Category Archives: Eastern Bloc

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia on Wilhelm Pieck

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Pieck, Wilhelm 

Born Jan. 3, 1876, in Guben; died Sept. 7, 1960, in Berlin. Prominent figure in the German and international workers’ movements and in the party and state organizations of the German Democratic Republic.

The son of a worker, Pieck was a carpenter by trade. He joined the woodworkers’ union in 1894 and the Social Democratic Party of Germany in 1895. From 1899 to 1906 he was chairman of a district organization of the party, and from 1906 to 1910 he was secretary of the party’s city organization in Bremen. In April 1910 he was elected second secretary of the party’s Central Educational Committee and secretary of the Central Party School in Berlin. Pieck was an adherent of the party’s left wing, which was led by K. Liebknecht, R. Luxemburg, F. Mehring, and K. Zetkin, with all of whom he was closely associated. In the summer of 1913 he condemned the approval of military expenditures by the Social Democratic faction in the Reichstag. After the beginning of World War I, he joined the struggle against the annexationist policies of German imperialism and against the policy of Burgfrieden, or civil truce, of the party’s right-wing leaders. Pieck was arrested several times. Along with Liebknecht and Luxemburg, he made a substantial contribution to the cause of uniting the left-wing Social Democrats. After the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia, he called on the German working class to make use of the revolution’s experience. In November 1918 he entered the central leadership of the Spartacus League. He took an active part in preparing and carrying out the November Revolution of 1918 in Germany.

Pieck was one of the founders of the Communist Party of Germany (CPG). At the party’s Constituent Congress, which was held from Dec. 30, 1918, to Jan. 1, 1919, he was elected a member of the Central Committee of the CPG; he remained a member right up to the formation of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany. He belonged to the party’s Marxist-Leninist nucleus, which, led by E. Thälmann, waged a consistent struggle against H. Brandler’s right-opportunist group and later against the “ultra-leftists.” Pieck made an important contribution to the transformation of the CPG into a mass party. From 1921 he was repeatedly elected to the Prussian landtag. From 1928 he was elected to the Reichstag, and from 1929, to the Berlin municipal council and the Prussian state council. He utilized the parliamentary rostrum of the bourgeois state to carry on propaganda for the political program of the CPG. At the Sixth Congress of the Comintern in 1928, he was elected to the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI). In 1931 he became a member of the Presidium and the Secretariat of the ECCI.

After the establishment of the fascist dictatorship in Germany in 1933, Pieck worked for the creation of a united front against fascism. In accordance with a decision of the Central Committee of the CPG, he left Germany in May 1933. Together with F. Dahlem and W. Florin, he formed in Paris the leadership abroad of the CPG. At the Seventh Congress of the Comintern in 1935, he presented the report of the ECCI. He fought for the implementation of the Popular Front policy and for the development of a broad antifascist movement. At the Brussels Conference of the CPG in 1935, Pieck was elected chairman of the party’s Central Committee. At that conference, he showed the need for the creation of a united workers’ front and a popular antifascist front in Germany. In a report at the Bern Conference of the CPG, which was held from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1, 1939, he called on all patriotic forces to unite to save the German people from the danger of war, and he spoke in support of the program for a new, democratic republic in Germany.

During World War II, Pieck denounced German imperialism’s claims to world domination and called on the German people to overthrow the fascist dictatorship and take their fate into their own hands. As one of the leaders of the national committee Free Germany, which was established in the USSR in 1943, he carried on much explanatory work among German prisoners of war in the USSR, particularly among senior officers and generals.

After the liberation of the German people from fascism, Pieck took an active part in the work to democratize and denazify Germany and to eliminate the consequences of fascist rule. He played an important role in ending the schism in the workers’ movement, in unifying the CPG and the Social Democratic Party in the eastern part of Germany, and in the creation of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany in April 1946. From 1946 to 1954, Pieck and O. Grotewohl were cochairmen of the new party. Between 1949 and 1960 he was a member of the Politburo of the Central Board and later of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the party. He was president of the German Democratic Republic from its formation in October 1949. He was a tireless fighter against war, for peace and security among nations, for the construction of socialism in the German Democratic Republic, and for the strengthening of friendship and cooperation between the Socialist Unity Party of Germany and the CPSU and between the peoples of the German Democratic Republic and the USSR.

Pieck was granted the title of Hero of Labor in 1951. He was awarded the Order of Karl Marx, the gold order For Services to the Fatherland, the Banner of Labor, and other orders.

WORKS

Gesammelte Reden und Schriften. vols. 1-3, 5. Berlin, 1959-72.
Reden und Aufsätze: Auswahl aus den Jahren 1908-1950, vols. 1-4. Berlin, 1950-55.
Der neue Weg zum gemeinsamen Kampf für den Sturz der Hitlerdiktatur. Berlin, 1957.
Im Kampf um die Arbeitereinheit und die deutsche Volksfront, 1936-1938. Berlin, 1955.
Zur Geschichte der Kommunistischen Partei Deutschlands: 30 Jahre Kampf. Berlin, 1949.
In Russian translation:
Izbr. proizv. Moscow, 1956.

REFERENCES

Pieck, W. Bilder und Dokumente aus dem Leben des ersten deutschen Arbeiterpräsidenten. Berlin, 1955.
Pieck, W. Gedenkbuch. Berlin, 1961.
Vosske, H. Wilhelm Pieck. Leipzig, 1974.
Hufeld, D. W. Pieck: Bibliographie. [Rostock, 1960.]

V. I. TSAPANOV

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

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia on Klement Gottwald

Communist Czech Politician Klement Gottwald

Gottwald, Klement 

Born Nov. 23, 1896, in the village of Dedidocz. Moravia; died Mar. 14, 1953, in Prague. Figure in the Czechoslovak and international workers’ movement. Czechoslovak politician and statesman.

The son of a poor peasant, Gottwald began to work when he was 12 years old. Beginning in 1912 he participated in the social democratic youth movement. In 1918 he supported the left wing of the Social Democratic Party. Gottwald was one of the founders of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPC). From 1922 to 1925 he edited the Communist newspapers Pravda chudoby and Hlas lidu. In 1925 he became a member of the Central Committee and Politburo of the CPC, and from 1926 to 1929 he was head of the section for propaganda and agitation of the Central Committee of the party. At the Fifth Congress of the CPC in 1929, Gottwald was elected secretary-general of the Central Committee and in 1945, head of the party. In 1928 he became a member of the Executive Committee of the Comintern, and from 1935 to 1943 he was secretary of the committee. After the Czechoslovak bourgeois government adopted the Munich Pact of 1938, Gottwald, on the decision of the Central Committee of the CPC, emigrated to Moscow, where he headed the administrative center of the party in exile. After the liberation of the eastern parts of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Army, Gottwald became deputy premier of the first National Front government at Košice (Apr. 4, 1945). In 1946 he headed the coalition government. After the events of February 1948 he formed a new government, purged of bourgeois conspirators. On June 14, 1948, Gottwald became president of the Czechoslovak Republic.

Gottwald played an important role in developing the general line of the CPC on building socialism in the country, which was proclaimed at the party’s Ninth Congress in May 1949. A great friend of the Soviet Union and a true internationalist, Gottwald advanced the slogan “With the Soviet Union Forever!”, which has become worldwide. The Order of K. Gottwald has been established in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. After its unification with several populated areas, the city of Zlin was renamed after Gottwald.

WORKS

Spisy, vols. 1–15. Prague, 1951–61.
Se Sovétským Svazem na věčné časy. Prague, 1955.
In Russian translation:
Izbr. proizv., vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1957–58.

P. P. TURPITKO

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

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia on Georgii Dimitrov

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Dimitrov, Georgii Mikhailovich 

Born June 18, 1882, in the village of Kovachevtsi, Pernik District, Bulgaria; died July 2, 1949, in Barvikha, near Moscow. Leader of the Bulgarian and international workers’ movement. Son of a craftsman.

At 12 years of age, Dimitrov went to work as an apprentice typesetter; he was elected secretary of the printers’ union in Sofia in 1901. In 1902 he joined the Bulgarian Workers’ Social Democratic Party, siding with its revolutionary-Marxist wing. When the party split in 1903, this wing became an independent party, the Bulgarian Workers’ Social Democratic Party (Narrow Socialists) [which in 1919 was renamed the Bulgarian Communist Party (Narrow Socialists), the BCP (NS)]. Dimitrov was elected a member of the Central Committee of the party in 1909 and remained in the leadership until his death. He was a leader of the Revolutionary Trade Union Federation from 1905 to 1923, becoming secretary in 1909, and actively participated in organizing the important activities of the Bulgarian proletariat, including the strikes of the coal miners in Pernik in 1906 and 1911, the strikes of the match factory workers in Kostenec in 1909, and the rail-waymen’s strikes of 1919-20.

During the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, Dimitrov denounced the chauvinist and expansionist policy of the Bulgarian bourgeoisie, making use of the Parliament, where he served as a deputy from 1913 to 1923, as his forum. He was repeatedly persecuted for his active antiwar work. Dimitrov participated in the First (1909) and Second (1915) Balkan Social Democratic conferences, where he struggled to consolidate the international organizational ties of the Bulgarian proletariat and opposed opportunism in the international workers’ movement. On the eve of and during World War I, Dimitrov denounced Bulgarian nationalism. As a deputy in Parliament, he voted against war credits and opposed Bulgaria’s participation in the imperialist war. He helped to popularize the slogans and cause of the Great October Socialist Revolution and fought for the defense of the Soviet republic. In 1921 he participated in the work of the Third Congress of the Comintern, where he met V. I. Lenin. In the same year he was elected a member of the executive bureau of the Profintern. Dimitrov, with V. P. Kolarov, led an antifascist armed uprising in September 1923. He emigrated from Bulgaria after the uprising was suppressed. The fascist authorities of Bulgaria sentenced Dimitrov to death in absentia. In emigration, Dimitrov was a member of the foreign bureau of the Bulgarian Communist Party (Narrow Socialists), worked on the Executive Committee of the Communist International and the executive bureau of the Profintern, and was the secretary of the Balkan Communist Federation.

Dimitrov was arrested in Berlin in 1933, after the German Reichstag fire on a fabricated charge of arson. At the Leipzig trial staged by the German fascists, which took place from September 21 to December 23, 1933, Dimitrov unmasked the Hitlerite provocateurs, held high the banner of proletarian internationalism, and dealt a crushing moral and political blow to fascism. The failure to substantiate the charge and the worldwide protest movement compelled the fascist court to acquit Dimitrov and the other accused Communists.

The Soviet Union granted citizenship to Dimitrov, and he lived in the USSR from 1934 to 1945. He was elected a deputy of the Leningrad Soviet in 1934 and was general secretary of the Executive Committee of the Communist International from 1935 until the dissolution of the Comintern in 1943. Dimitrov was a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR from 1937 to 1945. During World War II, Dimitrov took the lead in founding (in 1942) the Fatherland Front of Bulgaria. The front, led by Dimitrov, played an important role in mobilizing the popular masses of Bulgaria in the struggle against the fascist invaders and in the victory of the revolution of Sept. 9, 1944. The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR awarded Dimitrov the Order of Lenin in 1945 for his outstanding services in the struggle against fascism. On Nov. 6, 1945, Dimitrov returned to his native Bulgaria, becoming chairman of the council of ministers in November 1946 and general secretary of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party in December 1948. Holding these posts, he directed the establishment of people’s democracy in Bulgaria, dexterously applying the general principles of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete historical and national conditions of Bulgaria. The promulgation of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria on Sept. 15, 1946, the adoption of the popular-democratic constitution on Dec. 4, 1947, and the implementation of radical socialist transformations are all associated with Dimitrov’s name. In the political report of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Workers’ Party (Communists) to the Fifth Congress of the party in December 1948, Dimitrov formulated the general line for building the foundations of socialism in Bulgaria and provided a Marxist-Leninist analysis of people’s democracy as one of the historical forms of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Dimitrov was an ardent fighter for the strengthening of Bulgarian-Soviet friendship. He opposed revisionism and leftist dogmatism in the international workers’ movement, supported the strengthening of the anti-imperialist camp, and favored the coordination of the activities of Communist and workers’ parties on the basis of Marxism-Leninism.

Dimitrov’s coffin was interred in a specially constructed mausoleum in Sofia. The Bulgarian people honor Dimitrov’s memory, and the People’s Republic of Bulgaria has established an Order of Georgii Dimitrov. The new town of Dimitrovgrad and a number of the largest new projects bear his name. The Young Communist League of Bulgaria is also named after Dimitrov. Dimitrov Prizes have been established for achievements in science, technology, literature, and art. Dimitrov’s home in Sofia is now a museum.

WORKS

Sochineniia, vols. 1-14. Sofia, 1951-55.
Izbrannye proizvedeniia, vols. 1-2. Moscow, 1957.
V bor’be za edinyi front protiv fashizma i voiny. Moscow, 1939.
Leiptsigskii protsess: Rechi, pis’ma i dokumenty. Moscow, 1961.
Protiv fashizma: Izbrani proizvedeniia. Sofia, 1969.

REFERENCES

Blagoeva, S. Georgi Dimitrov. Moscow, 1951.
Georgii Dimitrov: Kratkii biograficheskii ocherk. Sofia, 1948.
Georgii Mikhailovich Dimitrov 1882-1949: [Materialy]. [Moscow] 1949.
V pamet na velikiia naroden sin Georgi Dimitrov. Sofia, 1950.
Savova, E. Georgi Dimitrov, Letopis na zhivota i revoliutsionnata mu deinost. Sofia, 1952.
Savova, E. Georgi Dimitrov: Bibliografiia. Sofia, 1968.
Koren’kov, A. Georgii Dimitrov. Moscow, 1962.
Sokhan’, P. Plamennyi revoliutsioner: Zhizn’ i revoliutsionnaia deiatel’nost’ G. Dimitrova. Kiev, 1962.

L. B. VALEV

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

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia on Enver Hoxha

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It should be noted that this article was written in the 1970’s under Soviet revisionism and therefore bears the ideological markings of social-imperialism in its evaluation of Comrade Enver. It mentions nothing of the titanic struggle of the Albanian Marxist-Leninists against revisionism and limits itself to mention of positions Hoxha held. It is through this lens we must evaluate this entry.

 – E.S.

Hoxha, Enver

Born Oct. 16, 1908, in Gjirokastër. Albanian state and political figure.

Hoxha graduated from the lycée in Korçë in 1930 and then studied at the University of Montpellier in France. In 1941 he helped found the Communist Party of Albania-(since 1948 the Albanian Workers’ Party, AWP); he was a member of the party’s Central Committee and became the party’s general secretary in 1943. From 1942 to 1945 he was a member of the Presidium and chairman of the National Liberation Front of Albania (since August 1945 the Democratic Front of Albania).

Hoxha commanded the National Liberation Army (since 1945 the Albanian People’s Army) from 1944 to 1954. He was minister of defense from 1944 to 1953. He also served from 1944 to 1946 as head of the Provisional Democratic Government, from 1946 to 1954 as chairman of the Council of Ministers, and from 1946 to 1953 as minister of foreign affairs.

Hoxha was general secretary of the Central Committee of the AWP from 1948 to 1954, when he became the Central Committee’s first secretary. He was made chairman of the General Council of the Democratic Front of Albania in 1945. In 1954 he was elected a member of the Presidium of the People’s Assembly. In 1976, Hoxha was named commander in chief of the armed forces and chairman of the Defense Council.

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

American Party of Labor: Who Started the War?

SovietWorldWarII

Anti-Communist Hysteria on the Rise

It seems that once again a specter is haunting Europe, if not the world. Yes, the specter of communism, which was supposedly totally discredited, debunked and rendered wholly irrelevant since 1989. The ruling classes of Europe and the industrialized imperialist world are again putting all their efforts into exorcising this demon; whereas ten years ago they scoffed at Marxism and communism as the profits of the internet boom, outsourcing and neo-liberalism rolled in, they are now in a total panic. That “discredited” theory has got them so terrified that they have, in the past few years, began not only to dredge up all the standard anti-communist propaganda of the Cold War years, but have even resorted to re-writing and re-interpreting history so as to invent new myths.

In Ukraine, the push for international recognition of the 1932-33 famine as genocide was successful under the aegis of Viktor Yushenko. A museum dedicated to the “victims of communism” was opened in Washington D.C. The Katyn massacre is bandied about endlessly while the millions of Polish civilians who died at the hands of the Germans are virtually ignored and the victories Polish People’s Army, which participated in the liberation of Warsaw and the capture of Berlin, is utterly forgotten on the world stage. The 60,000-100,000 Bolshevik prisoners of war who died in Polish captivity after the Russo-Polish war, a war started by Poland, are completely forgotten as well—they don’t count. The history of the Second World War is being actively re-written so as to totally omit the pivotal role played by the USSR and the world’s communist parties in the victory over fascism. Worse still, in 2009 there has been a trend to equate communism and Nazism, to proclaim them allies, and to actually blame Stalin for starting WWII. The praise for Hitler, allowing him to circumvent the Treaty of Versailles and re-arm, the hypocritical Non-Intervention in Spain and the betrayal of Munich are all to be forgotten. We are supposed to believe that it was the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact which gave Hitler a green light to go to war, while ignoring years of collaboration and encouragement for Hitler from the Western powers.

How far has the hysteria gone? In July of 2009, an OSCE parliamentary resolution drafted by Lithuanian Vilija Aleknaite-Abramikiene called for the 23rd of August to be made a day of remembrance for the “victims of Nazism and Stalinism.” This resolution attributes blame for WWII equally upon both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union; Munich and the years of Western support and collaboration with Nazi Germany and fascist Italy are ignored entirely. Possibly as a result of this decision, a new wave of articles hit the newspapers and internet around August to the 1st of September 2009, practically if not literally proclaiming Stalin guilty for starting WWII. This demonstrates that the hysteria has reached such a pitch that the ruling classes of Europe are more than willing to re-write even the most basic historical facts. It is absurd beyond all explanation that the Western powers could spend years trying to downplay if not totally ignore the Soviet Union’s role in destroying fascism in the Second World War, yet they are willing to make a most idiotic leap of logic to blame the whole war on the Soviet Union. One might ask whether or not such people would prefer the masses to believe that Stalin alone rather than Hitler started the war; I am inclined to believe yes. The ruling classes of Europe do not fear Nazism resurgent, but communism is a real threat. It is that fact which serves as a principle reason for the rise of anti-communist hysteria, which we will explore in detail later in this text. For the moment, let us focus on the allegation itself.

Addressing the Allegation

Anyone familiar with history has heard the term “Big Lie.” The term was coined by none other than Adolf Hitler, who explained that people would more likely believe a big lie simply because they would not expect anyone to tell such preposterous lies. Of course that theory is rather absurd; I could tell a big lie by claiming to have a pet dinosaur, and most would simply laugh at the claim. “Big Lies” do exist however, and those which are effective are those which are on one hand often repeated, and on the other so multi-layered that most people simply do not have the requisite knowledge to challenge them. A claim with one or two falsehoods or logical fallacies is easy to spot, but the lies surrounding this new mythology of the Second World War and the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact contain so many distortions and omissions that they are difficult to answer in detail without filling entire books. The best way to challenge these lies is to break down the claim into various parts and address each one in concise fashion. Thus let us begin to do just that.

Claim: Nazi Germany & the Soviet Union, by way of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Agreement, were Allies.

Firstly, a non-aggression pact is not an alliance. This might seem like legalistic quibbling, until one considers that Poland signed a non-aggression pact with the USSR in 1932, and later concluded a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany in 1935. One would be hard pressed to find any mainstream source of historical literature referring to Poland and the USSR or Poland and Germany as “allies,” despite the fact that Poland took advantage of Germany’s dismantling of Czechoslovakia to invade and seize part of the newly independent fascist Slovakia. It is worth noting that the territory seized from Czechoslovakia by Poland had a minority Polish population, a fact the reader should keep in mind for later.

One might claim that the pact was an alliance because of the transfer of raw materials to Germany. This fails for several reasons; first among them is the fact that again, Poland signed a trade agreement with Nazi Germany after signing the non-aggression pact with the latter. Again, nobody speaks of the “allies” Germany and Poland “carving up” Czechoslovakia. Furthermore, the US was still shipping vital scrap metal and oil to Japan despite the latter’s conquest of Manchuria and invasion of China. Japan received 80% of its oil from the US, which only cut off oil exports in 1940 when Japan invaded French Indochina. Again, who claims that the US and Japan were allies?

Much has also been said about the collaboration of American corporations with Nazi Germany, IBM most likely being the most notorious due to the role their products had in the Holocaust. Does anyone blame America for the Holocaust? While much is said today about the resources gained from the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, not a word is mentioned about the key role played by German subsidiaries of GM and Ford in arming the Wehrmacht. The switch-over from civilian to military production in these plants was not only known, but encouraged by the US-based corporate HQs of these companies. Perhaps far more importantly, the US corporations Standard Oil and Texaco provided Germany with vital supplies even after the war began. Standard Oil even assisted the Germans in creating synthetic fuel, which proved crucial to Germany’s war effort.

When considering whether the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, even taking into account the resource transfers to Germany, was the catalyst for the Second World War, it helps to realize that Albert Speer, armaments minister of Germany and a close confident of Hitler, once remarked that Hitler would not have gone to war had it not been for the capability to synthesize fuel.

Why did the USSR sign the Non-Aggression Pact with Germany? Western Conciliation and Collaboration sets the Stage

In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler laid out what he saw as a plan for the salvation and preservation of Germany and its people. Hitler understood that Germany could not possibly rely on a maritime empire with far-flung colonies like those of Britain or France. As such he envisioned a European, contiguous land empire expanding eastward. Unlike the fallen Austro-Hungarian Empire, which Hitler despised for its multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan nature, Germany’s new empire would expand into Belarus, Ukraine and European Russia, but the population would either be killed, deported, or sterilized and used as slaves. Upon invading the USSR in 1941, this process of ethnic cleansing, enslavement and extermination began from the first days of the invasion and would continue until the Germans were finally pushed out of Soviet territory. Incidentally the plan for the whole campaign was to take all the land up to what was called the Archangel-Astrakhan line, running from the north all the way to the Caspian Sea in the south. With chilling sobriety, German planners estimated that countless millions would die from starvation alone. This was the threat hanging over the USSR since Hitler came to power.

Speaking in the 18th Congress of the VKP (b) in March of 1939, Stalin put forth the line that the outside world could be divided into two camps. On one hand there were the “democracies” consisting of the United Kingdom, France and the US, all of which had an interest in maintaining the status quo. In the other camp were Germany, Japan and Italy. Having turned to fascism and nationalism in response to their economic predicaments, they had a natural inclination to seek out new markets via military means. Germany had no colonies and based on Hitler’s ideas, a genetic imperative to expand eastward. Italy had few colonial possessions but its eyes were focused on what seemed like easy targets such as Albania and Abyssinia. Japan held some colonial possessions for some time and had already began to expand starting with its conquest of Manchuria in 1931, and by 1939 it had already been engaged in a war against China for almost two years. While the “army faction” of the military junta ruling Japan wished to expand the China war into a war against the USSR, the navy faction sought new sources of oil and rubber in the colonial possessions of France, England, America and the Netherlands.

Given the situation at the time, it was clear that though England, France and the United States were imperialist states, they represented a far lesser evil than the rising Axis powers. Moreover, these states had a desire for peace, on one hand because their populations were not keen on going to war, on the other hand because they had large markets under their control and no reason to buck the status quo. The Soviet Union had an even greater interest in preserving peace; having barely completed its industrialization, it was imperative to equip and modernize its armed forces. Based on this disposition, the policy of the USSR was to seek collective security with England and France against Germany and Italy. There was only one problem with this strategy: the English and French had to be willing.

During the Russian Civil War, numerous imperial powers invaded the dying Russian Empire, hoping to strangle Bolshevism in the cradle and hopefully snatch their own piece of territory. Among the armies of intervention were the French and the British. When the Whites and their allies failed, the British and French attempted to create a “cordon sanitare” around the Soviet Union in hopes of stopping the spread of communism. The success of the fascists in defeating the communists of Germany and Italy suggested that they may become a bulwark against the USSR and communism. As such, though it was against their own objective interests, the Western powers became increasingly friendly to both Hitler and Mussolini.

From the time Hitler came to power in 1933, Britain and France began to cow to Germany at every opportunity. Britain made the first move, signing a naval treaty with Germany in 1935 which was vital to its rearmament. Nothing was done to prevent the Germany’s reoccupation of the Rhineland in 1936. Probably the most egregious act of Britain and France in terms of appeasement prior to Munich was the “Non-Intervention Agreement” concluded with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. This agreement prevented the Spanish Republic, the legally elected government of Spain, from having the right to buy weapons for its own defense. While the Republic was isolated by its neighbors, Germany and Italy sent thousands of men, along with planes and tanks for the nationalist rebels. The rebels were provided with oil on credit by Texaco. Upon seeing that Non-Intervention actually meant allowing the nationalists to destroy the Republic with ease, the Soviet Union quickly withdrew from the embargo and began to supply the Republic with high-tech arms. Thousands of pilots and other military advisors were sent to Spain while the Comintern organized volunteers from around the world to fight in the International Brigades. German and Italian U-Boats torpedoed Soviet merchant ships sailing to Spain, while on one occasion a Royal Navy vessel watched as the German Kriegsmarine shelled the Spanish coast in support of a nationalist attack. Spain was sacrificed in the hopes that Germany would look east and only east. Next on the chopping block would be Austria and Czechoslovakia.

The Germans managed to pull off their crooked “Anschluss” with Austria without any opposition from abroad. In the case of Czechoslovakia, the last democracy in Central Europe, the fate of this small country would be decided without its presence at the negotiating table. Also excluded was the Soviet Union, which later attempted to send weapons to Czechoslovakia (which sadly ended up in German hands). The annexation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia meant that the country’s border defenses ended up in the hands of the Germans, leaving the last democracy in Central Europe to be picked clean by Germany, Hungary and Poland. Slovakia became a German client state under the fascist regime of Josef Tiso. Hitler was not satisfied with Munich though; he felt that he had been swindled, and “denied” the war he desired.

Soviet attempts to create an Alliance with Britain and France; the Ultimate Betrayal at Munich

Recognizing the threat posed by Nazi Germany, and with an understanding that their capability for war was at the time insufficient, the Soviets strove to create a collective security pact with Britain and France. When the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact was signed, the Soviets had been embroiled in negotiations with the British and French for six months. Negotiations stalled when the Soviets demanded transit rights through Poland and Romania should war with Germany break out. Both Poland and Romania were at the time anti-communist states with fascist or quasi-fascist regimes; both were embroiled in territorial disputes with the USSR as well. The British and French seemed willing to conclude a political agreement, but the Soviets quite rightly judged this to be useless without a military agreement. Stalin believed that there was the possibility the English would conclude a pact with the USSR and then not come to aid militarily if war broke out. Considering the Anglo-French reaction to the invasion of Poland, this fear might have been right in hindsight.

As negotiations broke down, it was the Germans who began to suggest an agreement to the Soviets. At first the Soviets did nothing; it was clear this was a ploy to spoil the negotiations with the French and English. At the same time however, it was becoming clear that the English and French were deliberately dragging out the negotiations, particularly on the military aspect of a pact. This idea was supported by the fact that the Anglo-French military delegation headed to Moscow not by plane but by a slow ship to Leningrad. With the English and French clearly sabotaging the negotiations in a vain hope of deterring Hitler by the mere threat of an alliance, the Soviets began to talk to the Germans.

In his book Stalin’s Wars, author Geoffery Roberts points out that aside from the lack of a provision condemning aggression against a third country by a party to the agreement, this Non-Aggression Pact was not much different than any other non-aggression pact the Soviets had signed in the 20s and 30s. Roberts characterized the pact as a pledge of Soviet neutrality in the event of a German war against Poland. It is also worth noting that prior to the beginning of negotiations with the Germans, Soviet intelligence as well as Stalin himself were convinced that a German attack on Poland was inevitable. All that mattered is where Germany would stop, an issue we will explore in detail later.

Roberts goes on to point out that in August 1939, it was not clear that Poland would fold so easily against the German war machine, which had yet to debut in combat save for limited action in the Spanish Civil War. While the English and French had guaranteed Poland’s independence, there was still the possibility of a Munich-style betrayal, which would have handed to the Germans either a part of Poland’s territory if not the whole country itself. This was a critical threat for the USSR because Poland in 1939 included the territories of Western Belarus and the Halychyna (Galicia)/Volhynia (Volyn) regions of Ukraine. Were Germany to occupy, by whatever means, all of 1939-era Poland, it would have brought their armies far closer to Kiev, Leningrad and Moscow. From East Prussia the Germans could also easily move up through the Baltic countries. To prevent this from happening, the Soviets agreed to “spheres of interest” in Eastern Europe that would theoretically keep the Germans at bay. Thus the pact not only bought the USSR time to reorganize and arm its forces, but also helped push the border westward. Of course the Soviets were aware that the Germans might not honor their part of the deal, and they were not pleased when the Soviets retook Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina from Romania, a move which brought them dangerously close to Germany’s vital oil supply from the fields of Ploesti.

After the war had already broken out, Stalin gave his opinion on the pact and the fall of Poland to Germany in a meeting with Georgi Dimitrov, leader of the Comintern, who noted it down in his diary. “A war is on between two groups of capitalist countries…for the redivision of the world, for the domination of the world! We see nothing wrong in their having a good hard fight and weakening each other. It would be fine if at the hands of Germany the position of the richest capitalist countries (especially England) were shaken. Hitler, without understanding it or desiring it, is shaking and undermining the capitalist system…We can maneuver, pit one side against the other to set them fighting with each other as fiercely as possible. The non-aggression pact is to a certain degree helping Germany. Next time we’ll urge on the other side…Formerly…the Polish state was a national state. Therefore, revolutionaries defended it against partition and enslavement. Now (Poland) is a fascist state, oppressing the Ukrainians, Belorussians, and so forth. The annihilation of that state under current conditions would mean one fewer bourgeois fascist state to contend with! What would be the harm if as a result of the rout of Poland we were to extend the socialist system onto new territories and populations?”

After 1945, that vision came true.

The Partition of “Poland”

Part of the “big lie” surrounding the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is the claim that “Germany and the Soviet Union attacked and divided up Poland.” At face value this seems true, until one actually looks at the details. While the Germans attempted to get the Soviets to invade as soon as possible, Molotov rejected premature intervention. The Soviets never crossed the Polish border until 17 September, after the Polish government had fled the country and the Germans had declared that they no longer recognized the existence of a state named “Poland.” This declaration gave the Germans “legal” grounds to drive right up to the Soviet frontier. In fact on several occasions German forces did attempt to just that, in hopes that the Soviets would not contest any ground they managed to grab. Thus, Red Army troops were sent into Galicia and Volyn under the orders to prevent the Germans from seizing these territories.

Did this invasion constitute an aggressive attack? Does this prove that the USSR was attacking Poland as an “ally” of Germany? Hardly—as noted before, Poland had a non-aggression pact with Germany when it seized a non-Polish territory of Czechoslovakia. Nowhere today in the mainstream media do we hear about dastardly Poland’s “alliance” with Germany and how the Nazis and Poles “carved up Czechoslovakia.”

There are some other facts worth considering as well. Most important of all are the facts surrounding the lie that the USSR invaded “Eastern Poland.” The territory of “Eastern Poland” at the time consisted of Ukrainian and Belorussian territories seized by Poland in a war of aggression back in 1921. With the Bolsheviks tied down in the Civil War, Poland rejected the borders it had been granted and attempted to take Belarus and Ukraine. The Poles managed to defeat Ukrainian nationalist forces and were poised to take Kiev when they were pushed all the way back to Warsaw by the Red Army. Despite this success, the Bolsheviks still had to contend not only with the White Guards but also the armies of the imperialist intervention. They signed the Treaty of Riga with Poland, ceding the disputed territories of Volyn and Galicia in Western Ukraine and territory in Western Belarus. Polish rule was unpopular; in fact a Ukrainian nationalist insurgency broke out in the late 20s, and the Germans even used supporters of this nationalist movement in their war against Poland in 1939. Had the Germans been allowed to take all of 1939 Poland, they would have been dangerously close to the USSR’s most vital territory.

It is also worth noting the reaction of the world to the Soviet invasion, particularly in contrast to the reaction to the German invasion. Honoring their pledge to Poland in word though not in deed, the English and French declared war on Germany on the 3rd of September 1939. Neither declared war on the USSR however. England, France and Romania had military alliances with Poland, and none of these countries declared war on the USSR. The League of Nations did not declare the Soviet invasion an act of aggression, nor did any other country. In fact not even Poland declared war on the USSR. Poland’s supreme commander even ordered the army not to resist the Red Army, while still urging continued resistance to the Germans. Here is the text of his order of 17 September 1939:

“The Soviets have invaded. My orders are to carry out the retirement into Rumania and Hungary by the shortest routes. Do not engage the Soviets in military actions, only in the event of disarming our units by them. The task for Warsaw and Modlin, which must defend themselves against the Germans, remain unchanged. Units towards whose formations the Soviets have approached should negotiate with them with the aim of the exit of the garrisons into Rumania or Hungary.

            Supreme Commander

            Marshal of Poland E. Rydz-Smigly”

It is also interesting to note that Winston Churchill himself, a die-hard anti-communist and a beloved icon of anti-communist authors today, was in favor of the Soviet action in Poland. Again, author Geoffery Roberts provides us with Churchill’s words from a radio broadcast of the 1st of October 1939:

“Russia had pursued a cold policy of self-interest. We could have wished that the Russian armies should be standing on their present line as the friends and allies of Poland instead of invaders. But that the Russian armies should stand on this line was clearly necessary for the safety of Russia against the Nazi menace…I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest. It cannot be in accordance with the interest or the safety of Russia that Germany should plant itself upon the shores of the Black Sea, or that it should overrun the Balkan states and subjugate the Slavonic peoples of south-eastern Europe. That would be contrary to the historic life-interests of Russia.”

The idea of an innocent Poland, beset upon by two predatory “totalitarian” “allies” has long stood as a useful myth not only to the anti-communists of Poland but also to the English, who have long maintained this myth to paint their involvement in the Second World War as being a selfless act in defense of a weaker nation. As laughable as this is, many still believe today that the USSR’s invasion of Galicia, Volyn and Belarus can be equated with Germany’s invasion, which not only occupied Polish land but also ethnically cleansed Poles from the Wartheland as they resettled the area with German colonists. Then again, most people have never heard of Galicia or Volyn.

Why Are They Rewriting History?

The history of the Second World War is complex beyond words. Thousands upon thousands of books have been written on the subject. Every major battle has produced its own collection of books, and in some cases documentaries and feature films. The history of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is itself incredibly complex. Here we have discussed only a bare minimum of facts, specifically key facts necessary for the refutation of this modern attempt to rewrite history. Exposing the facts about Western collaboration with fascism can only do so much good. The key issue is that in the past few years, fear of communism among the elite has risen to a level not seen since the McCarthy era. Why, if communism is supposedly dead and buried, do they need to go to such great lengths as to actually re-write history to a degree not even seen during the Cold War?

It is not entirely coincidental that as capitalism descends once more into crisis and as the leading imperialist countries find themselves embroiled in two losing wars, the drive to push communism beyond the pale of political discourse has led to the rewriting of history’s most basic facts. 1991 was supposed to mark the triumph of capitalism and the free market. It was called “the end of history.” Capitalism brings prosperity, the free market conquers all. Reality brought something much different however.

Within a few years, people who never had to worry about paying the rent, making ends meet or getting quality medical care suddenly found themselves helpless at the hands of rapacious thugs, gangsters and oligarchs. Millions were displaced as nations broke apart. Stability gave way to chaos, hopelessness, violence, sex slavery and human trafficking. Nationalism reached a fever pitch and tens of thousands of people were ethnically cleansed. Europe experienced its bloodiest conflict since the WWII. At first, many in Eastern Europe accepted the excuse that they had dismantled their old economies “too fast,” as though this was carried out according to their will as opposed to that of their respective ruling classes advised by and in collusion with businessmen and investors from around the globe. Things would get better after joining NATO and the EU, or a strong leader like Vladimir Putin would solve everything. It is now nearly 20 years since the fall of the Eastern Bloc, and the leaders who promised prosperous societies with respect for “human rights” have failed. They have failed and the people know it.

Now in the throes of an economic crisis, one which now threatens the imperialist European Union, the specter of communism is again haunting Europe. With the US still suffering from massive unemployment, that specter is haunting the US as well. All over the world, even people who were once mainstream liberals are now starting to question capitalism itself. Many are no longer just questioning “unregulated capitalism” but capitalism itself. When we look at the riots in Greece unfolding before our eyes, or the struggle of the TEKEL workers in Turkey, when we see an increasing number of Eastern Europeans admitting that they had a better life under their revisionist regimes than their incompetent politicians today, we easily understand why it is necessary for the European elite to equate communism with Nazism, the latter being a monster fed and raised by capitalism itself. No wonder the American elite pays Glenn Beck to scare the politically and historically illiterate with the same idiotic conflation. After 1991 they could proclaim capitalism triumphant and Marx discredited. Today Marx has been vindicated; economic crisis, unemployment and poverty are all inherent and eternal in capitalism and always will be.

There is no lie too great for the international ruling class when it comes to scaring the proletariat away from the path of liberation and emancipation. A few years ago they tried to erase the Soviet Union’s massive contribution to the defeat of fascism, the bastard child of capitalism. Today they are trying to tell us that Stalin was just as responsible for starting the Second World War. We can be certain they will continue raising the mythical body counts of communism to absurd levels as well. Try as they may, however, they will never exorcise this spirit from the mind of the working class, the one class of society that has the power to both provide for society’s needs and run society itself.

As Enver Hoxha once said: “No force, no torture, no intrigue, no deception can eradicate Marxism-Leninism from the minds and hearts of men.”

Sources

Furr, Grover. “Did the Soviet Union Invade Poland in 1939?.” Cyrano’s Journal (2009): n. pag. Web.

Pauwels, Jacques. “Profits über Alles! American Corporations and Hitler.” Labour/La Travail 51. (2003): n. pag. Web.

Roberts, Geoffery. Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953. 1st. Yale University Press, 2007. Print.

Source

Bruce Franklin’s Introduction to “The Essential Stalin”

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

 — E.S.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is no other way out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mao’s opinion of Stalin is a little different:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anasintaxi on the Restoration of Capitalism in the Soviet Union (Part 5): The capitalist reforms in the Soviet Union and the bourgeois theories of “socialism”

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The capitalist reforms in the Soviet Union and the bourgeois theories of “socialism”

The character of capitalist economic reforms in the Soviet Union and the other Eastern countries during the Khrushchev-Brezhnev period (1953-1965) – that completely restored by mid-late 60’s, capitalism in these countries – were based on the theories of “socialism” promulgated by the reactionary vulgar bourgeois economists but also on those of the internationally renowned Polish revisionist economist Oskar Lange, the successor of ‘socialism’ theories of bourgeois economists, as appears from the following very brief reference.

This very short and incomplete note – for such a big issue – is mostly informative in nature (for motivating younger preoccupation with the theme), and is not intended to refute the bourgeois theories of ‘socialism’.

In the years immediately after the publication of the “Manifesto of the Communist Party” (1848) by Marx-Engels, the bourgeois economists, who, as we know, regarded the individual capitalist ownership as “natural” and “eternal” economic category, began to fight the dangerous, for the power of the bourgeoisie, revolutionary communist beliefs while simultaneously worked on their own theories of “socialism” according to which “socialism-communism” was essentially identical with capitalism with some of them claiming that socialism-communism could not be allegedly applied and operate “rationally” as an economic and social system. Since then, a host of bourgeois economists* worked on the question of socialism-communism worked.

In the field of various schools of vulgar bourgeois political economy – which, let it be noted, has no scientific knowledge to offer – there were developed and formed two main directions: one which identified socialism with capitalism (this only is of interest here), and another that supported the impossibility of socialism-communism with leading and best-known case the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1919) that caused the subsequent discussions during the decades 1920, 1930 and 1940, to which there will be no reference because is irrelevant to the question of capitalist character reforms in the Soviet Union.

One of the first of these, as early as 1854, was German Hermann Heinrich von Gossen, founder of the subjective theory of marginal utility, who suggested in his work «Entwicklung der Gesetze des menschlichen Verkehrs und der daraus flievenden Regeln fuer menschliches Handeln» (Braunschweig 1854 and 1889, 1927: pp. 228-231) that a central planning of the economy is impossible because “the solution of this task goes far beyond the powers of individual people.”

In 1874 there followed the Swiss economist Leon Walras who addressed with his book «Elemente der reinen politischen Oekonomie», among other things, the questions of prices and general economic balance admitting that the latter can be more easily achieved in a system of organized economy, thereby accepting the possibility of application and operation of socialism, a theme which was further developed by his students. In the same year, 1874, the small pamphlet: «Die Quintessenz des Sozialismus» on the subject of socialism was published by Albert Schaeffle.

Later, in 1889, the Austrian Friedrich von Wieser, in his «Der natuerliche Werth» (Wien 1889, pp. 59-66) for the first time expressed the view that the economic categories Price, Interest, rent, etc., are common to both to capitalism and socialism-communism, thus effectively equating the two diametrically opposed ways of production. It is no coincidence – and it should be particularly emphasized – that Wieser’s view was openly applauded and accepted by the Soviet revisionist economists as correct, including SR Kirillov: “Wieser rightly pointed out that such categories as Price, Interest, Rent, etc., may be present in the socialist economy” (Moscow 1974).

A student of L. Walras, the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, was the one who contributed significantly to the development of bourgeois theory of”socialism”, based on the views of his teacher and Friedrich von Wieser. Pareto was a known and avowed enemy of socialism and in his «Cours d ‘economie politique, 2. BD., Pp. 363-364, Lausanne-Paris 1897), after noting that “inequality of income distribution … is much more dependent on the nature of people despite the economic organization of society” (p. 363), he says, referring to socialism, that “economic goods are distributed according to the rules, found when we investigated a free competition system “ (p. 364) i.e. the capitalist system.

Subsequently, there came the great contribution to the development of the bourgeois theory of “socialism” from Italian Enrico Barone in his work «Il ministro della produzione nello stato collectivista» («Giornale degli economisti», September-October 1908), who adopted and developed further the views of Pareto, writing: “… it is obvious, how unreal are those teachings, creating the impression that the production in a collectivist regime could effectively be managed differently than in “anarchic production” echoing Friedrich von Wieser for the necessity of economic categories of capitalism in “socialism”: “… all economic categories of the old regime must still occur, though perhaps with other names: Prices, wages, interest, Ground-Rent, profit, savings, etc. ” (p. 289, English 1935, p. 297 French).

Finally, Enrico Barone, in agreement with Walras, but mainly with Wieser-Pareto and others, argued: “… that it is not impossible to solve the equations of Equilibrium on paper. It would be a huge, gigantic task (a task that should be removed from the productive agencies), but not impossible” (p. 287, English 1935).

Concerning Wieser-Pareto-Barone and for the sake of some completion of the above, it is worth noting the correct opinion of the Austrian economist Josef A. Schumpeter according to which«Wieser, Pareto and Barone, not due to any sympathy towards socialism, created what basically constitutes the pure theory of socialist economy» (Josef A. Schumpeter: «Geschichte der oekonomischen Analyse», 2. Halbband, p. 1083-1084 and p. 1190, Goettingen 1965), i.e. the bourgeois theory of “socialist economy”.

In 1919, two years after the October proletarian revolution, the Austrian economist, anti-marxist and avowed enemy of socialism-communism, Ludwig von Mises wrote his famous article of «Die Wirtschaftsrechnung im sozialistischen Gemeinwesen» published in April 1920 («Archiv fuer Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik », Bd. 47, No. 1, April 1920), which supported the view that “without prices there is economic calculation” and that “socialism is tantamount to the end (the elimination) of the rational economy” (p. 104) and, thus, because there is no economic calculation, socialism is unfeasible – a view that has no scientific basis and that was refuted by the existence and construction of socialism in the Soviet Union of Lenin and Stalin (1917-1953) but which also caused the notorious long international debates during the decades of 1920-1930-1940 that still continue today and in which dozens of economists participated, including the Polish Oskar Lange**. Mises’s view concludes with the preposterous claim: socialism can not exist and act rationally because it is not capitalism.

Oskar Lange answered to Mises with the famous article «On the Economic Theory of Socialism» (in: «Review of Economic Studies, Bd. IV, No 1 and 2, Ochtovris 1936 and February 1937, German: «Zur oekonomischen Theorie des Sozialismus» in: O. Lange:« Oekonomisch-theoretische Studien », Frankfurt am Main-Koeln 1977, greek: Oskar Lange-Fred Taylor:« the economic theory of socialism», Athens 1976).

The answer given by Oskar Lange to Mises is based on the bourgeois views of “socialism” of Walras-Pareto-Barone – something that himself did not hide in the above-mentioned work and also, 30 years later, in his last short article Electronic computer and market “(1965) (in: O.Lange: «Financial planning and political relations», pp. 76-77, Athens, 1974) – written from social democratic perspective i.e. that of «Konkurrenzsozialismus» and has as a starting point the bourgeois subjective theory of marginal utility. And is precisely on this basis that he points out in his work:“the definition of equilibrium prices in a socialist economy is entirely analogous to that of a competitive market” (p. 91), and elsewhere, ” the Central Council for Planning has to set such a price for the capital and natural resources so that resources are directed to areas that can “pay” … ” (p. 88).

It is obvious, therefore, that the mechanisms operating in capitalism and socialism are considered identical, or more precisely: the same common mechanism operating in both economic systems.

It is known that O. Lange was the principal founder of the theory of so-called «Konkurrenzsozialismus» (= «competitive socialism”) or later «Marktsozialismus» (= «market socialism»), i.e. a bourgeois conception of “socialism” with the known connection “Plan- Market “, or more precisely: the replacement of the Plan from the capitalist market.

Bourgeois and revisionist economists admit that the economic reforms implemented in the Soviet Union and other Eastern countries rely on the opinions of Oskar Lange. The Soviet N.P. Fedorenko writes: “The theory and practice showed that the optimal operation mechanism of the socialist economy involves an organic combination of the central state Plan and the business financial independence of the production units in socialist society and that a planned socialist economy involves inherently the use of Value relations and Value categories” (NP Fedorenko: «Problemi obtimalnowo funkzionyirowanyija sozialistscheskoj ekonomiki», pp. 565, Moscow 1972). The Hungarian Csikos-Nagy correctly points out the connection of Fedorenko’s bourgeois views with those of Enrico Barone: «…thus, the scientific facts lead back to the line, that E. Barone had already described in the early 20th century. Barone was the first who dealt with questions concerning the rational operation of the socialist economy. Barone considered this possible based on the general equilibrium theory of Walras» (Bela Csikos-Nagy: «Sozialistische Marktwirtschaft», page 45, Wien 1988). However, in this case, it is not about “scientific knowledge” but, instead, the connection of the anti-marxist views on socialism of the Khrushchevian Fedorenko with those of the bourgeois economist Enrico Barone. And elsewhere: “Mr O. Lange was one of the first who tried to link socialist planning with the market operation and stressed the importance of price equilibrium with the objective of efficient allocation of resources in socialist production. His greatest contribution consists in placing at the centre issues related to the structure of production taking into account the existence of products replacement in the sphere of production and consumption. He emphasized the role of prices ​​in creating financial solutions” (p. 47).

Regarding Fedorenko’s anti-marxist assertion that “theory and practice verified” supposedly the correctness of the Khrushchevian bourgeois views on the question of building socialism-communism, this was completely refuted by the subsequent restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union. What actually happened was that the traitors Khrushchevian revisionists abandoned Marxist views, adopting at theoretical level, and putting into practice the views of vulgar bourgeois political economy in order to achieve the gradual restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union, about which nobody doubts today.

Finally, Polish Adam Zwass is right to extol Oskar Lange as great reformer in the revisionist countries: “the basic ideas of the democratic reform movement were expressed most clearly by the great thinker and reformer Oskar Lange” (A.Zwass: «Planwirtschafr im Wandel der Zeit» , pp. 386, Wien 1982).

From the newer cases of bourgeois economists we mention only Joseph E. Stiglitz. Referring to the reforms in the Soviet Union and other countries writes: “Many of the reforms were based on the idea of socialist market economy, which meant to combine the advantages of market mechanisms with the ownership of the means of production by the state. Oskar Lange, who was a professor of economy at the University of Chicago before returning after the 2nd World War to Poland and becoming vice president of the communist government, was a leading figure and representative of this direction. In socialist market economy, the Prices have the same function in the distribution of resources, as in capitalism. The prices must be determined so as to match supply with demand. Firms accept the prices and compete with each other. They maximize their profits at given prices, by producing (Output) at a price that meets the marginal cost” (Joseph E. Stiglitz: «Volkswirtschaftslehre », pp. 1099, Muenchen, Wien, Oldenburg 1999).

From this very brief and incomplete reference, it becomes obvious that, in their reforms, the Khrushchevian revisionists adopted both the capitalist market-price mechanism and the capitalist economic categories, that is, the well-known theories of bourgeois economists of “socialism”.

Source

On the deaths in Stalin’s USSR

joseph-stalin-1949

In the West, when Stalin’s name is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is the “millions of deaths” under his “ruthless regime”. For decades, fascist and capitalist propagandists alike perpetuated this vision of Stalin as a monster, employing the best World War 2 and Cold War propagandists to slander Stalin’s role as a statesman. What is the truth behind this claims? I hope to shed some light on the matter.

As has been now resolved, the varying numbers of deaths under the Stalin administration are a product of propaganda, and have hence been wildly exaggerated. The evidence found in Russian archives, opened up by the capitalist roader Yeltsin, put the total number of death sentences from 1923 to 1953, the post-Lenin Soviet Union, between 775,866 and 786,098a. To this we must add up the 40,000 who may have been executed without trial and unofficiallyb. If we add up the numbers, what we get achieve is 800,000 executions in a period of 36 years, less than the lives claimed by the dictatorship of the CIA-backed anti-communist Suharto in Indonesia in a time span of 2 years. This is not to say the deaths are to be condoned, but it raises an important question: if less lives have been claimed by the Soviet Union under Stalin than Suharto’s Indonesia, why is Stalin demonized to that extent when Suharto is rarely even known among pro-capitalists?

We shall answer this question in a future post about cultural hegemony, let’s now continue with our examination of Soviet deaths. Because the figure of 800,000 executions includes those persons sentenced to death but had, for instance, their sentences reduceda, this too may be an overestimation. In fact, in a research by Vinton, evidence has been provided indicating that the number of executions was significantly below the number of civilian prisoners sentenced to death in the USSR, with only 7,305 executions in a sample of 11,000 prisoners authorized to be executed in 1940 (or around 60%)c. In addition, 681,692 of the 780,000 or so death sentences were issued during the Great Purge (1937-1938 period)a.

Initially, the NKVD, under Yezhov’s orders, set a cap of 186,500 imprisonments and 72,950 death penalties for a 1937 special operation to combat the threat of foreign and internal subversion. The operation was decided upon after the discovery of Bonapartist plots against the government, led by Tukhacevsky, whose links with opportunist factions within the Party caused total panic. The NKVD’s orders had to be carried out by troikas, 3-men tribunalsa. As the troikas passed sentences before the accused had even been arrested, local authorities requested increases in their own quotas, and there was an official request in 1938 for a doubling of the amount of prisoner transport that had been initially requisitioned to carry out the original campaign quotas of the tribunalsd.

However, even if there had been twice as many actual executions as originally planned, which I would doubt, the number would still be less than 150,000. Many, in fact, may have had their death sentence refused or revoked by authorities before arrest or execution could take place, especially since Stalin, Molotov and Beria later realized that excesses had been committed in the 1937-38 period (the Great Purge), had a number of convictions overturned, and had many of the responsible local leaders punishede. Soviet records indicate only about 300,000 actual arrests for anti-Soviet activities or political crimes during this 1937-1938 interval. With a ratio of 1 execution for every 3 arrests as originally specified by the NKVD, that would imply about 100,000 executions. Since some of the people sentenced to death may have already been in confinement, and since there is some evidence of a 50,000 increase in the total number of deaths in labor camps over the 1937-38 interval that was probably caused by such executions, the total number executed by the troika campaign would probably be around 150,000a. There were also 30,514 death sentences passed by military courts and 4,387 by regular courts during the 1937-38 period, but, even if all these death sentences were carried out, the total number remains under 200,000. Such a low number seems especially likely given the fact that aggregate death rates from all causes throughout the Soviet Union were actually lower in 1937-38 than in prior yearsf, possibly a result of universal health care, vaccination and an improvement in living standards.

Assuming the remaining 100,000 or so death sentences passed in the other years of Stalin’s administration (1923-1936 and 1939-53) resulted in a 60% execution rate, as per the Vinton sample, the total number executed by the Soviet Union during the period would be about 250,000. Even with the thousands executed between 1917 and 1921, it is plausible that the number of unarmed civilians killed between 1917-1953 amounted to considerably less than a quarter million given that thousands of these victims may have been Soviet soldiers, given that many may have been armed bandits and guerrillas, and given that at least 14,000 of the actual executions were of foreign prisoners of warc.

A USA former attache to the Soviet Union, George Kennan, has stated that the number executed was really only in the tens of thousandsg, and so it is very likely that the true number of people killed by the Soviet Union over its entire history (including the thousands killed in Afghanistan) is too small for the country to make it even in the top ten in mass murders (unlike the United States of America, but that’s for another day). There were no doubt many innocent victims during the 1937-38 Stalin purge, but it should also be mentioned that there is substantial evidence from the Soviet archives of Soviet citizens advocating treasonable offenses such as the violent overthrow of the Soviet government or foreign invasion of the Soviet Unioni. In addition, the Soviet Union felt itself so threatened by subversion and imminent military invasions by Japan and Germany (which occurred in full force in 1938 and 1941, respectively) that it perceived a need to undertake a nationwide campaign to eliminate potential internal enemies. Moreover, these external threats were further fueled by the fact that the Russian nobility and czarists (over a million of whom had emigrated after the communist revolution in 1917) had given financial aid to the German Nazis in the 1930s for the purpose of using them (once they had successfully taken power in Germany) to help them overthrow the Soviet governmentj. Forged documents and misinformation spread by Nazi Germany to incriminate innocent and patriotic Soviets also contributed to Soviet paranoiak. It must also be remembered that Soviet fear of foreign-sponsored subversion in the 1930s existed within the context of guerrilla warfare fought against the Soviet Union by some of the same groups of people who had fought with the foreign invaders against the Soviet Union in the 1918-22 Foreign Interventionist Civil War. While the 1937-38 purges were very repressive and tragic by almost any measure, they may have helped prevent the fascists from inciting a successful rebellion or coup in the Soviet Union. Such a threat was a very real one given that the German Nazis did succeed in using political intrigues, threats, economic pressure, and offers of territorial gains to bring other Eastern European countries into their orbit, including Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary, as well as Yugoslavia for a short period of timeh, given that the Soviet Union had been subjected to a brutal 1918-22 civil war which was launched by rebels who were supported by over a million foreign invading troops from over a dozen capitalist countries, given that there was a large amount of sabotage committed by Soviet citizens in the 1930s, and given that there were a significant number of Soviet dissidents who were in favor of overthrowing the Soviet government even if it required an invasion by Germany or some other foreign poweri. In addition, many people may have worked independently to sabotage the Soviet Union in the hope that they would thereby contribute to a foreign overthrow of the Soviet Union, especially since Nazi Germany did make extensive efforts to incite uprisings, cause subversive actions, and create ethnic conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Despite the Soviet Union’s success in defeating the subsequent invasions by fascist Japan (in 1938) and Germany (1941-44), the danger posed by the Nazi spies and saboteurs in Eastern Europe is illustrated by the fact that the CIA considered them so effective that it adopted virtually the entire Nazi network into its own system of terrorism in Eastern Europe after World War IIl.

Evidence from the Soviet archives indicates that the officials responsible for the political repression of the 1930s sincerely felt the victims were guilty of some crime such as sabotage, spying, or treason, and many of the executions of the Great Purge were reported in the local Soviet press at the time. Even when there was proven to be no direct connection between the accused and the fascist foreign powers, there was often a strong belief that the suspects were foreign sympathizers who were working on their own (without formal direction) to contribute to the overthrow of the Soviet Union. It should also be noted that much of the 1937-38 repression, often called the Great Purge, was actually directed against the widespread banditry and criminal activity (such as theft, smuggling, misuse of public office for personal gain, and swindles) that was occurring in the Soviet Union at the timem. In addition to the executions, there were also many imprisoned, and hundreds of thousands of people were expelled from the Communist Party during the Great Purge for being incompetent, corrupt, and/or excessively bureaucratic, with such targeting of inept or dishonest Soviet bureaucrats being fairly popular among the average Soviet citizensi. Like the myths of millions of executions, the fairy tales that Stalin had tens of millions of people arrested and permanently thrown into prison or labor camps to die in the 1930-53 interval are untrue. In particular, the Soviet archives indicate that the number of people in Soviet prisons, gulags, and labor camps in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s averaged about 2 million, of whom 20-40% were released each yeara. This average, which includes desperate World War II years, is similar to the number imprisoned in the USA in the 1990s and is only slightly higher as a percentage of the population. It should also be noted that the annual death rate for the Soviet interned population was about 4%, which incorporates the effect of prisoner executionsa. Excluding the desperate World War II years, the death rate in the Soviet prisons, gulags, and labor camps was only 2.5%a, which is below that of the average citizen in Russia under the tsar in peacetime in 1913f. This finding is not very surprising, given that about 1/3 of the confined people were not even required to workn, and given that the maximum work week was 84 hours in even the harshest Soviet labor camps during the most desperate wartime yearso. The latter maximum (and unusual) work week actually compares favorably to the 100-hour work weeks that existed even for “free” 6-year old children during peacetime in the Gilded era and industrial revolutionp(shoutout to libertarians), although it may seem high compared to the 7-hour day worked by the typical Soviet citizen under Stalini.

In addition, it should also be mentioned that most of the arrests under Stalin were motivated by an attempt to stamp out crimes such as banditry, theft, misuse of public office for personal gain, smuggling, and swindles, with less than 10% of the arrests during Stalin’s rule being for political reasons or secret police mattersa. The Soviet archives reveal a great deal more political dissent permitted in Stalin’s Soviet Union (including a widespread amount of criticism of individual government policies and local leaders) than is normally perceived in the Westi. Given that the regular police, the political or secret police, prison guards, some national guard troops, and fire fighters (who were in the same ministry as the police) comprised scarcely 0.2% of the Soviet population under Staline, severe repression would have been impossible even if the Soviet Union had wanted to exercise it. In comparison, the USA today has many times more police as a percentage of the population (about 1%), not to mention prison guards, national guard troops, and fire fighters included in the numbers used to compute the far smaller 0.2% ratio for the Soviet Union. In any event, it is possible that the communist countries of Eastern Europe would have become politically less repressive and more democratic (especially over time), if there hadn’t been overt and covert efforts by capitalist powers to overthrow their governments, including subversion conducted in the USSR as late as the 1980s that the USA government admitted to in the 1990s. These efforts at violent subversion were initially carried out mostly by the British (before World War II) and then later more so by the USA through the CIA, which did succeed violently overthrowing a very democratic communist government in Chile in 1973. If the communists had truly been as evil and dictatorial as they are portrayed to be in the capitalist press, the peaceful revolution of 1989 in Eastern Europe (with virtually no related deaths except in Romania) could never have occurred.

Sources:

a: Getty, Ritterspom, and Zemskov, “Victims of the Soviet Penal System in the Pre-War Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence”

http://sovietinfo.tripod.com/GTY-Penal_System.pdf

b: Hellmut Andics, “Rule of Terror”

c: Louisa Vinton, “The Katyn Documents: Politics and History.”

d: Amy Knight, “Beria, Stalin’s First Lieutenant”

http://www.ucis.pitt.edu/nceeer/1993-804-08-Knight.pdf

e: Robert Thurston, “Life and Terror in Stalin s Russia”

f: Stephen Wheatcroft, “More Light on the Scale of Repression and Excess Mortality in the Soviet Union in the 1930s”

http://ebooks.cambridge.org/chapter.jsf?bid=CBO9780511626012&cid=CBO9780511626012A025

g: J. W. Smith, “Economic Democracy: The Political Struggle of the 21st Century”

http://www.abebooks.co.uk/9780765604682/Economic-Democracy-Political-Struggle-21st-076560468X/plp

h: Marshall Miller, “Bulgaria during the Second World War”

i: Sarah Davies, “Popular Opinion in Stalin’s Russia”

http://books.google.com/books/about/Popular_Opinion_in_Stalin_s_Russia.html?id=yTGgOwH_mwgC&redir_esc=y

j: Leslie Feinberg, “The Class Character of German Fascism”

<a href=”http://www.workers.org/ww/1999/fascism0304.php

k: Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky “KGB: The Inside Story”

l: Von Schnitzler, “Der Rote Kana”

m: John Arch Getty, “Origins of the Great Purges”

http://books.google.com/books/about/Origins_of_the_Great_Purges.html?id=R5zx54LB-A4C&redir_esc=y

n: Edwin Bacon, “The Gulag at War: Stalin’s Forced Labour System in the Light of the Archives”

o: R. J. Rummel, “Lethal Politics”

p: Marx and Engels, “Das Kapital”

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/index.htm

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1885-c2/index.htm

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/index.htm

q: Numbers taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography_of_the_Soviet_Union, which in turn cites Andreev et al, “Naselenie Sovetskogo Soiuza, 1922-1991″

Source

Left Anticommunism: the Unkindest Cut

noamChomsky

BY MICHAEL PARENTI

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

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

Genuflection to Orthodoxy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A prototypic Red-basher who pretended to be on the Left was George Orwell. In the middle of World War II, as the Soviet Union was fighting for its life against the Nazi invaders at Stalingrad, Orwell announced that a “willingness to criticize Russia and Stalin is the test of intellectual honesty. It is the only thing that from a literary intellectual’s point of view is really dangerous” (Monthly Review, 5/83). Safely ensconced within a virulently anticommunist society, Orwell (with Orwellian doublethink) characterized the condemnation of communism as a lonely courageous act of defiance. Today, his ideological progeny are still at it, offering themselves as intrepid left critics of the Left, waging a valiant struggle against imaginary Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist hordes.
•••••

•••••

Sorely lacking within the U.S. Left is any rational evaluation of the Soviet Union, a nation that endured a protracted civil war and a multinational foreign invasion in the very first years of its existence, and that two decades later threw back and destroyed the Nazi beast at enormous cost to itself. In the three decades after the Bolshevik revolution, the Soviets made industrial advances equal to what capitalism took a century to accomplish–while feeding and schooling their children rather than working them fourteen hours a day as capitalist industrialists did and still do in many parts of the world. And the Soviet Union, along with Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic, and Cuba provided vital assistance to national liberation movements in countries around the world, including Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress in South Africa.

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

Slinging Labels

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pure Socialism vs. Siege Socialism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decentralization vs. Survival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forever in Chains: The Tragic History of Congo

Nsala, of the district of Wala, looking at the severed hand and foot of his five-year old daughter, Boali, who was killed and allegedly cannibalized by the members of Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company (A.B.I.R.) militia. Source: E. D Morel, King Leopold's rule in Africa, between pages 144 and 145

Nsala, of the district of Wala, looking at the severed hand and foot of his five-year old daughter, Boali, who was killed and allegedly cannibalized by the members of Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company (A.B.I.R.) militia. Source: E. D Morel, King Leopold’s rule in Africa, between pages 144 and 145

FRIDAY 28 JULY 2006

The most blighted nation on earth goes to the polls this weekend – more in hope than expectation that stability and peace might result. In Congo, mass suffering has been a way of life ever since the Belgian King Leopold enslaved millions in the 19th century. Paul Vallely traces the story of a people for whom the horror never let up

One picture sums it up. It shows a man named Nsala sitting on the porch of a missionary’s house in the Congo. His face is a portrait of impenetrable sorrow.

Before him lie a small hand and foot. It is all that remains of his five-year-old daughter who has – together with his wife and son – been killed, dismembered, cooked and eaten by soldiers.

The photograph was taken during the biggest atrocity in recorded African history. And it was perpetrated not by Africans, but by Europeans.

No one knows how many people died, but it was at least three million men, women and children. Some historians say it was five million, or 10 million. The Encyclopaedia Britannica has said that as many as 30 million people may have perished.

It is but a single chapter in the long and bloody history of the Congo. This weekend, voters go to the polls in Democratic Republic of Congo for the first elections in 40 years, during which havoc has been wreaked by despotism and war. But will Sunday’s poll do anything to change lives there for the better?

The first that was written of the hot and humid river basin that straddles the Equator on the west of the great African continent came from Portuguese travellers in the 15th century. They had encountered a place called the Kingdom of Kongo and, with its capital city of Mbanza Kongo, it had a population close to half a million people. It was a highly developed state at the centre of an extensive trading network.

Merchants traded all manner of raw materials, the most precious of which was ivory, but which also included a wealth of manufactured goods such as copper and ironware, raffia cloth and pottery. It was also a centre for the buying and selling of individuals captured in war. Long before the arrival of the Europeans, the slave trade existed. The ruler was a king who rejoiced in the title of “Mother of the King of Kongo”.

Not much more was heard of the place in Europe until the great Victorian missionary explorer David Livingstone discovered that quinine was the key to unlocking the African interior. He became a hero and a household name in the second half of the 19th century, but then disappeared into the bush. The New York Herald sent another intrepid Briton to find him, and the young man, Henry Morton Stanley, walked into the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations with his greeting: “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”

Across the other side of the globe, King Leopold II of the Belgians read about it over breakfast in the The Times, which was thrown from the continental mail train into the grounds of his palace each morning. (His butler ironed it before the monarch read it.)

Leopold had been of the opinion for some time that “il faut à la Belgique une colonie”. He didn’t want to miss the chance of getting a good slice of what he called the “magnifique gâteau africain”. But he was having a hard time persuading the Belgian government to agree. So he decided to acquire a colony by himself. In doing so, he ignited what came to be called “the scramble of Africa”.

Stanley’s encounter with the Congo was being hailed as the most important geographical “discovery” ever made in Africa. The king summoned the Welshman and in 1878 commissioned him to go back – under the guise of an international scientific and philanthropic association, which he called the International African Society – to negotiate with the local chiefs.

Over the five years that followed, Stanley concluded some 400 “cloth and trinket” treaties with the Congo chiefs. The Africans thought they were signing friendship pacts, but they were in fact selling their land.

Leopold, who was devious as well as greedy, persuaded the world that he was acting from humanitarian motives. In 1884, the The Daily Telegraph, perspicacious as ever, opined: “Leopold II has knit adventurers, traders and missionaries of many races into one band of men under the most illustrious of modern travellers [Stanley] to carry to the interior of Africa new ideas of law, order, humanity and protection of the natives.”

That year, at the Berlin Conference called by Bismarck to carve up Africa – which no African attended, even as an observer – Leopold displayed some nifty footwork. He persuaded the Iron Chancellor that, in order to exclude Germany’s rivals, Britain and France, from the important new region, it would be best to declare it a free trade area and give it to him. Not to Belgium, not even to the Belgian crown, but to him personally.

Without ever setting foot there, Leopold II had become the owner of nearly a million square miles of unmapped jungle, 75 times the size of Belgium itself. Ivory was what the king had his eye on. And, though plenty of it was yielded, Leopold struggled to make a profit. In 1895, he tried to give the colony to the Belgian government because it was costing him too much.

But then a Scot called Dunlop invented the pneumatic tyre for his bicycle, and the worldwide boom in rubber began. In the Congo, wild jungle vines that yielded the stuff grew everywhere. The natives would slash them and lather their bodies with the rubber. All that Leopold needed to do was to persuade the natives to scrape it off into huge baskets for him.

He did this by setting quotas of both rubber and ivory for each village, for which they were paid a pitifully low fixed price set by his officials on the ground. Each community was told to provide 10 per cent of their number as full-time forced labourers, and another 25 per cent part-time. It was a form of slavery.

Stanley, who supervised all this, became known in Kikongo as Bula Matari (the Breaker of Rocks), a tag the people later transferred to the Congolese state itself. The scheme was a huge success; by 1902, the price of rubber had risen 15 times in eight years, and it constituted 80 per cent of the exports of “The Congo Free State”, as Leopold had dubbed it.

Free is what the people were not. The symbol of Leopold’s rule was the schicotte – a whip of raw sun-dried hippopotamus hide cut into long sharp-edged strips which could quickly remove the skin from a man’s back. The king established a Force Publique to enforce the rubber quotas. Its soldiers were black – many of them cannibals from the fiercest tribes of upper Congo – but they were led by white officers who routinely supervised the burning of non-compliant villages and the torture and rape of those who were struggling to fill quotas.

One local man spelt out what this meant. “Wild beasts – leopards – killed some of us while we were working away in the forest, and others got lost or died from exposure or starvation and we begged the white men to leave us alone, saying we could get no more rubber, but the white men and the soldiers said, ‘Go. You are only beasts yourselves. You are only snyama [meat].’ Many were shot, some had their ears cut off.”

But the routine penalty for failing to bring in enough rubber was the severing of a hand. Soldiers collected them by the basketload, from the living and the dead. A Baptist missionary wrote a letter to The Times about it: “The hands – the hands of men, women and children – were placed in rows before the commissary who counted them to see that the soldiers had not wasted cartridges.” Officers were worried that the men might waste their ammunition on hunting animals for sport, so they required soldiers to submit one hand for every bullet spent. Hands became a grim currency, traded to make up for shortfalls in rubber quotas. “This rubber traffic is steeped in blood,” the letter-writer said.

Other testimony disclosed how Belgian officers ordered their men “to cut off the heads of the men and hang them on the village palisades, also their sexual members, and to hang the women and the children on the palisade in the form of a cross”. This blood-curdling business carried on for more than 12 years before word leaked out. One of the first to blow the whistle was the captain of one of the riverboats that transported the ivory and rubber downstream to port. His name was Joseph Conrad, and eight years later he wrote a book that has shaped the emotional language in which white people discuss Africa.

It was called Heart of Darkness. The atmosphere it conjures is of fetid fever-ridden ports in an Equatorial river basin surrounded by dense tropical rainforest. It is a climate of persistent high temperatures and humidity, as enervating to the soul as to the body. It is a world of madness, greed and violence, centred on a charismatic ivory trader called Kurtz who turns himself into a demigod to the local tribes and gathers vast quantities of ivory. Eventually, he dies – “The horror, the horror,” his last words.

When the book was published in magazine serial form in 1899, it did not just expose what Conrad was to call “the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience”. It also gave backing to the writings of a man whose campaigns on the Congo the public had been reluctant to believe.

ED Morel was a clerk in a Liverpool shipping office who began to wonder why the ships that brought vast loads of rubber from the Congo returned carrying no commercial goods, but only guns and ammunition. He began to investigate the Force Publique and concluded that Leopold’s well-publicised philanthropy was in fact “legalised robbery enforced by violence”. He wrote: “I had stumbled upon a secret society of murderers with a king for a croniman.”

In 1903, the House of Commons debated the Congo atrocities. The British consul in Congo, Roger Casement, was sent to investigate. The year after, he returned with a vivid and detailed eyewitness report, which was made public. His 1904 report, which confirmed Morel’s accusations and suggested that at least three million people had died, had a considerable impact on public opinion.

Even then, Leopold countered with a wicked publicity campaign to discredit the reports. He even created a bogus Commission for the Protection of the Natives to root out the “few isolated instances” of abuse. But he reckoned without another recent invention – the camera. Before long, horrifying photographs such as the one of the man with his daughter’s little hand and foot, were in circulation.

International opinion was outraged. In America, Mark Twain penned a savage piece of sarcasm called King Leopold’s Soliloquy. In Britain, Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired to write the book The Crime of the Congo, which he completed in eight days. Before long, the American President and the British prime minister were pressing the Belgian government to act.

Leopold offered to reform his regime, but few took him seriously. After two years of agonised deliberation, a further report (which confirmed Casement’s) and a general election, the Parliament of Belgium annexed the Congo Free State and took over its administration. It paid Leopold £2m to compensate him for his sacrifices.

Renamed the Belgian Congo (to contrast with the much smaller French Congo, now the Republic of Congo, to the west), the region became a “model colony”. In the decades that followed the transfer of responsibility to the government of Belgium, large amounts of the wealth produced in the Congo were spent there by the alliance of church, commerce and state.

The missionaries built hospitals and clinics to which large numbers of Congolese had access. Doctors and medics achieved great victories against disease, managing to eradicate sleeping sickness. Many villages had medical posts, and bigger cities had well-equipped hospitals. The church ran schools to which 10 per cent of the people were admitted, comparing favourably with the 6 per cent of the population in school in India and the much lower percentages elsewhere in Africa. The colonial authorities built railways, ports and roads. The mining companies built houses for their staff, provided welfare and technical training.

By the Second World War, production and profits had risen to the point where the Congo was Africa’s richest colony. In the 1950s, life expectancy was 55 years (today, it is 51). By 1959, the year before independence, the Belgian Congo was producing 10 per cent of world’s copper, 50 per cent of its cobalt and 70 per cent of industrial diamonds.

What was missing was the development of a Congolese elite to take over the running of the place. The Congolese had no rights to own land, to vote or to travel freely. There were curfews in towns and forced labour in the countryside. There was no higher education, except for those who wanted to become priests. The Congolese were encouraged to become clerks, medical assistants and mechanics, but not doctors, lawyers or engineers.

At independence, out of a population of 60 million, there were just 16 university graduates. Educated Congolese were given the status of Sévolués, but this won them few privileges when what they wanted, wrote Patrice Lumumba, who was to become the first prime minister of what became Democratic Republic of Congo, “was to be Belgians and have the same freedoms and rights as whites”.

It would come eventually, their colonial masters thought, in perhaps another 100 years. When a Belgian academic suggested a 30-year transition plan was needed, he was greeted with derision. But when the change came, on the back of the sudden tide of African nationalism that swept the continent, accompanied by riots, it happened in just 18 months. The Congo was perhaps the least well-prepared of any colony for independence.

It didn’t help that on Independence Day in 1960, King Baudouin arrived to make a speech praising the “genius” of Leopold II, listing the sacrifices that Belgium had made for the Congo and doling out patronising advice. Prime Minister Lumumba responded with an off-the-cuff speech about the “terrible suffering and exploitation” that had been experienced by “we niggers” and promising: “We shall make of the Congo a shining example for the whole of Africa.” It was not to be.

Lumumba was charismatic, with extraordinary powers of oratory, but he was volatile. Within days of the independence ceremonies, rebellions and violence broke out. The province of Katanga declared independence. Belgium moved troops in. So did the United Nations. Feeling betrayed, Lumumba requested Soviet military aid.

The local CIA chief telegrammed back to Washington that the Congo was “a Cuba in the making” and that Lumumba was a “Castro or worse”. President Eisenhower allegedly authorised that Lumumba be assassinated and a CIA hit man came from Paris with poison to be, bizarrely, injected into the prime minister’s toothpaste. (The local CIA man refused to do it.)

The plot thickened with Dag Hammarskjold, the UN Secretary General, dying in a plane crash in uncertain circumstances while trying to negotiate a ceasefire in Katanga. Letters recently uncovered by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission suggested that South African agents planted a bomb in the aircraft’s wheel-bay. And, not long afterwards, the Marxist guerrilla leader Che Guevara appeared in the Congo with 100 men in a plot to bring about a Cuban-style revolution.

Amid all that, Patrice Lumumba had fallen out with the Congo’s first president, Joseph Kasavubu. As the pair engaged in a power struggle in September 1960, a military coup overthrew Lumumba in favour of the president. The putsch was staged by the 29-year-old army chief of staff, Colonel Joseph-Désiré Mobutu. Five years later, he staged another one, ousting Kasavubu and beginning his own bizarre 32-year rule.

Lumumba was shot in the bush at the command of a Belgian officer. His body was hacked to pieces and dissolved in sulphuric acid, his skull ground to dust and his bones and teeth scattered – some say by a witch doctor from an aircraft along the country’s borders, to make sure he could not come back from the dead.

Things did not get better. Mobutu sent the Russians packing, which greatly pleased the Americans. So did almost everything else he did, for he staunchly followed US foreign policy in all key matters. It was the height of the Cold War and Africa had become a proxy battlefield. Keeping the Soviets out was more important than anything else. As long as Mobutu did that, and supported anti-Communist rebels in neighbouring countries, Washington would turn a blind eye to anything else.

Mobutu made the most of that. He set up a one-party state that tolerated no dissent. In the early years, he consolidated power by publicly executing political rivals. One rebel leader had his eyes gouged out, his genitals ripped off and his limbs amputated one by one before he died.

Later, Mobutu switched to a new tactic – that of buying off political rivals rather than killing them. He did so by elevating theft to a form of government. A new word was coined to describe it – kleptocracy. At first, he had tried simply printing more money to pay the bills for his schemes. He issued new stamps, coins and currency notes with his portrait on.

There were posters and billboards everywhere. His personality cult reached its peak every night when the television news began with an image of him descending through clouds from the heavens. He put the story about that even his walking stick had magic powers.

In the early years, he launched an African Authenticity campaign. He renamed the country Zaire in 1971. He ordered everyone to drop their Christian names for African ones, rebranding himself Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (“The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, will go from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake”). He outlawed hair-straightening, skin bleaching, the wearing of ties and listening to foreign music. He nationalised foreign-owned firms and handed them to relatives and associates.

When the economy slumped, he printed more money. Hyperinflation followed, and even the central bank bought its hard currency on the black market. But he was a Cold War warrior, so the West bailed him out. The more they gave him, the more he stole. Of the $73m education budget one year, schools got only $8m; he pocketed the rest. So it went with every area of government.

Mobutu’s extravagance was legendary. He had villas, ranches, palaces and yachts throughout Europe. Concorde was constantly hired. He didn’t just have Swiss bank accounts; he bought a Swiss bank. He didn’t just get his wife a Mercedes; he bought a Mercedes assembly plant for her. He stashed away nearly $5bn – almost the equivalent of the country’s foreign debt at the time.

Still, the West smiled and paid up to the man Ronald Reagan called “a voice of good sense and good will”. The US gave him a total of $2bn over 30 years. The CIA trained and armed his bodyguards. When rebels attacked him, France airlifted in 1,500 elite Moroccan paratroopers. When that wasn’t enough, a year later Belgium and France deployed troops (with American logistical support).

All the while, the Congo became Africa’s haven for mercenaries, money launderers and diamond smugglers – while its public infrastructure rotted and child mortality rose. Mobutu became the longest-surviving despot of the Cold War era. It was either “Mobutu or chaos”, the US said. But the hapless people of the Congo got both.

Then it was over. The Berlin Wall fell. The Cold War ended. The IMF experts who had been brought in to reform his finances – and left after a year in despair – pulled the plug on his loans. The US would lend no more. Mobutu declared an end to one-party rule, but it was too late.

What finished him off was the decision to back the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide. After the Hutu genocidaires were chased from Rwanda in 1994, Mobutu gave them shelter in Zaire. More than that; he issued an order forcing Tutsis to leave Zaire on penalty of death. They erupted in rebellion. Rwanda and Uganda joined in, invading eastern Congo in pursuit of the genocidaires. When they met no resistance – the Congolese army being more used to suppressing civilians than fighting – they marched on the capital Kinshasa.

Mobutu – the “all-powerful warrior”, the fifth-richest man in the world, who bled the Congo even more efficiently than King Leopold, and who looted the state into paralysis – escaped on a cargo plane with bullets ripping into the fuselage as it took off. After 20 years of Mobutist dictatorship, in the words of the African historian Basil Davidson: “Zaire remained a state without a nation, a geographical concept without a people.” And Kinshasa la belle had become Kinshasa la poubell – the dustbin.

The new man was Laurent-Désiré Kabila. He presented himself as the heir to the murdered Lumumba. Outsiders hailed him as one of the “new breed” of African leaders. Nelson Mandela paid tribute. The US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, stood next to Kabila early on and said that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (or Democratic Republic of Congo as it was re-re-named) would now emerge as “an engine of regional growth”. Those who knew Kabila thought differently.

His critics sneered that all he had ever run was a brothel in Tanzania. Others recalled the judgement of Che Guevara who had concluded three decades earlier that Kabila was “not the man of the hour”. He was too interested in drinking, bedding women and showing up days late. The lack of co-operation between Kabila and Guevara was what had led to the Cuban-style revolution foundering in the Sixties.

He had not, it seemed, improved with age. Kabila turned out to be another petty tyrant. Secretive and paranoid, he had no political programme and just doled out jobs to family and friends. He made his cousin chief of the armed forces, gave his son a top army job and made his brother-in-law the police chief. Worse, he was as cruel as Mobutu, jailing and torturing opponents, but lacking his skill in playing the ethnic card. He promised elections but never held them.

And he did not learn from Mobutu’s mistakes. Put in power by the Rwandans and Ugandans, he decided to distance himself from them by again supporting the Hutus and allowing them to regroup on Congolese soil. Rwanda had learnt the lessons of the past; it immediately flew 2,000 troops to within striking distance of the capital. Uganda joined in. Kabila was only saved because Angola and Zimbabwe came to his rescue, the former fearing that a power vacuum in the DRC would allow Angolan rebels to flourish, the later trying to play the statesman and grab some mining contracts.

The fighting soon stalemated. But no one was bothered; all involved just used the bases they had established inside the DRC to plunder. The war became self-financing as all sides scrabbled for diamonds, gold and timber.

Suddenly, 70 per cent of the Congo’s coltan – an essential component in making mobile phones – was being exported through Rwanda. And Congo gold turned into a major Ugandan export. Rwanda and Uganda even began to fight each other at one point over control of Kisangani and its diamond fields.

What broke the stalemate was a coup in 2001. The plot failed, but Kabila was assassinated. His son, Joseph Kabila Kabange, became President. The Congo’s warlords were happy, assuming that junior would be a pushover.

But Kabila II had done his military training in China and turned out to be an operator. Within a year, he had successfully negotiated an international peace deal that saw Rwanda withdraw and all the remaining warring parties agree to end the fighting and establish a government of national unity.

Peace has returned to two-thirds of the country – there are factions fighting in the east – and Kabila has delivered the referendum he promised and now, on Sunday, the elections. He is, of course, standing and is, of course, the favourite of the 33 candidates.

The country is still in a dire state. Aid organisations say about 1,200 people die daily due to the effects of the conflict, hunger and disease. The DRC has Aids, low life expectancy and a high rate of child deaths. More than two million Congolese are internal refugees. National output and government revenue slumped – and external debt increased – during the five years of fighting, in which perhaps four million people died.

Even so, this weekend’s elections – the first multiparty elections in 40 years – are the biggest and most costly the UN has organised. Another eastern warlord yesterday agreed to lay down arms. Last month, the world’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton, said it would open an office in Kinshasa once the election is over. Other big mining groups may follow.

The prospects look a little brighter. It may be too soon – in the two-steps-forward, one-step-back world of contemporary Africa – to be optimistic. But, in their terrible story, the people of the Congo hope that, at last, it may be that a corner is being turned.

The horror: from Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’

Paths, paths, everywhere; a stamped-in network of paths spreading over the empty land, through the long grass, through burnt grass, through thickets, down and up chilly ravines, up and down stony hills ablaze with heat; and a solitude, a solitude, nobody, not a hut. The population had cleared out a long time ago. Well, if a lot of mysterious niggers armed with all kinds of fearful weapons suddenly took to travelling on the road between Deal and Gravesend, catching the yokels right and left to carry heavy loads for them, I fancy every farm and cottage thereabouts would get empty very soon. Only here the dwellings were gone, too. Still I passed through several abandoned villages. There’s something pathetically childish in the ruins of grass walls. Day after day, with the stamp and shuffle of 60 pair of bare feet behind me, each pair under a 60lb load. Camp, cook, sleep, strike camp, march. Now and then a carrier dead in harness, at rest in the long grass near the path, with an empty water gourd and his long staff lying by his side. A great silence around and above. Perhaps on some quiet night the tremor of far-off drums, sinking, swelling, a tremor vast, faint; a sound weird, appealing, suggestive and wild – and perhaps with as profound a meaning as the sound of bells in a Christian country. Once a white man in an unbuttoned uniform, camping on the path with an armed escort of lank Zanzibaris, very hospitable and festive – not to say drunk. Was looking after the upkeep of the road, he declared. Can’t say I saw any road or any upkeep, unless the body of a middle-aged negro, with a bullet-hole in the forehead, upon which I absolutely stumbled three miles farther on, may be considered a permanent improvement.

Source

Privatization in Ex-Communist Countries Killed Over One Million People

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As many as one million working-age men died due to the economic shock of mass privatisation policies followed by post-communist countries in the 1990s, according to a new study published in The Lancet.

The Oxford-led study measured the relationship between death rates and the pace and scale of privatisation in 25 countries in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, dating back to the early 1990s. They found that mass privatisation came at a human cost: with an average surge in the number of deaths of 13 per cent or the equivalent of about one million lives.

The rapid privatisation programme, part of a plan known by economists as ‘shock therapy’, led to a 56 per cent increase in unemployment, which the study says played an important role in explaining why privatisation claimed so many lives. Many employers provided extensive health and social care for their employees, so through privatisation workers experienced the ‘double whammy’ of losing not only their livelihood but also their means of surviving the crisis.

David Stuckler from Oxford, and colleagues Dr Lawrence King from Cambridge University and Professor Martin McKee, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, took death rates reported by the World Heath Organisation for men of working age (15-59 years) in 25 post-communist countries and compared them to the timing and extent of participation in mass privatisation and other transition policies.

The team took into account other factors that might affect rising death rates (such as economic depression, initial conditions and health infrastructure). They also examined other measures of privatisation from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, a bank which gave loans in support of radical mass privatisation.

During the 1990s, former communist countries underwent the world’s worst peacetime mortality crisis in the past 50 years – with over three million avoidable deaths and 10 million ‘missing’ men, according to the United Nations.

However, while life expectancy plummeted in some countries, like Russia and Kazakhstan; the populations’ health steadily improved in other countries, such as Slovenia. Previous research shows that unemployment and levels of alcohol consumption are major factors behind these differences, but this study is thought to be the first to isolate aspects of the reforms process that might cause these variations. It finds that death rates are linked to the speed and type of privatisation and resulting unemployment – and also to the level of social support available. If at least 45 per cent of the country’s population were members of at least one social organisation, such as a church or trade union, they were better protected from the economic shocks, the authors found.

David Stuckler, from Oxford’s Department of Sociology, said: ‘Our study helps explain the striking differences in mortality in the post-communist world.  Countries which pursued rapid privatisation, or ‘shock therapy’, had much greater rises in deaths than countries which followed a more gradual path. Not only did rapid privatisation lead to mass unemployment but also wiped out the social safety nets, which were critical for helping people survive during this turbulent period.’

Professor Martin McKee said: ‘As variants of rapid reform policies are being debated in China, India, Egypt and other developing and middle-income countries, including Iraq, our study reminds us that radical economic reforms affect ordinary people and, in some cases, cost them their lives.’

Source

Democracy, East Germany and the Berlin Wall

Monument dedicated to Karl Marx in East Germany.

The GDR was more democratic, in the original and substantive sense of the word, than eastern Germany was before 1949 and than the former East Germany has become since the Berlin Wall was opened in 1989. It was also more democratic in this original sense than its neighbor, West Germany. While it played a role in the GDR’s eventual demise, the Berlin Wall was at the time a necessary defensive measure to protect a substantively democratic society from being undermined by a hostile neighbor bent on annexing it.

by Stephen Gowans

While East Germany (the German Democratic Republic, or GDR) wasn’t a ‘workers’ paradise’, it was in many respects a highly attractive model that was responsive to the basic needs of the mass of people and therefore was democratic in the substantive and original sense of the word. It offered generous pensions, guaranteed employment, equality of the sexes and substantial wage equality, free healthcare and education, and a growing array of other free and virtually free goods and services. It was poorer than its West German neighbor, the Federal Republic of Germany, or FRG, but it started at a lower level of economic development and was forced to bear the burden of indemnifying the Soviet Union for the massive losses Germany inflicted upon the USSR in World War II. These conditions were largely responsible for the less attractive aspects of life in the GDR: lower pay, longer hours, and fewer and poorer consumer goods compared to West Germany, and restrictions on travel to the West. When the Berlin Wall was open in 1989, a majority of the GDR’s citizens remained committed to the socialist basis of their society and wished to retain it. [1] It wasn’t the country’s central planning and public ownership they rebelled against. These things produced what was best about the country. And while Cold War propaganda located East Germany well outside the ‘free world,’ political repression and the Stasi, the East German state security service, weren’t at the root of East Germans’ rebellion either. Ultimately, what the citizens of the GDR rebelled against was their comparative poverty. But this had nothing to do with socialism. East Germans were poorer than West Germans even before the Western powers divided Germany in the late 1940s, and remain poorer today. A capitalist East Germany, forced to start at a lower level of economic development and to disgorge war reparation payments to the USSR, would not have become the social welfare consumer society West Germany became and East Germans aspired after, but would have been at least as worse off as the GDR was, and probably much worse off, and without the socialist attractions of economic security and greater equality. Moreover, without the need to compete against an ideological rival, it’s doubtful the West German ruling class would have been under as much pressure to make concessions on wages and benefits. West Germans, then, owed many of their social welfare gains to the fact their neighbour to the east was socialist and not capitalist.

The Western powers divide Germany

While the distortions of Cold War history would lead one to believe it was the Soviets who divided Germany, the Western powers were the true authors of Germany’s division. The Allies agreed at the February 1945 Yalta conference that while Germany would be partitioned into French, British, US and Soviet occupation zones, the defeated Germany would be administered jointly. [2] The hope of the Soviets, who had been invaded by Germany in both first and second world wars, was for a united, disarmed and neutral Germany. The Soviet’s goals were two-fold: First, Germany would be demilitarized, so that it could not launch a third war of aggression on the Soviet Union. Second, it would pay reparations for the massive damages it inflicted upon the USSR, calculated after the war to exceed $100 billion. [3]

The Western powers, however, had other plans. The United States wanted to revive Germany economically to ensure it would be available as a rich market capable of absorbing US exports and capital investment. The United States had remained on the sidelines through a good part of the war, largely avoiding the damages that ruined its rivals, while at the same time acting as armourer to the Allies. At the end of the war, Britain, France, Germany, Japan and the USSR lay in ruins, while the US ruling class was bursting at the seams with war industry profits. The prospects for the post-war US economy, however, and hence for the industrialists, bankers and investors who dominated the country’s political decision-making, were dim unless new life could be breathed into collapsed foreign markets, which would be needed to absorb US exports and capital. An economically revived Germany was therefore an important part of the plan to secure the United States’ economic future. The idea of a Germany forced to pour out massive reparation payments to the USSR was intolerable to US policy makers: it would militate against the transformation of Germany into a sphere of profit-making for US capital, and would underwrite the rebuilding of an ideological competitor.

The United States intended to make post-war life as difficult as possible for the Soviet Union. There were a number of reasons for this, not least to prevent the USSR from becoming a model for other countries. Already, socialism had eliminated the United States’ access to markets and spheres of investment in one-sixth of the earth’s territory. The US ruling class didn’t want the USSR to provide inspiration and material aid to other countries to follow the same path. The lead role of communists in the resistance movements in Europe, “the success of the Soviet Union in defeating Nazi Germany,” and “the success of the Soviet Union in industrializing and modernizing,” [4] had greatly raised the prestige of the USSR and enhanced the popularity of communism. Unless measures were taken to check the USSR’s growing popularity, socialism would continue to advance and the area open to US exports and investment would continue to contract. A Germany paying reparations to the Soviets was clearly at odds with the goals of reviving Germany and holding the Soviet Union in check. What’s more, while the Soviets wanted Germany to be permanently disarmed as a safeguard against German revanchism, the United States recognized that a militarized Germany under US domination could play a central role in undermining the USSR.

The division of Germany began in 1946, when the French decided to administer their zone separately. [5] Soon, the Western powers merged their three zones into a single economic unit and announced they would no longer pay reparations to the Soviet Union. The burden would have to be borne by the Soviet occupation zone alone, which was smaller and less industrialized, and therefore less able to offer compensation.

In 1949, the informal division of Germany was formalized with the proclamation by the Western powers of a separate West German state, the FRG. The new state would be based on a constitution written by Washington and imposed on West Germans, without their ratification. (The GDR’s constitution, by contrast, was ratified by East Germans.) In 1954, West Germany was integrated into a new anti-Soviet military alliance, NATO, which, in its objectives, aped the earlier anti-Comintern pact of the Axis powers. The goal of the anti-Comintern pact was to oppose the Soviet Union and world communism. NATO, with a militarized West Germany, would take over from where the Axis left off.

The GDR was founded in 1949, only after the Western powers created the FRG. The Soviets had no interest in transforming the Soviet occupation zone into a separate state and complained bitterly about the Western powers’ division of Germany. Moscow wanted Germany to remain unified, but demilitarized and neutral and committed to paying war reparations to help the USSR get back on its feet. As late as 1954, the Soviets offered to dissolve the GDR in favour of free elections under international supervision, leading to the creation of a unified, unaligned, Germany. This, however, clashed with the Western powers’ plan of evading Germany’s responsibility for paying war reparations and of integrating West Germany into the new anti-Soviet, anti-communist military alliance. The proposal was, accordingly, rejected. George Kennan, the architect of the US policy of ‘containing’ (read undermining) the Soviet Union, remarked: “The trend of our thinking means that we do not want to see Germany reunified at this time, and that there are no conditions on which we would really find such a solution satisfactory.” [6]

This placed the anti-fascist working class leadership of the GDR in a difficult position. The GDR comprised only one-third of German territory and had a population of 17 million. By comparison, the FRG comprised 63 million people and made up two-thirds of German territory. [7] Less industrialized than the West, the new GDR started out poorer than its new capitalist rival. Per capita income was about 27 percent lower than in the West. [8] Much of the militant section of the working class, which would have ardently supported a socialist state, had been liquidated by the Nazis. The burden of paying war reparations to the Soviets now had to be borne solely by the GDR. And West Germany ceaselessly harassed and sabotaged its neighbor, refusing to recognize it as a sovereign state, regarding it instead as its own territory temporarily under Soviet occupation. [9] Repeatedly, West Germany proclaimed that its official policy was the annexation of its neighbor to the east.

The GDR’s leaders faced still other challenges. Compared to the West, East Germany suffered greater losses in the war. [10] The US Army stripped the East of its scientists, technicians and technical know-how, kidnapping “thousands of managers, engineers, and all sorts of experts, as well as the best scientists – the brains of Germany’s East – from their factories, universities, and homes in Saxony and Thuringia in order to put them to work to the advantage of the Americans in the Western zone – or simply to have them waste away there.” [11]

As Pauwels explains,

“During the last weeks of the hostilities the Americans themselves had occupied a considerable part of the Soviet zone, namely Thuringia and much of Saxony. When they pulled out at the end of June, 1945, they brought back to the West more than 10,000 railway cars full of the newest and best equipment, patents, blueprints, and so on from the firm Carl Zeiss in Jena and the local plants of other top enterprises such as Siemens, Telefunken, BMW, Krupp, Junkers, and IG-Farben. This East German war booty included plunder from the Nazi V-2 factory in Nordhausen: not only the rockets, but also technical documents with an estimated value of 400 to 500 million dollars, as well as approximately 1,200 captured German experts in rocket technology, one of whom being the notorious Wernher von Braun.” [12]

The Allies agreed at Yalta that a post-war Germany would pay the Soviet Union $10 billion in compensation for the damages inflicted on the USSR during the war. This was a paltry sum compared to the more realistic estimate of $128 billion arrived at after the war. And yet the Soviets were short changed on even this meagre sum. The USSR received no more than $5.1 billion from the two German states, most of it from the GDR. The Soviets took $4.5 billion out of East Germany, carting away whole factories and railways, while the larger and richer FRG paid a miserable $600 million. The effect was the virtual deindustrialization of the East. [13] In the end, the GDR would compensate both the United States (which suffered virtually no damage in World War II) through the loss of its scientists, technicians, blue-prints, patents and so on, and the Soviet Union (which suffered immense losses and deserved to be compensated), through the loss of its factories and railways. Moreover, the United States offered substantial aid to West Germany to help it rebuild, while the poorer Soviet Union, which had been devastated by the German invasion, lacked the resources to invest in the GDR. [14] The West was rebuilt; the East stripped bare.

The GDR’s democratic achievements

Despite the many burdens it faced, the GDR managed to build a standard of living higher than that of the USSR “and that of millions of inhabitants of the American ghettoes, of countless poor white Americans, and of the population of most Third World countries that have been integrated willy-nilly with the international capitalist world system.” [15]

Over 90 percent of the GDR’s productive assets were owned by the country’s citizens collectively, while in West Germany productive assets remained privately owned, concentrated in a few hands. [16] Because the GDR’s economy was almost entirely publicly owned and the leadership was socialist, the economic surplus that people produced on the job went into a social fund to make the lives of everyone better rather than into the pockets of shareholders, bondholders, landowners and bankers. [17] Out of the social fund came subsidies for food, clothing, rent, public transportation, as well as cultural, social and recreational activities. Wages weren’t as high as in the West, but a growing number of essential goods and services were free or virtually free. Rents, for example, were very low. As a consequence, there were no evictions and there was no homelessness. Education was free through university, and university students received stipends to cover living expenses. Healthcare was also free. Childcare was highly subsidized.

Differences in income levels were narrow, with higher wages paid to those working in particularly strenuous or dangerous occupations. Full gender equality was mandated by law and men and women were paid equally for the same work, long before gender equality was taken up as an issue in the West. What’s more, everyone had a right to a job. There was no unemployment in the GDR.

Rather than supporting systems of oppression and exploitation, as the advanced capitalist countries did in Africa, Latin America and Asia, the GDR assisted the people of the global South in their struggles against colonialism. Doctors were dispatched to Vietnam, Mozambique and Angola, and students from many Third World countries were trained and educated in the GDR at the GDR’s expense.

Even the Wall Street Journal recognized the GDR’s achievements. In February, 1989, just months before the opening of the Berlin Wall, the US ruling class’s principal daily newspaper announced that the GDR “has no debt problem. The 17 million East Germans earn 30 percent more than their next richest partners, the Czechoslovaks, and not much less than the English. East Germans build 32-bit mini-computers and a socialist ‘Walkman’ and the only queue in East Berlin forms at the opera.” [18]

The downside was that compared to West Germany, wages were lower, hours of work were longer, and there were fewer consumer goods. Also, consumer goods tended to be inferior compared to those available in West Germany. And there were travel restrictions. Skilled workers were prevented from travelling to the West. But at the same time, vacations were subsidized, and East Germans could travel throughout the socialist bloc.

Greater efficiencies

West Germany’s comparative wealth offered many advantages in its ideological battle with socialism. For one, the wealth differential could be attributed deceptively to the merits of capitalism versus socialism. East Germany was poorer, it was said, not because it unfairly bore the brunt of indemnifying the Soviets for their war losses, and not because it started on a lower rung, but because public ownership and central planning were inherently inefficient. The truth of the matter, however, was that East German socialism was more efficient than West German capitalism, producing faster growth rates, and was more responsive to the basic needs of its population. “East Germany’s national income grew in real terms about two percent faster annually that the West German economy between 1961 and 1989.” [19]

The GDR was also less repressive politically. Following in the footsteps of Hitler, West Germany banned the Communist Party in the 1950s, and close tabs were kept by West Germany’s own ‘secret’ police on anyone openly expressing Marxist-Leninist views. Marxist-Leninists were barred from working in the public service and frequently lost private sector jobs owing to their political views. In the GDR, by contrast, those who expressed views at odds with the dominant Marxist-Leninist ideology did not lose their jobs, and were not cut off from the state’s generous social supports, though they too were monitored by the GDR’s ‘secret’ police. The penalty for dissenting from the dominant political ideology in the West (loss of income) was more severe than in the East. [20]

The claim that the GDR’s socialism was less efficient than West Germany’s capitalism was predicated on the disparity in wealth between the two countries, but the roots of the disparity were external to the two countries’ respective systems of ownership, and the disparity existed prior to 1949 (at which point GDP per capita was about 43 percent higher in the West) and continued to exist after 1989 (when unemployment – once virtually eliminated — soared and remains today double what it is in the former West Germany.) Over the four decades of its existence, East German socialism attenuated the disparity, bringing the GDR closer to West Germany’s GDP per capita. Significantly, “real economic growth in all of Eastern Europe under communism was estimated to be higher than in Western Europe under capitalism (as well as higher than that in the USA) even in communism’s final decade (the 1980s).” After the opening of the Berlin Wall, with capitalism restored, “real economic output fell by over 30 percent in Eastern Europe as a whole in the 1990s.” [21]

But the GDR’s faster growth rates from 1961 to 1989 tell only part of the story. It’s possible for GDP to grow rapidly, with few of the benefits reaching the bulk of the population. The United States spends more on healthcare as a percentage of its GDP than all other countries, but US life expectancy and infant mortality results are worse than in many other countries which spend less (but have more efficient public health insurance or socialized systems.) This is due to the reality that healthcare is unequally distributed in the United States, with the wealthy in a position to buy the best healthcare in the world while tens of millions of low-income US citizens can afford no or only inadequate healthcare. By contrast, in most advanced capitalist countries everyone has access to basic (though typically not comprehensive) healthcare. In socialist Cuba, comprehensive healthcare is free to all. What’s important, then, is not only how much wealth (or healthcare) a society creates, but also how a society’s wealth (or healthcare) is distributed. Wealth was far more evenly distributed in socialist countries than it was in capitalist countries. The mean Gini coefficient – a measure of income equality which runs from 0 (perfect equality) to 1 (perfect inequality) – was 0.24 for socialist countries in 1970 compared to 0.48 for capitalist countries. [22]

Socialist countries also fared better at meeting their citizens’ basic needs. Compared to all capitalist countries, socialist countries had higher life expectancies, lower levels of infant mortality, and higher levels of literacy. However, the comparison of all socialist countries with all capitalist countries is unfair, because the group of capitalist countries comprises many more countries unable to effectively meet the basic needs of their populations owing to their low level of economic development. While capitalism is often associated with the world’s richest countries, the world’s poorest countries are also capitalist. Desperately poor Haiti, for example, is a capitalist country, while neighboring Cuba, richer and vastly more responsive to the needs of its citizens, is socialist. We would expect socialist countries to have done a better job at meeting the basic needs of their citizens, because they were richer, on average, than all capitalist countries together. But the conclusion still stands if socialist countries are compared with capitalist countries at the same level of economic development; that is, socialist countries did a better job of meeting their citizens’ basic needs compared to capitalist countries in the same income range. Even when comparing socialist countries to the richest capitalist countries, the socialist countries fared well, meeting their citizens’ basic needs as well as advanced capitalist countries met the needs of their citizens, despite the socialist countries’ lower level of economic development and fewer resources. [23] In terms of meeting basic needs, then, socialism was more efficient: it did more with less.

Why were socialist countries, like the GDR, more efficient? First, socialist societies were committed to improving the living standards of the mass of people as their first aim (whereas capitalist countries are organized around profit-maximization as their principle goal – a goal linked to a minority that owns capital and land and derives its income from profits, rent and interest, that is, the exploitation of other people’s labor, rather than wages.) Secondly, the economic surplus the citizens of socialist countries produced was channelled into making life better for everyone (whereas in capitalist countries the economic surplus goes straight to shareholders, bondholders, landowners and bankers.) This made socialism more democratic than capitalism in three ways:

• It was more equal. (Capitalism, by contrast, produces inequality.)

• It worked toward improving as much as possible the lot of the classes which have no other means of existence but the labor of their hands and which comprise the vast majority of people. (Capitalist societies, on the other hand, defend and promote the interests of the minority that owns capital.)

• It guaranteed economic and social rights. (By comparison, capitalist societies emphasize political and civil liberties, i.e., protections against the majority using its greater numbers to encroach upon the privileges of the minority that owns and controls the economy.)

As will be discussed below, even when it came to political (as distinct from social and economic) democracy, the differences between East and West Germany were more illusory than real.

Stanching the outward migration of skilled workers

Despite the many advantages the GDR offered, it remained less affluent throughout its four decades compared to its capitalist neighbor to the west. For many “the lure of higher salaries and business opportunities in the West remained strong.” [24] As a result, in its first decade, East Germany’s population shrunk by 10 percent. [25] And while higher wages proved to be an irresistible temptation to East Germans who stressed personal aggrandizement over egalitarian values and social security, the FRG – keen to weaken the GDR – did much to sweeten the pot, offering economic inducements to skilled East Germans to move west. Working-age, but not retired, East Germans were offered interest-free loans, access to scarce apartments, immediate citizenship and compensation for property left behind, to relocate to the West. [26]

By 1961, the East German government decided that defensive measures needed to be taken, otherwise its population would be depleted of people with important skills vital to building a prosperous society. East German citizens would be barred from entering West Germany without special permission, while West Germans would be prevented from freely entering the GDR. The latter restriction was needed to break up black market currency trading, and to inhibit espionage and sabotage carried out by West German agents. [27] Walls, fences, minefields and other barriers were deployed along the length of the East’s border with the West. Many of the obstacles had existed for years, but until 1961, Berlin – partitioned between the West and East – remained free of physical barriers. The Berlin Wall – the GDR leadership’s solution to the problems of population depletion and Western sabotage and espionage — went up on August 13, 1961. [28]

From 1961 to 1989, 756 East German escapees, an average of 30 per year, were either shot, drown, blown apart by mines or committed suicide after being captured. By comparison, hundreds of Mexicans die every year trying to escape poor Mexico into the far wealthier United States. [29] Approximately 50,000 East Germans were captured trying to cross the border into West Germany from 1961 to 1989. Those who were caught served prison sentences of one year. [30]

Over time, the GDR gradually relaxed its border controls, allowing working-age East Germans to visit the West if there was little risk of their not returning. While in the 1960s, only retirees over the age of 65 were permitted to travel to the West, by the 1980s, East Germans 50 years of age or older were allowed to cross the border. Those with relatives in the FRG were also allowed to visit. By 1987, close to 1.3 million working-age East Germans were permitted to travel to West Germany. Virtually all of them – over 99 percent – returned. [31]

However, not all East Germans were granted the right to cross the border. In 1987, 300,000 requests were turned down. East Germans only received permission after being cleared by the GDR’s state security service, the Stasi. One of the effects of loosening the border restrictions was to swell the Stasi’s ranks, in order to handle the increase in applications for visits to the West. [32]

Pauwels reminds us that,

“A hypothetical capitalist East Germany would likewise have also had to build a wall in order to prevent its population from seeking salvation in another, more prosperous Germany. Incidentally, people have fled and continue to flee, to richer countries also from poor capitalist countries. However, the numerous black refugees from extremely poor Haiti, for example, have never enjoyed the same kind of sympathy in the United States and elsewhere in the world that was bestowed so generously on refugees from the GDR during the Cold War…And should the Mexican government decide to build a ‘Berlin Wall’ along the Rio Grande in order to prevent their people from escaping to El Norte, Washington would certainly not condemn such an initiative the way it used to condemn the infamous East Berlin construction project.” [33]

GDR sets standards for working class in FRG…and abroad

Despite its comparative poverty, the GDR furnished its citizens with generous pensions, free healthcare and education, inexpensive vacations, virtually free childcare and public transportation, and paid maternity leave, as fundamental rights. Even so, East Germany’s standard of living continued to lag behind that of the upper sections of the working class in the West. The comparative paucity and lower quality of consumer goods, and lower wages, were the product of a multitude of factors that conspired against the East German economy: its lower starting point; the need to invest in heavy industry at the expense of light industry; blockade and sanctions imposed by the West; the furnishing of aid to national liberation movements in the global South (which benefited the South more than it did the GDR. By comparison, aid flows from Western countries were designed to profit Western corporations, banks and investors.) What East Germany lacked in consumer goods and wages, it made up for in economic security. The regular economic crises of capitalist economies, with their rampant underemployment and joblessness, escalating poverty and growing homelessness, were absent in the GDR.

The greater security of life for East Germans presented a challenge to the advanced capitalist countries. Intent on demonstrating that capitalism was superior to socialism, governments and businesses in the West were forced to meet the standards set by the socialist countries to secure the hearts and minds of their own working class. Generous social insurance, provisions against lay-offs and representation on industrial councils were conceded to West German workers. [34] But these were revocable concessions, not the inevitable rewards of capitalism.

East Germany’s robust social wage acted in much the same way strong unions do in forcing non-unionized plants to provide wages and benefits to match union standards. [35] In the 1970s, Canada’s unionized Stelco steel mill at Hamilton, Ontario set the standard for the neighboring non-unionized Dofasco plant. What the Stelco workers won through collective bargaining, the non-unionized Dofasco workers received as a sop to keep the union out. But once the union goes, the motivation to pay union wages and provide union benefits disappears. Likewise, with the demise of East Germany and the socialist bloc, the need to provide a robust social safety net in the advanced capitalist countries to secure the loyalty of the working class no longer existed. Hence, the GDR not only furnished its own citizens with economic security, but indirectly forced the advanced capitalist countries to make concessions to their own workers. The demise of the GDR therefore not only hurt Ossis (East Germans), depriving them of economic security, but also hurt the working populations of the advanced capitalist countries, whose social programs were the spill-over product of capitalism’s ideological battle with socialism. It is no accident that the claw back of reforms and concessions granted by capitalist ruling classes during the Cold War has accelerated since the opening of the Berlin Wall.

The collapse of the GDR and the socialist bloc has proved injurious to the interests of Western working populations in another way, as well. From the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 to the opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the territory available to capitalist exploitation steadily diminished. This limited the degree of wage competition within the capitalist global labor force to a degree that wouldn’t have been true had the forces of socialism and national liberation not steadily advanced through the twentieth century. The counter-revolution in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and China’s opening to foreign investment, ushered in a rapid expansion worldwide in the number of people vying for jobs. North American and Western European workers didn’t compete for jobs with workers in Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Russia in 1970. They do today. The outcome of the rapid expansion of the pool of wage-labor worldwide for workers in the advanced capitalist countries has been a reduction in real wages and explosive growth in the number of permanent lay-offs as competition for jobs escalates. The demise of socialism in Eastern Europe (and China’s taking the capitalist road) has had very real – and unfavourable – consequences for working people in the West.

Going backward

Since the opening of the Berlin Wall and the annexation of the GDR by the FRG in 1990, the former East Germany has been transformed from a rapidly industrializing country where everyone was guaranteed a job and access to a growing array of free and nearly free goods and services, to a de-industrialized backwater teeming with the unemployed where the population is being hollowed out by migration to the wealthier West. “The easterners,” a New York Times article remarked in 2005, “are notoriously unhappy.” Why? “Because life is less secure than it used to be under Communism.” [36]

During the Cold War East Germans who risked their lives to breach the Berlin War were depicted as refugees from political repression. But their escape into the wealthier West had little to do with flight from political repression and much to do with being attracted to a higher standard of living. Today Ossis stream out of the East, just as they did before the Berlin Wall sprang up in 1961. More than one million people have migrated from the former East Germany to the West since 1989. But these days, economic migrants aren’t swapping modestly-paid jobs, longer hours and fewer and poorer consumer goods in the East for higher paying jobs, shorter hours and more and better consumer goods in the West. They’re leaving because they can’t find work. The real unemployment rate, taking into account workers forced into early retirement or into the holding pattern of job re-training schemes, reaches as high as 50 percent in some parts of the former East Germany. [37] And the official unemployment rate is twice as high in the East as it is in the West. Erich Quaschnuk, a retired railroad worker, acknowledges that “the joy back then when the Berlin Wall fell was real,” but quickly adds, “the promise of blooming landscapes never appeared.” [38]

Twenty years after the opening of the Berlin Wall, one-half of people living in the former East Germany say there was more good than bad about the GDR, and that life was happier and better. Some Ossis go so far as to say they “were driven out of paradise when the Wall came down” while others thank God they were able to live in the GDR. Still others describe the unified Germany as a “slave state” and a “dictatorship of capital,” and reject Germany for “being too capitalist or dictatorial, and certainly not democratic.” [39]

Much as the GDR was faulted for being less democratic politically than the FRG, the FRG’s claim to being more democratic politically is shaky at best.

“East Germany…permitted voters to cast secret ballots and always had more than one candidate for each government position. Although election results typically resulted in over 99 percent of all votes being for candidates of parties that did not favour revolutionary changes in the East German system (just as West German election results generally resulted in over 99 percent of the people voting for non-revolutionary West German capitalist parties), it was always possible to change the East German system from within the established political parties (including the communist party), as those parties were open to all and encouraged participation in the political process. The ability to change the East German system from within is best illustrated by the East German leader who opened up the Berlin Wall and initiated many political reforms in less than two months in power.” [40]

West Germany outlawed many anti-capitalist political parties and organizations, including, in the 1950s, the popular Communist Party, as Hitler did in the 1930s. (On the other side of the Berlin Wall, no party that aimed to reverse socialism or withdraw from the Warsaw Pact was allowed.) The West German parties tended to be pro-capitalist, and those that weren’t didn’t have access to the resources the wealthy patrons of the mainstream political parties could provide to run the high-profile marketing campaigns that were needed to command significant support in elections. What’s more, West Germans were dissuaded from voting for anti-establishment parties, for fear the victory of a party with a socialist platform would be met by capital strike or flight, and therefore the loss of their jobs. The overwhelming support for pro-capitalist parties, then, rested on two foundations: The pro-capitalist parties uniquely commanded the resources to build messages with mass appeal and which could be broadcast with sufficient volume to reach a mass audience, and the threat of capital strike and capital flight disciplined working class voters to support pro-business parties.

Conclusion

No one would have built a Berlin Wall if they didn’t have to. But in 1961, with the GDR being drained of its working population by a West Germany that had skipped out on its obligations to indemnify the Soviet Union for the losses the Nazis had inflicted upon it in World War II, there were few options, apart from surrender. The Berlin Wall was, without question, regrettable, but it was at the same time a necessary defensive measure. If the anti-fascist, working class leadership of the GDR was to have any hope of building a mass society that was responsive to the basic needs of the working class and which channelled its economic surplus into improving the living conditions and economic security of all, drastic measures would have to be taken; otherwise, the experiment in German democracy — that of building a state that operated on behalf of the mass of people, rather than a minority of shareholders, bondholders, landowners and bankers — would have to be abandoned. And yet, by the history of drastic measures, this was hardly drastic. Wars weren’t waged, populations weren’t expelled, mass executions weren’t carried out. Instead, people of working-age were prevented from resettling in the West.

The abridgment of mobility rights was hardly unique to revolutionary situations. While the needs of Cold War propaganda pressed Washington to howl indignantly over the GDR’s measures to stanch the flow of its working-age population to the West, the restriction of mobility rights had not been unknown in the United States’ own revolution, where the ‘freedoms’ of dissidents and people of uncertain loyalty had been freely revoked. “During the American Revolution…those who wished to cross into British territory had to obtain a pass from the various State governments or military commanders. Generally, a pass was granted only to individuals of known and acceptable ‘character and views’ and after their promise neither to inform or otherwise to act to the prejudice of the United States. Passes, even for those whose loyalty was guaranteed, were generally difficult to acquire.” [41]

Was the GDR worth defending? Is its demise to be regretted? Unquestionably. The GDR was a mass society that channelled the surplus of the labor of all into the betterment of the conditions of all, rather than into the pockets of the few. It offered its citizens an expanding array of free and virtually free goods and services, was more equal than capitalist countries, and met its citizens’ basic needs better than did capitalist countries at the same level of economic development. Indeed, it met basic needs as well as richer countries did, with fewer resources, in the same way Cuba today meets the basic healthcare needs of all its citizens better than the vastly wealthier United States meets (or rather fails to meet) those of tens of millions of its own citizens. And while the GDR was poorer than West Germany and many other advanced capitalist countries, its comparative poverty was not the consequence of the country’s public ownership and central planning, but of a lower starting point and the burden of having to help the Soviet Union rebuild after the massive devastation Germany inflicted upon it in World War II. Far from being inefficient, public ownership and central planning turned the eastern part of Germany into a rapidly industrializing country which grew faster economically than its West German neighbor and shared the benefits of its growth more evenly. In the East, the economy existed to serve the people. In the West, the people existed to serve the minority that owned and controlled the economy. Limiting mobility rights, just as they have been limited in other revolutions, was a small price to pay to build, not what anyone would be so naïve as to call a workers’ paradise, but what can be called a mass, or truly democratic, society, one which was responsiveness to the basic needs of the mass of people as its principal aim.

SOURCES

1. Austin Murphy, The Triumph of Evil: The Reality of the USA’s Cold War Victory, European Press Academic Publishing, 2000.
2. Henry Heller, The Cold War and the New Imperialism: A Global History, 1945-2005, Monthly Review Press, New York, 2006.
3. Jacques R. Pauwels, The Myth of the Good War: America in the Second World War, James Lorimer & Company Ltd., Toronto, 2002; R. Palme Dutt, The Internationale, Lawrence & Wishart Ltd., London, 1964.
4. Melvyn Leffler, “New perspectives on the Cold War: A conversation with Melvyn Leffler,” November, 1998. http://www.neh.gov/news/humanities/1998-11/leffler.html)
5. Heller.
6. John Wight, “From WWII to the US empire,” The Morning Star (UK), October 11, 2009.
7. John Green, “Looking back at life in the GDR,” The Morning Star (UK), October 7, 2009.
8. Shirley Ceresto, “Socialism, capitalism, and inequality,” The Insurgent Sociologist, Vol. XI, No. 2, Spring, 1982.
9. Dutt; William Blum, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Common Courage Press, Maine, 1995.
10. Pauwels.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid.
14. Murphy.
15. Pauwels.
16. Green.
17. Ibid.
18. The Wall Street Journal, February 22, 1989.
19. Murphy.
20. Ibid.
21. Ibid.
22. Ceresto.
23. Ibid.
24. Green.
25. Murphy.
26. Ibid.
27. Ibid.
28. Ibid.
29. Ibid.
30. Ibid.
31. Ibid.
32. Ibid.
33. Pauwels.
34. Fred Goldstein, Low-Wage Capitalism, World View Forum, New York, 2008.
35. Ibid.
36. The New York Times, December 6, 2005.
37. The Guardian (UK), November 15, 2006.
38. “Disappointed Eastern Germans turn right,” The Los Angeles Times, May 4, 2005.
39. Julia Bonstein, “Majority of Eastern Germans felt life better under communism,” Der Spiegel, July 3, 2009.
40. Murphy.
41. Albert Szymanski, Human Rights in the Soviet Union, Zed Book Ltd., London, 1984

Source

What You Should Know About the Wall

Newspapers, radio and television report daily about Berlin and West Berlin in many languages throughout the world. They often speak or write of a state frontier, or of a wall.

It may be very difficult for you to form a valid picture from all these reports which frequently contradict each other. We want to help you to do so.

We tried to imagine what would be the considerations of a citizen of a foreign state if he wanted to gain clarity about the problems in West Berlin. And we would like to reply to these considerations.

1st CONSIDERATION. Where, exactly, is Berlin situated?

A glance at the map suffices: Berlin lies in the middle of the German Democratic Republic, exactly 180 kilometres (112.5 miles) to the east of its western frontier. A quite normal locality for the capital of a state. Only one thing is not normal at all: that a hostile, undermining policy and disruptive acts have for years been carried on from the western part of this city against the surrounding state territory. West Berlin Mayor Willi Brandt called West Berlin a “thorn in the side of the GDR.” Would you like to have a thorn in your side? We don’t either! But Brandt even proclaims quite frankly: “We want to be the disturber of the peace.”

2nd CONSIDERATION. Did the wall fall out of the sky?

No. It was the result of developments of many years standing in West Germany and West Berlin. Let us recall preceding events: In 1948 a separate currency reform was introduced in West Germany and West Berlin – the West German reactionaries thereby split Germany and even west Berlin in to two currency areas.

The West German separatist state was founded in 1949 – Bonn thereby turned the zonal border into a state frontier.

In 1954 West Germany was included in NATO – Bonn thereby converted the state frontier into the front-line between two pact systems.

The decision on the atomic armament of the West German Bundeswehr was made in 1958 – thus, Bonn continues to aggravate the situation in Germany and Berlin. Repeatedly the annexation of the GDR is proclaimed as the official aim of Bonn policy, most recently in a statement of the Adenauer Christian Democratic Union (CDU), on 11 July 1961.

Thus did the anti-national, aggressive NATO policy create the wall which today separates the two German states and also goes through the middle of Berlin. The Bonn government and the West Berlin Senate have systematically converted West Berlin into a centre of provocation from where 90 espionage organizations, the RIAS American broadcasting station in West Berlin (Radio in American Sector) and revanchist associations organize acts of sabotage against the GDR and the other socialist countries. Through our protective measures of 13 August 1961 we have only safeguarded and strengthened that frontier which was already drawn years ago and made into a dangerous front-line by the people in Bonn and West Berlin. How high and how strongly fortified a frontier must be, depends, as is common knowledge, on the kind of relations existing between the states of each side of the frontier.

3rd CONSIDERATION. Did the wall have to come?

Yes and no. We have submitted more than one hundred proposals for understanding, on the renunciation of atomic armament, and on the withdrawal of the two German states from NATO or the Warsaw Treaty. If things had gone according to our proposals the situation in Germany would not have been aggravated and, consequently, there would have been no wall. Especially since 1958 the GDR and the Soviet Union have repeatedly told the West Berlin Senate, the Bonn government, and the western powers: Be reasonable! Let us eliminate the abnormal situation in West Berlin together. Let us start negotiations. Why did Bonn and West Berlin reject these proposals? Why did they, instead, step up agitation to an unprecedented degree before 13 August? – The wall had to come because they were bringing about the danger of a conflict. Those who do not want to hear, must feel.

4th CONSIDERATION. What did the wall prevent?

We no longer wanted to stand by passively and see how doctors, engineers, and skilled workers were induced by refined methods unworthy of the dignity of man to give up their secure existence in the GDR and work in West Germany or West Berlin. These and other manipulations cost the GDR annual losses amounting to 3.5 thousand million marks.

But we prevented something much more important with the wall – West Berlin’s becoming the starting point for a military conflict. The measures we introduced in 13 August in conjunction with the Warsaw Treaty states have cooled off a number of hotheads in Bonn and West Berlin. For the first time in German history the match which was to set fire to another war was extinguished before it had fulfilled its purpose.

5th CONSIDERATION. Was peace really threatened?

Indian journalists R. K. Karanjia shall give you the answer to the question. He published a sensational report from Berlin in the biggest Indian weekly, Blitz in which the world public is warned against the West Berlin powder-keg. K. R. Karanjia wrote:

“It (the protective wall of the GDR) served the cause of world peace since it halted the advance of the German neo-Hitlerites toward the East, forced the world to recognize the reality of the division of Germany and thus supports negotiation.” (retranslated from German)

If further evidence of the aggressive intentions of the West German government is needed it is provided by the authoritative West German employers’ newspaper, the Industriekurier, which regretfully wrote, exactly 19 days after 13 August 1961: “A reunification with the Bundeswehr marching victoriously through the Brandenburg Gate to the beating of drums – such a reunification will not take place in the foreseeable future.”

Bonn heads were really haunted by ideas of such a victorious entry. That would have meant war.

6th CONSIDERATION. Who is walled in?

According to the exceedingly intelligent explanations of the West Berlin Senate we have walled ourselves in and are living in a concentration camp. But in that case why are the gentlemen so excited? Obviously, because in reality their espionage centres, their revanchist radio stations, their fascist solders’ associations, their youth poisoners, and their currency racketeers have been walled in. They are excited because we have erected the wall as an antifascist, protective wall against them.

Does something not occur to you? West Berlin Mayor Brandt wails that half of the GDR, including the workers in the enterprise militia groups, is armed. What do you think of a concentration camp whose inmates have weapons in their hands?

7th CONSIDERATION. Who breaks off human contacts?

Of course, it is bitter for many Berliners not to be able to visit each other at present. But it would be more bitter if a new war were to separate them for ever. Moreover, when the GDR was forced to introduce compulsory entry permits for West Berlin citizens on 23 August in the interests of its security we at the same time offered to open up entry permit offices in municipal railway stations in West Berlin. In fact we opened them and issued the first permits. Who closed them by force? The same Senate of that Mr. Brandt who is today shedding crocodile tears about “contacts being broken”! The GDR has maintained its offer. If we had our way Berliners could visit each other despite the wall.

8th CONSIDERATION. Does the wall threaten anyone?

Bonn propaganda describes the wall as a “monstrous evidence of the aggressiveness of world communism.” Have you ever considered it to be a sign of aggressiveness when someone builds a fence around his property?

9th CONSIDERATION. Who is aggravating the situation?

The wall? It stands there quite calmly. Former French Premier Reynaud said already on 19 August 1961, according to UPI: “The sealing-off measures of the East Berlin government did not increase, but lessened, the danger of a third world war.” In reality, the situation is being aggravated by persons who play at being the strong man on our state frontier, who are turning West Berlin into a NATO base and daily inciting West Berliners against the GDR. Municipal railway cars are being destroyed, frontier guards attacked and brutally shot, tunnels dug for agents and bomb attacks made on the GDR’s frontier security installations. Does that serve relaxation? One must really ask why attacks on the GDR state frontier in West Berlin are not subject to court prosecution as in other states. The Brandt Senate even presents “its respects” to the provocateurs.

10th CONSIDERATION. Is the wall a gymnastic apparatus?

The wall is the state frontier of the German Democratic Republic. The state frontier of a sovereign state must be respected. That is so the world over. He who does not treat it with respect can not complain if he comes to harm. West German and West Berlin politicians demand that “the wall be removed.” We are not particularly fond of walls, either. But please consider where the actual wall runs in Germany, the wall which must be pulled down in your and our interest. It is the wall which was erected because of the fateful Bonn NATO policy. On the stones of this wall stand atomic armament, entry into NATO, revanchist demands, anti-communist incitement, non recognition of the GDR, rejection of negotiations, the front-line city of West Berlin.

So, make your contribution to the pulling down of this wall by advocating a reasonable policy of military neutrality, peaceful co-existence, normal relations between the two German states, the conclusion of a peace treaty with Germany, a demilitarized Free City of West Berlin. That is the only way to improve the situation in Berlin, to safeguard peace, a way which can, one day also lead to the reunification of Germany. The wall says to the war-mongers:

He who lives on an island should not make an enemy of the ocean.

[At this spot the brochure includes a map of the German Democratic Republic]

Decide in favour of the recognition of realities. don’t join in the row over the wall. Perhaps YOU don’t want socialism. That is your affair.

But should we not come to an agreement jointly to refrain from doing anything that leads to war and do everything that serves peace?

Source

Liberal Holocaust: Imperialism and the Democratic Party

This is a good article from a website that is now down. I disagree with several parts, particularly the labeling of North Korea as a “Stalinist dictatorship,” referring to the Soviet Union as an “empire,” saying that Titoite Yugoslavia was a “Leninist revolution” and denying the genocidal actions of the Milošević government. Regardless, this article makes a very important point about the Democratic Party, and exposes their true imperialist warmongering nature.

 — Espresso Stalinist 

Many people involved in US anti-war movement(s) have this naive belief that Democrats are not imperialists, that US imperialist policies, such as those pursued by the Bush administration, are just a recent deviation or limited to Republican administrations. In fact, the Democratic Party has a long and bloody history of imperialism. Democrats are imperialists and mass murderers. Nor is this limited to the more conservative democrats; left-liberals have done the same. Liberal governments have slaughtered millions.

Starting shortly before the end of World War Two, Democrats began recruiting many Nazi war criminals and using them to help expand the American Empire. Hitler’s intelligence chief in East Europe Reinhard Gehlen was used by the US, after the war, to build an intelligence network against the Soviets in East Europe. They also dropped supplies to remnants of Hitler’s armies operating in Eastern Europe, to harass the Soviet bloc. Other Nazi war criminals employed by the US included Klaus Barbie, Otto von Bolschwing and Otto Skorzeny. Some of these Nazis later made their way to Latin America, where they advised and assisted US-backed dictatorships in the area.

Harry Truman kicked up anti-communist hysteria, which lead to McCarthyism (which occurred during his administration) and helped start the Cold War. He supported numerous dictatorships, including Saudi Arabia. US involvement in Vietnam started under Truman with the US providing support for the French invaders and the CIA carrying out covert actions. In 1950 his administration issued the ultra-hawkish NSC 68. The subversion of Italian democracy was done by his administration – fearing electoral victory in 1948 by the Italian Communist party, the CIA funded various leftover Mussolinite Brownshirt thugs and other former Nazi collaborators, successfully manipulating the results to ensure pro-US candidates won. A secret paramilitary army was formed to overthrow the government just in case the Communists managed to win anyway.

In the years after World War Two a rebellion against the British puppet government in Greece broke out. This client state was largely staffed by former Nazi collaborators who the British had put back in power. The UK was unable to defeat the left-wing insurgency (which had previously fought an insurgency against the Nazi occupation during World War Two) and asked the US for help. In 1947 Truman invaded Greece and proceeded to crush the revolutionaries, keeping the former Nazi collaborators in power. Truman attempted to justify this by portraying the guerillas as mere pawns of Moscow and therefore a form of covert aggression, but he had no real proof of this. The claim is also based on a double standard: when the USSR (allegedly) covertly supports revolutionaries in another country it constitutes “aggression” and is wrong, but when the US (or UK) send actual military forces to another country in order to prop up unpopular dictatorships this is somehow perfectly just.

At the end of World War Two Japan withdrew its forces from Korea, resulting in a brief period of self-rule. A provisional government was set up in Seoul, but it had little power. Across Korea, workers took over their factories and peasants took over their land. Self-managed collectives were organized. This did not last long, as the US and USSR quickly partitioned the country into a North and a South, under the occupation of each power. In the south Truman installed a brutal military dictatorship, run mainly by former Japanese collaborators, complete with death squads, torture chambers and suppression of all opposition. The United States and its client state suppressed an insurgency, leveled whole villages and massacred thousands of innocent Koreans. The Soviets followed a similar policy in the north, where a Stalinist dictatorship was imposed. Forces from each empire repeatedly clashed until war broke out in 1950. Truman & his propagandists tried to portray the war as an attempt to defend South Korea from Soviet/Northern aggression, but the very existence of South & North Korea was the result of aggression by the US & USSR. The Korean War was an inter-imperialist war between rival empires fighting for territory, rather like a turf war between rival mafia dons, in which lots of ordinary people (who had no real stake in the war) were sent to die for their elite.

These policies of mass murder continued in both the subsequent Eisenhower administration and the next democratic administration, Kennedy. Like every other president since World War Two (and many prior to that) he supported numerous puppet dictatorships that slaughtered thousands – Mobutu, the Shah, etc. Kennedy backed a coup against the democratically elected government in the Dominican Republic because it was too independent. And lets not forget the Bay of Pigs and the many terrorist campaigns against Cuba.

Kennedy also escalated US involvement in Vietnam. During Eisenhower’s term the Vietnamese defeated US-backed French invaders and the war with France was brought to an end. The country was partitioned in two, with the Vietnamese nationalists/Communists taking over the north and the French puppet government temporarily ruling the south. Elections were to be held to reunite the two, but the US intervened to prevent this (because the Communists would have won free elections) and put in power a right-wing dictatorship headed by Ngo Dinh Diem which relied on a reign of terror in order to stay in power. In the late ’50s popular rebellions erupted against this dictatorship. By the time Kennedy came to power the survival of Diem’s dictatorship was increasingly precarious and so Kennedy escalated the situation from state terror to outright aggression. The US military, mainly the air force, was sent to crush the resistance. This failed to defeat the resistance, so Johnson fabricated a bogus attack on US destroyers by North Vietnamese forces and used this as an excuse to escalate the war, launching a full-fledged ground invasion of the south and began bombing the north. US forces set up concentration camps (called “strategic hamlets”) and committed numerous atrocities during the war. Even John Kerry testified:

“Several months ago in Detroit we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged, and many very highly decorated, veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia. These were not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command. … They relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do. They told stories that at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country. … We rationalized destroying villages in order to save them. … We learned the meaning of free fire zones, shooting anything that moves, and we watched while America placed a cheapness on the lives of orientals. … We fought using weapons against those people which I do not believe this country would dream of using were we fighting in the European theater.”

Kerry has since claimed that Vietnam was an exception to the norm, but the evidence presented in this article shows otherwise. This testimony is corroborated by numerous other primary sources, including many Vietnam veterans. Colin Powell admitted these atrocities occurred and defended them, writing in his memoirs (My American Journey):

“If a helo [helicopter] spotted a peasant in black pajamas who looked remotely suspicious, a possible MAM [military-aged male], the pilot would circle and fire in front of him. If he moved, his movement was judged evidence of hostile intent, and the next burst was not in front, but at him. Brutal? Maybe so. But an able battalion commander with whom I had served at Gelnhausen, Lt. Col. Walter Pritchard, was killed by enemy sniper fire while observing MAMs from a helicopter. And Pritchard was only one of many. The kill-or-be-killed nature of combat tends to dull fine perceptions of right and wrong.”

In addition, Powell defends the torching of civilians’ huts in his memoirs. There are also many Vietnam veterans who strongly deny that the United States committed any kind of atrocities or wrongdoing in Vietnam at all, but they are not the first murderers to strongly deny murdering anyone. These are the kinds of atrocities the Democrat’s foreign policy leads to.

Democrats (and Republicans) tried to portray the war as a result of Chinese (or even Soviet) aggression that had to be stopped or else it would cause a “domino effect” leading to “Communist” conquest of the globe. This is shear fantasy.

Vietnam became independent in 1945 and for a brief period of time the whole country was united under the rule of Ho Chi Min and his fellow nationalists and Marxists. Then France invaded, with US support, leading to the creation of “South Vietnam,” which was a foreign puppet from day one. Attacks on it by Vietnamese were no more “aggression” than attacks on the Vichy government by the French resistance. Communists in China didn’t come to power until 1948, whereas Vietnam declared independence in 1945, so portraying the war as “Chinese aggression” is particularly absurd. Eventually, China did provide weapons, money and advisors to Vietnam (as did the USSR), but merely giving supplies to people fighting for independence hardly constitutes “aggression.” If China giving some weapons and supplies to a Vietnamese movement with substantial popular support constitutes “aggression” then what are we to make of the US, which went well beyond sending weapons and sent over 100,000 troops to keep in power a deeply unpopular puppet government? By this kind of logic, the American war for independence constituted French aggression because France gave the rebels support, just as China & Russia gave the Vietnamese support, except France went even further and sent warships to fight the British and help the US win the war. The Vietnam War was a brutal colonial war, started mainly by democrats, against a people struggling for national liberation.

Even if we ignore Vietnam, Johnson was still a murderous warmonger. In 1965 Johnson launched a secret war on Laos, which would eventually drop more bombs on it then were dropped during World War Two, in order to defeat the leftist Pathet Lao. When a popular rebellion erupted against the US-backed dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, LBJ invaded and defeated it, keeping a US puppet government in power. In Brazil LBJ supported and encouraged a fascist coup against the mildly reformist Goulart administration. Johnson also backed a right-wing coup in Indonesia. The previous ruler, Sukarno, committed the crime of trying to stay neutral in the cold war and desiring to build a strong Indonesia independent of foreign powers. So he was removed and general Suharto seized power. The US helped Suharto liquidate dissent and gave him lists of “subversives” to kill. Between 500,000 and a million people were massacred by Suharto in the period following the coup, with the covert help of the Johnson administration. When the Greek ambassador objected to the President’s plan for a resolving a dispute over Cyprus LBJ told him:

“Fuck your Parliament and your Constitution. America is an elephant. Cyprus is a flea. If these two fleas continue itching the elephant, they may just get whacked by the elephant’s trunk, whacked good. … We pay a lot of good American dollars to the Greeks, Mr. Ambassador. If your Prime Minister gives me talk about Democracy, Parliament and Constitutions, he, his Parliament and his Constitution may not last very long.”

In 1965 the Greek king, aided by the CIA, removed Prime Minister George Papandreou (who’s foreign policy was too independent for Washington) from power. In 1967 the Greek government was forced to finally hold elections again, but when it looked like George Papandreou was going to win again a military coup prevented him from coming to power. George Papadopoulos, leader of the coup and head of the new military dictatorship, had been on the CIA payroll for 15 years and was a Nazi collaborator during World War Two.

Carter, the so-called “human rights” president, was also an imperialist warmonger. He continued US support for brutal tyrants in Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, etc. Carter supported Pol Pot’s forces after they were thrown out of power due to a war with Vietnam. Under Ford Indonesia invaded East Timor and proceeded to slaughter 200,000 people. Although this invasion occurred under Ford, the worst atrocities happened under Carter’s reign. As atrocities increased, he increased the flow of weapons to the Indonesian government, insuring they wouldn’t run out and could continue massacring Timorese. Carter also backed the massacre in Kwangju by the South Korean military dictatorship. Many of the things which liberals like to blame Reagan for were actually started under Carter. Deregulation began under Carter, as did US support for the Contras in Nicaragua. Six months before the Soviets invaded he also initiated US support for the Islamic fundamentalist terrorists/”freedom fighters” in Afghanistan which would later include Bin Laden.

Bill Clinton was a mass murderer and war criminal, too. He backed numerous dictatorships, continued the proxy war against Marxist guerillas in Columbia and bombed more countries than any other peacetime president, including Iraq, Yugoslavia, Sudan, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Clinton laid siege to Iraq with sanctions, “no fly zones” and bombings, killing 1.5 to 3 million people. UN-approved sanctions on Iraq were originally imposed at the start of the Gulf War in response to the invasion of Kuwait, but continued after the end of the war at US (and UK) insistence. The United States used sanctions as a weapon against Iraq. One military intelligence document titled Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities noted:

“Iraq depends on importing-specialized equipment-and some chemicals to purify its water supply … With no domestic sources of both water treatment replacement parts and some essential chemicals, Iraq will continue attempts to circumvent United Nations sanctions to import these vital commodities. … Failing to secure supplies will result in a shortage of pure drinking water for much of the population. This could lead to increased incidences, if not epidemics, of disease and to certain pure-water-dependent industries becoming incapacitated, including petrochemicals, fertilizers, petroleum refining, electronics, pharmaceuticals, food processing, textiles, concrete construction, and thermal power plants. Iraq’s overall water treatment capability will suffer a slow decline, rather than a precipitous halt … Unless water treatment supplies are exempted from the UN sanctions for humanitarian reasons, no adequate solution exists for Iraq’s water purification dilemma, since no suitable alternatives … sufficiently meet Iraqi needs. … Unless the water is purified with chlorine epidemics of such diseases as Cholera, Hepatitis, and Typhoid could occur … Iraq could try convincing the United Nations or individual countries to exempt water treatment supplies from sanctions for humanitarian reasons. It probably also is attempting to purchase supplies by using some sympathetic countries as fronts. If such attempts fail, Iraqi alternatives are not adequate for their national requirements. … Some affluent Iraqis could obtain their own minimally adequate supply of good quality water from northern Iraqi sources. If boiled, the water could be safely consumed. Poorer Iraqis and industries requiring large quantities of pure water would not be able to meet their needs. … Alternatives are not adequate for their national requirements.”

This and other documents show that the United States intentionally used sanctions to destroy Iraq’s water supply with full knowledge of the consequences. In addition to water problems, the sanctions also interfered with the importation of basic necessities like food and medicine. The UN itself, the organization that implemented the sanctions (due to US/UK insistence), reported that they resulted in mass death. UNICEF found that on average 5,000 children died every month as a result of sanctions. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported in 1995 that 567,000 children in Iraq had died as a result of the sanctions. Those sanctions continued until the invasion in 2003, killing even more. This began under the first Bush administration, but most of it occurred under Clinton’s administration.

In 1996, faced with mounting humanitarian concerns that threatened to end the sanctions, an “oil for food” program was implemented. Officially, this was supposed to allow Iraq to import a limited amount of food and supplies in exchange for limited amounts of oil but in practice it did little to alleviate the suffering of Iraqis caused by the sanctions. Everything imported by Iraq had to be approved by a UN sanctions committee that, due to US/UK influence, frequently stopped or delayed importation of needed supplies. All money Iraq made from the sale of oil was kept by the UN in an escrow account with the bank of Paris and was not at the discretion of the Iraqi government. Some of this was used to pay for administrative costs related to the sanctions and about a third were used to pay reparations to Kuwait, the remainder was inadequate for Iraq’s needs. In 1998 Dennis Halliday, the first head of the UN’s “oil for food” program resigned because the sanctions continued to result in a humanitarian catastrophe. In 2000 Hans Von Sponeck, the new head of the “oil for food” program, resigned for the same reason. On the May 12, 1996 edition of “60 minutes” journalist Lesly Stahl asked Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s secretary of state,

“We have heard that a half million children have died [from sanctions on Iraq]. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Albright’s response was, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.”

Clinton attacked and dismembered Yugoslavia, using a “divide and conquer” strategy to install US/NATO puppet governments ruling over its corpse. During and after World War Two Yugoslavia underwent its own Leninist revolution, independent of Soviet tanks, and eventually evolved a market socialist economy based on a limited form of worker self-management. Most of the economy was run by enterprises that were officially worker owned, with elected managers, and sold their products on the market. Yugoslavia was a federation of different nationalities in southeastern Europe, with six different republics united under a federal government.

As the Soviet empire declined and fell western financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank began pressuring Yugoslavia to implement neoliberal capitalist reforms such as privatization, austerity measures and so on.

Yugoslavia implemented these on a limited basis. These programs lead to a declining economy that opened the door for opportunistic politicians to whip up nationalism for their own benefit, scapegoating other nationalities for economic problems. They also stressed relations between the federal government and the republics because money that would have gone to the republics instead went to servicing Yugoslavia’s debt. The United States and Western Europe took advantage of this to encourage the breakup of Yugoslavia into NATO protectorates.

In 1990 separatists won elections in Slovenia, Bosnia and Croatia. The new Croatian government began to persecute the Serb minority living in Croatia, even bringing back the flag and other symbols from when it had been a World War Two Axis puppet government (run by a fascist organization called the Ustase) that attempted to exterminate the Serbs (who were regarded as “subhuman”). Croatian President Franjo Trudjman refused to condemn the Ustase and claimed, “the establishment of Hitler’s new European order can be justified by the need to be rid of the Jews.” Croatia and Slovenia declared independence in 1991. West Europe and then the US recognized Slovenia and Croatia as independent states despite warnings from the UN that this would encourage Bosnia to declare independence and bring about a civil war, which it did.

The Yugoslav federal government fought a small ten-day war with Slovenia, after which Slovenia was allowed to leave Yugoslavia. Croatia and Bosnia fought bloody civil wars with the Yugoslav government. In Bosnia the main forces fighting against the federal government were Croat fascists, supported by Croatia, and Islamic fundamentalists, led by Alija Izetbegovic, who aimed to turn Bosnia into a theocracy similar to Iran or the Taliban. Most of Bosnia’s Serb minority sided with the Yugoslav federal government. The US covertly backed the Islamists and fascists by secretly supplying them with weapons and even flying in Muslim ‘holy warriors’ from Afghanistan so they could join the Jihad. Initially the Islamists and fascists in Bosnia worked together against the Serbs and Yugoslav government. Later they started fighting each other, but US & West European pressure eventually put a stop to that. When the Yugoslav government started winning the war NATO sent in the air force to bomb them and support the separatists. Many atrocities were committed on both sides of the war, but Western governments and media emphasized and exaggerated Yugoslav and Serb atrocities while downplaying or ignoring atrocities committed by the separatists.

In 1995 the war came to an end, in a defeat for Yugoslavia. Under a UN fig leaf, NATO “peacekeeper” troops occupied much of the former Yugoslavia while Bosnia was made into a de-facto NATO colony, occupied by NATO troops and with a “high representative” responsible to foreign powers in charge of the country. Yugoslavia was dramatically shrunk, with only two out of six Republics, Serbia and Montenegro, remaining in the union (Macedonia had been allowed to peacefully leave the union in the early ’90s but at this time was still largely outside the Western sphere of influence).

The next phase of Clinton’s conquest of Yugoslavia began in the late ’90s when the CIA began covertly supporting the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a terrorist organization that has been linked to Osama Bin Laden. The KLA launched a guerilla war in the Kosovo province of Serbia, advocating independence for Kosovo. In 1999, under the guise of “peace negotiations,” the US/NATO issued an ultimatum demanding Yugoslavia allow NATO troops to occupy the entire country. Yugoslavia obviously refused this unreasonable demand and Clinton used this refusal as an excuse to begin a major bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. After several months of bombing pulverized the country a peace deal was reached allowing NATO “peacekeeper” troops to occupy Kosovo (but not the rest of Yugoslavia), effectively turning the province into a NATO protectorate. A year later a revolt led by US-funded groups and politicians overthrew the Yugoslav government, putting pro-US/NATO leaders in charge. The new government abolished Yugoslavia and became a Western puppet. This conquest was completed shortly after Clinton left office, when KLA forces attacked Macedonia. Macedonia saw the writing on the wall and allowed NATO troops to occupy it. Clinton succeeded in not only ripping Yugoslavia apart, but in achieving US/NATO domination over the Balkans and in forcing an economic system favorable to Western investors on the region. A wave of privatization has swept over the former Yugoslavia, transforming it into a corporate capitalist economy colonized by Western capital.

The standard excuse Clinton used to justify the military interventions in Yugoslavia was that it was supposed to stop “ethnic cleansing”/”genocide” allegedly being perpetrated by the Serbs/Yugoslav government. This is obviously bogus because the US helped instigate the conflicts that lead to the various massacres in the war and also because Clinton largely turned a blind eye towards atrocities committed by separatist forces (like the massacres in Gospic and Krajina). It is also not credible because Clinton ignored other genocides (such as Rwanda) and even funded Turkey’s genocide against the Kurds, which occurred at roughly the same time and resulted in the slaughter of tens of thousands of Kurds.

The death toll of the democrats is quite large:

Greek Civil War: 160,000 (Truman)
Korean War: 3 million (Truman)
Assault on Indochina: 5 million (started under Truman, accelerated under Kennedy & LBJ)
Coup in Indonesia: 1 million (LBJ)
East Timor: 100,000 (Carter)
Kwangju Massacre: 2000 (Carter)
Argentine Dirty War: 30,000 (mostly Carter)
Iraq sanctions: 1.5 million (mostly Clinton)
Turkish Kurdistan: 40,000 (mostly Clinton)

That’s at least 10,8022,000 killed by democrats, 9,292,000 if one only counts the liberal governments (Clinton wasn’t really a liberal). For comparison, the Nazi holocaust killed roughly 6,000,000 Jews. And this is just the tip of the iceberg; these are only the most famous incidents over the last couple of decades. If you add up the total from periods preceding this and the less famous incidents the number get much, much higher. If you add in starvation (a direct result of capitalism) it gets even higher.

Democrats could have stopped the congressional authorization for the Iraq war (via filibustering) but instead lots of them defected to the warmongers’ side. They could have stopped many of the nasty things the Republicans are doing by filibuster but choose not to. Many democrats actively supported the war. Most of those who did oppose it offered little opposition, chickening out when the shooting started and either abstained or voted in favor of the pro-war “support our troops” resolution in March. Even Dennis Kucinich, leader of the “anti-war” opposition in the house, abstained from the vote instead of voting against it. It was only after Bush’s war started going sour that vocal criticism began to come from democrats, which is completely opportunistic. Bush’s lies and fabrications about the Niger Uranium had already been exposed prior to the war, but it wasn’t until after the invasion was completed and the democrats needed an issue to attack Bush with that they started whining about it.

The Democratic Party, the party of slavery, has a long history of mass murder and empire building. They are not an alternative to the American Empire. Especially on foreign policy, there is remarkable consistency between republican and democratic administrations. If the Nuremberg standards were applied every President since World War Two, both democrat and republican, would have to be hung. Both parties have the same basic goals; they just disagree on minor details. It would have been much harder for Bush to conquer Iraq (perhaps politically impossible) if Clinton hadn’t been waging war against it for his entire term. The policies implemented by the US government have more to do with the specific circumstances of the time period then with which particular individual happens to occupy the white house. If a democrat is elected he will inherit this Pax Americana and it is unlikely that he would dismantle it (or even be capable of dismantling it). A vote for the democrats is a vote for imperialism and war (as is a vote for the Republicans).

VI Congress of Emek Partisi

From En Marcha
# 1562 January 5 to 13, 2012

Resolution

We support the peoples who have rebelled for their rights and their freedom; we condemn the imperialist conspiracies against Syria and Iran.

Throughout 2011, the Arab peoples of North Africa and the Near East have risen one after another. They do not want to be victims of the consequences of the hegemony of monopoly capitalism nor to be subjected to poverty and unemployment, and they rejected the repression of the autocratic dictatorships that safeguarded such hegemony. The despotic regimes that have lasted for 30 to 40 years have been the main reason for the disorganization of the oppressed masses and have served as an obstacle to their attaining consciousness. The peoples who have risen up have achieved some victories but they have not been able to reap important fruits of this struggle, such as for example to achieve their own political power. Therefore, these reactionary bourgeois forces supported by Western imperialism have maintained or have tried to maintain their hegemony through the strengthening of their pillars with new collaborators, seeing that their hegemony was in difficulty.

The Arab peoples, who have risen up, have realized their potential and have tasted certain victories, which is why their struggles have still not been repressed in any country except for Libya. Despite their low level of consciousness and organization, the peoples are carrying forward their uprisings with an effort to try to overcome their weakness, and they insist on opposing the attacks by reactionary forces that have been organized especially by elements of political Islam, which has become more moderate and pro-American in almost all those countries.

We understand that the communist parties and organizations that are signing this document, gathered at the Sixth Congress of the Party of Labor of Turkey, express our pride and solidarity with the struggles of the masses of the people, not only in the Arab countries of North Africa and the Near East, but also in Europe, from Spain to Greece, and in Latin America, from Venezuela to Ecuador, for their social and popular rights and freedoms; as well we proclaim our support for the just struggle of the Palestinian people against the Zionist imperialism of Israel.

However, we are aware of the fact that our main weakness is the inadequate level of consciousness and organization of the peoples of the world, with a view to any process of struggle. The imperialists and their collaborators take advantage of this weakness in their efforts to renovate the weakened bases of their hegemony and to repress those struggles through ideological penetration and infiltration in those struggles of the peoples that imperialism claims to support, manipulating these struggles towards their own interests and eliminating the popular features of these struggles.

Western imperialism, which maintains hegemony in its hands and tries to strengthen its position in relation to the ascending imperialist powers, not only aims to reinforce its hegemony in the countries under its influence through the repression of the popular struggles, but also tries to establish its hegemony by extending its influence on the peoples and their struggles and using them as a tool in countries such as Syria and Iran, which have not yet been subjugated.

We do not support the regimes of either Assad or Khamenei. However, we stress the fact that the imperialist powers are intervening with the support of the reactionary forces in the region such as Turkey and the Saudis, in the name of support for the so-called “opposition” in Syria and Iran under the pretext of the struggle for “democracy” and “repression of the dictators”; these policies have nothing to do with the right of self-determination of the peoples or the democratic and social aspirations of peoples. We are opposed to imperialist interventions – economic as well as political and military – for whatever reason, whether they are called by their obliging collaborators or not, and we condemn such policies that only lead to war, bloodshed and suffering.

We call on the peoples of the world, especially the peoples of Syria and Iran, to be alert to the interventions and imperialist tricks such as those that have taken place in Libya, to show solidarity with the struggles of the peoples of the region and to support the fight against imperialism and its reactionary forces.

Ankara, December 2011

Communist Party of Albania
Communist Party of Benin
Party of Labor of Belgium
New Party of Cyprus
Marxist Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador
Communist Party of Spain (ML)
Organization for the Reconstruction of the Communist Party of Greece
Communist Party of the Workers of Tunisia
Emek Partisi of Turkey

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