 the Soviet government assigned David Kandelaki, head of the Soviet Trade Delegation to Germany, the task of “feeling out” the German government concerning the possibility of opening secret talks. By early 1937 Hitler had turned the USSR down, [13] as is illustrated in an interesting document, noted by Erickson, from the German Foreign Office files whose significance for the Tukhachevskii Affair has not yet been appreciated. This is a letter to Dr. Hjalmar Schacht (head of the Reichsbank and the person whom Kandelaki had approached concerning the Soviet Government’s desire for formal secret talks) from the German Foreign Minister, Baron Constantine von Neurath. [14] In this letter Neurath summarizes Hitler’s view, with which Neurath also declares his agreement. This is expressed as follows:

As concerning the eventual acceptance of talks with the Russian government, I am, in agreement with the Fehrer, of the view that they could not lead to any result at this time, would rather be made great use of by the Russians to achieve the goal they seek of a closer military alliance with France and, if possible, to achieve as well a further rapprochement with England. A declaration by the Russian government that it dissociates itself from Comintern agitation, after the experience with these declarations in England and France, would be of no practical use whatever and therefore be unsatisfactory.

Neurath adds an interesting qualification: “It would be another thing if matters in Russia should develop in the direction of an absolute despotism propped up by the military. In this event we should not let the opportunity pass us by to involve ourselves in Russia again.” The Neurath-Schacht letter is dated 11 February, 1937, while the cover letter to the Austrian BKA document, on BKA stationery, is dated four days later, and the report itself deals with the previous month. Thus the letter proves that the rumor set down in the report does, in fact, reflect the real views of the Nazi hierarchy at precisely the time it claims: in other words, the Neurath-Schacht letter strikingly verifies point four of the Austrian BKA report.

In early 1937 there were two leading military figures in the soviet Union: Tukhachevskii and the Commissar for Defense, Marshal Kliment Voroshilov. It was well known that tensions within the top leadership of the Soviet military were profound. [15] Too much should not be made of an argument e silentio. But later in the same letter Neurath may be tacitly letting Schacht know which one of the two Soviet military leaders he means: “In this connection I should also note, for your personal information, that, according to reliable information reaching us concerning the events in Russia, there is nothing to any slit between Stalin and Voroshilov. So far as can be determined, this rumor, which is being spread by our press as well, originated in interested circles in Warsaw.” Perhaps this passage suggests that, with Voroshilov still a staunch Stalinist, German would only be interested in talks with Russia in the event of a military dictatorship under Tukhachevskii

There remains the first point in the Austrian BKA report, the supposed attempt by the German General Staff to form an alliance with the Soviet Army. To begin with, we note that Neurath was very close to Fritsch and to General Blomberg, worked with them behind Hitler’s back on several occasions, and was replaced as foreign minister by Ribbentrop on 4 February, 1938, the same day that Fritsch and Blomberg resigned and dozens of other generals and officials were dismissed to be replaced by officers more compliant with Hitler’s desire for war. [16] If Fritsch were in secret touch with Tukhachevskii, Neurath might well have been informed. But there is other evidence of a Tukhachevskii-Fritsch connection.

In his famous book I Paid Hitler, Fritz Thyssen, the former German steel magnate, one of the immensely influential “Schlotbarone,” the Ruhr heavy industry magnates, and an early member of the Nazi party explicitly associated Tukhachevskii with Fritsch: “Fritsch always advocated an alliance with Russia, though not with a Communist Russia. Attempts were made to establish relations between Fritsch and the Russian generalissimo, Tukhachevskii The two had one point in common: each desired to overthrow the dictator in his own country.” [17]

Thyssen was certainly in a position to know of the kind of secret liaisons he alleges here, and may have been in on it too, since by 1936 or 1937 he himself was deeply disillusioned with Hitler. Professor Erickson, who cites this passage but would clearly like to dismiss it, confidently states in the text of his book that “not a single item of evidence has emerged to justify the charge of treasonable contact with the Germans.” However, in a footnote on the same page he refers to the `Thyssen passage quoted above, and adds the following remark: “It is difficult to know where the support for this statement comes from, although there was a contemporary Polish newspaper report that a letter or note from Fritsch had been seized from Tukhachevskii.” [18]

There is yet more evidence from the German Foreign Office files hinting at a link between Tukhachevskii and the German General Staff. This is the set of documents referred to on page 435 of Erickson’s study, The Soviet High Command. These documents record the loan, between February and November, 1937, of military court papers concerning Tukhachevskii when he was a prisoner-of-war in Germany during World War I (the court papers themselves are not extant). A study of the four loan request documents reveals that the Tukhachevskii files were requested from the Potsdam branch of the Heeresarchiv (army archives) by the Wehrmachtamt, Aus. (Ausland) VI, the section which dealt with foreigners. Wehrmachtamt requested it on behalf of the “GZ.” This is the abbreviation for Generalstab-Zentralstellung, the main headquarters of the German General Staff. [19] GZ was of course in Berlin, and was headed by General von Fritsch.

It is noteworthy that someone in Fritsch’s Berlin HQ was apparently showing some considerable interest in Tukhachevskii at precisely the same time that: 1) the report to the Austrian BKA told of Fritsch’s interest in an alliance with the Soviet military — a report backed up by Thyssen’s testimony; and 2) both that report and Neurath speak of an interest in a military coup in the USSR.

Our examination of the Austrian BKA report shows that, as regards German-Soviet military relations, it is highly consistent with other evidence available. Points one, three, and four are fully consistent with this other evidence, while point two may simply be due to a confusion (or may even be correct as well). We have also disposed of the first two of Professor Carsten’s objections to it. However, there remains his third point: that the documents might have been related to the well-known SD plot to forge a dossier incriminating Tukhachevskii as a traitor. The whole matter of this alleged forgery is very complex, and cannot be unraveled in this article. In addition, it is in principle impossible to prove a negative — in this case, that no German forgery attempt was made. One can merely examine the evidence cited to support the existence of such a forgery attempt and see how it holds up. This said, several considerations are relevant to the matter at hand.

First, the crucial sources for the “SD-NKVD forgery” story are untrustworthy. In his introduction to the English edition of Walter Schellenberg’s memoires, Alan Bullock concludes: “nor would it be wise to accept Schellenberg as a trustworthy witness where his evidence cannot be corroborated.” Erickson also points out several important passages of Schellenberg’s which he recognizes cannot be true. [20] The account by Alfried Naujocks, the SS man who claimed to have been personally responsible for organizing the forgery and who is usually taken at his word, is even more patently false. [21]

Second, according to all the accounts of the forgery plot, Hitler and Himmler were both a party to it. But nothing of the kind could be inferred from their later references to the military purges. For example, Himmler is reported to have discussed the Tukhachevskii Affair in a conversation with the renegade Soviet General A. A. Vlasov on 16 September 1944 in a manner which makes it clear he believed Tukhachevskii had been guilty of some plotting: “Himmler asked Vlasov about the Tukhachevskii Affair. Why this had gone awry. Vlasov gave a frank answer: ‘Tukhachevskii made the same mistake that your people made on 20 July [21a]. He did not know the law of masses.'” [22] In an important speech in Posen on 4 October 1943 Himmler stated:

When — I believe it was in 1937 or 1938 — the great show trials took place in Moscow, and the former czarist military cadet, later Bolshevik general, Tukhachevskii, and other generals were executed, all of us in Europe, including us in the [Nazi] Party and in the SS, were of the opinion that here the Bolshevik system and Stalin had committed one of their greatest mistakes. In making this judgment of the situation we greatly deceived ourselves. We can truthfully and confidently state that. I believe that Russia would never have lasted through these two years of war — and she is now in the third year of war — if she had retained the former czarist generals. [23]

This probably reflected Hitler’s assessment as well, for, according to Goebbels (diary entry of 8 May 1943): “The conference of the Reichsleiters and Gauleiters followed…. The Fehrer recalled the case of Tukhachevskii and expressed the opinion that we were entirely wrong then in believing that Stalin would ruin the Red Army by the way he handled it. The opposite was true: Stalin got rid of all opposition in the Red Army and thereby brought an end to defeatism.” [24]

Finally, the German forgery — if indeed there was one — does not exclude the existence of a real military plot. In fact, all of the SD sources for the forgery story leave open the possibility that the marshal was in fact plotting with the German General Staff. [25]

Thus the story of the “SD-NKVD forgery” is very problematic. Based purely on hearsay, it abounds in contradictions and outright lies. If it were nonetheless consistent with the other evidence concerning the Tukhachevskii Affair, it might merit consideration despite it all. but the opposite is true.

The only pre-war account of any plot to frame Tukhachevskii is that of Walter Krivitsky, which concludes that the NKVD possessed its own evidence against Tukhachevskii quite independent of any forged dossier. [26] This coincides with the opinion of Heinz Hehne, the most recent student of the forgery plot from the German and SD side. [27]

Important testimony asserting the existence of a real conspiracy including Tukhachevskii and other military leaders comes from Nikolai N. Likhachyov, better known as Andrei V. Svetlanin. A lecturer in Russian at Cambridge, then journalist and finally editor (1955-65) of the emigre Russian journal Posev, Svetlanin claimed second-hand knowledge of the conspiracy as a member, during the mid-1930s, of the staff of the Far Eastern Army (later the Red Banner Far Eastern Front) commanded by Marshal Bliukher.

In this account, the military and party leaders executed during 1937 as part of the “Tukhachevskii Affair” were in fact part of a wider conspiracy the central figure in which was Yan Gamarnik. [28] Chief of the Political Directorate in the Army, Gamarnik had probably begun the plot, together with Tukhachevskii, as early as 1932. By the time of the Seventeenth Party Congress in 1934, it was well developed. The plotters, motivated by the disastrous consequences of collectivization, were said to have considered two distinct plans. Plan “A,”, originating with Tukhachevskii and the young commanders around him, centered on a coup in the Kremlin, to be supported by party and military leaders in some of the provinces. Plan “B,”, envisaging independent revolts in different border areas of the USSR, originated with Gamarnik and the state and party officials in the plot, and was the version finally approved by the conspiratorial center. The Far Eastern Region was to have been the site of the initial revolt.

Svetlanin never claims to have been a part of the conspiracy himself which, he insists, was limited to men of the highest rank. Apparently no one of his acquaintance in the Far Eastern Army believed the Tukhachevskii Affair to have been a frame-up against innocent men. His story can be partially checked from independent sources, the main one of which is the account by Genrikh S. Liushkov given to the Japanese interrogators after his defection to them in June, 1938 (Liushkov, head of the Far Eastern NKVD, had been sent there to help the 1938 purge). Liushkov disclosed to the Japanese the existence of an plot in the Far East, and his account of the plot confirms Svetlanin’s in several minor respects. [29]

Curiously, none of the post-1956 Soviet accounts have revealed any information other than that which was already available in the West, and draw principally upon the SD accounts of the forged dossier. Even the Western sources used by Nikulin, the “official” Khrushchev-era biographer of Tukhachevskii, are carefully pruned of evidence they contain that suggests some real conspiracy in fact occurred. there is, strictly speaking, so Soviet post-Stalin historical account of the Tukhachevskii Affair at all, since Nikulin’s work, upon which all others rely, is filled out with dramatic dialog and frankly termed fictionalized (povestvovanie). [30]

Taken single, none of these bits of evidence is very significant in itself. But when considered as a whole, they constitute at lest a prima facie case that some real military conspiracy involving Tukhachevskii may have actually existed. Nor is it difficult to understand why Khrushchev might have wanted to rehabilitate real conspirators. Khrushchev used the rehabilitations of the Tukhachevskii group as a stick with which to beat Stalin and, more importantly, remaining “Stalinists” in high places — that is, in order to hold power and support certain policy decisions. The Soviet military elite regards Marshal Tukhachevskii and those associated with him as the fathers of the contemporary Soviet armed forces. [31] To accuse Stalin of having wrongly killed them was at once to make of the military a firm ally and to blacken any policies associated with Stalin’s name.

In conclusion, each of the points concerning Tukhachevskii mentioned in the Austrian BKA document is consistent with other, independent evidence. The “SD forgery plot” story, and the Khrushchev-era versions of the Tukhachevskii Affair, have been accorded a degree of scholarly acceptance that is not justified by the contradictions and inconsistencies which abound in them. Any new study should examine them far more skeptically than has hitherto been the case. The present scholarly consensus notwithstanding, there is little about the Tukhachevskii Affair, including the very basic matter of Tukhachevskii’s guilt or innocence, about which we can be certain.

Montclair State University

APPENDIX

–N.A. Series T-120, Roll No. 1448, page D 567 777.

Now as always there are efforts under way within the Wehrmacht which aim at the possibility of an alliance with the Russian army. The argument is simple: the Russian army cannot be taken care of by force; therefore it should happen in friendship. Fritsch, Admiral Raeder, and even General von Reichenau are rumored to be proponents of this plan. Blomberg is seen as a mere accessory (Figurant). But the proponents of these efforts are found chiefly among the younger school of the General Staff. When he was in Berlin on the occasion of last year’s German autumn maneuvers, Marshal Tukhachevskii offered, in return for Colonel-General Fritsch’s toast to the Russian army in Werzberg, a toast to the German army as the champion against world Jewry, and to General Gering. The power struggle presently taking place in Russia, which might possibly end with Stalin’s fall and the establishment of a military dictatorship, is being followed by the Wehrmacht with closest attention, and with unconcealed sympathy for a solution of that kind.

***********************************************************

* I would like to thank Professor J. Arch Getty, of the University of California at Riverside, and Professor S.G. Wheatcroft, of the University of Melbourne, who read and commented upon earlier versions of this article. Naturally they are not responsible for any shortcomings it still contains.

REFERENCES

1. Khrushchev’s “secret speech” to the Twentieth congress of the CPSU (February, 1956) attacked Stalin for his “annihilation of many military commanders” after 1937, but did not mention any of the executed officers. Marshal Tukhachevskii was first “rehabilitated” in 1958. See Robert Conquest, “De-Stalinization and the Heritage of Terror,”, in Alexander Dallin and Alan F. Weston, et al., eds. Politics in the Soviet Union: 7 Cases (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1966), pp. 57-58. Virtually all Western scholars today accept Khrushchev’s story; e.g. Robert Conquest, The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties, rev. ed. (New York: Collier Books, 1973), pp. 300-02.

2. Conquest, Great Terror, p. 285; Leonard Shapiro, “The Great Purge,”, chapter 6 of Basil Henry Liddle-Hart, ed., The Red Army (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1956), p. 70. Professor John Erickson, in his authoritative work The Soviet High Command (London: Macmillan; New York: St Martin’s Press, 1962, p. 464 and note), states that “not a single item of evidence has emerged to justify the charge of treasonable contact with the Germans,” and “no post-war evidence has come to light to disprove this.”

3. Frederick Ludwig Carsten, “New `Evidence’ against Marshal Tukhachevskii,” Slavonic and East European Review, 52 (1974), 272-73. The document itself is in N(ational) A(rchives) microfilm series T-1220, Roll no: 1448, pages D 567 772 – D 567 778; page D 567 771 is the cover letter.

4. page D 567 777; see the Appendix for a translation of this part of the document.

5. According to K; see Herman Teske, ed., Profile bedeutender Soldaten. Band I. General Ernst Kestring Der militerischer Mittler zwischen dem Deutschen Reich und der Sowjetunion. 1921-1941. (Frankfurt/M.: Mittler, 1965), pp. 125-26.

6. Carsten, “New ‘Evidence’,” p. 273.

7. Ibid., citing Teske, Profile bedeutender Soldaten, p. 69. These words were written by Kestring for this volume, more than thirty years after the fact.

8. Georges Castellan, “Reichswehr et Armee Rouge, 1920-1939,” in J.-B. Duroselle, ed., Les relations germano-sovietiques de 1933 – 1939 (Paris: Colin, 1954), pp. 218-19 and n. 97, p. 218.

9. Ibid., nn. 97 and 98, citing Gen. Renondeau’s letter to Paris of 5 October and 28 September, 1937. For Uborevich, see Walter Gerlitz, History of the German General Staff, 1657-1945 (New York: Praeger 1962), p. 307 (German edition 1953). The whole affair is omitted, however, from Gerlitz’ Kleine Geschichte des Deutschen Generalstabes (Berlin: Haude & Spener, 1967). Since the Austrian BKA report was compiled in December 1936-January 1937, it is impossible to be certain whether it refers to maneuvers in autumn 1935 or in autumn 1936.

10. On the question of this visit (or visits) see Castellan, “Reichswehr et Armee Rouge,” pp. 217-18; 224; also Pierre Dominique, “L’affaire Toukhatchevski et l’opinion francaise,” L’Europe nouvelle, 19 June 1937, p 590; Ian Colvin, Chief of Intelligence (London: Gollancz, 1951), pp. 39-40; Erickson, Soviet High Command, pp. 411-13, and 729, n. 27. Disagreement exists about what Tukhachevskii did during this visit or visits but it is sufficient for our purposes to note that all agree he did visit Berlin in 1936.

11. Pierre Fervacque, Le Chef de Larmee Rouge: Mikhail Toukatchevski (Paris: Fasquelle, 1928), pp. 24- 45. Remy Roure was one of the most prominent journalists and newspapermen in France in his day, a founder of Le Monde and its political editor from 1945 to 1952, when he left it for the conservative Le Figaro. See the necrology by Louis Marin-Chauffier, “L’Honneur de Notre Profession,” Le Figaro, 9 Nov. 1966, pp. 1, 32; also, “La Carriere de Remy Roure,” ibid, p. 32.

12. Pierre Fervacque, “Le Julien Sorel de bolchevisme,” Le Temps (Paris), 24 July 1937, p. 3. Julien Sorel, the protagonist of Stendhal’s novel Le rouge et le noir, assumes holy orders out of cold-blooded careerism; Fervacque implies this was also Tukhachevskii’s motive for adhering to Bolshevism.

13. Erickson, Soviet High Command, pp. 432 and 453.

14. N(ational) A(rchives) Series T-120 Roll No. 1057, pp. 429-296-7.

15. For tensions within the Soviet military leadership, see John Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad: Stalin’s War with Germany. Vol. I (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), p. 3; and idem, Soviet High Command, passim.

16. There is no evidence that these dismissals (the famous “Fritsch Affair”) had anything to do with Tukhachevskii. What linked Neurath with Fritsch and Blomberg was opposition to Hitler’s plan to move swiftly against Austria and Czechoslovakia. See Harold C. Deutsch, Hitler and His Generals: The Hidden Crisis, January-June, 1938 (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1974), pp. 64, 70- 71, 258-66.

17. Fritz Thyssen, I Paid Hitler (New York: Cooperative Pub., 1941), p. 163. According to Henry Ashby Turner, Jr., “Fritz Thyssen und das Buch ‘I Paid Hitler’,”, in Turner, Faschismus und Kapitalismus in Deutschland (Gettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1973), p. 95, n. 20, the Tukhachevskii-Fritsch passages occurs in one of the few chapters in German in the original manuscript of the book and so probably reflects Thyssen’s personal work (Emery Reeves, Thyssen’s ghost-writer, conducted his interviews with Thyssen in French).

18. Erickson, Soviet High Command, p 464. According to Professor Alvin T. Coox, the Japanese considered Polish intelligence to be “the best anti-Soviet service in the world at the time.” See his “L’Affaire Lyushkov: Anatomy of a Soviet Defector,” Soviet Studies, 20 (Jan. 1968), 406.

19. N.A. Series T-78, Roll No. 10.

20. Alan Bullock, “Introduction,” in The Labyrinth: Memoires of Walter Schellenberg (New York: Harper, 1956), p. xix; Erickson, Soviet High Command, pp. 731, n. 84 and 735, nn. 25 and 27.

21. Naujocks’ story is in Gunter Peis, The Man Who Started the War (London: Oldham Press, n.d. [1960]), pp. 76-103. The names of the printing establishments Naujocks claimed to have visited in trying to find a forger do not occur in the very complete lists in the Berliner Adressbuch of 1932, 1936 or 1938. Erickson rejects Schellenberg’s account of the forgery because “it certainly took longer that four days to prepare the dossier” (Soviet High Command, p. 735, n. 25); what then can be said of the later Naujocks account, which states that the forgery took place in one night? Finally, Naujocks’ account of the Polish border incident (the “Gleiwitz transmitter” affair) set up by Hitler as a cause de guerre., has been proven heavily falsified; see Jergen Runzheimer, “Der eberfall auf den Sender Gleiwitz im Jahre 1939,” Vierteljahreshefte fer Zeitgeschichte, 10 (1962), 408-26.

21a. This is a reference to the assassination attempt on Hitler of 20 July 1944.

22. Archiv des Instituts fer Zeitgeschichte (Munich), Signatur ZS 2, Bd I., page 55. This document contains the notes of conversations between Gunter d’Alquen, an SS officer present at the Himmler-Vlasov interview, and a co- worker of Jergen Thorwald, the German author. The ambiguous (perhaps deliberately so) phrase “das Gesetz der Masse” could refer either to the law of inertia or to the behavior of the masses. In either case it means about the same thing. Thorwald cited the phrase in Wen Sie Verderben Wollen (Stuttgart: Steingreben-Verlag, 1952), p. 394.

23. Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal {Nuremberg, 1949], Vol. 29, p. 111 (Document 1919-PS).

24. Joseph Goebbels, The Goebbels Diaries: 1942-1943, ed. & tr. Louis P. Lochner (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1948), p. 355.

25. Peis, Man Who Started the War, p. 79; Walter Schellenberg: Memoiren (Keln: Politik und Wirtschaft, 1959), pp. 48-49; Walter Hagen [pseudonym of Wilhelm Hettl], Die Geheime Front: Organization Personen und Aktionen des Deutschen Geheimdienstes (Linz und Wien: Nibelungen-Verlag, 1956), p. 63. A close study of these accounts reveals, however, that they are mutually contradictory more often than not and that, in general, they cannot be trusted.

26. Walter G. Krivitsky, I Was Stalin’s Agent (London: Right Book Club, 1940), pp. 257-58. But Krivitsky’s book is harshly condemned as untrustworthy by his friend of many years and wife of his assassinated friend Ignace Reiss; see Elizabeth Poretsky, in Our Own People: A Memoire of ‘Ignace Reiss’ and His Friends (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1970), pp. 71; 75, n.2; 124; 146; 204, n. 1; 211, n.1; 269-70. See also Castellan, “Reichswehr et Armee Rouge,” pp. 233, 2234 & nn.; 257, n. 194, for criticisms of Krivitsky.

27. Heinz Hehne, The Order of the Death’s Head: The Story of Hitler’s SS, tr. Richard Barry (New York: Coward-McCann, 1970), p. 233; similarly, idem, Canaris, tr. J. Maxwell Brownjohn (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1979, p. 248. Hehne interviewed other German sources and also studied the SD survivors’ accounts; while accepting their story of the forgery plot, he believes it was not the cause of the arrests of Tukhachevskii and the others.

28. A. Svetlanin, Dal’nevostochnyi zagovor (Frankfurt/M.: Possev-Verlag, 1953). Details about Likhachyov/Svetlanin’s life are given in the necrology by N. Tarasova, Grani, No. 61 (1966), pp. 82-97. A very intelligent discussion, from an emigree viewpoint, of Svetlanin’s account of the conspiracy took place in the pages of the journal Posev in 1949-50; for a complete list of the articles, see ibid, No. 32 (1950), p. 10, n. I am indebted to the late Professor Nikolai Andreyev, of Cambridge, England, for additional information about his colleague and personal friend, Mr Likhachyov, alias Svetlanin.

29. See the article by Coox cited in n. 18 above. The post-war Soviet defector Grigory Tokaev also claimed first-hand knowledge of high-level military opposition to the Stalin government which survived even the military purges; he knows nothing of any Tukhachevskii involvement, however. See his Betrayal of an Ideal (London: Harville Press, 1954), and Comrade X (London: Harville Press, 1956). A Soviet dissident account of the Khar’kov trial, in November, 12969, of the engineer Genrikh Altunian (Khronika tekushchikh sobytii, No. 1, pp. 312-13), states the following: “IRKHA, witness for the prosecution and party organizer of the military academy at which ALTUNIAN taught, stated at the court that it was still not certain whether Komandarm I. Iakir’s rehabilitation was correct (`eshche neizvestno, pravil’no li reabilitirovan komandarm I. IAKIR’).” Robert Conquest also cites this quotation, though without identifying his source, in the introduction to Pyotr Yakir, A Childhood in Prison (New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 12973), p. 17.

Altunian was involved in dissident activities with Pyotr Iakir, son of the general condemned with Tukhachevskii. According to Victor Krasin, Iakir and he were tried in 1973 for collaborating with “the old Russian emigre organization, the National Labor Union (N.T.S.).” (Victor Krasin, “How I Was Broken by the K.G.B., The New York Times Magazine, 19 March 1984, pp. 71, 75). Founded in the 1930s as a fascist-type organization the N.T.S. collaborated closely with the Germans during their invasion of the USSR. George Fischer, ed., Russian emigre Politics (New York: Free Russia Fund, 1951), p. 72. Iakir had thus been working with a fascist group whose “ultimate goal” is “the armed overthrow of the Soviet regime” (Krasin, p. 71). Almost precisely these activities constituted the most dramatic charges against Iakir’s own father, condemned with Tukhachevskii — charges which Iakir believed were false. In a further irony, it was the N.T.S. publishing house, “Possev-Verlag,” that published Svetlanin/Likhachev’s 1952 book in which the author claimed direct knowledge of a plot against the Soviet government by Iakir, Tukhachevskii, and the others (Svetlanin/Likhachyov went on to edit Posev, the N.T.S’s main journal, from 1955 until his death in 1965).

30. Lev Nikulin, Tuchachevskii: Biograficheskii ocherk (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1964), pp. 192-93. uses the account of the forgery plot and President Benes’ involvement taken from Colvin and Churchill, but omits all their evidence for the marshal’s guilt. The Soviet reader would never suspect that Colvin, Benes, Churchill, and the SD agents all believed there really had been a Tukhachevskii conspiracy (Nikulin also leaves out Colvin’s name, making the source harder to identify). Cf. Colvin, Chief of Intelligence, pp. 39-40, and 42; Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1948), pp. 288-89; Memoires of Dr. Edward Benes: From Munich to New War and New Victory (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1949), pp. 19-20, 47.

31. For examples, see Col M.P. Skirdo, The People, the Army, the Commander (Washington, DC, n.d.; orig. ed. Moscow: Voenizdat, 1970), p. 141; V. Savost’ianov and N. Egorov, Komandarm pervogo ranga (I.N. Uborevich) (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1966), pp. 212-13; Soviet Life (June, 1981).

Source

Communist Party Alliance: Bourgeois Democracy and Proletarian Democracy

A talk given to the Stalin Society on 24th July 2005

By Wilf Dixon

This title embraces far more than I realised when I first thought to suggest making it the subject of a talk here at the Stalin Society. As communists we have a responsibility to explain to workers, class conscious youth and all those who instinctively and consciously reject the trappings of life in western bourgeois society and its political life, which they say is democratic and therefore the will of the majority, that even the most democratically elected Parliament cannot change the nature of the bourgeois state. I can only scratch the surface here but the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tse-tung all carry articles on the nature of the state and class society which are the corner-stone of any revolutionary understanding of democracy. To help give some form to this talk, I have listed the following headings:-

1)      Democracy as a form of State rule.

2)      Universal Suffrage.

3)      Parliament and Elections.

4)      Opportunism and Parliamentarism.

5)      Successful participation in Parliament for revolutionary objectives.

6)      Proletarian democracy with reference to the Soviet Union and China.

7)      Bourgeois democracy and modern imperialism.

8)      Some points on elections and the current political climate.

Democracy as a form of state rule

The bourgeoisie have surrounded the word democracy with a halo as if it is the holiest of holy words. The social-democratic ‘tradition’ prevailing in Britain hardly ever subjects the meaning of the word to the scrutiny it needs. Although this may be changing since we hear it every day fall off the lips of George Bush and Tony Blair. But I don’t think this questioning is going very deep because the social-democrats satisfy themselves with merely describing Bush and Blair as hypocrites or inconsistent on this question. Which, of course, they are. However, what U.S. imperialism seems to have discovered is that it has enough wealth and power that it can in many situations at the present time promote individuals, buy a bandwagon of raz-ma-taz and build a movement for optimistic change which can persuade enough people to vote for whoever. This has worked particularly in Poland, Eastern Europe generally and parts of the old Soviet Union.

‘Democracy’ needs to be stripped of the humbug that surrounds the word. Before the emergence of classes and the consequent emergence of the state which comes into being as a product of the irreconcilable nature of class contradictions in class society, that is in order that the ruling class can hold down the subject class, there would undoubtedly have been contradictions among the people of the gens and tribes. Contradictions that may have lead to violence. Almost certainly between contending tribes. There would also have been discussion and consultation to handle disputes within the tribes and families of whatever form with the elders holding particular authority. Engels’ brilliant work on the ‘Origin of the family Private Property and the State’, needs to be read and re-read to get an adequate grasp of this subject. ‘Democracy’, is not “allowing people to have their say” as it is commonly understood to mean. Democracy is a form of state. The word emerged to describe a form of slave state in Greece and Rome. The franchise did not extend to the slaves. Nor would any thinking person reasonably expect slaves, who are merely the property of their owners, to have a vote. I make this point to paint a more vivid picture of ‘democracy’ being a class question. A class question which is obscured under the rule of the bourgeoisie which came to power waving the banner of general freedom and democracy. However, my knowledge of Greece and Rome is scanty and not a subject of detailed discussion here. But I have no doubt that there are people here who can speak in depth on this subject. Democracy is a class question and always has been. It can be nothing else.

Universal Suffrage

It seems that there were democratic forms of the state in Rome and Greece based on the number of slaves owned. Serfdom and feudalism under which land ownership is the basis of wealth of the ruling class of feudal lords, replaced slavery and the land tillers were no longer owned directly by their masters. However, by virtue of his landlessness the serf and later the peasant was inextricably tied to his master having to work increasingly longer on his lord’s land as payment for living and tilling for himself on the Lords land. There was no vote or representative body for the peasants except in as much as they could petition their lord or even the King or his ministers against grievances. Certainly, they had no representatives in Parliaments that may be called by the King in order to raise money or taxes. Here I am not attempting a detailed study of life in the shires, which in some respects may have allowed more freedom to influence the decisions of local dignitaries. I don’t know. It is worth thinking about. However, it occurs to me that in the era of the rule of finance capital the mass of the population are more powerless today under conditions of fully consummated and decaying bourgeois rule than they have ever been. Powerlessness manifests in many forms. I recently read an article drawing attention to the fact that it is common for people in modern bourgeois Britain to be attacked and relieved of their possessions while people stand-by and say or do nothing. Two aspects of powerlessness are suggested here. The attacked individual may on the one hand meekly give up his possessions having no trust that others would help him if he or she resisted. People nearby, on the other hand, reveal their own sense of powerlessness and fear in failing to intervene. I have the feeling that this kind of thing is a product of individualist atomised western bourgeois society which, of course, could not be tolerated in socialist society but it is also unlikely to have existed in medieval society except where the attacker was the local lord or one of his flunkies. It is common for individuals to be attacked in full view of others without anybody intervening. The proletariat is certainly alienated from the final product of its labour more so under capitalism than ever before or in former stages of development of human economic activity. But this alienation alone does not explain the very real sense of powerlessness that prevails in modern imperialist Britain.

However, I must not digress too much from the subject before us today. The distinguishing feature of the present day parliamentary democracies of the developed capitalist west is that suffrage has been extended to the whole adult population. Universal Suffrage is comparatively recent. In Britain even the Levellers and also the Diggers although I am not completely sure on the latter; who were the most revolutionary wing of Cromwell’s army, called for universal male suffrage. In Britain, women were ‘granted’ the vote in 1929. Before that, only women of certain property and independent means were ‘given’ the vote. The idea was that in order to have the right to vote, one had to have a stake in the system. The propertyless have always been despised and mistrusted. I would be interested to have a class breakdown of the near 40% of the population who didn’t vote at the last election.

So what do we say about universal suffrage? Does it change the character of elections in a bourgeois republic? In the sense that universal suffrage cannot change the nature of the state in a bourgeois republic, no. Parliaments elected by universal suffrage are acceptable to the ruling bourgeoisie. But in the sense that at certain times it is possible for the working class to utilise and gather strength through participation in parliamentary elections, it does. In State and Revolution, Lenin said that Engels regarded universal suffrage as a measure of the maturity of the proletariat. In an introduction to Marx’s Class Struggle in France, Engels speaks at length regarding the successes of participation in Parliament in Germany as against street fighting at a time when the proletariat couldn’t hope to match the weapons technology of the army and or when the loyalty of the troops to their commanders could be guaranteed. I’ll quote from pages 659 to 667 of my volume of selected works:-

 “Thanks to the intelligent use which the German workers made of the universal suffrage introduced in 1866, the astonishing growth of the party is made plain to all the world by incontestable figures….Then came recognition of this advance by high authority in the shape of the Anti-Socialist Law…..

 “…the German workers rendered a second great service to their cause in addition to the first, a service performed by their mere existence as the strongest, best disciplined and most rapidly growing  Socialist Party, They supplied their comrades in all countries with a new weapon, and one of the sharpest, when they showed them  how to make use of universal suffrage.

 “With this successful utilisation of universal suffrage, however, an  entirely new method of proletarian struggle came into operation, and this method quickly developed further. It was found that the state  institutions, in which the rule of the bourgeoisie is organised, offer the working class still further opportunities to fight these very state institutions. The workers took part in elections to particular Diets, to municipal councils and to trades courts; they contested with the bourgeoisie every post in the occupation of which a sufficient part of the proletariat had a say. And so it happened that the bourgeoisie and the government came to be much more afraid of the legal than of the  illegal action of the worker’ party, of the results of elections than of those of rebellion.

 “For here, too, the conditions of the struggle had essentially changed. rebellion in the old style, street fighting with barricades which decided the issue everywhere up to 1848, was to a considerable extent obsolete.

 It is important to remember that this introduction was written in 1894 and published in 1895. But there is also an interesting remark referring to France and Spain on page 659 which I will read now:-

 ‘There had long been universal suffrage in France, but it had fallen into disrepute through the misuse to which the Bonapartist government had put it. After the Commune there was no workers’ party to make use of it. It had also existed in Spain since the republic, but in Spain boycott of elections was ever the rule of all serious opposition parties. The experience of the Swiss with universal suffrage was also anything but encouraging for workers’ party. The revolutionary workers of the Latin countries had been wont to regard the suffrage as a snare, as an instrument of Government trickery.

Engels is not saying that boycott is incorrect in the case of Spain, although in the context of his points regarding participation in parliament giving the opportunity for the working class to accumulate strength as in the case of Germany, he may be advising the Spanish or indeed the revolutionary workers of the Latin countries in general to learn from the German example. Be that as it may, the quote indicates to me that Engels regards intelligent boycott of elections as well as intelligent participation as both valid. Let us also note from here, though, that this period in which the German social-democrats utilised the Bundestag and came to be regarded as the leading Party of the 2nd International continued until the outbreak of the First World War. It was the period of peaceful development of the working class movement in the imperialist countries which had blunted its revolutionary will and fostered opportunism such that the majority of the Parties of the 2nd International supported their own imperialist bourgeoisie in a predatory imperialist war.

Parliament and Elections

As I pointed out earlier, Engels in an introduction to Marx’s Class Struggle in France speaks at length on the importance of utilising Parliament in order to assist the working class in gaining strength. He even says that at a time when confronting the bourgeoisie at the barricades brings defeat, it is preferable or that participation in Parliament has brought more success than erecting the barricades. So what is the point at issue here? The point at issue is the question what is to be gained from participation in parliamentary elections. By participation we are, of course, talking about putting up candidates. I am going to come back to this question because it is an important practical one about which we cannot allow ourselves to be satisfied with the general view alone. A general view which seems to have reduced the question of participation in bourgeoise elections and Parliaments to one of ‘it is a good thing’, therefore, we must do it. I blame opportunism and social-democratic prejudices for such shallowness. It is absolutely essential for communists, in imperialist Britain especially, where opportunism prevails in the workers’ and revolutionary workers’ organisations and legality and legalism prevails, to expose Parliament as an instrument of bourgeois class rule.

In ‘State and Revolution’, page 53 of the Chinese edition, under the heading ‘Abolition of Parliamentarism’, Lenin first quotes Marx writing of the Paris Commune:-

‘The Commune,’ Marx wrote, ‘was to be a working not a parliamentary, body, executive and legislative at the same time….’

‘….instead of deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to represent and repress (ver- und zertreten) the people in Parliament, universal suffrage was to serve the people,constituted in Communes, as individual suffrage serves every other employer in the search for the workers, foremen and bookkeepers for his business’.

Revisionism in Britain gave us the British Road to Socialism and the main argument against the so-called peaceful road to socialism centres around the nature of the state. And so it should. But what about the kind of democracy the proletariat itself needs in order to exercise its power. The commune, and of course later the soviet, must be executive and legislative at the same time. It must be a practical body and to be a practical body it must be close to the masses in the factories and workplaces. This is a new form of political power. In fact it is not political power in the sense we have come to know it. That is the bourgeois sense of being in or out of ‘office’

It is worth noting here that the adoption of the British Road to Socialism also meant the CPGB switching from factory to constituency organisation. The two forms of organisation quite starkly outline the difference between bourgeois and proletarian democracy.

The bourgeois Parliament is part of the state apparatus of a bourgeois democratic republic or monarchy. I will try and make some points on why the proletariat does not need a Parliament. I am of course talking about a proletariat that holds power. The main aspect of this is connected with some important questions of Marxism on the nature of the state.

The state came into being with the emergence of classes and class contradictions. As such it is not a neutral body but an organ of repression. What distinguishes the bourgeois democratic republic from the feudal or slave states is the existence of a parliament elected by universal adult suffrage with the power to legislate Government policy and create laws and statutes. As the argument goes, because the Parliament is elected, it therefore expresses the will of the majority or the popular will. Hence, Parliament is said to be not an expression of class rule but a prize which parties expressing the interests of the classes they represent should seek to win. Unfortunately, there are two things which prevent the bourgeois parliament from becoming the expression of the will of the oppressed masses. One is that the Parliament once elected, with the ruling party having the majority of seats, it is immovable until the next election and its members can be bought by the high salary that goes with being an M.P and the thousands of threads that tie the most freely elected Parliament to the economic power of the bourgeoisie. The other is that real power resides in the executive authority of the bureaucracy, civil service, police and standing army. Parliaments come and go, but this powerful body, handpicked for its loyalty to the existing social order, cannot be removed by the legislative assembly. Should a Party of the working class and oppressed masses gain power and begin to meddle with the sacred property rights of the ruling class never mind begin to dispossess them of their wealth and privileges, there is always the standing army to disperse the Parliament and murder the peoples’ leaders.

In the absence of such a standing army, Marx and Engels were prepared to consider the theoretical possibility of the proletariat winning a majority of Parliamentary seats and using this power to buy out, rest by degrees from the bourgeoisie their power and thus gain power for the proletariat. England apparently, was such a country in the mid nineteenth century. Be that as it may, there is no example in history where a class holding power has given up that power without a fierce and violent struggle. Marx and Engels admitted of this theoretical possibility but only a charlatan and a bourgeois trickster would attempt to make such a consideration the main plank of a Marxist understanding on the proletariat’s struggle for socialism.

Based on the experience of the Paris Commune Marx and Engels introduced one amendment to the Communist Manifesto:-

‘‘One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., that ‘the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.’’ (quoted by Lenin page 43 of State and Revolution Chinese edition).

The point is not to lay hold of the ready made state machine of the bourgeoise,

But to smash it and replace it with the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat organised in communes or soviets. The bureaucratic state must be smashed. That is the power of the bourgeoisie in the military bureaucratic state apparatus of repression and coercion, replaced by the armed proletariat or a peoples’ militia. The right of the proletariat to bear arms in order to exercise its power as a class is the most important expression of peoples’ democracy. Lenin quoting, Marx at length, explains in detail, contrasting anarchism with Marxism on the question of the state, that the bureaucracy will not disappear immediately. However, the communes and later the soviets will be working bodies expressing the needs in production and life of the working masses and therefore not requiring the bureaucratic apparatus of repression of the bourgeois state machine. These communes will have their authority centralised through a national body made up of representatives of the communes with the commune having right of recall of its representatives and criticism of their activities. This is democracy and centralism in a new kind of proletarian state, which is not a state in the strictest sense. It is a state in transition expressing the power and will of the formerly oppressed masses. With the securing of that power, and the creation of a new society and new morality and relations between people in that nation and internationally, the state begins to whither away and the day will come as stated in the Communist Manifesto when the state is a thing of the past consigned to the museum of history along with other antiquities like the spinning wheel and the bronze axe

Opportunism and Parliamentarism

The Oxford dictionary definition of opportunism is the ‘adaptation of policy to circumstances regardless of principle’. I have always understand it to mean and preferred the more precise definition from a Marxist-Leninist perspective of it meaning the sacrifice of long term aims for short term gains. Opportunism can be expressed in terms of any ideology but with regard to the subject we are dealing with today, Marxist Leninists or even those who call themselves Marxists and are reluctant to also call themselves Leninists, pride themselves that their participation is revolutionary, while that of the reformist parties is not. It is not good enough to make such assumptions because opportunism is a slippery animal and all practical experience of participation in parliamentary election campaigns must be carefully assessed and summed up as to its successes and failings in furthering the long term interests of educating and organising the revolutionary proletariat.

Of course, we are not here to lecture the Labour Party on how to utilise Parliament. The New Labour Party signalled to the bourgeoisie that it is a fully consummated bourgeois party of the American ‘democrat’ type when it abandoned clause four. Its only fig leaf making it possible for some ‘left’ representatives of the working class to justify their membership of the Labour Party. Tony Blair has done the working class movement a favour by removing this fig leaf. By becoming the preferred ruling Party for the British ruling class, New Labour can be perceived as stronger. But it is in fact weaker and the fact that it is becoming increasingly exposed as a Party of imperialism makes it of less use to the British ruling class. The more intelligent representatives of British imperialism understand only too well the roll that reformism and illusions among the working class in its reformist representatives plays in bolstering the rule of the bourgeoisie.

Hence the emergence of new reformist parties and coalitions. The formation of the SLP was an important development which I welcomed along with Arthur Scargill leaving the Labour Party and becoming a potential focus for rallying class conscious workers with a base in the working class of this country. Unfortunately, Arthur Scargill is only one man. A man of tremendous courage and ability to lead the working class in struggle and stand up to the class enemy. But one man none-the-less who, it has to be said, must have illusions in social democracy and Parliament. Or, he sacrifices the long term aim of expropriation of the bourgeoisie in favour of winning reforms through Parliament. None of this can I speak confidently about because when dealing with a man of Arthur Scargill’s stature in the history of working class struggle in Britain, I think it is essential to be concrete. The work needs to be done in summing up the practice of the SLP and there are people in this room better able to do it than me. However, the SLP did not develop as I hoped. The Party was from the outset torn to pieces by the Trotskyites who worked in their usual way in its various committees. Something that Arthur Scargill showed his political maturity in fighting. But for all this the SLP remained trapped within the social-democratic perspectives that are peculiar to the British working class movement. That is why it is fair to say that the SLP was trying to recapture or restore the Old Labour Party. I believe that Scargill wanted to build a Party which was internationalist and rooted in the everyday struggle of working people in this country. But he remains a prisoner of his own social-democratic illusions and prejudices. Naming the SLP committees Constituency SLP’s shows clearly the Parliamentary perspective that the SLP had and has.

I believe that the failure of the SLP is bound up with the fact that the masses of this country are becoming increasingly disillusioned with Parliament and instinctively mistrust those who say vote for my Party and we will do whatever. Scargill losing to Mandelson in County Durham upset me at the time and I believe that of all election campaigns it should be subject to searching analysis. That a crook and spinner like Mandelson can win without the working class movement having gained anything such as a stronger local organisation cannot be just passed over as ‘we did it so it must have had some positive effects’.

Successful Participation in Parliament for Revolutionary Objectives

It is necessary to grasp that participation or non-participation in Parliamentary elections and Parliament must not be made, or seen to be made an objective in itself, that it is a question that needs to be studied anew at every juncture and judged from the standpoint of the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat. We have examples of stands taken by revolutionary parties towards elections and Parliament. The Bolsheviks had a policy of boycott of elections to a Duma hastily convened by the Tsar when the 1905-7 revolution was still on the ascendancy. Lenin commended those deputies who were prepared to go to prison rather than vote for war credits at the beginning of the lst World War. Such a picture would do a great deal to raise the consciousness of the proletariat and rally its vanguard behind the leadership of the communists.

I have spoken of the period after the Paris Commune when the German social-democrats utilised participation in Parliament in a comparatively peaceful period to help the German working class gather strength at a time of anti-socialist laws. As I have suggested this whole period between 1871 and the outbreak of World War 1 is a time when the working class of Europe with the exception of Russia was able to wring concessions and reforms. It was a period which nurtured opportunism, a more powerful weapon, used to tame the working class movement, than banning orders and repression. The super-profits looted from the colonies allowed the monopoly capitalist class to set aside funds for the purpose of buying off key sections of the working class whose reformist illusions came to dominate the legal and ‘respectable’ social democratic organisations of the working class.

I am hoping the discussion will throw up examples where revolutionary parties have utilised Parliament to promote and strengthen a mass movement. In Britain, I think the best examples lie not with the communists, although I am aware of the speeches made by Willie Gallagher and Saklatvala before him. In Britain, Revolutionary politics are seldom far from the issue of Ireland and I am thinking of the use made by Sinn Fein of Parliament while refusing to take the oath and therefore their seats. But the best example is the slogan of the ballot box and the gun and Bobby Sands’ brilliant victory while on hunger strike in prison. Sinn Fein and the IRA were able to arrive at these tactics from the point of view of non-participation in terms of not taking your seat in a Parliament of the colonial master that required all MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the Queen. Surely communist representatives of a Party firmly rooted and based on the struggle of the workers and oppressed peoples can devise tactics to expose the fraud of bourgeois democracy and the bourgeois parliament based on non-participation as well as participation.

For Marxist-Leninists, the crux of the issue is the utilising of Parliament to promote and strengthen the struggle of the working class and oppressed people. For the reformists and opportunists, obtaining seats in Parliament is the prize itself. I can’t speak for anybody else here, but when George Galloway was elected in Bethnal Green and Bow on a strong platform of opposition to the war in Iraq I was pleased. This punctured the arrogance of the Blairites and it was a measure of the political maturity of the people of that area. It was also heart-warming to see him show courage and challenge the lies of the British and American imperialists which are spewed out from the bourgeois media, at that so-called American senatorial enquiry. A modern day house of un-American activities. A lot of people were delighted to see and hear Galloway turn the tables. The Americans will be a bit more careful before they try and do Blair another favour that helps him deal with his domestic politics. We are yet to see if Galloway has the intelligence courage and will to use his seat in Parliament to strengthen the movement against British and American expansionism. This is a double-edged thing. If he does then it must be judged concretely. Is he working to strengthen the popular movement or just to make a name for himself and become just another tail demanding that he wag the dog? In other words promoting new illusions that returning more Respect MP’s is the answer. He is not a communist and I doubt that he will submit himself to criticism and censure by his ‘party’, if indeed we can call his rag-bag of followers a Party at all. ‘Respect’ has no definite program and it is making a virtue of being all things to all men. The real test of whether Galloway is a true representative of the masses is whether he considers his position more important than the popular movement and is he prepared to submit himself to the interests of the peoples’ struggle against imperialism and imperialist war.

Proletarian democracy with particular reference to the Soviet Union and China

Before dealing with this question it is important to re-cap on the main distinctions between bourgeois and proletarian democracy. All bourgeois parliaments, if indeed they are not merely a talking shop, are separated from the executive authority, the bureaucracy, the army of civil servants charged with the responsibility of carrying out the legislation passed by Parliament. This bureaucracy is part of the bourgeois state machine and is a bulwark of bourgeois power. The cornerstone of proletarian power, the commune or the soviet, is both legislative and executive at the same time. Before the October revolution decided the issue of the ascendancy of the workers and peasants, there existed what Lenin described as a form of duel power. Kerensky’s provisional government was issuing orders and laws. But as is described in John Read’s ‘Ten Days that Shook the World’, if you wanted to know something or have something done you had to go to the Soviets or workers and soldiers committees. Exactly so, the power of the workers and peasants in the Soviets was executive and legislative at the same time.

This had to be legally formalised in Soviet law. However, there was the issue of the Constituent Assembly. The demand for a Constituent Assembly in conditions of the Tsarist autocracy was a progressive and democratic demand. However, the Provisional Government of Kerensky and supported by the Socialist Revolutionaries had repeatedly postponed elections for a Constituent Assembly because they wished to continue participation in the predatory imperialist war. It is not surprising, however, that the classes and Parties that had been overthrown by the November 7th revolution should become as zealous in their demands for elections to a constituent assembly as they were in post-poning it previously.

I am going to quote extensively on this question of the Constituent Assembly from Andrew Rothstein’s excellent book ‘A History of the U.S.S.R’, pages 56-57.

‘The intention of the Bolsheviks – with which the Left Socialist revolutionaries agreed – was to induce the Constituent Assembly peacefully to accept the basic decrees of the November revolution, and to regard its own principal function as ‘the general elaboration of the fundamental principles of the socialist transformation of society’. For this purpose a ‘Declaration of Rights of the Working and exploited People’, embodying the decrees in question, was drawn up and adopted by the C.E.C. on January 16th. In order to give the bourgeois parties an opportunity to bring the composition of the assembly into greater conformity with the feeling of the masses, the C.E.C. had earlier (December, 4th) unanimously adopted a decree providing for the right to recall deputies and to hold new elections, where the local Soviets judged this expedient. But this procedure was not put into effect, in view of the turn of events when the time for opening the Constituent Assembly arrived.

‘This was on January 18th. By a large majority (roughly 60% to 40%) the Assembly rejected the Bolshevik proposal to elect the Left Socialist – Revolutionary leader, Maria Spiridinova, as President, and chose one of the principal anti-Soviet Politicians, Victor Chernov (leader of the Right S.R.s) instead. It refused even to discuss the Declaration of rights. First the Bolsheviks and then the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries retired from the Assembly in the course of the night (January 19th), after making it clear that the Assembly by its actions was taking the path of counter-revolution. At 4 am on January 19th the commander of the sailors guarding the Assembly told Chernov ‘it was time to go home, as the sailors were tired’: and twenty-four hours later the C.E.C. decreed the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, as having ‘ruptured every link between itself and the Soviet Republic of Russia’ ‘It must be added that the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly attracted much more attention abroad than it did in Russia.‘On January 23rd the third All-Russian Congress of Soviets met in Petrograd and itself adopted the Declaration of Rights of the labouring and Exploited Masses. This document was embodied in all the subsequent Soviet Constitutions up to July 1936. With a second resolution, ‘On the Federal Institutions of the Russian Republic’, it represented the germ of the future Soviet constitutional structure.

Forgive me for extending this quote, but I think what follows reveals the essence of proletarian democracy which is important to grasp if we are not to fall victim to bourgeois democratic prejudices and cretinism.          

‘The Declaration proclaimed Russia to be a ‘Republic of Soviets of Workers, Soldiers and Peasants’ Deputies’, in which all authority was vested; and a ‘free union of free nations’. With the aim of suppressing all exploitation of man by man, the Declaration nationalised all land, forests, and mineral wealth without compensation, transferred all banks to the State, enacted that ‘work useful to the community shall be obligatory upon all’, and ratified the Soviet Government’s decrees establishing workmen’s control of industry and a Supreme Economic council, as a ‘first step’ towards nationalisation of industry and transport. It repudiated Tsarist debts, Tsarist secret treaties and the colonial policy of capitalism. It decreed the arming of the workers, the disarming of the propertied classes and their exclusion from the machinery of government. It proclaimed that Russia’s aim was a democratic peace, based on free self-determination of the nations. ‘……..Relations with Soviet Republics as they were formed, or with regions distinguished by national priorities, were to be regulated by the C.E.C. and the appropriate bodies in the territories concerned. The central authority was responsible only for measures applying to State as a whole. ‘All local affairs are decided solely by the local Soviets.’

I hope this has helped me draw out the essence of proletarian democracy. That is the real power to decide and act at grass roots or local level. The right of recall and criticism of representatives to the higher bodes. These rights were enshrined in the Soviet constitution. They were the essence of workers’ and peasants’ power, and what made the dictatorship of the proletariat strong and the soviet people able to defeat the class enemy within in order to consolidate the Soviet State. The movements to purge the party and state could not have been carried out just by orders from above. I must add that I mean movements to purge the Party and state of backward and counter-revolutionary elements. These movements required the active participation of the people and low-ranking Party members. Purges directed only from above must at least be ratified by the lower bodies and full explanations given. It is a matter of historical fact that the Kruschevite revisionists were able to seize power and transform the state and Party from being socialist and proletarian in character to one which gave free reign to a bourgeoisified strata of technocrats and state-functionaries. We have discussed in other talks, particularly on the question of Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR that it is probable that Stalin was preparing the ground for launching a new campaign of criticism and self-criticism which would have immediately had its echo at the lower levels and maybe would have transformed the fortunes of the revisionists from success into failure. It is certain that many Party leaders and state functionaries breathed a sigh of relief when they learned that they did not have to face investigation of their activities or justify their decisions and actions.

The fact that the combined military might of the 14 intervening powers nor the massive military machine assembled by Nazi Germany could overthrow the dictatorship of the proletariat in the USSR; yet a comparative handful of revisionist conspirators can succeed, is a matter for deep reflection. It was this that troubled Mao Tse-tung and led the Chinese Communists Party to launch its campaign to criticise modern revisionism and launch the Cultural Revolution. To my mind this movement failed in its objectives but there are some successes, if not just the operas and films that came out at this time. I believe this failure is rooted in the weak socialist economic base i.e. industrial base and consequently a weaker proletariat in relation to the peasantry. This may not have been so critical had Kruschev not stopped the aid so important to kick-start Chinese socialist construction.

Bourgeois democracy and modern imperialism

Even the most democratically elected Parliament is tied by a thousand threads to the interests of the bourgeoisie. Modern capitalism is not the economic system of the bourgeoisie on the rise i.e. when it was deemed historically to be a progressive class destroying the economic power of the feudal lords and liberating the productive forces from the shackles of feudalism. Modern capitalism is monopoly capitalism, which if one is to define imperialism, is the essence of imperialism. Monopoly capitalism is moribund capitalism, i.e. decaying capitalism. This is not to say that monopoly capitalism cannot make innovations or expand its economic power. This is clearly not the case.

The point is that monopoly capitalism strives for control and domination and not economic freedom. To this end particular monopolies may at one time advocate free trade in order to use market forces to oust their competitors and invade the markets of weaker economies with cheap goods in order to destroy indigenous industry, whilst at another or at the same time, erect trade barriers to exclude competitors.

Monopoly capitalism is in the business of destroying productive forces and propping up feudalism in order to keep oppressed nations dependent. Monopoly capitalism is in the business of destroying economic independence and the ability of nations and peoples to feed themselves in order to extract raw materials and enforce cash crops. The banks exact huge burdens of debt on the peoples and nations, which stifle any ability to rise above pauper and dependency status. Clearly this is a system of economic backwardness not progress. The striving for monopoly and the interests of imperialism cannot but characterise, i.e. be the main aspect of how we regard the Parliaments of the major capitalist countries. More than ever, do the politicians of all the bourgeois parties become the mouthpieces and tools of the interests of particular monopoly capitalist concerns not just the general interests of the monopoly capitalist class. Corruption is rife. In the thirties it was possible for there to be strong communist parties in the parliaments of France and Germany. Of course, in the case of the latter before the Nazis burnt down the Reichstag and unleashed the reign of terror. Also, it was possible in France for the popular front to gain huge success. But what of today? Money and wealth decide the competition between two overtly bourgeois parties in both Britain and America. In America, it seems impossible to even stand as a candidate without being or having the backing of multi-millionaires. It is this firmly entrenched system of tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee, which effectively disenfranchises the masses of the lowest strata of workers and oppressed peoples. It is also the economic power and wealth of imperialism which leads it to confidently advocate bourgeois democracy in areas where it seeks to expand. Eastern Europe, Africa and certain other selected areas for example.

All this being the case, it is essential that communists must base themselves on the struggle for the class and political interests of the workers and oppressed peoples and not use precious resources in election campaigns we cannot win or advance the interests of the working class. This has to be judged concretely but putting up candidates when the deposit is certain to be lost is a waist of time. That money can be used in exposing the fraud of bourgeois elections and trying to reach those who instinctively reject the whole rotten system.

Some points on and the current political climate

The title of this talk may seem somewhat academic and divorced from the conditions currently facing us in Britain today. But I think not. While the state is becoming more repressive and bourgeois democratic rights are being removed and undermined, ostensibly to give the police powers to deal with acts of terrorism, it is being made more difficult for communists who stay loyal to the principles of Marxism Leninism to agitate and propagandise among workers and oppressed peoples. This is the bigger prize for modern imperialist Britain allied to the most aggressive and bellicose imperialist power of today, U.S. imperialism. In this situation, it is essential for communists and all progressive people to strike deep roots among the masses. This is one point, perhaps the main point if we are to survive.

The second point, is that if it is made illegal to make communist propaganda on the grounds that it is indirectly aiding ‘terrorism’, communists are going to be compelled to combine or find legal and illegal ways of agitating and organising among the masses. While deep roots among the masses would be primary in this situation, election campaigns would take on a new significance allowing communists a legal platform for challenging the ruling monopoly capitalist class and its lackeys. Parliamentary privilege allows MP’s to speak without censure to a certain extent. So it would be essential to demand that any successful candidate claiming to represent the workers or oppressed peoples use that privilege to speak out against British imperialism and support the just struggles against imperialism and imperialist war throughout the world. I will stop here and I hope this introduction will stimulate discussion and help deepen our understanding on the questions raised. But to Sum up I would like to draw attention to the following:-

  • The imperialists have made it essential that we deal with the question of the class nature of democracy and expose the fraud of bourgeois democracy.
  • Proletarian democracy empowers the masses
  • Participation or non-participation in parliamentary elections must be judged concretely. I favour non-participation and campaigns to boycott or spoil ballot papers at the present time in order to give full reign to revolutionary agitation and propaganda and aid reaching the most revolutionary and class conscious. Except where there is a possibility of success or the masses demand that we stand.
  • Successful candidates should be under the strict control of the organisation they represent and give up a proportion of their income as an MP to the party they represent, retaining what is needed for a modest life style. Their income should be comparable to the income gained by unionised workers in the basic industries of the country.
  • Failure to live up to the people’s hopes must be openly criticised. This will educate the people that communist representatives strive to be tribunes of the people or they lose the right to speak in their name.
  • Above everything, communists must be like fish in water with the masses and strike deep roots among the masses, because that is where our power and strength lies.  

The Berlin Wall: Another Cold War Myth

 

November 9 will mark the 25th anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. The extravagant hoopla began months ago in Berlin. In the United States we can expect all the Cold War clichés about The Free World vs. Communist Tyranny to be trotted out and the simple tale of how the wall came to be will be repeated: In 1961, the East Berlin communists built a wall to keep their oppressed citizens from escaping to West Berlin and freedom. Why? Because commies don’t like people to be free, to learn the “truth”. What other reason could there have been?

First of all, before the wall went up in 1961 thousands of East Germans had been commuting to the West for jobs each day and then returning to the East in the evening; many others went back and forth for shopping or other reasons. So they were clearly not being held in the East against their will. Why then was the wall built? There were two major reasons:

1) The West was bedeviling the East with a vigorous campaign of recruiting East German professionals and skilled workers, who had been educated at the expense of the Communist government. This eventually led to a serious labor and production crisis in the East. As one indication of this, the New York Times reported in 1963: “West Berlin suffered economically from the wall by the loss of about 60,000 skilled workmen who had commuted daily from their homes in East Berlin to their places of work in West Berlin.”

It should be noted that in 1999, USA Today reported: “When the Berlin Wall crumbled [1989], East Germans imagined a life of freedom where consumer goods were abundant and hardships would fade. Ten years later, a remarkable 51% say they were happier with communism.”   Earlier polls would likely have shown even more than 51% expressing such a sentiment, for in the ten years many of those who remembered life in East Germany with some fondness had passed away; although even 10 years later, in 2009, the Washington Post could report: “Westerners [in Berlin] say they are fed up with the tendency of their eastern counterparts to wax nostalgic about communist times.”

It was in the post-unification period that a new Russian and eastern Europe proverb was born: “Everything the Communists said about Communism was a lie, but everything they said about capitalism turned out to be the truth.”

It should be further noted that the division of Germany into two states in 1949 – setting the stage for 40 years of Cold War hostility – was an American decision, not a Soviet one.

2) During the 1950s, American cold-warriors in West Germany instituted a crude campaign of sabotage and subversion against East Germany designed to throw that country’s economic and administrative machinery out of gear. The CIA and other US intelligence and military services recruited, equipped, trained and financed German activist groups and individuals, of West and East, to carry out actions which ran the spectrum from juvenile delinquency to terrorism; anything to make life difficult for the East German people and weaken their support of the government; anything to make the commies look bad.

It was a remarkable undertaking. The United States and its agents used explosives, arson, short circuiting, and other methods to damage power stations, shipyards, canals, docks, public buildings, gas stations, public transportation, bridges, etc; they derailed freight trains, seriously injuring workers; burned 12 cars of a freight train and destroyed air pressure hoses of others; used acids to damage vital factory machinery; put sand in the turbine of a factory, bringing it to a standstill; set fire to a tile-producing factory; promoted work slow-downs in factories; killed 7,000 cows of a co-operative dairy through poisoning; added soap to powdered milk destined for East German schools; were in possession, when arrested, of a large quantity of the poison cantharidin with which it was planned to produce poisoned cigarettes to kill leading East Germans; set off stink bombs to disrupt political meetings; attempted to disrupt the World Youth Festival in East Berlin by sending out forged invitations, false promises of free bed and board, false notices of cancellations, etc.; carried out attacks on participants with explosives, firebombs, and tire-puncturing equipment; forged and distributed large quantities of food ration cards to cause confusion, shortages and resentment; sent out forged tax notices and other government directives and documents to foster disorganization and inefficiency within industry and unions … all this and much more.

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, of Washington, DC, conservative coldwarriors, in one of their Cold War International History Project Working Papers (#58, p.9) states: “The open border in Berlin exposed the GDR [East Germany] to massive espionage and subversion and, as the two documents in the appendices show, its closure gave the Communist state greater security.”

Throughout the 1950s, the East Germans and the Soviet Union repeatedly lodged complaints with the Soviets’ erstwhile allies in the West and with the United Nations about specific sabotage and espionage activities and called for the closure of the offices in West Germany they claimed were responsible, and for which they provided names and addresses. Their complaints fell on deaf ears. Inevitably, the East Germans began to tighten up entry into the country from the West, leading eventually to the infamous wall. However, even after the wall was built there was regular, albeit limited, legal emigration from east to west. In 1984, for example, East Germany allowed 40,000 people to leave. In 1985, East German newspapers claimed that more than 20,000 former citizens who had settled in the West wanted to return home after becoming disillusioned with the capitalist system. The West German government said that 14,300 East Germans had gone back over the previous 10 years.

Let’s also not forget that while East Germany completely denazified, in West Germany for more than a decade after the war, the highest government positions in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches contained numerous former and “former” Nazis.

Finally, it must be remembered, that Eastern Europe became communist because Hitler, with the approval of the West, used it as a highway to reach the Soviet Union to wipe out Bolshevism forever, and that the Russians in World War I and II, lost about 40 million people because the West had used this highway to invade Russia. It should not be surprising that after World War II the Soviet Union was determined to close down the highway.

For an additional and very interesting view of the Berlin Wall anniversary, see the article “Humpty Dumpty and the Fall of Berlin’s Wall” by Victor Grossman. Grossman (née Steve Wechsler) fled the US Army in Germany under pressure from McCarthy-era threats and became a journalist and author during his years in the (East) German Democratic Republic. He still lives in Berlin and mails out his “Berlin Bulletin” on German developments on an irregular basis. You can subscribe to it at wechsler_grossman@yahoo.de. His autobiography: “Crossing the River: a Memoir of the American Left, the Cold War and Life in East Germany” was published by University of Massachusetts Press. He claims to be the only person in the world with diplomas from both Harvard University and Karl Marx University in Leipzig.

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War IIRogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power . His latest book is: America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy. He can be reached at: BBlum6@aol.com

Source

The Party of Labour of Iran (Toufan) boycotts the farce presidential elections in Iran

The twelfth Presidential election in Iran is going to be held on May 19, 2017. This is a farce election. Neither women, half of the Iran’s population, nor the religious minorities, no need to mention the communists and the opposition forces, have the right to presidential candidacy,

The preconditions for fair and free elections do not exist under the rule of the Islamic Republic. There is no freedom of organization or assembly, trade unionists and worker-activists are imprisoned, the execution and repression of the opponents are continued, bribery and astronomical embezzlement by the high ranking authorities are exposed, and unleashed economic neo-liberalism is suffocating the masses. This is not an election; it is the appointment of a mafia bandit by the Supreme Leader to preserve and continue the rule of the Islamic Republic to gain domestic and international legitimacy.

To participate in the elections in Iran and to vote for one of the crooks and hypocrites of the regime is an insult to the dignity and respect for a human being and to give legitimacy to the Islamic Republic’s killing machine. The people of Iran, the workers, women, labourers, and masses of Iran have no choice except to boycott the farce elections in Iran.

Soviet Democracy and Bourgeois Democracy

This pamphlet is a translation of an essay published in the symposium Soviet Socialist Society prepared by the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. and published by the Gospolitizdat, Moscow 1949.

The question of democracy, of how it is to be correctly understood, of the fundamental distinction between Soviet socialist democracy and bourgeois democracy is a highly important question of our time.

Since the Great October Socialist Revolution there have been revealed to the full the great advantages possessed by Soviet socialist democracy, and the decay, crisis and utter decline of bourgeois democracy.

The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union against Hitler Germany showed the invincible strength of the Soviet social and state system. The war showed that “…the Soviet social system is a better form of organization of society than any non-Soviet social system.”[*] The war showed that the Soviet system of state is the best state system ever known to history.

The Soviet State, Soviet socialist democracy emerged from the war stronger than ever. And now, after the close of the war, Soviet democracy is blossoming forth anew, is achieving new successes.

In a number of European countries – Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Albania, Rumania, and Hungary – the system of People’s Democracy has been established. The peoples of these countries displayed self-sacrifice and heroism in the struggle against the fascist oppressors. Having, with the aid of the Soviet Army, secured their liberation from the Nazi yoke, they set about building a democratic order in their countries, but in a new fashion, in a way that rejected the old models of bourgeois-parliamentary democracy. The democracy that arose in these countries assumed new forms, of a higher type than those of the old bourgeois-parliamentary democracy. In these countries democracy is being extended and developed on a scale that indicates that the workers and peasants are really being involved in the administration of the State and that is making the blessings of democracy actually available to the wide masses of the people. New forms of organization of the State have thus arisen which constitute a big advance on the bourgeois democratic states and are opening up the possibility for further progress by these countries on the road to Socialism.

The war also revealed tremendous defects in the old bourgeois-parliamentary forms of democracy. The course of historical development had proved irrefutably that the bourgeois-democratic states, as a result of their flirting with fascism, and their concessions to fascism during the period that preceded the second world war, were in fact – at the beginning of the war – helpless to meet the danger that threatened all the achievements of civilization and democracy, and the free national existence of these countries. The war showed that it was only thanks to the Soviet Union and to the decisive part it played in routing the Nazi aggressors that European civilization was saved from destruction.

* * *

The basic feature of bourgeois democracy, as has been repeatedly noted in the works of the classics of Marxism-Leninism is the fact that it is democracy for the exploiting minority and is directed against the majority. Speaking of bourgeois democracy, Lenin and Stalin pointed out that it undoubtedly constituted progress as compared with feudalism and mediaevalism. The working class has used and endeavours to use the framework of bourgeois democracy so as to develop the class struggle, to set up and consolidate its class organizations. But while Lenin and Stalin pointed to this significance of bourgeois democracy for the working class, they also constantly indicated that bourgeois democracy, based as it is on the dominance of private ownership of the means of production, is formal, false and truncated democracy. “Bourgeois democracy,” wrote Lenin, “although a great historical advance in comparison with mediaevalism, always remains – and under capitalism cannot but remain – restricted, truncated, false and hypocritical, a paradise for the rich and a snare and a delusion for the exploited, for the poor.”[†]

Those who uphold bourgeois democracy use fine phrases about “equality,” “liberty” and “fraternity” in an endeavour to hide the actual domination of the exploiters over the exploited, which is based on the private ownership of the means of production.

Lenin pointed out that general phrases about liberty, equality, democracy are in fact nothing more than the blind repetition of concepts copied from the relations of commodity production. “From the point of view of the proletariat,” wrote Lenin, “the question can be put only in the following way: freedom from being oppressed by which class? equality between which classes? democracy based on private property, or on the struggle for the abolition of private property? – and so forth.”[‡]

Employing all the rigour of Marxist analysis, Lenin and Stalin unmasked bourgeois democracy and placed the issue on the only correct and scientific basis.

Comrade Stalin, in his report on the Draft Constitution of the U.S-S.R. said the following: “They speak of the equality of citizens, but forget that there cannot be real equality between employer and workman, between landlord and peasant, if the former possess wealth and political weight in society while the latter are deprived of both – if the former are exploiters while the latter are exploited. Or again: they speak of freedom of speech, assembly, and the press, but forget that all these liberties may be merely a hollow sound for the working class, if the latter cannot have access to suitable premises for meetings, good printing shops, a sufficient quantity of printing paper, etc.”[§]

When elucidating the specific features of the history and traditions of bourgeois democracy in each country, the classics of Marxism-Leninism pointed out at the same time that “… the most democratic bourgeois republic is a machine for the oppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie.”[**]

What distinguishes the epoch of imperialism from the preceding period, the epoch of free competition, is the fact that under imperialism state activity is marked by a turn, all along the line, to political reaction. In both foreign and home policy imperialism strives to violate democracy and establish reaction. These reactionary strivings of imperialism are being displayed more and more glaringly in the political life of present-day England and the U.S.A. This, however, does not prevent those who defend imperialism from talking without end about all the different “freedoms” that are supposed to be part of bourgeois democracy.

Let us, for example, take the question of the so-called “freedom of the press” in bourgeois countries. The fact that a multitude of newspapers of various trends is published in foreign countries, that arguments ensue among these papers on various secondary problems, that different viewpoints are expressed, that criticism is occasionally levelled in these newspapers at those who captain the bourgeois ship of state – all this is lauded to the skies by the advocates of bourgeois democracy. They bring these points forward as evidence of the freedom of the press that is supposed to exist in the bourgeois countries.

Actually, however, the so-called “freedom of the press” in bourgeois society means nothing more than freedom for the capitalists to control the press and to “shape” public opinion to suit their own interests. “Freedom of the press in capitalist society,” said Lenin, “means freedom to trade in the press and in influencing the masses of the people. Freedom of the press means maintaining the press, a most powerful instrument for influencing the masses of the people, at the expense of capital.”[††] Such is the real worth of bourgeois freedom of the press.

The false character of the so-called freedoms, particularly freedom of the press, has even had to be admitted by many publicists and sociologists who defend bourgeois democracy.

Or let us take the so-called “freedom of elections” which is lauded in every way by the apologists of present-day bourgeois democracy. The fact that different parties participate in elections, that a struggle takes place among them, and that these parties advance different programs is extolled by the apologists of bourgeois democracy as evidence of the existence of a supposedly genuine democratic system in these countries. Yet if we delve into the essence of bourgeois “freedom of elections,” so-called, we will see that this boasted “freedom of elections” is as much a fraud as is “freedom of the press.”

Marx, in his work The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, already characterized bourgeois constitutions as follows: “…each paragraph of the Constitution contains its own antithesis, its own Upper and Lower House, namely, liberty in the general phrase, abrogation of liberty in the marginal note.”[‡‡]

Basing himself on later historical experience, Lenin continued this characterization of bourgeois liberties as follows: “… under bourgeois democracy the capitalists, by a thousand and one tricks – which are the more artful and effective the more “pure” democracy is developed – – debar the masses from a share in the work of administration, from freedom of the press, the right of assembly, etc… . For the toiling masses, participation in bourgeois parliaments (which never decide important questions under bourgeois democracy; they are decided by the stock exchange and the banks) is hindered by a thousand and one obstacles, and the workers know and feel, see and realize perfectly well that the bourgeois parliaments are institutions alien to them, instruments for the oppression of the proletarians by the bourgeoisie, institutions of a hostile class, of an exploiting minority.”[§§]

Numerous restrictions exist, both in Great Britain and the United States, that prevent the suffrage being universal. There are restrictions of various kinds on the suffrage, in the shape of literacy qualifications, a poll tax and so on and so forth. In the U.S.A. Negroes possess the formal right to vote and be elected, but in actual practice on only one occasion in fifty years was a Negro elected to Congress. When elections are about to take place in the U.S.A., Negroes have to undergo quite a meticulous examination to establish their ability to read and write, and frequently their “political knowledge.” This is done so as to deprive the overwhelming majority of the Negro population of the suffrage.

Facts of this kind – proof that the freedom of elections is in fact restricted – are quite well known. A wealth of material exposing the sham of “freedom of elections” in bourgeois countries is to be found in the publications and statements of many, even loyal, upholders of bourgeois democracy.

In 1944, a book appeared in the U.S.A. entitled Democracy Begins at Home by Jennings Perry. The author, editor of the newspaper Tennessean, devotes this work to the problem of the poll tax in the State of Tennessee and in the Southern States in general. The book discloses a highly interesting picture of the morals characteristic of present-day American democracy. It turns out that in the U.S.A. the years 1889 to 1908 saw the gradual introduction in all the states of something in the nature of a tax on the right to vote. It became the rule that citizens could not participate in the elections unless they paid this tax.

What effect did this tax have on the elections? In 1936 there took place the election of the Governor of the State of Tennessee. Of a total of 1,200,000 electors only 352,000 voted. A certain adventurer and racketeer by the name of Crump controlled a solid block of between 60,000 and 70,000 votes and so had the entire State of Tennessee in his grip. Here is an eloquent description of him, given in 1939 by the United Press correspondent, John Parris: “Edward Hull Crump can lift the telephone in his insurance and real estate company office and with one command send 60,000 sovereign Democrats to the secret polls to do his bidding.”

The author of the above-mentioned book cites facts to show how democracy has gradually disappeared in Tennessee. “We,” he writes, “have retrogressed toward government by a chosen few at a rapid rate,” democracy has turned into oligarchy.

An idea of the system and character of general elections in Great Britain is given in the book of the Liberal Party leader, Ramsay Muir, entitled How Britain Is Governed. In this book the British election system is called outright “in the highest degree unjust, unsatisfactory and dangerous.” This system, wrote Muir, “actually disfranchises a large majority of the electors. If we could estimate the total of those whose votes are of no avail because they have voted for unsuccessful candidates; of those who have refused to use their votes because there was no candidate with whom they agreed; and of those who have voted reluctantly for somebody who did not represent their views merely because he was less objectionable than the available alternatives: we should probably find that something like 70 per cent of the total (electorate had either been unable to exercise any influence upon the course of events by the use of their votes, or had been compelled to give their support to some doctrine or policy with which they disagreed.”[***]

In the British General Election of 1945, over 8 million electors, or 25 per cent of the total, did not vote. In the 1946 Congressional elections in the U.S.A., only 39 per cent of the electors voted, a fact that was considered by the entire American press to be indicative of very great activity on the part of the electors.

That is how matters stand as regards the so- called “General Elections” in Great Britain and the U.S.A. All these data provide the clearest and most convincing proof that the elections in bourgeois-democratic countries are not general at all and that bourgeois democracy is a hypocritical, truncated, and false affair.

What bourgeois democracy really is and how the bourgeoisie of today understand political liberty was shown by the elections to the legislature held in Italy in April 1948. In order to ensure that the forces of bourgeois reaction should achieve victory over the People’s Front parties in Italy, international imperialist reaction, headed by the U.S.A., openly threatened to resort to armed intervention, should the People’s Front parties be the victors.

The U.S. State Department declared that if the People’s Front were victorious all aid to Italy in the shape of food and manufactured products would be stopped. Atom bombs, wrote the American press, would be dropped on those towns where People’s Front candidates were elected. American warships carrying troops were anchored in Italian ports. French troops were brought up to the Italian frontier. In violation of the peace treaty with Italy, the De Gasperi government set up powerful police forces, equipped with American tanks, armoured cars, and artillery. Terror was employed openly and on a mass scale against people, against the progressive forces; so too were intimidation, threats, blackmail and plain deception, in a word, all possible means were brought into action in order to ensure victory for Italian reaction. The Vatican, too, with its black army of a million and a half priests, monks and nuns – in violation of all the laws forbidding the Vatican to interfere in political life – joined in the election campaign on the side of Italian reaction.

Reaction, lay and spiritual, threatened to withhold absolution, to bring down all the torments of Hades on the heads of those who refused to vote for the parties of bourgeois reaction. But, neither open terror, violence, deception, increased ideological pressure, nor the blatant and impudent intervention of the American Government in Italy’s internal affairs succeeded in bringing victory to reaction. Whereupon the De Gasperi government and its minister Scelba proceeded to falsify the election results by every possible means.

The Italian elections of April 1948 will go down in the history of bourgeois democracy as a most abominable and disgusting mockery of democracy and freedom.

* * *

The war of 1914-18, Lenin pointed out, made clear even to backward workers the real character of bourgeois democracy as being the dictatorship of the imperialist bourgeoisie. The war tore the false trimmings from bourgeois democracy, and showed that it was the thirst of the imperialist powers for conquest that was responsible for millions of people being killed. During the post-war period the real countenance of bourgeois democracy was still more clearly revealed. In a number of European countries, and first and foremost in Germany and Italy, bourgeois democracy actually paved the way there for the victory of fascism. The fascists began to kindle a new world war. As to the ruling circles of the “‘democratic” countries, particularly the ruling Conservative circles of Great Britain, they pursued a policy of “appeasing” the fascists, of pleading with the fascist “führers,” a policy of concessions to the fascists, of inciting the fascist aggressors to attack the U.S.S.R. The ruling circles of the U.S.A., on their part, financed the re-armament and further armament of imperialist Germany. As a result, the fascist aggressors let loose a new world war, which cost tens of millions of lives and threatened the freedom and independence of the nations of Europe and the whole world, and the democratic gains of the working people.

However, even the second world war taught little to the ruling circles of the present- day bourgeois-“democratic” countries, who still continue to connive with fascist elements. The reactionary groups in the U.S.A. are conducting an anti-popular domestic policy, one directed against the workers’ organizations, against progressive social ideas and progressive public figures. The governments of the imperialist states are pursuing a policy of supporting the reactionary elements all over the world, a policy of suppressing the movement for national liberation in the colonial countries. Militarization on an enormous scale is taking place in the countries of old, bourgeois democracy which at one time, in the epoch of pre-monopolist capitalism, were distinguished, among other things, by the fact that militarism and military cliques were little developed there.

In January 1947, the American liberal weekly The New Republic published an article by Henry Wallace, former Vice-President of the U.S.A. This article, in which he disclosed the growth of militarist tendencies in the U.S.A., caused a tremendous uproar in that country. Army and militarist circles, declared Wallace, dominate in the sphere of scientific research, and control scientists. The military buy science and scientists. Many American universities derive more funds from the War Department than from all other sources put together.

Wallace wrote that prior to the war the U.S.A. expended almost 50 million dollars annually on research work. In 1946 they expended almost one billion dollars, 90 per cent of which was for war purposes. Science – he said – was degenerating to the brute level of Nazism, when it expended the greater part of its time working out methods of destroying human life.

The military outlook, continued Wallace, must not be permitted to dominate over science in peacetime. If we permitted the present situation to continue, things would finally reach a point where a semi-military police state would be established in the U.S.A.

Similar reproaches were levelled at bourgeois democracy by Stafford Cripps, in a book published in England comparatively recently and entitled Democracy Up-to-Date. The author speaks of the decline of democracy in Great Britain. Proof of this, he states, is to be found in the apathy of the electors, in the lack of interest in the House of Commons and its work. Cripps admits that the system of British democracy suffers from grave defects “arising out of the advantages which wealth can give to one or other side in an electoral contest.”

Now that Cripps has become one of the leading figures in the British Labour Government, he is exerting no little effort to ensure that the profits of the capitalists go up, and that the standard of living of the workers goes down.

Such are the fundamental defects of present-day bourgeois democracy, as admitted even by supporters and upholders of the bourgeois system.

The real rulers of American “democracy” are the oil, chemical, steel and other magnates, the bosses of the huge monopolies and trusts; they include Herbert Hoover, ex-president of the U.S.A., Du Pont, member of the board of the chemicals and explosives company that is playing a leading part in the production of atom bombs, the Rockefeller-Morgan group, the banker Eugene Meyer, the owners of the majority of the shares of General Motors and General Electric, the Fords and Whitneys, the Mellons, Harknesses and others.

In 1946 there was republished in the U.S.A. Lundherg’s America’s 60 Families, a book that describes the financial oligarchy of present-day America which is made up of approximately 60 of the wealthiest families and is the unofficial, invisible, behind-the-scenes but actual government, the “money government.” “The outstanding American proprietors of today,” writes Lundberg, “tower historically over the proud aristocracy that surrounded Louis XIV, Czar Nicholas, Kaiser Wilhelm, and the Emperor Franz Joseph, and wield vastly greater power. The might of cardinal Richelieu, Metternich, Bismarck, or Disraeli was no greater than that of private citizens, undistinguished by titles, like J. P. Morgan, Andrew W. Mellon, John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford and the Du Ponts.” They it is who are the uncrowned kings of America. They it is who exert enormous influence over the line of government policy, they it is who pursue the policy of fighting the workers and the trade unions within the country. They, the uncrowned kings, are the power behind the scenes, and the official organs of government pay careful heed to their instructions, to their desires.

Present-day American democracy is in fact “democracy” for suppressing the working-class movement within the country, “democracy” for supporting the most reactionary elements throughout the world, “democracy” for unbridled imperialist expansion. The anti-labour Truman- Case and Taft-Hartley Acts, the effort of reaction to destroy the workers’ organizations and deprive the workers of their rights, the campaigns of mass terror directed against the Negroes, the incitement of anti-Semitism, and the persecution of Communists – all these are glaring illustrations of the organic defects of present-day American “democracy.”

With ever growing frequency the demand is being raised in the columns of the reactionary press and on the floor of Congress that the activities of the Communist Party be banned. Thus, at the Congress session of January 23, 1947, the Republican Dirksen raised the demand that the government take measures against Communist Party activity in the U.S.A.; McCormack went still further and demanded not only that the Communist Party be banned but also that a crusade be conducted against Communism in Europe. He called on the U.S. Government to render more energetic and active support to the reactionary elements in France, Italy, Spain and other countries. In March 1947, the Secretary of Labour of the United States, Schwellenbach, speaking before the House Committee on Labour and Education, declared in favour of the Communist Party being outlawed. Schwellenbach demanded that Communists be dismissed from public bodies of every kind, and that they be deprived of the right to hold office in the trade unions. The whole of this campaign was crowned by the arch-reactionary Mundt Bill, directed against the elementary civil rights of the industrial workers and working people in general.

The ultra-reactionaries in the U.S.A. are openly driving the country to fascism. Numerous government bodies resort to unconstitutional practices in conducting an organized ideological and political campaign against the Communists and the entire labour movement. Many reactionary newspapers call for the summary liquidation “here and now,” of the Communist Party, trade union and other progressive organizations; they demand that active members of the labour movement be ruthlessly dealt with. This “crusade” of the reactionary press in the U.S.A. brings back to mind the “famous” campaigns conducted by the German fascists in the years preceding their advent to power.

Thomas, then chairman of the notorious Committee to Investigate Un-American Activities made the statement in Congress that: “Our job for the next two years shall be to rout them [the Communists] out.” (The New York Times, Nov. 27, 1946.)

On the insistence of Thomas and Hoover a special committee was appointed at the end of November 1946 to investigate “officials under suspicion” and to purge government institutions of the “reds.”

The New York P. M. in an item dealing with the commencement of the operations of this Committee wrote that the attempt to replace the Civil Service Commission by the Federal Bureau of Investigation constituted a great danger. Should such a replacement take place it would be one more step, and a very disastrous one, towards transforming the Federal Bureau of Investigation into a political police force, and the United States into a police state. This would be a “disruptive” act of far greater dimensions than anything any official could commit.

In March 1947 Truman issued an order, that went into immediate effect, for all civil servants to undergo investigation and for the dismissal of all “subversive” persons, i.e., of those suspected of adherence to or sympathy with the Communist and other democratic organizations. With a view to covering up the fact that the drive was aimed at democratic organizations, Truman’s order placed the Communist and other democratic organizations on a level with fascist organizations. The order required 2,300,000 U.S.A. civil servants to undergo examination by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Needless to say, this order will least of all affect the fascist and semi-fascist elements, who often occupy quite important posts in the U.S.A. It will be directed and wholly operated against the progressive and democratic elements in the country.

Such are the facts that supply us with a picture of the state of present-day American “dollar democracy.” Formally the democratic freedoms are exalted and propagated. Actually they exist merely for those who have the dollars. Formally the praises are sung, in a hundred and one different ways, of “freedom of speech,” “freedom of the press,” and “freedom of assembly.” Actually these freedoms are enjoyed, and enjoyed without limit, by the reactionary circles and organizations that are supported by the magnates of finance capital. As to the progressive organizations, personalities, and press, every possible obstacle is raised to prevent them developing their activity.

And what can be said of the reactionary and expansionist policy that is being conducted by American imperialism behind a smoke screen of talk about democracy? The American imperialists are giving every possible support to the reactionary elements in Japan; the imperialists of the U.S.A. and Great Britain are lending their aid to all the reactionary elements in Europe, the Near and Middle East, Greece and Turkey. The American imperialists are actively assisting Chiang Kai-shek’s fascist clique in their war on the Chinese people. The troops of “democratic” Holland, supported by the British and Americans, are suppressing the struggle for national liberation in Indonesia.

In November 1918, Lenin pointed out, in an article entitled “Valuable Admissions of Pitirim Sorokin,” that “… Anglo-American imperialism, which is reinstating reaction all over the world and has perfectly learned how to use the form of the democratic republic”[†††] is stifling the small and weak nations.

This characterization, as given by Lenin, is fully applicable today to the policy of the reactionary circles of the U.S.A. and Great Britain.

With the connivance of the Labour Government the fascist organizations in England are freely extending their disruptive activities. Mosley, one of the leaders of British fascism, has his own publishing establishment. In 1946 he published his book My Answer, which even the Conservative Lord Elibank compared to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. A number of fascist organizations, like the Duchess of Atholl’s British League for European Freedom, have been established and are operating in England. This latter organization gathers together the fascist and Whiteguard dregs from the People’s Democracies. Other fascist organizations, like the British People’s Party, the League of Christian Reformers, and the Imperial Fascist League openly and systematically propagate racial theories of the wildest type. All these organizations have combined in a fascist “congress.” At a meeting held in London on December 10, 1946, and convened by the fascist “congress,” John Beckett cynically and brazenly extolled the Nazi Party and its bandit policy.

And such statements are being made openly now, after all freedom-loving mankind has seen that fascism means the enslavement and extermination of nations, the destruction of the world’s culture!

The fascist elements are openly renewing their activity in South Africa, where the machinery of state is being fascised, racial discrimination is practised, raids are made on workers’ organizations, and their leaders are arrested. All these things are being done by the South African Government, which is headed by fascist, racialist politicians.

The fascist party has been legalized in Canada. The leader of this party, Adrien Arcand, recently declared that fascism in Canada was stronger now than ever before. He maintains contact with the fascists in Great Britain, the Union of South Africa, New Zealand, and elsewhere.

The historical experience of the bourgeois-democratic countries teaches us that to give the fascists a free hand means to doom the working people to oppression of the worst kind, to threaten the very existence of the peoples. To give the enemies of democracy a free hand is not democracy but the negation of it. To give a free hand to the enemies of democracy is to create favourable conditions for the growth of fascism.

The time has passed when the doors of Great Britain were open to revolutionary refugees from various countries, when such men as Marx, Engels, Herzen, Kossuth, and Mazzini could conduct their activities relatively unhindered. On the contrary, England – the very England where the Labour Party, which considers itself to be a veritable buttress of democracy, is in power – gives sanctuary to the most reactionary fascist and pro-fascist elements, who have been flung out of their countries by the regimes of People’s Democracy.

The Chetniks of Yugoslavia, and the Rumanian, Polish and Bulgarian Whiteguards have found a haven and a “pleasant reception” in Great Britain. This fascist scum, these worst enemies of the people are given facilities in England to hold meetings, to publish their filthy newssheets, to engage in provocative machinations, to stir up trouble and to conduct disruptive work. And all this is done supposedly in pursuance of the principles of democracy, in the name of “freedom of speech,” “freedom of the press,” etc. Is any more obvious proof required of the deep deficiencies and cankers of present-day bourgeois democracy?

The defeat of the Conservatives and the advent to power of the Labour Government were a reflection of the fact that the working masses of England had moved considerably to the left. In voting down the policy of Churchill and the Tories, the British working class hoped that with the Labour Party in power a considerable change in government policy would result. Such change, however, did not ensue. The actual fact is that Great Britain, where the Labour Party is in power, is engaged in suppressing the movements for national liberation in India, Egypt, Indonesia, Palestine and other countries, in supporting the forces of reaction in Europe – in Greece, Spain, the western zone of Germany, Austria and other countries.

The Labour Party leaders consider theirs to be a socialist government, but they have kept intact the old, bourgeois machinery of state which is unable to conduct anything other than an imperialist policy. They have kept intact the economic system of capitalism. The nationalization of the mining and certain other industries in England does not abolish the domination of British monopoly capital, while the imperialist policy of the British Government is a sufficiently clear indication of the character of present-day bourgeois democracy in Great Britain.

* * *

Soviet democracy differs fundamentally from bourgeois democracy.

Born in October 1917, Soviet socialist democracy has proved to be a great, vital and transforming force. The victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution meant that the epoch of the parliamentarism of the capitalists had been replaced by an epoch of Soviet institutions of state.

What are the specific features of Soviet democracy?

Firstly, its economic basis is the predominance of the social ownership of the means of production. The victory of Socialism in our country, the absence of exploiting classes – such is the basis on which socialist democracy is flourishing. It is a democracy that differs in principle from bourgeois democracy. Socialist democracy is democracy of a higher type.

For the first time in history there has grown up and acquired strength a Socialist State in which the entire population has been drawn into active participation in the country’s political life; for the first time a political system has developed and become firmly established under which the widest masses of the people really, and not in words alone, take part in administering the State.

Secondly, Soviet democracy is not ordinary democracy, but socialist democracy. The specific feature of the Constitution of the U.S.S.R. is that it does not limit itself to registering the formal rights of citizens, but places the main emphasis on the question of guaranteeing these rights. In the U.S.S.R. not only is the equality of the rights of citizens proclaimed – this equality of rights is guaranteed by the fact of the abolition of the exploitation of man by man. In the U.S.S.R. not only has the right to work been proclaimed – this right is guaranteed in fact. Socialist democracy has put an end, once and for all, to formal bourgeois democracy.

Thirdly, Soviet democracy is now based on the complete moral and political unity that has been achieved in Soviet society. The moral and political unity of the Soviet people – the result of the elimination of the exploiting classes in our country and of the enormous amount of educational work done by the Bolshevik Party – is a supreme achievement of our time. Under capitalism, where society is split into warring classes, the unity of society is unthinkable. The moral and political unity of the people, which came into being as a result of the victory of Socialism in our country, is a motive force of the development of Soviet society, an expression of genuine socialist democracy and a condition of its further vigorous growth.

Fourthly, a specific feature of Soviet socialist democracy is that the leading force in our country, the vanguard of the people, is the Bolshevik Party, the Party of Lenin and Stalin. The fact that a single, united Party exists which is leading forward the peoples of the Soviet Union and giving best expression to their interests is a subject of countless attacks on Soviet democracy by bourgeois publicists. In the view of the apologists of bourgeois democracy, the existence in a given country of a number of parties and the struggle that goes on between them constitute one of the fundamental features of democracy, whereas the absence of such a struggle in the Soviet Union and the existence of only one party prove, so they aver, that our democracy is defective. But these upholders of bourgeois democracy deliberately gloss over the fact that in bourgeois society, split, as it is, into classes with their antagonistic class interests, and torn by the struggle between various social groups, the existence of a number of warring parties is inevitable. These individuals, moreover, maintain silence about the fact that there is no difference in principle between the Republican and the Democratic parties in the U.S.A. They are actually one party. They are two factions of the bourgeoisie, which take turns in oppressing the people.

In Soviet society, which is free of class antagonisms, there is no basis for a number of ‘ parties; there is one party and it best reflects the interests of the people. The Bolshevik Party is a party that deservedly enjoys the undivided confidence of the people, for it has proved in practice its self-sacrificing devotion to the people and its ability to lead them in their great historical enterprise.

As far back as the year 1936, Comrade Stalin said: “As to freedom for various political parties, we adhere to somewhat different views. A party is a part of a class, its most advanced part. Several parties, and, consequently, freedom for parties, can exist only in a society in which there are antagonistic classes whose interests are mutually hostile and irreconcilable – in which there are, say, capitalists and workers, landlords and peasants, kulaks and poor peasants, etc. But in the U.S.S.R. there are no longer such classes as the capitalists, the landlords, the kulaks, etc. In the U.S.S.R. there are only two classes, workers and peasants, whose interests – far from being mutually hostile – are, on the contrary, friendly. Hence, there is no ground in the U.S.S.R. for the existence of several parties and, consequently, for freedom for these parties. In the U.S.S.R. there is ground only for one Party, the Communist Party. In the U.S.S.R. only one party can exist, the Communist Party, which courageously defends the interests of the workers and peasants to the very end. And that it defends the interests of these classes not at all badly, of that there can hardly be any doubt.”[‡‡‡]

In the shape of the Soviet State we have a political organization of society that is millions of times more democratic than the most democratic bourgeois republic. “Only Soviet Russia” – wrote Lenin – “has given the proletariat, and all working folk – the overwhelming majority of the people of Russia – a freedom and democracy unparalleled, impossible and unthinkable in any bourgeois-democratic republic; it has done so by, for example, depriving the bourgeoisie of palaces and mansions (without this, freedom of assembly is hypocrisy), by depriving the capitalists of the printing presses and newsprint (without this freedom of the press for the working majority of the nation is a fraud) and by replacing bourgeois parliamentarism by the democratic organization of the Soviets, which are a thousand times closer to the ‘people,’ more ‘democratic’ than the most democratic bourgeois parliament.”[§§§]

Already on the eve of the October Revolution, when elaborating the theoretical principles of the Soviet State, Lenin pointed out that the Soviets, as the state form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, constitute a new type of state machinery, an apparatus providing an indissoluble, close, easily tested and renewed link with the popular masses such as the former state apparatus never possessed in the remotest degree. “Compared with bourgeois parliamentarism,” said Lenin, “this represents an advance in the development of democracy which is of historical and world-wide significance.”[****]

The Soviet state system best serves to defend and guarantee the interests of the peoples of the U.S.S.R. That is why the masses of the people have so great a love for the Soviet system, why they are so devoted to their Socialist Motherland, which inspires them to perform deeds of heroism. Soviet patriotism is one of the great motive forces of the development of Soviet society. During the Great Patriotic War, the patriotism of the workers, peasants and intelligentsia was displayed in all its titanic might.

In his report on the occasion of the 27th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, Comrade Stalin gave the following classic definition of the essence and the strength of Soviet patriotism:

“The strength of Soviet patriotism lies in the fact that it is based not on racial or nationalistic prejudices, but upon the profound devotion and loyalty of the people to their Soviet Motherland, on the fraternal cooperation of the working people of all the nations inhabiting our country. Soviet patriotism is a harmonious blend of the national traditions of the peoples and the common vital interests of all the working people of the Soviet Union.”[††††]

The proposition advanced here by Comrade Stalin, which generalizes the very rich experience of the friendly cooperation among the nations of the Soviet Union, and of the development of their statehood and culture, is one of the outstanding discoveries made in the development of Leninist theory and is of the greatest importance as regards the political education of the people, as regards their education in the spirit of Soviet patriotism.

Soviet patriotism has grown and blossomed forth under Soviet democracy. Just as Soviet socialist democracy is a higher type of democracy differing fundamentally from the old forms of bourgeois democracy, so Soviet patriotism is a new and higher type of patriotism. Its source is the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution, the construction of Socialism in our country. Soviet patriotism develops on a new social and economic foundation, on the basis of new social relations.

The Soviet State has shown, and continues to show, itself to be a tremendous transforming force. The transformations that have been effected in the U.S.S.R. and that have, in a brief historical period, turned our native land into a mighty industrial and kolkhoz power, show how great are the forces that Soviet socialist democracy can rouse, mobilize and direct for creative endeavour. Soviet democracy showed itself to be a great force in the building of socialist society, in the defence of the Socialist Homeland against the fascist invaders, and is a powerful factor facilitating the further onward march of Soviet society, towards Communism.

The entire system of organization of the Soviet State is adapted to raising the creative energy of the popular masses to the maximum degree for the solution of the tasks of socialist construction. In the U.S.S.R., for the first time in human history, millions upon millions of the common people have been drawn into conscious political activity, into the building of the new, Communist society, and the mighty energy of the people has been aroused. “The living creative work of the masses,” Lenin said, “is what constitutes the main factor of the new social order.”[‡‡‡‡]

Gorky, in his novel Mother, makes one of his characters say the following words: “Russia will be the finest democracy in the world.” This dream of the great proletarian writer has found its living embodiment in our country.

One of the basic illustrations of the genuinely popular character of Soviet democracy is the fact that the masses of the people play a real part in administering the State, that no barrier exists in our country between the machinery of state and the people. The creative initiative of the masses, the pulsating activity of public organizations, the ever new forms of participation by the working people in economic and cultural development, the political activity of the people – all these are remarkable indexes of the great Soviet democracy existing in the U.S.S.R. It is the popular masses – those who in the most democratic bourgeois republics formally possess equal rights but actually are prevented from participating in the administration of the State – who under the Soviet system are drawn “unfailingly into constant and, moreover, decisive participation in the democratic administration of the state.”[§§§§] The main process taking place in our country in the upbuilding of the Soviet State is that of the constantly growing political activity of the popular masses, of the continuous promotion from the very midst of the people of new individuals possessed of organizing capacity, new men of talent, outstanding statesmen.

Since the adoption in 1936 of the Stalin Constitution, elections in the U.S.S.R. to the organs of supreme power have taken place on four occasions, viz.: twice to the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., and twice to the Supreme Soviets of the Union Republics.

In 1937, in the elections to the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., 96.8 per cent of the electors recorded their votes, and the candidates put forward by the bloc of Communists and non-Party people received 98.6 per cent of the total votes cast. Almost 90 million people voted solidly at that time for the bloc of Communists and non-Party people.

In 1938, in the elections to the Supreme Soviets of the Union Republics, the bloc of Communists and non-Party people received the votes of 99.4 per cent of electors who voted.

In 1946, in the elections to the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., 99.7 per cent of the electors recorded their votes, and the candidates put forward by the bloc of Communists and non-party people received 99.18 per cent of the total votes cast. Over 100 million electors voted as one man for the Bolshevik Party, and for the further consolidation of the Soviet State.

In the early part of 1947 there took place the elections to the Supreme Soviets of the Union Republics. The results constitute a further splendid victory for Soviet democracy, as the following figures will show:

What do these figures show?

Firstly, that in the Soviet Union practically all the electors, with absolutely insignificant exceptions, exercise their voting rights. This is testimony to the high level of civic consciousness, to the tremendous political activity of the masses of the people. The working folk of the Soviet Union take part in the elections as in some great festive event. Such a state of affairs is absolutely unthinkable in bourgeois society; it is the product of the victory of Socialism, and of that alone.

The entire system of organization of the elections – from the consistent, thoroughly democratic method by which our public organizations nominate candidates, and the method by which candidatures are discussed, to the provision of all the conditions necessary to enable each elector to fulfil his civic duty, wherever he may be when the elections take place – this entire system of organization of the elections is marked from beginning to end by genuine Stalinist love for the working people, by concern for their interests and requirements, by the striving to ensure that the masses are drawn to the maximum degree into the actual administration of the State.

Secondly, that with absolutely insignificant exceptions, all the electors who record their votes cast them for the bloc of Communists and non-Party people. This complete unanimity displayed in the voting is an expression of the complete moral and political unity of the people, a unity of the people such as is created and consolidated by the socialist system of society. The people stand forth as a single whole, in the real sense of the term.

In the Stalin constituency of Moscow where on February 9, 1947, the candidate in the election of the Deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic was J. V. Stalin, 100 per cent of the electors recorded their votes. Not a single one of the ballot papers was invalid, neither did a single one of them register rejection of the candidate. J. V. Stalin was unanimously elected Deputy. The working people of all the Union and Autonomous Republics unanimously nominated Comrade Stalin as their No. 1 candidate in the elections of Deputies to their Supreme Soviets. Comrade Stalin is the elected representative of the entire Soviet people, a fact that splendidly reflects the unity of will and purpose of the Soviet people.

The name of Comrade Stalin is the symbol and banner of this unity. All our victories are bound up indissolubly with the name of Comrade Stalin. It is characteristic that as Soviet electors voted for Comrade Stalin, they wrote on the ballot papers messages full of ardent love for their leader and teacher. They voted for the man who is leading the Soviet people on to Communism, who is the embodiment of the hopes and strivings of all the nations of the U.S.S.R.

During the elections the Soviet people showed with renewed vigour that they stand solid behind the Party of Lenin and Stalin, that they are supremely devoted to the interests of the Socialist Motherland.

Only in the Land of Socialism, where socialist democracy prevails, where the gains we have achieved are inscribed in letters of gold in the Stalin Constitution is there such a manifestation of civic consciousness and patriotism. Such unity in voting, such a manifestation of organization and unanimity in the election of candidates are possible only in Soviet society, where the people are free from all forms of exploitation whatsoever. Only the complete moral and political unity of the people renders possible such unanimity as is displayed in the voting during the elections to the supreme organs of the Soviet Union.

The Communist Party – the force that inspires, guides and directs the Soviet State – comes to the masses with a clear program for the development of the country, and in clear-cut terms defines the tasks facing the people. This program best expresses the interests of the people, their hopes and strivings. The Communist Party does all it can to ensure that every elector acquires a better and more profound understanding of its policy, which is the living basis of the Soviet system, that every elector takes an active part in discussing problems of State, and votes with full understanding for the bloc of Communists and non-Party people. As Lenin said: “In our view a state is strong in so far as the masses are conscious. It is strong when the masses know everything, can form an opinion of everything, and do everything consciously.”[*****]

In his historic speech delivered on February 9, 1946, Comrade Stalin said: “I regard the election campaign as the voters’ judgment of the Communist Party as the ruling party. The result of the election will be the voters’ verdict.”[†††††] The elections in the Soviet Union are a repeated indication of the love felt by the masses for the Bolshevik Party. The masses of the people in the Soviet Union, to whom the Bolshevik Party is near and dear, voluntarily entrust their destinies to it, for practical experience has convinced them that the Party of Lenin and Stalin has no interests other than those of the people, and has no tasks other than those of leading the people onward, towards an ever better life, to Communism. The Bolshevik Party gives scientific expression to the fundamental, vital interests of the masses of the people, and this is the necessary condition that ensures it the leading role it plays in the Soviet State. Comrade Stalin has spoken of the “subtle moral threads” that bind the Party to those outside its ranks, of the profound trust in the Party and its leadership felt by the popular masses of the Soviet Union. This, it is, that finds expression in the bloc of Communists and non-Party people at the elections to the organs of the Soviet State. Comrade Stalin has said: “There is not, nor has there ever been in the world such a powerful and authoritative government as our Soviet government. There is not, nor has there ever been in the world such a powerful and authoritative Party as our Communist Party.”[‡‡‡‡‡]

The elections in the Soviet Union are a great schooling in political activity, a manifestation of supreme political activity on the part of the people. Hundreds of thousands of active workers, agitators and propagandists, many tens of thousands of members of Ward and Constituency Electoral Commissions, and of electors’ representatives take part in the election campaigns. The elections are the occasion for a countrywide review by the people of achievements and successes and also for a criticism of the defects of the work of the various parts of the machinery of state. Countless meetings take place at which affairs of state, and candidatures, are discussed. In the political work it conducts in preparation for the elections the Communist Party reaches every single elector. As a result we can say that there has developed a new form of political life, unthinkable in bourgeois countries, a form of participation by the entire people in the discussion of affairs of state, in the solution of most important problems of state. Socialism has elaborated such forms as enable all the working people easily to be drawn into the administration of the State.

Such facts as the solid vote of over 99 per cent of the electors for the candidates of the bloc of Communists and non-Party people, for the policy of the Party of Lenin and Stalin, are events of the greatest historical importance. In events and facts such as these we see the remarkable results of the work done by the Bolshevik Party.

Much energy has been expended by bourgeois students of law and statecraft to prove the thesis that “real government by the people” is altogether impossible, that it is inevitable for representative bodies to lose touch with the people, that even the very best representative bodies in the last analysis degenerate. It has been asserted that it is impossible to give effect to democracy in a large country. Rousseau, as is well known, upheld in his Contrat Social the thesis that real democracy is only possible in a small country where all citizens can take a personal part in discussing affairs of state.

Under the bourgeois system, where a struggle takes place between antagonistic classes, real government by the people is impossible. But that which is unthinkable and impossible under capitalism, is thinkable, possible and actually effected under Socialism.

In his works preliminary to The State and Revolution Lenin, even before the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution, wrote that under Socialism there would be complete, universal and unlimited democracy. This, he said, would be “the sort of new type of ‘direct popular legislation’ that Engels rejected under capitalism.”[§§§§§]

These views of Lenin about a new type of democracy based on the predominance of the social ownership of the means of production, have been fully implemented in the actual life of our country.

One of the striking indexes of the majesty of Soviet democracy is the complete equality of rights exercised by women in the Soviet State. Lenin said that woman’s position in society shows particularly clearly the difference between bourgeois and socialist democracy.

There is not a single bourgeois-democratic country in the world where women enjoy full equality of rights. In bourgeois countries women either play no part at all, or participate to a limited degree, in public and political life; female labour there is exploited and counted as the very cheapest. The proportion of female labour employed in the more important branches of industry, in the leading professions and in the different branches of culture, is negligible. Not a single bourgeois republic has given women equality with man, either formally or in fact.

The picture is absolutely different in the U.S.S.R. In the Soviet State women enjoy all rights to the full, on a par with men. They take a most active part in the economic, political and cultural life of the country, and fully and comprehensively display their creative abilities in the most diverse spheres of socialist construction. The history of the development of the Soviet State has shown what an enormous number of talented people, and of individuals with a capacity for organization are to be found among the masses of working women. Women occupy a place of honour everywhere in our country – in the kolkhozes and in industry, in all spheres of culture and science, in political and public organizations – and side by side with the menfolk are fulfilling the tasks facing the Soviet Land. “The unprecedented labour heroism,” said Comrade Stalin on November 6, 1944, in characterizing the part played by the women during the war, “displayed by our Soviet women and our valiant youth, who have borne the brunt of the burden in our factories and mills and in our collective and state farms, will go down in history for ever.”[******]

An index of the genuinely socialist character of our democracy is the fact that the national question has been successfully solved in the U.S.S.R. For the first time in the history of multinational states, the national question and the problem of cooperation among nations have been solved in the Soviet Union – the Land of Socialism. As is well known, the national question is an exceptionally complicated one. Under capitalism it is impossible to solve the national question. The existence of capitalism without the suppression of nationalities, without national oppression is just as impossible as is the existence of Socialism without the abolition of national oppression, without national freedom. The experience of Austria-Hungary, and of Turkey, and the instability of the present British Empire are the most palpable evidence of how unstable are bourgeois multinational states.

The solution of the national question in the U.S.S.R. is one of the supreme achievements of our age. The results of the October Socialist Revolution have shown themselves not only in the abolition of national oppression in our country, but also in the fact that there have been elaborated the forms of state which solve the national question, forms which unite the various nationalities into a single multinational Soviet State, distinguished by its stability and invincibility.

The beneficent influence of the October Socialist Revolution and of Soviet democracy has also been expressed in the fact that they have awakened to life and brought into the historical arena a number of formerly backward nations and nationalities, given them new life and new development. Formerly nations arose and became consolidated under the supremacy of the bourgeoisie. This resulted in two national cultures existing within each nation, and lent the dominant national culture an exploiting, nationalistic character.

The inexhaustible strength of the Soviet system and of Soviet democracy is expressed in the fact that many nationalities in our country are being consolidated as nations not under the aegis of the bourgeois order, as was formerly the case, but under the aegis of Soviet rule. Comrade Stalin has described this as a fact unexampled in history, but a fact nonetheless. It is a new process, never known before to history, and one that it could not know. It is a new phenomenon, one that has developed under the Soviet order, on the basis of the Soviet system, in the new social and political conditions where there is no exploitation or oppression. These are nations that have been revived by the conditions of the Soviet system. The culture being developed by these nations is – as is the case with all the nations of the Soviet Union – a culture national in form and socialist in content.

The experience of the construction of Soviet socialist society shows, therefore, that Socialism does not at all imply the immediate dying-off of nations, as many vulgarizers of Marxism would have had us believe, but the development to the full of the inner potentialities of nations on a basis quite different from that of the conditions of the bourgeois system.

The majesty of Soviet democracy is mirrored in the fact that previously-backward nationalities are being raised economically and culturally to the level of the more advanced ones. For the first time in the history of multinational states the central authority has resolutely and consistently carried through a system of measures aimed at achieving real equality among nations, thereby doing away with the previous economic, political and cultural backwardness of the formerly oppressed nations and nationalities, and raising them to the level of the advanced nations. In this regard, too, is there manifested the fundamental difference between Soviet democracy and bourgeois democracy.

Under capitalism the line is systematically pursued of keeping the oppressed nations backward, of artificially holding up their industrial and cultural development, of ruthlessly exploiting them. Under Soviet democracy a planned system of measures is operated, aimed at raising the formerly oppressed and backward peoples to the level of the advanced ones. It is hard to appraise fully the world-historic significance of this fact. The formerly oppressed nationalities have seen the practical application of the great emancipatory principles of Bolshevik policy in the sphere of the national question. Soviet democracy means that the national oppression that has existed for centuries has been replaced by the great amity among the peoples of the U.S.S.R., an amity that marks a new era in the development of inter-national relations.

The Russian people, said Comrade Stalin, “is the most outstanding of all the nations that constitute the Soviet Union.” As a consequence of the great part played by the Russian people in October 1917, and then during the war against the foreign interventionists and Whiteguards, and during the years of peaceful construction; as a consequence of the epoch-making role played by the Russian nation during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, it earned general recognition among all the other nations of our country as the leading force of the Soviet Union.

Characterizing the bourgeois federations and diverse states that exist under capitalism, Comrade Stalin has pointed out that in the main they took shape as a result of violence and oppression, that the course of their development was marked by repeated acts of violence and oppression. Even the revolutionary French bourgeoisie of the end of the XVIII century, who in their Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen proclaimed that all men are born equal and hence should enjoy equal rights – even they considered it necessary to record the point in the Constitution of 1791 that “the present Constitution does not apply to French colonies and possessions in Asia, Africa, and America, although they constitute part of the French Empire.” And such a federal state as the United States of America, which boasts of the freedom possessed by its states, took final shape not as a result of voluntary union at all, but of the application of numerous measures for the forcible consolidation of the Union, for the forcible incorporation of many states.

In 1803 the United States of America purchased Louisiana from France, in 1819 it purchased Florida from Spain, and in 1845, as a result of war with Mexico, forcibly incorporated Texas, and so on. All this has little in common with the voluntary union of states to which such loud references are made by the apologists of American democracy. James Bryce, the well-known authority on the American republic, once wrote that while the victory won by the North in the war of 1861-1865 was progressive in the sense that it did away with slavery, it was at the same time a warning against any attempt by the states to secede from the Union, so that it was not even considered necessary to introduce in the U.S.A. constitution clauses denying the right of the states to secede from the Union.

A fundamentally different principle on which a federal state is based – that of genuinely voluntary federation – is expressed in the Stalin Constitution. To enable the reader to understand the essence of socialist democracy, the great importance of the principles followed by the Bolshevik Party in the building of our multinational Soviet State, it is important to indicate the thesis developed by Comrade Stalin concerning the reservation of the right of the Union Republics freely to secede from the U.S.S.R. In his speech on the Constitution, where he rejected amendments the purpose of which was to delete from the Constitution the article dealing with this point, Comrade Stalin stated: “The U.S.S.R. is a voluntary union of Union Republics with equal rights. To delete from the Constitution the article providing for the right of free secession from the U.S.S.R. would be to violate the voluntary character of this union.”[††††††] As Comrade Stalin pointed out, there is not a single republic in our country that would want to secede from the U.S.S.R., but inasmuch as the U.S.S.R. is based on a voluntary union of the peoples, a clause is recorded in the Constitution stressing this voluntary character of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Comrade Stalin pointed out further that not only should formal proclamation be made of the right to secede from the Union, but matters should be so arranged that this right is not turned into an empty, meaningless scrap of paper. That is why one of the three qualifications for an Autonomous Republic to be transferred to the category of Union Republic is that it is situated along the country’s borders. Comrade Stalin said that “…the Republic concerned must be a border republic, not surrounded on all sides by U.S.S.R. territory. Why? Because since the Union Republics have the right to secede from the U.S.S.R., a republic, on becoming a Union Republic, must be in a position logically and actually to raise the question of secession from the U.S.S.R. And this question can be raised only by a republic which, say, borders on some foreign state, and, consequently, is not surrounded on all sides by U.S.S.R. territory.”[‡‡‡‡‡‡]

There is no republic in our country desirous of seceding from the U.S.S.R. Only as component parts of the U.S.S.R. have our national republics secured the conditions requisite for their development on an unparalleled scale. Only with the aid of the entire Union have the different republics risen to enormous heights and secured the most extensive facilities for their prosperous growth. The principles proclaimed in the Constitution regarding the voluntary character of the union and the equality of the rights possessed by the Union Republics are guaranteed by the conditions that actually exist for this voluntary union and enjoyment of equal rights.

Is a clearer expression required of the principles of socialist democracy embodied in the Stalin Constitution?

Only socialist democracy fully and thoroughly solves the problem of fraternal collaboration among nations in a single multinational Soviet State. It is only such a solution of the problem that has created the stability and steadfastness, the firmness and might which distinguish the Soviet multinational State.

The Tenth Session of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., which took place from January 28 to February 1, 1944 – when the Patriotic War was at its height – adopted decisions of exceptionally great importance, which constituted a new advance in the development of our multinational Soviet Socialist State. The Session adopted laws for the establishment of military formations of the Union Republics, and in this connection for the transformation of the People’s Commissariat of Defence from an all-Union into a Union-Republican People’s Commissariat (now Ministry); and for the endowment of the Union Republics with the right to enter into direct relations with foreign powers and to conclude treaties with them; and in this connection for the transformation of the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs from an all-Union into a Union-Republican People’s Commissariat (now Ministry). All this became possible and necessary as a result of the political, economic and cultural development of the Union Republics. These new achievements in the development of the Soviet State were, by decision of the Third Session of the Second Convocation of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R. held in 1947, embodied in the Stalin Constitution.

* * *

Such are the most important and characteristic features of Soviet socialist democracy. The strength and vitality of Soviet democracy have been tested by experience. A great and leading role has been played by Soviet democracy in the struggle against fascism. Now, in the post-war period, Soviet socialist democracy is in the van of all the progressive forces in the world waging the struggle against the reactionary elements, against the new warmongers, against those who wish to maintain and revive fascism. That is why Soviet socialist democracy meets with such sympathy, endorsement and admiration among all the progressive forces of the world.

Having emerged with honour from all the difficulties and trials of the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet people are now engaged in a self-sacrificing struggle to rehabilitate and further develop the economy of the U.S.S.R., to fulfill and overfulfill the new Stalin Five-Year Plan. One of the clearest indexes of the strength and vitality of Soviet socialist democracy is the fact that Soviet people, led by the Bolshevik Party, are making a reality of the task set by Stalin, namely, that of bringing about a rapid rise of the national economy.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

This pamphlet is a translation of an essay published in the symposium Soviet Socialist Society prepared by the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. and published by the Gospolitizdat, Moscow 1949.

 

[*] J. V. Stalin, Speech Delivered at an Election Meeting in the Stalin Election District, Moscow, February 9, 1946. Moscow 1946, p. 10.

[†] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 3rd Russ. ed., Vol. XXIII, p. 346.

[‡] V. I. Lenin, Selected Works, Two-Vol. ed., Vol. II, Moscow 1947, p. 535.

[§] J. V. Stalin, Problems of Leninism, Moscow 1947, p. 551.

[**] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 3rd Russ. od., Vol. XXIII, p. 220.

[††] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 3rd Russ. ed., Vol. XXVI, p. 423.

[‡‡] K. Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Moscow 1948, p. 34.

[§§] V. I. Lenin, Selected Works, Two-Vol. ed., Vol. II, Moscow 1947, p. 374.

[***] Ramsay Muir, How Britain Is Governed, p. 168.

[†††] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 3rd Russ. ed., Vol. XXIII, p. 293.

[‡‡‡] J. V. Stalin, Problems of Leninism, Moscow 1947, p. 557.

[§§§] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 3rd Russ. ed., Vol. XXIII, p. 221.

[****] V. I. Lenin, Selected Works, Twelve-Vol. ed., Vol. VI, Moscow-Leningrad, p. 264.

[††††] J. V. Stalin, On the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union, Moscow 1940, p. 165.

[‡‡‡‡] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 3rd Russ. ed., Vol. XXII, p. 45.

[§§§§] V. I. Lenin, Selected Works, Twelve-Vol. ed., Vol. VII, Moscow-Leningrad, p. 231.

[*****] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 3rd Russ. ed., Vol. XXII, pp. 18-19.

[†††††] J. V. Stalin, Speech Delivered at an Election Meeting in the Stalin Election District, Moscow, February 9, 1946.Moscow 1946, p. 10.

[‡‡‡‡‡] J. V. Stalin, Problems of Leninism, Moscow 1947, p. 438.

[§§§§§] V. I. Lenin, Marxism About the State, Russ. ed., Moscow 1934, p. 77.

[******] J. V. Stalin, On the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union, Moscow 1946, pp. 164-65.

[††††††] J. V. Stalin, Problems of Leninism, Moscow 1947, p. 561.

[‡‡‡‡‡‡] J. V. Stalin, Problems of Leninism, Moscow 1947, p. 562.

Source

Communist Party of the Workers of France (PCOF): Our Position for the Second Round of the Presidential Elections

(Machine Translation from French)

The long campaign for the first round of the presidential elections ended with the qualification of E Macron and M Le Pen. Despite the strong injunction to go vote, abstention is 20%. In this figure, there are those who wanted to express their refusal of the system. This is the position that we have defended and implemented.

The gaps between the top four candidates are reduced: they get between 19.5 percent and 24 percent of the vote. This shows the narrowness of the electoral base of the two candidates that remain in the running.

The mass rejection of the representatives of the two parties that have governed for more than forty years, Fillon for the right and Hall for the PS, is one of the highlights of these results. The slap is particularly severe for the PS that has already exploded.

The media favorite, receiving supports for the oligarchy, E Macron, arrived at the top of the first round, in front of M Le Pen, who has the highest electoral score of the far right.

A significant number of voters wanted to translate, through voting for the candidate of France L’insoumise, JL Mélenchon, their opposition to neo-liberal politics and the PS.

This potential of resistance, such as expressed through the vote in favour of P. Poutou or N Artaud, as one who spoke for some in the ‘white’ vote or abstention, must engage in social struggles that have not ceased. Because the class struggle, at the national and international level, does not bend and doesn’t come to the calendar and election dates.

The second round promises to be a repetition of the call in 2002 to vote Chirac to block Le Pen: today, ‘it’s all behind Macron

The far right is a map of the oligarchy: map of the division of the labour movement and popular, of racism, of neoliberalism camouflaged under a speech of demagoguery social and nationalist, the politics of war.

Macron, the candidate displayed the oligarchy, the supporter of neoliberalism, of the uberisation of the society of European defence, NATO… is not a rampart on the far-right.

That is why, we refuse to bend to the injunction to the trailer of the Macron candidate and we call for abstention in the second round of the presidential elections.

These presidential elections, based on a customization with excess of political combat, will lead to the designation of the one who will manage the interests of french imperialism.

The urgency is to organize and to fight, to confront, to defend the interests of workers and popular, to combat the neoliberal policy, against the police state and the policy of war that Macron will amplify. To develop solidarity with the peoples struggling for their national and social emancipation.

That’s what our party will put forward, this first of may, through its watchword:

Against the reaction and the war, for a revolutionary break!

Paris, April 24, 2017

May Day Statement of the Party of Labour Iran (Toufan)

Hail May 1st, The International Workers’ Day !

—————————–

May Day Statement of the Party of Labour Iran (Toufan)

May 1, the day of unity and solidarity of the working class all over the world, is upon us at a time when the Western imperialists headed by the U.S. imperialism, with the adoption of policy of invasion, of violation of the Charter of the United Nations and even without the consent of the United Nations Security Council, and against the will of overwhelming majority of the countries of the world, have created a new world order reminiscent of the old colonial times. The U.S. imperialism, the number one enemy of the mankind and the biggest state terrorism in the world, neither recognizes the right to self-determination nor accepts independence nor respect the territorial integrity of nations. The imperialists do not recognize any international agreement that opposes or restricts their interests. They occupy or violate the airspace of countries and act like criminal bandits and kill civilians, without being held accountable. The U.S. imperialists want to impose the decisions of their Congress, that is, their legal system, on all countries of the world. They have brought all foreign exchanges and payment services under their control in order to bully nations. Among others, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Syria, Libya, Palestine and Yemen are the victims of this inhuman policy. The renewed bombardment of Syria that is ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump is a serious warning signal for endangering the world peace and for the possible beginning of a bloody world war.

In Iran, the capitalist regime of the Islamic Republic continues to oppress the working class. The workers’ just demands for the formation of independent trade unions, for work, bread and freedom, for job security, against privatization, and against mass dismissals are met with arrest, imprisonment and torture. Though the social expert groups estimate the minimum living cost of a 3.5-member family to be near two million and 489 thousand Tuman per month (about $750) , the ” High Council of Labour” has set the minimum wage of 930 thousand Tuman ( $270)! This is a further step in the implementation of neoliberal policies, to meet the demands of the International Monetary Fund, to provide cheap labor and to increase the rate of capitalist profit. According to the statements made by the official press, more than 80% of Iranian workers now live under the poverty line.

The implementation of the bill of “Target Subsidiaries”, has worsened the living condition of the working class. Only the united struggle of the workers and labourers under the leadership of their working class party can emancipate the people from the yoke of capitalist slavery.

………..

The Party of Labour of Iran is boycotting the Presidential elections in Iran. There is no legitimacy in the criminal regime of the Islamic Republic for which the Iranian officials are trying to display through elections.

We celebrate May 1st this year with the knowledge that the Great October Socialist Revolution took place 100 years ago, the first revolution which established the dictatorship of the proletariat and the real democracy for workers and toilers, and opened a new horizon to mankind. The revolution was realized under the red flag of Lenin. The Bolshevik Party under Lenin’s leadership, and later under the leadership of Stalin, had defended the achievements of the October Revolution.

………

For liberation from destructive bloody wars, for elimination of the nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, for the realization of genuine human rights, liberation from exploitation, poverty, unemployment and economic misery, there is no other path but the path of socialist revolution under the leadership of the working class.

Long live proletarian internationalism!

Down with the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran!

Long live socialism!

May 1, 2017

The Party of Labour of Iran (Toufan)

www.toufan.org

ICMLPO May Day Statement

FOR A MAY DAY OF UNITY AND STRUGGLE AGAINST NATIONALISM, RACISM, FASCISM AND THE POLICY OF WAR

LET’S RAISE THE FLAG OF THE PROLETARIAN INTERNATIONALISM!

Workers, labourers, young people, women and oppressed people of all countries!

The long period of poor economic growth and the increasing political instability bring out more sharply the contradictions that lacerate the capitalistic world.

Although weakened by its general and periodical crises, this system capitalist-imperialist is still strong; unless we unite and organise to combat and bring it down this decaying system will endure maintaining its exploitative and extortionist character. Nevertheless, the bases on which it is built are rotten and its contradictions sharpening; the attacks on international working class and oppressed peoples are escalating. As a result of this situation today we see:

 – The strengthening of the struggle for the markets, the protectionism, the commercial and currency disputes, the emergence of nationalism in the economic politics that embitter the problems among the imperialists and capitalistic countries, especially between USA, EU, China and Russia.

 – The intensification of the policy of war, the increase in military expenditure and the arms race. The imperialist powers and financial monopolies, in fierce rivalry between them, advance in the pillaging of resources of dependent countries. The possibility of a new World War is stirring in the Middle East. In Syria these contradictions are manifested clearly, and in the Asia-Pacific regions the imperialist arms stocks are piling up.

 – A fierce bourgeois offensive against the working class and the labouring masses, to burden them with the consequences of serious economic difficulties. The capitalists and their governments intensify the exploitation, attack the organisation of the workers, destroy their democratic rights, criminalise social protests and repress fighters of the proletariat.

 – The rise of political reaction and authoritarianism, limitations of bourgeois democracy, increasing of corruption in parties of the dominant classes, the drift towards Police States under the pretext of fighting terrorism and, in some countries, the access to power of extreme right and fascists.

 – An infamous ideological campaign by the most reactionary sectors of bourgeoisie that spread chauvinism, racism and hate against migrants; religious fanaticism, in order to deceive and divide workers and peoples, and strengthen the dominion of capital.

 – The deep crisis of social democracy, social propping of capital, with a great loss of consents, while the populist parties gain the impoverished and disappointed strata with their cynic “social”demagogy and false patriotism.

The bourgeoisie, condemning billions to poverty, hunger and unemployment attempting in this way to delay the inevitable end of its system, imposes neoliberal and reactionary regimes, destroy the environment and prepare new imperialist wars.

But the proletariat and the peoples do not give up, they resist and fight! In the world more and more numerous are the grounds of struggle against capitalistic exploitation,imperialism, its lackeys, its governments and parties. The growth of mass dissatisfaction and resistance against dominant cliques pave the way for new revolutionary waves.

Workers, labourers, young people, women and oppressed people of all countries!

Let’s unite and demonstrate on May Day -day of international solidarity of the proletariat – demanding work, health, education, social services, equal wage for equal work, equality of rights for all the workers!

No more unemployment and precariousness! Let’s demand the reduction of working hours and of the retirement age! ‘No’ to war and fascism, take our countries out of the warmongering alliances, away from the power of the advocates of war, let’s struggle for peace and freedom for our peoples!

Let’s give impetus to the united front of the working class to defend our economic and political interest and to continue the struggle until the demolition of the capitalist exploitation and oppression.

Let’s denounce and oppose the policy of class collaboration promoted by the leaders of social democracy and the trade union bureaucracy, let’s develop the line of organization and the class struggle to mobilize the masses against capital.

It’s necessary to build a broad popular coalition, leaded by the working class; to organize and develop the resistance against the capitalistic offensive, the imperialistic reaction and the politics of war; let’s struggle with the perspective to get it over with the exploiters.

It’s necessary to unite the antifascist, anti-imperialist and democratic youth to conquer a future radically different from the one that capitalists and their opportunist servants want for us.

Now more than ever we must strengthen and develop internationalist solidarity to struggle incessantly against bourgeoisie governments, to get together, to unite the proletariat and the oppressed masses of all countries in order to knock down the common enemy: imperialism!

On May Day everybody get out on streets with our red flags!

International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations (ICMLPO)
April, 2017