Category Archives: Europe

Alliance Marxist-Leninist: The Problem of Pablo Picasso

The Problem of Pablo Picasso

(1881-1973)

CONTENTS
Introduction
Pablo Picasso — Early Years
Developing Cubism
Guernica — The Bombing
Guernica — The Painting
Impact of Picasso and Guernica on Russian Discussions Upon Socialist Realist Art
Post Second World War – ‘Becoming a communist, Picasso hoped to come out of exile’.
Conclusion
Bibliography

Introduction

Picasso poses a problem for the supporters of Marxist-Leninist view of socialist art.

What ideology – both subjectively and objectively – did he represent? What are the advocates of realism in the arts to make of Picasso’s love of gross anatomical distortions? How do most people react to his, perhaps most famous work – “Guernica” – and what does it signify? And finally, what was his relation to the Communist Party?

We contend that Picasso’s story is one of a gifted artist, who was situated at a major turning point in history, between the time of the “pure, isolated individual” and a time that history was rushing forwards because of the consolidated action of masses. At this time, artists (like everybody else) were confronted with a choice. Many took the wrong turn — towards an isolationism, towards a “renunciation of reality.” One art historian explains this as the end of approximately 400 years of art history that had been till then, steadily moving towards a goal of more and better “reality.” In its place was substituted a “form of existence surpassing and incompatible with reality,” an existence that is “ugly”:

“The great reactionary movement of the century takes effect in the realm of art as a rejection of impressionism change which, in some respects, forms a deeper incision in the history of art than all the changes of style since the Renaissance, leaving the artistic tradition of naturalism fundamentally unaffected. It is true that there had always been a swinging to and fro between formalism and anti-formalism, but the function of art being true to life and faithful to nature bad never been questioned in principle since the Middle Ages. In this respect impressionism was the climax and the end of a development which had lasted more than four hundred years. Post-impressionist art is the first to renounce all illusion of reality on principle and to express its outlook on life by the deliberate deformation of natural objects. Cubism, constructivism, futurism, expressionism, dadaism, and surrealism turn away with equal determination from nature-bound and reality-affirming impressionism.

But impressionism itself prepares the ground for this development in so far as it does not aspire to an integrating description of reality, to a confrontation of the subject with the objective world as a whole, but marks rather the beginning of that process which has been called the “annexation” of reality by art (Andre Malraux: Psychologie de l’art). Post-impressionist art can no longer be called in any sense a reproduction of nature; its relationship to nature is one of violation. We can speak at most of a kind of magic naturalism, of the production of objects which exist alongside reality, but do not wish to take its place. Confronted with the works of Braque, Chagall, Rouault, Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Salvador Dali, we always feel that, for all their differences, we are in a second world, a super-world which, however many features of ordinary reality it may still display, represents a form of existence surpassing and incompatible with this reality. Modern art is, however, anti-impressionistic in yet another respect: it is a fundamentally “ugly” art, forgoing the euphony, the fascinating forms, tones and colours, of impressionism.”

Hauser, Arnold. “The Social history of Art” — Volume 4: ‘Naturalism, Impressionism, The Film Age'”; New York; nd; p. 229-230.

We will argue that Picasso took the ‘wrong turn” – rejecting realism – only to partially correct himself under the influence of a political realisation of the horrors of war and capitalism.

Picasso forsook his earlier brilliance in works of a realistic nature, to ‘invent’ Cubism. Both Cubism, and other related art movements such as Surrealism, and Dadaism — were pained attempts to come to terms with a rapidly changing society in the midst or the wake of the catastrophes of the First World War. It was the expression of an intense “hopelessness” of man’s possibility of changing anything — for example, averting the First World War. It was also explicitly anti-rational:

“It arose from a mood of disillusionment engendered by the First World War, to which some artists reacted with irony, cynicism, and nihilisim…. the name (French for ‘hobby-horse’) was chosen by inserting a penknife at random in the pages of a dictionary, thus symbolizing the anti-rational stance of the movement. Those involved in it emphasised the illogical and the absurd, and exaggerated the role of chance in artistic creation…… its techniques involving accident and chance were of great importance to the Surrealists and … later Abstract Expressionists”;

I. Chilvers, H. Osborne, D. Farr. “Oxford Dictionary of Art”; Oxford; 1977; p.147.

In the 1918 Berlin Dada Manifesto for instance, life is characterised as where:

“Life appears a simultaneous muddle of noises, colours, and spiritual rhythms, which is taken unmodified, with all the sensational screams and fevers of its reckless everyday psyche and with all its brutal reality.”

Cork, Richard “A Bitter Truth — Avant Garde Art & The Great War; London 1994; p.257.

Dadaism involved a “nihilism” [“”total rejection of current religious beliefs or morals.. A form of scepticism, involving the denial of all existence,” “Shorter Oxford English Dictionary” Volume 2; Oxford 1973; ; p.1404.]. The nihilism of these movements “not only questions the value of art but of the whole human situation. For, as it is stated in another of its manifestos, “measured by the standard of eternity, all human action is futile”:

“The historical importance of dadaism and surrealism (lies)…. in the fact that they draw attention to the blind alley …. at the end of the symbolist movement, to the sterility of a literary convention which no longer had any connection with real life …. Mallarme and the symbolists thought that every idea that occurred to them was the expression of their innermost nature; it was a mystical belief in the “magic of the word” which made them poets. The dadaists and the surrealists now doubt whether anything objective, external, formal, rationally organized is capable of expressing man at all, but they also doubt the value of such expression. It is really “inadmissible” – they think, that a man should leave a trace behind him. (Andre Breton: Les Pas perdus, 1924). Dadaism, therefore, replaces the nihilism of aesthetic culture by a new nihilism, which not only questions the value of art but of the whole human situation. For, as it is stated in one of its manifestos, “measured by the standard of eternity, all human action is futile.” (Tristn Tzara: Sept manifestes dada, 1920).”

Hauser, Arnold. “The Social history of Art” — Volume 4: ‘Naturalism, Impressionism, The Film Age'”; New York; nd; p.232-233.

Paradoxically, contrasting to the Dadaists, at least in some ways, Picasso exalted the individual. One can also see in him the epitome of the bourgeois view of an artist as someone obsessed by not only “art,” but of acting the part of “an artiste” – so that their life story is in itself a “work of art.” So Picasso said of artists that what was important was “who they are, not what they did”:

“It is not what the artist does that counts, but what he is. Cezanne would never have interested me a bit if he had lived and thought like Jacquestmile Blanche, even if the apples he had painted had been ten times as beautiful. What forces our interest is Cezanne’s anxiety, that’s Cezanne’s lesson; the torments of Van Gogh – that is the actual drama of the man. The rest is a sham.”

Berger, John.”The Success & Failure of Picasso”; New York; 1980; p.5; quoting Alfred H. Barr; “Picasso: Fifty Years of His Art”; Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1946.

Berger perceptively places Picasso’s exalted view of “artistic creativity” – as a remnant of the Romantics of the 19th century, for whom “art” was a “way of life.” Berger goes on to show that this was a form of a reaction to the bourgeois, monied “Midas” touch — a touch that changes all relations including artistic relations — to one of a mere commerce. While this exaltation of “creativity” was of value to the Romantics, in the 20th century nexus of individual versus masses, this self-centredness could be and was, hideously out of place.

Pablo Picasso – Early Years

Picasso was born in Spain, but lived and worked most of his life in Paris. His artistic mediums included sculpture, graphic arts, ceramics, poster design, as well as fine art. He was probably the most famous and prolific artist of the 20th century. As a son of a painter, he was a precocious master of line, even as a child. It is said that as a baby, is said to have been ‘lapiz’ – pencil. His work incorporated a number of styles, and he denied any logical sequence to his art development:

‘The several manners I have used in my art must not be considered as an evolution, or as steps toward an unknown ideal of painting. When I have found something to express, I have done it without thinking of the past or future. I do not believe I have used radically different elements in the different manners I have used in painting. If the subjects I have wanted to express have suggested different ways of expression, I haven’t hesitated to adopt them.’

I. Chilvers, H. Osborne, D. Farr. “Oxford Dictionary of Art”; Oxford; 1977; p. 431.

At this early stage (1900-1904) Picasso expressed artistic sentiments on behalf of the under-priviliged. For example, during his “Blue Period,” he painted several examples of a realistic and moving art:

“he took his subjects from the poor and social outcasts, the predominant mood of his paintings was one of at bottom opposed to the irrationalist elements of slightly sentimentalized melancholy expressed through cold ethereal blue tones

(La Vie, Cleveland Museum of Art, 1903). He also did a number of powerful engravings in a similar vein (The Frugal Repast, d 1904).” [See below].

I. Chilvers, H. Osborne, D. Farr. “Oxford Dictionary of Art”; Oxford; 1977; p. 431.

Pablo Picasso. “Woman Ironing” (La Repasseuse), 1904.

Pablo Picasso, “Le Repas Frugal,” 1904.

By 1904 Picasso now in Paris, was influenced by the Fauvist movement, as well as African sculpture and Cezanne’s works. He began to distort anatomical forms, in order to “disregard any conventional idea of beauty” (“Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (MOMA, New York, 1906-7)[ See below]. At that time, these results were not viewed favourably, and “d’Avignon” was not publicly exhibited until 1937. But it marked the start of Cubism, which Picasso began with Braque and Gris from 1907 up to the First World War.

Pablo Picasso, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” 1907.

Developing Cubism

So what was Cubism? It was a movement begun by Picasso with Braque, and later Gris, and was named after their tendency to use cubic motifs, as can be seen above:

“Movement in painting and sculpture, … was originated by Picasso and Braque. They worked so closely during this period – ‘roped together like mountaineers’ in Braque’s memorable phrase – that at times it is difficult to differentiate their hands. The movement was broadened by Juan Gris,…he name originated with the critic Louis Vauxcelles (following a mot by Matisse), who, in a review of the Braque exhibition in the paper Gil Blas, 14 November 1908, spoke of ‘cubes’ and later of ‘bizarreries cubiques.'”

I.Chilvers, H. Osborne, D. Farr. “Oxford Dictionary of Art”; Oxford; 1977; p. 144.

The cubists rejected an “apparent” reality to be conveyed by normal rules of perspective and modelling. They aimed to show all sides of reality, by displaying a moving history of how objects look over time, and from simultaneously observed but differing, vantage points. It was a “cerebral” exercise therefore, and it rejected any simple notion of how “an object looked”:

“Cubism made a radical departure from the idea of art as the imitation of nature that had dominated European painting and sculpture since the Renaissance. Picasso and Braque abandoned traditional notions of perspective, foreshortening, and modelling, and aimed to represent solidity and volume in a two-dimensional plane without converting the two-dimensional canvas illusionistically into a three-dimensional picture-space. In so far as they represented real objects, their aim was to depict them as they are known and not as they partially appear at a particular moment and place. For this purpose many different aspects of the object might be depicted simultaneously; the forms of the object were analysed into geometrical planes and these were recomposed from various simultaneous points of view into a combination of forms. To this extent Cubism was and claimed to be realistic, but it was a conceptual realism rather than an optical and Impressionistic realism. Cubism is the outcome of intellectualized rather than spontaneous vision. “

I. Chilvers, H. Osborne, D. Farr. “Oxford Dictionary of Art”; Oxford; 1977; p. 144.

As a movement, following its’ birth with “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”, it rapidly evolved into other movements — but it was one of the key sources of abstractionism in art:

“The harbinger of the new style was Picasso’s celebrated picture Les Demoiselles d`Avignon (MOMA, New York, 1907), with its angular and fractured forms. It is customary to divide the Cubism of Picasso and Braque into two phases-Analytical’ and ‘Synthetic’. In the first and more austere phase, which lasted until 1912, forms were analysed into predominantly geometrical structures and colour was extremely subdued-usually virtually monochromatic – so as not to be a distraction. In the second phase colour became much stronger and shapes more decorative, and elements such as stencilled lettering and pieces of newspaper were introduced into paintings…Cubism, as well as being one of the principal sources for abstract art, was infinitely adaptable, giving birth to numerous other movements, among them Futurism, Orphism, Purism, and Vorticism…”

I. Chilvers, H. Osborne, D. Farr. “Oxford Dictionary of Art”; Oxford; 1977; p. 144.

But all these new movements propound a view of life that is “form-destroying.” Picasso thus easily flips in and out of several art movements, all the time exploring ever more “un-real” and deconstructed forms. At the same time, he is intent upon eroding any sense of a “unity” – whether of personality, of styles, view of the world etc. All reflect the deep contradictions of 20th century capitalism:

“Cubism and constructivism, on the one side, and expressionism and surrealism, on the other, embody strictly formal and form-destroying tendencies respectively which now appear for the first time side by side in such sharp contradiction. […]

Picasso, who shifts from one of the different stylistic tendencies to the other most abruptly, is at the same time the most representative artist of the present age.

Picasso‘s eclecticism signifies the deliberate destruction of the unity of the personality; his imitations are protests against the cult of originality; his deformation of reality, which is always clothing itself in new forms, in order the more forcibly to demonstrate their arbitrariness, is intended, above all, to confirm the thesis that “nature and art are two entirely dissimilar phenomena.” Picasso turns himself into a conjurer, a juggler, a parodist, [….]

And he disavows not only romanticism, but even the Renaissance, which, with its concept of genius and its idea of the unity of work and style, anticipates romanticism to some extent. He represents a complete break with individualism and subjectivism, the absolute denial of art as the expression of an unmistakable personality. His works are notes and commentaries on reality; they make no claim to be regarded as a picture of a world and a totality, as a synthesis and epitome of existence. Picasso compromises the artistic means of expression by his indiscriminate use of the different artistic styles just as thoroughly and wilfully as do the surrealists by their renunciation of traditional forms. The new century is full of such deep antagonisms, the unity of its outlook on life is so profoundly menaced, that the combination of the furthest extremes, the unification of the greatest contradictions, becomes the main theme, often the only theme, of its art.”

Hauser, Arnold. “The Social history of Art — Naturalism, Impressionism, The Film Age. Volume 4”; New York; nd; p. 233-234.

Since Picasso is so adept technically, he can continue to simply adopt and then drop styles as he pleases. In 1917 Picasso went to Italy, where he was impressed by Classicism, and incorporated some features of so-called “Monumental Classicism” into the work of the 1920’s (Mother and Child), but he also became involved with Surrealism, and with Andre Breton. The surrealists were interested in “irrationalist elements, and exaltation of chance, and equally to the direct realistic reproduction of dream or subconscious material.” I. Chilvers, H. Osborne, D. Farr. “Oxford Dictionary of Art”; Oxford; 1977; p.431.

During this time, he explored images of the Minotaur, the half man half beast drawn from Cretan mythology. Now, the Spanish Civil War erupted. This led to his most famous work, Guernica (Centro Cultural Reina Sofia, Madrid, 1937), which was produced for the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1937 to express horror and revulsion at the destruction by bombing of the Basque capital Guernica during the civil war (1936-9).

By this time, Picasso had already become a very rich man already:

“Picasso was rich. Dealers began to buy his work in 1906. By 1909 he employed a aid with apron and cap to wait at table. In 1912, when he painted a picture on a whitewashed wall in Provence, his dealer thought it was worthwhile demolishing the wall and sending the whole painted piece intact to Paris to be remounted by experts on a wooden panel. In 1919 Picasso moved into a large flat in one of the most fashionable quarters of Paris. In 1930 he bought the seventeenth-century Chateau de Boisgeloup as an alternative residence. From the age of twenty-eight Picasso was free from money worries. From the age of thirty-eight he was wealthy. From the age of sixty-five he has been a millionaire.”

Berger, John.”The Success & Failure of Picasso”; New York; 1980; p.5.

Guernica – The Bombing

On 26 April 1937, the German air force was asked by General Franco to bomb the city of Guernica. This city was the ancient heart of the Basque nation, an oppressed nation within the multi-national state of Spain. It had resisted the Francoite fascists, and Franco was determined to subdue it. The city had no defences, and no military importance. The correspondent of ‘The Times” reported on the destruction:

“Guernica, the most ancient town of the Basques and the centre of their cultural tradition was completely destroyed yesterday afternoon by insurgent air raiders. The bombardment of the open town far behind the lines occupied precisely three hours and quarter, during which a powerful fleet of aeroplanes consisting of three German types, Junkers and Heinkel bombers and Heinkel fighters did not cease unloading on the town bombs. And incendiary projectiles. The fighters, meanwhile, plunged low from above the centre of the town to machine gun those of the civil population who had taken refuge in the fields.

The whole of Guernica was soon in flames, except the historic Casa de Juntas, with its rich archives of the Basque race, where the ancient Basque Parliament used to sit. The famous oak of Guernica, the dried old stump of 600 years and the new shoots of this century, was also untouched. Here the kings of Spain used to take the oath to respect the democratic rights (fueros) of Vizcaya and in return received a promise of allegiance as suzerains with the democratic title of Senor, not Rey Vizcaya.”

Antony Blunt. “Picasso’s Guernica”; Toronto; 1969; Oxford & Toronto, p.7-8.

Perhaps however the real measure of the horror is best given by the first eye-witness account, from a priest — Father Alberto de Onaindia:

“We reached the outskirts of Guernica just before five o’clock. The streets were busy with the traffic of market day. Suddenly we heard the siren, and trembled. People mere running about in all directions, abandoning everything they possessed, some hurrying into the shelters, others running into the hills. Soon an enemy airplane appeared … and when he was directly over the center he dropped three bombs. Immediately airwards we saw a squadron of seven planes, followed a little later by six more, and this in turn by a third squadron of five more. And Guernica was seized by a terrible panic.

I left the car by the side of the road and we took refuge in a storm drain. The water came up to our ankles. From our hiding place we could see everything that happened without being seen. The airplanes came low, flying at two hundred meters. As soon as we could leave our shelter, we ran into the woods, hoping to put a safe distance between us and the enemy. But the airmen saw us and went after us. The leaves hid us. As they did not know exactly where we were, they aimed their machineguns in the direction they thought we were traveling. We heard the bullets ripping through branches and the sinister sound of splintering wood. The milicianos and I followed the flight patterns of the airplanes, and we made a crazy journey through the trees, trying to avoid them. Meanwhile, women, children, and old men were falling in heaps, like flies, and everywhere we saw lakes of blood.

I saw an old peasant standing alone in a field: a machine-gun bullet killed him. For more than an hour these planes, never more than a few hundred meters in altitude, dropped bomb after bomb on Guernica. The sound of the explosions and of the crumbling houses cannot be imagined. Always they traced on the air the same tragic flight pattern, as they flew all over the streets of Guernica. Bombs fell by the thousands. Later we saw bomb craters. Some were sixteen meters in diameter and eight meters deep.

The airplanes left around seven o’clock, and then there came another wave of them, this time flying at an immense altitude. They were dropping incendiary bombs on our martyred city. The new bombardment lasted thirty-five minutes, sufficient to transform the town into an enormous furnace. Even then I realized the terrible purpose of this new act of vandalism. They were dropping incendiary bombs to convince tie world that the Basques had torched their own city. The destruction went on altogether for two hour. and forty-five minutes. When the bombing was over the people left their shelters. I saw no one crying. Stupor was written on all their faces. Eyes fixed on Guernica, we were completely incapable of believing what we saw.”

In Martin, Russell. “Picasso’s War. The Destruction of Guernica, and the Masterpiece that Changed the World”; 2002, New York; p. 40-42.

Colonel Wolfram von Richthofen, commanded the Condor Legion, and planned that first blast bombs would destroy all city-centre buildings; then that the townspeople would be strafed with machine-gun fire; and finally, that incendiary bombs would set fire to the rubble. Four days later, he reported his success:

“Gernika literally levelled to the ground. Attack carried out with 250-kilogram and incendiary bombs-about one-third of the latter. When the first Junker squadron arrived, there was smoke everywhere already [from von Moreau’s first assault]; no, body could identify the targets of roads, bridge, and suburbs, and they just dropped everything right into the center. The 250s toppled houses and destroyed the water mains. The incendiaries now could spread and become effective. The material of the houses: tile roofs, wooden porches, and half-timbering resulted in complete annihilation…. Bomb craters can still be seen in the streets, simply terrific. Town completely blocked off for at least 24 hours, perfect conditions for a great victory, if only the troops had followed through.”

In Martin, Russell. “Picasso’s War. The Destruction of Guernica, and the Masterpiece that Changed the World”; 2002, New York; p. 42-43.

Russell Martin points to the innovative strategy that was utlized of air-raid induced terror:

“The three-hour campaign had been efficient, accurate, highly effective, and it was precisely what was proscribed in German military strategist M.K.L. Dertzen’s Grundsdtze der Wehrpolitik, which had been published two years before and which von Richthofen had taken very much to heart: “If cities are destroyed by flames, if women and children are victims of suffocating gases, if the population in open cities far from the front perish due to bombs dropped from planes, it will be impossible for the enemy to continue the war. Its citizens will plead for an immediate end to hostilities.”

In Martin, Russell. “Picasso’s War. The Destruction of Guernica, and the Masterpiece that Changed the World”; 2002, New York; p. 42-43.

Guernica – The Painting

Picasso had not been especially political up to this time, although as a youth in Barcelona the vigorous anarchist movements there had influenced him. But with the onset of the Spanish Civil War, Picasso took sides. In May 1937 he made his position clear in a public statement:

“The Spanish struggle is the fight of reaction against the people, against freedom. My whole life as an artist has been nothing more than a continuous struggle against reaction and the death of art. How could anybody think for a moment that I could be in agreement with reaction and death? When the rebellion began, the legally elected and democratic republican government of Spain appointed me director of the Prado Museum, a post which I immediately accepted. In the panel on which I am working which I shall call Guernica, and in all my recent works of art, I clearly express my abhorrence of the military caste which has sunk Spain in an ocean of pain and death…”

Barr, Alfred. “Picasso: Fifty Years of His Art”; New York; 1946; p.202; cited by Blunt A; Ibid; p. 9.

“‘No: painting is not there just to decorate the walls of a flat. It is a means of waging offensive and defensive war against the enemy.”
Cited at: http://www.tamu.edu/mocl/picasso/tour/t05c.html

He immediately did a pair of etchings entitled Sueho y mentira de Franco (‘Dream and Lie of Franco) which he issued with an accompanying poem.

Picasso, “Dream and Lie of Franco,” 1937.

In January 1937, the Republican elected Government, invited Picasso to paint a mural for the Spanish Pavilion in the International Exhibition of Paris in 1938. Following the bombing of Guernica, Picasso worked in a frenzy completing the huge work in ten days.

The cover of “Alliance Marxist-Leninist” Issue 52 shows the painting. But for a larger view go here:

Web-site for Guernica at: http://www.arts.adelaide.edu.au/personal/DHart/Images/WarArt/Picasso/Guernica/Guernica.JPG

Picasso, “Guernica,” 1937.

Blunt describes the large canvas as follows:

“The painting is on canvas and measures 11 ft. 6 in. by 25 ft. 8 in. It is almost monochrome, that is to say, it is executed in various shades of grey, varying from a completely neutral tint to slightly purplish and bluish greys at one extreme, and brownish greys at the other.

The scene takes place in darkness, in an open space surrounded by schematically indicated buildings, which presumably stand for a public square in the town of Guernica. At the top is a strange lamp in the form of an eye, with an electric bulb as the iris.

The actors in the scene fall into two groups. The active protagonists are three animals – the bull, the wounded horse, and the winged bird just visible in the left background-and two human beings, the dead soldier, and the woman above and to the right, who leans out of a window and holds out a lamp to illuminate the whole stage. They are accompanied by a sort of Greek chorus of three women: the screaming mother carrying a dead baby on the left, the woman rushing in from the right, and above her one falling in a house which is collapsing in flames.
These figures – human and animal – and the symbolism attached to them were not evolved at a single blow but have a long and complicated history, not only in the work of Picasso himself but in European art of earlier periods.”

Blunt, Antony, “Picasso’s Guernica”; Toronto; 1969 OUP, p.13

Apart from a general sense of horror -what does it all mean? What are the bull and the horse doing here so prominently?

“As regards the meaning of the picture, Picasso has only supplied a slight clue about the central symbols. The horse, he said in an interview, represents the people, and the bull brutality and darkness. When pressed by his interlocutor to say whether he meant that the bull stood for Fascism, he refused to agree and stuck to his original statement. … These indications are tantalizingly slender, but it is possible, by a study of Picasso’s previous work, particularly in the 1930’s, to deduce more about the symbols used in Guernica and about the artist’s intentions in general. The central theme, the conflict between bull and horse, is one which has interested the artist all his life…”

Blunt, Antony, “Picasso’s Guernica”; Toronto; 1969; p.14.

Prior to Guernica, Picasso had long been depicting battles between good and evil, where the Minotaur takes a prominent place. But these symbolic interpretations are much less important than the overall first impact – of the weeping women. There can be little doubt that any spectator who is first shown this picture more likely reacts immediately to the wailing women – one with an obviously dead child, one in a burning house, and the dead or gravely injured soldier holding a weapon who is being trampled by a terrified horse. The general effect is one of a terrible searing scene. Moreover, an original draft had an equally potent image – a clenched fist:

“In…the drawing of 9 May…the main interest is now focused on the dead soldier, who fills the whole left-hand part of the foreground, lying with his head on the right, his left hand clasping a broken sword,” his right arm raised and his fist clenched. That is to say, Picasso has taken the theme of the raised arm with clenched fist, which in the drawing played a quite minor part in a corner of the composition, and has given it a completely new significance by attaching it to the central figure of the composition. The arm of the soldier now forms a strong vertical, which is emphasized by the axis of the lamp, continued downwards in a line cutting across the body of the horse, and by another vertical line drawn arbitrarily to the left of the arm. The vertical strip thus formed is made the basis of the geometrical scheme on which the composition is built up.”

Blunt, Antony: “Picasso’s Guernica”; Toronto; 1969 OUP, p.39.

The drawing can be seen at: http://www.arts.adelaide.edu.au/personal/DHart/Images/WarArt/Picasso/Guernica/DoraMaarsPhotos/State1-11May1937.JPG

Picasso, “Guernica,” original sketch, 1937.

However Picasso then removed the raised arm. Why? What we can be sure of is that at that time Picasso was not associated with the Communist party, and the symbol of the clenched fist was and is – an explicitly communist one. Therefore, the overall sense of the painting remains one of a horror — and not that of a RESISTANCE to the hells of war.

And naturally, the “distortions of forms” – the late Picasso speciality – remains. But — having said that – what impact has the painting had on the numerous people who have seen it or its reproduction? An interesting experience is to watch those who are looking at this gigantic painting – they are mesmerised and yet, horrified at the same time.

There is absolutely no doubt that the picture has become iconic in its symbolic rejection of war and the brutal inhumanity of war.

For those who might still be sceptical of this viewpoint, it should be remembered that during the prelude to the inhumane, and illegal 2003 war against Iraq, a tapestry copy of “Guernica” – that hangs in the foyer at the United Nations HQ at New York, was shrouded during televised interviews.

Why does it seem that this painting evokes such resonant feelings? After all, it is in its form-distortions – anti-realistic. In fact “abstract” painting rarely evokes a “positive” audience reaction. Recall for instance the furore as the “critics” – the servants of the capitalist classes waxed eloquent about the piles of bricks at the Tate – the public roared its’ incomprehension and its’ disapproval. But this has not ever happened with “Guernica.” Why?

It is possible that people have become simply more visually sophisticated than they used to be – under the influence of mass printings. Or possibly the knowledge of what happened at Guernica is so widespread – that people can make a quick connection between the intent of the painting – despite the distortion of forms. But, a third point has to be made. That is that perhaps despite the bias of the painter, whose loyalty to “form-distortion” was so deep – it is in fact pretty “realistic.” The horse screaming in agony is – evidently just that. The women howling – can be heard. The heat on the woman burning the bomber house – is felt scorching us. The sounds of the horse trampling on the dead soldier – are bone-jarringly “real.”

Maybe Picasso was a “cubist.” But he left his intellectualised system to one side when he painted this picture.

Picasso also made other great paintings that attacked war, [See “The Charnel House”; MOMA, New York, 1945] and the later Korean War [“Korean women and children being butchered by white men – Massacre in Korea” – see below:]

Pablo Picasso, “Massacre in Korea,” 1951.

All show marked “form-distortion,” but they nonetheless, do convey a clear message. In fact, the non-realistic pictures do resonate. The editors of the “Oxford Dictionary,” claim that:

“In treating such themes Picasso universalized the emotional content by an elaboration of the techniques of expression which had been developed through his researches into Cubism.”

I. Chilvers, H. Osborne, D. Farr. “Oxford Dictionary of Art”; Oxford; 1977; p. 144.

Clearly, these works are not ‘realist’ in any usual meaning, but their meaning is surely explicit. So — are these propagandist posters, or are they art? We would argue that they are more within the realm of progressive propaganda. But, the boundary line is certainly very narrow.

Impact of Picasso and Guernica on Russian Discussions Upon Socialist Realist Art

A mythology prevails, that there was no discussion – nor knowledge of Western art movements in the socialist years of the USSR (up to 1953). But this is patently false, as there is absolutely no doubt that the Russian artistic scene, was affected by currents in the West. Indeed, the height of knowledge and sensible debates about these various movements is the lie to the general bourgeois line that “there was no debate” and “purely dictatorship” in the USSR. Artistic events in the West were treated very seriously and openly. Undoubtedly post-Second World War there was a renewed debate about the principles of “Socialist Realism”:

“At the ninth plenum of the orgkomitet (Organising Committee of the Union of Soviet Artists) held May 1945, some of speakers from the floor brought up the question of innovation in painting, suggesting a new openness to questions of form…Even court painters and official spokesmen of socialist realism appeared with new faces. The critic V Gaposhkin made a visit to Alexandr Gerasimov’s studio and praised highly his unfinished painting of “A Russian Communal Bath’ – a major composition of female nudes with no ideological pretext (plate 230).

That the mood among some artists and critics, was distinctly rebellious may be may be gleaned from a lecture, entitled ‘The Problem of the ‘Impressionism & the problem of the Kartina’, delivered by Nikolai Punin to the Leningrad artists’ union on 13 April 1946 – and from the reaction to it.

Punin’s address was an attempt to install impressionism as the basis for the work of Soviet painters; it amounted not only to a revision of the attitude to impressionism which had been imposed in the art press after the debates of 1939-40, but also to a rejection of some of the entrenched principles of socialist realism. He stressed the variety apparent in the painting of the impressionists extolled them as ‘honest’ and ‘contemporary’. He criticised the characterisation of impressionism as some kind of a system…”

Cullerne Bown, Matthew. “Socialist Realist Painting”; New Haven; 1998; p.223.

Picasso and his evident partisanship, as expressed in “Guernica” became a part of the debate in the USSR:

“At the discussion on 26 April the artist Petr Mazepov pointed out that impressionism led to the formalist art of cubism and fauvism, in which ‘there is no social struggle, the class soul, the party soul, the great soul of the people is absent’. At this point Mazepov was interrupted from the floor: ‘And Picasso?’ ‘And Cezanne?” And ” Guernica, he’s a Communist, a party member.” A little later Mazepov was interrupted again: ‘An artist doesn’t have to take up a proletarian position to express his idea’. [….]

Over the course of both days’ debate, Punin received broad support from well-known Leningrad painters such as Pakulin and Traugot, and from voices from the floor. He summed up on 3 May: ‘If we take cubism or futurism, if we take the work of Picasso, then I personally do not see any formalism in this.’”

Cullerne Bown, Matthew. “Socialist Realist Painting”; New Haven; 1998; p.223.

Punin’s denial of “formalism: in the works of cubism, or futurism – is untenable. Punin was using the works of the 1930’s of Picasso, that had already mutated away from “non-realistic” painting. Actually, it is very telling that the argument “What about Guernica?” – could be used in the midst of this discussion. Even the staunchest supporter of the principles of socialist realism in the USSR, simply had to concede that the painting had emotional power. But the use of Picasso’s open allegiance, by various revisionist sections of the French Communist party even more blatantly.

Post Second World War – ‘Becoming a communist, Picasso hoped to come out of exile’.

Already, his painting of Guernica had shown that Picasso was a republican. During the war years, he stayed in Nazi occupied Paris. On the liberation of Europe, Picasso was to show very publicly his allegiance to the Communist party:

“On October 4 1944, less than six weeks after the liberation of Paris, Pablo Picasso, then 63, joined the French Communist party. To his surprise, the news covered more than half of the front page of the next day’s L’Humanité, the party’s official newspaper, overshadowing reports of the war…….. “Shortly after, in an interview for L’Humanité, Picasso claimed that he had always fought, through the weapons of his art, like a true revolutionary. But he also said that the experience of the second world war had taught him that it was not sufficient to manifest political sympathies under the veil of mythologising artistic expression.

‘I have become a communist because our party strives more than any other to know and to build the world, to make men clearer thinkers, more free and more happy. I have become a communist because the communists are the bravest in France, in the Soviet Union, as they are in my own country, Spain. While I wait for the time when Spain can take me back again, the French Communist party is a fatherland for me. In it I find again all my friends – the great scientists Paul Langevin and Frédéric Joliot-Curie, the great writers Louis Aragon and Paul Eluard, and so many of the beautiful faces of the insurgents of Paris. I am again among brothers.'”

Five days after joining the party Picasso appeared at a ceremony at the Père Lachaise cemetery, organised as a joint memorial for those killed during the Commune of 1871 and in the Nazi occupation of Paris.”

Gertje R Utley. “Picasso was one of the most valued members of the French Communist party – until a portrait of Stalin put him at the centre of an ideological row”. October 21, 2000 The Guardian; http://www.guardian.co.uk/saturday_review/story/0,3605,385610,00.html

Elsewhere he rhetorically asked:

“Have not the Communists been the bravest in France, in the Soviet Union, and in my own Spain? How could I have hesitated? The fear to commit myself? But on the contrary I have never felt freer, never felt more complete. And then I have been so impatient to find a country again: I have always been an exile, now I am no longer one: whilst waiting for Spain to be able to welcome me back, the French Communist Party have opened their arms to me, and I have found there all whom I respect most, the greatest thinkers, the greatest poets, and all the faces of the Resistance fighters in Paris whom I saw and were so beautiful during those August days; again I am among my brothers.”

Berger, John.”The Success & Failure of Picasso”; New York; 1980; p.173.

His allegiance extended to numerous art-related activities. His efforts were recognised by a Stalin Prize, for his famous Poster for Peace, using the image of a dove [See below].

“He also presided over the infamous gathering of the Comité Directeur du Front National des Arts, which drew up the list of artists to be purged for collaborationist activities during the occupation. In 1950 he was awarded the Stalin prize for his involvement in the Mouvement de la Paix, for which he had designed the emblem of a dove. The movement, … was inaugurated in Wroclaw under the aegis of Andrey Zhdanov, secretary of the Soviet central committee.”

Gertje R Utley. Ibid;. October 21, 2000 The Guardian; http://www.guardian.co.uk/saturday_review/story/0,3605,385610,00.html

In addition he was lavish with his money:

“he generously donated time and money to the FCP and associated organisations. He marched with the Front National des Intellectuels and the Front National Universitaire and accepted honorary positions on boards and in organisations. His contributions mostly took the form of paintings donated for sale. In November 1956 alone, the dealer Kahnweiler wrote that he gave on Picasso’s behalf a cheque for FFr3m for Christmas gifts for Enfants des Fusillés de la Résistance, FFr500,000 for the Comité de la Paix, FFr300,000 for the Patriote de Toulouse, FFr750,000 more for the children of war victims and FFr3m (half a million more than the previous year) for a yearly Communist party event. (To give some perspective to these figures, Chrysler bought Picasso’s Le Charnier in 1954 for FFr5m.) “

Gertje R Utley. Ibid;. October 21, 2000 The Guardian; http://www.guardian.co.uk/saturday_review/story/0,3605,385610,00.html

So upon Stalin’s death, it was not un-expected that he would be asked to paint his picture. He had pervasively been asked – on Stalin’s 70th birthday – and refused. This time he agreed. However an orchestrated campaign of vilification suggested that the portrait was “an affront to Stalin” as it “neglected to reflect the emotions of the people.” Picasso had wanted a portrait of “a man of the people.” The French Communist Party was of course under revisionist control at this time. As we have previously described, the revisionists wished to perpetuate a “cult of personality.” Picasso had reverted to a “realistic” style, at a most inconvenient time for them, and in a most inconvenient manner. He “had to be rebuked”:

“In 1953…Stalin died on March 5. Aragon and editor Pierre Daix were preparing an issue of the communist journal “Les Lettres Françaises” when the news broke. Aragon immediately sent a telegram to Picasso. … requesting a drawing of Stalin. Daix and Gilot knew that Picasso, who until then had successfully foiled any hope that he would paint a portrait of Stalin, could not refuse this time. The artist’s homage for Stalin’s 70th birthday in 1949 had been nothing more than a drawing of a glass raised to the dictator’s health, which had shocked the party faithful with its breezy caption, “Staline à ta santé.” [….]

He seems to have used old newspaper photographs as a reference. The portrait shows the young Stalin, face framed by thick, cropped hair, mouth partly hidden under a bushy moustache. The eyes under the strong eyebrows are those of a dreamer and offset by the prominent jawline. Picasso told Geneviève Laporte. [….] that he had wanted to show Stalin as a man of the people, without his uniform and decorations. [….] Aragon and Daix were relieved to find the portrait to their liking. Daix opted for the neutral caption “Staline par Pablo Picasso, March 8 1953”. [….]

The first negative reaction came from the employees of France Nouvelle and L’Humanité, the two papers that shared the same building as Les Lettres françaises, who were appalled by what they considered an affront to Stalin. Daix suspected – correctly, as it turned out – that this was instigated by the party leaders, who saw publication of the portrait as an incursion against the personality cult, and by Auguste Lecur, hardline party secretary, who welcomed this opportunity to chastise Aragon and Les Lettres françaises for the relative independence they claimed. [….]

From the moment the paper appeared at kiosks on March 12, the editorial offices were flooded with outraged calls. On March 18 1953, a damaging communiqué appeared in L’Humanité from the secretariat of the French Communist party, “categorically” disapproving publication of the portrait “by comrade Picasso”.  [….] Aragon was obliged to publish the communiqué in the following issue of Les Lettres françaises, as well as a self-criticism in L’Humanité. The major reproach [….] was that the portrait neglected to reflect the emotions of the public – “the love that the working class feel for the regretted comrade Stalin and for the Soviet Union” – and that it did not do justice to the moral, spiritual, and intellectual personality of Stalin.“

Gertje R Utley. Ibid;. October 21, 2000 The Guardian; http://www.guardian.co.uk/saturday_review/story/0,3605,385610,00.html

But Picasso refused to rise to the bait, and refused to attack the party.

“Picasso, besieged by journalists eager to have him admit that his portrait sought to mock Stalin, refuted any such suggestion. nor did the attacks against him entice Picasso to disparage the party, as some had hoped. “Despite various reports that quoted Picasso as saying that one did not criticise the flowers that were sent to the funeral or the tears that were shed, Gilot [Picassos’ then lover — editor] recalled a more detached attitude. According to her, Picasso replied that aesthetic matters were debatable, that therefore it was the party’s right to criticise him and that he saw no need to politicise the issue. “You’ve got the same situation in the party as in any big family,” he said. “There is always some damn fool to stir up trouble, but you have to put up with him.”

Gertje R Utley. Ibid;. October 21, 2000 The Guardian; http://www.guardian.co.uk/saturday_review/story/0,3605,385610,00.html

 

In private, Picasso gave a rather amusing — if somewhat coarse — attack on the bureaucratic slavish mentality behind this imbroglio:

“In conversation with Daix, who was sent by Aragon to appease him, Picasso speculated:

“Can you imagine if I had done the real Stalin, such as he has become, with his wrinkles, his pockets under the eyes, his warts. A portrait in the style of Cranach! Can you hear them scream? ‘He has disfigured Stalin! He has aged Stalin!'” He continued: “And then too, I said to myself, why not a Stalin in heroic nudity? Yes, but, Stalin nude, and what about his virility? If you take the pecker of the classical sculptor… So small… But, come on, Stalin, he was a true male, a bull. So then, if you give him the phallus of a bull, and you’ve got this little Stalin behind his big thing they’ll cry: But you’ve made him into a sex maniac! A satyr!

“Then if you are a true realist you take your tape measure and you measure it all properly. That’s worse, you made Stalin into an ordinary man. And then, as you are ready to sacrifice yourself, you make a plaster cast of your own thing. Well, it’s even worse. What, you dare take yourself for Stalin! After all, Stalin, he must have had an erection all the time, just like the Greek statues… Tell me, you who knows socialist realism, is that Stalin with an erection or without an erection?”

When in the summer of 1954 (after Stalin’s death) Picasso, thinking aloud, asked Daix: “Don’t you think that soon they will find that my portrait is too nice?” On another occasion, he reflected: “Fortunately I drew the young Stalin. The old one never existed. Only for the official painters.”

Gertje R Utley. Ibid;. October 21, 2000 The Guardian; http://www.guardian.co.uk/saturday_review/story/0,3605,385610,00.html

What is even more interesting — is that despite his “saison en enfer” (season in hell) — Picasso never recanted his allegiance to the party. Even with the social-imperialists attacks on both Hungary (1956) or Czechoslovakia (1968):

“Picasso later called the year 1953 his “saison en enfer” — his season in hell. He admitted to some friends how shaken he had been by the accusations and humiliations of the scandal. The year is widely believed to signal the end of Picasso’s political commitment. Yet while his cooperation with the party was never again as close as it had been in the years 1944-53, his commitment did not stop. He continued to produce drawings for the press and for poster designs, made supportive appearances at party events, and readily signed petitions and protest declarations initiated by the party. He also never discontinued his financial support. While many left because of the party’s attitude during the Hungarian uprising in 1956, Picasso reaffirmed his loyalty. In an interview with the art critic Carlton Lake in July 1957, he once again confirmed his belief in communism and his intention never to leave the party. In 1962 he was awarded the Lenin prize. In August 1968, speaking with friends, he deplored the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, but failed to do so publicly. At the end of that year, he refused once again to speak out against his long-held political beliefs.‘

Gertje R Utley. Ibid;. October 21, 2000 The Guardian; http://www.guardian.co.uk/saturday_review/story/0,3605,385610,00.html

He clearly believed the lies of the revisionist Khruschev, given out at this so-called “secret speech.” But he asked whether “And the workers, are they still masters of their factories, and the peasants, the owners of their land?”:

“After Khrushchev’s “secret speech” at the 20th congress of the Soviet Union’s Communist party, in February 1956, in which he reported on the crimes of Stalin’s tyranny, it became impossible for anybody to claim ignorance. Picasso apparently was appalled: “While they asked you to do ever more for the happiness of men… they hung this one and tortured that one. And those were innocents. Will this change? Picasso’s response to detrimental news from the Soviet Union was: “And the workers, are they still masters of their factories, and the peasants, the owners of their land? Well then, everything else is secondary – the only thing that matters is to save the revolution”.

Gertje R Utley. Ibid;. October 21, 2000 The Guardian; http://www.guardian.co.uk/saturday_review/story/0,3605,385610,00.html

His answer was the workers were still in charge. Of course he was tragically wrong. But then – he was an artist, albeit a flawed one, always twisting away from reality. In the end he was somewhat “straightened” by his late found political allegiance. But – he was still only an artist – and not a political theorist or leader of the working classes. What in an artist is excusable, is inexcusable in those who claim to be “leaders of the vanguard of the working class.” Therefore we will agree, if we are charged that we view Picasso with a benign eye. We would simply counter that this is the same “benign eye” that Marx turned on artists in general, saying of the poet Ferdinand Freiligarth for instance:

“Write Freiligarth a friendly letter. nor need you be over-careful of paying him compliments, for poets, even the best of them, are all plus au moins [more or less], courtisanes and il faut les cajoler, pour les faire chanter [one must cajole them to make them sing]…

A poet, whatever he may be as an homme (man), needs applause and ADMIRATION. This I believe, peculiar to the genre as such. you should not forget the difference between a “poet” and a “critic.'”

Marx to Joseph Weydemeyer, January 16, 1852. Volume 39: Collected Works; Moscow; 1983; p.8.

See also Marx and Engels on Art at: http://ml-review.ca/aml/SocialistArt/Final-ME_LASSALLE.htm

Equally, we cannot accept the line of John Berger, who writes:

“But as an artist with all his powers he was nevertheless wasted.”

Oddly, Berger writes this despite having already pointed out that Picasso had renewed himself by joining the party:

“As a result of Picasso’s joining the Communist Party and taking part in the peace movement, his fame spread even wider than before. His name was quoted in all the socialist countries. His poster of the peace dove was seen on millions of walls and expressed the hopes of all but a handful of the people of the world. The dove became a true symbol: not so much as a result of Picasso’s power as an artist (the drawing of the dove is evocative but superficial), but rather as a result of the power of the movement which Picasso was serving. It needed a symbol and it claimed Picasso’s drawing. That this happened is something of which Picasso can be rightly proud. He contributed positively to the most important struggle of our time. He made further posters and drawings. He lent his name and reputation again and again to encourage others to protest against the threat of nuclear war. He was in a position to use his art as a means of influencing people politically, and, in so far as he was able, he chose to do this consciously and intelligently. I cannot believe that he was in any way mistaken or that he chose the wrong political path.”

Berger, John.”The Success & Failure of Picasso”; New York; 1980; p.173-5.

Well, Picasso bloomed anew with the power of the peoples’ vision. How can Berger recognising this, then say that Picasso was wasted artistically? In the last period of his life, apart from the posters and the variations on the dove of peace he did, Picasso really only painted upon the ceramics made by others. In contrast to Berger, we might suggest that it was his political artistic work, that kept him “artistically alive.”

Conclusion

We argue that Picasso ultimately was on the side of the working classes. A “champagne socialist” he may have been – but he did not need to do what he did. As to the worth of his art – where he retained realist images and forms, he showed a power that people understood. But he was constantly reverting to decadent forms and images that placed at an immediate distance between the people and his art. At his best, he moved people.

And in that troubling work – “Guernica” – he undoubtedly has moved and affected generations who have seen it. Again, it is patently, not a piece of “socialist art,” but despite its obvious anti-realist forms, it conveys a very real, and realistic message: “Down With War!”

Bibliography

Used In this article
Berger, John.”The Success & Failure of Picasso”; New York; 1980;
Blunt, Antony. “Picasso’s Guernica”; Toronto; 1969.
Chilvers, I; H. Osborne, D. Farr. “Oxford Dictionary of Art”; Oxford; 1977;
Cork, Richard “A Bitter Truth — Avant Garde Art & The Great War; London 1994; Cullerne Bown, Matthew. “Socialist Realist Painting”; New Haven;1998;
Hauser, Arnold. “The Social history of Art” — Volume 4: ‘Naturalism, Impressionism, The Film Age'”; New York; nd;
Martin, Russell. “Picasso’s War. The Destruction of Guernica, and the Masterpiece that Changed the World”; 2002, New York.
Marx to Joseph Weydemeyer, January 16, 1852. Volume 39: Collected Works; Moscow; 1983.
Utley, Gertje R. “Picasso was one of the most valued members of the French Communist party – until a portrait of Stalin put him at the centre of an ideological row.” October 21, 2000 The Guardian; http://www.guardian.co.uk/saturday_review/story/0,3605,385610,00.html

Recommended:
Utley Gertje R “Picasso: The Communist Years”; Yale University Press, 2000.

Websites (NB: All web addresses were correct at time of writing).
“On Line Picasso Project” – a very comprehensive site on Picasso and his works. http://www.tamu.edu/mocl/picasso/tour/t60.html

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

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ICMLPO: Resolution on Turkey

For the annullment of government decrees and an end to the state of emergency

In Turkey, the state of emergency declared by the Erdogan regime following the coup attempt last year is still in full force under the pretext of “the fight against the coup plotters”. Government decrees issued so far have made clear that this “fight” was not limited to the coup plotters, but rather, since Erdogan called it a “god sent opportunity”, the state of emergency is being used to realize a counter-coup against the progressive, democratic and revolutionary forces of the country. It is obvious that Erdogan regime wants to normalize the state of emergency or keep it at least until the presidential regime is fully established, as it gives thim freedom from accountability, to legitimise his arbitrary actions.

As European members of the ICMLPO, we demand the annulment of the government decrees issued as part of the state of emergency, which caused the dismissal of five thousand university lecturers and hundreds of thousands of people, the arrest of tens of thousands of people and the closing of dozens of newspapers, journals, TV channels and radio stations. We declare solidarity with the struggles of the democratic forces of Turkey who demand an end to the state of emergency, and engage ourselves in campaigns to achieve this.

Workers Communist Party of Denmark – APK
Workers Communist Party of France – PCOF
Organization for the construction of the Communist Workers’ Party of Germany (Arbeit Zukunft)
Movement for the reorganization of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE 1918-1955)
Communist Platform – for the Communist Party of the Proletariat of Italy
Communist Party of Spain (marxist-leninist) – PCE (ml)
Party of Labour – EMEP (Turkey)

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Russia is an Imperialist Country

Original article on massproletariat.info

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

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

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

The Concentration of Capital in Russia

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

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

Finance Capital in Russia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Export of Capital by Russian Firms

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

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

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

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

The Struggle Between Imperialist Powers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

Updated 7/2/17: Fixed minor typos.

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

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

Source

The Berlin Wall: Another Cold War Myth

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Soviet Democracy and Bourgeois Democracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

Soviet democracy differs fundamentally from bourgeois democracy.

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

What are the specific features of Soviet democracy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do these figures show?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source

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

(Machine Translation from French)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paris, April 24, 2017

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

Hail May 1st, The International Workers’ Day !

—————————–

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

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

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

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

………..

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

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

………

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

Long live proletarian internationalism!

Down with the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran!

Long live socialism!

May 1, 2017

The Party of Labour of Iran (Toufan)

www.toufan.org

The CIA Reads French Theory: On the Intellectual Labor of Dismantling the Cultural Left

Gabriel Rockhill, Ph.D.v

It is often presumed that intellectuals have little or no political power. Perched in a privileged ivory tower, disconnected from the real world, embroiled in meaningless academic debates over specialized minutia, or floating in the abstruse clouds of high-minded theory, intellectuals are frequently portrayed as not only cut off from political reality but as incapable of having any meaningful impact on it. The Central Intelligence Agency thinks otherwise.

As a matter of fact, the agency responsible for coups d’état, targeted assassinations and the clandestine manipulation of foreign governments not only believes in the power of theory, but it dedicated significant resources to having a group of secret agents pore over what some consider to be the most recondite and intricate theory ever produced. For in an intriguing research paper written in 1985, and recently released with minor redactions through the Freedom of Information Act, the CIA reveals that its operatives have been studying the complex, international trend-setting French theory affiliated with the names of Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan and Roland Barthes.

The ‘Apparat’ in Paris: CIA Agent and Head of the CCF Michael Josselson (center) in a Working Lunch with John Clinton Hunt and Melvin Lasky (right)

The image of American spies gathering in Parisian cafés to assiduously study and compare notes on the high priests of the French intelligentsia might shock those who presume this group of intellectuals to be luminaries whose otherworldly sophistication could never be caught in such a vulgar dragnet, or who assume them to be, on the contrary, charlatan peddlers of incomprehensible rhetoric with little or no impact on the real world. However, it should come as no surprise to those familiar with the CIA’s longstanding and ongoing investment in a global cultural war, including support for its most avant-garde forms, which has been well documented by researchers like Frances Stonor Saunders, Giles Scott-Smith, Hugh Wilford (and I have made my own contribution in Radical History & the Politics of Art).

Thomas W. Braden, the former supervisor of cultural activities at the CIA, explained the power of the Agency’s cultural assault in a frank insider’s account published in 1967: “I remember the enormous joy I got when the Boston Symphony Orchestra [which was supported by the CIA] won more acclaim for the U.S. in Paris than John Foster Dulles or Dwight D. Eisenhower could have bought with a hundred speeches.” This was by no means a small or liminal operation. In fact, as Wilford has aptly argued, the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), which was headquartered in Paris and later discovered to be a CIA front organization during the cultural Cold War, was among the most important patrons in world history, supporting an incredible range of artistic and intellectual activities. It had offices in 35 countries, published dozens of prestige magazines, was involved in the book industry, organized high-profile international conferences and art exhibits, coordinated performances and concerts, and contributed ample funding to various cultural awards and fellowships, as well as to front organizations like the Farfield Foundation.

The intelligence agency understands culture and theory to be crucial weapons in the overall arsenal it deploys to perpetuate US interests around the world. The recently released research paper from 1985, entitled “France: Defection of the Leftist Intellectuals, examines—undoubtedly in order to manipulate—the French intelligentsia and its fundamental role in shaping the trends that generate political policy. Suggesting that there has been a relative ideological balance between the left and the right in the history of the French intellectual world, the report highlights the monopoly of the left in the immediate postwar era—to which, we know, the Agency was rabidly opposed—due to the Communists’ key role in resisting fascism and ultimately winning the war against it. Although the right had been massively discredited because of its direct contribution to the Nazi death camps, as well as its overall xenophobic, anti-egalitarian and fascist agenda (according to the CIA’s own description), the unnamed secret agents who drafted the study outline with palpable delight the return of the right since approximately the early 1970s.

More specifically, the undercover cultural warriors applaud what they see as a double movement that has contributed to the intelligentsia shifting its critical focus away from the US and toward the USSR. On the left, there was a gradual intellectual disaffection with Stalinism and Marxism, a progressive withdrawal of radical intellectuals from public debate, and a theoretical move away from socialism and the socialist party. Further to the right, the ideological opportunists referred to as the New Philosophers and the New Right intellectuals launched a high-profile media smear campaign against Marxism.

While other tentacles of the worldwide spy organization were involved in overthrowing democratically elected leaders, providing intelligence and funding to fascist dictators, and supporting right-wing death squads, the Parisian central intelligentsia squadron was collecting data on how the theoretical world’s drift to the right directly benefitted US foreign policy. The left-leaning intellectuals of the immediate postwar era had been openly critical of US imperialism. Jean-Paul Sartre’s media clout as an outspoken Marxist critic, and his notable role—as the founder of Libération—in blowing the cover of the CIA station officer in Paris and dozens of undercover operatives, was closely monitored by the Agency and considered a very serious problem.

In contrast, the anti-Soviet and anti-Marxist atmosphere of the emerging neoliberal era diverted public scrutiny and provided excellent cover for the CIA’s dirty wars by making it “very difficult for anyone to mobilize significant opposition among intellectual elites to US policies in Central America, for example.” Greg Grandin, one of the leading historians of Latin America, perfectly summarized this situation in The Last Colonial Massacre: “Aside from making visibly disastrous and deadly interventions in Guatemala in 1954, the Dominican Republic in 1965, Chile in 1973, and El Salvador and Nicaragua during the 1980s, the United States has lent quiet and steady financial, material, and moral support for murderous counterinsurgent terror states. […] But the enormity of Stalin’s crimes ensures that such sordid histories, no matter how compelling, thorough, or damning, do not disturb the foundation of a worldview committed to the exemplary role of the United States in defending what we now know as democracy.”

It is in this context that the masked mandarins commend and support the relentless critique that a new generation of anti-Marxist thinkers like Bernard-Henri Levy, André Glucksmann and Jean-François Revel unleashed on “the last clique of Communist savants” (composed, according to the anonymous agents, of Sartre, Barthes, Lacan and Louis Althusser). Given the leftwing leanings of these anti-Marxists in their youth, they provide the perfect model for constructing deceptive narratives that amalgamate purported personal political growth with the progressive march of time, as if both individual life and history were simply a matter of “growing up” and recognizing that profound egalitarian social transformation is a thing of the—personal and historical—past. This patronizing, omniscient defeatism not only serves to discredit new movements, particularly those driven by the youth, but it also mischaracterizes the relative successes of counter-revolutionary repression as the natural progress of history. 

Anti-Marxist French Philosopher Raymond Aron (left) and His Wife Suzanne on Vacation with Undercover CIA Operative Michael Josselson and Denis de Rougemont (right)

Even theoreticians who were not as opposed to Marxism as these intellectual reactionaries have made a significant contribution to an environment of disillusionment with transformative egalitarianism, detachment from social mobilization and “critical inquiry” devoid of radical politics. This is extremely important for understanding the CIA’s overall strategy in its broad and profound attempts to dismantle the cultural left in Europe and elsewhere. In recognizing it was unlikely that it could abolish it entirely, the world’s most powerful spy organization has sought to move leftist culture away from resolute anti-capitalist and transformative politics toward center-left reformist positions that are less overtly critical of US foreign and domestic policies. In fact, as Saunders has demonstrated in detail, the Agency went behind the back of the McCarthy-driven Congress in the postwar era in order to directly support and promote leftist projects that steered cultural producers and consumers away from the resolutely egalitarian left. In severing and discrediting the latter, it also aspired to fragment the left in general, leaving what remained of the center left with only minimal power and public support (as well as being potentially discredited due to its complicity with right-wing power politics, an issue that continues to plague contemporary institutionalized parties on the left).

It is in this light that we must understand the intelligence agency’s fondness for conversion narratives and its deep appreciation for “reformed Marxists,” a leitmotif that traverses the research paper on French theory. “Even more effective in undermining Marxism,” the moles write, “were those intellectuals who set out as true believers to apply Marxist theory in the social sciences but ended by rethinking and rejecting the entire tradition.” They cite in particular the profound contribution made by the Annales School of historiography and structuralism—particularly Claude Lévi-Strauss and Foucault—to the “critical demolition of Marxist influence in the social sciences.” Foucault, who is referred to as “France’s most profound and influential thinker,” is specifically applauded for his praise of the New Right intellectuals for reminding philosophers that “‘bloody’ consequences” have “flowed from the rationalist social theory of the 18th-century Enlightenment and the Revolutionary era.” Although it would be a mistake to collapse anyone’s politics or political effect into a single position or result, Foucault’s anti-revolutionary leftism and his perpetuation of the blackmail of the Gulag—i.e. the claim that expansive radical movements aiming at profound social and cultural transformation only resuscitate the most dangerous of traditions—are perfectly in line with the espionage agency’s overall strategies of psychological warfare.

The CIA’s reading of French theory should give us pause, then, to reconsider the radical chic veneer that has accompanied much of its Anglophone reception. According to a stagist conception of progressive history (which is usually blind to its implicit teleology), the work of figures like Foucault, Derrida and other cutting-edge French theorists is often intuitively affiliated with a form of profound and sophisticated critique that presumably far surpasses anything found in the socialist, Marxist or anarchist traditions. It is certainly true and merits emphasis that the Anglophone reception of French theory, as John McCumber has aptly pointed out, had important political implications as a pole of resistance to the false political neutrality, the safe technicalities of logic and language, or the direct ideological conformism operative in the McCarthy-supported traditions of Anglo-American philosophy. However, the theoretical practices of figures who turned their back on what Cornelius Castoriadis called the tradition of radical critique—meaning anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist resistance—surely contributed to the ideological drift away from transformative politics. According to the spy agency itself, post-Marxist French theory directly contributed to the CIA’s cultural program of coaxing the left toward the right, while discrediting anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism, thereby creating an intellectual environment in which their imperial projects could be pursued unhindered by serious critical scrutiny from the intelligentsia.

As we know from the research on the CIA’s program of psychological warfare, the organization has not only tracked and sought to coerce individuals, but it has always been keen on understanding and transforming institutions of cultural production and distribution. Indeed, its study on French theory points to the structural role universities, publishing houses and the media play in the formation and consolidation of a collective political ethos. In descriptions that, like the rest of the document, should invite us to think critically about the current academic situation in the Anglophone world and beyond, the authors of the report foreground the ways in which the precarization of academic labor contributes to the demolition of radical leftism. If strong leftists cannot secure the material means necessary to carry out our work, or if we are more or less subtly forced to conform in order to find employment, publish our writings or have an audience, then the structural conditions for a resolute leftist community are weakened. The vocationalization of higher education is another tool used for this end since it aims at transforming people into techno-scientific cogs in the capitalist apparatus rather than autonomous citizens with reliable tools for social critique. The theory mandarins of the CIA therefore praise the efforts on the part of the French government to “push students into business and technical courses.” They also point to the contributions made by major publishing houses like Grasset, the mass media and the vogue of American culture in pushing forward their post-socialist and anti-egalitarian platform.

What lessons might we draw from this report, particularly in the current political environment with its ongoing assault on the critical intelligentsia? First of all, it should be a cogent reminder that if some presume that intellectuals are powerless, and that our political orientations do not matter, the organization that has been one of the most potent power brokers in contemporary world politics does not agree. The Central Intelligence Agency, as its name ironically suggests, believes in the power of intelligence and theory, and we should take this very seriously. In falsely presuming that intellectual work has little or no traction in the “real world,” we not only misrepresent the practical implications of theoretical labor, but we also run the risk of dangerously turning a blind eye to the political projects for which we can easily become the unwitting cultural ambassadors. Although it is certainly the case that the French nation-state and cultural apparatus provide a much more significant public platform for intellectuals than is to be found in many other countries, the CIA’s preoccupation with mapping and manipulating theoretical and cultural production elsewhere should serve as a wake-up call to us all.

Second, the power brokers of the present have a vested interest in cultivating an intelligentsia whose critical acumen has been dulled or destroyed by fostering institutions founded on business and techno-science interests, equating left-wing politics with anti-scientificity, correlating science with a purported—but false—political neutrality, promoting media that saturate the airwaves with conformist prattle, sequestering strong leftists outside of major academic institutions and the media spotlight, and discrediting any call for radical egalitarian and ecological transformation. Ideally, they seek to nurture an intellectual culture that, if on the left, is neutralized, immobilized, listless and content with defeatist hand wringing, or with the passive criticism of the radically mobilized left. This is one of the reasons why we might want to consider intellectual opposition to radical leftism, which preponderates in the U.S. academy, as a dangerous political position: isn’t it directly complicit with the CIA’s imperialist agenda around the world?

Third, to counter this institutional assault on a culture of resolute leftism, it is imperative to resist the precarization and vocationalization of education. It is equally important to create public spheres of truly critical debate, providing a broader platform for those who recognize that another world is not only possible, but is necessary. We also need to band together in order to contribute to or further develop alternative media, different models of education, counter-institutions and radical collectives. It is vital to foster precisely what the covert cultural combatants want to destroy: a culture of radical leftism with a broad institutional framework of support, extensive public backing, prevalent media clout and expansive power of mobilization.

Finally, intellectuals of the world should unite in recognizing our power and seizing upon it in order to do everything that we can to develop systemic and radical critique that is as egalitarian and ecological as it is anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist. The positions that one defends in the classroom or publicly are important for setting the terms of debate and charting the field of political possibility. In direct opposition to the spy agency’s cultural strategy of fragment and polarize, by which it has sought to sever and isolate the anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist left, while opposing it to reformist positions, we should federate and mobilize by recognizing the importance of working together—across the entire left, as Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor has recently reminded usfor the cultivation of a truly critical intelligentsia. Rather than proclaiming or bemoaning the powerlessness of intellectuals, we should harness the ability to speak truth to power by working together and mobilizing our capacity to collectively create the institutions necessary for a world of cultural leftism. For it is only in such a world, and in the echo chambers of critical intelligence that it produces, that the truths spoken might actually be heard, and thereby change the very structures of power. 

Grover Furr: The Ukrainian Famine: Only Evidence Can Disclose the Truth

USFSP_Korotzer9

No detective can solve a crime without carefully and objectively studying the evidence. Likewise, no one can know what actually occurred in history without studying, in an objective manner, the relevant primary sources – the evidence. I have spent decades in studying the primary sources concerning many specific events of the Stalin period. Mark Tauger has studied the primary sources on Soviet agriculture for more than 25 years.

Louis Proyect has not done this. Consequently he has no chance of discovering the truth, or of recognizing it when he sees it. He is inevitably doomed to “believe” whatever fits his preconceived ideological bias, and to reject everything else. This is fatal to any attempt to learn what really happened.

Louis Proyect’s attack on me and on Mark Tauger (“What Caused the Holodomor?” Cp March 24, 1971) is ideology masquerading as history. It is replete with falsehoods. I’ll concentrate on the lies Proyect tells about me and my research. I hope that Mark Tauger will respond to Proyect’s ignorant accusations against his research.

Proyect begins his article by stating: “Furr’s political life revolves around celebrating Stalin’s greatest achievements—such as they were.” This is false. My goal is not to “celebrate” Stalin, or anyone or anything. In my research I aim to discover the truth about Soviet history of the 1930s, using the best primary-source evidence and maintaining scrupulous objectivity.

I agree with historian Geoffrey Roberts when he says:

In the last 15 years or so an enormous amount of new material on Stalin … has become available from Russian archives. I should make clear that as a historian I have a strong orientation to telling the truth about the past, no matter how uncomfortable or unpalatable the conclusions may be. … I don’t think there is a dilemma: you just tell the truth as you see it.

(“Stalin’s Wars”, Frontpagemag.com February 12, 2007. At http://hnn.us/roundup/entries/35305.html )

The common or “mainstream” view of Stalin as a bloodthirsty tyrant is a product of two sources: Trotsky’s writings of the 1930s and Nikita Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech” to the XX Party Congress in February, 1956. This canonical history of the Stalin period – the version we have all learned — is completely false. We can see this now thanks mainly to two sets of archival discoveries: the gradual publication of thousands of archival documents from formerly secret Soviet archives since the end of the USSR in 1991; and the opening of the Leon Trotsky Archive at Harvard in 1980 and, secondarily, of the Trotsky Archive at the Hoover Institution (from where I have just returned).

Khrushchev Lied

In its impact on world history Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech” is the most influential speech of the 20th century. In it Khrushchev painted Stalin as a bloodthirsty tyrant guilty of a reign of terror lasting more than two decades.

After the 22nd Party Congress of 1961, where Khrushchev and his men attacked Stalin with even more venom, many Soviet historians elaborated Khrushchev’s lies. These falsehoods were repeated by Cold War anticommunists like Robert Conquest. They also entered “left” discourse through the works of Trotskyists and anarchists and of “pro-Moscow” communists.

Khrushchev’s lies were amplified during Mikhail Gorbachev’s and Boris Eltsin’s time by professional Soviet, then Russian, historians. Gorbachev orchestrated an avalanche of anticommunist falsehoods that provided the ideological smokescreen for the return to exploitative practices within the USSR and ultimately for the abandonment of socialist reforms and a return to predatory capitalism.

During 2005-2006 I researched and wrote the book Khrushchev Lied. In my book I identify 61 accusations that Khrushchev made against either Stalin or, in a few cases, Beria. I then studied each one of them in the light of evidence available from former Soviet archives. To my own surprise I found that 60 of the 61 accusations are provably, demonstrably false.

The fact that Khrushchev could falsify everything and get away with it for over 50 years suggests that we should look carefully at other supposed “crimes” of Stalin and of the USSR during his time.

Trotsky’s ‘Amalgams’

From 1980 till the early 1990s Pierre Broué, the foremost Trotskyist historian of his day, and Arch Getty, a prominent American expert in Soviet history, discovered that Trotsky had lied, repeatedly and about many issues, in his public statements and writings in the 1930s. In my book Trotsky’s ‘Amalgams’ (2015) I discussed the implications of these lies by Trotsky and of some additional lies of his that I discovered myself. They completely invalidate the “Dewey Commission,” to whom Trotsky lied shamelessly and repeatedly, as well as Trotsky’s denials in the Red Book and elsewhere of the charges leveled against him in the First and Second Moscow Trials.

Challenging the “Anti-Stalin Paradigm”

I have not reached these conclusions out of any desire to “apologize” for – let alone “celebrate” — the policies of Stalin or the Soviet government. I believe these to be the only objective conclusions possible based on the available evidence.

The conclusions I have reached about the history of the Soviet Union during the Stalin period are unacceptable to people who, like Proyect, are motivated by prior ideological commitments rather than by a determination to discover the truth “and let the chips fall where they will.”

The “anti-Stalin paradigm” is hegemonic in the field of Soviet history, where it is literally “taboo” to question, let alone disprove as I do, the Trotsky-Khrushchev-Cold War falsehoods about Stalin and the Stalin period. Those in this field who do not cut their research to fit the Procrustean bed of the “anti-Stalin paradigm” will find it hard if not impossible to publish in “mainstream” journals and by academic publishers. I am fortunate:  I teach English literature and do not need to publish in these “authoritative” but ideologically compromised vehicles.

Those who, like Proyect, are motivated not to discover the truth but to shore up their ideological prejudices think that everybody must be doing likewise. Therefore Proyect argues not from evidence, but by guilt by association, name-dropping, insult, and lies.

A few examples:

Guilt by association: Proyect claims that I am “like” Roland Boer, Roger Annis, and Sigizmund Mironin.

Name-dropping: Davies and Wheatcroft are well-known and disagree with Tauger, so – somehow – they are “the most authoritative,”  “right” while Tauger is “wrong.”

Insult: Tauger is complicit in “turning a victim into a criminal.”

Proyect: “…it seems reasonable that Stalin was forced to unleash a brutal repression in the early 30s to prevent Hitler from invading Russia—or something like that.” In reality neither I nor Tauger say anything of the kind.

Lies: Proyect quotes a passage from Tauger’s research about the Irish potato famine and then accuses Tauger of wanting to exculpate the British:

“The British government responsible? No, we can’t have that.”

But the very next sentence in Tauger’s article reads:

“Without denying that the British government mishandled the crisis…”

Proyect is a prisoner of the historical paradigm that controls his view of Soviet history. A few examples:

* Proyect persists in using the term “Holodomor.” He does not inform Cp readers that Davies and Wheatcroft, whose work he recommends, reject both the term “Holodomor” and the concept in the very book Proyect recommends!

* Proyect: “…no matter that Lenin called for his [Stalin’s] removal from party leadership from his death-bed.”

But, thanks to careful research by Valentin Sakharov of Moscow State University, even “mainstream” researchers know that this note, like “Lenin’s Testament,” is probably a forgery:

There is no stenographic original of the “Ilich letter about the [general] secretary.” In the journal of Lenin’s activities kept by the secretarial staff there is no mention of any such “Ilich letter.” … not a single source corroborates the content of the January 4 dictation. Also curious is the fact that Zinoviev had not been made privy to the “Ilich letter about the [general] secretary” in late May, along with the evaluations of six regime personnel. The new typescript emerged only in June. (Stephen Kotkin, Stalin 505)

* Proyect: “Largely because of his bureaucratic control and the rapid influx of self-seeking elements into the party, Stalin could crush the opposition…”

However, in his 1973 work Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution Stephen Cohen wrote:

But machine politics alone did not account for Stalin’s triumph. … within this select oligarchy, Stalin’s bureaucratic power was considerably less imposing…. By April 1929, these influentials had chosen Stalin and formed his essential majority in the high leadership. They did so, it seems clear, less because of his bureaucratic power than because they preferred his leadership and politics. (327)

* Proyect: “Stalin’s forced march did not discriminate between rich and poor peasants.”

But in 1983 James Mace, a champion of the Ukrainian Nationalist fascist collaborators, wrote about the role of “committees of poor peasants,” komitety nezamozhnykh selian, in supporting collectivization. There is much other evidence of peasant support for collectivization.

Conclusion

Correctly understood, history is the attempt to use well-known methods of primary-source research in an objective manner, in order to arrive at accurate – truthful — statements about the past. Very often the result is disillusioning to those who cling to false ideological constructs, even when those constructs constitute the “mainstream” of politicized historiography.

No one who does not try to discover the truth and then tell it without fear or favor, is worthy to be called a historian, regardless of how famous, honored, or “authoritative” he or she may appear to be.

Distortions and lies about Soviet history of the Stalin period predominate everywhere, including Ukraine, Russia, and in the West. These lies mainly consist in repeating Trotskyist and Khrushchevite lies, in defiance or in willful ignorance of the primary-source evidence now available.

The newly-available evidence from archival sources necessitates a complete rewriting of Soviet history of the Stalin period and a complete revision of Stalin’s own role. This exciting yet demanding prospect is of great importance to all who wish to learn from the errors, as well as from the successes, of the Bolsheviks, the pioneers of the communist movement of the 20th century.

Notes

Information about my published books, in all languages, is on my Home Page. There too you can find links to all of my published articles, some in Russian only, on Soviet history.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia on Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon I

(Napoleon Bonaparte). Born Aug. 15, 1769, in Ajaccio, Corsica; died May 5, 1821, on the island of St. Helena. French statesman and general. First consul of the French Republic (1799–1804); emperor (1804–14 and March-June 1815).

Napoleon was the son of Carlo Buonaparte, a Corsican noble and lawyer of modest means. At the age of ten he was sent to the College d’Autun (France) and later in the same year (1779) was transferred to the military school at Brienne, where he was supported by a government stipend. In 1784 he graduated from Brienne and went to the Ecole Militaire in Paris (1784–85). He entered the army in October 1785 as a second lieutenant of artillery. Brought up on the progressive ideas of the French Enlightenment, Bonaparte, a follower of J.-J. Rousseau and G.-T. Raynal, greeted the Great French Revolution with enthusiasm. In 1792 he became a member of the Jacobin club. At this point in his career he was active primarily on Corsica, where he came into conflict with Corsican separatists led by Paoli. In 1793 he was forced to flee from Corsica. During the republican army’s long unsuccessful siege of Toulon, which had been seized by monarchist rebels and British interventionists, Bonaparte proposed a plan for capturing the city. On Dec. 17, 1793, Toulon was taken by storm. The 24-year-old Captain Bonaparte was promoted to the rank of brigadier general for his role in the capture of the city. This marked the beginning of his precipitous rise to power. Because of his friendship with A. de Robespierre, Napoleon fell from grace for a short time and was even arrested during the Thermidorian reaction. But he soon drew attention to himself again, this time in Paris, by his energy and decisiveness in suppressing the monarchist revolt of 13 Vendémiaire (Oct. 5), 1795. Subsequently, he was appointed commander of the Paris garrison and, in 1796, commander in chief of an army that had been created for operations in Italy.

The Italian campaign of 1796–97 revealed Bonaparte’s military talent and his understanding of the social aspect of war, for he attempted to raise antifeudal forces against powerful Austria and to obtain for France an ally in the Italian national liberation movement. Although the first Italian campaign was accompanied by requisitions and the plundering of the countryside, its progressive nature won the French army the support of the Italian people. The Treaty of Campo Formio (1797) revealed Napoleon’s diplomatic capabilities. In Napoleon’s subsequent military campaigns his taste for conquest became stronger.

Returning to Paris in triumph, Napoleon easily persuaded the Directory to pass a resolution organizing a campaign for the conquest of Egypt. Despite Napoleon’s victories in a number of battles, the Egyptian campaign (1798–1801) was doomed to defeat after the British destroyed the French fleet at Aboukir, cutting off the French army in Egypt from France, and after the French undertook an unsuccessful campaign in Syria. On the pretext of news that had reached him concerning the defeat of the Directory’s army and the victories of A. V. Suvorov, Napoleon arbitrarily left the expeditionary army and returned to Paris in October 1799, at the peak of the crisis of the Directory. The weakness of the Directory and its constant vacillations, which impelled the bourgeoisie to seek a “firm authority,” contributed to Napoleon’s success in carrying out his personally ambitious plans. Relying on influential circles of the bourgeoisie, he staged a coup d’etat on Nov. 9–10, 1799 (18–19 Brumaire, Year VIII), establishing a consulate under which he, in fact (although not immediately), held full authority.

This dictatorial power, which was concealed until 1804 by a “screen” of republicanism, was exercised by Napoleon for the defense of the interests of the bourgeoisie and rich peasants and, on the whole, for the strengthening of the bourgeois state. He abolished national representation, even in the restricted form that had survived under the Directory, and he did away with electoral self-government, replacing it with a bureaucratic police system of prefects, mayors, and subordinate officials, all of whom were appointed by the central government. He also eliminated the free press, and he suppressed other vestiges of the Revolution’s democratic conquests. In 1801 he concluded a concordat with the pope, thus guaranteeing himself the support of the Roman Catholic Church. The civil, commercial, and criminal codes drawn up under his supervision established the legal norms for a bourgeois society.

Strengthening and protecting the principal economic gains of the bourgeois revolution, particularly the promulgated redistribution of property, Napoleon decisively suppressed attempts from the left as well as from the right to change the new regime. He dealt blows to both the Jacobins and the militant royalists. His regime’s economic policy concentrated on developing industry and trade. In 1800 the Bank of France was founded. Industry enjoyed Napoleon’s special protection, because he viewed industrial development as a means of strengthening the power of the state. Fearing disturbances by the workers, Napoleon tried to avert them by organizing public works projects to prevent unemployment and by retaining the Le Chapelier Law (1791), which prohibited workers from forming associations. In addition, a decree issued in 1803 obliged the workers to carry passbooks, or labor permits.

In 1802, Napoleon had himself appointed consul for life, and in 1804 he was proclaimed emperor. To strengthen the new bourgeois monarchy and give it superficial splendor, he created a new imperial nobility and a luxurious imperial court. After divorcing his first wife, Josephine, in 1810, he married Marie Louise, the daughter of the Austrian emperor Francis I.

Napoleon I owed his extraordinary fame to his victorious wars against the coalition powers; to his brilliant victories at Marengo (1800), Austerlitz (1805), Jena and Auerstadt (1806), and Wa-gram (1809); to the enormous expansion of the Empire; and to his own transformation from emperor of France into de facto ruler of Central Europe and all of Western Europe, excluding Great Britain. The destiny of Napoleon I, who had achieved unprecedented power in only ten years and who had compelled the monarchs of Europe to reckon with his will, seemed inexplicable to many of his contemporaries and gave rise to various Napoleonic legends. A man of enormous personal endowments, with an exceptional capacity for work, a powerful, sober mind, and an unbending will, he was ruthless in attaining his objectives. Napoleon I was an outstanding representative of the young, rising bourgeoisie, the most complete embodiment of its strong points, as well as of its vices and shortcomings—aggressiveness, profit seeking, and adventurism.

In the art of war Napoleon I developed and perfected the innovations of the armies of revolutionary France. His chief merit was his ability to find the most effective tactical and strategic use for vast armed masses for that time. The emergence of the mass army had been made possible by the Revolution. Napoleon proved himself a master of strategy and of the tactics of maneuver. When fighting against a numerically superior foe, he endeavored to disperse the enemy’s forces and destroy them unit by unit. In such situations his principle was to “compensate for numerical weakness by rapidity of movements.” On the march he led his troops in dispersed order but with such control that they could be assembled at the necessary moment at any point. This was the origin of the principle of “moving separately but fighting together.” Napoleon I perfected a new maneuver using the column in conjunction with an extended order and based on the precise interaction of different types of troops. He made extensive use of the rapid maneuver to establish superiority in decisive axes, and he knew how to make surprise attacks, how to carry out turning and enveloping movements, and how to augment his forces at decisive sectors during a battle. Considering the destruction of the enemy’s forces to be the principal strategic goal, he always tried to take the strategic initiative. His chief method of routing an enemy was to give general battle, and he always endeavored to exploit the success achieved in general battle by organizing a pressing pursuit of the enemy.

Napoleon I gave broad opportunities for initiative to the commanders of units and groups. He knew how to discover and promote capable, talented people. However, the sudden rise of Napoleonic France and the victories of French arms are attributable less to the personal qualities of Napoleon I and his marshals than to the fact that in its clash with feudal absolutist Europe, Napoleonic France represented the historically more progressive bourgeois social system. Militarily, this assertion is supported by the unquestionable superiority of Napoleon I’s generalship to the backward, routine strategy and tactics of the armies of feudal Europe. In addition, the bourgeois system of social relations that was boldly introduced throughout Western Europe by Napoleonic legislation was superior to the backward, feudal patriarchal social relations.

Nevertheless, the Napoleonic wars gradually lost the progressive elements that had characterized them even though they were wars of conquest. They became purely predatory wars. Consequently, Napoleon’s personal qualities and efforts were doomed to failure. His powerlessness against the forces of history was revealed for the first time during the war in Spain (1808), when the people rose up against the French invaders. It was revealed again and fully confirmed by the campaign of 1812 in Russia, the consequences of which were catastrophic for the Napoleonic Empire.

As Napoleon himself acknowledged, the war against Russia was a fatal error. The first French statesman to comprehend the significance for France of an alliance with Russia, he directed his efforts toward attaining this goal. In negotiations with Paul I he came very close to concluding an alliance, but the assassination of the Russian emperor in March 1801 postponed this possibility for a long time. The Tilsit negotiations with Alexander I (1807) led to the creation of a Franco-Russian alliance that was very highly valued by Napoleon. However, at the time of the Erfurt meeting between the French and Russian emperors (1808), Franco-Russian clashes sharpened, particularly over the continental blockade and the Polish question. Napoleon I’s decision to go to war against Russia is evidence that, blinded by his successes and by his attempt to establish his rule over Europe, he had begun to lose the sense of reality that had once been his inherent strength.

The Patriotic War of 1812 destroyed Napoleon I’s Grand Army and gave great impetus to the national liberation struggle against the Napoleonic yoke in Europe. In the campaign of 1813, Napoleon was compelled to fight against the armies of the anti-Napoleonic coalition and against an unbreakable force—the insurgent peoples of Europe. Under these conditions, his defeat was inevitable. It was sealed by the allied entry into Paris in March 1814. Napoleon I was forced to abdicate on Apr. 6, 1814. The victorious allies allowed him to retain the title of “emperor” and gave him the island of Elba as a possession.

Napoleon I’s landing in France (Mar. 1, 1815) and the Hundred Days (Mar. 20-June 22, 1815) of his second reign demonstrated not only his talent but also, to a greater degree than any previous event in his career, the importance of the social forces supporting him. His unparalleled “conquest” of France in three weeks and without a single shot was possible only because the people considered him capable of expelling the Bourbons and other aristocrats from France. Napoleon I’s tragedy lay in his failure to rely fully on the people who supported him. This led to his defeat at Waterloo and to his second abdication (June 22, 1815). Exiled to the island of St. Helena, he died six years later, a prisoner of the British. In 1840 his remains were brought to Paris and entombed at the Hotel des Invalides.

WORKS

Corresponda nee publ. par ordre de L ’Empereur Napoleon III. . . , 32 vols. Paris, 1858–70.
Lettres inédites …. 2 vols. Paris, 1897.
Correspondance inédite. . . , 3 vols. Paris, 1912–13.
In Russian translation:
Izbr. proizv. Moscow, 1956.

REFERENCES

Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch. 2nd ed., vol. 1, p. 374; vol. 2, p. 563; vol. 3, p. 184; vol. 7, pp. 510–13; vol. 11, pp. 134–37; vol. 14, pp. 38, 309–10, 322–23, 377; vol. 22, p. 30.
Marx, K., and F. Engels. Izbr. pis’ma. Moscow, 1953.
Engels, F. Izbr. voen. proizvedeniia. Moscow, 1956. (See Index of Names.)
Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 30, pp. 5–6; vol. 34, p. 83; vol. 35, pp. 382–83.
Tarle, E. V. “Napoleon.” Soch., vol. 7. Moscow, 1959.
Manfred, A. Z. Napoleon Bonapart. Moscow, 1971.
Levitskii, N. A. Polkovodcheskoe iskusstvo Napoleona. Moscow, 1938.
Sorel, A. Evropa i frantsuzskaia revoliutsiia, vols. 5–8. St. Petersburg, 1906–08. (Translated from French.)
Vandal, A. Vozvyshenie Bonaparta. St. Petersburg, 1905. (Translated from French.)
Lefebvre, G. Napoléon. Paris, 1935.
Madelin, L. Histoire de Consultat et del’Empire, 16 vols. Paris, 1932–54.

A. Z. MANFRED

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

Thomas Jefferson in Defense of the French Revolution


“In the struggle which was necessary, many guilty persons fell without the forms of trial, and with them some innocent. These I deplore as much as any body, and shall deplore some of them to the day of my death. But I deplore them as I should have done had they fallen in battle. It was necessary to use the arm of the people, a machine not quite so blind as balls and bombs, but blind to a certain degree. A few of their cordial friends met at their hands, the fate of enemies. But time and truth will rescue and embalm their memories, while their posterity will be enjoying that very liberty for which they would never have hesitated to offer up their lives. The liberty of the whole earth was depending on the issue of the contest, and was ever such a prize won with so little innocent blood? My own affections have been deeply wounded by some of the martyrs to this cause, but rather than it should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated. Were there but an Adam and an Eve left in every country, and left free, it would be better than as it now is. I have expressed to you my sentiments, because they are really those of 99 in an hundred of our citizens. The universal feasts, and rejoicings which have lately been had on account of the successes of the French shewed the genuine effusions of their hearts.”

 – Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to William Short” (3 January 1793), Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress, Series 1, Reel 17.

Dimitrov to Stalin on the Dissolution of the Polish Communist Party

Polrewkom_1920

Dimitrov to Stalin, 28 November 1937, with enclosed draft resolution of the ECCI. Original in Russian. Typewritten with handwritten comments by Stalin.

Top secret, [1]

Dear Comrade Stalin!

We are thinking of passing the attached resolution on the dissolution of the Polish Communist Party in the ECCI Presidium, and then publishing it.

After publishing this resolution, we would send an open letter to the Polish Communists that would reveal in greater detail the enemy’s decomposing activities within the ranks of the Communist Party and the Polish workers’ movement.

In reestablishing the CP of Poland, it has been suggested that a special organizational commission be formed. We plan to select some of the members of this commission for the most distinguished and tested fighters from the International Brigades in Spain.

We beg you, Comrade Stalin, to give your advice and directives:

  1. Regarding this issue, whether this announcement will be expedient before the investigation of the former Polish party leaders under arrest is completed, or should we wait longer?
  2. Regarding the contents and the character of the resolution on the dissolution of the CP of Poland itself.

With fraternal greetings.

Dimitrov

 

No. 132/Id

28 November 1937

T[op] Secret,

RESOLUTION OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE COMMUNIST INTERNATIONAL

Polish fascism, unable to cope with the growing mass revolutionary movement by means of overt terror alone, has made espionage, sabotage, and provocation the major tool of its struggle against the workers’ movement, against all anti-fascist, democratic forces, [having] poisoned the entire political and social life in Poland with this foul system. For many years, it has been planting its spies and agents among all the workers’ and peasants’ democratic organizations. However, the Pilsudchiks [2] made a special effort to infiltrate the Communist movement, which represents the greatest threat for Polish fascism.

The Executive Committee of the Communist International has established, on the basis of irrefutable documentary evidence, That for a number of years enemies, agents of Polish fascism, have been operating within the leadership structures of the Polish Communist Party. By organizing splits, often fictitious, within the workers’, national-democratic, and petty-bourgeois organizations, the Pilsudchiks poured their spies and provocateurs into the Communist Party, disguised as oppositional elements coming over to the ranks of the Communist movement (the PPS group headed by Sochacki-Bratowski, the Poalei-Zion group headed by Henrykowski and Lampe, the Ukrainian s[ocial] d[emocratic] group, the UVO group of Wasylkiw-Turianski, Korczyk’s group of Belorussian SRs, the “Wyzwolenie” group of Wojewodzki). [3] By arranging the arrests so as to remove the most loyal elements from the Communist ranks. the Polish defenziwa [counterintelligence] gradually advanced its agents into leading positions in the Communist Party. At the same time, in order to give its agents provocateurs and spies authority among the workers [and] members of the Communist Party after staging mock trials, the fascists would often subject their own agents to imprisonment so that later they could be liberated, at the earliest convenience, by organizing “escapes” or by “exchanges” for spies and saboteurs caught red-handed in the USSR. With the help of their agents in the leading organs of the party, the Pilsudchiks promoted their people [for example Zarski, Sochacki, Dombal] to the Communist faction of the Sejm [parliament] during the elections to the Sejm, instructed them to deliver provocative speeches, which the fascists used to attack the Soviet Union and for the bloody repression of the workers’ and peasants’ movement.

The gang of spies and provocateurs entrenched in the leadership of the Polish Communist Party, having planted, in turn, agents in the periphery of the party organization, systematically betrayed the best sons of the working class to the class enemy. By organizing failures, [they were] destroying, year after year, party organizations in the Polish heartland, as well as in Western Belorussia and Western Ukraine. [This gang] systematically perverted the party’s political line so as to weaken the influence of communism among the masses, to make the party increasingly alien and hostile to the Communist International. For its work of disintegration, Polish fascism widely used a Trotskyist-Bukharinist reprobates, [who] either were already, or were willingly becoming, agents of Polish defenwiza, by virtue of having a common outlook with fascism. The Polish defenwiza kindled the factional struggle in the party, through its agents both in the Kostrzewa-Warski group and in the Lenski-Henrykowski group, and used both factions to disorganize the party and its work among the masses, and to separate the workers from the Communist Party.

However, the most ignoble role that this espionage agency played was following the directives of the fascist intelligence in relation to the USSR. Playing on the nationalist prejudices of the most backward masses among the Polish people, it sought to create obstacles to the rapprochement of the peoples of Poland and the peoples of the USSR, and in the interests of the fascist warmongers, to wreck the cause of peace that is selflessly defended by the great country of the Soviets. At the same time, this network of class enemies, disguised as political emigres, was transferred by Polish fascism to the USSR so as to conduct espionage, sabotage, and wrecking activities.

All attempts to purge the agents of Polish fascism from the ranks of the Communist movement, while retaining the current organization of the Polish Communist Party, prove futile, since the central party organs were in the hands of spies and provocateurs who used the difficult situation of the underground party to remain in its leadership.

Based on all this and in order to give honest Polish Communists a chance to rebuild a party, once it is purged of all agents of Polish fascism, the Executive Committee of the Communist International, in accordance with the statutes and the decisions of the Congresses of the Communist International, resolves:

1. To dissolve the Polish Communist Party because of its saturation with spies and provocateurs.

2. To recommend that all honest Communists, until the re-creation of the Polish Communist Party, shift the emphasis of their work to those mass organizations where there are workers and toilers, while fighting to establish the unity of the workers’ movement and to create in Poland a popular antifascist front.

At the same time, the ECCI warns the Communists and the Polish workers against any attempt by Polish fascism and its Trotskyist-Bukharinist espionage network to create a new organization of espionage and provocation, under the guise of a pseudo-Communist Party of Poland, to corrupt the Communist movement.

The Communist International knows that thousands of Polish workers sacrifice themselves and their lives to serving and protecting the vital interests of the toiling masses; it knows that the heroic Polish proletariat had, in its glorious revolutionary past, many remarkable moments of struggle against the tsarist and Austro-Hungarian monarchies, against Polish fascism. It knows about the heroic deeds of the Dombrowski battalions sent by the Polish proletariat to defend the Spanish people. It is convinced that the Polish proletariat will have [again] a Communist party, purged of the foul agents of the class enemy, which will indeed lead the struggle of the Polish toiling masses for their liberation.

 

Footnotes

[1] Handwritten in the margin: “N1433/2 XII 37.” Across the letter, Stalin wrote: “The dissolution is about two years two late. It is necessary to dissolve [the party], but in my opinion, [this] should not be published in the press.” This resolution was first published in Voprosy istorii KPSS, 1988, no. 12, p. 52,

[2] Pilsudchiks: a derisive name used to describe the Polish government under Marshal Pilsudski, and a generic term for his followers. Jozef Pilsudski was a leader of the right-wing of the Polish Socialist Party. In 1918 he was war minister, and between 1918 and 1922 head of state. After May 1926 he was again war minister, then prime minister, and later inspector general of Poland’s armed forces – Trans.

[3] Various Polish, Jewish, Ukrainian, and Belorussian groups.

From “Dimitrov and Stalin, 1934-1943: Letters from the Soviet Archives” by Alexander Dallin and F.I. Firsov, pp. 28-31.

The First May Day Under Nazi Rule

“In 1933 Adolf Hitler, with the full support and assistance of powerful monopoly capitalists, seized power in Germany. On April 24, Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda and Popular Enlightenment, issued a May Day Manifesto which was carried on the front page of every newspaper in Germany. Addressed ‘to the whole German people,’ it announced that May 1st had been made ‘the festival day of national labor’ and called for a celebration in which ‘Germans of all classes’ would ‘clasp hands’ and ‘in solid formation march into the new future.’ Class was a thing of the past, ‘since Marxism is smashed.’…

The London Times praised Hitler and the Nazis for having ended ‘the glorification of class-warfare and made May Day an occasion for the abolition of class differences and for the unification of workers and employers in the Fascist model.’ What it did not tell its readers was that despite the Nazi terror, the illegal Communist Party of Germany (KPD) held demonstrations on May 1, 1933, at which the red flag was displayed in Berlin, Chemnitz, Dresden, Halle, Hamburg, Leipzig, Sachsen, Thüringen, and Wittenberg. In Berlin workers raised the cry ‘Freedom for Thaelmann’ (the Communist leader who was facing death in a Nazi concentration camp), ‘The KPD lives,’ . . .

On the very next day after May Day, Hitler signed legislation outlawing the free trade unions in Germany with their membership of 4,000,000, and seized their assets of over 180,000,000 marks. All union leaders who could be seized were taken into custody. Dr. Herbert Ley, president of the Prussian State Council, gave the following reason for the action against the free trade unions: ‘Marxism today is playing dead, but is not yet altogether abolished. It is therefore necessary to deprive it of its last strength.’ The New York Times noted that the action came one day after ‘the May Day wooing of German labor.’”

 – Philip S. Foner, “May Day: A Short History of the International Workers’ Holiday”

Misunderstandings Regarding Proletarian Leadership and the Peasant Question in Marxism

“Present-day thinking on Marx and Engels’s strategy is often muddled by a curious misunderstanding. We tend to visualise a contrast between ‘developed’ countries like Germany, France and England on the one hand and ‘backward’ ones like Russia on the other. But how ‘developed’ were countries like Germany, France and England in 1848 or 1871? Only in England did the working class, if defined in an extremely loose sense, form a majority of the population. In France, and even more so in Germany, it formed a small minority. As soon as one realises that in Marx’s lifetime France and Germany were overwhelmingly peasant countries, his comments on revolutionary strategy in such states acquire a different significance from the one usually attributed to them.

In the Manifesto, the German communists were advised to join with the bourgeoisie against the absolute monarchy and its feudal hangers-on. But after the democratic revolution the workers should *immediately* begin the struggle against the bourgeoisie. The overthrow of the monarchy was the ‘immediate prologue of a proletarian revolution.’ Two years later, Marx and Engels expected a revolution of the petit bourgeois democrats. Subsequently, the proletarians should again *immediately* form ‘revolutionary workers’ governments’ in order to ‘make the revolution permanent, until all more or less propertied classes are removed from power, [and] state power has been conquered by the proletariat.’ Although the completion of this process would take a ‘rather long’ period, there was no hint of waiting with the second, proletarian, revolution until the workers formed a majority of the population. A few months later, Marx ridiculed those communists who aimed for an immediate proletarian revolution in Germany. He warned the workers that they might perhaps be fit to rule only after fifty years of civil war. But in 1856 he regained his optimism. The victory of the ‘proletarian revolution’ in Germany depended on the possibility of backing it up by a ‘second edition of the Peasant War.’ Under such conditions, its chances of success looked excellent.

As we saw in the previous chapter, Marx called for a ‘dictatorship of the working class’ in the predominantly peasant France of 1850. He expected the peasants to accept the urban proletariat as their natural leader, because only an ‘anti-capitalist, proletarian government’ could stop their social degradation. And once the French peasants understood where their true interests lay, then, Marx said, ‘*the proletarian revolution will obtain that chorus without which its solo song becomes a swan song in all peasant countries*.’ And Marx and Engels did not hesitate to call the Commune a workers’ government. Had Paris been triumphant, the peasant majority would have recognised the ‘spiritual leadership’ of the cities, and the workers as their ‘leaders and educators’, their ‘natural representatives.’ Hunt quotes a particularly interesting comment by Marx in his 1874-75 notebooks on Bakunin, which summarises Marx’s view on the matter very well:

A radical social revolution depends on particular historical conditions of economic development; they are its prerequisites. Thus a revolution is possible only where, together with capitalist production, the industrial proletariat occupies at least an important place within the population. And to have any chance of success it must mutatis mutandis be able immediately to do at least as much for the peasants as the French bourgeoisie during its revolution did for the French peasants of the time.

‘An important place within the population’–no more. In summary, in the predominantly peasant countries of the continental Western Europe of his day, Marx hoped for the establishment of democratic republics under proletarian minority governments supported by the peasantry.”

– Erik van Ree, “The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin”

Labour Party (EMEP): Step by Step; Moving Towards a Dictatorship

emep_bayraklar

Labour Party (EMEP), Turkey
emep.org

The failed attempted military coup of 15 July, orchestrated by the so called ‘Gülen Movement’ – the pro-American Islamic organisation that shared power with the AKP government for 10 years – was called “a gift from God” by the Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan.

The crushing of the coup was quickly followed by the declaration of a state of emergency (OHAL). OHAL enabled the government to take administrative and political decisions and to introduce regulatory legislation without the need for judicial and/or parliamentary approval.

Under the leadership of President Erdoğan, the AKP government issued emergency decrees (KHKs) one after another; leading to suspension and dismissal of tens of thousands of military and police officers, judges, prosecutors and civil servants. Almost 40,000 people, including academics and teachers were also arrested. The number of jailed journalists rose to a record high of 140. Meanwhile, 37 thousand petty criminals were released on the account that there was not enough space in prisons. Whereas the government initially claimed that dismissals and arrests were carried out only against coup plotters of the Gülen movement; soon it became clear that democrats and socialists were also targeted. Through only one decree, more than 10 thousand teachers, all members of Eğitim-Sen (Education and Science Workers Union), were laid-off. A great majority of them were democrats, socialists and supporters of Kurdish national movement.

Following the attempted coup, overriding of rights and freedoms – traditionally deficient in Turkish political democracy – have increased; bourgeois law is at a standstill and has been replaced by arbitrary treatments of the executive/government. Replacing legislation with the state of emergency and rule by emergency decrees, and subordinating the judiciary to the executive through special courts and appointment of new judges and prosecutors; Erdoğan and AKP are trying to establish a fascist dictatorship regime of one-man, one-party.

The government issued unconstitutional and illicit decrees, while by law it only could issue ones that are constitutional and related to the events that lead to declaration of state of emergency. With the help of these decrees targeting the critics of AKP, demonstrations are banned, dissident newspapers, journals, radio stations and TV channels are shut down; their property and equipment are confiscated.

The municipalities led by HDP, third biggest party in the parliament with 40 MPs and representing the Kurdish democratic movement, were raided by the police and more than 20 mayors arrested. Trustees were appointed to their posts without a public vote.

Finally, a total of ten HDP MPs – including the party co-chairs – were jailed. At the same time, 10 executives of the Cumhuriyet newspaper – founded 93 years ago with the establishment of Turkish Republic and politically aligned in recent years with social democracy – were also arrested.

Publications defending the revolutionary line of the working class­ such as Hayatın Sesi TV, Evrensel Kültür (a culture and art magazine), Özgürlük Dünyası (a journal of political theory), Tiroj (bilingual Kurdish-Turkish cultural magazine) were among the television stations and publications closed down by the government.

Unconstitutionally, without breaking his association with AKP for nearly two years and consolidating all executive power in his hands, the de-facto president Erdoğan is trying to change the constitution in line with the aforementioned situation and pushing for a presidential system.

Furthermore, while insisting on a foreign policy based on expansionism and sectarian war, intimate with Islamist terrorist groups, the Erdoğan-led government is taking further steps. Over the last five years, it has supported radical Islamist gangs in Syria and their organisation, to overthrow the Esad regime. In a new attempt, Turkey launched a military operation in Northern Syria at the end of the summer, to back a few thousand Islamist terrorist militants it put forward initially. The intervention was under the pretext of fighting against ISIS, but its main target was Syrian Kurds. Turkey, along with Islamist gangs, controls/invades an area of almost 2000 km2, stretching from the banks of the Euphrates river to the Kurdish canton of Afrin, including cities and towns such as Jarablus. Nowadays, the government pursues the propaganda of conquering al-Bab. However, a spike was put in Turkey’s wheel due to US support for Syrian Democratic Forces – the backbone of whom is YPG – in the operation to liberate the “capital” of ISIS, Raqqa; and the support of Russia for the Esad regime, trying to capture al-Bab because of its strategic importance as a gate to Aleppo.

The AKP government, while fighting the PYD-YPG in Syria, is also in conflict with the Iraqi government due to its military presence in the Iraqi town of Bashiqa; Iraq is demanding the withdrawal of the Turkish forces. The Turkish Airforce is regularly bombing Northern Iraq, claiming to attack PKK camps.

In the last year, Syria and Iraq policies of Turkey have increasingly changed; as well as relations with the Us and the EU cooling, due to the Turkish belief that they supported the attempted coup of 15 July.

Following the agreement for Turkey to stop the migration from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and the EU to pay Turkey three billion Euros, as well as give Turkish citizens visa-free travel rights within the EU, both sides failed to keep their promises and the relationships between Turkey and the EU are strained. The AKP government is claiming that they’ll wait two more months before cancelling the agreement and that they’ll go to a referendum on EU membership due to its criticism of Turkey; EU, citing the imprisonment of journalists and the like, have started talking about halting discussions on Turkish membership.

Since its establishment, Turkey had close economical, trade and financial ties with the West and very strong military ties with the USA; as such it is undoubtedly very hard for Turkey as a NATO member to change its ‘axis’ or ‘boss’. Nevertheless, President Erdoğan, having visited Pakistan recently, has stated “…why not? It will help Turkey feel at ease” on the issue of membership to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

Besides the policies and steps taken by the AKP government, the Turkish economy is not going in the right direction either. The rate of growth has been falling for the last four years, the deficit and unemployment increasing. According to official figures unemployment is at 11% but the real figure is higher. The dollar has risen 10% against the Turkish Lira in the recent days; as if the Turkish lira has devaluated and lost 10% of its value. The government is cutting the interest rate and increasing available credit in an attempt to stimulate the economy but stagnation has set in all sectors – primarily building and textile sectors. A capitalist crisis that is not limited to, and not necessarily starting in the financial sector is raising its “head” and this is the soft underbelly of the AKP.

Despite all bans and police oppression, strikes at workplaces level continue. The powers of the executive are ever increasing; students are demonstrating against the decision that university rectors will be appointed by the President. Solicitors and intellectuals are demonstrating to condemn the imprisonment of their peers. Opponents of AKP are trying to create new alliances. Unity for Democracy with its components of democratic, socialist, social-democrat and Kurdish national movements, including our party, is taking further steps to organise following a series of meetings.

New magazines are published in place of others.

Is the future of Turkey going to be a fascist dictatorship run by one man? Or the struggle for democracy and freedom will widen and strengthen to achieve new successes; the dimensions of the struggle and the level of organisation will determine this. Of course the international support and solidarity will have a great contribution to the outcome.

Labour Party (EMEP) Turkey
International Bureau