Category Archives: Vietnam

Vietnamese Revolutionary Art

This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #53, “Aesthetics and Revolution – Essays and Talks.

Introduction

Western Artists and revolutionaries, are familiar with the socialist realist traditions of the USSR, Albania and of China. They also have a deep affection and respect for revolutionary painting from the Spanish Civil War, and from the South American continent especially from Mexico and Cuba. Curiously, art arising from the heroic struggles of the Vietnamese peoples, is much less well known. This is a shame, since the long war of national liberation, resulted in a plethora of great art.

Ho Chi Minh’s shrewd and insightful leadership of the Vietnamese national bourgeois liberation struggle, built a successful United Front. This was dependent upon the recognition that “many currents” would help move Vietnam into independence. A striking example of this viewpoint, is Ho Chi Minh’s view of Confucius, Jesus and Marx as “close friends”:

“The teachings of Confucius have a strong point, i.e., self-improvement of personal virtue. Jesus’ Bible has a strong point, i.e., noble altruism. Marxism has a strong point, i.e. a dialectical working method. Ton Dat Tien’s teaching has a strong point, i.e.Fe; their policies are suited to the conditions in our country, Did Confucius, Jesus, Marx, and Ton Dat Tien share common points? Yes. They all pursued a way to bring happiness to human beings and benefit to society. If they were all alive today, and if they were grouped together, I believe that they would live together in harmony like close friends. I try to become their pupil.“

Ho Chi Minh 1949. Plaque in Ho Chi Minh Museum, July 2004.

With this “broad church” philosophy, Ho Chi Minh succeeded in welding such a powerful anti-imperialist front. Unsurprisingly even the art in the clearly revolutionary phases of this broad front, also reflects a broad range of styles, and even at times of contents. Perhaps this is not surprising, since the Indochinese dominant French imperialism had already stimulated interest in the French art movements.

This article outlines and illustrates some developments in visual arts over the modern era. We apologise that it cannot be anything more than a very brief introduction.

A short background to the traditional arts, showing their legacy to the modern era, may be helpful.

Ancient Vietnamese Art

Naturally, the art history of the Vietnamese peoples is commensurate with their ancient story. The traditional arts in Vietnam faced the ravages of wars and little other than architectural edifices, and some sculptures and pottery, now exists. This shows the mark of a tension between external influences – Chinese and Indian – and more ‘native’ royalty sponsored arts. Largely it was the Cham dynasty that was heavily influenced by Indian art, and remaining sculptures show remarkable similarity.

Another major cultural import was Buddhism, via India directly, but also via South China. Buddhism has left a long lasting artistic and intellectual legacy in the many temples and pagodas that still survive in virtually every village. All these external influences were absorbed, such that by the 10th –11th centuries, the dominant artistic expressions relied upon Chinese Han traditions.

This absorption can be vividly seen in architecture, both in construction styles, and in intellectual legacy. This is vividly exemplified by the Temple of Literature founded in the 11th century. As the official tour plaque says of this shrine to Confucius, his four disciples and the ten learned ones:

“The Temple of Literature was the biggest centre in the country in feudal times, contributing to the training of thousands of scholars for the nation. It was worthy of being called the First University.”

Plaque, Temple of Literature, Hanoi July 2004.

It should not surprise that this plaque lauds Confucius (551-479 BC — Wade-Giles K’ung-fu-tzu or Pinyin Kongfuzi). Although Confucius is regarded as a reactionary in the current era, his contribution to welding a state in China is not challenged. And above all Ho Chi Minh was a dedicated nationalist, whose first mandate was to recognise important steps in the development of Vietnam into a modern, strong, independent and united nation, bridging the so-called three kys (parts of Vietnam).

The existing legacy that we are aware of from Vietnamese arts rests primarily upon porcelains and ceramics, sculpture, architecture, and folk-art traditions. Of these a large mystical non-realist tradition was dominant, incorporating dragons and mythical beings. But they did nonetheless develop realist themes amidst the myths. So even the depictions of the Buddha show a real human shape and a real human expression [Plate 1]. This version of the Bhudda shows him starving but peaceful in meditation.

Notable in these statues is the covering of the wood, with several layers of lacquer [See below].

Plate 1: Statue of Sakyamuni on A Snow Mountain 1794; Height 137 cm

SakyamuniFrom:
Editor: Cao Trong Thiem, “Bao Tang My Thuat Viet Nam”;
Vietnam Fine Arts Museum; nd; p.43

Given the ordinary peasants’ tendency to reduce all pretensions to an earthy reality, folk art usually took an explicitly realist form. The folk art illustrated life’s vagaries with a number of human motifs, as can be seen in the wood-cut traditions of Dong Ho village in Ha Bac Province [Plate 32]. This tradition was to re-surface with the development of poster art in the national revolutionary period.

Plate 2: Catching Coconuts (paper wood-cut print);
Cao Truong Theim; Ibid; p.51

Catchign Coconuts

Many of these techniques as developed over ancient times, left reservoirs of skills that were to find a new use in an entirely different set of traditions emanating from Western art and from the traditions of Socialist Realism. The ancient arts will not be further discussed here.

We will now focus, on the visual arts over the modern era.

Beginnings of Western Type Painting in Vietnam

Under French colonial domination at the turn of hte 19th – 20th centuries, Indochinese intellectuals were drawn to French and Western art movement. This was fueled by the setting up of hte Indochinese Art Academy by a Frenchman – Victor Tardieu – in 1925.

This fostered new technical skills and vocabulary, shortly to be put to profound uses by thw revolutionary artists in the era 1935-1970.

As the Vietnam Fine Arts Academy says:

“Tardieu rendered great service by laying the foundations for Vietnamese modern Fine Arts.“

Editor: Cao Trong Thiem, “Bao Tang My Thuat Viet Nam”; Vietnam Fine Arts Museum; nd; p.25.

Certainly such a strong Western external art influence was also present in the USSR before the socialist revolution.

It was perhaps somewhat less evident in the Chinese national revolution, or in Albanian art. In China, such influences were transmitted in Shanghai, to artists such as Xu Beihong (1895-1953) who went to the Ecole Nationale Superieur des Beaux Arts in Paris [See Clarke David; Modern Chinese Art’; Hong Kong; 2000; p.18]. And of course Chinese developments in modern art and socialist realism, were spurred on by Lu Xun and his espousal of the wood-cut.

But Western art influence was much more immediately influential in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, the earliest tangible expression of this Western influence realism was by artists such as Le Huy Mien [1873-1943; ‘Making comments on literary work”; 1898] [See Plate 3], and Trang Tran Phenh (‘Phagm Ngu Lao’, 1923).

The former depicts scholars debating merits of literary works, a theme not dissimilar from that of the traditional Chinese inspired Vietnamese artists. But the literature being debated now was slowly becoming more likely to do with modern liberation themes, than of poems on the moon.

Plate 3: Le Huy Mien:
‘Making Comments on a Literary Work’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p, 56

HuyMien

While these pioneers utilised the Western medium of oil paints, they restricted their content to local themes, expressed in the highest form of a bourgeois critical realism. By the 1930’s however, the content as well as style, of many painters had become almost identical to the most conventional of the French Impressionist schools such as Renoir. “Little Thuy” (1943) by Tran Van Can (1910-1994) for instance [p.75] [See plate 4], or “Japanese Young Girl” 1942, by Luong Xuan Nhi (1914-) [Plate 5] are clearly overtly influenced by Impressionism.

And this type of content largely came to predominate.

Plate 4: Tran Can Can
‘Little Thuy’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 74

Tran Van Can

Plate 5: Luong Xuan Nhi:
‘Japanese Young Girl’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 77

Luong Xuan Nhi

Residuals of ancient arts were now more found in the mediums used, rather than the contents or subject matter. But if the artists persisted in using the older materials, this had an effect on the subject choice. So artists attracted to old art forms such as painting on silks, rendered beautiful images of life such as Nguyen Phan Chanh’s [1892-1984] “Going to the Rice Fields” (1937) [See plate 6].

Plate 6: Nguyen Phan Chanh:
‘Going to the Rice Fields’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 58

RiceFields

With the later revolutionary influences, Nguyen Phan Chanh, persisted in this art form, making such vivid depictions of real life as “Team of Rattan Weavers” (1960) [See plate 7] and “A Good Harvest Meal” (1960) [p. 59].

Plate 7: Nguyen Phan Chanh:
‘Going to the Rice Fields’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 58

RattanWeavers

This tradition lasted long into the revolutionary period as the dates show. It also was linked to another tradition, that of wood-cuts which spawned in the revolutionary era, the revolutionary propagandist prints.

Perhaps a specialty of Vietnamese traditional arts was however lacquer painting.
As noted above, statuary and sculpture was often coated in a several layers of lacquer. This is a resin extracted from cuts on the bark of a common Vietnamese tree called ca y son (La: Rhus succedanea), which has is collected in total darkness lest it becomes itself dark (Catherine Noppe & Jean Francois Hubert ‘Art of Vietnam’; New York; 2003). When applied by the artist, it gives a special luster to the painted material – usually a wood – that acts as a vivid light. This light can be burnished with various pigments, into several different colours according to the pigment used, but the most common are golds, reds and greens. Each layer needs sanding down, before a new layer can be added, meaning considerable labour. The quality of lacquer derives from the number of coats, the manner in which the patterns can shine out and the expertise of sanding of the surface, which allows under layers to appear as a bas- relief.
An early exponent of the fusion of traditional form with more modern content was Nguyen Gia Tria (1908-1993).

His screen “In the Garden”, consists of 8 panels that show on one side a profusion of stylised banana and palm leaves. The obverse, consistent with the genre of French painting influences discussed, has a series of pretty, languid women redolent of Impressionist male fantasies. It is undoubtedly striking, but remains a purely decorative piece. Perhaps his ‘Clumps of bamboo in the countryside (1939) shows him at both his technical and content best, showing the florid jungle surrounding peasant on a boat passage [Plate 8].

Plate 8: Nguyen Gia Tria:
‘Clumps of Bamboo in the Countryside’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 86

Nguyen Gia Tri

That Nguyen Gia Tria wished to be linked to a more nationalist stream is evident since he professed that he:

“wished to drop his art studies as he felt all his teachers should be Viertnamese. Tardiese persuaded him to stay”;
Noppe & Hubert Ibid; p. 208.

Artistic Currents during the anti-imperialist struggles

It was onto this background, that the experiences of the anti-colonial liberation struggle led a new generation of artists into uncharted areas. Influenced by a stream of aesthetic thought from bourgeois liberalism through to socialist realism, they were largely solidly realist. Many of the artists of the Fine Arts Academy decamped, and taught at “Jungle Schools”:

“The first wave of national opposition against the French rule between 1946 and 1954 attracted a good number of Hanoi Fine Arts graduates who went and taught at the “Jungle School” in Viet Bac. . A natural consequence of the shutdown in the wake of the Japanese crackdown on March 31 1954. Out in the jungle you could still sense the war, but you also felt the power of nature and the cultural wealth of ethnic minorities.”
Noppe & Hubert Ibid; p.212-3

Impressively stirring content was drawn from the Indochinese liberation struggles, and often was grafted onto traditional forms, primarily of lacquer.
The results are far from simple propagandist art.

Marxist-Leninist aesthetics point out that realist content material, is the most effective art to stir the masses.

Too little attention has been paid to the differences between good realist art, and simple propaganda. Marxist-Leninists have long held that the best art both moves people, but is not ‘tendentious’, in the words of Engels. Alliance has empasised the distinction between “propagandist art”, “state sponsored art”, and the best of socialist art (Memorial to Bill Bland – see Table of Contents Alliance 53).

Much of the best of the art stemming from the Vietnamese national liberation struggle is by any standard, a high art.

Clearly tensions of style remained, and a degree of abstractionism was not uncommon, with some abstract paintings throughout the revolutionary era.
But there is little doubt that the predominant weight of paintings over the period from 1945 to the 1980’s, was realist in content.

Naturally the turns of the long war led to their own effects on the artistic climate. Hence the victory of the national liberation struggle at Dien Ben Phu decisively turned mere pastiches of French impressionists into an expression of un-welcome and hostile anti-patriotism.

Sections of the intelligentsia and artists were unwilling to contemplate any further struggle, and any possible move into socialism; and became disillusioned.
As a hostile art history by Noppe and Hubert puts it, the battle of Dien Bien Phu marked a turning point:. It was here that the Vietnamese decisively defeated French imperialism, led by General Giap and Ho Chi Minh. Some artists chose Western abstractionism at this stage:

“Yet if artists (in the Jungle Academy –ed) were first and foremost observers, they were also fighters in an unequal struggle. Within a handful of years patriotic fervour gave way to disenchantment. Bui Xuan Phai was among the first who went back to the city in 1952”.
Noppe & Hubert; Ibid; p. 212.

“A radical change of situation came with the crushing defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954… From then on socialist realism became an imperative.. painters who had joined independent fighters from 1946 and depicted courageous and unpretentious freedom fighters enjoyed the full support of the rural population, suddenly found them gagged by socialist realism only a decade later. Such as Bui Xuan Phoi, Duong Bich Lien, Nguyen Sang, and Nguyen Tu Nghien”.
Noppe & Hubert Ibid; p. 113.

It is not surprising that an Art Forum was established that expressed the aspirations of national liberation, and expected its’ artists to assist in this expression.

It is equally un-surprising that the overt failure of the revolution to move to the socialist path, or the second stage of the Leninist revolution, would lead to the firm and ever stronger enthronement of capital. This was established openly by the so-called Doi-Moi reforms (See Alliance 27: On Ho Chi Minh and Vietnamese Revisionism – at http://ml-review.ca/aml/China/ALLIANCE27HOCHIMINH.htm).

These developments led to a resurgence of abstractionism and vague, moody Vietnamese beautiful ladies in art:

“The Art forum set up headed by Thai Ba Van set the baseline for modern art.. and helped stifle artistic expression, although doi-moi reforms introduced a certain amount of leeway of 1985… All Vietnamese artists felt the burden of censorship”.
Noppe & Hubert; Ibid; p. 219.

Examples of Works in the National Liberation Struggle

To see the currents at play, we should examine the paintings over this period.

In the make-over of traditional forms, some of the lacquer work is very striking. See for example “Recalling One Afternoon in Tay Bac” 1922, by Phan Ke An (b 1923). [Plate 9] see p.103.

Beautiful sun burnished green mountains form a background to a small troop of soldiers crossing a ridge. Here both content and form are perfectly matched. The ‘everyday’ aspect of a troop of soldiers is part of the scenery.

Plate 9: Phan Ke An:
‘Recalling One Fine afternoon in Tay Bac’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 103

PhanKeAn

In “Ham Rong Bridge”(1976) by Tran Oanh (b.1937) [Plate 10], workers are shown against an impressive background of the river in brilliant reds and golds.

Plate 10: Tranh Oanh
‘Ham Rong Bridge’;
Unpublished Source.

TranOanh

There is little doubt that the use of such heavy reds in this late painting, is an allegory for socialism. This use of the red and gold lacquer is made even more explicit in such paintings as the large and impressive 4 panels of the “The Nghe Tinh Soviet” of 1958 by six painters led by Nguyen Duc Nung [Plate 11].

Plate 11: Nguyen Dic Nung, Tran Dinh Tho, Pham Van Don, Nguyen Van Ty, Huynh Van Thuan, Nguyen Sy Ngoc:
“Soviet in the Provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh”
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p.109

NgheAnSoviet

Even some of the abstractionist elements during this period, are sometimes very powerful. Such as for example “From Darkness (1982) by Le Quoc Loc (1918-1987) [Plate 12] (p.102). Surrounding blocks of black and gold shapes of lacquer, depict houses in the night. In one off-centre house, placed high on the wood surface, a gold and red light brightly lights a central room. The red light is the hammer and sickle on one flag, with a second flag composed of a gold five-pointed star on a red background. In front of them are black silhouettes of men and women workers saluting the flag.

Plate 12: Le Quoc Loc
“From Darkness” ;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p.109

LeQuocLoc

Another impressive lacquer painting, that takes as its content material honest working labour, is that by Nguyen Khang (1912-1988) of fishermen, entailed “Fishing in the Moonlight” (1943). (Plate 13). This has a dense black background, against which the somber, hard working fishermen drift in sampans above a sea of multi-coloured fish. Accentuating the three dimensional effect, two fisherwomen standing in the shallows have their arms half visible above and half below the surface of the water. This is especially interesting, in that traditional lacquer and Chinese derived paintings, usually deny any perspective.

Plate 13:
Nguyen Khang; “Fishing in the Moonlight”;
Cao Trong Thiem; Ibid; p. 60

NguyenKhang

This type of artistic tradition continued well into the 1980’s. Nguyen Khang (1912-1989), who we met above, in 1960 did the 3 panel painting “Troops Marching Across a Stream”, in the same impressive lacquer tradition as he had used in 1943 [Plate 14]. At an initial look, all one sees is a dense jungle with groves of bamboo and green profusions. Then one sees that the jungle truly is alive, that the Viet Cong are moving silently across it and fording a stream.

Plate 14: Nguyen Khang; “Troops Marching Across a Stream”;
Unpublished Source

NguyenKhang2

It should not be thought that the materials were confined to lacquer. Oil was also very commonly used. For instance, depicting the road that Vietnam had come through, Huynh Van Gah (1922-1987) showed a harrowing line of Vietnamese refugee prisoners who are being foot-marched by French colonial guards [Plate 15].

Plate 15: Hyunh Van Gah
‘Prisoners’;
Unpublished Source

VanGah

In contrast Nguyen Trong Kiem (1930-1991) composed a haunting allegory of the future – “When a Child was Born” (1960); [Plate 16]. This large painting depicts a newborn child in the arms of its mother, with an army father standing close. All around are the people, evidently poor, against a background of a bombed out city. The meaning is clear, that the new state will provide a new society.

Plate 16: Nguyen Trong Kiem
‘When a Child Was Born’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 133

Kiem

While all these examples of art vary in their degree of “tendentiousness”, little that we have illustrated can be really termed hagiographic. That is not to say that there are a considerable number of images of Ho Chi Minh. Many of these are of Ho in ordinary activities, or in the guerrilla camps, of “Uncle Ho on a Mission in Viet Bac” by Duong Bich Lien (1980) [Plate 17].

Plate 17: Duong Bich Lien;
‘Uncle Ho On a Mission in Viet Bac’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 124

DuongBichLien

While these images certainly exist, the predominant feel obtained from the paintings exhibited in the Vietnam Museum of Arts is of a far broader and higher art activity than can be classified as ‘propaganda’ art or hagiographic art. Rather impressive technical and visually appealing pictures of real and ordinary people are far more predominant.

War Themes

Not even a simple overview as this, of the artistic legacy of modern Vietnam should ignore the war themes. These are in such abundance, that for instance at the War Museum Hanoi, many are not even given the honour of a label illustrating the title or the artist. A selection of these can be found relatively easily, in a publication from the British Musuem of late war drawings, in “Vietnam – Behind the Lines – Images from the War 1965-1975”; Jessica Harrison-Hall; London 2002.

This article will not discuss poster art in any detail. But an interesting historical comparison of the wood cut in Plate 3, shows again how the modern Vietnamese artist harked back to her/his heritage at a number of points. The wood cuts continue the famous Da Hong village traditions. They both depict episodes from earlier wars of national liberation, in particular those against the Chinese Han dynasty who occupied Vietnam for many years.

Plate 17: Pham Van Don; Plate 18: Hoang Tram; ‘Three Generations’; Cao Trong Thiem Ibid p.121;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p.98

PhamVanDonHoangTram

The sheer plethora of art produced regarding the war cannot be quickly précised in a short article, and these examples from the War Museum should suffice. But three pictures from the Fine Arts Museum are worth showing with a little discussion also. So these again revert to the fine arts tradition of using lacquer, and again do so in an ingenious manner.

Le Tri Duong (1949) painted “Breaking Through a Key Point” showing a tank with its barrel aiming at the skies, bursting through a blockade onto a red road, being hailed by 4 guerillas – three women and a man. The red lacquered road and the gold lacquered background are again symbolic. [Plate 19].

Plate 19:
Le Tri Duong; “Breaking Through a Key Point
Cao Trong Thiem; p.170.

LeTriDung

Hyunh Van Gah, who we met above, in “Heat and Gun” shows an impressive confrontation between a phalanx of black-pajama-ed women and one old man and a US marine.

Plate 20: Hyunh Van Gah; “Heart & Gun”:

Cao Trong Thiem Ibid p.123;

HuynhVanGam

In ‘Fire Coordination’, (1974) Le Huy Toan (born 1930) painted in 1974, shows a bleak and frightening landscape composed of bomb craters and shrapnel cascades into the sky, while a single young girl confronts a series of tanks approaching her.

Plate 21:
Le Huy Toan; “Fire Coordination’; Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p.136

NguyenHuyToan

Aftermath of Doi Moi – Faceless Women and Western Reproductions

While the national liberation struggle was victorious, it was never moved beyond that to the socialist phase. The “Chinese” wall identified by Lenin between the two revolutions – firstly the national democratic liberation, and secondly the socialist revolution – was never breached in Vietnam. That Ho Chi Minh was an inspiring and great leader of the Vietnamese peoples, is beyond doubt. However his legacy is largely that of a great national liberation ideologist.

After Ho Chi Minh’s death, and the final liberation of the South of Vietnam, the state erected in Vietnam was controlled by the Vietnamese national bourgeoisie. However within a relatively short space of time, the state was once more marked by an enormous influx of foreign capital. The policy of “Doi Moi” made this quite official. That this influx of foreign capital, was both unlimited, and not without burdens on the Vietnamese people is evident. Unsurprisingly USA capital is not very high on the score sheet, being much lower than Singaporean, Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese capital. Irrespective of which capital inflow is dominant, the net result has been the open and unequivocal development of capitalism in an acknowledged “open market” economy. The result on art has been frankly paralleled. Pictures of languid Vietnamese women, often faceless and often dressed (if not un-dressed) in the now ‘traditional’ white —, abound. Interestingly the market place is full of the heirs of the technically proficient artists of the earlier period. They are now largely reduced to selling the most elaborate reproductions of any Western artist that takes your fancy. From Dali to Picasso to Renoir to Van Goh – all are perfectly reproduced in oils and available at a fraction of what it might cost in the West, were it possible to get such.

Conclusions

Naturally, there are far more pressing concerns for the Vietnamese peoples than their art history.

Many still live in an astounding poverty.

Despite national liberation, life is hard for the Vietnamese peasants, numbering still about 75% of the population. Official figures for unemployment are around 7-10%. Degrees of disparity between rich and poor are growing rapidly, as even officials of the World Bank have recognised, citing growing ginni coefficients for Vietnam.

Vietnam’s art history however, is another affirmation of the Marxist aesthetic viewpoint, that art reflects the society in which it develops. We believe it also shows that the socialist realist tradition – as it was embraced by the Vietnamese liberation artists – is much deeper than simple hagiography. At its’ best, and why should an artist not strive for her or his best? – it is an affirmation of life, and a philosophic reflection upon all of life.

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ICMLPO (Unity & Struggle): Statement of the 15th Meeting of the Marxist-Leninist Parties of Latin America

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Together with the workers and peoples of the world, we are outraged and condemn the genocide of the Israeli government and army against the Palestinian People!

Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the Declaration of Quito, which proclaimed the birth of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations, we the Marxist-Leninist communist parties of Latin America, together with the fraternal participation of the Marxist- Leninist comrades of Turkey and Spain, met to review the individual and collective work that we carried out in the last year; it is an occasion in which we also analyzed the situation in our respective countries and that of Latin America and the world in general.

During the presentations and discussions, we established that our parties have been active to different degrees and with weaknesses in development in different aspects; they have been making strenuous efforts to link up with the working class and the popular sectors, in order to promote their political positions, advance their struggles and win their consciousness; and, with a view to increasing their ranks and advancing towards becoming political forces that affect the national political life, always with the perspective of the seizure of political power.

We live in the midst of a complex situation that requires a deeper and continuous attention on our part. Although Latin America still remains an area that is the fundamental domain of United States imperialism, other imperialist powers, the European Union among them, and now China and Russia in an unusual way, through the BRICS, are embarking on the search for an important share of the natural resources and market in the area. This makes Latin America into an important area of inter-imperialist contention, which has and in the future will have some political implications that we will have to know how to deal with very intelligently.

Another element that adds complexity to the situation in Latin America is the fact that, besides the puppet governments that continue to be tied to the worn-out neo-liberal prescriptions, in several countries the politics of the system are expressed through proposals of governments that define themselves as progressive and even leftist, while still keeping a good part of our peoples under their influence.

We note that in most countries there is a growing tendency to curtail democratic rights and civil liberties; to criminalize protests and carry out judicial prosecution of revolutionary militants and trade union and popular activists in general with charges up to terrorism and rebellion against the state. This is only because they might be organizing activities for demands in favour of the popular masses or of opposition to government policies. Facts that show this trend in our continent can be seen clearly in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Paraguay, Ecuador and in most countries of Central America.

This negative trend places before us the urgent necessity to raise the struggle in defence of democratic rights and the achievement of human rights, at the same time as we strengthen international solidarity among our parties and peoples.

The overall situation demands of our parties a theoretical and propaganda work that is much broader than we have so far developed, which has been limited.

Among the many other phenomena that are presented to us is the BRICS project and its policies, stated recently with special emphasis by the governments of the countries that make it up. This could create a lot of confusion among our peoples, leading them to believe that China and Russia, and the government of Brazil, are led by leftist positions, when in fact the first two are imperialists, and the third is a bourgeois government allied to imperialism.

We are confronted with the challenge of denouncing the imperialist character, the specific interests and policies of this project, which finds an important ally in the government that call themselves left-wing, by which they deceive the popular masses and therefore discredit the real leftist positions.

Our propaganda has to promote our revolutionary and socialist ideal as the real solution to the problems of our countries, the working class and peoples and to highlight the anti-national and anti-popular character of U.S. imperialism, the European Union and BRICS.

In the presentations and discussions the elements of the policies were emphasized that in one way or another, but with the same content and purpose, are being applied in Latin America, all of which seek to contribute to a phase of expansion of capital. They are:

1. The concessions to the multinationals for the exploration and exploitation of resources, mining, oil and gas, among other things, as part of the effort of finance capital and the multinationals to find new investments, seeking to recover the average rate of profit, as well as to ensure control of sources of raw materials.

This policy of conceding territory for mining exploration and operation hides the terrible affects that they would cause and, in fact, are causing to the environment, the fresh water and the communities and populations that are located there.

2. The promotion of genetically modified crops that in agri-businesses seek a source to expand the profitability of capital and that use the false discourse of fighting hunger. This affects the productive culture of our people that is a fundamental part of their sovereignty, while it harms human health.

3. The promotion of so-called policies for economic growth for the governments in office; this is not for development, but is based on low wages, reduction in the achievements and rights of the workers and popular sectors in general and the destruction of natural resources. The so-called competitiveness on the international level of these growth policies is based on these components; therefore, they stimulate the growth of GDP but, at the same time, they maintain and increase the levels of poverty of the popular majority.

4. Adoption of laws, decrees, regulations and contracts, which under the euphemism of the “rule of law” and “governability,” ensures the possibility of making those concessions; they cover up the investments of the multinationals and capital in general.

5. Neo-developmental policies, which give the State the power to make investments in areas that are not in conflict with private capital and instead pave the way for its circulation; while, in general, they are expenses that have a high component of “public charity” to mitigate the effects of privatization of public works and to disguise the poverty, but essentially they do nothing more than maintain an electoral following.

6. Policies of internal and external debt, almost always by issuing government bonds, which finance capital and businesses buy up, aware of the fact that the countries have natural reserves that serve as guarantors, thereby affecting national sovereignty. Besides this they place more taxes on the peoples and cut social investments in the public budgets that should benefit the people through education, health care and social security, among other things. In general it can be stated that all our countries face big fiscal deficits that cause multiple repercussions.

The implementation of these policies has led to the response of our peoples. In the majority of the countries important popular struggles have developed demanding the cessation of the policies of handing over natural resources to the multinationals, as well as for the achievement of better wages and democratic rights for the majority.

Although those struggles still do not mean that there is an upsurge of the popular movement, they do show a trend that is growing. Something that is very important and that our parties should bear in mind is the fact that various social sectors take part in these, being affected in one way or another by these policies. By their diverse composition, these movements express forms, even though in the beginning stages, of popular fronts that our parties should encourage and propose to lead.

It is a reality that these policies make up expand the social bases for the opposition to the governments and political regimes and institutions that protect and support them. This is the importance of political line and tactics.

In our discussions we have kept in mind that our parties and organizations, grouped in the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations, have been taking up and promoting the need to develop popular front policies that in each country will have a name and composition that the specific realities call for. We concluded that this approach is correct and calls for more work on our part.

This is a challenge to the revolutionaries: to build a powerful broad front of the masses, that strikes the official policy and interests of finance capital and the multinationals, and in this struggle it is proposed as an alternative of power.

This challenge leads us to other challenges without whose solution it is difficult, almost impossible, for us Marxist-Leninist communists to fulfill our role of fighting revolutionary vanguard of the working class and of our peoples; that is, the need to increase our ranks, to become communist parties with deep roots among the masses, capable of leading the political processes taking place up to the seizure of power. If we are not big, strong and influential and, above all, if we do not place our sights on the conquest of power, the social democratic or overtly right-wing currents will take advantage of the circumstances and gain the leadership of the peoples and of power.

Therefore we must always keep in mind the popular masses; know what their aspirations and level of consciousness are; be one with them in thought and action; sum up their aspirations and demands in a platform of struggle; bring them to the struggle, be concerned with raising their level of consciousness; and in the process help them become political leaders. This is a matter of the line of our parties, but once the policy is defined, they must become concrete, they must be converted into actions through the men and women, through the membership; this determines everything. The theoretical and political training and the political readiness of the membership to explain and promote our politics among the masses is a vital issue in order for us to fulfill this orientation by our parties.

Aware of our challenges and commitments, mainly to the working class and working people, we will continue to work with greater determination in fulfilling the orientation of the ICMLPO to contribute to the building of Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations in other countries.

We take up these commitments and challenges conscious of the fact that our realities are complex and difficult for revolutionary political work, but there are also favourable conditions for it.

In that sense, we are striving to gain more clarity on the situation and, above all, to make our membership increasingly aware that we must work more, and that we can grow.

The world today, despite some initial indicators of economic recovery that signal the end of the cyclical crisis that began in 2008, also shows the reality that in many countries the external debt is high and in order to pay it the governments must use much of the public revenue; there are fiscal deficits and high levels of unemployment and underemployment persist, all of which could lead to reversing the trend towards growth.

Beyond this, and as an important element for revolutionary propaganda and agitation, the capitalist system is starkly showing its cruelty and its harmful impact on the lives and conditions of the peoples. There are millions of households without any of its members having a decent job; there are millions of young people without access to education and employment, among other problems.

The stage of getting out of this economic crisis has intensified the dispute among the monopolies and the imperialists in the world. It has unleashed the greed of financial capital in seeking to take advantage of the destruction of productive forces caused by the crisis and to gain possession of the principal strategic centres of energy, raw materials, cheap labour and consumer markets,. This is exacerbating the conflicts and confrontations, the wars of aggression and intervention against the peoples, even creating the dangers of an escalation towards a confrontation between the imperialist powers.

To this logic there correspond, among other things, the war in Ukraine and Syria, the increasing confrontations in the Africa continent, the restructuring of forces in contention in Iraq and the contradictions between China and Vietnam.

The onslaught of the Israeli government and army against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip deserves special mention; it is a genocide carried out with the approval of U.S. imperialism and the complicit silence of the European Union and the UN.

We restate our revolutionary solidarity with the heroic Palestinian people and with all the workers and peoples fighting against the aggression of the imperialist powers and against the oppression of capital.

Revolutionary Communist Party – Brazil
Communist Party of Colombia (M-L)
Communist Party of Labour – Dominican Republic
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador
Communist Party of Mexico (M-L)
Peruvian Communist Party (M-L)
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Venezuela
Communist Party of Spain (M-L)
Party of Labour – EMEP – Turkey

Ecuador, July 2014.

Source

Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador (PCMLE): Stalin

pcmle_00002

Excerpts from a talk held in the Dominican Republic on the 50th anniversary of the death of Comrade Stalin, at the invitation of the Communist Party of Labour.

During his lifetime Comrade Stalin won the admiration and affection of the working class and all the peoples of the vast Soviet Union, as well as the respect and friendship of the workers of the five continents, the fervour and enthusiasm of the communists of all countries. Of course, he elicited the hatred of the reactionaries, imperialists and bourgeois who felt deeply hurt by the colossal achievements of the Soviet Union, by the great economic, cultural, technological and scientific feats of the workers and socialist intelligentsia, by the great and resounding triumphs of the revolution and socialism, of the communists.

In this plot against Stalin by which they fought communism, the Nazi propaganda stood out for its slander and persistence, which did not let one day pass without launching its dire diatribes.

Of course, this counter-revolutionary and anti-communist hatred also characterized Trotsky and his followers.

Shortly after Stalin’s death, the voices of the “communists” who had assumed the leadership of the Soviet Party and the State were added to the chorus of the reactionaries and anti-communists of all countries who had always reviled Stalin.

From then until our day, anti-Stalinism has been the recurring voice of all the reactionaries, of the ideologues of the bourgeoisie, of the Trotskyists, revisionists and opportunists of all shades.

By attacking Stalin, they are trying to tear down the extraordinary achievements of socialism in the Soviet Union and in what had been the socialist camp; they want to minimize and even ignore the great contributions of the Red Army and the Soviet peoples in the decisive struggle against Nazism, to denigrate the Communist Party and the socialist system as totalitarian, as the negation of freedom and democracy. By attacking Stalin they are aiming at Lenin, Marx and socialism. To denigrate Stalin as bloodthirsty and a bureaucrat means to attack the dictatorship of the proletariat and thereby deny the freedom of the workers and peoples, socialist democracy. To slander Stalin as being ignorant and mediocre is to refuse to recognize his great contributions to revolutionary theory, to Marxism-Leninism. To attack Stalin means to deny the necessity of the existence and struggle of the communist party, to transform it into a movement of free thinkers and anarcho-syndicalists, to remove its Leninist essence, democratic centralism.

The height of anti-Stalinism is to call Stalinists those who betrayed the revolution and socialism in the name of doing away with the “crimes of Stalin” and of making the Soviet Union a “democratic country”. The folly of the reactionaries and opportunists does not allow them to recognize that the confessed anti-Stalinists, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev and Yeltsin, destroyed brick by brick the great work of the Soviet working class and peoples, of the communists, of Lenin and Stalin.

The attacks on Stalin are of such magnitude that even a significant number of social fighters, leftists and revolutionaries have fallen victim to these slanders. Basically, they are sincere people, interested in social and national liberation, who do not know the personality and work of Stalin and therefore join the chorus of these distortions. There are also some petty-bourgeois revolutionaries who attack Stalin from supposedly “humanist” positions.

It is up to us communists to defend the revolutionary truth about Stalin, and it is our responsibility because we are his comrades, the ones who are continuing his work.

The Great October Socialist Revolution was one of the great events of humanity. The workers and peoples of the world’s largest country stood up, undertook a long revolutionary process, led by the Bolshevik Party, which led them to victory in October of 1917. This great feat of the workers and peasants, the soldiers and the intelligentsia was a complex process, full of twists and turns and advances and retreats.

The proletarian revolution that smashed the tsarist empire to pieces was inconceivable without the guidance of Marxism, which established itself as the emancipatory doctrine of the working class; without the efforts of Russian communists, mainly of Lenin by his creative application in the social, economic, cultural, historical and political conditions of old Russia; without the building, existence and struggle of the Bolshevik Party; without the decisive participation of the working class and the millions of poor peasants; without the social and political mobilization of the broad masses; without the existence and fighting of the Red Army; and without the important contribution of the international working class.

Several decades of strikes and street battles; the utilization of parliamentary struggle and the participation of the communists in the Duma; the ideological and political struggle against the bourgeoisie and the tsarist autocracy; the organization of the Soviets of workers, peasants and soldiers; the great theoretical and political debate against opportunism within the party that led to the isolation of the Menshevik theses and proposals and to the formation of the Bolshevik Party governed by democratic centralism; the fierce battles against social chauvinism and social pacifism on an international scale; the profuse and fruitful propaganda activity of the communists; the fight to win ideological and political hegemony within the Soviets; the Revolution of 1905 and its lessons; the February Revolution of 1917, its results and consequences; the great armed insurrection of October; the Brest-Litovsk peace agreements; the revolutionary civil war; the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, these constitute the most salient features and characteristics of the struggle for power of the Russian communists, organized in the Bolshevik Party.

Stalin was born in Gori, a small town close to Tbilisi, in Georgia, on December 21, 1879. His father was a shoemaker, the son of serfs, and his mother, a servant, was also the daughter of serfs.

He joined into the ranks of the party in 1898, when he was 19 years old, and since that time his life, thoughts, dreams and his intellectual and physical effort were devoted to the cause of communism, to the fight for the revolution and socialism.

Until March of 1917 when he moved to Petrograd and joined the editorship of Pravda, Stalin had been and was a tireless organizer of trade unions and the party, of demonstrations and strikes, of newspapers and magazines, a student of Marxism and the author of various documents and proposals. He had been in prison and exile, at Party congresses and conferences. He was a fighter and leader of the revolution.

The revolutionary period that began with the February Revolution was the scene of great ideological and political confrontations against the bourgeoisie and the imperialists, but also against the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries, and also within the Party. The whole process of winning the majority of the Soviets for the policy of the Bolsheviks had in Stalin a great leader and architect. The preparation of the insurrection, the technical and military contacts and preparations and also the debate within the leadership of the Bolshevik Party found in Stalin a protagonist of the highest order; he was a great comrade of Lenin in all aspects of political work.

Stalin was part of the first Soviet government as a People’s Commissar of Nationalities; he participated actively in the revolutionary civil war as a Commissar and Commander on various fronts and showed his military and political ability in forging and consolidating the young Soviet power and strengthening the Red Army. He was one of the most outstanding leaders of the party, the government and the army.

In 1921, by decision of the party and together with Lenin he participated actively in the foundation of the Third or Communist International, which would play a great role in the organization and leadership of the revolution on the international level.

A great task that the proletarian revolution took up was the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), which meant concretely the application of the line of the Party with regard to the nationalities and peoples. The “prison-house of nations” that was the tsarist empire became a community of nations, nationalities and peoples, governed by socialism, which put forward the defence and development of the national cultures and their inclusion in the building of the new society.

Having taken up these responsibilities, his dedication and selflessness in their fulfilment and his theoretical ability made Stalin the General Secretary of the Party in 1922. When Lenin died in 1924, the Political Bureau of the Party designated Stalin as the main leader of the party.

The Communist Party (Bolshevik), under the leadership of Stalin, faithful to the Leninist legacy, pushed through the New Economic Policy (NEP) during the 1920s. Amidst great difficulties, relying on the mobilization of the working class and peasantry, defeating the blockade, sabotage and resistance of the defeated reactionary classes and the force of individual capitalism that emerged in the peasant economy, it succeeded in overcoming the disastrous material, economic and social situation that Russia had been in after the Civil War, with production reduced to 14% of the pre-war period, and which was seen in widespread famine and the profusion of diseases.

In this period a bitter ideological and political battle was being waged within the party between the Bolsheviks and the so-called “‘Left’ communists,” who wanted to “export the revolution” and place the weight of the economy on the peasantry, liquidating it as an ally of the proletariat.

In 1929, the NEP was concluded and the accelerated collectivization of the countryside was begun, the great battle against the kulaks who wanted to reverse the revolutionary process in the countryside.

In 1930, the process of large-scale industrialization was pushed forward with great material efforts and supported by the mobilization of the working class. It was a great feat that required large investments and therefore limited the possibilities for the well-being of the great masses of workers and peasants. Despite this, the revolutionary fervour and enthusiasm allowed for the fulfilment and even over-fulfilment of its goals.

In the West, this was the time of the Great Depression; in the country of the Soviets it was the time of the victorious construction of socialism. The Soviet Union became the second greatest economic and commercial power in the world, after the United States. For eleven years, between 1930 and 1940, the USSR had an average growth of industrial production of 16.5%.

A good part of socialist accumulation had to be invested in the defence and security of the Soviet Union, which had to deal with the arms race to which all the capitalist countries of Europe, the USA and Japan were committed.

For 1938-39, the danger of imperialist war hung over Europe and the world. The German Nazis, the Italian fascists and the Japanese reactionaries were moving quickly to form the Axis. The Western powers headed by the Anglo-French alliance worked feverishly to conclude a pact with Germany in order to encourage it to direct its attacks against the Soviet Union, in order to liquidate the communists, wear down the Germans and enter the war under better conditions. It was a devious and cunning diplomatic game that handed over the Sudetenland and the rest of Czechoslovakia to the Germans.

The Soviet Union was a developing economic and military power, but its military capability was much weaker than that of Germany, France, England or the USA. It was surrounded by powerful enemies and needed material resources and time to prepare itself for the eventual war which was announced with cannons and aircraft.

The Soviet Union needed to combine international diplomacy and politics with its industrial development and military power. This circumstance forced the communists to devote a large quantity of material resources in this direction, but also to seek diplomatic alternatives that enabled its defence.

Several international meetings, endless proposals and projects were addressed to the chancelleries. The Soviet Union could not establish an alliance against Nazism since the main interest of the Western powers made the Soviet Union their target. In these circumstances and for its defence, in August 1939, the Molotov-Von Ribbentrop Pact of “non-aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union” was signed.

This international treaty gave the Soviet Union precious time to push forward its military industry. Utilizing large material resources and the will of the peoples, in a short time it was able to build planes, tanks, cannons, weapons and ammunition in large quantities and simultaneously it could relocate its key industries located in European Russia to the East, behind the Urals.

World War II broke out in 1939. The Germans invaded Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, the Balkans, France, Belgium and Netherlands and utilizing “blitzkrieg” tactics, the lightening war, in few weeks they destroyed the armies of those countries and imposed puppet governments.

When it came to the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the Germans did not have the military capacity to carry out and win with the blitzkrieg; they ran into the resistance of the Red Army, the guerrillas and the great masses of workers and peasants who defended the socialist fatherland. The Red Army put up a fierce resistance and gave way to the Nazi troops, forcing them to penetrate into a vast territory, teeming with guerrillas who persistently harassed them. They could not take Leningrad much less Moscow. In Stalingrad a major battle was waged, street by street, house by house, man by man. The reds resisted and then took the initiative and defeated the German army. That was the beginning of the end of the fascist beast.

The Red Army launched the re-conquest of its territories occupied by the Nazis and advanced victoriously across the mountains and plains of Europe, contributing to the liberation of several of the countries of Eastern Europe, up to Berlin, which was taken on May 9, 1945.

This great victory of the Soviet Union was the fruit of the fortress of socialism, of the unity and will to action of the working class and peoples, of the valour of the Red Army, but it was also a consequence of the diplomatic, political and military genius of the General Staff and the leadership of the Soviet Party and Government, led by Stalin.

At the end of the war, the victory of the revolution took place in several countries of Europe, which established people’s democratic governments, and the victory of the revolution in other Asian countries. The Soviet Union emerged as a great economic and military power that won the affection and respect of workers and peoples of the world, of the patriots and democrats, of the revolutionaries and especially the communists. The Soviet Union, Stalin and the Communist Party were the great protagonists in the defeat of fascism.

The Great Patriotic War meant great human and material sacrifices for the Proletarian State. The victory achieved was built upon the great spiritual heritage of socialism that protected the workers and peoples of the USSR; it was made possible by the great patriotic sentiments with which the Communist Party was able to inspire the bodies and minds of the Soviet peoples, by the deep affection of the workers for Soviet power, by the brave and courageous contribution of the communists who put all their abilities and energy into the defence of socialism. The contribution of the Soviet Union in the Second World War was more than 20 million human beings, of which slightly more than 3 million were brave members of the Bolshevik Party. The Party gave over its best men to the war, it lost invaluable political and military cadres, but it also further tempered the Bolshevik steel, and at the end of the war it had gained more than 5 million new members.

At Yalta and Tehran, at the peace negotiations, the workers and peoples of the world had a great representative, Comrade Stalin, who knew, with wisdom, prudence and composure, how to restore the rights of the peoples and countries that had been victims of the war and fascism, how to contribute to the establishment of agreements and open the way to new levels of democracy and freedom in the world.

World War II was the prelude to the national liberation of dozens of countries on the five continents, who won their independence by breaking with the old colonial order. The Soviet Union led by Stalin was always the safe and reliable rear of this great liberation movement.

In the field of the revolution, the victories achieved in Albania and other countries of Eastern Europe, in China, Korea and Vietnam, gave rise to the formation of the powerful socialist camp. A quarter of the population living on a third of the Earth’s surface were building socialism and had in the Soviet Union, led by Stalin, an enlightening example and unreserved support. In the rest of the world, the working class, the peasantry, the youth and the progressive intelligentsia saw the socialist future of humanity with certainty and confidence.

On the other hand, the end of the Second World War established a new order within the capitalist sphere. The United States became the main world power and had hegemony over the capitalist countries.

There arose a new contradiction in the international sphere: one that opposed the old world of capital to the new world of socialism. The bourgeois ideologues and politicians called this the “cold war”, alluding to the antagonism of the dispute.

Once more the superiority of socialism became evident. In the Soviet Union, but also in the other countries of the socialist camp, the culture and well-being of the masses, science and technology, the social and material progress of the workers and peoples flourished. In 1949 the USSR was able to build the atomic bomb and in 1957 it launched the space race, taking the lead.

Neo-colonialism, a form of imperialist domination that emerged after the independence of the dependent nations and countries, always had a counterweight in the Soviet Union led by Stalin. The peoples of the former colonies always had a loyal friend.

Within a few years, from 1917 to the early years of the 1950s, the proletarians, led by the communists organized in the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Stalin, built the dreams of a new world, the world of socialism. They built the essentials, many things were lacking, some failed, but humanity never knew a broader and truer democracy, never before were men in their multitudes able to have material and social well-being, equality among their peers. This was proletarian democracy.

It was an epic of the workers and peoples, the realization in life of the scientific theory of Marxism-Leninism, the gigantic effort of the communists, the serene and bold work of the leaders, Lenin and Stalin.

When we speak of Stalin we are referring to the leader, the organizer, the head, the comrade and friend, who was really one of the great builders of the new man, of the new humanity.

This understanding of Stalin cannot be conceived without discovering and learning about his extraordinary theoretical work.

From the beginning of his communist activity he correctly evaluated the role of theory in the process of organizing and making the revolution. He studied the Marxist materials that he had at hand, the Manifesto of the Communist Party, the works of Plekhanov, and soon he began to familiarize himself with Lenin, by his writings and directives, his valour as organizer and head of the communists, until he saw him in person at party events. From that time on they had a great friendship affirmed in militancy and the great commonality of opinions and concerns. Stalin was also a great reader of Russian literature. He was a man of vast culture, which grew daily throughout his life.

How can one not keep in mind in the training of communists in all countries his most outstanding works: Anarchism or Socialism?, Marxism and the National Question, On the Problem of Nationalities, The October Revolution and the Tactics of the Russian Communists, The Foundations of Leninism, Concerning Questions of Leninism, Trotskyism or Leninism?, Dialectical and Historical Materialism, Marxism and Linguistics, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, the Reports to the Congresses of the Communist Party.

Stalin was a theoretician of the revolution, a Marxist who recreated and developed revolutionary theory in order to provide answers to the problems put forward by the revolution. He was not a theoretician who speculated with knowledge to try to generate ideas and proposals. No, his theoretical work addressed burning issues that had to do with the development of the class struggle, with the problems that the party, the trade unions, the state and the revolution were facing on an international scale.

The depth of his writings is not at odds with the simple form of making them understood. Stalin is rigorous in his theoretical analysis, his positions are valid; they provide a real guide to action, as he himself pointed out referring to Marxism, but also they are simple and easy to understand.

Stalin’s detractors insist on some issues that we should analyze. All of them: the confessed reactionaries of anti-communism, the Trotskyists, the revisionists and opportunists of all shades agree principally on the following charges: intellectual mediocrity, Lenin’s testament that supposedly condemned him, the building of socialism in a single country, forced collectivization, the bureaucratization of the party and state, the liquidation of the Bolshevik old guard, the great purges, his tyrannical and bloodthirsty character, forced industrialization, his incompetence in the war, the cult of personality.

With regard to Stalin’s intellectual mediocrity, the facts, history and its vicissitudes speak emphatically. The October Revolution, the building of socialism in a large country and for the first time in the history of mankind, his skill in leading the party, the working class and the peoples of the USSR in the great feat of building a new world would not have been possible with a mediocre leader who was poor intellectually. These diatribes fall under their own weight. Trotsky, who claimed to be a great theoretician and man of culture and was one of his detractors in this area, was defeated precisely, in theory and practice, by one who, according to him, was a mediocrity.

In regard to the so-called “Lenin Testament,” a lot of nonsense has been written, such as that Trotsky was the one anointed by Lenin to replace him as head of the Party, as if those notes of Lenin had been hidden by the Central Committee. We say that Lenin’s health was very shaky in those days in which he is supposed to have written the famous “testament”, his sensitivity was weakened by the complaints of his companion. However, Lenin had the revolutionary culture, the Bolshevik training to understand that he could not have written a testament, a last will; he also knew that one leader, whatever his rank, can only give his opinions, not orders, in the collective. For these reasons one must understand these notes of Lenin as opinions; moreover, they were out of the context of the everyday life of the leadership of the Party and State and in no way were they orders to be complied with without question. On the other hand, it is completely false that these notes were hidden from the Central Committee; the latter knew about and discussed them. The results were known; Stalin was chosen the Main Leader of the Bolshevik Party and that was a correct and wise decision. History has shown these facts irrefutably. The one supposedly anointed by Lenin as leader of the Party, Trotsky, was placed by life and the revolutionary struggle in the dustbin of the counter-revolution.

The Leninist thesis of the building of socialism in one country takes into account the uneven development of capitalism and as a consequence the various stages of the class struggle. That situation made it possible to break the chain of imperialism at its weakest link, old Russia. Stalin was the one who continued this line. Relying on the workers and peasants, on the great spiritual and materials reserves of the Soviet peoples he carried out the great feat, defended the revolution and defeated the detractors of this thesis. Those who raised the impossibility of building socialism in the Soviet Union as long as the revolution did not succeed in the capitalist countries of Europe and labelled the peasants as reactionaries and counter-revolutionaries were proven to be wrong. The USSR developed and so far there has been no revolution in any of the capitalist countries in Europe.

On the forced collectivization of the countryside, Stalin’s detractors claim that “he violated the will of the peasants, destroyed the agrarian economy and eliminated the social base of the revolution made up by the medium and rich peasants, the kulaks”. The facts are diametrically opposite. The necessary carrying out of the NEP in the countryside developed the rural bourgeoisie in a natural way and stripped millions of poor farmers of the land, depriving the population of cereals. Basing itself on Marxism-Leninism and taking social reality into account, the Party proposed to bring socialism to the countryside. Relying on the millions of poor peasants, it pushed forward a great social and political movement for the formation of cooperatives, the kolkhozes; this meant the expropriation of the kulaks, in some cases people’s tribunals and drastic sanctions. International reaction spoke of repression and massacres. In reality there was a socialist revolution in the countryside, the work of millions of poor peasants who assumed their role as the protagonists in the life of the country of the Soviets. And, as we know, a revolution unleashes the initiative and achievements of the masses, but also the anger of its enemies. As a result, agriculture and livestock flourished, the Soviet Union became the largest producer of wheat, the mechanization and the modernization of agriculture reached unprecedented levels, at the forefront on the international scale.

Stalin is continually blamed for the bureaucratization that was in reality growing in the party and State. Stalin was never in his life a bureaucrat. Quite the contrary, his dynamism was always expressed in direct contact with the base of the party and with the masses; he was one of the leaders of the Soviets before the revolution. His whole life was in action.

Bureaucracy is a social phenomenon, a degeneration that arises in the bourgeois administration (remember that a good part of the Bolshevik administration had to resort to old tsarist functionaries) that penetrated into the revolutionary ranks, into the party and State. Bureaucracy was really present in the life of the Socialist State; it affected many activists and leaders. In some cases the responsibilities of power were transformed into small or large privileges that were creating a caste of bureaucrats who undermined the functioning of the party and the state administration, which separated the party from the masses.

Stalin did not promote the bureaucracy, but in reality he did not have either the ability or the experience to eliminate it. Several offensives of an ideological character aimed at eliminating it took place, precisely under Stalin’s initiative. The political education, ideological struggle, the validity of democracy in the party, the party elections were expressions of the struggle of the communists against bureaucracy. They cannot be dismissed having been useless. They achieved results; among other things they allowed for the continuation of the social and material achievements of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the ideological, political and organizational cleansing of the party and State, the isolation and expulsion of several groups of opportunists and traitors. However, in fact, they were not able to eradicate the bureaucracy and opportunism. Various opportunists and traitors evaded the ideological struggle and hid. They would return later, after the death of Stalin.

It is clear that bureaucracy is an ideological illness which is persistently reborn and which must be fought relentlessly to the end. Stalin did not promote bureaucracy; rather he was one of its victims.

The accusation made against Stalin that he was a bloody dictator and despot and refers to the ideological cleansing, to the revolutionary repression of the counter-revolutionary outbreaks in the city and countryside, to the alleged liquidation of the Bolshevik old guard.

It is necessary to understand that the dictatorship of the proletariat is not a wedding party in which everything is rosy. No, quite the contrary. A whole armed, economic campaign, a trade boycott, an ideological and political penetration by imperialism and the international bourgeoisie was orchestrated against the dictatorship of the proletariat. In opposition to the new power of the workers, from within society, the old ruling classes, overthrown by the revolution but not physically eliminated, repeatedly carried out acts of sabotage; they tried many times to organize rebellions and uprisings, using mercenaries and men and women of the people who were deceived; they based themselves on religion and the priests, on feudal traditions, on liberal elements in the administration and on some occasions they infiltrated their agents into the party and the Soviet State. Within the party itself, in the new State and in the Red Army, there appeared over and over again degenerate elements who made attacks on the dictatorship of the proletariat in theory and practice, who tried to divert the party, to assume its leadership, to organize coups d’état. Some of these elements had been, in the past, outstanding members and leaders of the party and the revolution and they tried, therefore, to take advantage of their positions to change the course of socialism.

The fight to preserve and defend the line of the Party, its ideological, political and organizational unity was bitter and persistent, because again and again, the counter-revolution grew stronger in its attacks and, during Stalin’s life, it was again and again defeated by the force of reason, by the firmness of the Bolsheviks, by the support of the base of the party and the army, by the support of the masses of workers and peasants.

In reality the Bolshevik old guard, those comrades who dreamt of and organized the Great October Revolution, were falling behind. Some fell in combat for the revolution, others were assassinated by the counterrevolution. Others paid the physical tribute of their lives. Some survived Stalin.

The old Bolsheviks, the veteran communists knew how to face their responsibilities, they learned how to solve problems and unknown issues as they arose, they were put at the head of the great feat of building socialism, and were called “old Bolsheviks” not because they were old, but because of their qualities, for their militant and permanent adherence to the principles of Marxism-Leninism, for their quality as communist cadres and fighters.

The fight against the opportunist factions within the Party and State were real battles that mobilized the party, all its members, they were a demonstration of the proletarian firmness of Stalin and his comrades in arms; they constituted one victory after another, that guaranteed the life of the Soviet State, the building of socialism and the continuation of the revolution.

Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin were the main chieftains of the counter-revolution, who were confronted and defeated, in theory and practice, with the material and political achievements by the political correctness of the party leadership, headed by Stalin.

The dark legend of the work camps, of the confinement, of psychiatric hospitals, of prisons overcrowded with workers and communists, of the mass executions and mass graves are nothing more than the infamous slander of the reactionaries and imperialism, of the Nazis and social democracy, of the Trotskyists and revisionists, of the opportunists. They cannot be proved by any records much less by the existence of concentration camps and mass graves. They fall under their own weight.

Much has been said about Stalin’s incompetence in leading the war. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality Stalin was not a soldier by training, he did not study in any academy nor could he claim mastery of the military arts, a thorough knowledge of weapons and military strategy and tactics. But it is clear that he was a proletarian revolutionary soldier who learned this art in the very course of the revolutionary civil war in the first years of Soviet power, that he was steeled as such in the difficult years of the building of socialism and that he played an outstanding role in the leadership of the Great Patriotic War, in the resistance against the Nazi invading hordes and in the great political and military offensive that drove the Red Army to take Berlin. No one has claimed that Stalin was a great Military Leader, all the revolutionaries recognize him as the leader of the Soviet proletariat and the peoples, as the political leader of the international proletariat, as a proletarian revolutionary, as a communist.

The accusations that Stalin promoted and used the whole gamut of praise and exaggerations that have been called the “cult of personality” for his prestige continue to be a part of the anti-communist arsenal.

In fact, Stalin daily received praise and recognition from his comrades and friends, from the workers and peasants who expressed them from their heart to express gratitude and recognition. There was also the praise of the opportunists who sought favours from him. The former demonstrations were sincere, a product of the generous spirit of the workers and people, the latter had a dual intention, based on facts; they tried to elevate Stalin above others, above the events and in this way to personally take advantage of this situation.

The cult of personality was in fact a defect of the first experience in the building of socialism. It began with good intentions, but finally it degenerated, it hurt Soviet power and Stalin himself. This is an incontestable fact. But to argue from there that Stalin himself encouraged these campaigns, that he became an egomaniac, a narcissist is a big lie.

Many pages and books can be written about Stalin. In fact there are thousands of publications about his life and work. There are those of his comrades and friends, but also those of his enemies and detractors. In fact the life of Stalin is the life of the first proletarian revolution itself. Stalin did not make the revolution to his measure; the revolution projected Stalin as one of its best sons and leaders.

Pablo Miranda
Ecuador, 2012

Source

Vietnam & Trotskyism: Three letters from Ho Chi Minh

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Sent from China to the Vietnamese CP in 1939

(* Ho Chi Minh refers in these letters to a number of Chinese communists, by names translated from Chinese to Vietnamese, and the editors have been unable to establish their identity. The names are left in the French-Vietnamese translation).

First Letter

Kwelin, 10 May 1939

Dearly beloved comrades,

In the past, in my eyes and those of a good number of comrades, Trotskyism seemed a matter of a struggle between tendencies within the Chinese Communist Party. That’s why we hardly paid it any attention. But a little before the outbreak of war, more exactly since the end of the year 1936 and notably during the war, the criminal propaganda of the Trotskyists opened our eyes. Since then, we have set ourselves to study the problem.

And our study has led us to the following conclusions:

1. The problem of Trotskyism is not a struggle between tendencies within the Chinese Communist Party, for between communists and Trotskyists there is no link, absolutely not one link: It is a question that concerns the entire people: the struggle against the Fatherland.

2. The Japanese fascists and foreigners now it. That’s why they seek to create divisions to deceive public opinion and damage the reputation of the Communists, making people believe that Communists and Trotskyists are in the same camp.

3. The Chinese Trotskyists (like the Trotskyists of other countries) do not represent a political group, much less a political party. They are nothing but a band of evil-doers, the running dogs of Japanese fascism (and of international fascism).

4. In all countries, the Trotskyists give themselves fine names in order to mask their dirty work and banditry. For example: in Spain they call themselves the United Marxist Workers Party (POUM). Do you know that it’s they who constitute the nests of spies in Madrid in Barcelona and in other places in the service of Franco?

It is they who are organising the infamous ‘fifth column’, the espionage body of the army of the Italian and German fascists. In Japan, they call themselves the Marx-Engels-Lenin League (MEL). The Japanese Trotskyists lure youth into their league, then they denounce them to the police. They seek to penetrate the Japanese Communist Party with the aim of destroying it from within. To my mind, the French Trotskyists now organised around the Proletarian Revolution Group have settled on the aim of sabotaging the Popular Front. On this subject, I think you are surely better informed than I. Here in China, the Trotskyists are regrouping around formations such as The Struggle Against the Japanese, Culture and Red Flag.

5. The Trotskyists are not only the enemies of Communism, they are also the enemies of democracy and of progress. They are the most infamous traitors and spies.

Perhaps you have read the charges in the proceedings against the Trotskyists in the Soviet Union? If you have not read them, I advise you to read them and to get your friends to read them. This reading is very useful. It will help you to see the true repugnant face of Trotskyism and Trotskyists. Here, I have taken the liberty of extracting some passages directly concerning China.

Before the tribunal, the Trotskyist Rakovsky has sworn that, in 1930, when he was in Tokyo (as representative of the Soviet Red Cross) a person highly placed in the Japanese government said to him: “We are now expecting a change of strategy from the Trotskyists. I won’t enter into the details. I only want to tell you that we expect from the Trotskyists actions which favour our intervention in the affairs of China”.

Replying to the Japanese, Rakovsky said: “I will write to Trotsky on this subject”. In December 1935, Trotsky sent his followers in China instructions in which he underlined several times this phrase: “Do not create obstacles to the Japanese invasion of China”.

Thus, the Russian Trotskyists wished to sell to the Japanese part of their Fatherland – Siberia and the Maritime Provinces – they now wish to sell to the latter our Fatherland, China!

And the Chinese Trotskyists, how have they acted? That is what you are in a hurry to know, isn’t it?

But, beloved comrades, I cannot reply to you till my next letter. Haven’t you recommended that I write short letters?

I hope to see you again soon.

PC Line
(Ho Chi Minh)

Second Letter

Dearly beloved comrades,

Before I reply to you on the activities of the Trotskyists in China, permit me to introduce half a dozen of their ring-leaders, known traitors, who have written on behalf of the Fourth International. Tran Doc Tu (Chen Duxiu), Banh Thuat Chi, La Han, Diep Thanh, Truong Mo Dao, Hoang Cong Luoc.*

Chronologically, here are the acts they have committed:

In September 1931, at the time of the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, Japanese Security made contact with the first three. The two parties signed a pact: the Trotskyist group agreed not to advance any propaganda against the Japanese invasion. Japanese Secunty agreed to make over to the Trotskyists a sum of three hundred dollars monthly as well as other supplementary sums, according to the ‘results of the services rendered’.

From this moment, Chen Duxiu (Tran Doc Tu) and his accomplices immediately set to work. With the Japanese funds, they published magazines and satirical pamphlets to propagate ideas such as: ‘In occupying Manchuria, the Japanese wanted to rapidly settle the conflict and suspend it, they did not aim to make themselves masters of China’.

Scarcely had these ideas been propagated in the columns of their publications than Shanghai was attacked in turn in January 1932 by Japanese troops.

At this moment, what do the Trotskyists say? Do they recognise that they were wrong? Do they cease collaborating with the occupier? Absolutely not! While the soldiers of the 19th army spill their blood to defend the Fatherland, the Trotskyists, in acts as in words, continue to commit crime upon crime. On one side, they write: ‘The war for Shanghai doesn’t concern the people at all. It is not a case of a national revolutionary war. It is a case of imperialist war’. On the other side, they spread false rumours, put forward slogans of a defeatist character, gave away defence secrets, etc.

But that’s not all. Trotskyists such as Hoa Van Khoi and Cung Van Thu, in secret liaison with the police and the Japanese bosses, infiltrated into the workers’ strike at Shanghai and employed all means to sabotage the movement. To the point where they managed to have the most talented activists in the strike arrested.

In 1933, Generalissimo Phung Ngoc Tuong and General Cat Hong Xuong, members of the Communist Party, organised an anti-Japanese resistance force at Kal Gan. At this time, the CCP being underground, liaison between the centre and the North was proving difficult. Profiting by this situation, the Trotskyist Truong Mo Dao, calling himself a ‘representative of the Communist Party’, tried to transform the anti-Japanese war into a civil war with the slogan: ‘March with the Japanese, struggle against Chiang Kai Shek’. In the end, he was unmasked and expelled by General Cat. A short time later, in the course of a journey of the latter to Tientsin, Truong Mo Dao had him assassinated by his followers.

In my next letter, I shall tell you how the Trotskyists of China have pursued their activities as traitors to the Fatherland.

Fraternal greetings
PC Line

Third Letter

Beloved Comrades,

In my last letters, I told you how the Trotskyists received their salary from the Japanese and how they sought to sabotage our heroic struggle at Shanghai and our patriotic movement at Kal Gan. Today, I will tell you the rest of their crimes.

Having fallen back to Fukien, the 19th Army again took up its struggle. It formed an anti-Japanese Government and led the propaganda for the united front thanks to the signing of a pact with the Chinese Red Army. Shortly before this, the 19th army was one of the most anti-communist forces. But confronted by the danger which menaced the Fatherland, it agreed to forget the quarrels and hatred in order to aim at one single end: the struggle against the invaders.

Obeying the orders of the Japanese, the Trotskyists immediately went into action: on one side, they fomented regionalist sentiments amongst the population—the 19th army having come from Kwangtung—to combat the new government. On the other side, they sought to enfeeble the Red Army. The way in which they accomplished the second task is the following: among the many revolutionary militants, they applied to join the Red Army. In the beginning, in order to win over confidence, they led very positive actions. Once placed in more or less important posts of responsibility, they began to commit criminal acts. I will cite you some examples: In battle, when it was necessary to retreat, they gave the order to advance. When it was necessary to advance, they gave the order to retreat. They sent reinforcements and arms to places where they were not needed. But where they were needed, they didn’t send them. They painted with poison the wounds of combatants, above all of the cadres of the army, with the aim of making them have their arms and legs etc. amputated. These criminal acts were luckily discovered in time. What luck for the Communists!

Since 1935, the Communists have led a campaign of great scope for the formation of a national Front against the Japanese. The people, and particularly the workers and peasants, have actively taken up this programme. In the Kuomintang, the idea of a national Front is making progress. During this time, it has been proved that the Trotskyists are playing a double game, having recourse at the same time to lies and to treachery. They say to the masses: ‘You see, the Communists have sold out to the bourgeoisie. The Kuomintang would not fight against the Japanese!’ Addressing the Kuomintang, they say: ‘The National Front! It’s nothing but a ruse of the Communists. To fight the Japanese you must destroy the Communists’.

Towards the end of 1936, the politics of uniting against the Japanese triumphed in the events of Tay An. Faced with the defeat of their politics of civil war, the Trotskyists Truong Mo Dao and Ta Duy Liet decided to organise the assassination of Vuong Di Triet, one of the most convinced followers of the National Front.

Now, I am talking to you about 1937, the period that preceded the war. Everyone united to fight the Japanese except the Trotskyists. These traitors met clandestinely and adopted the ‘resolution’ of which here are some extracts: ‘In the war against the Japanese, our position is clear: those who wanted the war and have illusions about the Kuomintang government, those concretely have committed treason. The union between the Communist Party and the Kuomintang is nothing but conscious treason’. And other ignominies of this kind.

When the war approaches, the Japanese promises materialise. The Trotskyists of Shanghai receive 100,000 dollars each month for their activities in the centre and south of the country. Those of Tientsin and Peking 50,000 each month for their activities in Hoa Bac, in the north, against the 8th army and against patriotic organisations.

Towards the middle of 1937, the Trotskyists were discovered and arrested in the ‘special zone’ (Dac Khu). According to the confession of Ton Ngia Ha, they had settled on these objectives: 1. To destroy the 8th army. 2. To hinder the development of the National Front. 3. To spy 4. To organise the assassination of activists.

Before the popular tribunal of the ‘special zone’, the Trotskyist Hoang Phat Hi, amongst other confessions, declared that in the course of the fourth interview with Truong Mo Dao, the latter had given him the following instructions: ‘You must actively study the methods and the system of organisation of the Red Army. After that, you will organise brigades of youth to carry out the tasks of sabotage. Our aim is to provoke disorder within the Red Army and to liquidate its activists’. Truong Mo Dao added: ‘We must persuade a section of the cadres of the base to follow us, raise their nostalgia for their native land, encourage their desertion and furnish them with a little money. That’s one of the means of causing the disintegration of this army’.

The Trotskyist Quach Uan Kinh has sworn that Ton Ngia Ha charged him with advancing defeatist propaganda amongst the combatants by demonstrating to them that ‘China cannot win’ for ‘even if we end up driving out the Japanese, the Americans and the English will still be there to oppress us’; that ‘not only can we not win, but our land will be destroyed if we continue the war’; that ‘China is too weak to struggle against Japan, England and America at the same time’. Truong Mo Dao finished his instructions with these words: We must exploit the policies of the National Front to denounce the Communists and say that they have sold out the working class. Our aim is to foment discontent amongst the combatants’. Under the pretext of educating them, the Trotskyists organised the most backward elements of the army in small groups, then, profiting by the harsh conditions of life in the army, they encouraged them to desert with arms and ammunition. In liaison with the bandits, they created disorder behind the lines of the 8th army while it was in full combat.

This is the background of the Trotskyists in their struggle against the 8th national revolutionary army. In my next letter, I will talk to you about the ignoble methods that these traitors have employed in attempting to destroy the other anti-Japanese forces.

PC Line

Source

An Obituary for General Vo Nguyen Giap (1911-2013)

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by CARLOS BORRERO

The Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap has died. Throughout what was once known as the Third World as well as among those with revolutionary consciousness in the centers of imperialism, we pay tribute to one of the most important figures of the struggle of the oppressed for national liberation and socialism.

General Giap, the skilled politician and brilliant military strategist who came to prominence by defeating the French forces in the epic battle of Dien Bien Phu during the spring of 1954, served as a teacher and inspiration to countless revolutionaries worldwide. His revolutionary vocation began during his student years and led him first to journalism and teaching. In the early ’30s he joined the Communist Party of Vietnam, which was brutally suppressed by the French colonial regime. Like many of his comrades, he was imprisoned and forced into exile. It was during a period of exile in China that he forged ties with Ho Chi Minh and the group of revolutionaries with which he would found the League for the Independence of Vietnam, better known as the Viet Minh. Upon returning to Vietnam in the mid-40s, he participated in the organization of the resistance movement that put an end to the Japanese occupation and with the proclamation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945 he took the post of commander in chief of the People’s Army. His military career would lead him to successive victories over French and American forces in protracted wars that exemplified an unparalleled understanding of the dialectic of the main strategic categories of military science.

It comes as no surprise that in the imperialist press there is an attempt to tarnish Giap’s legacy with claims of a supposed disregard for human life. The New York Times and other organs of imperialism that have published obituaries make repeated references to the large number of losses suffered by the Vietnamese troops under his command as a diversion from the real crimes committed by the war machines of France and the US, those responsible for the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of defenseless peasants through indiscriminate bombing campaigns with napalm and agent orange. This level of hypocrisy is common among the mouthpieces of imperialism who now try to play down Giap’s military genius while exculpating the real authors of so much death and destruction, Western companies that make up the military industrial complex – including manufacturers of biological and chemical weapons like Monsanto and Dow – and their political representatives who continue spreading this destructive force throughout the world today.

Among serious students of history, especially those with a revolutionary orientation, it is common to appreciate the counterposition of the strategic factor of time to the superiority of firepower held by the imperialist armies employed by General Giap. It is important to remember, however, that Giap always stressed the primacy of the political prerequisite for these strategic conceptions: the ideological and political education of the people, organized as a people’s army. In the end, it was the indomitable fighting will of the Vietnamese people, a will consistently and patiently cultivated by dedicated political cadres, that defeated the modern weapons of imperialism on the battlefield and intensified the internal contradictions of a society half a world away.

For our generation, the enduring legacy of a figure like Giap lay more in his ability to contribute to the political maturity of the Vietnamese people than in his military merits, notwithstanding his impressive achievements in this field. The central challenge of our time lay in cultivating the acquisition of a high degree of political consciousness by the exploited and oppressed along with the will to fight to collectively free ourselves from the shackles of oppression. We live in an era in which, both in the centers of capitalism and the periphery, the ruling classes maintain their dominance through the systematic perversion of consciousness. This is the most powerful weapon to keep the masses subdued, and the biggest obstacle to be overcome. It is in a figure like General Giap, however, that we find an example worthy of emulation that serves to inspire us to continue the struggle against oppression and exploitation.

Long live General Giap!

General Vo Nguyen Giap’s Economic Views

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“He was regarded as an elder statesman whose hard-line views had softened with the cessation of the war that unified Vietnam. He supported economic reform and closer relations with the United States while publicly warning of the spread of Chinese influence and the environmental costs of industrialization. [….]

In his final years, General Giap was an avuncular host to foreign visitors to his villa in Hanoi, where he read extensively in Western literature, enjoyed Beethoven and Liszt and became a convert to pursuing socialism through free-market reforms.

‘In the past, our greatest challenge was the invasion of our nation by foreigners,’ he told an interviewer. ‘Now that Vietnam is independent and united, we can address our biggest challenge. That challenge is poverty and economic backwardness.’

Addressing that challenge had long been deferred, he told the journalist Neil Sheehan in 1989. ‘Our country is like an ill person who has suffered for a long time,’ he said. ‘The countries around us made a lot of progress. We were at war.’”

Source

General Vo Nguyen Giap on Democracy in the People’s Army

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“In leading the building of the army, our Party has firmly stuck to the principle of democratic centralism. That is the organisational principle of our Party; thereby it has taken care to build the army with a genuine inner democracy and also a very strict conscious discipline.

Completely different from all types of armies of the exploiting class, our army put into practice the regime of internal democracy from its inception because the internal relations between officers and men as well as the relations between the army and the people express complete unity of mind. Owing to the demand of the revolutionary work, there are in our army differences in ranks and offices, but they have not and cannot influence the relations of political equality in the army. For this reason, internal democracy should and could be carried out in the army. To practise democracy is also to apply the mass line of the Party in leading the army.

During the Resistance War, democracy was exercised in three ways and brought about good results. Political democracy: at grass-root level, democratic meetings and army congresses were held regularly so that men as well as officers had the opportunity to speak their views on fighting, work, study and living questions. In our army, not only have the officers the right to criticise the soldiers but the latter also have the right to criticise the former. Military democracy: in fighting as well as in training, democratic meetings were called whenever circumstances permitted, to expound plans, promote initiatives and together try to overcome difficulties in order to fulfill their tasks. Economic democracy: in our army, the officers and soldiers have the right to take part in the management of the improvement of material life. Finance is made public. Thanks to the carrying out of democracy in an extensive way, we succeeded in promoting the activity and creativeness of the masses of officers and men, and concentrating their wisdom to solve the most difficult and complicated problems; also thanks to it, internal unity was strengthened and the combativeness of our army increased.”

– Vo Nguyen Giap, “People’s War, People’s Army”

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia on Ho Chi Minh

Portrait of Ho Chi-Minh

Ho Chi Minh 

(real name, Nguyen Tat Thanh; for many years used various party pseudonyms, including Nguyen Ai Quoc; adopted the name Ho Chi Minh in early 1942). Born May 19, 1890, in the village of Kiem Lin, Nghe An Province; died Sept. 3, 1969, in Hanoi. Figure in the Vietnamese and international communist movements and in the national liberation movement. Chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Vietnam (WPV). President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV).

The son of a rural teacher, Ho studied at the Lycée Quoc Hoc in Hue and subsequently taught French and Vietnamese. In late 1911 he left Vietnam as a galley hand aboard a French ship and from 1912 to 1916 was a sailor and deckhand on French and British ships. He lived in England and in the USA from 1916 to 1919, when he took up residence in France. During the Paris Peace Conference of 1919–20, Ho submitted to the participants at the conference a memorandum on behalf of Vietnamese patriots that demanded independence for the peoples of Indochina. In 1920 he attended the Tours Congress of the French Socialist Party, at which the French Communist Party was formed; Ho immediately joined the new party. He took part in the Fifth Congress of the Comintern in 1924, where he delivered a speech on the colonial question.

In 1925, Ho organized the Fellowship of Revolutionary Youth of Vietnam from existing communist groups in Vietnam. Under his leadership, Vietnam’s communist organizations were united in the Communist Party of Indochina in 1930. Repeatedly arrested and imprisoned for his revolutionary activities, Ho was sentenced to death in absentia in 1929. From 1934 to 1938 he studied at the Communist University for Workers of the East and worked in Moscow; he took part in the seventh Congress of the Comintern in 1935.

In 1941, Ho returned to Vietnam where, during World War II, the revolutionary movement against the French colonialists and the Japanese occupying forces developed under his leadership. In May of that year he organized the League of Struggle for the Independence of Vietnam (Viet Minh), which united the patriotic forces of the country; Ho was elected the league’s chairman.

After the victory of the August Revolution of 1945 in Vietnam, Ho served as chairman of the Provisional Government of the DRV from August 1945 to March 1946. He became president of the DRV in March 1946 and concurrently held the post of prime minister of the DRV from 1946 to 1955: In 1951 the Second Party Congress adopted a resolution changing the name of the Communist Party of Indochina to the Workers’ Party of Vietnam (renamed the Communist Party of Vietnam in 1976), and Ho was elected chairman of the Central Committee of the WPV, a post he held until his death. He was honorary chairman of the Lien Viet from 1946 to 1955 and became honorary chairman of the Fatherland Front of Vietnam in 1955. While chairman of the Central Committee of the WPV, he served concurrently as general secretary of the Central Committee of the WPV from 1956 to 1960. Led by the Central Committee of the WPV under Ho, the Vietnamese people waged a struggle against the imperialist aggression of the USA that resulted in victory for the Vietnamese patriots.

Ho consistently supported the strengthening and development of friendship between the Vietnamese and Soviet peoples. In his testament he called on the party and people to fight for a united, independent, and prosperous Vietnam, for solidarity in their ranks, and for a cohesive international communist movement based on Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism.

Ho wrote on the working-class and national liberation movements, the development of the Vietnamese revolution, and the struggle of the Vietnamese people for the liberation and unification of the country and for the building of socialism in Vietnam. His works strongly emphasized the enormous influence exerted by the October Revolution in Russia on the development of the Vietnamese revolution and stressed the importance of the Soviet experience in the building of socialism in Vietnam.

Ho was awarded the Order of Lenin in 1967. At the 1976 session of the National Assembly, which adopted a resolution uniting the country and forming the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the city of Saigon was officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City.

WORKS

In Russian translation:
Izbr. stat’i i rechi. Moscow, 1959.
O Lenine, leninizme i nerushimoi sovetsko-v’etnamskoi druzhbe. Moscow, 1970.

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

Bruce Franklin’s Introduction to “The Essential Stalin”

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Please note the posting of this introduction to the book “The Essential Stalin” does not necessarily imply support of Franklin’s political line.

 — E.S.

I used to think of Joseph Stalin as a tyrant and butcher who jailed and killed millions, betrayed the Russian revolution, sold out liberation struggles around the world, and ended up a solitary madman, hated and feared by the people of the Soviet Union and the world. Even today I have trouble saying the name “Stalin” without feeling a bit sinister.

But, to about a billion people today, Stalin is the opposite of what we in the capitalist world have been programmed to believe. The people of China, Vietnam, Korea, and Albania consider Stalin one of the great heroes of modern history, a man who personally helped win their liberation.

This belief could be dismissed as the product of an equally effective brainwashing from the other side, except that the workers and peasants of the Soviet Union, who knew Stalin best, share this view. For almost two decades the Soviet rulers have systematically attempted to make the Soviet people accept the capitalist world’s view of Stalin, or at least to forget him. They expunged him from the history books, wiped out his memorials, and even removed his body from his tomb.

Yet, according to all accounts, the great majority of the Soviet people still revere the memory of Stalin, and bit by bit they have forced concessions. First it was granted that Stalin had been a great military leader and the main antifascist strategist of World War II. Then it was conceded that he had made important contributions to the material progress of the Soviet people. Now a recent Soviet film shows Stalin, several years before his death, as a calm, rational, wise leader.

But the rulers of the Soviet Union still try to keep the people actually from reading Stalin. When they took over, one of their first acts was to ban his writings. They stopped the publication of his collected works, of which thirteen volumes had already appeared, covering the period only through 1934. This has made it difficult throughout the world to obtain Stalin’s writings in the last two decades of his life. Recently the Hoover Institute of Stanford University, whose purpose, as stated by its founder, Herbert Hoover, is to demonstrate the evils of the doctrines of Karl Marx” completed the final volumes in Russian so that they would be available to Stanford’s team of émigré anti-Communists (In. preparing. this volume, I was able to use the Hoover collection of writings by and about Stalin only by risking jail, directly violating my banishment by court injunction from this Citadel of the Free World.)

The situation in the U.S. is not much different from that in the U.S.S.R. In fact the present volume represents the first time since 1955 that a major publishing house in either country has authorized the publication of Stalin’s works. U.S. capitalist publishers have printed only Stalin’s wartime diplomatic correspondence and occasional essays, usually much abridged, in anthologies. Meanwhile his enemies and critics are widely published. Since the early 1920s there have been basically two opposing lines claiming to represent Marxism-Leninism, one being Stalin’s and the other Trotsky’s. The works of Trotsky are readily available in many inexpensive editions. And hostile memoirs, such as those of Khrushchev and Svetlana Stalin, are actually serialized in popular magazines.

The suppression of Stalin’s writings spreads the notion that he did not write anything worth reading. Yet Stalin is clearly one of the three most important historical figures of our century, his thought and deeds still affecting our daily lives, considered by hundreds of millions today as one of the leading political theorists of any time, his very name a strongly emotional household word throughout the world. Anyone familiar with the development of Marxist-Leninist theory in the past half century knows that Stalin was not merely a man of action. Mao names him “the greatest genius of our time,” calls himself Stalin’s disciple, and argues that Stalin’ s theoretical works are still the core of world Communist revolutionary strategy.

Gaining access to Stalin’s works is not the hardest part of coming to terms with him. First we must recognize that there can be no “objective” or “neutral” appraisal of Stalin, any more than there can be of any major historical figure during the epochs of class struggle. From the point of view of some classes, George Washington was an arrogant scoundrel and traitor to his country, king, and God, a renegade who brought slaughter and chaos to a continent; Abraham Lincoln was responsible for the deaths of millions and the destruction of a civilized, cultured, harmonious society based on the biblically sanctioned relationship with the black descendants of Ham; Sitting Bull was a murderous savage who stood in the way of the progress of a superior civilization; Eldridge Cleaver, George and Jonathan Jackson, Ruchell Magee and Angela Davis are vicious murderers, while Harry Truman, Nelson Rockefeller, Mayor Daley, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon are rational and patriotic men who use force only when necessary to protect the treasured values of the Free World.

Any historical figure must be evaluated from the interests of one class or another. Take J. Edgar Hoover, for example. Anti-Communists may disagree about his performance, but they start from the assumption that the better he did his job of preserving “law and order” as defined by our present rulers the better he was. We Communists, on the other hand, certainly would not think Hoover “better” if he had been more efficient in running the secret police and protecting capitalism. And so the opposite with Stalin, whose job was not to preserve capitalism but to destroy it, not to suppress communism but to advance it. The better he did his job, the worse he is likely to seem to all those who profit from this economic system and the more he will be appreciated by the victims of that system. The Stalin question is quite different for those who share his goals and for those, who oppose them. For the revolutionary people of the world it is literally a life and-death matter to have a scientific estimate of Stalin, because he was, after all, the principal leader of the world revolution for thirty crucial years.

I myself have seen Stalin from both sides. Deeply embedded in my consciousness and feelings was that Vision of Stalin as tyrant and butcher. This was part of my over-all view of communism as a slave system, an idea that I was taught in capitalist society. Communist society was not red but a dull-gray world. It was ruled by a secret clique of powerful men. Everybody else worked for these few and kept their mouths shut. Propaganda poured from all the media. The secret police were everywhere, tapping phones, following people on the street, making midnight raids. Anyone who spoke out would lose his job, get thrown in jail, or even get shot by the police. One of the main aims of the government was international aggression, starting wars to conquer other counties. When I began to discover that this entire vision point by point described my own society a number of questions arose in my mind.

For me, as for millions of others in the United States it was the Vietnamese who forced a change in perception. How could we fail to admire the Vietnamese people and to see Ho Chi Minh as one of the great heroes of our times? What stood out not about Ho was his vast love for the people and his dedication to serving them. (In 1965, before I became a Communist, I spoke at a rally soliciting blood for the Vietnamese victims of U.S. bombing. When I naively said that Ho was a nationalist above being a Communist and a human being above being a nationalist, I was pelted with garbage and, much to my surprise, called a “dirty Commie. But we were supposed to believe that Ho was a “tyrant and butcher.” Later, it dawned on me that Fidel Castro was also supposed to be a “tyrant and butcher” although earlier we had been portrayed as a freedom fighter against the Batista dictatorship. Still later, I began to study the Chinese revolution, and found in Mao’s theory and preaches the guide for my own thinking and action. But, again, we were Supposed to see Mao as a “tyrant and butcher” and also a “madman” the more I looked into it, the more I found that these “tyrants and butchers” – Ho, Fidel, and Mao – were all depicted servants of the people, inspired by a deep and self-sacrificing love for them. At some point, I began to wonder if perhaps even Stalin was not a “tyrant and butcher.”

With this thought came intense feelings that must resemble – what someone in a tribe experiences when violating a taboo. But if we want to understand the world we live in, we must face Stalin.

Joseph Stalin personifies a major aspect of three decades of twentieth-century history. If we seek answers to any of the crucial questions about the course of our century, at some point we find Stalin standing directly in our path. Is it possible for poor and working people to make a revolution and then wield political power? Can an undeveloped, backward nation whose people are illiterate, impoverished, diseased, starving, and lacking in all the skills and tools needed to develop their productive forces possibly achieve both material and cultural well-being? Can this be done under a condition of encirclement by hostile powers, greedy for conquest, far more advanced industrially and, militantly: and fanatical in their opposition to any people s revolutionary government? What price must be paid for the success of revolutionary development? Can national unity be achieved in a vast land inhabited by many peoples of diverse races, religions, culture, language, and levels of economic development?

Is it possible to attain international unity among the exploited and oppressed peoples of many different nations whose governments depend upon intense nationalism and the constant threat of war? Then, later, can the people of any modern highly industrialized society also have a high degree of freedom, or must the state be their enemy? Can any society flourish without some form of ruling elite?

These questions are all peculiarly modern, arising in the epoch of capitalism as it reaches its highest form, modern imperialism, and becoming critical in our own time, the era of global revolution. Each of these questions leads us inevitably to Stalin. In my opinion, it is not going too far to say that Stalin is the key figure of our era.

All the achievements and all the failures, all the strengths and all the weaknesses, of the Soviet revolution and indeed of the world revolution in the period 1922-53 are summed up in Stalin. This is not to say that he is personally responsible for all that was and was not accomplished, or that nobody else could have done what he did. We are not dealing with a “great man” theory of history. In fact, quite the opposite. If we are to understand Stalin at all, and evaluate him from the point of view of either of two major opposing classes, we must see him, like all historical figures, as a being created by his times and containing the contradictions of those times. .

Every idea of Stalin’s, as he would be the first to admit, came to him from his historical existence, which also fixed limits to the ideas available to him. He could study history in order to learn from the experience of the Paris Commune but he could not look into a crystal ball to benefit from the lessons of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. And the decisions he made also had fixed and determined limits on either side, as we shall see.

To appraise Stalin, the best way to begin is to compare the condition of the Soviet Union and the rest of the world at two times: when he came into leadership and when he died. Without such a comparison, it is impossible to measure what he may have contributed or taken away from human progress. If the condition of the Soviet people was much better when he died than when he took power, he cannot have made their lives worse. The worst that can be said is that they would have progressed more without him. The same is true for the world revolution. Was it set back during the decades of his leadership, or did it advance? Once we put the questions this way, the burden of proof falls on those who deny Stalin’s positive role as a revolutionary leader.

As World War I began, the Russian Empire consisted primarily of vast undeveloped lands inhabited by many different peoples speaking a variety of languages with a very low level of literacy, productivity, technology, and health. Feudal Social relations still prevailed throughout many of these lands. Czarist secret police, officially organized bands of military terrorists, and a vast bureaucracy were deployed to keep the hungry masses of workers and peasants in line.

The war brought these problems to a crisis. Millions went to their deaths wearing rags, with empty stomachs, often waiting for those in front of them to fall so they could have a rifle and a few rounds of ammunition. When the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917, the entire vast empire, including the great cities of Russia itself, was in chaos.

Before the new government could begin to govern, it was Immediately set upon by the landlords, capitalists, and generals of the old regime, with all the forces they could buy and muster, together with combined military forces of Britain, France, Japan, and Poland, and additional military contingents from the U.S. and other capitalist countries. A vicious civil war raged for three years, from Siberia through European Russia, from the White Sea to the Ukraine. At the end of the Civil War, in 1920, agricultural output was less than half that of the prewar poverty-stricken countryside. Even worse was the situation in industry.

Many mines and factories had been destroyed. Transport had been torn up. Stocks of raw materials and semi finished products had been exhausted. The output of large-scale industry was about one seventh of what it had been before the war. And the fighting against foreign military intervention had to go on for two more years. Japanese and U.S. troops still held a portion of Siberia, including the key port city of Vladivostok, which was not recaptured until 1922.

Lenin suffered his first stroke in 1922. From this point on, Stalin, who was the General Secretary of the Central Committee, began to emerge as the principal leader of the Party. Stalin’s policies were being implemented at least as early as 1924, the year of Lenin’s death, and by 1927 the various opposing factions had been defeated and expelled from the Party. It is the period of the early and mid-1920s that we must compare to 1953.

The Soviet Union of the early 1920s was a land of deprivation. Hunger was everywhere, and actual mass famines swept across much of the countryside. Industrial production was extremely low, and the technological Level of industry was so backward that there seemed little possibility of mechanizing agriculture. Serious rebellions in the armed forces were breaking out, most notably at the Kronstadt garrison in 1921.

By 1924 large-scale peasant revolts were erupting, particularly in Georgia. There was virtually no electricity outside the large cities. Agriculture was based on the peasant holdings and medium-sized farms seized by rural capitalists (the kulaks) who forced the peasants back into wage Labor and tenant fanning. Health care was almost non-existent in much of the country. The technical knowledge and skills needed to develop modern industry, agriculture, health, and education were concentrated in the hands of a few, mostly opposed to socialism while the vast majority of the population were illiterate and could hardly think about education while barely managing to subsist. The Soviet Union was isolated in a world controlled by powerful capitalist countries physically surrounding it, setting up economic blockades, and officially refusing to recognize its existence while outdoing each other in their pledges to wipe out this Red menace.

The counterrevolution was riding high throughout Europe Great Britain, and even in the U.S.A., where the Red threat was used as an excuse to smash labor unions. Fascism was emerging in several parts of the capitalist world, particularly in Japan and in Italy, where Mussolini took dictatorial power in 1924. Most of the world consisted of colonies and neo-colonies of the European powers.

When Stalin died in 1953, the Soviet Union was the second greatest industrial, scientific, and military power in the world and showed clear signs of moving to overtake the U.S. in all these areas. This was despite the devastating losses it suffered while defeating the fascist powers of Germany, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria. The various peoples of the U.S.S.R. were unified. Starvation and illiteracy were unknown throughout the country. Agriculture was completely collectivized and extremely productive. Preventive health care was the finest in the world, and medical treatment of exceptionally high quality was available free to all citizens. Education at all levels was free. More books were published in the U.S.S.R. than in any other country. There was no unemployment.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, not only had the main fascist powers of 1922-45 been defeated, but the forces of revolution were on the rise everywhere. The Chinese Communist Party had just led one-fourth of the world’s population to victory over foreign imperialism and domestic feudalism and capitalism. Half of Korea was socialist, and the U.S.-British imperialist army, having rushed to intervene in the civil war under the banner of the United Nations  was on the defensive and hopelessly demoralized. In Vietnam, strong socialist power, which had already defeated Japanese Imperialism, was administering the final blows to the beaten army of the French empire. The monarchies and fascist military dictatorships of Eastern Europe had been destroyed by a combination of partisan forces, led by local Communists, and the Soviet Army; everywhere except for Greece there were now governments that supported the world revolution and at least claimed to be governments of the workers and peasants. The largest political party in both France and Italy was the Communist Party. The national liberation movement among the European colonies and neo-colonies was surging forward. Between 1946 and 1949 alone, at least nominal national independence was achieved by Burma, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Laos, Libya, Ceylon, Jordan, and the Philippines, countries comprising about one-third of the world’s population. The entire continent of Africa was stirring.

Everybody but the Trotskyites, and even some of them would have to admit that the situation for the Communist world revolution was incomparably advanced in 1953 over what it had been in the early or mid 1920s. Of course, that does not settle the Stalin question. We still have to ask whether Stalin contributed to this tremendous advance, or slowed it down or had negligible influence on it. And we must not duck the question as to whether Stalin’s theory and practice built such serious faults into revolutionary communism that its later failures, particularly in the Soviet Union, can be pinned on him.

So let us look through Stalin’s career focusing particularly on its most controversial aspects.

“Stalin” which means “steel-man,” was the code name for a Young Georgian revolutionary born as Joseph Visvarionovich Djugashvili in 1879 in the town of Gori. His class origins combine the main forces of the Russian revolution.

His father formerly a village cobbler of peasant background, became a’ worker in a shoe factory. His mother was the daughter of peasant serfs. So Stalin was no stranger to either workers or peasants, and being from Georgia, he had firsthand knowledge of how Czarist Russia oppressed the non-Russian peoples of its empire. .

While studying at the seminary for a career as a priest, he made his first contact with the Marxist underground at the age of fifteen, and at eighteen he formally joined the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party, which was to evolve into the Communist Party. Shortly after joining the party in 1898, he became convinced that Lenin was the main theoretical leader of the revolution, particularly when Lenin’s newspaper Iskra began to appear in 1900. After being thrown out of his seminary, Stalin concentrated on organizing workers in the area of Tiflis, capital of Georgia, and the Georgian industrial City of Batumi. After one of his many arrests by the Czarist secret police, he began to correspond with Lenin from exile.

Escaping from Siberian exile in 1904, Stalin returned to organizing workers in the cities of Georgia, where mass strikes were beginning to assume a decidedly political and revolutionary character. Here he began to become one of the main spokesmen for Lenin’s theory, as we see in the first two selections in this volume. In December 1904 he led a huge strike of the Baku workers, which helped precipitate the abortive Russian revolution of 1905. During the revolution and after it was suppressed, Stalin was one of the main Bolshevik underground and military organizers, and was frequently arrested by the secret police. At the Prague Conference of 1912, in which the Bolsheviks completed the split with the Mensheviks and established themselves as a separate party, Stalin was elected in absentia to the Central Committee, a position he was to maintain for over four decades. Then, on the eve of World War I, he published what may properly be considered his first major contribution to Marxist-Leninist theory, Marxism and the National Question.

Prior to World War I, the various social-democratic parties of Europe were loosely united in the Second International.

All pledged themselves to international proletarian solidarity. But when the war broke out, the theory Stalin had developed in Marxism and the National Question proved to be crucial and correct. As Stalin had foreseen, every party that had compromised with bourgeois nationalism ended up leading the workers of its nation to support their “own” bourgeois rulers by going out to kill and be killed by the workers of the other nations. Lenin, Stalin, and the other Bolsheviks took a quite different position. They put forward the slogan “Turn the imperialist war into a civil war.” Alone of all the parties of the Second International, they came out for actual armed revolution.

In February 1917 the workers, peasants and soldiers of Russia, in alliance with the liberal bourgeoisie, overthrew the czarist autocracy, which had bled the country dry and brought it to ruin in a war fought to extend the empire. The liberal bourgeoisie established a new government. The next few months led to a key moment in history. Most of the parties that claimed to be revolutionary now took the position that the Russian proletariat was too weak and backward to assume political power. They advocated that the proletariat should support the new bourgeois government and enter a long period of capitalist development until someday in the future when they could begin to think about socialism. This view even penetrated the Bolsheviks. So when Stalin was released from his prison exile in March and the Central Committee brought him back to help lead the work in St. Petersburg, he found a heavy internal struggle. He took Lenin’s position, and, being placed in charge of the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda, was able to put it forward vigorously to the masses. When the Central Committee finally decided, in October, to lead the workers and soldiers of St. Petersburg to seize the Winter Palace and establish a proletarian government, it was over the violent objections of many of the aristocratic intellectuals who, much to their own surprise and discomfort had found themselves in an actual revolutionary situation. Two of them, Zinoviev and Kamenev, even went so far as to inform the bourgeois newspapers that the Bolsheviks had a secret plan to seize power. After the virtually bloodless seizure by the workers and soldiers took place, a third member of the Central Committee, Rykov, joined Zinoviev and Kamenev in a secret deal made with the bourgeois parties whereby the Bolsheviks would resign from power, the press would be returned to the bourgeoisie, and Lenin would be permanently barred from holding public office. (All this is described in John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook the World, which was first published in 1919. I mention this because Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Rykov were three of the central figures of the purge trials of the 1930s, and it is they who have been portrayed as stanch Bolsheviks in such works as Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon.)

During the Civil War, which followed the seizure of power, Stalin began to emerge as an important military leader.

Trotsky was nominally the head of the Red Army. Behaving, as he always did, in the primacy of technique, Trotsky took as one of his main tasks winning over the high officers of the former czarist army and turning them into the general command of the revolutionary army. The result was defeat after defeat for the Red forces, either through outright betrayal by their aristocratic officers or because these officers tried to apply military theories appropriate to a conscript or mercenary army to the leadership of a people’s army made up of workers and peasants. Stalin, on the other hand, understood the military situation from the point of view of the workers and peasants, and with a knowledge of their capabilities and limitations.

In 1919 Stalin was sent as a special plenipotentiary to the key Volga city of Tsaritsyn. His mission was simply to assure the delivery of food supplies from this entire region. What he found was a disastrous military situation, with the city not only surrounded by the White Army but heavily infiltrated by counterrevolutionary forces. He saw that the food supply could not be safeguarded unless the military and political situations were dealt with. He instituted an uncompromising purge of counterrevolutionary elements within both the officer corps and the political infrastructure, took personal command of the military forces over the heads of both the local authorities and Trotsky, and then proceeded to save the city, the region, and the food supply. Trotsky, furious, demanded his recall. As for the citizens of Tsaritsyn, their opinion became known six years later, when they renamed their city Stalingrad.

After this episode, rather than being recalled, Stalin was dispatched far and wide to every major front in the Civil War. In each and every place, he was able to win the immediate respect of the revolutionary people and to lead the way to military victory, even in the most desperate circumstances.

Certain qualities emerged more and more clearly, acknowledged by both friends and enemies. These were his enormous practicality and efficiency, his worker peasant outlook, and the unswerving way he proceeded to the heart of every problem. By the end of the war, Stalin was widely recognized as a man who knew how to run things, a quality sorely lacking among most of the aristocratic intellectuals who then saw themselves as great proletarian leaders. In April 1922 he was made General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. It was in this position that Stalin was quickly to become the de facto leader of the Party and the nation.

Stalin’s career up to this point is relatively uncontroversial in comparison with everything that follows. But nothing at all about Stalin is beyond controversy. Most of his biographers in the capitalist world minimize his revolutionary activities prior to 1922. At least two influential biographies, Boris Souvarine’s Stalin (1939) and Edward Ellis Smith’s The Young Stalin (1967), even argue that during most of this period Stalin was actually an agent for the czarist secret police. Trotsky’s mammoth biography Stalin (1940) not only belittles Stalin’s revolutionary activities but actually sees his life and “moral stature” predetermined by his racially defined genetic composition; after discussing whether or not Stalin had “an admixture of Mongolian blood,” Trotsky decides that in any case he was one perfect type of the national character of southern countries such as Georgia, where, “in addition to the so-called Southern type, which is characterized by a combination of lazy shiftlessness and explosive irascibility, one meets cold natures, in whom phlegm is combined with stubbornness and slyness.” The most influential biographer of all, Trotsky’s disciple Isaac Deutscher, is a bit more subtle, blaming Stalin’s crude and vicious character not on his race but on his low social class:

The revolutionaries from the upper classes (such as Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, Rakovsky, Radek, Lunacharsky, and Chicherin) came into the Socialist movement with inherited cultural traditions. They brought into the milieu of the revolution some of the values and qualities of their own milieu-not only knowledge, but also refinement of thought, speech, and manners. Indeed, their Socialist rebellion was itself the product of moral sensitiveness and intellectual refinement. These were precisely the qualities that life had not been kind enough to cultivate in Djugashvili [Stalin]. On the contrary, it had heaped enough physical and moral squalor in his path to blunt his sensitiveness and his taste. (Stalin, Political Biography, p. 26)

Although there are vastly different views of Stalin’s career up to this point, his activities are relatively less controversial, because they are relatively less important. Whatever Stalin’s contribution, there is still a good chance that even without him Lenin could have led the revolution and the Red forces would have won the Civil War. But, from this point on, there are at least two widely divergent, in fact wildly contradictory, versions of Stalin’s activities and their significance. Most readers of this book have heard only one side of this debate, the side of Trotsky and the capitalist world. I shall not pretend to make a “balanced presentation,” but instead give a summary of the unfamiliar other side of the argument.

Everyone, friend and foe alike, would agree that at the heart of the question of Stalin lies the theory and practice of “socialism in one country.” All of Stalin’s major ideological opponents in one way or another took issue with this theory.

Actually, the theory did not originate with Stalin but with Lenin. In 1915, in his article “On the Slogan for a United States of Europe,” Lenin argued that “the victory of socialism is possible first in several or even in one capitalist country alone.” He foresaw “a more or less prolonged and stubborn struggle” internationally that could begin like this in one country: “After expropriating the capitalists and organizing their own socialist production, the victorious proletariat of that country will arise against the rest of the world-the capitalist world-attracting to its cause the oppressed classes of other countries, stirring uprisings in those countries against the capitalists, and in case of need using even armed force against the exploiting classes and their states.”

Of course, at the end of World War I most Bolsheviks (and many capitalists) expected revolution to break out in many of the European capitalist countries. In fact, many of the returning soldiers did turn their guns around. A revolutionary government was established in Hungary and Slovakia.

Germany and Bulgaria for a while were covered by soviets of workers, peasants, and soldiers. But counterrevolution swept all these away.

Trotsky and his supporters continued to believe that the proletariat of Europe was ready to make socialist revolution.

They also believed that unless this happened, the proletariat would be unable to maintain power in the Soviet Union.

They belittled the role of the peasantry as an ally of the Russian proletariat and saw very little potential in the national liberation movements of the predominantly peasant countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Their so-called “Left opposition” put forward the theory, of “permanent revolution,” which pinned its hopes on an imminent uprising of the industrial proletariat of Europe. They saw the world revolution then spreading outward from these “civilized” countries to the “backward” regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Meanwhile there also developed what was later to be called the “Right opposition,” spearheaded by Bukharin, Zinoviev, and Kamenev. They were realistic enough to recognize that the revolutionary tide was definitely ebbing in Europe, but they concluded from this that the Soviet Union would have to be content to remain for a long time a basically agricultural country without pretending to be a proletarian socialist state.

Stalin was not about to give up on socialism in the Soviet Union simply because history was not turning out exactly the way theorists had wanted, with revolution winning out quickly in the most advanced capitalist countries. He saw that the Soviet revolution had indeed been able to maintain itself against very powerful enemies at home and abroad. Besides, the Soviet Union was a vast country whose rich natural resources gave it an enormous potential for industrial and social development. He stood for building socialism in this one country and turning it into an inspiration and base area for the oppressed classes and nations throughout the world. He believed that, helped by both the example and material support of a socialist Soviet Union, the tide of revolution would eventually begin rising again, and that, in turn, proletarian revolution in Europe and national liberation struggles in the rest of the world would eventually break the Soviet isolation.

There are two parts to the concept of socialism in one country. Emphasis is usually placed only on the part that says “one country.” Equally important is the idea that only socialism, and not communism, can be achieved prior to the time when the victory of the world revolution has been won. A communist society would have no classes, no money, no scarcity, and no state that is, no army, police force, prisons, and courts. There is no such society in the world, and no society claims to be Communist. A socialist society, according to Marxism-Leninism, is the transitional form on the road to communism. Classes and class struggle still exist, all the material needs of the people have not as yet been met, and there is indeed a state, a government of the working class known as the dictatorship of the proletariat (as opposed to the government of capitalist nations, the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie).

Neither Lenin nor Stalin ever had any illusion that any single country, even one as vast and potentially rich as the Soviet Union, would ever be able to establish a stateless, classless society while capitalism still had power in the rest of the world. But Stalin, like Lenin, did believe that the Soviet Union could eliminate capitalism, industrialize, extend the power of the working class, and wipe out real material privation all during the period of capitalist encirclement.

To do this, Stalin held, the proletariat would have to rely on the peasantry. He rejected Trotsky’s scorn for the Russian peasants and saw them, rather than the European proletariat, as the only ally that could come to the immediate aid of the Russian workers.

When the Civil War ended, in 1921, with most of the Soviet Union in chaotic ruin, Lenin won a struggle against Trotsky within the Party to institute what was called the New Economic Policy (NEP), under which a limited amount of private enterprise based on trade was allowed to develop in both the cities and the countryside. NEP was successful in averting an immediate total catastrophe, but by 1925 it was becoming clear that this policy was also creating problems for the development of socialism. This brings us to the first great crux of the Stalin question.

We have been led to believe that in order to industrialize at any price; Stalin pursued a ruthless policy of forced collectivization, deliberately murdering several million peasants known as kulaks during the process. The truth is quite different.

When the Bolsheviks seized power, one of their first acts was to allow the poor peasants to seize the huge landed estates. The slogan was “Land to the tiller.” This, however, left most land in the form of tiny holdings, unsuited for large-scale agriculture, particularly the production of the vital grain crops. Under NEP, capitalism and a new form of landlordism began to flourish in the countryside. The class known as kulaks (literally “tight-fists”), consisting of usurers and other small capitalists including village merchants and rich peasants, were cornering the market in the available grain, grabbing more and more small holdings of land, and, through their debt holdings, forcing peasants back into tenant farming and wage labor. Somehow, the small peasant holdings had to be consolidated so that modern agriculture could begin. There were basically two ways this could take place: either through capitalist accumulation, as the kulaks were then doing, or through the development of large-scale socialist farms. If the latter, there was then a further choice: a rapid forced collectivization, or a more gradual process in which co-operative farms would emerge first, followed by collectives, and both would be on a voluntary basis, winning out by example and persuasion. What did Stalin choose?

Here, in his own words, is the policy he advocated and that was adopted at the Fifteenth Party Congress, in 1927:

What is the way out? The way out is to turn the small and scattered peasant farms into large united farms based on cultivation of the land in common, to go over to collective cultivation of the land on the basis of a new and higher technique.

The way out is to unite the small and dwarf peasant farms gradually but surely, not by pressure, but by example and persuasion, into large farms based on common, cooperative, collective cultivation of the land with the use of agricultural machines and tractors and scientific methods of intensive agriculture.

There is no other way out.

To implement this policy, the capitalist privileges allowed under NEP were revoked. This was known as the restriction of the kulaks. The kulaks, whose very existence as a class was thus menaced, struck back. They organized terrorist bands who attacked the co-operatives and collectives, burning down barns when they were filled with grain, devastating the fields, and even murdering Communist peasant leaders.

Even more serious than these raids, the kulaks held back their own large supplies of grain from the market in an effort to create hunger and chaos in the cities. The poor and middle peasants struck back. Virtual open civil war began to rage throughout the countryside. As the collective farm movement spread rapidly, pressure mounted among the poor and middle peasants to put an end to landlordism and usury in the countryside for good. In 1929 Stalin agreed that the time had come to eliminate the kulaks as a class. He led the fight to repeal the laws that allowed the renting of land and the hiring of labor, thus depriving the kulaks both of land and of hired workers. The ban on expropriation of the large private holdings was lifted, and the peasants promptly expropriated the kulak class. The expropriation of the rural capitalists in the late 1920s was just as decisive as the expropriation of the urban capitalists a decade earlier. Landlords and village usurers were eliminated as completely as private factory owners. It is undoubtedly true that in many areas there was needless violence and suffering. But this did not originate with Stalin. It was the hour of Russia’s peasant masses, who had been degraded and brutalized for centuries and who had countless blood debts to settle with their oppressors. Stalin may have unleashed their fury, but he was not the one who had caused it to build up for centuries. In fact it was Stalin who checked the excesses generated by the enthusiasm of the collective movement. In early 1930 he published in Pravda “Dizzy with Success,” reiterating that “the voluntary principle” of the collective farm movement must under no circumstances be violated and that anybody who engages in forced collectivization objectively aids the enemies of socialism. Furthermore, he argues, the correct form for the present time is the co-operative (known as the artel) , in which “the household plots (small vegetable gardens, small orchards), the dwelling houses, a part of the dairy cattle, small livestock, poultry, etc., are not socialized.”

Again, overzealous attempts to push beyond this objectively aid the enemy. The movement must be based on the needs and desires of the masses of peasants.

Stalin’s decision about the kulaks perfectly exemplifies the limits under which he operated. He could decide, as he did, to end the kulaks as a class by allowing the poor and middle peasants’ to expropriate their land. Or he could decide to let the kulaks continue withholding their grain from the starving peasants and workers, with whatever result. He might have continued bribing the kulaks. But it is highly doubtful, to say the least, that he had the option of persuading the kulaks into becoming good socialists.

There can be no question that, whatever may be said about its cost, Stalin’s policy in the countryside resulted in a vast, modern agricultural system, capable, for the first time in history, of feeding all the peoples of the Soviet lands. Gone were the famines that seemed as inevitable and were as vicious as those of China before the revolution or of India today.

Meanwhile, Stalin’s policy of massive industrialization was going full speed ahead. His great plan for a modern, highly industrialized Soviet Union has been so overwhelmingly successful that we forget that it was adopted only over the bitter opposition of most of the Party leaders, who thought it a utopian and therefore suicidal dream. Having overcome this opposition on both the right and “left,” Stalin in 1929 instituted the first five-year plan in the history of the world.

It was quickly over fulfilled. By the early 1930s the Soviet Union had clearly become both the inspiration and the main material base area for the world revolution. And it was soon will prove much more than a match for the next military onslaught from the capitalist powers, which Stalin had predicted and armed against.

This brings us to the second great crux of the Stalin question, the “left” criticism, originating with Trotsky and then widely disseminated by the theorists of what used to be called “the New Left.” This criticism holds that Stalin was just a nationalist who sold out revolution throughout the rest of the world. The debate ranges over all the key events of twentieth-century history and can be only touched on in an essay.

Stalin’s difference with Trotsky on the peasantry was not confined to the role of the peasantry within the Soviet Union.

Trotsky saw very little potential in the national liberation movements in those parts of the world that were still basically peasant societies. He argued that revolution would come first to the advanced capitalist countries of Europe and North America and would then spread to the “uncivilized” areas of the world. Stalin, on the other hand saw that the national liberation movements of Asia, Africa, and Latin America were key to the development of the world revolution because objectively they were leading the fight against imperialism.

We see this argument developed clearly as early as 1924, In “The Foundations of Leninism,” where he argues that “the struggle that the Egyptian merchants and bourgeois intellectuals are waging for the independence of Egypt is objectively a revolutionary struggle, despite the bourgeois origin and bourgeois title of the leaders of the Egyptian national movement, despite the fact that they are opposed to socialism; whereas the struggle that the British ‘Labor’ movement is waging to preserve Egypt’s dependent position is for the same reasons a reactionary struggle, despite the proletarian origins and the proletarian title of the members of hat government, despite the fact that they are ‘for’ socialism. To most European Marxists, this was some kind of barbarian heresy. But Ho Chi Minh expressed the view of many Communists from the colonies in that same year, 1924, when he recognized that Stalin was the leader of the only Party that stood with the national liberation struggles and when he agreed with Stalin that the viewpoint of most other so-called Marxists on the national question was nothing short of “counterrevolutionary” (Ho Chi Minh Report on the National and Colonial Questions at the Fifth Congress of the Communist International).

The difference between Stalin’s line and Trotsky’s line and the falsification of what Stalin’s line was, can be seen most clearly on the question of the Chinese revolution. The typical “left” view prevalent today is represented in David Horowitz’s The Free World Colossus (1965), which asserts “Stalin’s continued blindness to the character and potential of the Chinese Revolution.” Using as his main source a Yugoslav biography of Tito, Horowitz blandly declares: “Even after the war, when it was clear to most observers that Chiang was finished, Stalin did not think much of the prospects of Chinese Communism” (p. Ill).

Mao’s opinion of Stalin is a little different:

Rallied around him, we constantly received advice from him, constantly drew ideological strength from his works…. It is common knowledge that Comrade Stalin ardently loved the Chinese people and considered that the forces of the Chinese revolution were immeasurable.

He displayed the greatest wisdom in matters pertaining to the Chinese revolution. . . . Sacredly preserving the memory of our great teacher Stalin, the Communist Party of China and the Chinese people . . . will even more perseveringly study Stalin’s teaching …. (“A Great Friendship,” 1953)

It is possible that this statement can be viewed as a formal tribute made shortly after Stalin’s death and before it was safe to criticize Stalin within the international Communist movement. But years later, after the Russian attack on Stalin and after it was unsafe not to spit on Stalin’s memory, the Chinese still consistently maintained their position. In 1961, after listening to Khrushchev’s rabid denunciations of Stalin at the Twenty-second Party Congress, Chou En-lai ostentatiously laid a wreath on Stalin’s tomb. Khrushchev and his supporters then disinterred Stalin’s body, but the Chinese responded to this in 1963 by saying that Khrushchev “can never succeed in removing the great image of Stalin from the minds of the Soviet people and of the people throughout the world.” (“On the Question of Stalin”)

In fact, as his 1927 essay on China included in this collection shows, Stalin very early outlined the basic theory of the Chinese revolution. Trotsky attacks this theory, which he sneers at as “guerrilla adventure,” because it is not based on the cities as the revolutionary centers, because it relies on class allies of the proletariat, particularly the peasantry, and because it is primarily anti-feudal and anti-imperialist rather than focused primarily against Chinese capitalism.

After 1927, when the first liberated base areas were established in the countryside, Trotsky claimed that this revolution could no longer be seen as proletarian but as a mere peasant rebellion, and soon he began to refer to its guiding theory as the Stalin-Mao line. To this day, Trotskyites around the world deride the Chinese revolution as a mere “Stalinist bureaucracy.” The Chinese themselves do acknowledge that at certain points Stalin gave some incorrect tactical advice, but they are quick to add that he always recognized and corrected these errors and was self-critical about them. They are very firm in their belief that they could not have made their revolution without his general theory, his over-all leadership of the world revolutionary movement, and the firm rear area and base of material support he provided. Thus the only really valid major criticism comes from anti-Communists, because without Stalin, at least according to the Chinese, the Communists would not have won.

Stalin’s role in the Spanish Civil War likewise comes under fire from the “left.” Again taking their cue from Trotsky and such professional anti-Communist ideologues as George Orwell, many “socialists” claim that Stalin sold out the Loyalists. A similar criticism is made about Stalin’s policies in relation to the Greek partisans in the late 1940s, which we will discuss later. According to these “left” criticisms, Stalin didn’t “care” about either of these struggles, because of his preoccupation with internal development and “Great Russian power.” The simple fact of the matter is that in both cases Stalin was the only national leader anyplace in the world to support the popular forces, and he did this in the face of stubborn opposition within his own camp and the dangers of military attack from the leading aggressive powers in the world (Germany and Italy in the late 1930s, the U.S. ten years later).

Because the U.S.S.R., following Stalin’s policies, had become a modem industrial nation by the mid-1930s, it was able to ship to the Spanish Loyalists Soviet tanks and planes that were every bit as advanced as the Nazi models. Because the U.S.S.R. was the leader of the world revolutionary forces, Communists from many nations were able to organize the International Brigades, which went to resist Mussolini’s fascist divisions and the crack Nazi forces, such as the Condor Legion, that were invading the Spanish Republic. The capitalist powers, alarmed by this international support for the Loyalists, planned joint action to stop it. In March 1937, warships of Germany, Italy, France, and Great Britain began jointly policing the Spanish coast. Acting on a British initiative, these same countries formed a bloc in late 1937 to isolate the Soviet Union by implementing a policy they called “non-intervention,” which Lloyd George, as leader of the British Opposition, labeled a clear policy of support for the fascists. Mussolini supported the British plan and called for a’ campaign “to drive Bolshevism from Europe.” Stalin’s own foreign ministry, which was still dominated by aristocrats masquerading as proletarian revolutionaries, sided with the capitalist powers. The New York Times of October 29, 1937, describes how the “unyielding” Stalin, representing “Russian stubbornness,” refused to go along: “A struggle has been going on all this week between Joseph Stalin and Foreign Commissar Maxim Litvinoff,” who wished to accept the British plan. Stalin stuck to his guns, and the Soviet Union refused to grant Franco international status as a combatant, insisting that it had every right in the world to continue aiding the duly elected government of Spain, which it did until the bitter end.

The Spanish Civil War was just one part of the world-wide imperialist aims of the Axis powers. Japan was pushing ahead in its conquest of Asia. Japanese forces overran Manchuria in 1931; only nine years after the Red Army had driven them out of Siberia, and then invaded China on a full-scale.

Ethiopia fell to Italy in 1936. A few months later, Germany and Japan signed an anti-Comintern pact, which was joined by Italy in 1937. In 1938, Germany invaded Austria. Hitler, who had come to power on a promise to rid Germany and the world of the Red menace, was now almost prepared to launch his decisive strike against the Soviet Union.

The other major capitalist powers surveyed the scene with mixed feelings. On one hand, they would have liked nothing better than to see the Communist threat ended once and for all, particularly with the dirty work being done by the fascist nations. On the other hand, they had to recognize that fascism was then the ideology of the have-not imperialists, upstarts whose global aims included a challenge to the hegemony of France, Britain, and the United States. Should they move now to check these expansionists’ aims or should they let them develop unchecked, hoping that they would move against the Soviet Union rather than Western Europe and the European colonies in Asia and Africa?

In 1938 they found the answer, a better course than either of these two alternatives. They would appease Hitler by giving him the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia. This would not only dissuade the Nazis from attacking their fellow capitalists to the west, but it would also remove the last physical barriers to the east, the mountains of the Czech Sudetenland. All logic indicated to them that they had thus gently but firmly turned the Nazis eastward, and even given them a little shove in that direction. Now all they had to do was to wait, and, after the fascist powers and the Soviet Union had devastated each other, they might even be able to pick up the pieces. So they hailed the Munich agreement of September 30, 1938, as the guarantee of “Peace in our time”-for them.

Stalin had offered to defend Czechoslovakia militarily against the Nazis if anyone of the European capitalist countries would unite with the Soviet Union in this effort. The British and the French had evaded what they considered this trap, refusing to allow the Soviet Union even to participate at Munich. They now stepped back and waited, self-satisfied, to watch the Reds destroyed. It seemed they didn’t have long to wait. Within a few months, Germany seized all of Czechoslovakia, giving some pieces of the fallen republic to its allies Poland and Hungary.

By mid-March 1939 the Nazis had occupied Bohemia and Moravia, the Hungarians had seized Carpatho-Ukraine, and Germany had formally annexed Memel. At the end of that month, Madrid fell and all of Spain surrendered to the fascists. On May 7, Germany and Italy announced a formal military and political alliance. The stage was set for the destruction of the Soviet Union.

Four days later, on May 11, 1939, the first attack came.

The crack Japanese army that had invaded Manchuria struck Into the Soviet Union. The Soviet-Japanese war of 1939 is conveniently omitted from our history books, but this war, together with the Anglo-French collaboration with the Nazis and fascists in the west, form the context for another of Stalin’s great “crimes,” the Soviet-German non-aggression pact of August 1939. Stalin recognized that the main aim of the Axis was to destroy the Soviet Union, and that the other capitalist nations were conniving with this scheme. He also knew that sooner or later the main Axis attack would come on the U.S.S.R.’s western front. Meanwhile, Soviet forces were being diverted to the east, to fend off the Japanese invaders. The non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany, which horrified and disillusioned Communist sympathizers, particularly intellectuals, in the capitalist nations, was actually one of the most brilliant strategic moves of Stalin’s life, and perhaps of diplomatic  history. From the Soviet point of view it accomplished five things:

(1) it brought needed time to prepare for the Nazi attack, which was thus delayed two years;


(2) it allowed the Red Army to concentrate on smashing the Japanese invasion, without having to fight on two fronts; they decisively defeated the Japanese within three months;


(3) it allowed the Soviet Union to retake the sections of White Russia and the Ukraine that had been invaded by Poland during the Russian Civil War and were presently occupied by the Polish military dictatorship; this meant that the forthcoming Nazi invasion would have to pass through a much larger area defended by the Red Army;


(4) it also allowed Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which also had been part of Russia before the Civil War, to become part of the U.S.S.R. as Soviet Republics; this meant that the forthcoming Nazi attack could not immediately outflank Leningrad;


(5) most important of all, it destroyed the Anglo-French strategy of encouraging a war between the Axis powers and the Soviet Union while they enjoyed neutrality; World War II was to begin as a war between the Axis powers and the other capitalist nations, and the Soviet Union, if forced into it, was not going to have to fight alone against the combined fascist powers. The worldwide defeat of the fascist Axis was in part a product of Stalin’s diplomatic strategy, as well as his later military strategy.

But before we get to that, we have to go back in time to the events for which Stalin has been most damned-the purge, trials. Most readers of this book have been taught that the major defendants in these trials were innocent, and that here we see most clearly Stalin’s vicious cruelty and paranoia.

This is certainly not the place to sift through all the evidence and retry the major defendants, but we must recognize that there is a directly contradictory view of the trials and that there is plenty of evidence to support that view.

It is almost undeniable that many of the best-known defendants had indeed organized clandestine groups whose aim was to overthrow the existing government. It is also a fact that Kirov, one of the leaders of that government, was murdered by a secret group on December 1, 1934. And it is almost beyond dispute that there were systematic, very widespread, and partly successful attempts, involving party officials, to sabotage the development of Soviet industry. Anyone who doubts this should read an article entitled “Red Wreckers in Russia” in the Saturday Evening Post, January 1, 1938, in which John Littlepage, an anti-Communist American engineer, describes in detail what he saw of this sabotage while he was working in the Soviet Union. In fact, Littlepage gives this judgment:

For ten years I have worked alongside some of the many recently shot, imprisoned or exiled in Russia as wreckers. Some of my friends have asked me whether or not I believe these men and women are guilty as charged. I have not hesitated a moment in replying that I believe most of them are guilty.

To those who hold the orthodox U.S. view of the purge trials, perhaps the most startling account is the book Mission to Moscow, by Joseph E. Davies, U. S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1936 to 1938. Davies is a vigorous defender of capitalism and a former head of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce. An experienced trial lawyer, he points out that, “I had myself prosecuted and defended men charged with crime in many cases.” He personally attended the purge trials on a regular basis. Most of his accounts and judgments are contained in official secret correspondence to the State Department; the sole purpose of these dispatches was to provide realistic an assessment as possible of what was actually going on. His summary judgment in his confidential report to the Secretary of State on March 17, 1938, is:

….. it is my opinion so far as the political defendants are concerned sufficient crimes under Soviet law, among those charged in the indictment, were established by the proof and beyond a reasonable doubt to justify the verdict of guilty of treason and the adjudication of the punishment provided by Soviet criminal statutes. The opinion of those diplomats who attended the trial most regularly was general that the case had established the fact that there was a formidable political opposition and an exceedingly serious plot, which explained to the diplomats man! of the hitherto unexplained developments of the last six months in the Soviet Union. The only difference of opinion that seemed to exist was the degree to which the plot had been implemented by different defendants and the degree to which the conspiracy had become centralized. (po 272 )

Davies himself admits to being puzzled and confused at the time because of the vast scope of the conspiracy and its concentration high into the Soviet government. It is only later, after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, in the summer of 1941, that Davies feels he understands what he actually occurred.

Thinking over these things, there came a flash in my mind of a possible new significance to some of the things that happened in Russia when I was there.

None of us in Russia in 1937 and 1938 were thinking in terms of “Fifth Column” activities. The phrase was not current. It is comparatively recent that we have found in our language phrases descriptive of Nazi technique such as “Fifth Column” and “internal aggression.”…

As I ruminated over this situation, I suddenly saw the picture as I should have seen it at the time. The story had been told in the so-called treason or purge trials of 1937 and 1938 which I had attended and listened to. In reexamining the record of these cases and also what I had written at the time from this new angle, I found that practically every device of German Fifth Columnist activity, as we now know it, was disclosed and laid bare by the confessions and testimony elicited at these trials of self-confessed “Quislings” in Russia.

It was clear that the Soviet government believed that these activities existed, was thoroughly alarmed, and had proceeded to crush them vigorously. By 1941, when the German invasion came, they had wiped out any Fifth Column which had been organized.

All of these trials, purges, and liquidations, which seemed so violent at the time and shocked the world, are now quite clearly a part of a vigorous and determined effort of the Stalin government to protect itself from not only revolution from within but from attack from without. They went to work thoroughly to clean up and clean out all treasonable elements within the country. All doubts were resolved in favor of the government. (p. 280)

In 1956, at the Twentieth Party Congress, when Khrushchev launched his famous attack on Stalin, he dredged up all the denunciations of the purge trials circulated for two decades by the Trotskyite and capitalist press. He called Stalin a “murderer,” a “criminal,” a “bandit,” a “despot,” etc.

He asserted the innocence of many who had been imprisoned, exiled, or shot during the purge trials. But in doing so, he conveniently forgot two things: what he had said at the time about those trials, and what Stalin had said. On June 6, 1937, to the Fifth Party Conference of Moscow Province, Khrushchev had declared:

Our Party will mercilessly crush the band of traitors and betrayers, and wipe out all the Trotskyist-Right dregs. . . .We shall totally annihilate the enemies-to the last man and scatter their ashes to the winds.

On June 8, 1938, at the Fourth Party Conference of Kiev province, Khrushchev avowed:

We have annihilated a considerable number of enemies, but still not all. Therefore, it is necessary to keep our eyes open. We should bear firmly in mind the words of Comrade Stalin, that as long as capitalist encirclement exists, spies and saboteurs will be smuggled into our country.

Earlier, at a mass rally in Moscow, in January 1937, Khrushchev had condemned all those who had attacked Stalin in these words: “In lifting their hand against Comrade Stalin, They lifted it against all of us, against the working class and the working people”

As for Stalin himself, on the other hand, he had publicly admitted, not in 1956, but at least as early as 1939, that innocent people had been convicted and punished in the purge:

It cannot be said that the purge was not accompanied by grave mistakes. There were unfortunately more mistakes than might have been expected.” (Report to the Eighteenth Congress.)

That is one reason why many of those tried and convicted in the last trials were high officials from the secret police, the very people guilty of forcing false confessions.

There are certainly good grounds for criticizing both the conduct and the extent of the purge. But that criticism must begin by facing the facts that an anti-Soviet conspiracy did exist within the Party, that it had some ties with the Nazis, who were indeed preparing to invade the country, and that one result of the purge was that the ‘Soviet Union was the only country in all of Europe that, when invaded by the Nazis, did not have an active Fifth Column. It must also recognize that capitalism has since been restored in the Soviet Union, on the initiative of leading members of the Party bureaucracy, and so it is hardly fantastical or merely paranoid to think that such a thing was possible. The key question about the purges is whether there was a better way to prevent either a Nazi victory or the restoration of capitalism. And the answer to that question probably lies in the Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1966-67. Instead of relying on courts and police exiles and executions, the Chinese mobilized hundreds of ‘millions of people to exposé and defeat the emerging Party bureaucracy that was quietly restoring capitalism and actively collaborating with the great imperialist power to the north. But while doing this, they carefully studied Stalin, both for his achievements and for what he was unable to do. For Stalin himself had seen as early as 1928 the need to mobilize mass criticism from below to overcome the rapidly developing Soviet bureaucracy. It is also possible that the two goals the purges tuned to meet were mutually exclusive. That is, the emergency measures necessary to secure the country against foreign invasion may actually have helped the bureaucracy to consolidate its power.

In any event, when the Nazis and their allies did invade they met the most united and fierce resistance encountered by the fascist forces anyplace in the world. Everywhere the people were dedicated to socialism. Even in the Ukraine where the Nazis tried to foment old grievances and anti-Russian nationalism, they never dared meddle with the collective farms. In fact, Stalin’s military strategy in World War II like his strategy during the Russian Civil War was based firmly on the loyalty of the masses of workers, peasants, and soldiers.

Everybody, except for Khrushchev and his friends, who in 1956 tried to paint Stalin as a military incompetent and meddler, recognizes him as a great strategist. ‘

Nazi military strategy was based on the blitzkrieg (lightning war). Spearheaded by highly mobile armor, their way paved by massive air assaults, the Nazi army would break through any static line at a single point, and then spread out rapidly behind that line, cutting off its supplies and then encircling the troops at the front. On April 9, 1940, the Nazis, vastly outnumbered, opened their assault on the combined forces of Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and Great Britain. By June 4, virtually the last of these fighting forces had been evacuated in panic from Dunkirk and each of the continental countries lay under a fascist power, the victim of blitzkrieg combined with internal betrayal. Having secured his entire western front, and then with air power alone having put the great maritime power Britain into a purely defensive position, Hitler could now move his crack armies and his entire air force into position to annihilate the Soviet Union.

The first step was to consolidate Axis control in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania were already fascist allies. Italy had overrun Albania. By early April 1941 Greece and Yugoslavia were occupied. Crete was seized in May. On June 22, the greatest invasion of all time was hurled at the Soviet heartland.

One hundred seventy-nine German divisions, twenty-two Romanian divisions, fourteen Finnish divisions, thirteen Hungarian divisions, ten Italian divisions, one Slovak division, and one Spanish division, a total of well over three million troops, the best armed and most experienced in the world, attacked along a 2,000-mile front, aiming their spearheads directly at Leningrad, Moscow, and Stalingrad. Instead of holding a line, the Red Army beat an orderly retreat, giving up space for time. Behind them they left nothing but scorched earth and bands of guerrilla fighters, constantly harassing the lengthening fascist supply lines. Before the invaders reached industrial centers such as Kharkov and Smolensk, the workers of these cities disassembled their machines and carried them beyond the Ural Mountains, where production of advanced Soviet tanks, planes, and artillery was to continue throughout the war.

The main blow was aimed directly at the capital, Moscow, whose outskirts were reached by late fall. Almost all the government offices had been evacuated to the east. But Stalin remained in the capital, where he assumed personal command of the war. On December 2, 1941, the Nazis were stopped in the suburbs of Moscow. On December 6, Stalin ordered the first major counterattack to occur in World War II. The following day, Japan, which had wisely decided against renewing their invasion of the Soviet Union, attacked Pearl Harbor.

From December until May the Red Army moved forward, using a strategy devised by Stalin. Instead of confronting the elite Nazi corps head on, the Red forces would divide into smaller units and then move to cut off the fascist supply lines, thus encircling and capturing the spearheads of the blitzkrieg.

This was the ideal counterstrategy, but it depended on a high level of political loyalty, consciousness, and independence on the part of these small units. No capitalist army could implement this strategy. By the end of May 1942 Moscow was safe and the fascist forces had given ground in the Ukraine.

In the early summer, the Nazi forces, heavily reinforced, moved to seize Stalingrad and the Caucasus, thus cutting the Soviet Union in two. The greatest and perhaps the most decisive battle in history was now to take place. The siege of Stalingrad lasted from August 1942 until February 1943. As early as September, the Nazi forces, which were almost as large as the entire U.S. force at its peak in Vietnam, penetrated the city and were stopped only by house-to-house fighting.

But unknown to the Germans, because Soviet security was perfect, they were actually in a vast trap, personally designed by Stalin: A gigantic pincers movement had begun as soon as the fascist forces reached the city. In late November the two Soviet forces met and the trap snapped shut. From this trap 330,000 elite Nazi troops were never to emerge. In February 1943 the remnants, about 100,000 troops, surrendered.

The back of Nazi military power had been broken. The Red Army now moved onto a vast offensive which was not to stop before it had liberated all of Eastern and Central Europe and seized Berlin, the capital of the Nazi empire, in the spring of 1945.

It was the Soviet Union that had beaten the fascist army. The second front, which Great Britain and the U.S. had promised as early as 1942, was not to materialize until June 14, after it was clear that the Nazis had already been decisively defeated. In fact, the Anglo-American invasion was aimed more at stopping communism than defeating fascism. (This invasion took place during the same period that the British Army “liberated” Greece, which had already been liberated by the Communist-led Resistance.) For under Communist leadership, underground resistance movements, based primarily on the working class, had developed throughout Europe. Because the Communists, both from the Soviet Union and within the other European nations, were the leaders of the entire anti-fascist struggle, by the end of the war they had by far the largest parties in all the nations of Eastern and Central Europe, as well as Italy and France, where the fascists’ power had been broken more by internal resistance than by the much-heralded Allied invasion. In fact, it is likely that if the Anglo-American forces had not invaded and occupied Italy and France, within a relatively short time the Communists would have been in power in both countries.

As soon as victory in Germany was assured, in May 1945, much of the Soviet Army began to make the 5,000-mile journey to face the Japanese Army. At Potsdam, July 17 to August 2, Stalin formally agreed to begin combat operations against Japan by August 8. On August 6, the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan, in what is now widely considered the opening shot of the so-called “Cold War” against the U.S.S.R. On August 8, the Red Army engaged the main Japanese force, which was occupying Manchuria. The Soviet Army swept forward, capturing Manchuria, the southern half of Sakhalin Island, and the Kuriles, and liberating, by agreement, the northern half of Korea. Except for the Chinese Communist battles with the Japanese, these Soviet victories were probably the largest land engagements in the entire war against Japan.

The Soviet Union had also suffered tremendously while taking the brunt of the fascist onslaught. Between twenty and twenty-five million Soviet citizens gave their lives in defense of their country and socialism. The industrial heartland lay in ruins. The richest agricultural regions had been devastated.

In addition to the seizure of many cities and the destruction of much of Moscow and Stalingrad, there was the desperate condition of Leningrad, which had withstood a massive, two-year Nazi siege.

Once again, the Soviet Union was to perform economic miracles. Between 1945 and 1950 they were to rebuild not only everything destroyed in the war, but vast new industries and agricultural resources. And all this was conducted under the threat of a new attack by the capitalist powers, led by the nuclear blackmail of the U.S., which opened up a worldwide “Cold War” against communism.

Spearheaded by British and rearmed Japanese troops, the French restored their empire in Indochina. U.S. troops occupied the southern half of Korea and established military bases throughout the Pacific. Europe itself became a vast base area for the rapidly expanding U.S. empire, which, despite its very minimal role in the war (or perhaps because of it), was to gain the greatest profit from it. One European showdown against the popular forces occurred in Greece.

Here we meet another “left” criticism of Stalin, similar to that made about his role in Spain but even further removed from the facts of the matter. As in the rest of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, the Communists had led and armed the heroic Greek underground and partisan fighters. In 1944 the British sent an expeditionary force commanded by General Scobie to land in Greece, ostensibly to aid in the disarming of the defeated Nazi and Italian troops. As unsuspecting as the comrades in Vietnam and Korea who were to be likewise ‘assisted’, the Greek partisans were slaughtered by their British allies who used tanks and planes in an all-out offensive, which ended in February 1945 with the establishment of a right-wing dictatorship under a restored monarchy. The British even rearmed and used the defeated Nazi “Security Battalions.” After partially recovering from this treachery, the partisan forces rebuilt then guerrilla apparatus and prepared to resist the combined forces of Greek fascism and Anglo-American imperialism. By late 1948 full-scale civil war raged, with the right-wing forces backed up by the intervention of U.S. planes, artillery, and troops. The Greek resistance had its back broken by another betrayal not at all by Stalin but by Tito, who closed the Yugoslav borders to the Soviet military supplies that were already hard put to reach the landlocked popular forces. This was one of the two main reasons why Stalin, together with the Chinese, led the successful fight to have the Yugoslav “Communist” Party officially thrown out of the international Communist movement.

Stalin understood very early the danger to the world revolution posed by Tito’s ideology, which served as a Trojan horse for U.S. Imperialism. He also saw that Tito’s revisionist ideas, including the development of a new bureaucratic ruling elite, were making serious headway inside the Soviet Union. In 1950, the miraculous postwar reconstruction was virtually complete, and the victorious Chinese revolution had decisively broken through the global anti-Communist encirclement and suppression campaign. At this point Stalin began to turn his attention to the most serious threat to the world revolution, the bureaucratic-technocratic class that had not only emerged inside the Soviet Union but had begun to pose a serious challenge to the leadership of the working class. In the last few years of his life, Joseph Stalin, whom the present rulers of the U.S.S.R. would like to paint as a mad recluse, began to open up a vigorous cultural offensive against the power of this new elite. “Marxism and Linguistics” and “Economic Problems of Socialism in the U.S.S.R.” are milestones in this offensive, major theoretical works aimed at the new bourgeois authorities beginning to dominate various areas of Soviet thought.

In “Economic Problems of Socialism in the U.S.S.R.,” published a few months before his death and intended to serve as a basis for discussion in the Nineteenth Party Congress of 1952, Stalin seeks to measure scientifically how far the Soviet Union had come in the development of socialism and how far it had to go to achieve communism. He criticizes two extreme tendencies in Soviet political economy: mechanical determinism and voluntarism. He sets this criticism within an international context where, he explains, the sharpening of contradictions among the capitalist nations is inevitable.

Stalin points out that those who think that objective laws, whether of socialist or capitalist political economy, can be abolished by will are dreamers. But he reserves his real scorn for those who make the opposite error, the technocrats who assert that socialism is merely a mechanical achievement of a certain level of technology and productivity, forgetting both the needs and the power of the people. He shows that when these technocrats cause “the disappearance of man as the aim of socialist production,” they arrive at the triumph of bourgeois ideology. These proved to be prophetic words.

In his final public speech, made to that Nineteenth Party Congress in 1952, Stalin explains a correct revolutionary line for the parties that have not yet led their revolutions. The victories of the world revolution have constricted the capitalist world, causing the decay of the imperialist powers. Therefore the bourgeoisie of the Western democracies inherit the banners of the defeated fascist powers, with whom they establish a world-wide alliance while turning to fascism at home and the would-be bourgeoisie of the neocolonial nations become merely their puppets. Communists then become the main defenders of the freedoms and progressive principles established by the bourgeoisie when they were a revolutionary class and defended by them until the era of their decay. Communists will lead the majority of people in their respective nations only when they raise and defend the very banners thrown overboard by the bourgeoisie-national independence and democratic freedoms. It is no Surprise that these final words of Stalin have been known only to the Cold War “experts” and have been expunged throughout the Soviet Union and the nations of Eastern Europe.

A few months after this speech, Stalin died. Very abruptly, the tide of revolution was temporarily reversed. Stalin’s death came in early March 1953. By that July, the new leaders of the Soviet Union forced the Korean people to accept a division of their nation and a permanent occupation of the southern half by US forces. A year later, they forced the victorious Viet Minh liberation army, which had thoroughly defeated the French despite massive U.S. aid, to withdraw from the entire southern half of that country, while the U.S. proclaimed that its faithful puppet, Ngo Dinh Diem, was now president of the fictitious nation of South Vietnam. When the Chinese resisted their global sellouts of the revolution, these new Soviet leaders first tried to destroy the Chinese economy, then tried to overthrow the government from within and when that failed, actually began aimed incursions by Russian troops under a policy of nuclear blackmail copied from the U.S. In Indonesia, the Soviet Union poured ammunition and spare parts into the right-wing military forces while they were massacring half a million Communists, workers, and peasants.

And so on, around the world. Meanwhile, internally, they restored capitalism as rapidly as they could. By the mid-1960s, unemployment had appeared in the Soviet Union for the first time since the first Five Year Plan. By the end of the 1960s, deals had been made with German, Italian, and Japanese capitalism for the exploitation of Soviet labor and vast Soviet resources.

From an anti-Communist point of view, Stalin was certainly one of the great villains of history. While he lived, the Red forces consolidated their power in one country and then led what seemed to be an irresistible world-wide revolutionary upsurge. By the time he died, near hysteria reigned in the citadels of capitalism. In Washington, frenzied witch hunts tried to ferret out the Red menace that was supposedly about to seize control of the last great bastion of capitalism. All this changed, for the time being, after Stalin’s death, when the counterrevolutionary forces were able to seize control even within the Soviet Union.

From a Communist point of view, Stalin was certainly one of the greatest of revolutionary leaders. But still we must ask why it was that the Soviet Union could fall so quickly to a new capitalist class. For Communists, it is as vital to understand Stalin’s weaknesses and errors as it is to understand his historic achievements.

Stalin’s main theoretical and practical error lay in underestimating the bourgeois forces within the superstructure of Soviet society. It is ridiculous to pose the problem the way we customarily hear it posed: that the seeds of capitalist restoration were sown under Stalin. This assumes that the Soviet garden was a Communist paradise, totally free of weeds, which then somehow dropped in from the skies. Socialism, as Stalin saw more keenly than anybody before, is merely a transitional stage on the way to communism. It begins with the conquest of political power by the working class, but that is only a bare beginning. Next comes the much more difficult task of establishing socialist economic forms, including a high level of productivity based on collective labor. Most difficult of all is the cultural revolution, in which socialist ideas and attitudes, based on collective labor and the political power of the working people, overthrow the bourgeois world view, based on competition, ambition, and the quest for personal profit and power and portraying “human nature” as corrupt, vicious, and selfish, that is, as the mirror image of bourgeois man.

Stalin succeeded brilliantly in carrying through the political and economic revolutions. That he failed in consolidating the Cultural Revolution under the existing internal and external conditions can hardly be blamed entirely on him. He certainly saw the need for it, particularly when the time seemed most ripe to make it a primary goal, in the 1950s. But it must be admitted that he underestimated the threat posed by the new intelligentsia, as we see most strikingly in the “Report to the Eighteenth Party Congress,” where he unstintingly praises them and denies that they could constitute a new social class.

This error in theory led to an error in practice in which, despite his earlier calls for organizing mass criticism from below, he tended to rely on one section of the bureaucracy to check or defeat another. He was unwilling to unleash a real mass movement like the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and, as a result, the masses were made increasingly less capable of carrying out such a gigantic task. All this is easy to say in hindsight, now that we have the advantage of having witnessed the Chinese success, which may prove to be the most important single event in human history. But who would have had the audacity to recommend such a course in the face of the Nazi threat of the late 1930s or the U.S. threat after World War II, when the Soviet Union lay in ruins? In 1967, when the Chinese Cultural Revolution was at its height and the country was apparently in chaos, many revolutionaries around the world were dismayed. Certainly, they acknowledged, China had to have a cultural revolution. But not at that moment, when the Vietnamese absolutely needed that firm rear base area and when U.S. imperialism was apparently looking for any opening to smash China. And so it must have looked to Stalin, who postponed the Soviet Cultural Revolution until it was too late.

It is true that socialism in the Soviet Union has been reversed. But Stalin must be held primarily responsible not for its failure to achieve communism but rather for its getting as far along the road as it did. It went much further than the “left” and the right Opposition, the capitalists, and almost everybody in the world thought possible. It went far enough to pass the baton to a fresher runner, the workers and peasants of China, who, studying and emulating Stalin, have already gone even further, as we are beginning to see.

America’s “Most Wanted” Terrorist: An Open Letter From Assata

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My name is Assata Shakur, and I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the US government’s policy towards people of color. I am an ex-political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984.

I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I joined the Black Panther Party. By 1969 the Black Panther Party had become the number one organization targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. Because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black people, J. Edgar Hoover called it “greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists.

In 1978, my case was one of many cases bought before the United Nations Organization in a petition filed by the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, exposing the existence of political prisoners in the United States, their political persecution, and the cruel and inhuman treatment they receive in US prisons. According to the report:

‘The FBI and the New York Police Department in particular, charged and accused Assata Shakur of participating in attacks on law enforcement personnel and widely circulated such charges and accusations among police agencies and units. The FBI and the NYPD further charged her as being a leader of the Black Liberation Army which the government and its respective agencies described as an organization engaged in the shooting of police officers. This description of the Black Liberation Army and the accusation of Assata Shakur’s relationship to it was widely circulated by government agents among police agencies and units. As a result of these activities by the government, Ms. Shakur became a hunted person; posters in police precincts and banks described her as being involved in serious criminal activities; she was highlighted on the FBI’s most wanted list; and to police at all levels she became a ‘shoot-to-kill’ target.”

I was falsely accused in six different “criminal cases” and in all six of these cases I was eventually acquitted or the charges were dismissed. The fact that I was acquitted or that the charges were dismissed, did not mean that I received justice in the courts, that was certainly not the case. It only meant that the “evidence” presented against me was so flimsy and false that my innocence became evident. This political persecution was part and parcel of the government’s policy of eliminating political opponents by charging them with crimes and arresting them with no regard to the factual basis of such charges.

On May 2, 1973 I, along with Zayd Malik Shakur and Sundiata Acoli were stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike, supposedly for a “faulty tail light.” Sundiata Acoli got out of the car to determine why we were stopped. Zayd and I remained in the car. State trooper Harper then came to the car, opened the door and began to question us. Because we were black, and riding in a car with Vermont license plates, he claimed he became “suspicious.” He then drew his gun, pointed it at us, and told us to put our hands up in the air, in front of us, where he could see them. I complied and in a split second, there was a sound that came from outside the car, there was a sudden movement, and I was shot once with my arms held up in the air, and then once again from the back. Zayd Malik Shakur was later killed, trooper Werner Foerster was killed, and even though trooper Harper admitted that he shot and killed Zayd Malik Shakur, under the New Jersey felony murder law, I was charged with killing both Zayd Malik Shakur, who was my closest friend and comrade, and charged in the death of trooper Forester. Never in my life have I felt such grief. Zayd had vowed to protect me, and to help me to get to a safe place, and it was clear that he had lost his life, trying to protect both me and Sundiata. Although he was also unarmed, and the gun that killed trooper Foerster was found under Zayd’s leg, Sundiata Acoli, who was captured later, was also charged with both deaths. Neither Sundiata Acoli nor I ever received a fair trial We were both convicted in the news media way before our trials. No news media was ever permitted to interview us, although the New Jersey police and the FBI fed stories to the press on a daily basis. In 1977, I was convicted by an all- white jury and sentenced to life plus 33 years in prison. In 1979, fearing that I would be murdered in prison, and knowing that I would never receive any justice, I was liberated from prison, aided by committed comrades who understood the depths of the injustices in my case, and who were also extremely fearful for my life.

The U.S. Senate’s 1976 Church Commission report on intelligence operations inside the USA, revealed that “The FBI has attempted covertly to influence the public’s perception of persons and organizations by disseminating derogatory information to the press, either anonymously or through “friendly” news contacts.” This same policy is evidently still very much in effect today.

On December 24, 1997, The New Jersey State called a press conference to announce that New Jersey State Police had written a letter to Pope John Paul II asking him to intervene on their behalf and to aid in having me extradited back to New Jersey prisons. The New Jersey State Police refused to make their letter public. Knowing that they had probably totally distort the facts, and attempted to get the Pope to do the devils work in the name of religion, I decided to write the Pope to inform him about the reality of’ “justice” for black people in the State of New Jersey and in the United States. (See attached Letter to the Pope).

In January of 1998, during the pope’s visit to Cuba, I agreed to do an interview with NBC journalist Ralph Penza around my letter to the Pope, about my experiences in New Jersey court system, and about the changes I saw in the United States and it’s treatment of Black people in the last 25 years. I agreed to do this interview because I saw this secret letter to the Pope as a vicious, vulgar, publicity maneuver on the part of the New Jersey State Police, and as a cynical attempt to manipulate Pope John Paul II. I have lived in Cuba for many years, and was completely out of touch with the sensationalist, dishonest, nature of the establishment media today. It is worse today than it was 30 years ago. After years of being victimized by the “establishment” media it was naive of me to hope that I might finally get the opportunity to tell “my side of the story.” Instead of an interview with me, what took place was a “staged media event” in three parts, full of distortions, inaccuracies and outright lies. NBC purposely misrepresented the facts. Not only did NBC spend thousands of dollars promoting this “exclusive interview series” on NBC, they also spent a great deal of money advertising this “exclusive interview” on black radio stations and also placed notices in local newspapers.

Like most poor and oppressed people in the United States, I do not have a voice. Black people, poor people in the U.S. have no real freedom of speech, no real freedom of expression and very little freedom of the press. The black press and the progressive media has historically played an essential role in the struggle for social justice. We need to continue and to expand that tradition. We need to create media outlets that help to educate our people and our children, and not annihilate their minds. I am only one woman. I own no TV stations, or Radio Stations or Newspapers. But I feel that people need to be educated as to what is going on, and to understand the connection between the news media and the instruments of repression in Amerika. All I have is my voice, my spirit and the will to tell the truth. But I sincerely ask, those of you in the Black media, those of you in the progressive media, those of you who believe in truth freedom, To publish this statement and to let people know what is happening. We have no voice, so you must be the voice of the voiceless.

Free all Political Prisoners, I send you Love and Revolutionary Greetings From Cuba, One of the Largest, Most Resistant and Most Courageous Palenques (Maroon Camps) That has ever existed on the Face of this Planet.

Assata Shakur Havana, Cuba

Source

Biography of Bill Bland

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Biography

Bland, William “Bill” (1916-2001)

Bill Bland was born in the North of England, into a middle class home. He spent his politically formative years in the army of New Zealand, where he was active in the Communist Party as an educator. He returned to Britain in the post-war years as an ophthalmic optician. In the 1950’s Bland witnessed the Communist Party of Great Britain embracing the “Peaceful Road to Socialism”, and Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin. Bland believed these “revisionist” stances were incorrect and anti-Marxist-Leninist.

Bland therefore became a member of several anti-revisionist formations in Britain. He soon joined forces with Mike Baker in the Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain (MLOB). Shortly thereafter, the ‘Cultural Revolution’ occured in China, and prompted by a barrage of questions, Bland undertook a systematic study of Mao. He found that he could not agree with Mao’s theory of the ‘New Democratic State’; and penned within months, the first refutation of Mao from the point of view of a pro-Stalin supporter. At that time, the MLOB rapidly dwindled in size as many members retained affection of Mao. This was to be the first of Bland’s many un-popular analyses in the pro-Stalin wing of the Communist movement.

Bland spent the rest of his life trying to answer the question: “How had revisionism become ascendant?”

Bland came to the conclusion that Stalin had been in a minority position in the Politburo, surrounded by hidden revisionists too clever to openly attack Marxism-Leninism; further, they had straight-jacketed Stalin by means of erecting the “Cult of Personality,” which was then used as a weapon against him. Bland felt that Yezhov had subverted the secret services, who had been replaced at Stalin’s behest by Beria. Bland pointed for example, to the release of many thousands of wrongly imprisoned Bolsheviks. Bland then argued that by the 18th Party Congress Stalin had been excluded from the highest echelons of the party decision making apparatus, and had counter-attacked with his pamphlet “Economic Problems of the USSR.”

Stalin’s essay was a seminal attack on Nikolai Vosnosensky, who was linked to Khrushchev. Cosequently argued Bland, the later economic changes re-establishing capitalism in the USSR had been fought to a standstill by Stalin. Bland therefore argued a special significance for Stalin’s last work. As Bland saw it, once Stalin was dead, the capitalist “reforms” of Vosnosensky were enacted by Khrushchev and his successors. He formulated these views in articles that culminated in the book ‘Restoration of Capitalism in the USSR’, published in 1981.

Following his analysis of Maoism as ‘left revisionism’, Bland began to question his own long-standing support for the then pro-Chinese Party of Labour of Albania, but concluded that the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania remained socialist. Before the 20th party Congress of the CPSU, Bland had founded the Albanian Society of Britain, at the invitation of the PSRA. Despite now being officially ostracized by Albania, Bland continued his work running the Albanian Society, and organizing an enormous education on this isolated solitary socialist country. In those years, he became an acknowledged authority on all things Albanian. He published an English-Albanian dictionary and he fielded any manner of queries upon arcane features of Albanian life, history, music, foods, geography, customs and mores etc.

While China was supported by the Albanian party, some of the Maoist parties had run an explicit party front Albania Society, resisting Bland’s call for one single, united front Albania Society, regardless of ‘narrow’ party affiliation. Following Hoxha’s open attack on Mao, some of these Societies split and some died. Their remaining members were correctly advised by the foreign Liaison committee of the PSRA, to join with Bland’s organisation to form one United Front of support for the PSRA. But they launched attempts to remove Bland’s leadership, charging that an emphasis on all aspects of life – such as music etc – was “anti-Marxist-Leninist,” and “insufficiently political,” and that Bland should be removed. The membership rejected this attempt to remove Bland. The Society continued till the revisionist take-over of the PSRA by Ramiz Alia, at which point Bland resigned from the Albania Society.

It was primarily differences over Bland’s analysis of Albania as Socialist that precipitated the split in the MLOB in 1975, following which, the Communist League came into existence. The Communist League from its inception always supported the Peoples Socialist Republic of Albania as a solitary socialist state. Those that stayed with the MLOB, including Mike Baker and his supporters, rejected that position.

One specific aspect of modern revisionism, to which Bland paid close attention, was the subversion of the second stage of socialist revolution, into a static national democratic deviations. For Bland, this represented a distortion from the Marxist-Leninist theory of the nation. Into these categories, Bland placed the pseudo-‘socialist’ revolutions of China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam and Tanzania. He argued that all of these had ignored Lenin’s injunction not to build a ‘Chinese Wall’ between the first (national democratic) stage of revolution and the second (socialist) stage. Bland also argued that other, phenomena such as the “Black Nation” in the USA, “Black Racism” and “Scottish, Welsh and Cornish Nationalism”, in Britain, represented national deviations away from socialist revolution.

These views led him to challenge fundamental Stalinist premises: If the Soviet Union had been permeated by a class war involving the highest echelons of the Party, was the Comintern any different?

Bland puzzled over several related matters: Why had the Comintern performed so many about-turns on key questions such as the nature of the United Front? Was Stalin really ‘in control’ of the Comintern? Why had the Peoples Front governments been supported beyond any credible point by European communist parties, especially in France, in assisting a fascist take-over? And why did the ultra-left rejections of a united front of the late 1920’s swing suddenly into ultra-right distortions of a correct United Front policy? Etc.

Bland argued that the first ultra-left deviations in the Comintern, in the period from about 1924 to 1928 had allowed fascism to take power in Germany. In the same period, under the cover of this ultra-leftism, Manuilsky and Kussinen had destroyed the Indian revolution by sabotaging Stalin’s line of the Workers and Peasants parties. Bland thought that the second right deviations, from about 1930 onwards had prevented the masses of Europe taking power under Communist Party direction.

Bland now further argued that Stalin had not been in a leadership position in the Comintern since around 1924; as follows: Initially Zinoviev had exercised the leadership, and thereafter Bukharin. When both were exposed as “revisionists” they were purged from further influencing the Comintern. Both were later shot. Thereafter Dimitrov, Otto Kuusinen, and Dimitri Manuilskii exercised the Comintern leadership. Bland argued they had perverted a correct implementation of Marxism-Leninism. Dimitrov had been sprung from the German Fascist prisons thanks to a rather dubious, and surprising “leniency” of the German fascists. “Why?”, asked Bland, replying that a pact had been struck; as shown when Dimitrov went on to subvert United Front tactics into the right deviation of supporting “Popular Front” governments beyond Marxist-Leninist principles of the correct United Front tactics.

It was for these reasons, argued Bland, that the Comintern was dissolved by Stalin. Stalin then created the Cominform under a completely different leadership, led by his most trusted lieutenants such as Zhdanov. It must be remembered, said Bland, that it was the Cominform that had exposed the Western Communist parties plans for implementing right deviationist policies, and the Titoites for allying with the USA. During this latter historic confrontation Stalin overtly supported Albania and Hoxha against Tito.

Apart from his theoretical works, Bland wrote a number of plays, directed two films, and created a ballet. A life-long intense love of the arts – especially cinema and the theatre – led him to re-affirm the principles of Socialist Realist Art. He wrote widely on theatre and film, and on the history of theatre.

In Britain he led the Communist League to urge the principled unity of all Marxist-Leninist forces, hence Bland’s role in the early stages of the National Committee for A Marxist-Leninist Unity (NCMLU). Bland also formed the Stalin Soicety in the UK. But the pro-China factions within the Stalin Society that ensured Bland’s later expulsion. He was a key figure in the formation of the International Struggle Marxist-Leninist, and is cited as a major influence by Alliance Marxist-Leninist (North America).

Written by Hari Kumar, 2005

Source

Anniversary of the Kent State Massacre

On this day 43 years ago, the National Guard shot dead Jeffrey Miller, Alison Krause, William Schroder, and Sandra Scheuer, all students at Kent State University in Ohio who were protesting the Vietnam War.

Today is the anniversary of the Kent State Massacre. Rest In Peace.

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Anniversary of the Liberation of Saigon, the Unification of Vietnam and the Victory of the Vietnamese People Against U.S. Imperialism

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A North Vietnamese tank rolls through the gates of the Presidential Palace in Saigon.

Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, burns himself to death on a Saigon street on June 11, 1963, to protest persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. (AP Photo/Malcolm Browne, File)

Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, burns himself to death on a Saigon street on June 11, 1963, to protest persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. (AP Photo/Malcolm Browne, File)

A father holds the body of his child as South Vietnamese Army Rangers look down from their armored vehicle March 19, 1964. The child was killed as government forces pursued guerrillas into a village near the Cambodian border. (AP Photo/Horst Faas)

A father holds the body of his child as South Vietnamese Army Rangers look down from their armored vehicle March 19, 1964. The child was killed as government forces pursued guerrillas into a village near the Cambodian border. (AP Photo/Horst Faas)

Hovering U.S. Army helicopters pour machine gun fire into a tree line to cover the advance of South Vietnamese ground troops in an attack on a Viet Cong camp 18 miles north of Tay Ninh, northwest of Saigon near the Cambodian border, in Vietnam in March of 1965. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)

Hovering U.S. Army helicopters pour machine gun fire into a tree line to cover the advance of South Vietnamese ground troops in an attack on a Viet Cong camp 18 miles north of Tay Ninh, northwest of Saigon near the Cambodian border, in Vietnam in March of 1965. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)

An unidentified U.S. Army soldier wears a hand lettered “War Is Hell” slogan on his helmet, in Vietnam on June 18, 1965. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)

An unidentified U.S. Army soldier wears a hand lettered “War Is Hell” slogan on his helmet, in Vietnam on June 18, 1965. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)

A U.S. B-52 stratofortress drops a load of 750-pounds bombs over a Vietnam coastal area during the Vietnam War, Nov. 5, 1965. (AP Photo/USAF)

A U.S. B-52 stratofortress drops a load of 750-pounds bombs over a Vietnam coastal area during the Vietnam War, Nov. 5, 1965. (AP Photo/USAF)

Berkeley-Oakland City, Calif. demonstraters march against the war in Vietnam, December 1965. Calif. (AP Photo)

Berkeley-Oakland City, Calif. demonstraters march against the war in Vietnam, December 1965. Calif. (AP Photo)

A napalm strike erupts in a fireball near U.S. troops on patrol in South Vietnam, 1966 during the Vietnam War. (AP Photo)

A napalm strike erupts in a fireball near U.S. troops on patrol in South Vietnam, 1966 during the Vietnam War. (AP Photo)

A U.S. paratrooper moves away after setting fire to house on bank of the Vaico Oriental River, 20 miles west of Saigon on Jan. 4, 1966, during a “scorched earth” operation against the Viet Cong in South Viet Nam. The 1st battalion of the 173rd airborne brigade was moving through the area. (AP Photo/Peter Arnett)

A U.S. paratrooper moves away after setting fire to house on bank of the Vaico Oriental River, 20 miles west of Saigon on Jan. 4, 1966, during a “scorched earth” operation against the Viet Cong in South Viet Nam. The 1st battalion of the 173rd airborne brigade was moving through the area. (AP Photo/Peter Arnett)

Women and children crouch in a muddy canal as they take cover from intense Viet Cong fire at Bao Trai in Jan. of 1966, about 20 miles west of Saigon, Vietnam. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)

Women and children crouch in a muddy canal as they take cover from intense Viet Cong fire at Bao Trai in Jan. of 1966, about 20 miles west of Saigon, Vietnam. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)

Water-filled bomb craters from B-52 strikes against the Viet Cong mark the rice paddies and orchards west of Saigon, Vietnam, 1966. Most of the area had been abandoned by the peasants who used to farm on the land. (AP Photo/Henri Huet)

Water-filled bomb craters from B-52 strikes against the Viet Cong mark the rice paddies and orchards west of Saigon, Vietnam, 1966. Most of the area had been abandoned by the peasants who used to farm on the land. (AP Photo/Henri Huet)

Seen here are pickets demonstrating against the Vietnam War as they march through downtown Philadelphia, Pa, March, 26 1966. (AP Photo/Bill Ingraham)

Seen here are pickets demonstrating against the Vietnam War as they march through downtown Philadelphia, Pa, March, 26 1966. (AP Photo/Bill Ingraham)

Empty artillery cartridges pile up at the artillery base at Soui Da, some 60 miles northwest of Saigon, at the southern edge of War Zone C, on March 8, 1967. (AP Photo/Horst Faas)

Empty artillery cartridges pile up at the artillery base at Soui Da, some 60 miles northwest of Saigon, at the southern edge of War Zone C, on March 8, 1967. (AP Photo/Horst Faas)

Anti-Vietnam war demonstrators fill Fulton Street in San Francisco on April 15, 1967. The five-mile march through the city would end with a peace rally at Kezar Stadium. In the background is San Francisco City Hall. (AP Photo)

Anti-Vietnam war demonstrators fill Fulton Street in San Francisco on April 15, 1967. The five-mile march through the city would end with a peace rally at Kezar Stadium. In the background is San Francisco City Hall. (AP Photo)

South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police, fires his pistol into the head of suspected Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem, also known as Bay Lop, on a Saigon street, early in the Tet Offensive on Feb. 1, 1968. (AP Photo/Eddie Adams)

South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police, fires his pistol into the head of suspected Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem, also known as Bay Lop, on a Saigon street, early in the Tet Offensive on Feb. 1, 1968. (AP Photo/Eddie Adams)

Bodies lay in the road leading from the village of My Lai, South Vietnam, following the massacre of civilians on March 16,1968. Within four hours, 504 men, women and children were killed in the My Lai hamlets in one of the U.S. military’s blackest days. (AP photo/FILE/Ronald L. Haeberle, Life Magazine)

Bodies lay in the road leading from the village of My Lai, South Vietnam, following the massacre of civilians on March 16,1968. Within four hours, 504 men, women and children were killed in the My Lai hamlets in one of the U.S. military’s blackest days. (AP photo/FILE/Ronald L. Haeberle, Life Magazine)

Mary Ann Vecchio gestures and screams as she kneels by the body of a student lying face down on the campus of Kent State University, Kent, Ohio on May 4, 1970. National Guardsmen had fired into a crowd of demonstrators, killing four. (AP Photo/John Filo)

Mary Ann Vecchio gestures and screams as she kneels by the body of a student lying face down on the campus of Kent State University, Kent, Ohio on May 4, 1970. National Guardsmen had fired into a crowd of demonstrators, killing four. (AP Photo/John Filo)

JFK secretly freed rapists, drug dealers and Mafia hitmen to kill Castro and curb threat of Communism, claims explosive new book

  • Revelations made by journalist Bill Deane in new book ‘Smooth Criminal’
  • It tells story of alleged CIA spy and ‘one-man crime wave’ Dave Riley
  • Claims criminals allowed on ‘crime sprees’ in US when not working for CIA
  • Deane: ‘Riley was typical recruit: Intelligent, ambitious and without morals’
  • While JFK did not order the programme, Deane says he was ‘aware’ of it

By MATT BLAKE

President John F. Kennedy secretly endorsed the release of hardened criminals to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro to curb the Communist threat, a new book has claimed.

At the height of tensions between America and neighbouring Communist Cuba in the early 1960s, JFK was implicit in the freeing of rapists, drug dealers, and Mafia hitmen through CIA in a bid to recruit ‘untraceable’ spies willing to risk their lives on dangerous missions rather than go back to jail, a new book sensationally claims.

Desperate to remove Castro from power, the president resorted to using dangerous criminals as operatives – rather than CIA agents – to ‘do America’s dirty work’ as they couldn’t be linked back to his administration, it is claimed.

In one failed plot, an ex con was smuggled into Cuba in 1962 to pose as a waiter in Castro’s favourite restaurant where he would drop poison tablets into the revolutionary leader’s soup.

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy appearing on television talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis.
President Kennedy secretly endorsed the release of hardened criminals to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro to curb the Communist threat, experts have claimed.

Height of the Cold War: Desperate to remove Fidel Castro, right, from power, President John F. Kennedy, left, resorted to using dangerous criminals as operatives – rather than CIA agents – to ‘do America’s dirty work’

The explosive claims come in a new book by veteran American Journalist and author William Deane, who claims specially-recruited criminals became ‘untouchable’ and were allowed to embark on ‘crime sprees’ in the US without fear of prosecution.

Deane, former assignment editor at American news networks ABC and CBS, says he uncovered the programme – which he believes is still in operation today – after following the ‘trail of destruction’ left by one such operative.

Though JFK did not order the setting up of the top secret programme, Deane says that as president Kennedy would have ‘been aware’ of it.

‘For over 50 years, the CIA and American government has been systematically releasing dangerous criminals back into society to work for them on secret missions overseas,’ said Deane, whose new book Smooth Criminal details the life of alleged CIA operative and ‘one-man American crime wave’ Dave Riley.

‘The programme started during the Kennedy administration at the start of the 1960s as a clandestine means of dealing with the Communist threat of Castro, and was given the seal of approval by JFK – who was still smarting following the political embarrassment of the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba in 1961.

Journalist and author William Deane
President Kennedy secretly endorsed the release of hardened criminal to assassinate Cubas President Castro and curb the Communist threat

‘One man American crime wave’: The details of the plot were revealed by veteran journalist and author William Deane, whose new book Smooth Criminal, right, details the life of alleged CIA operative and ‘one-man American crime wave’ Dave Riley

‘Criminals were ideal operatives as they were ruthless and willing to risk their lives during missions rather than be sent back to prison. They also couldn’t be officially connected with the CIA so it didn’t matter if they were captured – there was no risk of America’s shady policies being exposed.

‘Riley was a typical recruit. Highly intelligent, ambitious and with no morals. The CIA sent him on many missions abroad, including to Cuba to assassinate Castro,’ added Deane.

‘Between missions he was allowed to do what he liked – which generally consisted of embezzlement, fraud, gunrunning and drug dealing – without fear of being arrested or prosecuted.’

Warning: Deane claims the CIA continues to recruit hardened criminals to 'do America's dirty work' with impunityWarning: Deane claims the CIA continues to recruit hardened criminals to ‘do America’s dirty work’ with impunity

Deane claims to have first encountered Riley back in 1961 while working as a DJ at a radio station in Miami, Florida.

Riley, then in his early 20s and with ambitions of being the ‘next Frank Sinatra’, had connections with the Mafia and used his connections to ‘persuade’ the radio station to play his records.

Though they lost touch, Deane next heard of Riley in April 1962 when working as a cub reporter for a Miami TV station – after hearing he had hijacked a plane to Cuba.

According to news reports, on Friday, April 13, 1962, Riley and an accomplice had forced pilot Reginald Doan at gunpoint to fly them to the communist island, where they planned to defect, only for the Cuban authorities to imprison them before sending them back to Miami.

Deane says he was contacted by Riley prior to the Black Friday Skyjacking trial and during that meeting revealed that he was working for the CIA and had been sent to infiltrate Cuba as a spy.

‘The skyjacking was just a smokescreen conjured up by the CIA after the mission went wrong.

‘Riley confessed that he’d been recruited by the intelligence agency while in prison for extortion of a public official back in 1960, and had been sent to Cuba to carry out a number of assignments – including one to assassinate Castro.

‘He had posed as a waiter at one of Castro’s favourite restaurants and been supplied with Botulinum tablets – an untraceable poison – by the CIA to drop into his soup, but Castro must have got wind of the plan as he suddenly stopped eating there.’

Deane admits that at first he thought that Riley was a ‘fantasist’ and, after the criminal was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the skyjacking by the U.S. Supreme Court in November 1964, largely forgot about him.

Kennedy with military leaders in 1962: The programme started during the Kennedy administration at the start of the 1960s as a clandestine means of dealing with the Communist threat of Castro.JFK with military leaders in 1962: The programme started during the Kennedy administration at the start of the 1960s as a clandestine means of dealing with the Communist threat of Castro. but Deane claims the practice is still in use today

It was only after his retirement from CBS in 2005, when he started writing Smooth Criminal, that Deane discovered that Riley might have been telling the truth about the criminal operatives programme all along.

Deane traced Riley’s whereabouts from the time of the skyjacking trial onwards and found that far from serving his time in jail, he had apparently been back on the streets committing crimes within a matter of months.

The journalist uncovered over 40 newspaper reports of Riley’s various crimes in archives and gained further corroboration of his seeming invulnerability to prosecution after tracking down several of his victims.

He added: ‘Riley was a one-man crime wave who was allowed by the CIA, and indirectly the president, to consistently get away with his crimes in return for his occasional assistance.

‘In the late 1960s and early ’70s he went on undercover missions to Vietnam, Cambodia and other troubled South Asian countries, and back at home got away with embezzlement, fraud, gunrunning, drug dealing and sexual assault among other crimes.

Smoking gun: Deane says Riley had posed as a waiter at one of Castro's (pictured) favourite restaurants and been supplied with Botulinum tabletsSmoking gun: Deane says Riley had posed as a waiter at one of Castro’s (pictured) favourite restaurants and been supplied with Botulinum tablets – an untraceable poison – by the CIA to drop into his soup, but Castro must have got wind of the plan as he suddenly stopped eating there

‘He has left a string of victims across the USA over the last 40 years, but the police and FBI have been powerless to act because he is protected by the CIA. The agency maintains a policy of complete secrecy and doesn’t want to risk compromising operations by having one of their operatives involved in a public trial.

‘One unfortunate woman who came across Riley was swindled out of $20,000 – her life savings – and the deeds to several properties, but the police and Feds weren’t allowed to warn her, and weren’t allowed to stop him.’

Deane says that he has evidence of Riley living in New York in 2005, but after that the scene goes cold.

He claims requests for information from the FBI, CIA, Treasury and other government agencies were ignored and suspects Riley, now in his 70s, is either dead or has been placed into a Federal Witness Protection scheme to put him out of reach.

Deane says he doesn’t disapprove of America’s criminal operatives programme per se, but has written Smooth Criminal to warn the American public about the programme in case they become victims of ‘untouchables’ such as Riley.

He added: ‘America has lots of enemies and security has to be maintained if we are to prevent another 9/11 so I am not against a programme that helps protect the nation.

‘What I do object to is the CIA’s insistence on complete secrecy. The rationale that a few Americans have to suffer for the sake of 315 million is not acceptable.

‘It’s sad and pathetic that totally innocent Americans have lost virtually everything, including their homes and businesses, while the Feds stood by and did nothing but protect their released criminals.

‘The CIA should be capable of controlling freed criminals without exposing their clandestine operations, and if they can’t, should discretely warn potential victims to keep away from these people.’

Source

Left Anticommunism: the Unkindest Cut

noamChomsky

BY MICHAEL PARENTI

Despite a lifetime of “shaming” the system, NOAM CHOMSKY, America’s foremost “engagé” intellectual, remains an unrepentant left anticommunist.

In the United States, for over a hundred years, the ruling interests tirelessly propagated anticommunism among the populace, until it became more like a religious orthodoxy than a political analysis. During the Cold War, the anticommunist ideological framework could transform any data about existing communist societies into hostile evidence. If the Soviets refused to negotiate a point, they were intransigent and belligerent; if they appeared willing to make concessions, this was but a skillful ploy to put us off our guard. By opposing arms limitations, they would have demonstrated their aggressive intent; but when in fact they supported most armament treaties, it was because they were mendacious and manipulative. If the churches in the USSR were empty, this demonstrated that religion was suppressed; but if the churches were full, this meant the people were rejecting the regime’s atheistic ideology. If the workers went on strike (as happened on infrequent occasions), this was evidence of their alienation from the collectivist system; if they didn’t go on strike, this was because they were intimidated and lacked freedom. A scarcity of consumer goods demonstrated the failure of the economic system; an improvement in consumer supplies meant only that the leaders were attempting to placate a restive population and so maintain a firmer hold over them. If communists in the United States played an important role struggling for the rights of workers, the poor, African-Americans, women, and others, this was only their guileful way of gathering support among disfranchised groups and gaining power for themselves. How one gained power by fighting for the rights of powerless groups was never explained. What we are dealing with is a nonfalsifiable orthodoxy, so assiduously marketed by the ruling interests that it affected people across the entire political spectrum.

Genuflection to Orthodoxy

Many on the U.S. Left have exhibited a Soviet bashing and Red baiting that matches anything on the Right in its enmity and crudity. Listen to Noam Chomsky holding forth about “left intellectuals” who try to “rise to power on the backs of mass popular movements” and “then beat the people into submission. . . . You start off as basically a Leninist who is going to be part of the Red bureaucracy. You see later that power doesn’t lie that way, and you very quickly become an ideologist of the right. . . . We’re seeing it right now in the [former] Soviet Union. The same guys who were communist thugs two years back, are now running banks and [are] enthusiastic free marketeers and praising Americans” (Z Magazine, 10/95).

Chomsky’s imagery is heavily indebted to the same U.S. corporate political culture he so frequently criticizes on other issues. In his mind, the revolution was betrayed by a coterie of “communist thugs” who merely hunger for power rather than wanting the power to end hunger. In fact, the communists did not “very quickly” switch to the Right but struggled in the face of a momentous onslaught to keep Soviet socialism alive for more than seventy years. To be sure, in the Soviet Union’s waning days some, like Boris Yeltsin, crossed over to capitalist ranks, but others continued to resist free-market incursions at great cost to themselves, many meeting their deaths during Yeltsin’s violent repression of the Russian parliament in 1993.

Some leftists and others fall back on the old stereotype of power-hungry Reds who pursue power for power’s sake without regard for actual social goals. If true, one wonders why, in country after country, these Reds side with the poor and powerless often at great risk and sacrifice to themselves, rather than reaping the rewards that come with serving the well-placed.

For decades, many left-leaning writers and speakers in the United States have felt obliged to establish their credibility by indulging in anticommunist and anti-Soviet genuflection, seemingly unable to give a talk or write an article or book review on whatever political subject without injecting some anti-Red sideswipe. The intent was, and still is, to distance themselves from the Marxist-Leninist Left.

Adam Hochschild: Keeping his distance from the “Stalinist Left” and recommending same posture to fellow progressives.

Adam Hochschild, a liberal writer and publisher, warned those on the Left who might be lackadaisical about condemning existing communist societies that they “weaken their credibility” (Guardian, 5/23/84). In other words, to be credible opponents of the cold war, we first had to join in the Cold-War condemnations of communist societies. Ronald Radosh urged that the peace movement purge itself of communists so that it not be accused of being communist (Guardian, 3/16/83). If I understand Radosh: To save ourselves from anticommunist witchhunts, we should ourselves become witchhunters. Purging the Left of communists became a longstanding practice, having injurious effects on various progressive causes. For instance, in 1949 some twelve unions were ousted from the CIO because they had Reds in their leadership. The purge reduced CIO membership by some 1.7 million and seriously weakened its recruitment drives and political clout. In the late 1940s, to avoid being “smeared” as Reds, Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), a supposedly progressive group, became one of the most vocally anticommunist organizations.

The strategy did not work. ADA and others on the Left were still attacked for being communist or soft on communism by those on the Right. Then and now, many on the Left have failed to realize that those who fight for social change on behalf of the less privileged elements of society will be Red-baited by conservative elites whether they are communists or not. For ruling interests, it makes little difference whether their wealth and power is challenged by “communist subversives” or “loyal American liberals.” All are lumped together as more or less equally abhorrent.

Even when attacking the Right, the left critics cannot pass up an opportunity to flash their anticommunist credentials. So Mark Green writes in a criticism of President Ronald Reagan that “when presented with a situation that challenges his conservative catechism, like an unyielding Marxist-Leninist, [Reagan] will change not his mind but the facts.” While professing a dedication to fighting dogmatism “both of the Right and Left,” individuals who perform such de rigueur genuflections reinforce the anticommunist dogma. Red-baiting leftists contributed their share to the climate of hostility that has given U.S. leaders such a free hand in waging hot and cold wars against communist countries and which even today makes a progressive or even liberal agenda difficult to promote.

A prototypic Red-basher who pretended to be on the Left was George Orwell. In the middle of World War II, as the Soviet Union was fighting for its life against the Nazi invaders at Stalingrad, Orwell announced that a “willingness to criticize Russia and Stalin is the test of intellectual honesty. It is the only thing that from a literary intellectual’s point of view is really dangerous” (Monthly Review, 5/83). Safely ensconced within a virulently anticommunist society, Orwell (with Orwellian doublethink) characterized the condemnation of communism as a lonely courageous act of defiance. Today, his ideological progeny are still at it, offering themselves as intrepid left critics of the Left, waging a valiant struggle against imaginary Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist hordes.
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Sorely lacking within the U.S. Left is any rational evaluation of the Soviet Union, a nation that endured a protracted civil war and a multinational foreign invasion in the very first years of its existence, and that two decades later threw back and destroyed the Nazi beast at enormous cost to itself. In the three decades after the Bolshevik revolution, the Soviets made industrial advances equal to what capitalism took a century to accomplish–while feeding and schooling their children rather than working them fourteen hours a day as capitalist industrialists did and still do in many parts of the world. And the Soviet Union, along with Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic, and Cuba provided vital assistance to national liberation movements in countries around the world, including Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress in South Africa.

Left anticommunists remained studiously unimpressed by the dramatic gains won by masses of previously impoverished people under communism. Some were even scornful of such accomplishments. I recall how in Burlington Vermont, in 1971, the noted anticommunist anarchist, Murray Bookchin, derisively referred to my concern for “the poor little children who got fed under communism” (his words).

Slinging Labels

Those of us who refused to join in the Soviet bashing were branded by left anticommunists as “Soviet apologists” and “Stalinists,” even if we disliked Stalin and his autocratic system of rule and believed there were things seriously wrong with existing Soviet society. Our real sin was that unlike many on the Left we refused to uncritically swallow U.S. media propaganda about communist societies. Instead, we maintained that, aside from the well-publicized deficiencies and injustices, there were positive features about existing communist systems that were worth preserving, that improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people in meaningful and humanizing ways. This claim had a decidedly unsettling effect on left anticommunists who themselves could not utter a positive word about any communist society (except possibly Cuba) and could not lend a tolerant or even courteous ear to anyone who did.

Saturated by anticommunist orthodoxy, most U.S. leftists have practiced a left McCarthyism against people who did have something positive to say about existing communism, excluding them from participation in conferences, advisory boards, political endorsements, and left publications. Like conservatives, left anticommunists tolerated nothing less than a blanket condemnation of the Soviet Union as a Stalinist monstrosity and a Leninist moral aberration.

That many U.S. leftists have scant familiarity with Lenin’s writings and political work does not prevent them from slinging the “Leninist” label. Noam Chomsky, who is an inexhaustible fount of anticommunist caricatures, offers this comment about Leninism: “Western and also Third World intellectuals were attracted to the Bolshevik counterrevolution [sic] because Leninism is, after all, a doctrine that says that the radical intelligentsia have a right to take state power and to run their countries by force, and that is an idea which is rather appealing to intellectuals.” Here Chomsky fashions an image of power-hungry intellectuals to go along with his cartoon image of power-hungry Leninists, villains seeking not the revolutionary means to fight injustice but power for power’s sake. When it comes to Red-bashing, some of the best and brightest on the Left sound not much better than the worst on the Right.

At the time of the 1996 terror bombing in Oklahoma City, I heard a radio commentator announce: “Lenin said that the purpose of terror is to terrorize.” U.S. media commentators have repeatedly quoted Lenin in that misleading manner. In fact, his statement was disapproving of terrorism. He polemicized against isolated terrorist acts which do nothing but create terror among the populace, invite repression, and isolate the revolutionary movement from the masses. Far from being the totalitarian, tight-circled conspirator, Lenin urged the building of broad coalitions and mass organizations, encompassing people who were at different levels of political development. He advocated whatever diverse means were needed to advance the class struggle, including participation in parliamentary elections and existing trade unions. To be sure, the working class, like any mass group, needed organization and leadership to wage a successful revolutionary struggle, which was the role of a vanguard party, but that did not mean the proletarian revolution could be fought and won by putschists or terrorists.

Lenin constantly dealt with the problem of avoiding the two extremes of liberal bourgeois opportunism and ultra-left adventurism. Yet he himself is repeatedly identified as an ultra-left putschist by mainstream journalists and some on the Left. Whether Lenin’s approach to revolution is desirable or even relevant today is a question that warrants critical examination. But a useful evaluation is not likely to come from people who misrepresent his theory and practice.

Left anticommunists find any association with communist organizations to be morally unacceptable because of the “crimes of communism.” Yet many of them are themselves associated with the Democratic Party in this country, either as voters or members, seemingly unconcerned about the morally unacceptable political crimes committed by leaders of that organization. Under one or another Democratic administration, 120,000 Japanese Americans were torn from their homes and livelihoods and thrown into detention camps; atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki with an enormous loss of innocent life; the FBI was given authority to infiltrate political groups; the Smith Act was used to imprison leaders of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party and later on leaders of the Communist Party for their political beliefs; detention camps were established to round up political dissidents in the event of a “national emergency”; during the late 1940s and 1950s, eight thousand federal workers were purged from government because of their political associations and views, with thousands more in all walks of life witchhunted out of their careers; the Neutrality Act was used to impose an embargo on the Spanish Republic that worked in favor of Franco’s fascist legions; homicidal counterinsurgency programs were initiated in various Third World countries; and the Vietnam War was pursued and escalated. And for the better part of a century, the Congressional leadership of the Democratic Party protected racial segregation and stymied all anti-lynching and fair employment bills. Yet all these crimes, bringing ruination and death to many, have not moved the liberals, the social democrats, and the “democratic socialist” anticommunists to insist repeatedly that we issue blanket condemnations of either the Democratic Party or the political system that produced it, certainly not with the intolerant fervor that has been directed against existing communism.

Pure Socialism vs. Siege Socialism

The upheavals in Eastern Europe did not constitute a defeat for socialism because socialism never existed in those countries, according to some U.S. leftists. They say that the communist states offered nothing more than bureaucratic, one-party “state capitalism” or some such thing. Whether we call the former communist countries “socialist” is a matter of definition. Suffice it to say, they constituted something different from what existed in the profit-driven capitalist world–as the capitalists themselves were not slow to recognize.

First, in communist countries there was less economic inequality than under capitalism. The perks enjoyed by party and government elites were modest by corporate CEO standards in the West [even more so when compared with today’s grotesque compensation packages to the executive and financial elites.—Eds], as were their personal incomes and life styles. Soviet leaders like Yuri Andropov and Leonid Brezhnev lived not in lavishly appointed mansions like the White House, but in relatively large apartments in a housing project near the Kremlin set aside for government leaders. They had limousines at their disposal (like most other heads of state) and access to large dachas where they entertained visiting dignitaries. But they had none of the immense personal wealth that most U.S. leaders possess.

The “lavish life” enjoyed by East Germany’s party leaders, as widely publicized in the U.S. press, included a $725 yearly allowance in hard currency, and housing in an exclusive settlement on the outskirts of Berlin that sported a sauna, an indoor pool, and a fitness center shared by all the residents. They also could shop in stores that carried Western goods such as bananas, jeans, and Japanese electronics. The U.S. press never pointed out that ordinary East Germans had access to public pools and gyms and could buy jeans and electronics (though usually not of the imported variety). Nor was the “lavish” consumption enjoyed by East German leaders contrasted to the truly opulent life style enjoyed by the Western plutocracy.

Second, in communist countries, productive forces were not organized for capital gain and private enrichment; public ownership of the means of production supplanted private ownership. Individuals could not hire other people and accumulate great personal wealth from their labor. Again, compared to Western standards, differences in earnings and savings among the populace were generally modest. The income spread between highest and lowest earners in the Soviet Union was about five to one. In the United States, the spread in yearly income between the top multibillionaires and the working poor is more like 10,000 to 1.

Third, priority was placed on human services. Though life under communism left a lot to be desired and the services themselves were rarely the best, communist countries did guarantee their citizens some minimal standard of economic survival and security, including guaranteed education, employment, housing, and medical assistance.

Fourth, communist countries did not pursue the capital penetration of other countries. Lacking a profit motive as their motor force and therefore having no need to constantly find new investment opportunities, they did not expropriate the lands, labor, markets, and natural resources of weaker nations, that is, they did not practice economic imperialism. The Soviet Union conducted trade and aid relations on terms that generally were favorable to the Eastern European nations and Mongolia, Cuba, and India.

All of the above were organizing principles for every communist system to one degree or another. None of the above apply to free market countries like Honduras, Guatemala, Thailand, South Korea, Chile, Indonesia, Zaire, Germany, or the United States.

But a real socialism, it is argued, would be controlled by the workers themselves through direct participation instead of being run by Leninists, Stalinists, Castroites, or other ill-willed, power-hungry, bureaucratic, cabals of evil men who betray revolutions. Unfortunately, this “pure socialism” view is ahistorical and nonfalsifiable; it cannot be tested against the actualities of history. It compares an ideal against an imperfect reality, and the reality comes off a poor second. It imagines what socialism would be like in a world far better than this one, where no strong state structure or security force is required, where none of the value produced by workers needs to be expropriated to rebuild society and defend it from invasion and internal sabotage.

The pure socialists’ ideological anticipations remain untainted by existing practice. They do not explain how the manifold functions of a revolutionary society would be organized, how external attack and internal sabotage would be thwarted, how bureaucracy would be avoided, scarce resources allocated, policy differences settled, priorities set, and production and distribution conducted. Instead, they offer vague statements about how the workers themselves will directly own and control the means of production and will arrive at their own solutions through creative struggle. No surprise then that the pure socialists support every revolution except the ones that succeed.

The pure socialists had a vision of a new society that would create and be created by new people, a society so transformed in its fundamentals as to leave little room for wrongful acts, corruption, and criminal abuses of state power. There would be no bureaucracy or self-interested coteries, no ruthless conflicts or hurtful decisions. When the reality proves different and more difficult, some on the Left proceed to condemn the real thing and announce that they “feel betrayed” by this or that revolution.

The pure socialists see socialism as an ideal that was tarnished by communist venality, duplicity, and power cravings. The pure socialists oppose the Soviet model but offer little evidence to demonstrate that other paths could have been taken, that other models of socialism–not created from one’s imagination but developed through actual historical experience–could have taken hold and worked better. Was an open, pluralistic, democratic socialism actually possible at this historic juncture? The historical evidence would suggest it was not. As the political philosopher Carl Shames argued:

How do [the left critics] know that the fundamental problem was the “nature” of the ruling [revolutionary] parties rather than, say, the global concentration of capital that is destroying all independent economies and putting an end to national sovereignty everywhere? And to the extent that it was, where did this “nature” come from? Was this “nature” disembodied, disconnected from the fabric of the society itself, from the social relations impacting on it? . . . Thousands of examples could be found in which the centralization of power was a necessary choice in securing and protecting socialist relations. In my observation [of existing communist societies], the positive of “socialism” and the negative of “bureaucracy, authoritarianism and tyranny” interpenetrated in virtually every sphere of life. (Carl Shames, correspondence to me, 1/15/92.)

The pure socialists regularly blame the Left itself for every defeat it suffers. Their second-guessing is endless. So we hear that revolutionary struggles fail because their leaders wait too long or act too soon, are too timid or too impulsive, too stubborn or too easily swayed. We hear that revolutionary leaders are compromising or adventuristic, bureaucratic or opportunistic, rigidly organized or insufficiently organized, undemocratic or failing to provide strong leadership. But always the leaders fail because they do not put their trust in the “direct actions” of the workers, who apparently would withstand and overcome every adversity if only given the kind of leadership available from the left critic’s own groupuscule. Unfortunately, the critics seem unable to apply their own leadership genius to producing a successful revolutionary movement in their own country.

Tony Febbo questioned this blame-the-leadership syndrome of the pure socialists:

It occurs to me that when people as smart, different, dedicated and heroic as Lenin, Mao, Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega, Ho Chi Minh and Robert Mugabe–and the millions of heroic people who followed and fought with them–all end up more or less in the same place, then something bigger is at work than who made what decision at what meeting. Or even what size houses they went home to after the meeting. . . .

These leaders weren’t in a vacuum. They were in a whirlwind. And the suction, the force, the power that was twirling them around has spun and left this globe mangled for more than 900 years. And to blame this or that theory or this or that leader is a simple-minded substitute for the kind of analysis that Marxists [should make]. (Guardian, 11/13/91)

To be sure, the pure socialists are not entirely without specific agendas for building the revolution. After the Sandinistas overthrew the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua, an ultra-left group in that country called for direct worker ownership of the factories. The armed workers would take control of production without benefit of managers, state planners, bureaucrats, or a formal military. While undeniably appealing, this worker syndicalism denies the necessities of state power. Under such an arrangement, the Nicaraguan revolution would not have lasted two months against the U.S.-sponsored counterrevolution that savaged the country. It would have been unable to mobilize enough resources to field an army, take security measures, or build and coordinate economic programs and human services on a national scale.

Decentralization vs. Survival

For a people’s revolution to survive, it must seize state power and use it to (a) break the stranglehold exercised by the owning class over the society’s institutions and resources, and (b) withstand the reactionary counterattack that is sure to come. The internal and external dangers a revolution faces necessitate a centralized state power that is not particularly to anyone’s liking, not in Soviet Russia in 1917, nor in Sandinista Nicaragua in 1980.

Engels offers an apposite account of an uprising in Spain in 1872-73 in which anarchists seized power in municipalities across the country. At first, the situation looked promising. The king had abdicated and the bourgeois government could muster but a few thousand ill-trained troops. Yet this ragtag force prevailed because it faced a thoroughly parochialized rebellion. “Each town proclaimed itself as a sovereign canton and set up a revolutionary committee (junta),” Engels writes. “[E]ach town acted on its own, declaring that the important thing was not cooperation with other towns but separation from them, thus precluding any possibility of a combined attack [against bourgeois forces].” It was “the fragmentation and isolation of the revolutionary forces which enabled the government troops to smash one revolt after the other.”

Decentralized parochial autonomy is the graveyard of insurgency–which may be one reason why there has never been a successful anarcho-syndicalist revolution. Ideally, it would be a fine thing to have only local, self-directed, worker participation, with minimal bureaucracy, police, and military. This probably would be the development of socialism, were socialism ever allowed to develop unhindered by counterrevolutionary subversion and attack. One might recall how, in 1918-20, fourteen capitalist nations, including the United States, invaded Soviet Russia in a bloody but unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the revolutionary Bolshevik government. The years of foreign invasion and civil war did much to intensify the Bolsheviks’ siege psychology with its commitment to lockstep party unity and a repressive security apparatus. Thus, in May 1921, the same Lenin who had encouraged the practice of internal party democracy and struggled against Trotsky in order to give the trade unions a greater measure of autonomy, now called for an end to the Workers’ Opposition and other factional groups within the party. “The time has come,” he told an enthusiastically concurring Tenth Party Congress, “to put an end to opposition, to put a lid on it: we have had enough opposition.” Open disputes and conflicting tendencies within and without the party, the communists concluded, created an appearance of division and weakness that invited attack by formidable foes.

Only a month earlier, in April 1921, Lenin had called for more worker representation on the party’s Central Committee. In short, he had become not anti-worker but anti-opposition. Here was a social revolution–like every other–that was not allowed to develop its political and material life in an unhindered way.

By the late 1920s, the Soviets faced the choice of (a) moving in a still more centralized direction with a command economy and forced agrarian collectivization and full-speed industrialization under a commandist, autocratic party leadership, the road taken by Stalin, or (b) moving in a liberalized direction, allowing more political diversity, more autonomy for labor unions and other organizations, more open debate and criticism, greater autonomy among the various Soviet republics, a sector of privately owned small businesses, independent agricultural development by the peasantry, greater emphasis on consumer goods, and less effort given to the kind of capital accumulation needed to build a strong military-industrial base.

The latter course, I believe, would have produced a more comfortable, more humane and serviceable society. Siege socialism would have given way to worker-consumer socialism. The only problem is that the country would have risked being incapable of withstanding the Nazi onslaught. Instead, the Soviet Union embarked upon a rigorous, forced industrialization. This policy has often been mentioned as one of the wrongs perpetrated by Stalin upon his people. It consisted mostly of building, within a decade, an entirely new, huge industrial base east of the Urals in the middle of the barren steppes, the biggest steel complex in Europe, in anticipation of an invasion from the West. “Money was spent like water, men froze, hungered and suffered but the construction went on with a disregard for individuals and a mass heroism seldom paralleled in history.”

Stalin’s prophecy that the Soviet Union had only ten years to do what the British had done in a century proved correct. When the Nazis invaded in 1941, that same industrial base, safely ensconced thousands of miles from the front, produced the weapons of war that eventually turned the tide. The cost of this survival included 22 million Soviets who perished in the war and immeasurable devastation and suffering, the effects of which would distort Soviet society for decades afterward.

All this is not to say that everything Stalin did was of historical necessity. The exigencies of revolutionary survival did not “make inevitable” the heartless execution of hundreds of Old Bolshevik leaders, the personality cult of a supreme leader who claimed every revolutionary gain as his own achievement, the suppression of party political life through terror, the eventual silencing of debate regarding the pace of industrialization and collectivization, the ideological regulation of all intellectual and cultural life, and the mass deportations of “suspect” nationalities.

The transforming effects of counterrevolutionary attack have been felt in other countries. A Sandinista military officer I met in Vienna in 1986 noted that Nicaraguans were “not a warrior people” but they had to learn to fight because they faced a destructive, U.S.-sponsored mercenary war. She bemoaned the fact that war and embargo forced her country to postpone much of its socio-economic agenda. As with Nicaragua, so with Mozambique, Angola and numerous other countries in which U.S.-financed mercenary forces destroyed farmlands, villages, health centers, and power stations, while killing or starving hundreds of thousands–the revolutionary baby was strangled in its crib or mercilessly bled beyond recognition. This reality ought to earn at least as much recognition as the suppression of dissidents in this or that revolutionary society.

The overthrow of Eastern European and Soviet communist governments was cheered by many left intellectuals. Now democracy would have its day. The people would be free from the yoke of communism and the U.S. Left would be free from the albatross of existing communism, or as left theorist Richard Lichtman put it, “liberated from the incubus of the Soviet Union and the succubus of Communist China.”

In fact, the capitalist restoration in Eastern Europe seriously weakened the numerous Third World liberation struggles that had received aid from the Soviet Union and brought a whole new crop of right-wing governments into existence, ones that now worked hand-in-glove with U.S. global counterrevolutionaries around the globe.

In addition, the overthrow of communism gave the green light to the unbridled exploitative impulses of Western corporate interests. No longer needing to convince workers that they live better than their counterparts in Russia, no longer restrained by a competing system, the corporate class is rolling back the many gains that working people have won over the years. Now that the free market, in its meanest form, is emerging triumphant in the East, so will it prevail in the West. “Capitalism with a human face” is being replaced by “capitalism in your face.” As Richard Levins put it, “So in the new exuberant aggressiveness of world capitalism we see what communists and their allies had held at bay” (Monthly Review, 9/96).

Having never understood the role that existing communist powers played in tempering the worst impulses of Western capitalism, and having perceived communism as nothing but an unmitigated evil, the left anticommunists did not anticipate the losses that were to come. Some of them still don’t get it.