Category Archives: Mao Tse-tung

J.V. Stalin: The Prospects of the Revolution in China

Speech Delivered in the Chinese Commission of the E.C.C.I.

November 30, 1926

Comrades, before passing to the subject under discussion, I think it necessary to say that I am not in possession of the exhaustive material on the Chinese question necessary for giving a full picture of the revolution in China. Hence I am compelled to confine myself to some general remarks of a fundamental character that have a direct bearing on the basic trend of the Chinese revolution.

I have the theses of Petrov, the theses of Mif, two reports by Tan Ping-shan and the observations of Rafes on the Chinese question. In my opinion, all these documents, in spite of their merits, suffer from the grave defect that they ignore a number of cardinal questions of the revolution in China. I think it is necessary above all to draw attention to these shortcomings. For this reason my remarks will at the same time be of a critical nature.

I

CHARACTER OF THE REVOLUTION
IN CHINA

Lenin said that the Chinese would soon be having their 1905. Some comrades understood this to mean that there would have to be a repetition among the Chinese of exactly the same thing that took place here in Russia in 1905. That is not true, comrades. Lenin by no means said that the Chinese revolution would be a replica of the 1905 Revolution in Russia. All he said was that the Chinese would have their 1905. This means that, besides the general features of the 1905 Revolution, the Chinese revolution would have its own specific features, which would be bound to lay its special impress on the revolution in China.

What are these specific features?

The first specific feature is that, while the Chinese revolution is a bourgeois-democratic revolution, it is at the same time a revolution of national liberation spearheaded against the domination of foreign imperialism in China. It is in this, above all, that it differs from the 1905 Revolution in Russia. The point is that the rule of imperialism in China is manifested not only in its military might, but primarily in the fact that the main threads of industry in China, the railways, mills and factories, mines, banks, etc., are owned or controlled by foreign imperialists. But it follows from this that the questions of the fight against foreign imperialism and its Chinese agents cannot but play an important role in the Chinese revolution. This fact directly links the Chinese revolution with the revolutions of the proletarians of all countries against imperialism.

The second specific feature of the Chinese revolution is that the national big bourgeoisie in China is weak in the extreme, incomparably weaker than the Russian bourgeoisie was in the period of 1905. That is understandable. Since the main threads of industry are concentrated in the hands of foreign imperialists, the national big bourgeoisie in China cannot but be weak and backward. In this respect Mif is quite right in his remark about the weakness of the national bourgeoisie in China as one of the characteristic facts of the Chinese revolution. But it follows from this that the role of initiator and guide of the Chinese revolution, the role of leader of the Chinese peasantry, must inevitably fall to the Chinese proletariat and its party.

Nor should a third specific feature of the Chinese revolution be overlooked, namely, that side by side with China the Soviet Union exists and is developing, and its revolutionary experience and aid cannot but facilitate the struggle of the Chinese proletariat against imperialism and against medieval and feudal survivals in China.

Such are the principal specific features of the Chinese revolution, which determine its character and trend.

II

IMPERIALISM AND IMPERIALIST
INTERVENTION IN CHINA

The first defect of the theses submitted is that they ignore or underestimate the question of imperialist intervention in China. A study of the theses might lead one to think that the present moment there is, properly speaking, no imperialist intervention in China, that there is only a struggle between Northerners and Southerners, or between one group of generals and another group of generals. Furthermore, there is a tendency to understand by intervention a state of affairs marked by the incursion of foreign troops into Chinese territory, and that if that is not the case, then there is no intervention.

That is a profound mistake, comrades. Intervention is by no means confined to the incursion of troops and the incursion of troops by no means constitutes the principal feature of intervention. In the present-day conditions of the revolutionary movement in the capitalist countries, when the direct incursion of foreign troops may give rise to protests and conflicts, intervention assumes more flexible and more camouflaged forms. In the conditions prevailing today, imperialism prefers to intervene in a dependent country by organising civil war there, by financing counter-revolutionary forces against the revolution, by giving moral and financial support to its Chinese agents against the revolution. The imperialists were inclined to depict the struggle of Denikin and Kolchak, Yudenich and Wrangel against the revolution in Russia as an exclusively internal struggle. But we all knew — and not only we, but the whole world — that behind these counter-revolutionary Russian generals stood the imperialists of Britain and America, France and Japan, without whose support a serious civil war in Russia would have been quite impossible. The same must be said of China. The struggle of Wu Pei-fu, Sun Chuan-fang, Chang Tso-lin and Chang Tsung-chang against the revolution in China would be simply impossible if these counter-revolutionary generals were not instigated by the imperialists of all countries, if the latter did not supply them with money, arms, instructors, “advisers,” etc.

Wherein lies the strength of the Canton troops? In the fact that they are inspired by an ideal, by enthusiasm, in the struggle for liberation from imperialism; in the fact that they are bringing China liberation. Wherein lies the strength of the counter-revolutionary generals in China? In the fact that they are backed by the imperialists of all countries, by the owners of all the railways, concessions, mills and factories, banks and commercial houses in China.

Hence, it is not only, or even not so much, a matter of the incursion of foreign troops, as of the support which the imperialists of all countries are rendering the counter revolutionaries in China. Intervention through the hands of others — that is where the root of imperialist intervention now lies.

Therefore, imperialist intervention in China is an indubitable fact, and it is against this that the Chinese revolution is spearheaded.

Therefore, whoever ignores or underestimates the fact of imperialist intervention in China, ignores or underestimates the chief and most fundamental thing in China.

It is said that the Japanese imperialists are showing certain symptoms of “good will” towards the Cantonese and the Chinese revolution in general. It is said that the American imperialists are not lagging behind the Japanese in this respect. That is self-deception, comrades. One must know how to distinguish between the essence of the policy of the imperialists, including that of the Japanese and American imperialists, and its disguises. Lenin often said that it is hard to impose upon revolutionaries with the club or the fist, but that it is sometimes very easy to take them in with blandishments. That truth of Lenin’s should never be forgotten, comrades. At all events, it is clear that the Japanese and American imperialists have pretty well realised its value. It is therefore necessary to draw a strict distinction between blandishments and praise bestowed on the Cantonese and the fact that the imperialists who are most generous with blandishments are those who cling most tightly to “their” concessions and railways in China, and that they will not consent to relinquish them at any price.

III

THE REVOLUTIONARY ARMY IN CHINA

My second remark in connection with the theses submitted concerns the question of the revolutionary army in China. The fact of the matter is that the question of the army is ignored or underestimated in the theses. (A voice from the audience : “Quite right!”) That is their second defect. The northward advance of the Cantonese is usually regarded not as an expansion of the Chinese revolution, but as a struggle of the Canton generals against Wu Pei-fu and Sun Chuan fang, as a struggle for supremacy of some generals against others. That is a profound mistake, comrades. The revolutionary armies in China are a most important factor in the struggle of the Chinese workers and peasants for their emancipation. Is it accidental that until May or June of this year the situation in China was regarded as the rule of reaction, which set in after the defeat of Feng Yu-hsiang’s armies, but that later on, in the summer of this year, the victorious Canton troops had only to advance northward and occupy Hupeh for the whole picture to change radically in favour of the revolution? No, it is not accidental. For the advance of the Cantonese means a blow at imperialism, a blow at its agents in China; it means freedom of assembly, freedom to strike, freedom of the press, and freedom to organise for all the revolutionary elements in China in general, and for the workers in particular. That is what constitutes the specific feature and supreme importance of the revolutionary army in China.

Formerly, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, revolutions usually began with an uprising of the people for the most part unarmed or poorly armed, who came into collision with the army of the old regime, which they tried to demoralise or at least to win in part to their own side. That was the typical form of the revolutionary outbreaks in the past. That is what happened here in Russia in 1905. In China things have taken a different course. In China, the troops of the old government are confronted not by an unarmed people, but by an armed people, in the shape of its revolutionary army. In China the armed revolution is fighting the armed counter-revolution. That is one of the specific features and one of the advantages of the Chinese revolution. And therein lies the special significance of the revolutionary army in China.

That is why it is an impermissible shortcoming of the theses submitted that they underestimate the revolutionary army.

But it follows from this that the Communists in China must devote special attention to work in the army.

In the first place, the Communists in China must in every way intensify political work in the army, and ensure that the army becomes a real and exemplary vehicle of the ideas of the Chinese revolution. That is particularly necessary because all kinds of generals who have nothing in common with the Kuomintang are now attaching themselves to the Cantonese, as a force which is routing the enemies of the Chinese people; and in attaching themselves to the Cantonese they are introducing demoralisation into the army. The only way to neutralise such “allies” or to make them genuine Kuomintangists is to intensify political work and to establish revolutionary control over them. Unless this is done, the army may find itself in a very difficult situation.

In the second place, the Chinese revolutionaries, including the Communists, must undertake a thorough study of the art of war. They must not regard it as something secondary, because nowadays it is a cardinal factor in the Chinese revolution. The Chinese revolutionaries, and hence the Communists also, must study the art of war, in order gradually to come to the fore and occupy various leading posts in the revolutionary army. That is the guarantee that the revolutionary army in China will advance along the right road, straight to its goal. Unless this is done, wavering and vacillation may become inevitable in the army.

IV

CHARACTER OF THE FUTURE
GOVERNMENT IN CHINA

My third remark concerns the fact that the theses say nothing, or do not say enough, about the character of the future revolutionary government in China. Mif, in his theses comes close to the subject, and that is to his credit. But having come close to it, he for some reason became frightened and did not venture to bring matters to a conclusion. Mif thinks that the future revolutionary government in China will be a government of the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie under the leadership of the proletariat. What does that mean? At the time of the February Revolution in 1917, the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries were also petty-bourgeois parties and to a certain extent revolutionary. Does this mean that the future revolutionary government in China will be a Socialist-Revolutionary-Menshevik government? No, it does not. Why? Because the Socialist-Revolutionary Menshevik government was in actual fact an imperialist government, while the future revolutionary government in China cannot but be an anti-imperialist government. The difference here is fundamental.

The MacDonald government was even a “labour” government, but it was an imperialist government all the same, because it based itself on the preservation of British imperialist rule, in India and Egypt, for example. As compared with the MacDonald government, the future revolutionary government in China will have the advantage of being an anti-imperialist government.

The point lies not only in the bourgeois-democratic character of the Canton government, which is the embryo of the future all-China revolutionary government; the point is above all that this government is, and cannot but be, an anti-imperialist government, that every advance it makes is a blow at world imperialism — and, consequently, a blow which benefits the world revolutionary movement.

Lenin was right when he said that, whereas formerly, before the advent of the era of world revolution, the national liberation movement was part of the general democratic movement, now, after the victory of the Soviet revolution in Russia and the advent of the era of world revolution, the national-liberation movement is part of the world proletarian revolution.

This specific feature Mif did not take into account.

I think that the future revolutionary government in China will in general resemble in character the government we used to talk about in our country in 1905, that is, something in the nature of a democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, with the difference, however, that it will be first and foremost an anti-imperialist government.

It will be a government transitional to a non-capitalist, or, more exactly, a socialist development of China.

That is the direction that the revolution in China should take.

This course of development of the revolution is facilitated by three circumstances:

firstly, by the fact that the revolution in China, being a revolution of national liberation, will be spearheaded against imperialism and its agents in China;

secondly, by the fact that the national big bourgeoisie in China is weak, weaker than the national bourgeoisie was in Russia in the period of 1905, which facilitates the hegemony of the proletariat and the leadership of the Chinese peasantry by the proletarian party;

thirdly, by the fact that the revolution in China will develop in circumstances that will make it possible to draw upon the experience and assistance of the victorious revolution in the Soviet Union.

Whether this course will end in absolute and certain victory will depend upon many circumstances. But one thing at any rate is clear, and that is that the struggle for precisely this course of the Chinese revolution is the basic task of the Chinese Communists.

From this follows the task of the Chinese Communists as regards their attitude to the Kuomintang and to the future revolutionary government in China. It is said that the Chinese Communists should withdraw from the Kuomintang. That would be wrong, comrades. The withdrawal of the Chinese Communists from the Kuomintang at the present time would be a profound mistake. The whole course, character and prospects of the Chinese revolution undoubtedly testify in favour of the Chinese Communists remaining in the Kuomintang and intensifying their work in it.

But can the Chinese Communist Party participate in the future revolutionary government? It not only can, but must do so. The course, character and prospects of the revolution in China are eloquent testimony in favour of the Chinese Communist Party taking part in the future revolutionary government of China.

Therein lies one of the essential guarantees of the establishment in fact of the hegemony of the Chinese proletariat.

V

THE PEASANT QUESTION IN CHINA

My fourth remark concerns the question of the peasantry in China. Mif thinks that the slogan for forming Soviets — namely, peasant Soviets in the Chinese countryside — should be issued immediately. In my opinion, that would be a mistake. Mif is running too far ahead. One cannot build Soviets in the countryside and avoid the industrial centres of China. But the establishment of Soviets in the industrial centres of China is not at present on the order of the day. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that Soviets cannot be considered out of connection with the surrounding situation. Soviets — in this case peasant Soviets — could only be organised if China were at the peak period of a peasant movement which was smashing the old order of things and building a new power, on the calculation that the industrial centres of China had already burst the dam and had entered the phase of establishing the power of the Soviets. Can it be said that the Chinese peasantry and the Chinese revolution in general have already entered this phase? No, it cannot. Consequently, to speak of Soviets now would be running too far ahead. Consequently, the question that should be raised now is not that of Soviets, but of the formation of peasant committees. I have in mind peasant committees elected by the peasants, committees capable of formulating the basic demands of the peasantry and which would take all measures to secure the realisation of these demands in a revolutionary way. These peasant committees should serve as the axis around which the revolution in the countryside develops.

I know that there are Kuomintangists and even Chinese Communists who do not consider it possible to unleash revolution in the countryside, since they fear that if the peasantry were drawn into the revolution it would disrupt the united anti-imperialist front. That is a profound error, comrades. The more quickly and thoroughly the Chinese peasantry is drawn into the revolution, the stronger and more powerful the anti-imperialist front in China will be. The authors of the theses, especially Tan Ping-shan and Rafes, are quite right in maintaining that the immediate satisfaction of a number of the most urgent demands of the peasants is an essential condition for the victory of the Chinese revolution. I think it is high time to break down that inertness and that “neutrality” towards the peasantry which are to be observed in the actions of certain Kuomintang elements. I think that both the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang, and hence the Canton government, should pass from words to deeds without delay and raise the question of satisfying at once the most vital demands of the peasantry.

What the perspectives should be in this regard, and how far it is possible and necessary to go, depends on the course of the revolution. I think that in the long run matters should go as far as the nationalisation of the land. At all events, we cannot repudiate such a slogan as that of nationalisation of the land.

What are the ways and means that the Chinese revolutionaries must adopt to rouse the vast peasant masses of China to revolution?

I think that in the given conditions one can only speak of three ways.

The first way is by the formation of peasant committees and by the Chinese revolutionaries entering these committees in order to influence the peasantry. (A voice from the audience : “What about the peasant associations?”) I think that the peasant associations will group themselves around the peasant committees, or will be converted into peasant committees, vested with the necessary measure of authority for the realisation of the peasants’ demands. I have already spoken about this way. But this way is not enough. It would be ridiculous to think that there are sufficient revolutionaries in China for this task. China has roughly 400 million in habitants. Of them, about 350 million are Han people. And of them, more than nine-tenths are peasants. Anyone who thinks that some tens of thousands of Chinese revolutionaries can cover this ocean of peasants is making a mistake. Consequently, additional ways are needed.

The second way is by influencing the peasantry through the apparatus of the new people’s revolutionary government. There is no doubt that in the newly liberated provinces a new government will be set up of the type of the Canton government. There is no doubt that this authority and its apparatus will have to set about satisfying the most urgent demands of the peasantry if it really wants to advance the revolution.

Well then, the task of the Communists and of the Chinese revolutionaries in general is to penetrate the apparatus of the new government, to bring this apparatus closer to the peasant masses, and by means of it to help the peasant masses to secure the satisfaction of their urgent demands, either by expropriating the landlords’ land, or by reducing taxation and rents — according to circumstances.

The third way is by influencing the peasantry through the revolutionary army. I have already spoken of the great importance of the revolutionary army in the Chinese revolution. The revolutionary army of China is the force which first penetrates new provinces, which first passes through densely populated peasant areas, and by which above all the peasant forms his judgment of the new government, of its good or bad qualities. It depends primarily on the behaviour of the revolutionary army, on its attitude towards the peasantry and towards the landlords, on its readiness to aid the peasants, what the attitude of the peasantry will be towards the new government, the Kuomintang and the Chinese revolution generally. If it is borne in mind that quite a number of dubious elements have attached themselves to the revolutionary army of China, and that they may change the complexion of the army for the worse, it will be understood how great is the importance of the political complexion of the army and its, so to speak, peasant policy in the eyes of the peasantry. The Chinese Communists and the Chinese revolutionaries generally must therefore take every measure to neutralise the anti-peasant elements in the army, to preserve the army’s revolutionary spirit, and to ensure that the army assists the peasants and rouses them to revolution.

We are told that the revolutionary army is welcomed in China with open arms, but that later, when it installs itself, a certain disillusionment sets in. The same thing happened here in the Soviet Union during the Civil War. The explanation is that when the army liberates new provinces and instals itself in them, it has in some way or other to feed itself at the expense of the local population. We, Soviet revolutionaries, usually succeeded in counter-balancing these disadvantages by endeavouring through the army to assist the peasants against the landlord elements. The Chinese revolutionaries must also learn how to counter-balance these disadvantages by conducting a correct peasant policy through the army.

VI

THE PROLETARIAT AND THE HEGEMONY
OF THE PROLETARIAT IN CHINA

My fifth remark concerns the question of the Chinese proletariat. In my opinion, the theses do not sufficiently stress the role and significance of the working class in China. Rafes asks, on whom should the Chinese Communists orientate themselves — on the Lefts or the Kuomintang centre? That is a strange question. I think that the Chinese Communists should orientate themselves first and foremost on the proletariat, and should orientate the leaders of the Chinese liberation movement on the revolution. That is the only correct way to put the question. I know that among the Chinese Communists there are comrades who do not approve of workers going on strike for an improvement of their material conditions and legal status, and who try to dissuade the workers from striking. (A voice : “That happened in Canton and Shanghai.”) That is a great mistake, comrades. It is a very serious underestimation of the role and importance of the Chinese proletariat. This fact should be noted in the theses as something decidedly objectionable. It would be a great mistake if the Chinese Communists failed to take advantage of the present favourable situation to assist the workers to improve their material conditions and legal status, even through strikes. Otherwise, what purpose does the revolution in China serve? The proletariat cannot be a leading force if during strikes its sons are flogged and tortured by agents of imperialism. These medieval outrages must be stopped at all costs, in order to heighten the sense of power and dignity among the Chinese proletarians, and to make them capable of leading the revolutionary movement. Without this, the victory of the revolution in China is in conceivable. Therefore, a due place must be given in the theses to the economic and legal demands of the Chinese working class aimed at substantially improving its conditions. (Mif: “It is mentioned in the theses.”) Yes, it is mentioned in the theses, but, unfortunately, these demands are not given sufficient prominence.

VII

THE QUESTION OF THE YOUTH
IN CHINA

My sixth remark concerns the question of the youth in China. It is strange that this question has not been taken into account in the theses. Yet it is now of the utmost importance in China. Tan Ping-shan’s reports touch upon this question, but, unfortunately, do not give it sufficient prominence. The question of the youth is one of primary importance in China today. The student youth (the revolutionary students), the working-class youth, the peasant youth — all this constitutes a force that could advance the revolution with giant strides, if it was subordinated to the ideological and political influence of the Kuomintang.[*] It should be borne in mind that no one suffers from imperialist oppression so deeply and keenly, or is so acutely and painfully aware of the necessity to fight against it, as the Chinese youth. The Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese revolutionaries should take this circumstance fully into account and intensify their work among the youth to the utmost. The youth must be given its place in the theses on the Chinese question.

VIII

SOME CONCLUSIONS

I should like to mention certain conclusions — with regard to the struggle against imperialism in China, and with regard to the peasant question.

There is no doubt that the Chinese Communist Party cannot now confine itself to demanding the abolition of the unequal treaties. That is a demand which is upheld now by even such a counter-revolutionary as Chang Hsueh-liang. Obviously, the Chinese Communist Party must go farther than that.

It is necessary, further, to consider — as a perspective — the nationalisation of the railways. This is necessary, and should be worked for.

It is necessary, further, to have in mind the perspective of nationalising the most important mills and factories. In this connection, the question arises first of all of nationalising those enterprises the owners of which display particular hostility and particular aggressiveness towards the Chinese people. It is necessary also to give prominence to the peasant question, linking it with the prospects of the revolution in China. I think that what has to be worked for in the long run is the confiscation of the landlords’ land for the benefit of the peasants and the nationalisation of the land.

The rest is self-evident.

Those, comrades, are all the remarks that I desired to make.

Note: Such a policy was correct in the conditions prevailing at the time, since the Kuomintang then represented a bloc of the Communists and more or less Left-wing Kuomintangists, which conducted an anti-imperialist revolutionary policy. Later on this policy was abandoned as no longer in conformity with the interests of the Chinese revolution, since the Kuomintang had deserted the revolution and later became the centre of the struggle against it, while the Communists withdrew from the Kuomintang and broke off relations with it.

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Bill Bland on Sectarianism

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1) Bland on the refusal of the early British anti-revisionists to allow people who were on the point of breaking away from the CPGB to do so, and belong to the anti-revisionist movement:

“WB: They wouldn’t allow it. They were sectarian in a way in that it had to be all or nothing and so they only lasted for a brief period. McCreary died, he was ill, and his money was always important, his father was quite wealthy, and it was his money that had supported the organisation, its paper and the whole thing fell to pieces after McCreary died. The next thing that came up was Mike Baker’s organisation, the MLOB. Baker was the next one to approach me and my position was the same, and he made the point that he agreed with me that it shouldn’t be necessary at the moment for everybody to withdraw from the CPGB. If they were able to do any work within it of any sort, fair enough since there were still people there who were confused and honest, therefore potential recruits, so he agreed with me and we formed the MLOB on that basis. At this time, we hadn’t analysed Mao Tse Tung thought at all when the MLOB was formed, and it was taken for granted by everybody that Mao Tse Tung was the leading Marxist-Leninist in the world.”

MEMORANDUM To Cmdes VS & JM (India) From the Newly Formed Communist League – Following the Expulsion of Mike Baker & the split in the then Marxist-Leninist Organisation Britain.

Date Sent: circa Autumn months 1976 (First published by Alliance & Communist League in 2002 on web)

2) On the various sectarian views that prevented the work of the Albania Society in the UK:

“WB: That’s right. We founded this society which gradually prospered over the years and grew to several hundred members, published a journal, ‘Albanian Life’ regularly, and I think did some useful work in that way. Then as soon as the MLOB changed its line, all the Maoists in the Society who had previously been active and supportive began to demand that Bland go on the grounds that my organisation, to which I belonged, had published a report which was anti-Mao Tse Tung and therefore anti-Albanian, and therefore I shouldn’t any longer be allowed to be secretary of the Albanian Society. Instead they organised a faction within the society to get rid of Bland, and at the next AGM they organised a miniature cultural revolution in the society. The chairman at that time was a Maoist called Berger, she wrote articles on wine, her husband was a leading member of the friendship society with China. They organised this sort of cultural revolution at the AGM whereby a lot of people who had never been members of the society before appeared and demanded the right to vote, and Berger as chairman ruled that they had the right to vote because we were a democratic society and therefore anyone who walked in off the street to vote should be allowed to vote. This was the masses speaking you see. Unfortunately they hadn’t got quite enough people to outvote the other members, and our members didn’t agree with this particular line that it was reasonable grounds for sacking me, and so they lost the vote and I got re-elected as secretary and the Maoists walked out. They then formed another New Albanian Society which rapidly split into four or five other groups all of which rapidly disappeared, except the one that was financed by the Chinese, namely the one around Reg Birch. They called themselves the New Albania Society and functioned for several years with full support from China.

JP: Did they have any official standing as far as the Albanians were concerned?

WB: The Albanians recognised them immediately as the Marxist-Leninist Party in Britain. There were two organisations – there was the Communist Party of Britain run by Reg Birch, and there was the broader New Albania Society, both of these were officially supported by the Albanian Party of Labour. At that time they broke of relations completely with us. We had a meeting and decided what we should do: Albania is a socialist country, we accept that, we don’t agree with their line on this particular point, but none the less we stand for solidarity and support for the Albanian Party of Labour and the Albanian regime, therefore we would continue to support Albania, whatever their attitude to us might be. We carried on exactly as we had done, sending our literature to them regularly over the next six or seven years, until 1978, the Albanian Party changed its line and came out attacking Mao Tse Tung as being revisionist, his line as being revisionist.

Immediately Birch broke off relations with Albania, dissolved the New Albania Society without even consulting its membership. There were just notices in the post saying ‘as from today the society is dissolved’, full stop. At that time the one person who still had contacts with the Albanians was the expert on folk music, the president of our society Bert Lloyd. Bert Loyd made regular trips to Albania to record folk music, not as president of the Albania Society but in a personal capacity. We asked him if he would point out to the Albanians on his next visit that it was rather ridiculous to have no Albania friendship society because there was no one except for ourselves, with whom they would not speak. And so we said diplomatically that he might raise this with them and point out that it didn’t seem sensible to us that the situation should continue in the new circumstances. So he did raise it with them, and I was invited to Paris first of all to speak to the ambassador there, who seemed very suspicious of the whole situation. I couldn’t see any reason why, the whole thing seemed perfectly straight forwards, never the less he was suspicious, and he said he would make our points to Tirana and write to me in due course. Eventually the reply came back ‘yes, we would like a delegation from the Society to go to Albania’. There was no mention of what had happened over the previous ten years, no self criticism at all, but never the less they resumed good friendly relations with the society which was the main thing. The question of self-criticism was a matter for the Albanians and not for us really. We agreed in principle all the way through. And so that was the situation through to the counter-revolution.

Mind you, I am convinced now that there was a very strong revisionist faction in the leading positions of the party long before Hoxha’s death, and the whole thing came to a head only after that period, but it was a continuation of policies followed previously. For example, when we sent a delegation just after Hoxha’s death I think it was, I went with Steve Day, we were the two delegates elected to go, and they asked us what we would like to see and do, and so we gave them a short list of things we would like to do. One of them was to take a film of the area around the Corfu Channel to make a film about the Corfu channel incident, and also some research that I wanted to do from the Albanian library. Now we were a little taken aback by the fact that first of all they were unable to find an interpreter for us, they had no one there who could speak English, we were not allowed to take any photographs of the Corfu channel, and everything we asked to do including my visit to the Albanian National Library was for some reason not possible. They sent us round the country, it was enjoyable but it was purely a holiday, there was nothing we were able to do of any political value whatsoever. The whole 10 out of the 13 days we were there we were just driving around the country in a private car. I pointed this out to Steve and said ‘these people are bloody revisionists!’ you know, I’d met the same people before in the CPGB and they behaved in exactly the same way as people in the CPGB had behaved. I’m convinced now that these were symptoms of degeneration that had already set in, that revisionism had already won many of the leading positions within the party, but it was not coming out openly.”

IN MEMORIAM: William B. Bland 1916-2001 Interview Performed by JP with Bill Bland, 10th July 1994, Great Northern Hotel, Euston

3) How do progressives and “Marxist-Leninists” – of other than pro-Hoxha stripes – change their views? By weight of evidence, says Bland.

“WB: You see, first of all there is a great reluctance many people tend to be conformists, you like to be able to agree with your contemporaries, your associates, therefore I think that is a barrier to objective research, to objective findings, because then if your individual view is unpopular you become unpopular and therefore you tend to say what other people want you to say. I do think that this is something that has to be avoided. For example, the CL’s line on Dimitrov is unpopular because it is something new. It is not something that is anti-Marxist-Leninist, it is something which is either true or untrue depending on the facts. Now if your facts draw you to a particular conclusion I think it is essential for an organisation or party to come out with a correct point of view, under no circumstances should they say ‘well we can’t say that, its unpopular, therefore we will say nothing about it’; I think it is absolutely unpardonable for an M-L organisation. If one is correct, then sooner or later the passage of time will confirm the correctness, but if you are incorrect then it wont, and of course you must immediately rectify your incorrect fine. But not to put a line forward that you think is correct merely to be popular, I think is contrary to all the principles of Marxism. I think we’ve never done that.

I remember when we put forward our first research report on China, at that time most people who regarded themselves as M-Ls were running around waving the little red book, and they felt that this was something like running into a Catholic church and overturning the altar, they felt exactly the same way, and they responded in exactly the same way, yet gradually, over the years, more and more M-Ls have come out accepting the views we put forward in 1960. I think that under no circumstances should we ever…. of course we have to be sure that we are right, we go over and over the facts again, but once we are convinced that there is no other explanation, for example accepting that Dimitrov was a leading revisionist, then we should say so. I think not to say so merely to be popular is unpardonable. All new views are unpopular at first, it is merely a reflection of their newness. People tend to be conservative, they don’t like changing their point of view if they can avoid it, they have to be forced to do so by the weight of evidence, by the weight of incontrovertible facts, and this is the way I think the CL ought to work, small as it is. It is the only way that any organisation large or small should work.

4) Some examples of broad Front work that Bill Bland led the CL into with non-Hoxhaites:

(i) The MLRB:

JP: What about the Marxist-Leninist Research Bureau, that has a similar role in investigating important topics?

WB: The weakness there is that so far we have not felt able to investigate controversial topics. The New Communist Party was holding a meeting on Yugoslavia, and they had got together all the people who are supportive of the view of the Yugoslav government to present their case. Now our case is not popular among people among people who regard themselves as M-L. Never the less I feel we should put it forward, not in a destructive way, to call people traitors and fools but merely to present the facts as we see them, and invite them to seek another explanation for these facts. People are very reluctant to discuss things on the basis of facts. People like Harpal Brar, a very high political level, a loyal supporter of Stalin, there is no doubt he is very sincere in his support of Stalin and Marxism-Leninism, never the less, if you say ‘right, lets discuss Mao’ he will not discuss Mao, he will merely say ‘I don’t want to discuss it, I don’t agree with you, that’s all there is to say’. If you don’t agree, why not? Maybe you are right, tell me why you don’t want to agree? Somehow, he doesn’t want to do that.

So what it is here, in my opinion is this: rather than basing one’s views on fact, he’s basing his view on preconceived prejudices which Brar is unwilling to change or challenge. It’s like the attitude of the Catholic church in the middle ages, you didn’t discuss whether God existed or not, you just had to accept it because even discussing it was equivalent to treason, to heresy, and it seems to me that these people do have that view. They are unwilling to discuss it. Take a member of the NCP again, they cancelled a meeting which they forgot to tell me about and there was only a chap there who was editor of the paper. He wanted to discuss Mao Tse Tung thought, and I said read this stuff I’ll leave it with you, it may be wrong and if so, if you point out where we are wrong, we’ll correct it. ‘Yes I’ll do that’, you see, and that was a year ago. I left the stuff with him and asked him to fix a date for a further discussion, but no, he won’t do that. This means that he is only prepared to blindly follow the line of his party, and this isn’t going to do his party any good. If the line is wrong, then his party is not being served by his support for it. If the fine is incorrect then his job as a party member is to bring his objections forward and have them discussed at the highest level, and this they are unwilling to do, whether its Brar or the NCP.”

4) Some examples of broad Front work that Bill Bland led the CL into with non-Hoxhaites:

(ii) The Stalin Society

“WB: Well today we are in a situation where everyone who calls themself an M-L is in favour of building a new Marxist Leninist party. The Majids say that; Ivor Kenna says that, they all say it, but when you come down to it, it is necessary to draw a dividing line between the most blatant revisionist trend, which is Maoism, and Marxism-Leninism. You cannot build a party which contains both revisionists and Marxist-Leninists, it will fall to pieces at the first blow. Therefore our line in the Stalin society to try and utilise this for the purpose of support of Stalin, as we are all agreed, but also for discussing in a friendly way, the points on which we differ, so that on the basis of fact the members can be aware of the two opposed points of view and make their own decisions, and this seems to me to be to be an absolutely inevitable consequence of building a party which is taken seriously. And the same thing applies to a society that has a Marxist-Leninist paper, that we find out what we can agree on and that is the integral policy of the paper. Other questions on which we disagree we leave open for the time being and publish articles on both points of view, not in a hostile way but in a friendly way based on facts, and in that way, all those who call themselves M-Ls we say here, presented objectively, are the particular points of view why one policy is wrong, and the other answer is right, is Marxist-Leninist. I think that this is an essential way forward in building a party in the present circumstances.”

4) Some examples of broad Front work that Bill Bland led the CL into with non-Hoxhaites:

(iii) ISML:

JP: The international journal which is being suggested I think we have already discussed and we felt that this could play a useful role and should be open to Maoists to contribute to, and put down their views, and essentially, should be forced to express themselves in writing so that everyone could see where they do stand.

WB: The fact that they have expelled all the M-Ls, with the exception of yourself, from the Stalin Society is a sign not of their strength but of their weakness. If Adolpho is really sincere in saying that it is a good thing that we be allowed to put forward this rubbish so that it can be exposed, then he would be in favour of us continuing to put our view forward, but in fact he voted for our expulsion. And this to my mind exposes his hypocrisy. We are anxious to put forward our point of view, we don’t pretend that we’re infallible, we may be wrong, if so we regret it and we will criticise ourselves. But in order that we should be shown to be wrong we have to hear the other point of view, and this is what they are unwilling to do, to participate in any sort of objective discussion of facts.

(5) Events in the Stalin Society that Led up to Bland’s Expulsion From the Stalin Society

“Brief Introduction: The Stalin Society was formed on the initiative of Bill Bland, when he circulated a note suggesting that this would be a timely step; coming upon the open embrace of capital by Gorbachev. With this, the revisionist “official” soviet parties were manifestly crumbling. His intent was an open broad front organisation – open to all who call themselves Marxist-Leninists. Given the later development of the hijacking of the society for sectarian ends, he and the CL were forced to write this critique. It is noteworthy that subsequently, in order to further enable themselves to ‘safely’ and ‘constitutionally’ expel Bill Bland for his insistence on an open and non-sectarian conduct and debate within the society, the hijackers led by the husband and wife team of the Majids – cancelled all overseas subscriptions.

It should not be thought that the contents of this exposure of the manoeuvres of the Stalin Society are of purely historic interest. The critique contained here-in, centres on two aspects that the world-wide Marxist-Leninist movement is still coming to grips with.

One is the content of Maoism;

The second is the nature and development of the revisionist blocs inside the USSR and the Comintern.

It is for these reasons that at this stage Alliance feels it – once more a timely – exposure. Alliance Marxist-Leninist (North America); June 2002.”

“COMPASS” COMMUNIST LEAGUE
January 1995, No. 116

“MORE ON THE FIFTH COLUMN IN THE STALIN SOCIETY” Compass 116 (Communist League)

(6) Upon the Various Types of Maoism – Some we can ‘work with’ – Others we cannot!

“FUNDAMENTALIST AND MODERNIST MAOISM

Most systems of religious belief are based on writings regarded as ‘sacred’, and most of these were written long ago. But as man’s knowledge of the universe increases, it is discovered that these ancient writings appear to conflict with fact. In this situation, some people realise that their religious belief was mere superstition and become atheists. Of those who retain their religious belief, some insist that the writings, being sacred, are infallibly true, so that their appearance of falsity must be a mere illusion: we call such people fundamentalists; others admit that the writings cannot be accepted as literal truth, but can be accepted as allegorical truth: we call such people modernists.

Maoism has its fundamentalists and its modernists. As history made Maoism untenable except to those whose prejudices overrode their reason, genuine materialists came to realise that Maoism was merely a brand of revisionism. Among other Maoists, Fundamentalist and Modernist trends appeared.”

“COMPASS” COMMUNIST LEAGUE January 1995, No. 116 TABLE CONTENTS:” MORE ON THE FIFTH COLUMN IN THE STALIN SOCIETY” Compass 116 (Communist League)

(7) What does broad Front Work Mean? It means that DESPITE differences on other question – agreed to ends and principles of the BROAD FRONT – are the only basis for assessing WHO can JOIN the broad front:

“THE TACTICS OF BROAD FRONT WORK

A broad front is an organisation of people who agree to campaign on the objective of the broad front, in spite of differences they may have on other questions. The Stalin Society is a broad front organisation of people who agree that Stalin was a great Marxist-Leninist and who agree to campaign in defence of Stalin in spite of differences they may have on other questions. Members of a broad front who genuinely support its aims naturally work to expand its membership and influence as widely as possible. On the other hand, fifth columnists within the broad front, who wish to sabotage its aims, generally act under the cloak of pseudo-leftism, striving to erect sectarian barriers within the front on questions other than those embodied in the aims of the broad front. Over two years ago, Kamal Majid, husband of the present Secretary of the Stalin Society, Cathie Majid — speaking at a conference in the name of the Stalin Society — said:

“The Stalin Society is open to everyone. But of course we don’t expect you to come in without criticising yourselves. . . . Trotskyists, Khrushchevites or Brezhnevites . . . have to criticise themselves first. They have to criticise their past, and then we will accept them as . . . members of the Stalin Society”.

(Kamal Majid: Statement in Name of Stalin Society at International Marxist Convention, May 1992).

This declaration, like so many of the Majids’ utterances, is devoid of any truth. At no time has it been the policy of the Stalin Society that people who wish to join the Society must undertake a criticism of their past before they can be accepted as members.

What is the effect of Majid’s false statement?

Most people who now support Stalin, or who will come to support him in the future, have in the past accepted some of the bourgeois, Trotskyist or revisionist slanders about Stalin. Neither the Stalin Society, nor the Marxist-Leninist movement, can be built only from people who have never for a moment been misled by such slanders. To claim, even though falsely, that such people must pass a ‘purification’ test in a manner acceptable to the Majidist fifth column, is to seek to place barriers between the Stalin Society and tens of thousands of honest potential members.

Yet at meeting after meeting of the Stalin Society the Chairman, the Maoist Wilf Dixon, has permitted Kamal Majid to attack the New Communist Party as ‘traitors’.

In May of this year, the General Secretary of the New Communist Party. Eric Trevett, wrote in the party’s paper:

“I accepted the critique of Stalin in the 20th Congress resolution. Now I no longer think endorsement of that resolution justifiable.”

(Eric Trevett: Stastement in ‘New Worker’, 27 May 1994).

The New Communist Party is one of the largest of organisations calling itself Marxist-Leninist, and all who genuinely support the aims of the Stalin Society cannot but welcome this statement. But at the next meeting of the Stalin Society, Kamal Majid declared that this statement made it necessary to attack the New Communist Party harder than ever!

It is clear that the Majidist attacks on the New Communist Party at meetings of the Stalin Society have no relation whatever to the aims of the Society.

The Majids are no young inexperienced novices to the revolutionary movement, and it is clear that in attacking the New Communist Party, they are indulging in conscious sabotage of the Society. The Majidists’ campaign of disruption is, naturally, fully supported by the Maoist speakers invited by the Committee to give talks at the September and November meetings of the Stalin Society.

Adolfo Olaechea said:

“There are some who, 38 years after the 20th Congress, realise that they ‘can no longer continue upholding it’. That is good but hardly sufficient. . . . Such people ought to sit in the dock while the proletariat faces them with all their failures. They must liquidate all their conduct, all their line.”

(Adolfo Olaechea: op. cit.; p. 28).

In their Open Letter on ‘The Stalin Society Dispute’, Ted Talbot and Harry Powell dismiss the case against the Majidist disruptors as, for the most part:

“trivial”;

(Ted Talbot & Harry Powell: ‘The Stalin Society Dispute’; p. 1).

and based on:

“. . . personal animosities.”

(Ted Talbot & Harry Powell: ‘The Stalin Society Dispute’; p. 1).

They accuse our member Bill Bland of:

” . . . an amazingly opportunist statement.”

(Ted Talbot & Harry Powell: ‘The Stalin Society Dispute’; p. 2).’

when he says:

“The point is not whether these statements (the attacks on the New Communist Party — Ed.) are true or false.”

(Bill Bland: ‘The Situation in the Stalin Society’ (January 1994);l p. 3).

Although Talbot and Powell cease their quotation at this point, Bill Bland goes on to say :

“The point is that, even if true, in the context of the Stalin Society, . . . these statements are divisive and disruptive. They weaken and hinder the development of the Stalin Society.”

(Bill Bland: ibid.; p. 3).

Tony Clark, in an undated Open Letter to members of the Stalin Society declares that this policy seeks:

” . . . to place certain organisations and their leaders above criticism.”

(Tony Clark: Open Letter to Members of the Stalin Society; p. 1).

and that the policy:

“is rooted in opportunism.”

(Tony Clark: Open Letter to Members of the Stalin Society; p. 2).

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth than that we wish to place any organisation or individual ‘above criticism’.

We merely maintain that it is wrong and disruptive to permit attacks on members, or potential members, at meetings of the Stalin Society on questions unrelated to the aims of the Society.

It needs no advanced level of Marxism-Leninism to understand that the same statement may be tactically correct in one set of circumstances, but wrong and counter-productive in another set of circumstances.

For example, no one was a more consistent opponent of the treachery of social-democracy than Lenin. At the beginning of 1922, the Communist International, led by Lenin, was striving to organise a conference of the three Internationals:

“. . . for the sake of achieving possible practical unity of direct action on the part of the masses”. (Vladimir I. Lenin: Letter to N. I. Bukharin and G. Y. Zinoviev (February 1922),in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 42; Moscow; 1969; p. 394).

The fifth columnist Grigory Zinoviev, who later confessed to treason against the Soviet state and was executed, wrote a draft resolution on the proposed conference which called social-democratic leaders of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals ‘accomplices of the world bourgeoisie’. While this characterisation was undoubtedly true, Lenin objected to it in the resolution concerned on tactical grounds:

“My chief amendment is aimed at deleting the passage which calls the leaders of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals ‘accomplices of the world bourgeoisie’. You might as well call a man a jackass. It is absolutely unreasonable to risk wrecking an affair of tremendous practical importance for the sake of giving oneself the extra pleasure of scolding scoundrels.”

(Vladimir I. Lenin: Letter to Members of the Politbureau of the CC, RCB (b) (23 February 1922), in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 42; Moscow; 1969;p. 400-01).

Again, Marxist-Leninists accept that, as a general principle, it is correct to expose the reactionary role of religion. But an aspiring Marxist-Leninist who intrudes into a Catholic Church during mass shouting: ‘Down with the Pope!’ is not acting in accordance with correct Marxist-Leninist tactics.

In Lenin’s words, during a strike:

” . . . atheist propaganda in such circumstances may be both unnecessary and harmful — not from the philistine fear of scaring away the backward sections. . . . but out of consideration for the real progress of the class struggle, which in the conditions of modern capitalist society will convert Christian workers to Social-Democracy (i.e., Communism — Ed.) and to atheism a hundred times better than bald atheist propaganda. To preach atheism at such a moment and in such circumstances would only be playing into the hands of the priest and the priests, who desire nothing better than that the division of the workers according to their participation in the strike movement should be replaced by their division according to their belief in God.”

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘The Attitude of the Workers’ Party to Religion’ (May 1909), in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 15; Moscow; 1963; p. 40).”

Color Me Unimpressed: Rejoinder to Jason Unruhe

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“All we can do is to laugh as we gaze at this spectacle, for one cannot help laughing when one sees a man fighting his own imagination, smashing his own inventions, while at the same time heatedly asserting that he is smashing his opponent.”

 — J.V. Stalin.

In recent years, I have heard much talk about a supposed “Cold War” between myself and Jason Unruhe, better known to the internet as Maoist Rebel News. That would seem to imply that we are rivals, sparring partners, or even “frenemies.” To be clear: MRN and ES are not rivals, because that would imply we are comparable or even equals. Our “rivalry” has been entirely in the obsessive mind of Jason, who has taken every opportunity to viciously slander me and many, many others. It is therefore less a “Cold War” and more like a belligerent drunk screaming racial slurs at a certain car every time it drives by (which is a pretty apt metaphor for his past behavior); it is not a boxing match; it is a single incorrigible individual acting out.

But let’s get to business. In my article, “Lin Biaoism and the Third World: How Idealism Distorts Class,” I dissect what I term “Lin Biaoist” tendencies within Maoism and many other communist ideologies. Jason Unruhe has penned what he alleged to be a reply.

I would say this follow-up will act as a refutation of his points, but that would imply that he had any points to begin with. I would also point out my article cited many scholarly and primary sources. Jason Unruhe’s “refutation” cites precisely nothing. Instead, I’ll say this is an exercise in pointing out his flawed complaints and opinions presented as fact. One complaint in particular stood out to me:

“His article is unnecessarily long”

Dear reader, when you see a complaint like this, it’s code for “I didn’t read the article.” While I thank Jason Unruhe for informing us of his ignorance regarding the content of my work, it was completely unnecessary – the contents of his own “refutation” do that well enough. Indeed, I very much doubt Jason even read my article, because he utterly ignores my dissection of “Lin Biaoism” and just repeats his usual slurs.  I don’t pretend, nor do I want to know, the actions or activities of Jason Unruhe, but I surmise what happened is that he saw the title of my article and rushed off to pen his diatribe without actually reading it.

In fact, everything he says in his “rebuttal,” I dealt with extensively in the original article. Let me explain by breaking down the four main “points” Unruhe brings forward. He says:

“Any rift between Mao and Lin Biao is irrelevant to whether or not a theory is correct.”

This seems less like a point against my article and more like a textbook definition of attributing a position to someone that they simply don’t hold. My article extensively catalogues the rift between Mao and Lin Biao because it was a defining moment in Chinese history. Apparently explaining the origins of “third-worldism” is now associating it with a particular rift. I exhaustively cover the rift between Lin Biao and Mao to give context to his ideas and how they form a subset of Maoism, though a distinct one that is different than most. Unruhe has fundamentally misunderstood the entire purpose of the piece, or more likely, has willfully distorted it out of some combination of ignorance and malice.

“Pointing to Mao’s errors isn’t an argument against Third Worldism.”

Technically, I suppose this point is correct. Reality is just as much an argument against “third-worldist” tendencies as anything else. But as was the entire thesis of my article to begin with, modern “third-worldism” is largely based on Lin Biao’s ideas, distortions of Maoism, and anti-Marxist historical figures like Sultan-Galiyev:

“Lin Biao, in an attempt to apply the Maoist concept of people’s war to the international struggle, pioneered an early version of Mao’s later “theory of three worlds” which perceives the world as being a global countryside surrounding a global city. [….] Modern third-worldism is largely based on Lin Biaoism, though it has perhaps its earliest roots in the theories of Mirza Sultan-Galiyev.”

Unruhe continues to not actually address any of the content of the article or my points, or cite any sources of his own. My article discusses the origins of how “Lin Biaoist” ideas came about, and why they are wrong. Even when he attempts to “refute,” he seems content with refuting things no one ever said. The worst example of this can be seen in points three and four:

Mao was not a “Third Worldist,” nor is Third Worldism Maoist. (He doesn’t even understand the term.)

And:

Finally, as he’s had to be told on numerous occasions (showing his blatant dishonesty), Third Wolrdism has nothing to do with Three Worlds Theory. If he had any critical thinking skills he’d know that Three World’s Theory is anti-Third Worldist.

This is one of the more genuinely puzzling accusations he levels, since the fact that Mao wasn’t a “third-worldist” is precisely what I argue in my article:

“It is accurate to say that the roots of modern third-worldism are based in Maoism itself, in the peasant-based theories of Mao and especially Lin Biao. The three worlds theory, or the “theory of the three-part world” developed by Mao Tse-tung in 1974 was based entirely on China’s strategic interests. It was part of Chinese foreign policy in the 1970s as I have mentioned, and part of it was claiming U.S. imperialism was weak, citing for example its defeat in Vietnam, whereas Soviet social-imperialism was a rising and more dangerous imperialist power and a growing threat to humanity, akin to Nazi Germany. This position was supported dogmatically under Hua Guofeng but quietly dropped in the 1980s after the rise of Deng Xiaoping to the leadership of China when Sino-Soviet ties improved. But, as reactionary and mistaken as Mao’s three worlds theory might have been, and opportunist and anti-communist as was the Chinese foreign policy during that era, one cannot say Mao Tse-tung was a third-worldist in the modern sense by any stretch of the imagination. As perverse as the “theory of the three worlds” might be, present-day third-worldists are a perversion even of that shaky theoretical basis.

I then go on to offer numerous Mao quotes that prove he did not support “Lin Biaoist” or “third-worldist” thought in the modern sense. Later on, I note:

“Third-worldists today uphold the theories of Lin Biao and largely reject the Chinese policies during this period, accusing the Chinese leadership, and even Mao Tse-tung himself, of “first-worldism” for supporting the class struggles of the workers in the ‘first world.’”

And one more time:

“For some of these pseudo-Marxists, they do not qualify either as Lin Biaoists or third-worldists because of some various trivial minutiae, such as not outwardly calling themselves such labels, such complexity does their ideology have, you see, that it defies categorization except that which is convenient for its defenders. I do not seek to say that all the differing theories I use as examples of this tendency are precisely the same; what I’d like to point out is the common failing between Lin Biaoism, the theories of Sultan-Galiyev, Kautsky’s ‘ultra-imperialism,’ Mao’s ‘theory of the three worlds,’ and modern third-worldists.

Unruhe might have known this had he read the article. Furthermore, the idea that “third-worldism” isn’t Maoist is shaky at best. While “third-worldist” ideas may penetrate into other ideologies, it should be obvious to even the casual observer that they are largely based on distortions of Maoist ideology, and many such people identify as Maoists. Of course, Unruhe says nothing about the crux of the analysis just shouts about “dogmatists” and “Mao was a first worldist” and “Hoxha was a racist.”

As is typical of both his articles and his videos, he talked and wrote a lot and didn’t say anything of value at all.

Then, of course, he adds his signature comment:

“The two Whatevers of Hoxhaism. Whatever Stalin said is right and Whatever a Marxist of color said is wrong.”

If you look at that statement, it’s a classic “big lie” of Goebbelsian proportions. It’s something so extreme and off-the-wall that someone reading it without any prior knowledge or background would assume he’s correct. It’s also a statement of opinion presented as a statement of fact, and is not substantiated by anything. He presents it as though “everyone knows this,” or “it’s common knowledge” and doesn’t need to be proven – a logical fallacy.

Regarding the “Marxists of color” accusation, the E.S. website, and “Hoxhaism” in general, is positive towards Ho Chi Minh and Che and many other revolutionaries, not to mention that the majority of “Hoxhaist” parties are in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. But hey, what do they know about racism compared to Jason Unruhe.

Finally, though I admit I know little about whatever other “feuds” Unruhe happens to be trying to ignite (most of his slander seems to just be bait so people will reply to him), it’s worth noting that though he accuses myself and the APL of believing, “everything a Marxist of color says is wrong,” on his own website he seems to have an obsessive need to prove that one individual Tom Watts has been ghostwriting articles under Kevin Rashid’s name. That’s a pretty vicious slander, and (guess what!) completely unsubstantiated. But by now everyone should know vicious unsubstantiated slander is Unruhe’s stock-in-trade. For some reason he even feels the need to mention this in his article about me.

Unruhe regularly complains about being slandered and attacked, but he peppers his own rhetoric and half-baked diatribes with plenty of juvenile slander. What goes around, comes around. If all he’s got is to just call me racist every time he sees my name, color me unimpressed.

Lin Biaoism and the Third World: How Idealism Distorts Class

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by Espresso Stalinist

An odd phenomenon is haunting the halls of Maoism – a chauvinist set of ideas loosely forged from the writings of Chinese military officer and politician Lin Biao. These ideas, to the extent to which they form coherent ideology at all, can roughly be termed “Lin Biaoism.” To be perfectly clear, I am under no impression that “Lin Biaoism” is an entirely new ideology. Lin Biao’s works are not significant enough to constitute a new stage of revolutionary science. What does exist is a wing of Maoism, usually associated with the “third-worldist” variety, that upholds the works of Lin Biao in theory and practice. The ideology, such as it is, is not worth refuting. However, its underlying assumptions about proletarian internationalism, imperialism, revolutionary theory and practice are.

I fully expect upon publication these thoughts will have piles of ashes heaped upon them as “first worldism,” as “a total misrepresentation” of the ideas I criticize, and overall rejection of this piece as a reactionary and revisionist writing dedicated to attacking Lin Biao’s theories. But this is par for the course with “third-worldists” of all kinds, who much like anarchists dismiss all criticisms by claiming the author knows not what they criticize. In this essay, I am not concerned with what I allegedly do not know – I am only concerned with what we do know. In this case, what we know about the problems in Lin Biao’s theories.

Lin Biao (1907-1971) was a Chinese revisionist military officer and politician. Born in December 5th, 1907, he graduated from the famous Whampoa Military Academy, then under the command of Chiang Kai-shek. After graduation he joined the armed forces of the Kuomintang (KMT) or Nationalists. During the Northern Expedition he joined the Communist Party. Following the 1927 Shanghai massacre of thousands of workers, trade unionists and Communist Party members, which began the Chinese Civil War, Lin defected to the Red Army. He participated in the Long March and became known as one of the CPC’s most brilliant military commanders and an authority on guerrilla warfare. During the Japanese invasion of China, Lin commanded troops in the Battle of Pingxingguan, one of the few battlefield successes for the Chinese during the first period of the Second Sino-Japanese War. He was forced to retire from active service in 1937 after a serious battlefield injury complicated by tuberculosis and left for Moscow, where from 1937 to 1942 he acted as the representative of the CPC to the Executive Committee of the Communist International, or Comintern.

After the end of World War II and the Soviet liberation of Manchuria from the Japanese, fighting resumed between the Communists and Nationalists. Lin led victorious campaigns of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Manchuria and throughout Northern China against the KMT forces, including the famous Pingjin Campaign, which led to the liberation of Beijing in 1949. His forces then resumed attacks on the KMT in the southeast, which led to securing the major cities of Wuhan and Guangzhou. He was named one of the “Ten Marshals” after the Communist victory and the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Lin mostly abstained from participating politics in the 1950s. In 1962 Lin succeeded Peng Dehuai as commander of the PLA, starting a rectification program among officers and soldiers stressing political education, eventually culminating in the abolition of ranks in the PLA. Lin would rise to political prominence again during the Cultural Revolution.

Lin Biao was the most prominent supporter of the cult of personality around Mao, working to develop it within the PLA in particular. In 1964 it was he who compiled some of Mao’s writings into a handbook, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, also known as the Little Red Book, and ensured it was mass-produced and distributed, first within the PLA, and then throughout the entire People’s Republic.

In September 1965, Lin Biao’s most famous work, “Long Live the Victory of People’s War!” was published, which contains the vast majority of his political theories. It heavily promoted Mao Tse-tung’s theory of people’s war:

“Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s theory of people’s war has been proved by the long practice of the Chinese revolution to be in accord with the objective laws of such wars and to be invincible. It has not only been valid for China, it is a great contribution to the revolutionary struggles of the oppressed nations and peoples throughout the world. [….] Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s theory of people’s war is not only a product of the Chinese revolution, but has also the characteristics of our epoch.”

And even proclaimed it to be universal:

“It must be emphasized that Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s theory of the establishment of rural revolutionary base areas and the encirclement of the cities from the countryside is of outstanding and universal practical importance for the present revolutionary struggles of all the oppressed nations and peoples, and particularly for the revolutionary struggles of the oppressed nations and peoples in Asia, Africa and Latin America against imperialism and its lackeys.”

It heavily supported the Maoist theory of the revolutionary movement spreading from the countryside to the cities:

“The countryside, and the countryside alone, can provide the broad areas in which the revolutionaries can manoeuvre freely. The countryside, and the countryside alone, can provide the revolutionary bases from which the revolutionaries can go forward to final victory.”

Lin Biao believed this even to the point of arguing against the modernization of the PLA in favor of people’s war. More significantly, in perhaps the most influential part of his pamphlet to modern-day “Lin Biaoists,” Lin Biao applies the Maoist concept of people’s war to the international situation:

“Taking the entire globe, if North America and Western Europe can be called ‘the cities of the world’, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world’. Since World War II, the proletarian revolutionary movement has for various reasons been temporarily held back in the North American and West European capitalist countries, while the people’s revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America has been growing vigorously. In a sense, the contemporary world revolution also presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population.”

At the 11th Plenum of the 8th CC in August 1966, a meeting presided over by Mao and guarded by Lin’s troops, the famous big-character poster reading, “Bombard the Headquarters!” was unveiled, written by Mao himself. This was a declaration of war against the “right” elements Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping and other leaders of the party apparatus, and the practical launching of what would come to be called the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” During the Cultural Revolution, after initial control by the Red Guards proved too tenuous the PLA under Lin Biao’s command effectively took over the role of controlling the country previously held by the Communist Party. The GPCR had virtually destroyed the Communist Party and liquidated its organizations, but had greatly strengthened the political role of the army, which largely controlled the provincial Revolutionary Committees and many Ministries and economic enterprises.

The Ninth Congress of the Communist Party of China was held in 1969, during which former President Liu Shaoqi was removed from all posts and expelled from the party. During this Congress Lin built up the cult of Mao more than ever, declaring Mao’s though to be a “higher and completely new stage” of Marxism. He summed up the ideology of Maoism, then called “Mao Tse-tung Thought,” thusly:

“The Communist Party of China owes all its achievements to the wise leadership of Chairman Mao and these achievements constitute victories for Mao Tsetung Thought. For half a century now, in leading the great struggle of the people of all the nationalities of China for accomplishing the new-democratic revolution, in leading China’s great struggle for socialist revolution and socialist construction and in the great struggle of the contemporary international communist movement against imperialism, modern revisionism and the reactionaries of various countries, Chairman Mao has integrated the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of revolution, has inherited, defended and developed Marxism-Leninism in the political, military, economic, cultural, philosophical and other spheres, and has brought Marxism-Leninism to a higher and completely new stage. Mao Tsetung Thought is Marxism-Leninism of the era in which imperialism is heading for total collapse and socialism is advancing to world-wide victory. The entire history of our Party has borne out this truth: Departing from the leadership of Chairman Mao and Mao Tsetung Thought, our Party will suffer setbacks and defeats; following Chairman Mao closely and acting on Mao Tsetung Thought, our Party will advance and triumph. We must forever remember this lesson. Whoever opposes Chairman Mao, whoever opposes Mao Tsetung Thought, at any time or under any circumstances, will be condemned and punished by the whole Party and the whole country.”

During his report to the Ninth Congress, Lin went so far as to proclaim that according to Marxist theory, the main component of the state is the military:

“The People’s Liberation Army is the mighty pillar of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Chairman Mao has pointed out many times: From the Marxist point of view the main component of the state is the army.”

Lin Biao was built up as Mao’s successor to such an extent that during the Ninth Congress, one of the very few congresses held in Chinese history, the idea of Lin as successor in the event of Mao’s resignation or death was literally written into the Constitution of the CPC. It was passed on April 14th, 1969. It stated:

“Comrade Lin Piao has consistently held high the great red banner of Mao Tse-tung’s Thought and he has most loyally and resolutely carried out the defended Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s proletarian revolutionary line. Comrade Lin Piao is Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s closest comrade-in-arms and successor.”

This favored position would not last. A mere four years later, on August 1973, the Tenth Party Congress stated:

“The Congress indignantly denounced the Lin Piao anti-Party clique for its crimes. All the delegates firmly supported this resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China: Expel Lin Piao, the bourgeois careerist, conspirator, counter-revolutionary double-dealer, renegade and traitor from the Party once and for all.”

The events leading up to this posthumous denunciation are highly controversial. Lin Biao, along with several members of his family, died mysteriously in a plane crash over Mongolia in September 1971 in circumstances that are still heavily in dispute. It is generally accepted he was trying to flee to the Soviet Union. According to the official Chinese version of events, Lin Biao had attempted to initiate a pro-Soviet coup d’etat that would topple Mao Tse-tung and Zhou En-lai from power to establish a military dictatorship in China, and when he failed in this endeavor, he attempted to flee and sought refuge in the U.S.S.R. As the plane approached the Mongolian border, a gun fight broke out, causing it to crash. Whatever the case, Lin Biao and all on board died in the crash.

In his political diary, Albanian Marxist-Leninist leader Enver Hoxha characterized the Lin Biao affair as more frivolous than a James Bond thriller:

“The question arises: Why should Lin Piao murder Mao and why take his place, when he himself occupied precisely the main position after Mao, was his deputy appointed by the Constitution and by Mao himself? Lin Piao had great renown in China. The Cultural Revolution, ‘the work of Comrade Mao’, had built up his prestige. Then, what occurred for this ‘mutual political trust and the same ideological conviction’ between Mao and Lin Piao to suddenly disappear to the point that the latter organized an attempt on Mao’s life? And this act looks like an episode from ‘James Bond’”

(Hoxha, Reflections on China Vol. I, p. 465).

The rift between Mao and Lin needs to be expressed in solid political terms and not personal terms such as “lust for power” or “jealously” as bourgeois historians are so fond to do. Hard evidence on this matter seems to be scarce due to a lack of surviving evidence, but a few things are undeniable.

For example, Lin was on his way to the Soviet Union because of a split with Mao and his supporters over domestic and foreign policy. In September 1970, the grouping around Mao Tse-tung pressed for a Fourth Five-Year-Plan, which involved a massive program for mechanization of agriculture to be financed by reducing expenditure on the armed forces. This reduction was to be made possible by bringing about a détente with the United States. Lin Biao’s pro-Soviet faction opposed détente with the U.S. This was denounced by Mao and Zhou’s group as “ultra-leftism.” In December 1970, a movement began for a revival of the provincial Communist Party committees, which had been shattered by the Cultural Revolution. This was strongly opposed by Lin and the army leadership, since it would threaten the military’s ascendancy.

I see only two possibilities to this story, and both are somewhat related:

1) Lin Biao did plan and attempt to carry out a military coup against Mao because he wanted to “save” the country and the party from what he saw as a wrong course, or;

2) It was a conspiracy of the more pro-American elements of the CPC, including Mao and Zhou Enlai, to eliminate the most prominent opponent to their domestic and foreign policy.

In either case, clearly there was a huge rift with Mao’s policies, including regarding military control following the GPCR, and the controversial Chinese foreign policy of the late 1960s and 70s.

It is clear that the contradiction between Mao Tse-tung and Zhou Enlai’s group and Lin Biao’s group was a conflict between the wings of the CPC supporting reconciliation and alignment with U.S. imperialism and modernization of society, and supporting rapprochement with Soviet social-imperialism and the continuation of Lin’s “people’s war’ policies, respectively. In December 1970, Mao Tse-tung said American journalist Edgar Snow that he would like to meet President Nixon, and in July 1971, U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger made a secret visit to China. People’s Daily announced soon after that Zhou Enlai had extended an invitation to Nixon to visit China. This no doubt further inflamed conflicts, and it was obvious there were rifts in the Party from 1970-71.

Declassified transcripts of Mao’s conversations with Nixon record him making an unmistakable reference to the “Lin Biao Affair” in 1972:

President Nixon: When the Chairman says he voted for me, he voted for the lesser of two evils.

Chairman Mao: I like rightists. People say you are rightists, that the Republican Party is to the right, that Prime Minister Heath is also to the right.

President Nixon: And General DeGaulle.

Chairman Mao: DeGaulle is a different question. They also say the Christian Democratic Party of West Germany is also to the right. I am comparatively happy when these people on the right come into power.

President Nixon: I think the important thing to note is that in America, at least at this time, those on the right can do what those on the left talk about.

Dr. Kissinger: There is another point, Mr. President. Those on the left are pro-Soviet and would not encourage a move towards the People’s Republic, and in fact criticize you on those grounds.

Chairman Mao: Exactly that. Some are opposing you. In our country also there is a reactionary group which is opposed to our contact with you. The result was they got on an airplane and fled abroad.

Prime Minister Chou: Maybe you know this.

Chairman Mao: Throughout the whole world, the U.S. intelligence reports are comparatively accurate. The next was Japan. As for the Soviet Union, they finally went to dig out the corpses, but they didn’t say anything about it.

Prime Minister Chou: In Outer Mongolia.”

Before long, China threw off its former policy of anti-imperialism, arguing for a strengthening of NATO, support for German reunification and West European integration, support for U.S.-Japanese Security Treaty, declining support for national liberation movements in South Asia, its support for reactionary “liberation” movements supported by imperialist powers (such as UNITA in Angola), and its support of the semi-colonies of imperialist powers, such as Iran, Pakistan, Zaire, fascist Chile and the Philippines.

So, now that I’ve finished this grand history lesson, how does this relate back to modern Maoism? More than you might think after reading, actually. Maoist supporters of the “new-democratic” theory of the Chinese Revolution, as well as the peasant-based theory of “people’s war” largely seek their justifications in Lin’s pamphlet. We have already examined Lin’s representation of the international situation in his 1965 pamphlet. Lin Biao, in an attempt to apply the Maoist concept of people’s war to the international struggle, pioneered an early version of Mao’s later “theory of three worlds” which perceives the world as being a global countryside surrounding a global city. His line as expressed in “Long Live The Victory of People’s War!” represents the absolutizing of the contradiction between imperialism and oppressed nations – and that, more than anything else, is what is key. Lin Biao’s ideas do not speak of the contradiction (at the time) between two opposing systems, socialism and capitalism, or of the contradiction between capital and labor in the capitalist countries, or of the contradiction between the imperialist powers. He misunderstands the entire foundation for the modern revolutionary movement, and raises his vision of the “global countryside” surrounding the “global city” out of dialectical context, treating it as the principal contradiction in the world.

Modern third-worldism is largely based on Lin Biaoism, though it has perhaps its earliest roots in the theories of Mirza Sultan-Galiyev. Sultan-Galiyev was a Tatar pan-Islamic nationalist opposed by Lenin and Stalin. He later began conspiratorial activity, including tried to ally with Trotsky but was rejected, and had ties to the anti-Soviet counterrevolutionary Bashmachi movement. Among other beliefs, Sultan-Galiyev thought that the Muslim peoples were “proletarian peoples” and thus national movements among them were socialist revolutions, that in places inhabited by Muslims, the Communist Party should “integrate” with Islam, which should be brought about by a special Muslim party, and that geographically large territorial units should be formed embracing as many Muslims as possible. He had dreams of creating a pan-Turanian Turkish-Tatar state stretching across Central Asia. He was eventually arrested for his conspiratorial activity and died in prison. Like Sultan-Galiyev, Lin Biao’s analysis is not class-based, and in fact Lin’s pamphlet contains theses very similar to that of “Sultan-Galiyevism”:

“If North American and western Europe can be called ‘the cities of the world’, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world’…the contemporary world revolution…presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples.”

Obviously, no Marxist can deny the contradiction between the imperialist powers and the colonial and semi-colonial countries, which is a major contradiction in the world we live in. Independence and national liberation struggles for independence and national sovereignty led against imperialism is a just struggle which deserves the support of Marxist-Leninists and the world proletariat. But that’s not all Lin Biao does. Here, while recognizing the existence of revolutionary situations and movement in countries in the “third world,” he treats the “third world” as an undifferentiated whole, exaggerating this situation into one in which the entire “third world” is ripe everywhere for revolution. What is also striking about his “countryside versus city” division of the world is his non-class view of the “third world,” its omission of the basic contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and its disregarding of classes and class struggle within those countries, and an utter lack of analysis of the class nature of the regimes which rule there. This way the contradiction between the oppressed peoples and the reactionary and pro-imperialist powers is absolutized.

But the modern preachers of Lin Biaoism go further than to label the “third world” as leader of the liberation movement or the main force in the struggle against imperialism – frequently they proclaim it the only revolutionary force in the world. But to speak about the “third world” as the main force against imperialism and as the main force of the revolution such as the followers of Lin Biaoism, of third-worldism and other theories do ignores (or in some cases intentionally glosses over) the objective fact that the majority of the countries of the “third world” are ruled by agents of imperialism and neo-colonialism. The international view of Lin Biaoism belittles the size and importance of the comprador bourgeoisie and other pro-imperialist forces of the “third world.” To speak of the “third world” as a undifferentiated whole without making any distinction between genuine anti-imperialist revolutionary forces and pro-imperialist, reactionary and fascist ruling classes is to abandon the class struggle and the teachings of Marxism-Leninism openly. It means nothing less than to preach opportunism which cause confusion and disorder among the revolutionary proletariat.

Further, Lin Biaoism says that these countries are the “main anti-imperialist force” in the world. It logically stands to reason that it is not the business of revolutionaries to topple this “main force.” By now, it becomes increasingly apparent that Lin Biaoism is not a scientific approach to Marxism and is in opposition to proletarian internationalism. Lin Biao’s theories deny the role of the vanguard party in both the “third world” and the “first world” nations. Lin Biao’s concepts obscure the character of class struggle, creates illusions and misleads the people. Lin Biaoism is claimed by its followers to be the strategy for revolution today, and yet this strategy has no place for the proletariat or the Marxist-Leninist party. It claims to be a valuable contribution towards a proper analysis of the forces of the world, and yet classes are not mentioned.

Lin Biao’s theoretical understanding is eerily similar to that put forward by Karl Kautsky at the beginning of the century. Kautsky, on the eve of the First World War, postulated that in the field of international relations, a new age was approaching “in which the competition among states will be disabled by their cartel relationship.” He argued “there is nothing further to prevent […] finally replacing imperialism by a holy alliance of the imperialists.” This state of affairs is what he referred to as “Ultra Imperialism.” Kautsky falsely predicted the onset of a new phase of the elimination of contradictions between imperialist and capitalist states. This gave way to reformism, since it remained purely focused on combating “hegemonism” and sees imperialism as a policy, which could be adopted or rescinded at the whim of the ruling class, instead of the latest stage in the development of capitalism. Lenin in contrast, viewed imperialism as the highest and last stage of capitalism – monopoly capitalism that needs the domination of other countries and war. Lenin strongly criticized this theory of Kautsky’s, pointing out his denial of the connection between the rule of monopolies and imperialism, as well as his attempts to portray the rule of finance capital as somehow “lessening” the contradictions inherent in the world economy, when in reality it increases and aggravates them. Lenin summed up thusly:

“The question is: what means other than war could there be under capitalism to overcome the disparity between the development of productive forces and the accumulation of capital on the one side, and the division of colonies and spheres of influence for finance capital on the other?”

(V.I. Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism).

Uneven development among nations means that capitalists internationally frequently have radically different interests and not all of these interests can be met by full integration of their economic activity within the global marketplace. Any alliance, any “unity” within the capitalist camp is subject to how it benefits the profits of the individual capitalists within such an alliance. Unlike workers, who are able to reap benefits from the struggles of workers all over the world, a capitalist isn’t necessarily benefited by the success of other capitalists. As capitalists are forced to compete for what they perceive to be a limited number of material and market resources, the bonds which have formerly bound them begin to deteriorate.

Lin Biaoist formulations of the world proclaim no actual, concrete program for anti-imperialist struggle, or even for support of national liberation movements of oppressed peoples. What they do, quite in the style of the idealists of the past, is to cloak the question of revolution in bombastic-sounding phrases. Lin Biaoism implicitly capitulates to imperialism by including the reactionaries and comprador bourgeoisie in the same ranks as the people and the revolutionaries of the “third world.” This can only lead to obscuring the radical contradictions characteristic of the monopoly stage of capitalism. Interestingly, Lin Biao portrays imperialism as the main enemy of the world’s people, and yet the same set of theories were used by Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping to ally themselves with imperialism. This is not just a lesson for those in the “first,” “second” or “third” worlds, but the entire world. While some of the supporters of the theory may disagree with specific tactics in the examples I have cited, the overall logic is inescapable.

Of course, there are a never-ending stream of national-chauvinist Marxists who stand ready and willing to assure us that this position of Lin’s conforms more closely to reality than, say, those of Trotsky, who in this case acts as a stand-in for anyone opposed to Lin Biao’s theories, or J. Sakai’s, or Sultan-Galiyev’s, or whoever they happen to be cheering on. These chauvinists are usually quick to conjure demons from oblivion at the sign of the slightest opposition to their theories, such as “Trotskyism” or “Eurocentric” Marxism. Sometimes they are even brave enough to challenge traditional Marxism, which they characterize as ‘Eurocentric” or “mechanical.” As we all know, Marxism consists of choosing between envisioning a dramatic repetition of the events of the Chinese Revolution on a global scale with isolated urban areas in a sea of peasant revolution, or being accused of Euro-chauvinism ourselves. The endless need of revisionists to figure out which demonstrably incorrect line is “closer” to reality never ceases to amaze me, and the debate between Trotskyism, a stand-in for supposedly “Eurocentric” traditional Marxism and Lin Biaoism and its proclamation that the the entire so-called “third world” or “global south” is ready and ripe for revolution is no exception to that.

Today there is much talk about the “first,” “second” or “third” world, a world of “colonized” countries versus “colonizer” countries, of the “global south versus the global north,” etc. All of these terms, of course, conceal the real class nature of these countries. But this is not all, oh no dear reader, not quite all indeed! For recently, these ideas have further paved the way for its modern adherents to apply class labels to entire nations, saying that the “first world” represents a global bourgeoisie and making such claims as the first world populations not representing the true proletariat. Some go even further, and take Lin Biaoist views to outright denying the first world proletariat’s revolutionary potential, dismissing it as inherently reactionary as a class. At first glance, nothing would appear stranger than a group of so-called Marxists in the first world decrying the revolutionary potential of its people. But in fact, it’s no secret that this odd trend of Maoism has emerged as one of the most outwardly vocal, if not particularly politically effective, voices on the American left in recent years.

Whether they claim there are no significant exploited groups in the first world, or that internally colonized peoples are the only real proletariat, or some other variation thereof, modern third-worldism attempts to peddle the same Lin Biaoist theories, despite what differences they may have. Some confuse class as income, while others do not. Some claim that class is one’s personal ideology, i.e. reactionary workers are bourgeois or labor aristocrat, while others do not. Some, like author J. Sakai, claim that every person of European descent in the United States is a net exploiter from the American colonies onwards, and that the U.S. has no proletariat of its own but exists parasitically on colonial peoples, oppressed nations and national minorities, whom he labels the “true proletariat.” Therefore, the entire white working class is reactionary rather than revolutionary and this has always been the case, and therefore working class solidarity between whites, blacks, Hispanics, Natives, Asians and other peoples is impossible. He recognizes white privilege in the form of Euro-American workers being a privileged labor aristocracy which possesses a petty-bourgeois reformist ideology rather than a revolutionary proletarian one. Sakai’s solution is to call for a kind of Bundist separatism, with each racial group creating its own independent organization.

Before I continue, it must be made clear that the labor aristocracy, that is, the stratum of highly-paid and privileged workers bribed by the imperialist bourgeoisie by means of superprofits extracted from colonies and neo-colonies, certainly exists. This has been recognized by all the Marxist classics ever since the strata of the labor aristocracy emerged in Britain in the mid-19th century. This tendency was recognized by Marx and Engels, and they traced this opportunism within the working class movement directly back to British imperialism:

“[T]he English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that the ultimate aim of this most bourgeois of all nations would appear to be the possession, alongside the bourgeoisie, of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat. In the case of a nation which exploits the entire world this is, of course, justified to some extent”

(F. Engels, “Engels to Marx in London,” 7 October 1858).

These views remained consistent over the course of several decades, as seen in this letter from Engels to Kautsky dated twenty-four years later:

“You ask me what the English workers think about colonial policy. Well, exactly the same as they think about politics in general: the same as what the bourgeois think. There is no workers’ party here, there are only Conservatives and Liberal-Radicals, and the workers gaily share the feast of England’s monopoly of the world market and the colonies”

(F. Engels, “Engels to Karl Kautsky in Vienna,” 12 September 1882).

V.I. Lenin also identified the source of bribery for the labor aristocracy as the commercial and industrial monopoly of the imperialist countries and their export of capital to the colonial countries:

“Before the war [World War I – E.S.], it was calculated that the three richest countries—Britain, France and Germany—got between eight and ten thousand million francs a year from the export of capital alone, apart from other sources.

It goes without saying that, out of this tidy sum, at least five hundred millions can be spent as a sop to the labour leaders and the labour aristocracy, i.e., on all sorts of bribes. The whole thing boils down to nothing but bribery. It is done in a thousand different ways: by increasing cultural facilities in the largest centres, by creating educational institutions, and by providing co-operative, trade union and parliamentary leaders with thousands of cushy jobs. This is done wherever present-day civilised capitalist relations exist. It is these thousands of millions in super-profits that form the economic basis of opportunism in the working-class movement. In America, Britain and France we see a far greater persistence of the opportunist leaders, of the upper crust of the working class, the labour aristocracy; they offer stronger resistance to the Communist movement. That is why we must be prepared to find it harder for the European and American workers’ parties to get rid of this disease than was the case in our country. We know that enormous successes have been achieved in the treatment of this disease since the Third International was formed, but we have not yet finished the job; the purging of the workers’ parties, the revolutionary parties of the proletariat all over the world, of bourgeois influences, of the opportunists in their ranks, is very far from complete.”

(V.I. Lenin, “The Second Congress of the Communist International”)

“They [Social-Democrats] are just as much traitors to socialism… They represent that top section of workers who have been bribed by the bourgeoisie… for in all the civilised, advanced countries the bourgeoisie rob—either by colonial oppression or by financially extracting ‘gain’ from formally independent weak countries—they rob a population many times larger than that of ‘their own’ country. This is the economic factor that enables the imperialist bourgeoisie to obtain superprofits, part of which is used to bribe the top section of the proletariat and convert it into a reformist, opportunist petty bourgeoisie that fears revolution.”

(V.I. Lenin., “Letter to the Workers of Europe and America,” Pravda; No. 16, January 24, 1919)

Exploitation of the world by imperialist countries and their monopoly position on the global market, as well as their colonial possessions, allowed sections of their proletariat to become bourgeois, and allowed a section of their proletariat to allow themselves to be bribed by the bourgeoisie. Unlike modern third-worldists however, who dismiss the whole of the population of imperialist countries as unexploited and bourgeois, while recognizing the social and economic basis for opportunism and revisionism in the more developed countries, Lenin spoke of the labor aristocracy as a minority of the workers, and that it was the task of the revolutionaries to expose them:

“Neither we nor anyone else can calculate precisely what portion of the proletariat is following and will follow the social-chauvinists and opportunists. This will be revealed only by the struggle, it will be definitely decided only by the socialist revolution. But we know for certain that the ‘defenders of the fatherland’ in the imperialist war represent only a minority. And it is therefore our duty, if we wish to remain socialists to go down lower and deeper, to the real masses; this is the whole meaning and the whole purport of the struggle against opportunism. By exposing the fact that the opportunists and social-chauvinists are in reality betraying and selling the interests of the masses, that they are defending the temporary privileges of a minority of the workers, that they are the vehicles of bourgeois ideas and influences, that they are really allies and agents of the bourgeoisie, we teach the masses to appreciate their true political interests, to fight for socialism and for the revolution…”

(V.I. Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism”).

He continued:

“The only Marxist line in the world labour movement is to explain to the masses the inevitability and necessity of breaking with opportunism, to educate them for revolution by waging a relentless struggle against opportunism […]”

(V.I. Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism”).

Enver Hoxha analyzed the origins and class nature of the labor aristocracy, and noted its role in the advent of revisionism and reformism in the Communist Parties as well, particularly in Europe:

“The development of the economy in the West after the war [World War II – E.S.] also exerted a great influence on the spread of opportunist and revisionist ideas in the communist parties. True, Western Europe was devastated by the war but its recovery was carried out relatively quickly. The American capital which poured into Europe through the ‘Marshall Plan’ made it possible to reconstruct the factories, plants, transport and agriculture so that their production extended rapidly. This development opened up many jobs and for a long period, not only absorbed all the free labour force but even created a certain shortage of labour.

This situation, which brought the bourgeoisie great superprofits, allowed it to loosen its purse-strings a little and soften the labour conflicts to some degree. In the social field, in such matters as social insurance, health, education, labour legislation etc., it took some measures for which the working class had fought hard. The obvious improvement of the standard of living of the working people in comparison with that of the time of the war and even before the war, the rapid growth of production, which came as a result of the reconstruction of industry and agriculture and the beginning of the technical and scientific revolution, and the full employment of the work force, opened the way to the flowering amongst the unformed opportunist element of views about the development of capitalism without class conflicts, about its ability to avoid crises, the elimination of the phenomenon of unemployment etc. That major teaching of Marxism-Leninism, that the periods of peaceful development of capitalism becomes a source for the spread of opportunism, was confirmed once again. The new stratum of the worker aristocracy, which increased considerably during this period, began to exert an ever more negative influence in the ranks of the parties and their leaderships by introducing reformist and opportunist views and ideas.

Under pressure of these circumstances, the programs of these communist parties were reduced more and more to democratic and reformist minimum programs, while the idea of the revolution and socialism became ever more remote. The major strategy of the revolutionary transformation of society gave way to the minor strategy about current problems of the day which was absolutized and became the general political and ideological line.”

(Enver Hoxha. Eurocommunism is Anti-Communism. Tirana: 8 Nëntori Publishing House. 1980. pp. 82-83.)

So as we can see, the correct Marxist-Leninist analysis of the labor aristocracy was upheld by all the classics. However, none of this says that a proletariat ceases to exist in those countries. In contrast, modern “third-worldism,” sometimes called “Maoism Third-Worldism” and sometimes not, is the belief that first world workers are non-revolutionary and have the status of a global labor aristocracy lacking a proletarian revolutionary consciousness or revolutionary potential at all, since supposedly imperial capital has tamed them with flashy electronics and consumer products, thus bribing them into passivity. Thus, according to this mode of thought, first world leftists must place their hopes for a revolution on the peoples of the third world. This set of ideas was a common theme in the Maoist-inspired student movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Others since then, particularly since the 1980s, have taken this further and claimed that first world workers actually aren’t exploited at all, and are paid more than the value of their labor, thus making them part of the bourgeoisie complicit in exploiting the third world. In this version of the formulation, the first world is outright reactionary altogether. The only debate between the two types is whether there are any significantly exploited groups in the first world at all, such as prisoners, lumpenproletarians, blacks, Chicanos, etc., or if these people also share in the exploitation of the third world along with their white counterparts.

One of the most common characteristics of modern third-worldism is the tendency to blame the “first world” masses for not rising against capital, and to uphold this as evidence that they posses no revolutionary potential at all. This is especially curious as third-worldists exist almost exclusively within the “first world” themselves, and then mostly in the United States. To explain how they arrived at their revolutionary consciousness, such as it is, they are obliged to make metaphors to individuals like John Brown, and claim that the real reason socialism is not victorious in “first world” countries is that the people there recognize their material interests in following the imperialist bourgeoisie. Some even negate class as an economic classification by saying having a reactionary ideology also makes them labor aristocrats. Of course, if one blames “first world” workers for following and identifying with the dominant ideology of the bourgeoisie, the logical conclusion is to use that same standard for the large amounts of reactionary ideology in the “third world,” too, which tellingly, none of them dare to do. As Marx famously wrote:

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it”

(Karl Marx, “The German Ideology”).

What third-worldists fail to realize is that part and parcel of the material conditions in the U.S. is being subjected to the most powerful, most all pervasive, most advanced apparatus of ideological hegemony the world has ever known. In essence they are asking why socialist ideas are not more widely accepted in the country with the most powerful, advanced, developed and pervasive capitalist media. Most chauvinist of all their justification in relying on the “third world” workers to make the revolution there is that in contrast to the workers in developed countries, who apparently enjoy too many benefits in their minds, the “third world” workers are truly the only one who “have nothing to lose but their chains.” Words cannot describe how incredibly ignorant, and more than that patronizing it is for someone living in the “first world” to point their finger at the entire working class of various nations and declare that they have “nothing to lose” and thus should rise up and potentially face maiming, torture and death so that the third-worldist can sit in his comfortable air-conditioned domicile and post photos expressing “solidarity” on social media. It is strictly up to the parties, organizations and workers themselves in those countries to determine if the time and conditions are ripe for a revolution. Until then, it is arrogant, and dare I say racist, to declare that the entire working population of vast nations have “nothing to lose.” If these renegades actually visited a developing country, they might find that everywhere they went they could find people who would strongly disagree they have “nothing to lose.”

The absolutizing of the phrase which famously ends the Manifesto, namely that the workers “have nothing to lose but their chains,” is just one more example of a recent trend of making political stances out of simple slogans, and increased sloganeering to disguise political dishonesty or even reaction. It’s obvious to any ready that the original phrase was meant by Marx and Engels as a rallying call, instead of an excuse to only classify those people who “have nothing to lose” as revolutionaries or workers. Everyone on the planet, even those living in the most miserable conditions, have “something to lose,” if only their lives and their families. 

It is accurate to say that the roots of modern third-worldism are based in Maoism itself, in the peasant-based theories of Mao and especially Lin Biao. The three worlds theory, or the “theory of the three-part world” developed by Mao Tse-tung in 1974 was based entirely on China’s strategic interests. It was part of Chinese foreign policy in the 1970s as I have mentioned, and part of it was claiming U.S. imperialism was weak, citing for example its defeat in Vietnam, whereas Soviet social-imperialism was a rising and more dangerous imperialist power and a growing threat to humanity, akin to Nazi Germany. This position was supported dogmatically under Hua Guofeng but quietly dropped in the 1980s after the rise of Deng Xiaoping to the leadership of China when Sino-Soviet ties improved. But, as reactionary and mistaken as Mao’s three worlds theory might have been, and opportunist and anti-communist as was the Chinese foreign policy during that era, one cannot say Mao Tse-tung was a third-worldist in the modern sense by any stretch of the imagination. As perverse as the “theory of the three worlds” might be, present-day third-worldists are a perversion even of that shaky theoretical basis.

Modern “third-worldism” – which is an ideological variety of Lin Biaoism – existing outside of the internet has always been negligible. While some early third-worldist movements did exist as activists, none of them have been particularly large and were soon reduced almost exclusively to an internet presence. This has been the case since then. It can therefore be (rightly) inferred that third-worldists almost never have first-hand experience of life and material conditions or conditions of struggle in “third world” countries. It’s always struck me as curious that third-worldism has little to no following in the “third world” itself.

Indeed, the most commonly heard statement comrades from the “third world” made to American Marxist-Leninists is that our struggle here, in the very heart of imperialism, will be decisive. Mao Tse-tung himself made many such statements, such as this one from 1970:

“While massacring the people in other countries, U.S. imperialism is slaughtering the white and black people in its own country. Nixon’s fascist atrocities have kindled the raging flames of the revolutionary mass movement in the United States. The Chinese people firmly support the revolutionary struggle of the American people. I am convinced that the American people who are fighting valiantly will ultimately win victory and that the fascist rule in the United States will inevitably be defeated”

(Mao Tse-tung, “People of the World, Unit and Defeat the U.S. Aggressors and All Their Running Dogs”).

As far back as 1949, Mao spoke of the class struggles within the United States between the people and the ruling class:

“To start a war, the U.S. reactionaries must first attack the American people. They are already attacking the American people – oppressing the workers and democratic circles in the United States politically and economically and preparing to impose fascism there. The people of the United States should stand up and resist the attacks of the U.S. reactionaries. I believe they will”

(Mao Tse-tung, “Talk with American Correspondent Anna Louise Strong”).

As well, in a telegram to William Z. Foster in 1945, Mao wrote regarding the defeat of of Earl Browder’s revisionist and liquidationist line:

“Beyond all doubt the victory of the U.S. working class and its vanguard, the Communist Party of the United States, over Browder’s revisionist-capitulationist line will contribute signally to the great cause in which the Chinese and American peoples are engaged the cause of carrying on the war against Japan and of building a peaceful and democratic world after the war”

(Mao Tse-tung, “Telegram to Comrade William Z. Foster”).

In 1963, Mao also issued a statement supporting working class solidarity in the United States against systematic racism:

“I call upon the workers, peasants, revolutionary intellectuals, enlightened elements of the bourgeoisie, and other enlightened personages of all colours in the world, white, black, yellow, brown, etc., to unite to oppose the racial discrimination practiced by U.S. imperialism and to support the American Negroes in their struggle against racial discrimination. In the final analysis, a national struggle is a question of class struggle. In the United States, it is only the reactionary ruling clique among the whites which is oppressing the Negro people. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals, and other enlightened persons who comprise the overwhelming majority of the white people. At present, it is the handful of imperialists, headed by the United States, and their supporters, the reactionaries in different countries, who are carrying out oppression, aggression and intimidation against the overwhelming majority of the nations and peoples of the world. They are the minority, and we are the majority. At most they make up less than ten percent of the 3,000 million people of the world”

(Mao Tse-tung, “Statement Supporting the Afro-Americans in their Just Struggle Against Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism”).

And again in 1968:

“Racial discrimination in the United States is a product of the colonialist and imperialist system. The contradiction between the Black masses in the United States and the U.S. ruling circles is a class contradiction. Only by overthrowing the reactionary rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class and destroying the colonialist and imperialist system can the Black people in the United States win complete emancipation. The Black masses and the masses of white working people in the United States have common interests and common objectives to struggle for. Therefore, the Afro-American struggle is winning sympathy and support from increasing numbers of white working people and progressives in the United States. The struggle of the Black people in the United States is bound to merge with the American workers’ movement, and this will eventually end the criminal rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class”

(Mao Tse-tung, “A New Storm Against Imperialism”).

As I’ve already shown, Lin Biao’s line, which is much more closely followed by modern third-worldists, saw the primary contradiction in the world as between the global city and global countryside, or the exploited poor countries versus the wealthy imperialist countries, imagining people’s war on a global scale. Some even go as far to say that the waging of people’s war is the true test if a movement is truly communist or not. Third-worldists today uphold the theories of Lin Biao and largely reject the Chinese policies during this period, accusing the Chinese leadership, and even Mao Tse-tung himself, of “first-worldism” for supporting the class struggles of the workers in the “first world.” Of course, revolutionaries in the “third world” saying the working class in the “first world” also wage a decisive struggle are not limited to Mao himself.

Cuban poet and revolutionary José Martí once spoke a phrase which was popularized by Ernesto “Che” Guevara: “I envy you. You North Americans are very lucky. You are fighting the most important fight of all – you live in the heart of the beast.”

During the anti-colonial wars in Vietnam against the French, Ho Chi Minh spoke of the French working class as an ally against the French imperialists:

“If the French imperialists think that they can suppress the Vietnamese revolution by means of terror, they are grossly mistaken. For one thing, the Vietnamese revolution is not isolated but enjoys the assistance of the world proletariat in general and that of the French working class in particular.”

(Ho Chi Minh, “Appeal made on the Occasion of the Founding of the Indochinese Communist Party”).

Ho Chi Minh further said he considered the French and Vietnamese proletariat as two forces which ought to unite together in a common struggle against the French ruling class:

“The mutual ignorance of the two proletariats [French and Vietnamese] gives rise to prejudices. The French workers look upon the native as an inferior and negligible human being, incapable of understanding and still less of taking action. The natives regard all the French as wicked exploiters. Imperialism and capitalism do not fail to take advantage of this mutual suspicion and this artificial racial hierarchy to frustrate propaganda and divide forces which ought to unite”

(Ho Chi Minh, “Some Considerations of the Colonial Question”).

He even spoke of the line, notably from the Second International, that people in developed countries and people in colonial and semi-colonial countries should not unite, supporting the line of Lenin and Stalin in calling it reactionary:

“I will explain myself more clearly. In his speech on Lenin and the national question Comrade Stalin said that the reformists and leaders of the Second International dared not align the white people of the colonies with their coloured counterparts. Lenin also refused to recognize this division and pushed aside the obstacle separating the civilized slaves of imperialism from the uncivilized slaves.

According to Lenin, the victory of the revolution in Western Europe depended on its close contact with the liberation movement against imperialism in enslaved colonies and with the national question, both of which form a part of the common problem of the proletarian revolution and dictatorship.

Later, Comrade Stalin spoke of the viewpoint which held that the European proletarians can achieve success without a direct alliance with the liberation movement in the colonies. And he considered this a counter-revolutionary viewpoint”

(Ho Chi Minh, “Report on the National and Colonial Questions at the Fifth Congress of the Communist International”).

In 1926, J.V. Stalin wrote the following in regards to the workers of Western Europe in supporting the Bolshevik revolution:

“Without the support of the workers of the West we could scarcely have held out against the enemies surrounding us. If this support should later develop into a victorious revolution in the West, well and good. Then the victory of socialism in our country will be final”

(J.V. Stalin, “The Possibility of Building Socialism in our Country”).

Modern third-worldists, whether they base themselves on Lin Biao, Franz Fanon, Sultan-Galiyev, J. Sakai or any number of other theoreticians, claim there is a divergence between “European” socialism and oppressed nations, the countries of the “third world.” These ideas are responsible for the strengthening of the notions of “African socialism,” “Arab socialism” and various other incarnations which claim that Marxism and Leninism are only for Europeans, only for white people. It must be asked: what then, separates the Lin Biaoists from bourgeois nationalists? Indeed, what separates them at all from anti-communists? As we can see, to disparage “first world” workers as an overall counterrevolutionary class and proclaim that “third world” workers are the only ones with truly nothing to lose, and to reject solidarity between them is anti-Marxist, liquidates proletarian internationalism and ignores any idea of revolutionary connectivity between the “third” and “first” worlds. The American left has had to put up with constant subversion of revisionist, counterrevolutionary and bourgeois politics which derail the worker’s movement, and that includes those embracing the Lin Biaoist or third-worldist line.

Lin Biao, like Mao Tse-tung during his “three worlds” period, like Karl Kautsky during his opportunist period, and like the sorry assortment of modern Lin Biaoists, rely on empty and bombastic phrase-mongering, petty-bourgeois pipe dreams represented as the highest r-r-revolutionary Utopianism coupled with a lack of analysis of the real functioning and foundations of the modern economic system.

For some of these pseudo-Marxists, they do not qualify either as Lin Biaoists or third-worldists because of some various trivial minutiae, such as not outwardly calling themselves such labels, such complexity does their ideology have, you see, that it defies categorization except that which is convenient for its defenders. I do not seek to say that all the differing theories I use as examples of this tendency are precisely the same; what I’d like to point out is the common failing between Lin Biaoism, the theories of Sultan-Galiyev, Kautsky’s “ultra-imperialism,” Mao’s “theory of the three worlds,” and modern third-worldists.

What these theories demonstrate is that there are problems when one is too quick to apply phenomenon which can be empirically understood at the national level to phenomena occurring internationally. Many theorists have made such non-class-based arguments in which the old notions of class struggle and imperialism are replaced by more “global” perspectives which perceive the main contradictions within capitalism taking place globally. Inevitably, these ideas later lead those theorists and their adherents to anti-Marxist, anti-scientific conclusions which would render their theories less useful for a concrete understanding of capitalism on the world stage. There are problems which arise in trying to mechanically and haphazardly apply these contradictions in a global way.

The triumph and realization of the proletarian revolution is the main aim of our historical epoch. It must and will necessarily permeate all countries without exception, among them the ones in both the “third” and “first” worlds, regardless of their level of development, and regardless at which stages the revolution will be accomplished. Disregarding this universal law and theorizing about whole nations being labor aristocrats, forgetting the fight against the comprador bourgeoisie, evaluating “third world” countries in a chauvinist way and opposing proletarian internationalism can only mean being neither for national liberation or for proletarian revolution. The proletarian revolution must and will triumph in Africa, Asia, the Americas and in Europe, too. Whoever forgets or distorts this perspective and doesn’t actively fight towards this aim, but instead preaches that the revolution has shifted and that the proletariat of certain countries has to either acknowledge itself as inherently reactionary, or ally itself with its “third world” bourgeoisie, is someone who takes a revisionist and reactionary stance.

While Lin Biao deserves credit for his distinguished career as a military officer in the Chinese Civil War, his theories are not a suitable replacement for the Leninist understanding of imperialism and revolution. Given the profound theoretical problems in Lin Biao’s conceptions of a “global countryside” and “global city,” and the evolution of his supporter’s chauvinist theories, I argue based on the evidence I have presented that the Leninist model is still the best framework for understanding the machinations of the capitalist and imperialist system internationally, even in this moment where ephemeral fashionable words like “third world” and “global south” are on everyone’s lips.

In conclusion, perhaps Lenin said it best:

“The flight of some people from the underground could have been the result of their fatigue and dispiritedness. Such individuals may only be pitied; they should be helped because their dispiritedness will pass and there will again appear an urge to get away from philistinism, away from the liberals and the liberal-labour policy, to the working-class underground. But when the fatigued and dispirited use journalism as their platform and announce that their flight is not a manifestation of fatigue, or weakness, or intellectual woolliness, but that it is to their credit, and then put the blame on the ‘ineffective,’ ‘worthless,’ ‘moribund,’ etc., underground, these runaways then become disgusting renegades, apostates. These runaways then become the worst of advisers for the working-class movement and therefore its dangerous enemies”

(V.I. Lenin, “How Vera Zasulich Demolishes Liquidationism”).

Guevaraism: the Theory of the Guerrilla Elite

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An analysis of the theories of Regis Debray as propounded in “Revolution in the Revolution?”, and their relevance to the revolutionary struggle in Latin America.

By Cmde MS on behalf of MLOB.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN Red Vanguard Volume 1, 1968

THE THEORY OF THE GUERRILLA ELITE
Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION
BOURGEOIS OUTLOOK AND SPONTANEITY
CLASS ANALYSIS IN SOUTH AMERICA: THE “THIRD” WAY
THE ROLE OF THE INDIVIDUAL – THE MAXIMUM LEADER -FIDELISM
THE “FOCO” AS SUBSTITUTE FOR THE PROLETARIAN PARTY
PEOPLE’S WAR WITHOUT THE PEOPLE
“LEFT” AND RIGHT IN LATIN AMERICA
ASSESSMENT OF THE CUBAN REVOLUTION

Introduction

Regis Debray, a “private student of revolutionary theory and practice,” has written a book which purports to offer a “third way” to revolution. It is a “third way” which all Marxist-Leninists have hitherto failed to perceive, a “scientific truth” awaiting its release at the hands of this roving French philosophy student fresh from the cloisters of the “Ecole Normale Superieure.”

In their introduction to this book, Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy, the American sponsors of Debray, claim that the revolution in Latin America:

“will not and cannot follow one or another of the patterns, traced out by the two great revolutionary upheavals of the first half of the twentieth century. The Latin American revolution is taking a third way, the first stages of which already been revealed in the Cuban experience.”

(“Revolution in the Revolution?” Penguin Books, 1968)

On the basis of this claim for a “third way,” these American liberals with a touch of rouge on their cheeks rush to proclaim the ultimate outcome of this breach in the wall of proletarian hegemony, the anti-Marxist-Leninist content of the loquacious petty-bourgeoisie of our time: that “still other revolutionary patterns may be possible” – ranging from the Yugoslav to the Chinese variants of the new syndicalism.

Debray’s book seeks to lay the basis for such radical revisions by spurning Marxist-Leninist theory in every one of its essential tenets: replacing proletarian hegemony and discipline by petty-bourgeois hegemony and anarchical relations, replacing class by individuals, proletarian parties by “focos” of undisciplined petty bourgeois insurectionists, historical materialism by naïve mechanical materialism, scientific analysis by sweeping presumptiousness.

Like countless other renegade products which attack Marxism-Leninism, this book has been received favourably by the bourgeoisie. In that it offers a way to “make revolution” from scratch, learning by the simple empirical process of trial and error and rejecting the Marxist-Leninist scientific method of the universality of contradiction and the unity of theory and practice, it serves them well. For if the “third way” of Debray were to remain unchallenged and be applied in practice, it would result in the most tragic setbacks and useless losses to the revolutionary cause in Latin America.

Indeed, the Bolivian adventure which cost Debray his liberty and Guevara his life was merely the latest in a long series of defeats and annihilations for which the addicts of spontaneity who exist in the national liberation fronts of many Latin American countries are responsible. It is for this reason that it is essential to deal with Debray’s claims in some detail. On the first page we read:

“One began by identifying the guerrilla struggle (in Cuba – Ed.) with insurrection because the archetype – 1917 – had taken this form, and because Lenin and later Stalin had developed several theoretical formulas (sic) based on it – formulas which have nothing to do with the present situation and which are periodically debated in vain, such as those which refer to conditions for the outbreak of an insurrection, meaning an immediate assault on the central power.”

(Ibid.-p.19)

NOTE: Because Debray’s “theories” have been endorsed by the Cuban leadership and because he uses the term “we” throughout his text, references to Debary and the Cuban leadership are interchangeable, except where otherwise specified.

No doubt we are supposed to be eternally grateful for Mr. Debray’s clarification of Lenin on the “formulas” for an insurrection, i.e, “an immediate assault on the central power.” This statement is to set the tone for disclaiming Leninism by alluding to Lenin as someone who, from 1900 to 1917, contributed nothing to the struggle in Russia but the cry “insurrection” without any of the detailed handiwork which Debray claims as his own discovery.

Unfortunately, of course, Mr Debray has not understood Lenin, or Marxism, on this elementary point. The involved and rich experience, of the tactics and strategy of “making revolution” the Marxist-Leninist way are a closed book to Debray (as a student of bourgeois philosophy still in his early twenties, this is not surprising) who assumes throughout that such wild and unqualified statements, can serve as the starting point for his even wilder flights of innovation around them.

Lenin and Stalin remain (despite the distortions of petty-bourgeois innovators such as Debray who wish not to see that which deflates the balloon of their pretentiousness) the most notable of those few proletarian leaders who have successfully led the working people through to the seizure of state power and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is distinct from that seizure of power by the national bourgeoisie in alliance with the peasantry, usurping the leading role of the proletariat, which masquerades as “the dictatorship of the proletariat” in some corners of the globe – and to the building of socialism. Given this historically unique position, we can assume that the definitions and experiences of Lenin and Stalin, hold important lessons for us in establishing further theoretical and practical bases of proletarian dictatorship without which there can be no socialism – in our respective countries.

In every fundamental essential, Debray betrays not only his divergence from these principles, but his total ignorance of them.

BOURGEOIS OUTLOOK AND SPONTANEITY

When he deals in detail with the specific conditions in the countries of the Latin American continent, he refers to the divisions existing between the revisionists and trotskyites in the liberation fronts of these countries. These divisions, which have been responsible for many defeats – notably the failure of the Cuban general strike in 1958 – Debray seeks to solve, by going over to the purely military front and brushing ideological and political questions aside. He ignores the fact that leadership involves the clarification of a line in theory and the consolidation of the forces around that theory in action. Lenin subjected anti-Marxist-Leninist theory and practice to a ruthless critique on every front, this struggle bearing fruit in the undisputed leading role of the Bolsheviks at the crucial turning points in the Russian revolution. Debray seeks to cancel out the role of theory and to advocate some kind of idealised and subjectivised “action” as the unfailing panacea guaranteeing victory. He quotes petty detail after petty detail, generalises them to the level of the universal in order to justify his “revolutionary” theories revising a whole arsenal of genuine revolutionary theory painstakingly accumulated throughout a century or so of arduous struggle by valiant proletarian fighters the world over.

Not once does he justify his claims against Marxist-Leninist theory – we are presented merely with surface details and Debray’s own brand of arrogant ignorance of the harsh facts of the struggle against imperialism. Thus, in justification of the “spontaneous inevitable progress of history”:

“The reverses suffered by the Latin American revolutionary movement are truly minor if one measures them in terms of the short period of time which is the prologue to the great struggles of tomorrow, if we take into account the fact that the few years which have passed correspond to that period of ‘takeoff’ and re-adjustment through which all revolutions must go in their early stages. Indeed, what seems surprising is that guerrilla movements have been able to survive so many false starts and so many errors, some inevitable and others not. According to Fidel, that is the astonishing thing, and it proves the extent to which the movement is impelled by history. In fact, we must speak not, so much of defeat as of a certain explicable stagnation and lack of rapid development, the consequences of, among other things the inevitable blunders and errors at this stage of exploration, of revolutionary conceptions and methods which are new, (our emphasis – Ed.) in spite of their deceptive kinship with other international experiences. . . .Of all these false starts, the Latin American is the most, “innocuous.”

(p.23)

This “innocuous” record has involved the annihilation of “half a hundred revolutionary organisations” on the Latin American continent, since the Fidelista upsurge!

On an even more alarming scale, on page 2 the cry of the petty bourgeois intellectual reveals itself in full swing in its justification of spontaneity, taken to the lengths of advocating the pleasures and benefits of a blissful ignorance of theory. In this assertion, Debray is typical of the worst philistine intellectual who steeps himself in book learning but condescends to the “masses” in their ignorance – in such a way he seeks to preserve the prestige of learning which can only stand up when contrasted with the “low level” of the masses. Anathema to Debray are the forces of the organised proletariat with their developed theory:

“One may well consider it a stroke of good luck that Fidel had not read the military writings of Mao Tse-tung before disembarking on the coast of Oriente; he could thus invent, on the spot and out of his own experience, principles of a military doctrine in conformity with the terrain. … all the theoretical works on people’s war do as much harm as good. (This includes General Giap, Lenin! –Ed). They have been called the grammar books of the war. But a foreign language is learned faster in a country where it must be spoken than at home studying a language manual.”

(p.20-21).

And, when dealing with the dangers of “imitation from past experiences”:

“All the more reason to remain aware of the inversion of which we are victims when we read theoretical works.”

(p.59).

So, we have here the claim that theoretical knowledge is a hindrance and that spontaneous “trial and error” is the only guide to revolutionary action. Likewise, political struggles through programmes, fronts, alliances – the essential and inevitable shifts and deployments of forces in the complex struggle to win the working people for revolution are not necessary. Those who claim they are,

“… believe that revolutionary awareness and organisation must and can in every case precede revolutionary action.”

(p.82)

This is carried to the lengths of noting (we presume with favour – otherwise why point it out?):

“A significant detail: during two years of warfare, Fidel did not hold a single political rally in his zone of operations.”

(p.53).

Thus we are dealing with a defence of spontaneity, (a spontaneity which yet Debray makes a show of criticising in others) where spontaneity takes as its fundamental precept:

“.. the armed struggle of the masses against imperialism is capable of creating by itself, in the long run, a vanguard capable of leading the peoples to socialism.”

(p.126).

CLASS ANALYSIS IN SOUTH AMERICA: THE “THIRD” WAY

In order to justify his anti-Marxist-Leninist theories, Debray has to claim a “unique” class situation in Latin America:

“… the irony of history has willed, by virtue of the social situation of many Latin American countries, the assignment of precisely this vanguard role to students and revolutionary intellectuals, who have had to unleash, or rather to initiate, the highest forms of class struggle.”

(p.21)

No doubt his studies at the Ecole did not include a syllabus on Marxism-Leninism. Debray, is about to proceed upon the unfolding of his “new” theories of revolution, applicable only to Latin America:

Firstly, that the leading instigating role of the intellectuals and students is unique. From this assumption he intends to demonstrate, that a new concept of the vanguard, a “foco” (a small band of guerrillas with allegiance to one “leader”) follows logically, and from this that the normal political channels should be ignored and give place to armed struggle as an end in itself.

However, his claim for uniqueness of situation in Latin America is a red herring raised in order to conceal his anti-proletarian, thoroughly bourgeois thinking. For in Russia the revolutionary students and intellectuals also initiated the struggle against imperialism and capitalism: it was they who formulated the theory of the vanguard party and the strategy of the world’s first proletarian revolution. And it is here that we come to the crux of the difference between those petty-bourgeois forces which, when declassed and pushed into the ranks of the working class, overcome their bourgeois thinking and thoroughly embrace the proletarian world view and its revolutionary struggle; and those who fail to identify themselves with the aims and aspirations of the majority class. These latter merely use their new class position to air their own minority grievances against capitalism, objectively striving to climb back to their former class position, sowing confusion and propagating theories in the process which act against the tide of revolutionary struggle.

There are of course, vast differences between the aims of those intellectuals who led the way in Russia and the aims of those in Latin America who advance Debray to be their spokesman. The intellectuals in Russia worked for the hegemony of the proletariat in the socialist revolution and, as its necessary preliminary, in the bourgeois democratic revolution.

Debray and those he represents, are that section of the petty bourgeoisie which stand for the hegemony of bourgeois ideology and the petty bourgeois forces, not for a socialist revolution and not even for the final victory and, consolidation of the national democratic revolution. For in the epoch of imperialism, this can only be led by the proletariat in alliance with the poor and middle peasantry if it is to be consolidated and is to prepare the around for the transition to the socialist revolution. The petty bourgeois and bourgeois view is for the holding of the revolutionary process at the stage of the national democratic revolution, in order that the groundwork for capitalism may be sown and the path towards the re-incorporation of the nation into the imperialist sphere once again be laid. They seek to prevent that national democratic revolution from being turned into the stream which feeds the proletarian revolution by crying “against dictatorship,” “against bureaucracy,” thus serving the interests of the national bourgeoisie.

And so, Debray’s claims that his “third way” is the new form of worker-peasant revolutionary alliance:

“What gives the guerrilla movement the right to claim this political responsibility as its own and for itself alone? The answer is: that class alliance which it alone can achieve, the alliance that will take and administer power, the alliance whose interests are those of socialism – the alliance between workers and peasants. The guerrilla army is a confirmation in action of this alliance; it is the personification of it alone can guarantee that the people’s power will not be perverted after victory.”

And

“… This progressive petty bourgeoisie must… commit suicide as a class in order to be restored to life as revolutionary workers, totally identified with the deepest aspirations of their people.”

(p.111).

Yet despite these claims, we find that the real picture is very different.

In order to make his thesis workable Debray has to provide the vanguard leadership without which this class alliance cannot be consolidated. He performs this conjuring trick by taking the current “left” revisionist emphasis on the countryside in opposition to the cities, to its most illogical conclusion to date: all who live in cities are bourgeois, all who live in the mountains are proletarian, and hegemony in the struggle belongs to the petty bourgeois rural guerrillas who become the vanguard “proletariat” of Debray’s imagination.

This is one of his more remarkable “additions” to Marxist-Leninist theory:

“….As we know, the mountain proletarianises the bourgeois and peasant elements, and the city can bourgeoisify the proletarians, The tactical conflicts that are bound to arise, the differences in the evaluation and line, conceal a class conflict, in which the interests of the proletariat are not, paradoxically enough, on the side which one would expect. It was possible to resolve these conflicts rapidly in Cuba, and the advance towards socialism was undertaken as quickly as it was after taking power because Fidel, from the first day, demanded, won, and defended hegemony for the rural guerrillas” (our emphasis – Ed; p.75).

He quotes approvingly Guevara’s muddled thesis in the same vein:

“These differences (ie, between the plain (the town) and the sierra (the countryside) – Ed.) go deeper than tactical divergences. The Rebel Army is already ideologically proletarian and, thinks like a dispossessed class; the city remains petty bourgeois, contains future traitors among its leaders, and is very influenced by the milieu in which it develops.”

(Guevara , quoted by Debray on p.77).

In this strange system of Marxism, the city, wherein labour and toil, the wage slaves of capitalism, has thus been conveniently disposed of to make way for leadership by that more revolutionary the petty bourgeoisie!

In further imaginative vein, the “back to nature” aspirations of the dilettante petty-bourgeois fleeing from the terrors of the era of machinofacture and proletarian organisation are eulogised:

“Such are the mental reactions of a bourgeois, and any man, even a comrade, who spends his life in a city is unwittingly bourgeois in comparison with a guerrillero…. Not to have any means of subsistence except what you yourself can produce, with your own hands (? – We read elsewhere in his treatise that equipment and supplies were pilfered in raids on villages – MS-Ed) starting from nature in the raw. … The city dweller lives as a consumer. As, long as he has some cash in his pocket, it suffices for his daily needs.”

(p.68)

“Nothing like getting out to realise to what extent these lukewarm incubators (the cities – Ed.) make one infantile and bourgeois. In the first stages of life in the mountains, in the seclusion of the so-called virgin forest life is simply a daily battle in its smallest detail: especially is it a battle within the guerrillero himself to overcome his old habits, to erase the marks left on his body by the incubator – his weakness.”

(p.69)

Really, Mr Debray – speak for yourself! No doubt it is a delightful element of “free choice” for the coddled petty bourgeois to remove himself temporarily to the more ascetic hardship of the mountains! But even capitalist economists have had to acknowledge that the daily lot of the proletarian is one which requires him to sell his birthright, his freedom, his expectancy of life precisely in order to obtain that little “cash in his pocket” without which he would be too dead to have any “daily needs!”

Also, in magical vein, we are told that:

“Under these conditions (guerrilla experience Ed) class egoism does not long endure.. Petty bourgeois psychology melts like under a summer sun ..”

(p.110).

Would that this were so!

From a reference he makes to Castro on the subject of the inherent qualities of “the people” we can draw only the conclusion that the term refers to the peasantry alone (p.112). And of course this is as it must be, for despite the loud claims, these theories bear absolutely no relation to the proletariat whatsoever.

The fig-leaf cover required to normalise this petty bourgeois leadership and masquerade it under the false cloak of a “worker-peasant alliance” leading to socialism was the verbal trick of claiming that a handful of petty bourgeois guerrillas, through their relationship to their “means of production” in the rural environment – the “dispossessed class” – were the proletariat leading the peasantry.

This makes the formula complete. But no amount of verbal juggling can make these theories any other than what they really are –

Namely, the laying of the foundations of the dictatorship of the national bourgeoisie in Latin America with all the jargon that goes with it:

  • the abstract and classless theory of “armed revolution”;
  • the purely military “foco”;
  • the primacy of spontaneity and,
  • the overall aim of “the happiness of the people” divorced from any concrete class analysis.

A typical petty bourgeois phenomenon is the spurning of class analysis and political theory. The bourgeoisie has its class theory, just as the proletariat has. But the petty bourgeoisie has no independent ideology because it is a transitional class, a virtual hybrid ideologically – part bourgeois and part proletarian in its advocacy of ideology according to the fortunes of which major class appears likely to benefit it most. That is the reason for the sweeping idealist phrases which are utterly classless. It therefore vacillates opportunistically, avoiding the statement of a political position because it does not know at any one stage in the movement of class struggle which side it will need to be on.

Thus the claims of the Debrayists are not new. Always and everywhere they have been part of the arsenal of the petty bourgeoisie in attempting to further their social and class aims – and they are theories which are inimical to the hopes and aspirations of the only truly revolutionary class, the proletariat; theories which at root and beneath the libertarian cover are nothing but a vicious attack on the proletariat and its class mission.

THE ROLE OF THE INDIVIDUAL – THE MAXIMUM LEADER – FIDELISM

If the character of the theories we have outlined are correct, it will follow that, in place of proletarian discipline and democratic centralism, petty bourgeois individuality will be enthroned. And this is so. We read:

“The city, Fidel says, ‘is a cemetery of revolutionaries and resources’… A leader cannot go down to the city to attend a political meeting: he has the politicos come up to discuss and make decisions in a safe place up above: otherwise he sends an emissary. Which presupposes, in the first place, recognition of his role as responsible leader, the willingness to give him the resources with which to exercise his leadership – if not, he takes them himself. It implies, above all, the adoption of an open and explicit strategy.”

(p.67).

“This reconstitution (of the “party” Ed.) requires the temporary suspension of ‘internal’ party democracy and the temporary abolition of the principles of democratic centralism which guarantee it.”

(p.101).

Furthermore, the conventional party only brings with it “the plethora of commissions, secretariats, congresses, plenary sessions, meetings etc”. These are the cause of “the vice of excessive deliberation” which “hampers executive, centralised and vertical methods, combined with the large measure of tactical independence of subordinate groups which is demanded in the conduct of military operations (p.101).

In other words, discipline and organisation, which are the main manifestations of proletarian organisation, ‘hamper’ the freedoms of the petty bourgeois leaders, who wish to answer to no strata or section of the population – and indeed, by their very hybrid class position, do not directly represent any. To these military adventurists, the primacy of political struggle which is supplemented by military struggle, is the source of all evils. It brings with it the necessity for disciplined leadership, political discussion of strategy, the difficult work of actually involving the working people in struggle. All these tasks are anathema to the Debrayists and their foolhardy bands of “trial and error” revolutionaries.

But we have only proceeded a little way in our analysis.

We have now to deal with the real reason why Debray has thought it necessary to throw all previous historical experience overboard, to decry and reject any lessons from the revolutions of Russia, China and Vietnam, the theories of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin; to throw the leading role of the proletarian party overboard. It is because:

“In Cuba, military (operational) and political leadership have been combined in one man: Fidel Castro.”

(p.96)

It is because of:

“the line of action of which Fidel Castro, the leader of the Cuban Revolution, is the incarnation.”

(p.119)

Throughout the text is peppered with glowing references to “Fidel says,” rather like the childrens’ nursery rhyme. Thus, speaking again of “the leader” and his qualities:

“In brief, no detail is too small for a politico-military chief: everything rests on details – on a single detail – and he himself must supervise them all.”

(p.89)

What a staggering piece of nonsense! In contradistinction to even the Blanquists, who claimed that a small elite could liberate the people, we have the ridiculous adolescent hero-worship that one man – one “maximum-leader,” the “incarnation,” is our hope for socialism. Mr. Debray claims with pride that this leader, combining all qualities,” is the startling innovation that has been introduced” into the theory of Marxism-Leninism. We must indeed confess ourselves startled at such a turn of events – when the personal feelings of a twenty-year old whose transference to maturity had been stunted inside the portals of a bourgeois temple of philosophy – are put forward as the basis for a world-view involving the fate of millions!

But it would appear that in the sierras under the sway of “Fidelism,” in place of the proletarian party and its healthy collective discipline, that body representing the best qualities of a class, such inverted and ingrown petty bourgeois acts of hero worship are commonplace. For Guevara himself, on the basis of his experiences with Fidel, stated that “the aim is for all qualities to be united if possible, in one person.” This maximum leader,” as the world knows, has not been slow to bask in the limelight of glory and rise to the heights of demagogy which this mystical cult has presented to him.

Thus we are dealing with an idealisation of the petty bourgeoisie, an idealisation which can only finish up in extremely deep water.

And it does, for such baseless hero-worship and unquestioned allegiance to one “leader” is the very essence of bourgeois class thinking, when confronted with the problem of misleading and subjugating vast social forces for its own ends. It represents a crisis in the leadership of a historically obsolescent class when the normal, logical, although unequal, system of maintaining its power is threatened from below. This initial demagogy of the “maximum leader” often appears too ridiculous to take seriously. But beneath it, lies the sabre of a force which is responsible to no constitution, to no labour laws, no checks by the working people, no power other than to itself. All too often it has finally resulted in bloodbaths not only involving the working class but any other strata which have got in the way of a totally destructive and anarchic force.

The seeds of such theories of an independent armed force, are present in the thinking of the Debrayist petty bourgeoisie:

“It has been proved that for the training of revolutionary cadres the people’s war is more decisive than political activity without guerrilla experience. Leaders of vision in Latin America today are young, lacking in long political experience prior to joining up with the guerrillas. It is ridiculous to continue to oppose ‘political cadres’ to ‘military cadres’, ‘political leadership’ to ‘military leadership’. Pure ‘politicians’ who want to remain pure – cannot lead the armed struggle of the people; pure ‘military men’ can do so, and by the experience acquired in leading a guerrilla group, they become ‘politicians’ as well. The experience of Cuba and, more recently, of Venezuela, Guatemala, and other countries demonstrate that people – even petty bourgeois or peasants – are more quickly and more completely moulded by experience of guerrilla warfare than by an equal amount of time spent in a training school for cadres – a consequence, as far as men are concerned, of the essentially and totally political character of guerrilla warfare.”

(p. 88-89).

This dominant military force will be naturally, young – since the old are, well – they are “alas… old” and worn out:

“In Latin America, wherever armed struggle is the order of the day, there is a close tie between biology and ideology. However absurd or shocking this relationship may seem, it is none the less a decisive one. An elderly man, accustomed to city living, (do workers retire at the age of 40? – MS-Ed) moulded by other circumstances and goals, will not easily adjust himself to the mountain nor – though this is less so – to underground activities. In addition to the moral factor – conviction – physical fitness is the most basic of all skills needed for waging guerrilla war; the two factors go hand in hand. A perfect Marxist education is not, at the outset, an imperative condition. That an elderly man should be proven militant – and possess a revolutionary training – is not, alas, sufficient for coping with guerrilla existence, especially in the early stages. Physical aptitude is the prerequisite for all other aptitudes (?? – MS-Ed); a minor point of limited theoretical appeal, but the armed struggle appears to have a rationale of which theory knows nothing”.

(p. 101)

Thus it is brawn, not the creative brain; political ignorance, not understanding; youth and fitness, not experience which constitutes Debray’s “master race” of revolution.

Such is the demagogy which wears the mask of “Marxism.” It is this monstrous deformation which results from the failure to build a vanguard party based firmly on the alliance between the working class and peasantry in the conditions of a national democratic struggle. For with this party denigrated, with the proletarian role usurped and the peasantry dragged in as fodder to back up and strengthen the inherently vacillating national bourgeoisie, the net result can only be, once foreign imperialist domination is overthrown, the imposition of the dictatorship of this national bourgeoisie fully confirmed in its class role – a national bourgeoisie forced to adopt the fascist-type “maximum leader” principle in order to maintain its hold over the vast masses of the people and obtain its surplus value from an underdeveloped economic system by screwing up the rate of exploitation – free from the bugbear of any organised opposition and defence by the working people of their own interests.

This is precisely the same demagogy which we see today stretching from China to Indonesia and Cuba: with the party of the proletariat destroyed, the national bourgeoisie walks into its repressive role, and the proletariat is denigrated viciously as “a bourgeois force” in order to cover up the real bourgeois nature of these leaders. There is an exact parallel with the Chinese national bourgeoisie and its assumed “leftism”: the “‘cultural revolution,” which aims to destroy the proletarian vanguard party.

THE “FOCO” AS SUBSTITUTE FOR THE PROLETARIAN PARTY

We have already had a pretty rounded introduction to the theories of Debray.

It comes as no surprise therefore, that for Debray the Marxist-Leninist theory of the vanguard party of the proletariat, must give place to yet another unique contribution to “Marxism-Leninism”; that is, the theory of the immaculate conception, or the spontaneous begetting, of the vanguard nucleus.

Thus:

“The vanguard party can exist in the form of the guerrilla foco itself. The guerrilla force is this party in embryo. This is the staggering novelty introduced by the Cuban Revolution.”

(p.105)

“The people’s army will be the nucleus of the party, not vice-versa. The guerrilla force is the political vanguard in nuce, and from its development a real party can arise …. That is why at the present juncture, the principal stress must be laid on the development of guerrilla warfare and not on the strengthening of existing parties or the creation of new parties.”

(p.115).

“Eventually the future People’s Army will beget the party of which it is to be, theoretically the instrument: essentially the party is the army.”

(p.105).

Just as a vanguard party is not necessary in the struggle, one can also dispense with political education of the mass of the-working people:

“(the system of political commissars)… does not appear to correspond to Latin American reality. … The people’s army is its own political authority. The guerrilleros play both roles indivisibly. Its commanders are political instructors for the fighters, its political instructors are its’ commanders.”

(p.114).

For in place of the scientific truths of Marxism-Leninism, we are offered a set of maxims mouthed parrot-like by “revolutionaries” whose proudest claim is their rejection of the historical experience of the revolutionary peoples in struggle and their philistine ability to “invent,” on the spot, ‘the great truths, which are hereinafter valid for all time:

“In many countries of America the guerrilla force has frequently been called the ‘armed fist’ of a liberation front, in order to indicate its dependence on a patriotic front or on a party. This expression, copied from models elaborated elsewhere – principally in Asia – is at bottom, contrary to the maxim of Camilo Cienfuegos: ‘The rebel army is the people in uniform’.”

(p.65)

What duplicity. A handful of petty bourgeois adventurers, who are a law unto themselves, constituting a “foco” which preserves its independence from the people because the mass of the people “contain many potential betrayers of the revolution,” are put up as the true representatives of the workers’ and peasants’ best interests, as the substitute for a party of the working masses. Such are the lengths to which these arrogant petty bourgeois will go in their task of attacking the fundamental and only guide to action of the masses, in whatsoever corner of the globe: the scientific principles of Marxism-Leninism.

And, of course, Debray, in addition to his ignorance of Marxism or Leninism, is completely at sea on the facts of the Cuban revolution and its outcome, as we shall see in more detail later. Suffice it here to say that he is under the totally erroneous impression that the “theories” he claims to have unearthed, were actually borne out in practice:

“Around this nucleus, and only because it already had its own politico-military leadership, other political forces have been able to assemble and unite, forming what is today the Communist party of Cuba, of which both the base and the head continue to be made up of comrades from the guerrilla army. The Latin American revolution and its vanguard, the Cuban Revolution, have thus made a decisive contribution to international revolutionary experience and to Marxism-Leninism.”

(p.105)

Obviously no one has told him that so weak, so undisciplined and so politically inept was this guerrilla force when faced with the directly political tasks of managing a “state of the working people” that its first action was to call in the aid of the revisionist Popular Socialist Party, a party which had played a completely traitorous role in the struggle against Batista, to help them man the heights of political power.

Debray devotes a good percentage of his book to attacks on those revisionists (such as of the Popular Socialist Party) – attacks which are justified to a certain extent – but what cannot be justified is his attempt to make of the sell-out which the Cuban revolution was to become a model of “Marxism-Leninism”, every unprincipled turn of which must be copied throughout the Latin American continent.

When the Cuban leadership granted Mr. Debray full facilities to study the Cuban revolution and its history that is, employed him to embroider a myth and bury the facts they chose wisely. They chose a representative of that privileged section of the petty bourgeoisie which devotes all its time and energies to the renegade task of attempting to destroy the only theory and practice which can liberate all the oppressed social classes by a revolution which will end for ever the unequal privilege whereby those who create wealth and culture are robbed by those who make of it a reactionary metaphysical mystique.

PEOPLE’S WAR WITHOUT THE PEOPLE

We begin, as usual, with a claim of uniqueness for the Latin American situation.

The discovery of this “new” path has led to many errors, but these are inevitable “at this stage of exploration, of revolutionary conceptions and methods which are new in spite of their deceptive kinship with other international experiences” (p.23). The aim of the armed foco is to build up “through guerrilla warfare carried out in suitably chosen rural zones a more mobile strategic force, nucleus of a people’s army and future socialist state” (p.25).

Of course this armed spontaneity diverges radically from all other successful experiences to date – and, naturally, has met with innumerable failures. Therefore, we have to have a scapegoat. Upon this scapegoat are blamed residual “imported” errors, that explain the “inevitable” errors on the “new” path. He makes this scapegoat, the dangerous “imported political conceptions” of Vietnam and elsewhere, with such out-of-context claims as the “subjection of the guerrilla force to the party” (p.25) contentions, which are not applicable to the “historical and social conditions peculiar to Latin America.” (p.56)

He notes that:

“… in Vietnam, the Communist Party was the organisational nucleus from which and around which the people’s army developed.”

(p.47).

But:

“Differences between Vietnam and Latin America lead to the following contrast: whereas in Vietnam the military pyramid of the liberation forces is built from the base up, in Latin America on the other hand, it tends to be built from the apex down; the permanent forces first (the foco), then the semi-regular forces in the vicinity of the foco, and lastly or after victory (Cuba) the militia.”

(p.50)

Of course, such a radical turning on its head is not clarified in any way. It is simply taken for granted.

Another “irrelevant” theory to Debray, employed as it has been in all the successful national liberation struggles of our time, is that the guerrilla forces should aim to be so integrally a part of the people that they remain unnoticed “like a fish in water”;

“The occupation and control of rural areas by reaction or directly by imperialism, their vigilance today greatly increase should rid a given group of armed propagandists of all hope remaining unnoticed like a fish in water’.”

(p.51)

And another “unique” point:

“Let us not forget, that the class enemy carries out selective assassination on a large scale in Latin America – kill the leaders and leave the rest alive.”

(p.66)

Really, Mr Debray, one would think from such a statement that imperialist oppression itself is completely unique to Latin America. Yes this elitist militarist theory is nonsense.

It has been put forward in order to cover up the essential heresy which lies beneath the claims to a “people’s army”; by inventing a uniqueness which prevents the application of the theory of people war, as it is understood by all genuine representatives of the working people, it is hoped to cover up the fact that this was the work of a handful of insurgents who bear no relationship whatsoever to the real aspirations and political requirements of the forces in struggle against imperialism.

In a vulgarisation of the role of the guerrilla we read:

“It must have the support of the masses or disappear; before enlisting them directly, it must convince them that there are valid reasons for its existence so that the ‘rebellion’ will truly be – by the manner of its recruitment and the origins, its fighters a ‘war of the people.”‘

(p.46)

and:

“….. the only conceivable line for a guerrilla group to adopt is the mass line; it can live only with their support, in daily contact with them.”

(p.110)

But behind this thin “mass line” lies the real reason why Debray has found it necessary to reject the experience of people’s war in Vietnam, Laos, etc. It is a reason which completely removes the class basis and pins his theory down as a justification of the individualism, instability and shallowness of the petty bourgeoisie. For Debray rejects the concept of a fixed base of support, i.e. a mass-base amongst the people, for individualistic nomadism, without any social base.

“the guerrilla base is, according to an expression of Fidel, the territory within which the guerrilla happens to be moving; it goes where he goes. In the initial stage the base of support is in the guerrilla fighter’s knapsack.”

(p.64)

“During the first stage (of the guerrilla war Ed.), clearly the hardest to surmount and the most exposed to all sorts of accidents, the initial group experiences at the outset a period of absolute nomadism.”

(p.31)

A fine “people’s war,” one of the main aims of its elitist liberating mission being to achieve independence from the people (as opposed to the Marxist-Leninist thesis of the necessity to build the revolutionary independence of the working people from their exploiters):

“The revolutionary guerrilla force is clandestine. It is born and develops secretly. The fighters themselves use pseudonyms. At the beginning they keep out of sight, and when they allow themselves to be seen it is at a time and place chosen by their chief (sic). The guerrilla force is independent of the civilian population in action as well as in military organisation; consequently it need not assume the direct defence of the peasant population.”

(p.41).

With a further display of arrogant elitism and incredible lack of faith in the forces they claim to represent, we read:

“Constant vigiliance, constant mistrust, constant mobility – the three golden rules. All three are concerned with security. Various considerations of common sense necessitate wariness towards the civilian population and the maintenance of a certain aloofness. By their very situation (? MS-Ed) civilians are exposed to repression and the constant presence and pressure of the enemy, who will attempt to buy them, corrupt them, or to extort from them by violence what cannot be bought… . ‘We hid our intentions from the peasants’, Che relates, and if once of them passed near the scene of an ambush, we held him until the operation was completed. This vigilance does not necessarily imply mistrust: a peasant may easily commit an indiscretion and even more easily, be subjected to torture.”

(p.43)

Thus the claim that these theories are a more highly developed form of “people’s war” begins to look slightly ludicrouswhen the guerilla foco is fighting not only the imperialist enemy but completely isolated from and antagonistic to the mass of the working people, and peasants, the only possible base in a people’s war against imperialism.

In this scheme of things the working people and peasantry serve merely as fodder for the adventurist, personally gratifying, military gambles of the unstable, dissatisfied petty bourgeoisie. We begin to see why the solidarity of the Vietnamese people in their genuine people’s war is anathema to the Debrayists, and why they constantly warn of the dangers of “imitating the Vietnamese experience.”

So Debray has disposed of the class base of a genuine revolutionary movement, of its wholehearted dedication to and identification with the exploited and oppressed classes;

Debray has disposed completely of the alliance of the two major oppressed classes, proletariat and peasantry, which when welded together into an invincible alliance, constitute the only force which can resolutely oppose and defeat imperialism by classing the proletarian forces of the cities as “bourgeoisie”;

Debray has cancelled out the role of political struggle by scorning the tasks of building a revolutionary movement around a programme, forging alliances, educating the people for struggle, organising, agitating propagating in the course of building this powerful force of the working masses, and revealed his thoroughly bourgeois content by ignoring the vital and indispensable role of the general staff of a revolution, its vanguard party;

And at the tail end of this rejection of all that constitutes a genuine revolutionary force, his guerrilla focos resemble nothing more than bandit groups, cut off from the oppressed people to such an extent, that at a certain stage of their reckless ill-conceived adventures they are forced to break the cardinal principle of genuine people’s war – never to steal the property of the workers and peasants by advocating raids – on villages for supplies:

“It is less risky and safer for a guerrilla group to make raids on neighbouring villages from its own base in order to obtain foodstuffs and field equipment.”

(p.70).

It is now quite clear why so many Fidelista focos have floundered and been wiped out. For by elevating guerrilla struggle (or their completely militarist inversion of it) to an end in itself, as opposed to a stage in the struggle which it really is, and by advocating that a handful of “dedicated determined men,” maintaining their aloofness from the vast mass of the working people, ignoring political questions” with the same blindness as mediaeval mystics, can overthrow the considerable might of imperialism, they cut the very ground from under their feet and lead those who follow them to almost certain defeat and massacre.

Debray claims that the great misconceptions which exist concerning the Cuban revolution are the reasons for so many failures in recent years on the Latin American continent. He claims his book is the vehicle which distils the true essence of that revolution and lays down its theory for the edification of all like-minded insurgents. It has been pointed out that the essence he has distilled, besides its dangerous implications, bears very little resemblance to the actual course of the Cuban revolution add the lessons which are to be learned from it.

We must therefore now look at that Cuban experience and distil from it our own essence – one which has been processed according to the scientific principles of Marxism-Leninism.

“LEFT” AND RIGHT IN LATIN AMERICA

What is the fundamental malaise which is responsible for such anti-Marxist-Leninist rubbish as the Debray theories being purveyed with some seriousness in Latin America? It lies, surely, in the classic division between right and “left” which has – we now borrow Mr. Debray’s phrase – revealed itself in a very obvious form due to certain more heightened conditions in Latin America.

Debray takes as his point of departure the right revisionist betrayal over many decades in Latin America, and seeks to counter-pose his leftist theories as the way forward.

But whereas the right deviation seeks to tie the class forces of the proletariat and its allies to bourgeois ideology and practice in such a way as to transform the party into an instrument of foreign imperialism, the comprador bourgeoisie and the feudal reactionary classes;

Its leftist counterpart, the “left” revisionist deviation, also reflects, the influence of bourgeois ideology and practice within the class forces of the proletariat, but in this case adapted to the class needs of the national bourgeoisie.

The national bourgeoisie has an objective interest, at least for a time, in the victory of the national democratic revolution, but wishes to achieve that victory under its class leadership and not under that of the proletariat and its allies.

It therefore needs to make use of revolutionary phraseology, the best form of which is provided by the petty bourgeois left distortions of Marxism of which Debray’s teachings are typical.

These deviations are able to take an extreme and clear form within the contradictory framework of political institutions in Latin America. The apparently organic and established character of the state frameworks in most Latin American countries has resulted from the early formal independence won against Spanish colonial rule which resulted in an earlier development of semi-colonial forms of domination by USA imperialism. This has seduced the majority of the revisionist parties in those countries into believing that the doctrine of “peaceful transition” could be applied there without the disguise of leftist phraseology and lip service to guerrilla and other violent forms of struggle. As a consequence, right revisionist policies in Latin America have met with the most abject failure of any in the world, driving those parties, in a number of instances – the best known being that of Batista’s Cuba – to degenerate into direct, tools of foreign imperialism and indigenous comprador reaction.

This history of open right-revisionist betrayal and errors is the main factor determining the current swing to the “left” in a diametrically opposed direction. This history counterposes “peaceful legal advance without violence” and the militarist spontaneity of “military struggle without politics.”

It represents a classic manifestation of the spontaneous division between “left” and right. We say spontaneous, because these extremes occur in the vacuum-left, when genuine scientific analysis and the revolutionary leadership which results from it are lacking. A right deviation delivers the working people and peasantry helpless to the massacre of imperialist guns and without any means of defence. Whilst leftism provokes isolated violence and brings down the full force of imperialist violence on an inadequately steeled and prepared nucleus, divorced from the mass of the people but involving these forces in the bloodshed which accompanies their defeat.

These complementary deviations have wreaked havoc within the national liberation fronts of the Latin American continent and make more essential the return to a class analysis as the basis for a scientific theory of revolution.

Certain countries of the Latin American continent have been viewed by right revisionism as possessing sufficient formal trappings of democracy to justify a full programme based on electoral advance to socialism by peaceful means, such as Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica and Brazil.The remaining long-standing open dictatorships have necessitated right revisionist programmes of a more militant type, albeit singularly lacking in any guide to action to overthrow the repressive regimes, but relying on the hope that “democratic rights” would be established under restrained “mass pressure.” It is therefore to the statements of the Communist Parties of the former category that we should turn for the clearest expression of “parliamentarism” on the Latin American continent.

A reference to the Costa Rican Communist Party’s “competition” some years ago makes the right revisionist position very clear.

Here instead of the vanguard party thriving in a situation of heightened class struggle, we are presented with the novelty of a “vanguard party” which finds itself losing ground; when objective class struggle is seen as a nuisance factor which has interfered with the prime task of the ingrown little organism’s race to achieve a per capita paper representation in some imaginary “democratic institution” – whilst all comprehension of the realities of class remains blissfully outside its scope.

It does not require a very detailed knowledge of the situation Costa Rica to understand that the way to salvation of the Costa Rican working People does not lie through such “struggle” as advocated by the “Costa Rican People’s Vanguard”:

“A competition in the sphere of organisation, education, propaganda and finances has been conducted by the Party in five of the seven Provinces of Costa Rica. … Judging by the results it looked as if the target advanced by the Ninth Congress (doubling the membership) would be realised without much difficulty. However, unforeseen circumstances arose which hampered the work of building Party.

The first was the Caribbean Crisis last October and the wave of repressions that came in its wake. Our newspaper was banned and the activity of the Party was restricted in one way or another . . . .

Owing to the repressions in the Pacifico Sur party membership has shown no increase. However, despite these negative factors and the intensified repressions in connection with the talks between the presidents of the Central American countries and President Kennedy in March 1963, the competition conducted by the five provinces was, on the whole, satisfactory.. . . . .

It is clear to us that when international tension increases and the war danger grows, repressions are intensified and democratic liberties curtailed, and the growth of the Party slows down….Hence we are waging a constant struggle for peace, against the restriction of democratic freedoms.

This, of course, does not lead us to the opportunistic conclusion that we can fight and win only in conditions of legality and extensive utilisation of democratic rights. However, the fact remains that in the present conditions the most favourable climate for Party growth is international detente, since this makes it easier to defend the democratic gains of the working people.”

(Oscar Vargas: World Marxist Review: Oct 196,3; p.61-2).

The trite rejection of opportunism offered by Vargas does not invalidate the charge which any honest militant must make against such a grossly renegade strategy as is offered by the Costa Rican “vanguard.” For of course, such a logic is clear. Imperialism, class struggle, brings the threat of repression which hampers the work of building an electoral party in conditions of class peace. Therefore a status quo of peace between labour and capital is vital if this work of conservation, the buffer preventing class confrontation can go on.

The theme was repeated in Chile, the same reformist dreams of “The British Road to Socialism” being applied to a situation where striking workers were murdered, where any substantiation to the claim to a “democratic facade” had been ripped away a decade ago by the brutal dictatorship of Gonzalez Videla which outlawed the Communist Party and subjected it to persecutions all too familiar under the heel of open reaction, and where any democratic facade exists merely as a perfected weapon for ensuring the continuation of bourgeois dictatorship by drawing to its assistance in this conspiracy the renegade “leaders” of the working people.

Thus the Chilean Communist Party leadership hotly denied any revolutionary intentions ascribed to it:

“What is needed … is to secure a turn to the left in national policy. . . .

Through the medium of parliament, municipal councils and public meetings, the Party constantly advances and supports all projects and measures designed to benefit the people. Reactionaries in the ranks of the Christian Democrats accuse the Communists of seeking bring down the government in order to take its place. But the resolute stand taken by the Communists has demonstrated the baselessness of this and has shown that the Communists are prompted by neither opportunist nor narrow tactical considerations.”

(World Marxist Review: November 1965; p.47)

The whimpering denial of opportunism appears like a Judas mark in the programmes of these guilty men who commit every anti-proletarian crime it is possible to imagine given that they propose and preach class peace in a continent whose peoples subsist in indescribable conditions of brutalising poverty and misery. Yet with every increase in reactionary terror, the subservience of these handmaidens of the bourgeoisie increases in proportion. Each decisive parliamentary defeat, such as occurred in Chile in 1964, is followed by an ever more eager act of grovelling to an ever more contemptuous, corrupt, and confident bourgeoisie.

The Brazilian Communist Party, the leading mouthpiece of right revisionism in Latin America had a carefully mapped out plan for “utilising democratic rights and liberties.” In 1964 it was striving by means of a system of “structural reforms” to win power by:

“. . . establishing a national and democratic government and laying the groundwork for far-reaching changes that would ensure complete political and economic liberation and pave the way for socialism,”

believing that:

“the basic task of the vanguard forces in the struggle for structural reforms now is to build up the national and democratic movements. It is along these lines that we envisage the possibility of a peaceful revolution.”

(World Marxist Review: Jan 1964; p.22)

However, these hopes were not to be realised. The coup which overthrew Goulart in 1964 and installed the rule of the generals smashed the “democratic” illusions of these men of peace, and the naive veneer given to the theoretical estimation of the Party’s errors, attempts to draw attention from the fact that the leaders of the Brazilian Party, especially Prestes, are well versed enough in political manoeuvring not to suffer the lack of experience they claim. Thus, analysing the errors of the Communist Party:

“We ourselves had not been prepared politically and ideologically and had not prepared the masses to repulse the violence of reaction. As a result of a not altogether correct formulation of the Fifth Congress which took as its guidelines the thesis of the 20th Congress of the CPSU, we inaccurately assessed the possibilities of the ‘peaceful path’, seeing revolution as an idyllic process, free of clashes and conflicts.

Due to this incorrect assessment the leadership failed to see the danger signals. Instead of calling on the masses to fight the danger of a rightist coup, it continued to demand the holding of plebiscite.”

(C Prestes: World Marxist Review; June 1968; p-17).

“Although we sensed a certain tension (! Ed) we failed to act accordingly”.

(World Marxist Review, February 1965; p.28)

Despite the “self-criticism” of the above – conducted purely in the realm of the senses though it is – the conclusion of the right revisionists is a remarkable piece of un-dialectical nonsense. For the failure to prepare for violent struggle, to see through the bluff, of parliamentary ‘legality’, were mistakes of a “leftist” character!

“The Sixth Congress rejected the view that the main mistakes made by the Party were the consequence of a right deviation and noted that they were, on the contrary, mistakes of a leftist, putschist and petty bourgeois character.”

(C Prestes: World Marxist Review; June 1968; p.17)

This massacre of the truth is necessary because, despite their “self-criticism,” despite the objective failure of their line, despite the setbacks to which their opportunism has led, they still intend to pursue their “peaceful” cause. The coup which installed a “semi-fascist political regime” will be destroyed through:

“Active opposition and vigorous mass actions (which) will reduce the regime’s socio-political basis and could lead to its defeat by non-violent means. Democratic action can compel the reactionary and defeatist minority to retreat and restore democratic rights.”

(Ibid.; p.18)

Of course, “it may turn out too, that the Party and the people will be compelled to resort to other, more elementary and particular forms of armed struggle.” But we can rest assured that the right revisionist leadership of the Brazilian Communist Party will do everything in its power to be true to the spirit and the letter of the passive “may” and place it far behind in its list of priorities.

Such is the face of right revisionism in Latin America.

It has been against this background of betrayal that the working people and peasant masses have been compelled to resort to spontaneous armed struggle – struggle which was, and largely remains, outside the framework of control of the revisionist parties of the right. In those countries where such armed struggle has already taken root and the masses of the working people are beginning to be drawn into the struggle against semi-colonial dictatorship and foreign imperialist oppression, the further result of this has been that those, communist parties subservient to Soviet right revisionism have been forced to pay lip service to armed struggle and modify their more blatant parliamentary transition formulas in a bid to regain the influence within the armed liberation fronts which previously they were threatened with losing completely.

In its wider context, this pragmatic and opportunist response to the spontaneous growth of armed struggle reflects the shift in policy on the part of the Soviet revisionist leadership which has taken place since Khrushchev’s overthrow – a shift away from “all-round cooperation with US imperialism” to one of striving for the establishment of independent spheres of influence in areas hitherto comprising sectors of the US sphere. Within the overall task of developing this policy, a certain independent sphere of operations in relation to the national liberation movements of the underdeveloped colonial and semi-colonial sectors of the world has been allotted to the so-called “centrist” bloc of revisionist communist parties and “socialist” states, of which Cuba is one, and has given rise to the need for lip-service to armed national liberation struggle to be admitted to the platforms of some, though by no means all, of the Latin American communist parties under the influence of Soviet revisionism.

An example of this is offered by the criticism of the 20th Congress formulations on peaceful transition and peaceful coexistence made by the Brazilian right revisionist leader, Prestes. The alternative to the long discredited right revisionist formulations put forward is the flexibly leftist slogan of “armed struggle as a tactic, democratic constitutional advance as a strategy”. With its perceptible overtones of Kautsky and Bernstein, this formulation neatly solves the dilemma of how to maintain the long-cherished peaceful transitional shibboleths of right revisionism, now becoming so tarnished, simply by reversing Marxist-Leninist theoretical principles and relegating to armed struggle a subordinate tactical role serving the main strategy of seeking to secure minor palliatives to the increasingly oppressive life of the working people through reforms and the ballot box.

The outcome of these opportunist policy manoeuvres has been that, utilising the dominant hold which they exercise over the apostle of “violent struggle” in Latin America, Fidel Castro and the Soviet revisionist leadership has been able to control the transition to support for “centrist” revisionist policies on the part of certain Latin American Communist Parties without loosening in any way their traditional control over the leaderships of those parties – and even in some cases to increase it through the prestige added by the accession of Castroite “centrist” revisionism to the overall force available to Soviet policy needs.

As for “left” revisionism and Trotskyism, these take many forms in Latin America. The case of Guevara and Debray, who take an “ultra-leftist” position themselves, while condemning the trotskyites as revisionists, has already been analysed. The lessons of their position, i.e. of an armed struggle divorced from any political and class organisation of the working people, have been borne home most clearly following the collapse of Guevara’s mission in Bolivia. So much so, that Arguedas, a firm sympathiser of the guerrillas, wrote as his epitaph to Guevara:

“… he failed because he did not have the support of the peasants and because the Bolivian people did not know the action programme of the guerillas.”

A lesson so elementary that it should hardly have required the sacrifice of so many aspiring national liberation fighters to make it known. And indeed, the lessons of this, collapse of “ultra-leftist” method and morale accompanying Guevara’s experiment were not lost on those forces which represent the national bourgeoisie with more perception than Guevara. They can have acted as yet one more forceful argument for Castro strengthening his “centrist”‘ position.

Trotskyism in Latin America – as represented particularly in Guatemala and Peru is “left” opportunism which claims a “theory” of socialist revolution. This “theory” completely denies the national democratic stage of the revolution in a colonial-type country and insists that “socialist revolution”‘ is at any given moment on the order of the day.

Its effect is to isolate the genuine revolutionary forces from class allies who stand objectively for the national democratic revolution, and without whose added weight imperialism cannot be defeated and the national democratic tasks achieved. In practice, however, they resort to all manner of semi-anarchist, syndicalist and outright irridentist ideologies in order to win bases amongst the peasantry and urban poor, purveying such illusions as the direct growth of the village peasant-commune into socialism, the romanticism of the primitive subsistence economy and so on.

In strategy and tactics, their aim is to sow the usual kind of confusion associated with their name, advocating peaceful legal advance in the manner of the right revisionists whenever and wherever an actual revolutionary situation is close at hand, and pressing for ultra-revolutionary forms of struggle whenever and wherever the revolutionary tide is temporarily on the ebb turn. Thus they contribute directly to rendering the more militant vanguard forces an easy and isolated target for imperialist guns. Within these overall perspectives of betrayal, however, the “socialist revolution” for which they aim is, as with the right revisionist communist parties, in essence a peaceful one.

Thus all of these trends, “left” or right, spell defeat and betrayal for the revolutionary aspirations of the working people of Latin America and the decimation of their actual or potential organisations, of struggle.

At the helm of all this confusion and betrayal, seeking to unite the political manifestations of bourgeois and petty bourgeois thinking within the forces of the developing national democratic and socialist revolutions of Latin America under the one “super revolutionary” centre, has stood the Cuban revisionist leadership. They have encouraged every kind of anti-proletarian and anti-Marxist-Leninist theory and practice, inspiring the most infantile forms of petty bourgeois leftism, and nationalist euphoria; and finally, they have resolved the failure of both “left” and right revisionism into the doctrine of a “centrist” revisionism, a position which has emerged as a specific heritage of the Cuban-revolution.

It is to an analysis of the Cuban development itself, therefore, that we must now turn.

ASSESSMENT OF THE CUBAN REVOLUTION

The Cuban Revolution represented a phenomenon with two contradictory sides.

One was the fundamentally positive fact that US imperialist domination over Latin America had been breached for the first time, and a nation free of US imperialist oppression and ranged in struggle against it now stood as a symbol of anti-imperialist liberation struggle for the peoples of the continent.

The second and negative side was that, from its inception, the Cuban Revolution was carried through not under the leadership of the working class in alliance with the poor peasantry and urban petty bourgeoisie but under that of forces representing the national bourgeoisie. This epoch is characterised by the onset of a world pre-revolutionary situation and the beginning of the disintegration of the imperialist world system. Therefore, this class basis can only serve its fundamental class interest and achieve, the construction of a form of capitalist society in the newly emerged nations, in as much as it succeeds in manoeuvring with the offer of its neo-colonial and comprador services between the various competing imperialist groups. This is a strategy which leads sooner or later to the incorporation of the newly-independent nation, willy-nilly, into the sphere of influence of another imperialist group, most likely one which is hostile to the imperialist power from which independence had originally been won.

The economic in-viability of Cuba – a fundamental feature inherited from the one-sided development imposed by US imperialist domination in the past – together with its geographically isolated position and economically unbalanced character, placed Cuba in a precarious position which rendered its newly-won independence highly vulnerable.

Debray seeks in his book to paint a glowing and utopian picture of the Castro leadership which completely ignores the historical facts and sets out to enshrine every trite phrase and thought of this leadership as valid “scientific truths.” It remains a quite obvious fact however, that Castro and those who fought with him to overthrow Batista were not Marxist-Leninists. Castro claims that the “Marxism-Leninism” of the Cuban leadership was learned during the course of the struggle. The absence of scientific revolutionary principle guiding a clear strategic perspective – fundamental necessities in any revolutionary process, whether national democratic or socialist in character, in which the working class fulfils the leading role and which is guided by a genuine Marxist-Leninist vanguard party – and the opportunist manoeuvring to which that absence inevitably leads.

These are all explained away by Debray, with the claim that the revolutionary process was undergoing a justifiable period of “trial and error” – not, be it understood, trial and error in the application of Marxist-Leninist science to the revolution but quite abstractly in the search for a “Cuban form of Marxism.”

Castro and the inceptive forces of the guerrilla movement which he led were urban petty bourgeois revolutionists acting objectively as the leading representatives of the Cuban national bourgeoisie. The rebellion based on the Sierra Maestra drew to the ranks of the rebel army recruits from the peasantry, the mass base of the petty bourgeoisie and, in the absence of a leading role fulfilled by the working class, formed the social arsenal of the national bourgeoisie.

The movement claimed to be a liberal alternative to the tyranny of Batista, the stench of whose corruption was believed by Castro to be a constant source of embarrassment to the United States – the diaries of Guevara in his Bolivian campaign imply that, in begging aid from US monopoly interests under the threat that US holdings would be confiscated in the event of victory in Bolivia if support for the insurgents were not forthcoming. In this he was merely repeating methods prominent in the early stage of the Cuban revolution itself. The “left” revisionists of the Castro/Guevara stamp, attempt to explain these away as “tactical” covers for their real “Marxist” aims.

Throughout the course of the struggle Castro increasingly won the support of the urban petty bourgeoisie and middle classes – the involvement of the working class taking place considerably later. The tone of the Castro leadership on the role of the working class, was that the working class should be thankful for its liberation at the hands of the petty bourgeois intelligentsia and peasantry. However, support for the rebels against the tyranny of Batista was sufficiently overwhelming in its scope to cause the United States, refrain from any serious attempt to maintain Batista in power by overt force, and to give only that amount of aid to Batista which would preserve US face with lesser tyrants of the Batista stamp throughout Latin America. Although a covert attempt using Cuban exiles to restore a US colonial-type puppet regime was launched later, with the abortive Bay of Pigs landing. These were the factors which assisted the seizure of power by the Castro leadership in 1959.

The victory of 1959 brought Castro his first lessons in the attempt to carry through reforms of a national and democratic character in the epoch of imperialism.

Whilst at the comparatively early stage of establishing his bases in the Sierras, Castro had approached the lawyer, Urrutia, with an offer that he should form a government when victory was won – an offer which was accepted and implemented in 1959. Urrutia was a representative of the nascent Cuban national bourgeoisie, but nevertheless one of the first acts of his government was to approach US imperialism with assurances that his government intended to continue the semi-colonial status of Cuba, and to maintain the traditional agrarian structure of the economy and economic dependence on the US. It was only the rejection of these assurances by the US and the latter’s refusal to recognise the Castro regime which compelled the subsequent alignment with the Soviet Union.

As for Castro himself, it was a typical and in view of the later developments, an ironic expression of the spirit of the expediently opportunist freebooter that he was ready and willing to place his services at the disposal of the highest bidder, that he did not conceive of taking any initiative in the political and state affairs, of the new government.

All the evidence shows that Castro did not wish to govern on behalf of any defined class. He saw his role as that of a latter-day Garibaldi effecting a purely military liberation on behalf of abstract “liberty, equality and fraternity” and then handing over power to a vague and undefined “liberal intelligentsia”, i.e., to elements of the national bourgeoisie which, at that stage, had no conception of the revolution winning for them full national independence from US imperialism, and who merely wished to extend somewhat the scope of their economic holdings and the degree of their participation in and control over the state and administration.

According to the terms of the Urrutia government’s approach to the US, agrarian landlordism, the security of US holdings in both agriculture and such service industries as existed and the corresponding structure of feudal and comprador relations, were to remain essentially untouched and only subjected to a degree of mild reform. Only the short-sighted rejection by the US of these proposals for the reform of the semi-colonial structure of Cuba as it had existed under the corrupt and brutal reign of Batista finally compelled Castro and his followers both to take up themselves the reigns of state and to implement measures designed to secure independence from the USan independence the only available economic foundation for which was, ultimately alignment with the Soviet neo-imperialist bloc.

Amongst the first measures enacted was the land reform – a step which was essential if the base of peasant support was to be maintained. The confiscation of large holdings, particularly those owned by foreign capital, brought down the wrath of US imperialism.

For Castro the second dilemma and the second lesson had begun.

Despite numerous manoeuvres to outwit the Imperialists and to prevent their hostility and inevitable embargos on trade, the US in traditionally short-sighted fashion, declared its hostility and began to threaten Cuba with economic reprisals. Castro, countering this blackmail as best he could, entered into trade agreements with the Soviet Union, intending to walk the tightrope of a balance between the two blocs which would ensure Cuba’s economic future without drastic political shifts.

However, the breach was forced by US imperialism with the cutting of the quota for the import of Cuban sugar, forcing Castro to look elsewhere for cheaper supplies consequent upon the loss of US dollars. There followed a train of reprisals and counter-reprisals culminating in the Soviet offer to buy Cuban sugar (at an unspecified price) and to meet the Cuban demand for oil. The refusal of the US to refine Soviet oil, was met by Castro’s nationalisation of the key US interests in Cuba as a final and irrevocable reprisal. The course of Castro’s future was now set – a future which had originally never been intended or planned; but which had developed piecemeal out of the course of events. By 1963, according to Castro, the trade balance with the Soviet Union had risen to over one hundred million dollars.

This nationalisation, as we are now informed by the Cuban “Marxist- Leninists”, represented the “socialist revolution.”

However, in reality it represented an inevitable move which Castro, representing the national bourgeoisie, was forced to make given that he was fighting for his economic life and needed to trade with whomsoever would offer these services. But dependence on trade with the Union and being totally at the mercy of the defence protection, of the “nuclear umbrella” brought with it the expected penalty. Castro, the man who had hitherto publicly denounced Marxism-Leninism and denied any affinity with “communists” now began to air his brains in public and to take the first carefully rehearsed steps towards embracing Marxism-Leninism as avidly as he was later to embrace Khruchshev.

The previous emphasis on the role of the intellectuals as the leading force in the revolution, and as the “liberators of the working class” was now dressed up in a more conventional “Marxist-Leninist” disguise to accord with the announcement of the “socialist revolution” albeit a multifarious class definition typical of national bourgeois “socialism”:

“the labouring masses, the farmers, the student masses, the masses of the poor, the underprivileged mass of our nation, significant portions of the middle class, sections of the petty bourgeoisie, intellectual workers, made Marxism-Leninism their own, made the struggle for the Socialist Revolution their own.”

(F Castro: “Castro Denounces Sectarianism”, March 1962, p.13)

One of the penalties for the alignment with the Soviet Union was the loss of middle class support – a section which had supported Castro whole-heartedly during the struggle for power. These now filed in large numbers to Miami, plotting counterrevolution, and thereby weakening considerably the already overstrained technical and administrative cadre force and heightening social tensions. It was, at this point that the other long arm of revisionism, that from within Cuba itself, came into its own.

The history of the Cuban Communist Party offers an appalling record: of opportunism and class betrayal.

Based mainly on the urban working-class and aimed at building a mass social-democratic party, engaged in negotiations for economic improvements to the exclusion of almost all other forms of struggle and bound up with unprincipled agreements and alliances with whatsoever dictator happened to be in power, it was only to be expected that it could play no role in the struggle to overthrow Batista. Denouncing Castro as a mere adventurer, in the early days of the guerrilla struggle, and effectively assisting the sabotage of all attempts by the guerrillas to mobilise urban strikes,it only changed its tactics in the later stages, when the victory of Castro was already clearly inevitable. At this stage, certain leading revisionists were sent to join the guerrillas, with the aim of establishing the first bridgehead within the revolutionary forces in preparation for the later penetration of the right-revisionist party into the anti-imperialist front and the newly-founded national democratic state.

In the period immediately following the seizure of power, the clear anti-communist content of the half-hearted national democratic revolution which was “spontaneously developing,” effectively blocked the entrance of careerist-minded revisionist party members into positions of influence in the state. But this situation changed radically when apathy began to strike the middle class and comprador-orientated bourgeoisie after the confiscation of their property and the establishment of the open alliance with the Soviet Union, and especially after significant numbers of these strata had begun to desert to the Florida mainland. In the chaos of Castro’s “spontaneously developing” revolution the tried and tested organisation men of the revisionist party were drafted in large numbers in an effort to stem the growing confusion and pull together the basis of a workable economic and political system – matters which Castro had formerly considered could be left to merge spontaneously with the passage of time.

Thus arose the third of Castro’s dilemmas.

He had given up the political initiative almost completely. The revisionists, “always intent on mere political questions,” as Debray spurningly pointed, out, had after all played one better than the child of spontaneity, Castro. The price Castro had to pay for a viable political and, administrative apparatus was the achievement by the right-revisionists of an increasingly dominant role in party and state, despite their history of betrayal during the struggles leading to the overthrow of Batista.

Through a combination of external pressure from the Soviet Union, including economic blackmail, and internal penetration by the agents of Soviet revisionism, the indigenous revisionist leaders, Castro and his old guard of insurrectionists were gradually out-manoeuvred and sewn up in a web of inexorable dependence and commitment. No doubt, this was to the horror of the existentialist coterie of sun-seekers of the Sartre ilk who had seen in the Cuban development, the embodiment of their ideas about a liberal spontaneous revolution giving birth to an anarchistic utopia around which they could spin the subject matter for countless bestsellers.

The merciless straitjacket of unequal colonial-type economic relations, together with the necessity for a heavy defence programme in the face of the increasingly aggressive posture of US imperialism in the period prior to the 1962 crisis, represented further pressures inexorably pushing Cuba into dependence on the Soviet Union. The ominous features of the limited crop economy, had once again begun to dominate economic development.

The political counterpart of this situation of dependence, expressed the reciprocal need of the Soviet revisionist world centre to “explain” the obvious contradiction of a successful armed revolution taking place in an epoch the main feature of which was allegedly “the peaceful co-existence of states with differing social systems.” This was reflected in the corresponding determination of the Cuban right-revisionist party leadership to build and maintain the myth of Cuba as an example of “peaceful transition” in line with the precepts of the Khrushchevite international programme as laid down by the infamous 20th Congress Report:

“It was precisely in conditions of peaceful coexistence between states with different social systems that the socialist revolution triumphed in Cuba.”

(Letter of CC of CPSU to CC of CCP, March 30th, 1963. Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1965. p. 507).

From the crisis of 1962, the starting duplicity of Castro in adopting his new subservient position was revealed.

Castro, who was later to announce demagogically:

“We will never make ideological concessions, and we will maintain an unyielding Marxist-Leninist position.”

(F. Castro: “This is our Line Havana 1963; p.79)

Then begins Castro’s remarkable history –

of bear hugs with the chief spokesmen of modern revisionism followed by denunciations of those same spokesmen;

of his statements supporting “peaceful struggle” followed by statements supporting armed struggle;

and his steadily increasing subservient role assisting the propaganda line of the Soviet revisionists in the Great Debate, with the deceptively “principled”, contention that “Division in the face of the enemy was never a revolutionary or intelligent strategy”;

all culminating in the carefully timed attacks on the Chinese government over alleged “cut-backs” in the promised rice quota.

This latter ‘news’ on the rice quotas, was leaked on the eve of the Three Continents Conference in Havana in order to cause the maximum damage to the prestige of the Chinese party and state throughout the national liberation movements. It was intended to act as an ameliorative gesture,  to off-set the criticisms of those aspects of Soviet policy which reflected the residual influence of Khrushchevite doctrine, now inimical to Castro’s new role. It was intended to demonstrate to the Soviet neo-capitalist class in unequivocal terms just where the support and sympathy of the Cuban national bourgeoisie and its “centrist” revisionist representatives lay in regard to the growing struggle between the Soviet and Chinese leadership.

Castro, however, in his attempts to reconcile service to the interests of his indigenous class, the Cuban national bourgeoisie, with the fulfillment of a comprador role on behalf of Soviet neo-imperialism, has often proved a difficult and demanding pawn.

Castro has sought to retain as an essential ingredient of his “centrist” revisionist position, the right to criticism of Soviet policies wherever these tended to conflict with the long-term aims of the Cuban national bourgeoisie.

The Guevara adventure in Bolivia thus represented an attempt to raise the bargaining counter of the Cuban national bourgeoisie with Soviet right revisionism, and its failure merely confirming the inadequacy of “leftist” methods of struggle and the superiority of the “centrist” revisionist disguise. In almost all cases, the crux of these Castroite and Gueverist criticisms has been those aspects of Soviet policy reflecting the continuation of a Khrushchevite stance towards US imperialism or its comprador puppets in Latin America. However the necessity which the Castro leadership feels for the military and economic protection which the Soviet Union alone can provide against US threats of aggression compels them to lend their support to every fundamental policy statement and action of the Soviet leadership, and to place Cuba at its disposal as the base of operations for right revisionism on the Latin American continent.

It was under Castro’s auspices that the OLAS and Tricontinental Conferences were able to serve the policy aims of Soviet neo-imperialism, which envisage not only the building of “anti-imperialist” and, where necessary, armed national liberation movements under “centrist” revisionist leadership, but also the incorporation of existing national bourgeois or even comprador-bourgeois states and governments into its sphere of influence. This has already been effected, for example, with a certain measure of success in Peru. Thereby effecting the reciprocal utilisation of both rightist and “centrist” revisionist policy methods. In this way, the former implements the classical techniques of international diplomacy and “power politics” through the direct agency of the Soviet Union on behalf of its neo-imperialist aims;whilst the latter seeks to mobilise the working people and their movements of struggle in the same neo-imperialist cause by presenting the necessary “left” demagogic appeal.

Thus it is that, under the overall condition of a former semi-colony newly emerged from imperialist domination, with an urban and rural proletariat, labouring peasantry and urban petty bourgeoisie amongst which revolutionary feeling is at a high level, any national capitalist class attempting to build a viable system of state capitalism can only hold out for itself any prospect of success provided that it can utilise to some degree the ideological strength and power for conviction and mobilisation of proletarian ideology and organisation of Marxism-Leninism.

This type of social development may be characterised in general terms as the demagogic abuse of the international working class and communist movement, of its world view, Marxism-Leninism, and of its organised strength and influence in order to bend them to the service of the enemies of the working class and socialism, amongst which the national capitalist classes of colonial-type countries emerging from imperialist domination must ultimately be placed, whatever class alliances may appertain in the period of the national democratic revolution.

In this light, the case of Cuba illustrates with convincing clarity an example of the harnessing of the potential or actual forces of the socialist revolution, the exploited and oppressed proletariat, poor peasantry and urban petty bourgeoisie, to the task of establishing not the socialist system under the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat, but a system of centralised state capitalism of a bureaucratic and comprador type under the dictatorship, albeit concealed by demagogic “left” phraseology, of the national bourgeoisie, and under the conditions of intensified class struggle and heightened inter-imperialist competition typical of the contemporary advanced stage the disintegration of the imperialist world system.

CONCLUSION

The collaboration between “centrist” and right revisionism which forms the predominant basis of policy amongst a majority of Communist Parties of Latin America, with the “Communist Party” of Cuba acting as a comprador-type overseer on behalf of the Soviet Union, reflects the unsuitability of  a purer “left” revisionism as an ideological mask enabling the national bourgeoisie to gain control of the national democratic revolutions and to determine their development and the class composition of their forces in their own class interest, in at least the majority of states concerned and under the objective conditions as they have shaped themselves up till the present time.

Left revisionism tends to find the appropriate objective conditions for its application and a fertile subjective ground for its dissemination and growth primarily in national and political terrains in which not only the objective conditions for the onset of the national democratic revolution are present – this in itself is also a feature of the situation in many American states – but also where a militant and politically conscious working class and a more or less powerful Marxist-Leninist vanguard are, or at the least have been in the past, to some degree in control of the revolutionary process of at least participants in it.

In view of the progressive undermining and final liquidation of the world communist movement through modern revisionism since approximately 1943-45, the presence of such features in a national democratic revolutionary movement in a colonial or semi-colonial country since World War Two, in spite of a majority of the leadership having long since fallen into the hands of “left” revisionists, must be attributed to the persisting influence of the Communist International and the continuing presence in the leadership of the leading cadres trained by it during the period prior to World War Two.

These features are, of course, typical of the development of the Chinese revolution and of the Communist Party of China. They are almost totally absent from the histories of the national liberation and working class movements of the Latin American states and their communist parties.

Where, however, such a Marxist-Leninist leadership, or at least a Marxist-Leninist contingent within a “left” revisionist led party and movement, is present, its defeat and dismemberment is clearly an absolutely prime necessity if the national bourgeoisie is to succeed in its aim of wresting the leadership out of the hands of the Marxist-Leninists and of consolidating it in the sole hands of their revisionist representatives.

The fact that, in Cuba itself, no Marxist-Leninist party, or even a Marxist-Leninist contingent within the leadership of the party, was present requiring ideological penetration, dismemberment and capture, in order to transform that party as a whole into a tool of national bourgeois aims and aspirations, rendered it easier for the petty bourgeois representatives of the national bourgeoisie to control the direction.

It rendered it possible for the petty bourgeois representatives of the national bourgeoisie to win victory in the national democratic revolution by purely military means, without’ the fusion of political and military forms of struggle and without a political party and an organisational centre for the mobilization of the masses, through the sole agency of a small elitist guerrilla force of predominantly petty bourgeois composition, is also symptomatic of the objective conditions and subjective characteristics of the movements of the oppressed in at least the smaller and weaker states of the Latin American continental mainland.

In spite of the many features specific and peculiar to it, the Cuban revolution, however, was not an isolated, once for all time phenomenon. Still less does it represent an example of “specific national roads to socialism” beloved of Khrushchevian revisionist “theory.” It took place and won victory, on the contrary, precisely within the general context of:

“a world pre-revolutionary situation. As in all pre-revolutionary situations, the primary aim of the class struggles, including national liberation struggles, now beginning to unfold on a world-wide front between the world proletarian forces and the imperialist bourgeoisie is a struggle to determine which of these two fundamentally opposed world class forces shall win the allegiance of the intermediate exploited and oppressed classes and strata, of which the most significant are the peasant masses of the colonial periphery of imperialism and the petty bourgeois and professional middle strata in the developed imperialist countries which are undergoing a process of intensified proletarianisation, and so to achieve on behalf of its class interest the decisive strategic advantage in the coming final stages of the world proletarian socialist revolution.”

(Programmatic Manifesto of the Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain; p.22)

The upsurge of national liberation struggles and national democratic revolutions in the colonial and semi-colonial lands, including those of Latin America, forms one of the most prominent features in the process of disintegration of the world imperialist system at the present stage in the development of the general crisis of capitalism.

It is they which are contributing directly to the process of disintegration of the established imperialist power groups and to the break-up of the existing inter-imperialist balance of power, and which are effectively assisting in the formation of new imperialist-type power groups and a new inter-imperialist balance of power centred around the entry of the new neo-imperialist or state capitalist nations – primarily the Soviet Union, but including, at a lower stage of capitalist development, China and India, the total population resources of which alone amount to some 1,400 millions – into the already saturated capitalist world market.

As far as the future development of the world proletarian socialist revolution is concerned, the crucial issue confronting the national liberation movements at the present time is, however, the issue of which class shall lead the revolution, the national bourgeoisie or the working class.

On the outcome of this issue depends the solution to the question, of absolutely fundamental significance, as to:

“Whether or not the working people of the developing nations at present fighting for their liberation from imperialist colonial enslavement, for national independence and democratic rights and liberties, will succeed in bypassing the perspective of a more or less protracted period of capitalist development and will succeed in establishing new socialist states under the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat?”

Such a victory for the world proletarian socialist revolution  would so weaken the already intolerably unstable and crisis-ridden world capitalist system as to render its continued operation virtually impossible.

Alternatively, on the other hand, the victory of the national democratic revolution in the colonial-type lands would merely  lead to the establishment of new independent capitalist states which will thus provide a sorely needed extension to the total area and resources of the world capitalist system and so give it a new lease of life. This latter has already taken place in a whole number of formerly colonial or semi-colonial lands since the end of world war two, including People’s China, India, Egypt and, of course, Cuba.

The entire evidence provided by the experience of the new features in the development of the world proletarian socialist revolution since World War Two indicates strongly that

Only when the working class movements in the developed countries join with the working peoples of the colonial-type lands to form a common world-wide anti-imperialist front,

Only when powerful and influential Marxist-Leninist parties, capable of securing leadership over the entire revolutionary process in both types of countries have been built and are able to wield that decisive ideological and political initiative and influence which can ensure the leading role being fulfilled by the working class in both strategic world sectors, and so laying the basis for the uninterrupted transition of the national democratic to the socialist revolution in the colonial-type lands and for the victory of the latter in both; and, finally,

Only when the world Marxist-Leninist leadership of the world proletarian socialist revolution has developed to a point where a mighty Marxist-Leninist international is forged capable of uniting, integrating and directing the revolutionary struggles in both world sectors against the common imperialist class enemy, of elaborating a world strategic and tactical programme of general offensive on all fronts and in all sectors based on advanced scientific theory –

Then, and only then, will it be possible for the working people of any one sector, in the developed or the under-developed lands, to advance to the victory of the socialist revolution and so to bring the epoch of capitalism to its close and to commence anew, and on an infinitely higher level than previously, the epoch of world-wide socialist construction.

For the present; therefore, and until such time as the revolutionary proletariat in both the developed and the colonial-type lands, realise the primary and indispensable tasks of revolutionary leadership and organisation, particularly as regards the building of the Marxist-Leninist vanguard, the predominant influence in the national democratic movements in the underdeveloped colonial world sector is likely to remain in the hands of the national bourgeoisie and its petty bourgeois revisionist representatives.

But each and every such instance of a national arena of capitalist development being opened up, under the conditions of a congested and saturated capitalist world market, merely serves, in the longer or perhaps the shorter run, to add new components of mounting contradiction to the already unstable situation in the world capitalist system. The monopoly capitalists of the developed imperialist countries, faced with the shrinking of the relative size and resources of the colonial sector relative to the developed sector, are attempting to obtain a significant intensification of the rate of exploitation in both the colonial areas that remain and, in an effort to offset the inevitable decline in super-profits, in the developed countries themselves.

Only provided that Marxist-Leninist vanguard parties are built in both the developed and the colonially subjugated sectors of the world will this intensification of exploitation and oppression result in a qualitative raising of the level of class militancy and capacity for struggle of the working masses, to their revolutionisation.

In other circumstances, including those at present appertaining in which the leading influence is fulfilled by social democratic and right revisionist representatives of monopoly capital in the developed countries and by a combination of right, “centrist” and “left” revisionist representatives of the national or the comprador bourgeoisie in the colonial-type countries, the outcome of the world reactionary offensive now in preparation could equally well be a series of bloody defeats for the working people and their organisations of struggle and the descent of the blackest night of fascist repression that the world has yet seen.

The law of uneven development will undergo and is undergoing an equally profound and far reaching intensification of its mode of operation, thus accelerating the process of break-up of the existing imperialist and capitalist power groups and the formation of new ones anxious to secure a re-division of the total area and resources of maximum exploitation available to the capitalist world system, which are continually shrinking relative to the rapidly increasing rate at which capital tends to be amassed, and which are indispensable for securing that maximum rate of profit so essential if the inherent tendency under state monopoly capitalism for the rate of profit to fall is to be offset. These fundamental contradictions in their turn prepare the conditions for the outbreak of yet another imperialist world war more devastating both in its scope and its revolutionary effect than any previously known, and so also preparing for the transformation of that war, in area after area, country after country, into, socialist revolutions.

These are the profound and climactic contradictions which are even now accumulating under the surface of the world capitalist system, and it is against this background that the teachings of Guevara and Debray relative to the struggle in Latin America must be critically evaluated.

Marxism-Leninism teaches, and all experience of the world’s working class, and oppressed peoples in struggle confirms that only through the unity of the working class of all lands, forged through the exercise of leadership and an overall guiding function on the part of powerful Marxist-Leninist parties, and through the unity of all non-proletarian classes and, strata behind that Marxist-Leninist proletarian vanguard in a mighty world anti-imperialist united front, can victory in the national-democratic revolution in the colonial-type lands be secured in such a way as to ensure that that victory leads:

Not to the development and consolidation, on however temporary or unstable a basis, of new, independent neo-capitalist states (which will merely substitute exploitation by the established imperialist oppressor nations for exploitation by the indigenous national bourgeoisie and so assist in increasing, again on however temporary or unstable a basis, the total arena and resources of the world capitalist system and to lengthen by a span of a few years or decades its bloodthirsty, profit hungry life);

But that that victory will lead instead to the weakening and restricting of its arena, resources and span of life, to the choking of the arteries feeding it with the super profits which are its very life blood, to the formation of a mighty and growing chain of national democratic and socialist revolutions encircling it with a steel ring of proletarian power which steadily suffocates and finally annihilates it.

In the developed countries, it is bureaucratic social democracy, reformism, revisionism of the right and trotskyism which constitute the chief weapons of the monopoly capitalist class in frustrating and diverting the potential or actual revolutionary energies of the working class and working people.

In the colonial-type lands, it is “left” and, where appropriate, “centrist” revisionism, likewise assisted by trotskyite disruption, which fulfill this function. Within this international apparatus of counter-revolutionary disruption, a certain clearly definable division of labour can be discerned.

It is the function of social democracy and reformism in the developed countries, and of liberal-anarchist ideas of spontaneous revolution in the colonial type areas of maximum exploitation, to act respectively as the instruments for undermining the unity of the class forces themselves, of the mass base, potential or actual, of the developing class struggle and/or revolutionary movements.

On the other hand, it is the function of revisionist teaching – in developed countries mainly of the right, and in colonial-type lands mainly of either “left” or “centrist” varieties – to weaken the struggle waged by the most advanced and class conscious proletarian elements to forge powerful, steeled and united Marxist-Leninist vanguard parties without which the socialist revolution and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat remain mere empty dreams, vistas of mechanical scheming or the subjective projection of idle wishes.

In the relationship between mass base and vanguard, it is the vanguard which must first be establish even if only in embryo, if the whole revolutionary process in a given country is to develop into the structure of proletarian power capable of incepting and carrying through the socialist revolution directly in the case of the developed countries, through the intermediate stage of the national democratic revolution in the case of the colonial-type lands.

In both these types of revolution, a clear kinship exists between the older variants of bourgeois ideology typical of a capitalist class in the period of its youth, represented by liberal spontaneity and anarchistic insurrectionism of the Garibaldist or Blanquist type, and the more sophisticated right, “left” and “centrist”‘ variants of revisionism which form typical anti-proletarian ideological weapons of an aspiring capitalist class in an underdeveloped country which is struggling for ascendancy and independence within a world environment and under the conditions of an epoch in which capitalism is lying mortally sick upon its deathbed.

Both deny the revolutionary historical mission of the proletariat;

Both deny the need for the violent, forcible overthrow of the rule of the capitalist class – “left” revisionism advocating the use of armed force solely against the comprador, imperialist-orientated section of the capitalist class in a colonial-type country;

Both deny the need for the independent revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat armed with scientific Marxist-Leninist theory.

The petty bourgeois insurrectionist theories of Guevara and Debray form the logical inheritance and continuation of the classical ideas of spontaneous revolt first developed by the European bourgeoisie in the 19th century. The characterisation of the bourgeois ideological basis and antecedents of “left” revisionism contained in the Report of the CC of the MLOB, “Proletarian Internationalism: The Key to Victory in Anti-Imperialist Struggle and Socialist Revolution”, is as applicable to the unsuccessful, misapplied and naive variant of “left” revisionism concocted Guevara and Debray out of the historically superceded lees of liberal anarchist theories of spontaneous “uprisings of the freedom loving people” as ever it was to the more astute variant of “left” revisionism devised by Mao Tse-tung:

“When we consider the development of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Europe, we find that the petty bourgeoisie , played a generally analogous role to the one it later came to play in the colonial national democratic revolutions of the epoch of imperialism. . .the prime need (of the capitalist class – Ed.) was to hold in check the independent revolutionary class aspirations of the proletariat, and to harness its energies to the task of the bourgeois democratic revolution whilst simultaneously preventing them from leading to the fulfillment of the revolutionary aim of socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat. In all the developing capitalist nations of Europe to which the bourgeois democratic revolution spread in 1848-9, therefore, the leading role was played by bourgeois or petty bourgeois leaders..

‘Leftist’ phraseology and the rabble-rousing slogans of anarchism are always and everywhere the essential disguise of rightism, of policies designed to assist and strengthen the class position and forces of the capitalist class in the face of the growing or potential offensive of the proletariat. . . . Just as the counterpart in practice of the utopian theories of Proudhon were the state sweatshops for the unemployed workers of Paris established by Louis Blanc, similarly Mao Tse-tung’s leftist battle-cries directed at the emerging and developing, but as yet immature, proletarian classes and their potential petty bourgeois allies in the colonial lands have their essential counterpart in the so-called- “Three-way Revolutionary Committees”, in which the long-discredited.utopia of the “union of capital and labour”, is dragged from the oblivion to which Marx condemned it…”

(Proletarian Internationalism: Report of the CC of the MLOB in “Red Front”, March/April 1968; p.vii)

With the defeat of this peculiarly Latin American revisionist hybrid, the same demagogic mantle of revisionist deception has fallen upon the shoulders of the “centrist” revisionists headed by the Castro clique, acting as a semi-independent “left”-wing of the Soviet neo-imperialism. If this new and perhaps even more, insidious ideological and political weapon of the national bourgeoisies of the Latin American states is to be exposed and defeated and the hegemony of the working class and of scientific Marxist-Leninist theory in the Latin American revolutionary movement secured, a persistent-and wide-ranging struggle must be waged by the Marxist-Leninists of all lands against it.

There are no short cuts to the socialist revolution. The struggle to develop and change man’s social practice, and the thought processes which consciously guide that practice, is a protracted and arduous one. In the course of this struggle, the development of conscious revolutionary thought and practice on the part of the most advanced and consistently revolutionary class produced by history, the proletariat, is characterised at all stages by the close interaction of theory and practice, culminating in the scientific principles of Marxism-Leninism and of its fundamental theoretical guide to action, dialectical-materialism, and their embodiment in the vanguard class party of the new type.

This final embodiment of the science of socialist revolution and of socialist revolution as a science, when theory and practice become so united as to be indivisibly fused together, is precisely what the “social scientists” of the bourgeoisie are most concerned to frustrate and disrupt by whatever means they find to hand inherited from the theories and practice of pre-scientific utopian or reformist schools – and amongst these modern “mystical schoolmen” of piecemeal reform or spontaneous revolt must be included not only such representatives of the right as Khruschev, Togliatti or Gollan, but also such leftist figures as Debray, Guevara and Castro.

The struggle to build the vanguard Leninist party of the proletariat involves such tasks as the inner-movement struggle within the revisionist and reformist parties and organisations, work amongst all sectors of the working population to win them for a common front of struggle, actions at the most basic level to build militant, class-orientated organisations where previously none existed, the achievement of a correct balance between legal and illegal, armed and political, forms of struggle, and so on. At every level, the process is an extremely complex and many-sided one. It is a test which only those who genuinely uphold, the cause of the working class and working people are prepared to stand.

That is why Guevara, Debray and others present such a disillusioned picture to the world once they enter from the realm of their subjective fantasies into the world of class reality. In their “theory” the peasantry existed as an idealised force which could do no wrong; the grim reality of the Bolivian adventure revealed besides Debray’s dilettantism, the fundamental scorn for the peasantry into which Guevara’s earlier idealism was transformed as a consequence of his inability to change that reality. The diaries, with their self-pitying descriptions of ignorant and suspicious peasants threatening to betray the self-styled advance guard of the revolution constitute an elitist petty bourgeois testament which marks a disgaceful end for those who had claimed to aspire so high. And it is perhaps from this last fact that the final lesson of the Guevara-Debray affair can be most clearly drawn: that the subjective desires of any aspiring revolutionary are less than nothing in value to the revolutionary cause and will be cast aside as such if they are not based on Marxist-Leninist scientific theory.

By Cmde M.S. For the MLOB;

Dated 1968

Source

A Few Comments on ‘Critical Notes on Political Economy’ by Che Guevara

CheMuleFull

Rafael Martinez

On the 40th Anniversary of the Assassination of Che Guevara by US Imperialism

Here we present a brief review of the book ‘Apuntes criticos a la Economia Politica’ (Critical Notes on Political Economy), consisting of various materials written by Ernesto Che Guevara, published by Ocean Press, Melbourne, Australia 2006 (in Spanish). This was published in conjunction with the ‘Centro de Estudios Che Guevara’ in Cuba, where the original documents are located. This book presents a collection of materials, most of which were unpublished and, therefore, represent a very important reference point for further scrutiny of Guevara’s economic thought.

It is convenient to warn the reader about our point of view with regard to the completeness of the materials selected by the editors. It is our firm belief that the published materials offer an incomplete reference point to Guevara’s overall view of political economy and that, if taken in isolation, these texts can help obliterate the essence of his economic thought and his contribution to the early stages of the economic reforms in Cuba. We hold the opinion that this publication does not contain all the available unpublished materials/notes on economic and philosophic topics that Guevara left us before taking off to Bolivia. Last, but not least, we call on the reader to see Guevara’s bare and sketchy language in the concrete historical context and circumstances in which Guevara was forced to scribble his thoughts. We find that a number of statements, especially those written by Guevara as comments to his readings, are not necessarily as clear as one would have hoped, leaving room for misinterpretation and misrepresentation of Guevara’s true intentions.

The book offers the following unpublished materials, which constitute, according to the editors, all the written materials left by Guevara with regard to his unfinished work for the publication of a manual of political economy. This manual of political economy would have been a response to the Soviet textbook of political economy with which he had already polemicised in public discussions:

  • Tentative plan
  • Prologue: the need of this book
  • Biographical sketch of Marx and Engels
  • 10 questions on the teachings of a famous book (referring to the Soviet textbook of Political Economy, Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Spanish edition 1963)

These are followed by a lengthy appendix, some materials of which were also unpublished. The appendix starts with a selection of critical notes (unpublished) on economic-philosophic Marxist works, which we believe is a rather incomplete set of notes, given the fact that Guevara presented himself as a rather methodical and critical person who, as we see in the book, loved to scribble his thoughts as he read. We are eager to see the rest of Guevara’s annotations, particularly those related to Lenin’s works on the New Economic Policy, Stalin’s work, ‘Economic Problems…’ and Mao’s ‘On the Correct Handling of Contradiction’ among others. We believe that these materials would be crucial to reconstruct a more cohesive picture of the later stage of Guevara’s economic thought.

In our view, in these unpublished works Guevara does not contradict any of the principles of his economic thoughts formulated earlier in his published articles that have been available to the public for over 40 years. While consistent with the most relevant tenets of ‘Guevarism’ in political economy, this text is a most valuable document that reveals some remaining obscure aspects of Guevara’s economic thought and evolution. This document is particularly revealing and assists us in gaining further insight into the heart of Guevarism and its distinct idiosyncrasy. It most definitely assists us in further refuting the theses of neo-Trotskyism with regard to Guevara’s economic thinking and philosophy, which try to reconcile his criticism of the post-Stalin Soviet economic model with their anti-Stalinism. On the other hand, this new document further corroborates and sheds additional light on the negative aspects of Guevara’s economic thought. As a matter of fact, as will be seen below, these documents help us gain additional insight on Guevara’s interpretation of the dialectical method and how this leads him to commit serious mistakes of principle. In conclusion, this new set of documents sheds very important light on crucial aspects of Guevara’s writings and it will be instrumental in building a more comprehensive picture of the revolutionary’s economic thought, both in its glory and its misery, in its apogee and its defeat. This document is a mandatory source for those who wish to comprehend the intricacies of Guevara’s thought and its implications on questions of political economy of the transitional society in the conditions of Latin America.

In the foreword written as an introduction to the political economy textbook he planned to write he synthesises his point of view with regard to the progress made in the political economy of the transitional society. The essential points put forward in the foreword are consistent with the spirit behind his critical notes, indicating that he had already arrived at the basic tenets of this economic thinking. This paragraph bears witness to Guevara’s overall viewpoint on the state of Marxism-Leninism:

‘The immense amount of writings that he [Lenin – our note] would leave after his death constituted an indispensable complement to the works of the founders [Marx and Engels – our note]. Then the source became weaker and only some isolated works of Stalin and some writings from Mao Tse Tung managed to stand out as a witness to the immense creative power of Marxism. In his last years Stalin sensed the results of this backwardness in theory and ordered the publication of a manual accessible to the masses that would deal with issues of political economy up to our days’ (in ‘The need for this book’, p. 30).

Guevara worked on the manual of political economy in the period 1965-1966 during his stays in Tanzania and Prague, after stepping down from office in Cuba. These materials bear excellent testimony to one of the most complex periods of the thinker in which he finally rejected the model of economic development pursued by the socialist camp at the time and had reached the stage at which he formulated his own interpretation of the theoretical sources of that economic practice. Guevara had reached a point at which he felt ready to formulate a list of theoretical and practical problems that he believed had not been addressed by Marxists at the time, as he had the firm belief that the state of theoretical development was not appropriate to the objective conditions imposed by the revolutionary process. To understand his state of mind it is most relevant to emphasise Guevara’s disillusionment with the economic reforms in Eastern Europe (and the Soviet Union for that matter), which he criticised most of all:

‘The solution that people want to give in Poland is the free development of the law of value, i.e. the return to capitalism. This solution had already been applied in the Polish countryside, where agriculture was de-collectivised; this year, due to drought and other natural adversities, Polish agriculture is in worse shape than before, has had more serious problems, in other words, the place where the economic calculus leads to … is solving the problems using the same system, by enhancing the material stimulus, the dedication of people to their material interest, leading, in a way, to the resurrection of categories that are strictly capitalist. This is something that has been happening for a while, which Poland is now trying and I think it is also being tried in other socialist countries’ (in ‘Annexes’, pp. 321-322).

In addition, Guevara was of the opinion that the reforms in Eastern Europe were of similar quality to those implemented in Yugoslavia, which Guevara refers to as aberrations due to mistakes of principles:

‘Poland is going along the Yugoslav path, of course; collectivisation is reverted, private property inland is reinstated, a new system of exchange is established and contacts are maintained with the United States. In Czechoslovakia and Germany the Yugoslav system is under study in order to apply it’ (in ‘Annexes’, pp. 404-405).

On the other hand, we are inclined to believe that Guevara would have disagreed with the assertion that there was capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union and the former People’s Democracies in the sense implied by Marxist-Leninists. On pages 380-381 of the present volume he seems to agree with Sweezy’s rebuttal of the Chinese thesis about the capitalist character of Yugoslavia, indicating that he would rather agree with the statement that ‘Yugoslavia is moving towards capitalism’.

By openly objecting to the essence of the economic reform in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, Guevara alienates himself from the mainstream economic thought at the time. In doing so he becomes critical not only of the present but also of the past and as it becomes clearer to us now, he arrived at the belief that at the source of these economic deviations stands Lenin’s attitude towards the economics of the transitional society and the first steps of the construction of socialism:

‘In the course of our practical and theoretical investigation we have a clear suspect, with name and surnames: Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’ (in the ‘Prologue’, p. 31).

Guevara is most likely a victim of the ideological confusion of the time in Cuba, which, in conjunction with the lack of materials in Spanish translation, may have created the pre-conditions for arriving at some dreadful conclusions. One of the most shocking pieces revealed by this document is Guevara’s rebuttal of some of Lenin’s theses on the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union. In particular, Guevara does not understand Lenin’s call for the New Economic Policy and its role in the prospective of socialist transformations in a predominantly petty-bourgeois country. To blame Lenin for the restoration, or to be more exact according to Guevara’s reasoning, for the process of restoration of capitalism at the time in the Soviet Union and the former People’s Democracies in Eastern Europe is a reflection, among other things, of Guevara’s failure to grasp Lenin’s dialectical approach to the solution of contradictions in the transitional society:

‘It is a real fact that all the juridical superstructure of the current Soviet society comes from the New Economic Policy; in this the old capitalist relations are preserved, the old categories of capitalism, i.e., commodities exist, to a certain extent, profit and the interest that the banks appropriate exist and, of course, there exists the direct material interest of the workers’ (ibid., in ‘Some thoughts about the socialist transition’, p. 11).

To blame the New Economic Policy for the right-wing character of the economic reforms of the post-Stalin period shows how little Guevara understood of the essence of the transformation of the economic categories inherited from capitalism that occurred in the Soviet Union during the periods of transition to socialism and communism. This major mistake in Guevara’s economic thought is due to a number of circumstances. We believe that his idealist mistakes are to blame for this blunder. We should also take into account the fact that he was not acquainted with the Soviet materials on political economy and philosophy of the Stalin period. We emphasise this fact also because he was certainly not the only one affected by this shortcoming. As a matter of fact it affects many of those who take Stalin’s Economic Problems in isolation from the economic practice of socialist construction that this crucial work is a generalisation of. Without access to this documentation it is extremely hard to make a case in favour of the qualitative change of the character of the economic categories in the practice of the Soviet Union in the Stalin period. Unfortunately, so far the wealth of economic and philosophical materials published in major Soviet journals of the revolutionary period still remains in Russian only. At the time when the economic discussions under Guevara’s leadership had reached their apogee, a number of various ideological trends were tolerated and even published in the official Cuban press. Needless to say, these trends had institutionalised the fact that their analysis of the economic history of the Soviet Union was based on pseudo-bourgeois if not utterly bourgeois sources and that for them questions of dialectics and the Marxist method are as much abstract notions as they are alien to a bourgeois thinker. With this we do not mean to exonerate or excuse Guevara’s fundamental mistakes; however, we believe that this circumstance, together with preconceptions and ideological prejudices that became overwhelming and ubiquitous in ideological discussions at the time in Cuba, may have played a role in the formation of Guevara’s views on political economy.

What seemed at the time to be a relative obvious statement to many in Cuba, including Guevara himself, that the existence of commodity-money relations in the Soviet Union was inherited from the period of the New Economic Policy, is no more than a reflection of sheer ignorance of the complexity of the economic reality of the transitional society.

Guevara went further when he stated that the New Economic Policy was a requirement particular to the social and economic reality of post-revolutionary Russia and that Cuba, or any other country facing the tasks of revolutionary transformations, does not necessarily need to implement these policies. This statement is in principle correct. However, we think that Guevara may have wanted to make the issue of the disappearance of commodity-money relations a question of socialist education, rather than a question of the maturity of the relations of production and the development of the productive forces. We have certain evidence that Guevara does not necessarily agree with the fundamental principle of the objective character of the economic laws of the transitional society. Guevara’s seemingly correct statement against the absolutisation of the New Economic Policy as an intermediate and necessary step to the transition to socialism, as advocated by modern revisionism, seems to be considered by him from idealist positions. Here lies the core of Guevara’s deviation from the principles of Marxist-Leninist political economy. This does not necessarily deny the value of his fight against the tenets of modern revisionism, but it places severe restrictions on the value of his economic thinking.

It is extremely interesting to note that Guevara is aware of the evolution of the Soviet manual after the death of Stalin. He recognised that the manual changed both in its structure and its orientation as the Soviet economic structure evolved.

‘This manual has been translated into many languages and several editions have been published, undergoing pronounced changes in its structure and orientation as changes took place in the Soviet Union’ (in ‘The need for this book’, p. 30).

Unfortunately, we lack further detail on this reasoning, which would be crucial in evaluating Guevara’s understanding of the history of the political economy of the Soviet Union. We believe we have a fair idea of Guevara’s point of view with regard to the change of orientation (at least along general lines, i.e. Stalin’s line for the suppression of commodity-money relations as opposed to their expansion under the revisionist economic model). But we are not particularly clear about what particular aspects of the economic policies in the 1950s he would refer to as a change in orientation, since the economic reforms of September 1953 onwards affected many aspects of the Soviet economic structure. As discussed above, we believe that Guevara does not necessarily understand the qualitative changes of the economic relations in Stalin’s period and the economic discussions that led to the first draft of the political economy textbook.

Nevertheless, to acknowledge an evolution in Soviet economic thinking at the time is very important in analysing the intricacies of Guevara’s own evolution and for the significance of his economic thought. It certainly reinforces the progressive aspect of his economic thinking with respect to what was widely accepted as a dogma by Trotskyite and neo-Trotskyite ideologists. Guevara does not subscribe to the dogma advocated by those who attacked and still attack the Soviet Union from ‘left’-wing revisionist positions, that allegedly Khrushchevism-Brezhnevism represents a continuation of what is usually referred to as Stalinism. According to this reasoning a rift is established between Leninism and ‘Stalinism’ and the latter is understood as a deviation or even its antithesis, and was perpetuated after Stalin’s death. They do not recognise a qualitative change in the economic policies in the 1960s compared to the political economy embodied in the policies of Stalin’s period. On the contrary, they view the economic evils of Soviet modern revisionism as a result of ‘Stalinist’ thinking. Nothing can be more absurd from the point of view of Marxism-Leninism, and Guevara is not afraid to polemicise with those who imply a rift between Lenin and Stalin, whether explicitly or implicitly, by rebutting the Soviet revisionists’ claims of Stalin’s mistakes:

‘In the alleged mistakes of Stalin lies the difference between a revolutionary attitude and a revisionist one. He sees the danger enclosed in market relations and tries to break with it, while the new leadership is curved by the pressure of the superstructure and promotes the action of market relations by theorising that the use of these economic mechanisms may lead to communism’ (in ‘10 questions on the teachings of a famous book’, p. 214).

It is well known that Guevara had an overall supportive attitude towards Stalin’s Economic Problems. However, the present text bears witness to the fact that he disagrees with some of the points raised by Stalin in this work. We will not elaborate more on this point since we would not be adding much of substance to what has already been said about the idiosyncrasy of Guevara’s economic thought. Nevertheless, it would probably be helpful to give a quote in which Guevara clearly states his position with regard to Trotsky and Trotskyism:

‘I think that the fundamental stuff that Trotsky was based upon was erroneous and that his ulterior behaviour was wrong and his last years were even dark. The Trotskyites have not contributed anything whatsoever to the revolutionary movement; where they did most was in Peru, but they finally failed there because their methods are bad’ (in ‘Annexes’, p. 402).

We do not want to mislead the reader into believing that ‘Guevarism’ is a form of vindication of ‘Stalinism’. While appreciating the revolutionary character of Stalin’s contribution to political economy and demonising the tenets of modern revisionism, he also appears quite critical of Stalin’s deeds. Guevara concludes the above paragraph by bluntly making a terrible accusation:

‘Few voices oppose him publicly, showing this way the huge historical crime of Stalin: to have despised communist education and to have established a stiff cult of personality’ (in ‘10 questions on the teachings of a famous book’, p. 214). 

Here Guevara manifests a lack of erudition and originality in perpetuating one of the most common criticisms of Stalin’s legacy. To talk about Stalin’s alleged contempt for communist education reflects a profound lack of knowledge of the history of the Soviet Union. It is factually incorrect and most likely reflects again the lack of translated materials and a general ignorance of everyday life in the Soviet Union. In essence Guevara echoes a rather superficial interpretation of the history of the Soviet Union, which is essentially divorced from the point of view and methodology of historical materialism. Revisionist ideologists, just like bourgeois historians, try to explain the essence of historical periods based on the personality of leaders and ascribe whatever prominent aspect of social life to them. Unfortunately, Guevara mechanically propagates subjective thinking into his economic analysis and discredits his image unnecessarily. It is unlikely that Guevara made a conscious effort to seriously evaluate the essence of such statements and to make a more objective analysis of Stalin’s period. Here, Guevara propagates anti-Marxist reasoning to substantiate one of the central tenets of his economic theory: the inclusion of consciousness into economic relations and therefore to consider consciousness as part of the object of political economy.

This aspect of Guevara’s economic thinking is well known and is repeated in these new materials on numerous occasions. In a letter to Fidel Castro, Guevara explicitly states something that we already expected as a result of the analysis of his published works. We were aware of strong similarities between Guevara’s striving for communist education and the Maoist interpretation of the role of consciousness in the relations of production:

‘Communism is a phenomenon of consciousness, one does not reach it by jumping into the vacuum, by a change in the quality of production, or by the simple clash between the productive forces and the relations of production. Communism is a phenomenon of consciousness and the consciousness of man has to be developed…’ (in ‘Some thoughts about the socialist transition’, p. 11).

It is worth noting that Guevara’s denunciation of Stalin’s alleged contempt for education is quite similar to Mao’s argument in his critique of Stalin’s Economic Problems:

‘Stalin’s book from first to last says nothing about the superstructure. It is not concerned with people; it considers things, not people. Does the kind of supply system for consumer goods help spur economic development or not? He should have touched on this at the least. Is it better to have commodity production or is it better not to? Everyone has to study this. Stalin’s point of view in his last letter [Reply to comrades A. V. Sanina and V. G. Venzher – editor’s note] is almost altogether wrong. The basic error is mistrust of the peasants’ (Mao Tse Tung, A Critique of Soviet Economics, Monthly Review Press, New York and London, 1977, p. 135).

This strongly suggests that this aspect of Guevara’s economic thinking is not original, as some experts of his work insistently argue. It is evident that this aspect of his thinking is the result of the influence of various ideological trends that circulated in Cuba at the time. It is clear to us that Guevara made a serious effort in the course of his investigation to disentangle complex questions of political economy. In doing so the spectrum of literature he was exposed to could not have been as broad as one would have hoped. Unfortunately, Guevara is driven by the prejudice propagated by many different revisionist trends outside the Soviet Union, and within it after Stalin’s death, that allegedly the economic thought at the time was characterised by dogmatism (on the other hand, we are unclear as to what exactly Guevara meant by dogmatism). While being progressive in the main, Guevara uncritically takes for granted what the Bettelheims and Sweezys propagated in Cuba without proof (speaking of dogmatic thinking…).

‘After a long lethargy, characterised by the most outright apologetic, the XXth Congress of the CPSU made a leap, but not forward; constrained by the dead end that the hybrid system led to and pressed by the superstructure, the Soviet leadership took steps backwards that were complemented by the new organisation of industry. The lethargy is followed by repression; both have the same dogmatic character’ (in ‘10 questions on the teachings of a famous book’, p. 213).

Guevara on Collectivisation

This topic is probably the one in which this document gives us the most additional insight into Guevara’s economic thought. Guevara’s views on collectivisation are not really covered in the published materials available to us. One could only guess that for the sake of internal consistency Guevara would have advocated for a progressive stand with regard to the role of the state and the main relations of production in the countryside and his attitude with regard to modern revisionism on this question. It is fascinating to see confirmed this initial view that Guevara opposed the selling of the machine tractor stations to the collective farms. This policy had become default at the time of the Cuban revolution and was one of the most important aspects of the agrarian program of the revisionists around the world and was very much supported and even imposed by the Soviet revisionists.

It seems probable that Guevara was unaware of the fact that the Chinese leadership also advocated these policies at the time. According to various biographers of Guevara, at some point the contradiction between his economic policies and those instigated by the Soviet revisionists became so acute that the latter started to accuse Guevara of deviationism (Trotskyism, in particular) and that he in turn allegedly rebutted those accusations by arguing that if anything, he was closer to the Chinese with regard to the controversy. We do not want to debate the accuracy of the eyewitness’ accounts on which these authors based their assumptions about Guevara’s Maoism. What is clear to us, however, is that Guevara fundamentally deviates from mainstream Maoism on this question, probably without really knowing it.

Guevara raises one point correctly. It is a well-known fact that the relative weight of strictly private agricultural production of peasants was dropping with respect to the overall output of the collective farms, as reported by the Soviets at that time. This was due to the natural evolution created by the growing disparity of labour productivity between mechanised and manual labour and the fact that capital investment in general favoured the former for obvious reasons. Guevara is right in pointing to the fact that, at some point in the development of the collective system of production, the contradiction between the people’s property and the kolkhoz is not determined by the fraction of the means of production made up of private property of individual peasants.

‘Private property is being eliminated within the kolkhoz and, moreover the relative weight of collective property becomes overwhelming, but even if it was 100% the main issue still remains, the contradiction between the people’s property and the collective property’ (in ‘10 questions on the teachings of a famous book’, p. 185).

Here Guevara addresses the general problem of the contradiction between collective property and socialised property as a problem per se, which always remains as long as collective property has not merged into the property of the whole people. If put into historical perspective, Guevara’s attitude represents a great step forward with respect to the character of the agrarian reforms fostered by modern revisionism. Here Guevara is aware of a basic element in the Marxist-Leninist approach to the resolution of contradictions between the city and the countryside, contradictions that modern revisionism tried to obliterate and reduce to a question of the different level of development of the forces of production and productivity. Guevara correctly disagrees with such a postulate, thus reinforcing the overall progressive character of his economic thought. This is further strengthened by Guevara’s open rebuttal of one of the biggest attacks on socialism by the Soviet revisionists, namely, the selling of the machine tractor stations from the state to the collective farms in the late 1950s. After a section of the revisionist manual of political economy devoted to substantiating the selling of the machine tractor stations, Guevara writes:

‘This is a concrete example of the contradictions that become antagonistic between the social property and the individual collectivity. The MTS [Machine Tractor Stations – editor’s note] may have had bureaucratic deviations, but the superstructure imposed its solution: more autonomy, more wealth of their own’ (in ‘10 questions on the teachings of a famous book’, p. 187).

Nevertheless, one must always be careful with Guevara’s formulations. In fact, even though Guevara’s attitude to the revisionist plans for agriculture is overall progressive, one can never be cautious enough when dealing with this writings. Below we find a paragraph that may indicate that Guevara probably made his criticism for the wrong reasons:

‘Before, the need for commodity forms was explained by the existence of different forms of property. In practice the kolkhoz property acts as antagonist to the directly social property and therefore, the double character of labour is similar to that in capitalism. The double character of labour would disappear if this antagonism ceased to exist’ (in ‘10 questions on the teachings of a famous book’, p. 159).

The first sentence is not controversial. Guevara simple states that under Stalin the persistence of commodity categories in socialism was understood as a result of the presence of two forms of property under socialism: socialised or state property and collective property or the kolkhoz. Unfortunately, Guevara addresses the relationship between the collective property and socialised property as antagonistic. We cannot agree with this as a general statement. In the conditions of the restoration of capitalism the relationship between the state (no more socialised) and collective property is antagonistic and it definitely becomes similar to that in the countries of classical capitalism. However, as long as the state property is socialised, i.e., loosely speaking, the means of production is in the hands of the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat (regardless of the level of the development of the productive forces and the effective level of socialisation of the process of production), the relationship between the former and the kolkhoz system is not antagonistic. This type of statement is equivalent to saying that the relationship between the working class and the peasantry is a relationship of antagonism, which is definitely not true in the conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Therefore, the double character of labour in the socialist system or in the transitional society is not driven by a relationship of antagonism.

Here one could argue that Guevara was implying that capitalist relations had been restored in the Soviet Union. He probably would have agreed to some extent with that statement. As a matter of fact, in the text of ‘10 questions on the teachings of a famous book’ he bluntly objects to the concept of the state of the whole people, a concept that was officially supported in the Soviet Union at the time, which clearly implies that he believed the dictatorship of the proletariat had been disbanded for good. Given the extent of Guevara’s criticism of the reforms in Eastern Europe and the fact that he openly talked about these as a regression with respect to earlier practices, one might be inclined to believe that perhaps Guevara was implying that capitalist relations had been restored to some extent in the countries of the former People’s Democracies and the Soviet Union. This might be the case, however, and very unfortunately, Guevara made the statement above in a general sense, as opposed to the case of the revisionist system alone. We are able to disentangle this by means of a short paragraph in the ‘Annexes’ written following a famous quote from Lenin’s On Cooperation that we insert here for the reader’s benefit:

‘By adopting NEP we made a concession to the peasant as a trader, to the principle of private trade; it is precisely for this reason (contrary to what some people think) that the co-operative movement is of such immense importance. All we actually need under NEP is to organise the population of Russia in co-operative societies on a sufficiently large scale, for we have now found that degree of combination of private interest, of private commercial interest, with state supervision and control of this interest, that degree of its subordination to the common interests which was formerly the stumbling-block for very many socialists. Indeed, the power of the state over all large-scale means of production, political power in the hands of the proletariat, the alliance of this proletariat with the many millions of small and very small peasants, the assured proletarian leadership of the peasantry, etc. – is this not all that is necessary to build a complete socialist society out of co-operatives, out of co-operatives alone, which we formerly ridiculed as huckstering and which from a certain aspect we have the right to treat as such now, under NEP? Is this not all that is necessary to build a complete socialist society? It is still not the building of socialist society, but it is all that is necessary and sufficient for it.” (V.I. Lenin, On Cooperation Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1966, Vol. 33, pp. 467-468.)

To which Guevara, to our despair, bluntly objects:

‘I think this is a wrong conception. The fundamental mistake is to think that the collective character is above its private character, something that practice has ruled out. The cooperative is the result of an economic need; there is a class force behind it and its consolidation and to acknowledge it is to strengthen the class that Lenin so feared’ (in ‘Annexes’, p. 241).

Unfortunately, this reasoning is far from Marxist and reflects once again Guevara’s shallow understanding of dialectical materialism, without which a consistently Marxist treatment of political economy is simply not possible. Guevara is basically telling us, consciously or unconsciously, that the political union between the working class and the peasantry is not viable, even under the conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat, by asserting that the collective sector acts as a private producer with respect to the socialised system. And if one reads his words literally one would have to conclude that Guevara does not see the progressive character of cooperation, however complex or simple, in the process of construction of the socialist economy. We are not even sure if Guevara thought carefully enough about the implications of such a statement.

Guevara on Mao

The present document sheds some light on the question of Guevara’s attitude towards Mao in a very revealing but brief passage, which touches upon a very important question in dialectical materialism. In particular, and possibly unconsciously, Guevara deals with one of the most distinct characteristics of Mao’s understanding of the interrelation of opposites in dialectical materialism. A more detailed analysis of this question has revealed a lot about the true essence of Mao’s understanding of the role of contradiction and equilibrium. Due to the lack of material the conclusions drawn here with regard to Guevara’s attitude towards Mao in general, and with respect to this aspect in particular, need to be taken with a grain of salt.

The revisionist conception of the role of commodity-money relations is ultimately related to questions of dialectical materialism, such as the role of contradiction and equilibrium. It is no coincidence to see both aspects linked one way or the other in the analysis of the political economy of modern revisionism. Conversely, we would expect that Guevara would have a well-defined attitude toward the question of contradiction and equilibrium in dialectics for consistency sake, due to the progressive character of Guevara’s conception of the political economy of the transitional society. As a matter of fact the analysis of Guevara’s economic thought indicates a well-defined system of thought, not always correct, but at least self-consistent. One excellent example of self-consistency is Guevara’s negative attitude toward selling the machine tractor stations to the collective farms, as discussed in the previous section.

Before moving to the citation per se, it is relevant to emphasise our lack of understanding of Guevara’s attitude towards the Chinese CP at the time of the controversy with the Soviets. The present document confirms accounts by various biographers of Guevara’s positive attitude towards Mao. And rightly so, as already mentioned above:

‘…Then the source became weaker and only … some writings from Mao Tse Tung managed to stand out as a witness to the immense creative power of Marxism’ (in ‘The need for this book’, p. 30).

As pointed out in the section on Guevara’s stand toward collectivisation, he fundamentally departs from the mainstream stand on this question advocated by the Chinese at the time. It is clear that he opposed the selling of the main means of production to the communes and, if he had a chance, he would have probably rejected the policies of self-reliance that Chinese agrarian policies were based upon. We have no evidence at this point whether Guevara had a chance to analyse the Chinese policies in the countryside and whether he had the opportunity to develop a debate with Chinese officials on this matter. We do have accounts of intense discussion with Soviet and Eastern European economists, especially Czechoslovaks, but we do not seem to have accounts of similar contacts with the Chinese. We are also aware of Guevara’s criticism directed at the Polish leadership. We believe that Guevara would have favoured the Chinese in the Sino-Soviet controversy given his critical attitude toward the Soviets in general and the new economic reforms in particular, which he calls revisionist. But it is not clear to what extent Guevara would have supported the economic policies of the Chinese leadership during the post-Stalin period. We simply lack any evidence. In this respect, it is also relevant to bear in mind that the ideological confusion reigning in the international communist movement at the time (the true nature of modern revisionism was not yet fully understood) had a strong impact on Guevara’s reasoning. The analysis of Guevara’s economic thought shows that he was also a victim of this ideological confusion.

The citation under study in this section belongs to a comment of Guevara allegedly written next to a number of paragraphs of Mao’s On Contradiction. This complicated section of the document needs to be understood within a historical context and, of course, within the context of the pamphlet in its entirety, as Mao’s paragraph quoted by the editors is not even necessarily relevant to Guevara’s footnote. The implications of Guevara’s citation go far beyond the particular topic discussed in the paragraphs of On Contradiction that the editors of the book have chosen to publish, for understandable reasons, as will be discussed below. Guevara writes:

‘… For the Chinese the fundamental contradiction lies between imperialism and the oppressed world, because the latter are the basis for the existence of imperialism. Imperialism can exist without socialism but not without the exploitation of the peoples where the main struggle is for the people’s liberation. On the other hand, there can be no equilibrium between antagonistic opposites [our emphasis]; the socialist countries are antagonistic opposites of the imperialist countries; although they represent a solution of an earlier contradiction (exploited and exploiters) on a national scale, they do not solve the contradiction on an international scale’ (in ‘Annexes’, p. 243).

Guevara’s citation is open to all sorts of speculation. Needless to say, our analysis is for obvious reasons not necessarily unbiased. There are two relevant aspects that we deem necessary to comment on here. Firstly, Guevara points out the position of the Chinese with regard to what they believe are the main contradiction in the class struggle. Guevara voices one of the points that Mao insisted on in his work On Contradiction, that of the existence of a principal aspects of the contradiction, which determines the character of the contradiction and its most important manifestations:

‘Of the two contradictory aspects, one must be the principal and the other the secondary. The principal aspect is the one that plays the leading role on the contradiction. The quality of the thing is mainly determined by the principal aspect of the contradiction that has taken the dominant position’ (Mao Tse-Tung, On Contradiction, International Publishers, New York, 1953, p. 36).

While Mao’s analysis of the role of imperialism in China in On Contradiction is overall correct, the exaggeration of the contradiction between imperialism and the oppressed nations, between rich and poor, eventually assisted the Chinese leadership in supporting and further developing the anti-Marxist theory of the three worlds (which by the way was not an invention of the Chinese leadership). To argue that the main contradiction is the antagonistic contradiction between imperialism and the oppressed nations, in the historical conditions of China at the time when the pamphlet was written, is correct. However, to exaggerate the dominant role of this contradiction by idealising and absolutising that relationship unavoidably leads revisionism to disregard the antagonistic class relations between the national bourgeoisie and the oppressed people, to disregard the internal contradictions, as secondary and therefore not relevant, following Mao’s stiff attitude toward secondary contradictions. This idealisation leads to the schematic representation of the division of the world into three types of countries, regardless of social formation, which is anti-Marxist in its core. By idealising the relationship between imperialism and the oppressed nations, between rich and poor nations, such relationships are ripped off their class character and turned into classless concepts, as classless as the mechanical division of the world of exploited and exploiters into the three worlds.

It is not clear to us what Guevara is actually implying by his remark. We do not even know if this conclusion is biased by discussions with Chinese comrades at the time or if it is just an overall comment on the pamphlet, written for his own benefit. Most likely Guevara agrees with the statement. Nevertheless and secondly, what is of particular relevant in our analysis is Guevara’s statement that ‘there can be no equilibrium between antagonistic oppositess, which we find truly remarkable, for the lack of a better word.

In order to appreciate the relevance of Guevara’s statement it is necessary to recall the specifics of Mao’s understanding of the role of contradiction and the dynamics that determine the interaction between the opposites in that contradiction. In contrast to the classical Marxist-Leninist understanding of the concept of qualitative and quantitative change, Mao introduces two forms of movement in On Contradiction:

‘The movement of all things assumes two forms: the form of relative rest and the form of conspicuous change. Both forms of movement are caused by the mutual struggle of the two contradictory factors contained in a thing itself. When the movement of a thing assumes the first form, it undergoes only a quantitative but not a qualitative change, and consequently appears in a state of seeming rest… Such unity, solidarity, amalgamation, harmony, balance, stalemate, deadlock, rest, stability, equilibrium, coagulation, attraction, as we see in daily life, are all the appearance of things in the state of quantitative change’ (On Contradiction, p. 48).

According to Mao, there exist two types of motions, through which qualitative and quantitative changes manifest themselves. Qualitative changes take place through more or less violent motions and quantitative changes take place through relatively slow motions. From the point of view of a purely mechanical approach with regard to, for example, the transition of matter from one state into another and vice-versa, this reasoning would not necessarily provoke strong objections. However, Mao’s reasoning does have serious implications generally speaking, and in particular turns the Marxist-Leninist understanding of the dynamics of the opposites of contradictions into a theory of mechanical equilibrium between them, which is broken when antagonistic contradictions are resolved through qualitative changes or upheavals. According to this reasoning, the accumulation of quantitative changes is viewed from the point of view of harmony among the opposites of the contradiction. Harmony is broken when qualitative changes occur; harmony, however, is the form through which the interrelation of the opposites of the contradiction manifests itself between periods of upheavals. This mechanical interpretation of the understanding of the interrelation between quantitative and qualitative changes is not an innovation of Mao. As a matter of fact, this type of thinking had been extensively developed and applied to the theory of class struggle and political economy by Bogdanov and Bukharin in the Soviet Union.

To understand Bogdanovism and how his theory of equilibrium was adapted by Bukharin to questions of the political economy of the transitional society is crucial to comprehend the theories of market socialism advocated by modern revisionism. Bogdanov was one of the objects of criticism by Lenin in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism and Stalin fought all this life against remnants of Bukharinism in political economy. In essence, the basic philosophical and theoretical tenets of modern revisionism are inspired by Bogdanov’s postulates formulated in his work Universal Science of Organisation – Tektology (1913-1922). Tektology has been highly praised by bourgeois scholars as a precursor of a whole trend of bourgeois ‘natural philosophy of organisation in complex systems’. As Bogdanov put it, ‘the aim of Tektology is the systematisation of organised complexes’ through the identification of universal organisational principles: ‘all things are organisational, all complexes could only be understood through their organisational character’. The starting point of Bogdanov’s Tektology was that nature has a general, organised character, with one set of laws of organisation for all objects. Two aspects of Bogdanov’s contributions were central in the development of the first theories of right-wing revisionist political economy in the 1920s: first, Bogdanov’s metaphysical concept of the law of organisation of a complex system (i.e. the economy of the transitional society) through the identification of universal organisational principles; secondly, the need for equilibrium of the complex system and the environment. Bogdanov believed he had developed a more complex conception of equilibrium, different from the purely mechanical conception, which considered that any complex system should correspond to its environment and adapt to it. But in practice Bogdanov’s postulates were implemented by a trend of Soviet economists in the 1920s, including Bukharin as the leading member of the future right-wing opposition to the plans for massive collectivisation and the gradual liquidation of commodity-money relations in the Soviet economy. In the 1920s the concept of ‘law of labour expenses’ circulated among wide circles of Soviet economists. This concept was exposed at the time as no more and no less than the law of value, dressed up in the form of the Bogdanovite law of organisation of a complex system. The law of labour expenses, according to Bukharin, would be a general law (applicable to all historical epochs and modes of production) that establishes the proportions of labour. In the modes of production based on commodity-money relations, the law of value would be the manifestation of this general law. Under socialism, according to Bukharin, the law of labour expenses would act ‘naked’ without using the form of the law of value. In the end, the regulator of labour exchange under socialism would be the principle of exchange of equal labour (values in the commodity economy). In essence, Bukharin propagated the use of the law of value as the regulator of the proportions of labour in the socialist economy, which is a mercantilist approach to the questions of political economy of the transitional society. The observation of the ‘law of labour expenses’ provides proportionality and, therefore, the necessary equilibrium of the complex system. Bukharin’s energetic opposition to the policies of collectivisation and massive industrialisation was based on the belief that the economic disproportions created by the systematic violation of the ‘law of labour expenses’ (i.e. the law of value) would disturb this abstract concept of economic equilibrium. The theories of market socialism that emerged after the Great Patriotic War and became the official theoretical foundation of the new regime after Stalin’s death is just a sophisticated version of Bogdanov/Bukharin’s ‘law of labour expenses’.

It is not within the scope of the present article to deal with this question in detail. This topic will be covered in more depth in the near future. Nevertheless what is relevant to the present discussion is to point out that Mao’s On Contradiction opens the way to conceiving the concept of harmony of opposites. These features of Mao’s philosophical thinking blossom further and adopt openly revisionist manifestations in a later work, On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People in 1957, in which the harmony of the proletariat and the national bourgeoisie is considered feasible. It is very possible that Guevara was also acquainted with this later work of Mao, as it had become one of Mao’s most publicised works, especially at the time when Maoism was emerging as an ideological trend independent of mainstream revisionist ideology. The fact that Guevara explicitly denies the possibility of harmony of opposites strongly indicates that he was acquainted with this work.

By this we do not want to imply that Guevara had reached a point in his theoretical investigations at which he was in a position to systematically expose the tenets of what’s known today as the theory of Maoism. On the contrary, Guevara agrees with Mao on the role of ideology in the political economy of socialism. Their conceptions of the object of political economy in the transitional society do not differ significantly in their essence. It is in this aspect where Guevara’s economic theory stumbles into serious problems. This central shortcoming of Guevara’s economic thought prevents him from fully and consistently grasping the theory of political economy developed by Lenin and Stalin.

Within the context of the quotation under scrutiny, Guevara is obviously protesting against the theory of peaceful coexistence between what he refers to as socialist countries and imperialism. While internal antagonistic contradictions were in the main resolved by the socialist revolutions, the class contradictions between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie continue mainly under the form of the antagonistic relationship between socialism and imperialism. As a matter of fact, internal contradictions are intimately connected to the antagonistic relations with the imperialist world.

The citation presented above is followed by a hopelessly wrong and rather absurd sentence, to say the very least:

‘Finally, the law of uneven development is a law of nature, not of the dominant social system; therefore, the socialist countries also develop unevenly, which transforms itself through commerce into unequal exchange, or in other words, into the exploitation of some socialist countries by others.’

This sentence is not necessarily relevant to the above discussion. However, we bring this quotation up to make more evident the fact that our investigation on the heart of Guevara’s thought is far from understood and is plagued with pitfalls and inconsistencies. This statement is a blemish on the reputation of Guevara’s thought. To state that the uneven development of socialist countries is a necessary economic law is consistent with stating that the development of socialism spontaneously engenders exploitation of man by man, and therefore, the construction of communism is a hopeless illusion and lacks scientific substantiation both philosophically and from the point of view of political economy. Let us hope for the best, that Guevara was just being sarcastic. Unfortunately, whether this was the case or whether he was trying to make a point will probably remain a mystery to us.

Source

Che Guevara and the Political Economy of Socialism

Ernesto Che Guevara visiting the tractor factory in Brno, Czechoslovakia, October 27, 1960.

Rafael Martinez

Che Guevara is widely known to the world as the romantic-idealist revolutionary. The economic thought of Che Guevara has not really been widely publicised as the Argentinean born revolutionary is commonly known for his works on the guerrilla warfare, whose underlying idealist and voluntarist approaches to the struggle of the oppressed masses against capitalism and imperialism have been exposed and rejected altogether by the Marxist-Leninists. It is most appropriate, however, to pay special attention to Guevara’s economic works, as his contribution to the economic transformation of Cuba during the early stages of the revolutionary process was central and was highly criticised by the ideologists of modern revisionism, both within and outside the country.

Che participated in making up the agrarian reform law in 1959. In October 1959 he was appointed director of the Department of Industrialisation, which was created by INRA (Instituto Nacional de la Reforma Agraria or National Institute of the Agrarian Reform). At that time most of the industry was still in the hands of private owners. Guevara undertook the task of studying the economy of the island and establishing the guidelines of building up Cuban industry. According to Orlando Borrego, author of ‘Che el camino del fuego’ (Imagen Contemporanea, Havana 2001), the department started off without a single industry under its jurisdiction nor a ‘budget of its own to finance supplies, investments and other expenses’ to manage the few companies that passed to its jurisdiction later in the year. In November 1959 Guevara was appointed head of the National Bank, although he never stopped overseeing the work of the department of industrialisation to where he returned within the next year.

It is not till October 1960, when the Cuban Government decrees the immediate nationalisation of commercial and industrial enterprises including the sugar cane industry, that the Department of Industrialisation becomes a full-fledged body for the organisation of industrial production on a massive scale. His leadership in the Department of Industrialisation led Guevara to become the Cuban minister of industry in February 1961, which had the task to organise state industry following massive nationalisation.

At this point Guevara faces the challenging task to organise most of the country’s industrial production on the basis of an ill-defined (from the point of view of socialist construction) revolutionary process. Despite the success of the anti-imperialist struggle undertaken by the Cuban Revolution, its leadership lacked knowledge of the political economy of Marxism-Leninism. Che Guevara, without any doubt, is the member of the Cuban leadership who takes most seriously the study of political economy, which he did in parallel to all the administrative and organisational tasks that he was assigned by the Cuban Revolution. The study of Marxist political economy and the economic discussions that were triggered during the process of organisation of the Cuban industry become the central topic in Guevara’s life during the first half of the ‘60s. This period of exploration and creativity comes for the most part to an end when, in 1965 Che renounces his responsibilities as the Minister of Industry, following a heated economic debate, referred to by many as the ‘Great Debate’, which reached its climax in 1963-1964.

Strong divergences between the pro-Soviet economic line and Guevara’s plan of industrialisation brought to an end the participation of the Argentinean revolutionary in the internal affairs of the Cuban revolution. Guevara embarks on a ‘quixotic’ military campaign to aid and create revolutionary processes in Africa and Latin America, which concludes with his assassination in Bolivia, in 1967.

Castro remembers Che in a well-known speech given in 1987, in the midst of the so-called process of rectification, by denouncing a number of gross deformations in the economic life of the island and corruption of moral standards. Castro calls upon the population with an appeal of the highest moral standards embodied by the life of the great revolutionary, and admits to the negative consequences of departing from Che’s economic thought:

‘Che was radically opposed to using and developing capitalist economic laws and categories in building socialism. He advocated something that I have often insisted on: Building socialism and communism is not just a matter of producing and distributing wealth but is also a matter of education and consciousness’ (Fidel Castro in ‘Che Guevara, Economics and politics in the transition to socialism’, Pathfinder, New York, 2003, p. 39).

In the midst of open appeals to revive what many in Cuba call the ‘Che’s dream’ a lot of confusion is fostered about the interpretation and originality of Guevara’s economic thought. Twenty years after his assassination, Cuban scholars Fernando Martinez Heredia, and specially, Carlos Tablada, revived the discussions concerning Guevara’s contribution to the practice of socialist construction in Cuba and to the economic theory of the transitional epoch in general. Unfortunately, most scholars in Cuba consider Guevara’s economic thought in isolation from the theory of political economy of socialism developed before the revisionist political economy became widely accepted in the Soviet Union and the former People’s Democracies of Eastern Europe in the 1960s.

Outside the country, efforts have been made to reconcile Guevara’s economic thought with Trotskyism and neo-Trotskyite tendencies. Neo-Trotskyite elements around the world, not without encouragement from within Cuba, try to portray Guevara’s economic thought as a reaction to the economic line imposed by the bureaucratic castes in the Soviet Union, by completely ignoring, more correctly suppressing, Guevara’s open support to Stalin in questions of the construction of socialism. It is silenced that Guevara quoted Stalin on multiple occasions in his economic works published in Cuba and the fact that the core of his economic theory, the budgetary finance system, bears strong similarities to the economic ‘model’ of development, which had become ‘standard’ in the former People’s Democracies of Eastern Europe during the post-war period up until Stalin’s death. Trotskyism, neo-Trotskyism and many in Cuba exacerbate Guevara’s idealist mistakes present in both his political and economic thoughts and turn Che into some sort of humanist socialist, who de facto suppressed the weight of the objective character of the economic laws of socialism in favour of a leading role of socialist education and consciousness (which, unfortunately, is true to a considerable degree).

Discussions about the controversial role of Che Guevara in the Cuban revolution during the early stages of the construction of the new economy have been revived in recent years. More and more unpublished documents are slowly coming to light. One of the most significant efforts developed in this direction is led by the Centro de Estudios Che Guevara, based in Havana and located in the house where Guevara and his family used to reside during the first half of the sixties. This association possesses direct access to Guevara’s personal library, which contains numerous volumes in which he used to make annotations. Ambitious plans have been revealed to publish nine volumes with materials covering numerous aspects of the political life of Che Guevara, which hopefully will throw important light on the evolution of Guevara’s thought as a Marxist.

One of the most enlightening documents published in recent years corresponds to a letter sent by Che, while based in Tanzania, to Armando Hart Dávalos on the need to publish in Cuba works on philosophy. The authenticity of this letter does not seem to be controversial as it was published in a Cuban journal and made available to the public. In this letter Guevara outlines a basic plan for the publication of texts in philosophy, subdivided into 8 groups:

In Cuba there is nothing published, if one excludes the Soviet bricks, which bring the inconvenience that they do not let you think; the party did it for you and you should digest it.

It would be necessary to publish the complete works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin [underlined by Che in the original] and other great Marxists.

Here would come to the great revisionists (if you want you can add here Khrushchev), well analyzed, more profoundly than any others and also your friend Trotsky, who existed and apparently wrote something (Che Guevara, Letter to Armando Hart Dávalos published in Contracorriente, Havana, September 1997, No. 9).

In the present article we will try to briefly cover the main elements of Guevara’s economic thought by means of establishing analogies with the Marxist-Leninist economic theory of the transitional society. Further, we will discuss the absurd allegations of Trotskyism that the Soviet revisionist leadership inflicted on Guevara. We will conclude with a brief exposition of what are, in our opinion the two major mistakes committed by Guevara in his economic works: idealism and mechanicism.

Budgetary System versus Financial Self-Management

At the centre of Guevara’s economic thought stands the budgetary system, which Che implemented in the enterprises organised by the ministry of industry between 1961 and 1964. The budgetary system is formulated by Guevara as a reaction against what had been established in the Soviet Union and the former People’s Democracies of Eastern Europe under the system of economic accounting (usually referred by us as market-like economic accounting, in order to distinguish it from the more generic concept of economic accounting), which the followers of post-Stalin Soviet revisionism posed as a model of development in Cuba. It is within the context of the revision of the Marxist-Leninist principles of the political economy of socialism by the Soviet revisionist leadership that the study of Guevara’s budgetary system needs to be analysed and appreciated.

Despite strong elements of mechanicism and schematism inherent to Guevara’s presentation for a case in favour of the centralisation of industrial production and the establishment of forms of management and interrelations between individual producing subjects and the state, the budgetary system embodies the means, however primitive, which served the purpose for the application and success of the centralised planned principle of the economic development in a backward country. This is the rationale behind Guevara’s formulations, which represents in the main the basic prerequisite for a more or less rapid industrialisation of the island, which he considered to be the highest priority within the process of socialist construction.

Many in Cuba portray Guevara’s budgetary system elaborated for the specific conditions of Cuba, which in a sense Che ‘invents’ a particular model that suits his more or less utopian view of the transition to the socialist society. Thus Guevara’s thinking is studied in isolation from the historical epoch, which corresponds to the epoch of the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and the former People’s Democracies. At most, Guevara’s economic thinking is viewed as an alternative to the ‘neo-Stalinist’ command-administrative system undertaken by the Soviet leadership. This view was revitalised in Cuba towards the end of the 1980s when the Soviet economy and the whole so-called ‘socialist’ system showed clear signs of decomposition. It is enlightening, however, to see that some leading economists in the island do admit that Guevara’s economic thought did not come out of the blue:

‘In retrospective, the budgetary system is a contribution of great value. We would not say – and you know it well – that Che invented the budgetary system. It already came from the socialist countries; in the Soviet Union for a period of time the budgetary system ruled many aspects of the economy’. (Carlos Rafael Rodriguez in ‘Che Guevara, Cuba and the Road to Socialism’, New York, 1991, pp. 39-30. Translated from Spanish.)

Needless to say Rodriguez refers to the socialist economic model developed under Stalin. Rodriguez, however, wrongly attributes to Guevara the view that in the transition to higher forms of socialism, or full socialism, the budgetary system could be applied to the entire economy; the entire economy could allegedly function as one big enterprise, with one social fund to meet the needs of production and distribution. Much to the contrary, Guevara formulates the budgetary system as a means to meet the immediate needs posed by the organisation of the State industry and, as will be seen in the next section, admits to the existence of commodity-money relations between the state and other production objects, hence he admits the existence of forms of production other than state owned.

The budgetary system is conceived by Che as an opposite of the model established in the Soviet Union and the former People’s Democracies of Eastern Europe after Stalin’s death. Guevara exposes the basic differences between the budgetary system and the market-type of economic accounting or so-called financial self-management, as early as in 1961, i.e. the very early stages of the socialisation of industry in the country. Guevara’s thinking in favour of the centralisation of the State industry predates the ‘Great Economic debate’, and it is clear to us that Che had conceived the budgetary system long before he sees himself engulfed in a heated discussion with the numerous supporters of financial self-management in the island. We have every reason to believe that he was in some more or less systematic way acquainted with the history of the Soviet economy and the general elements of the socialist economy during Stalin’s times.

Guevara rejects from the very beginning the concept of free enterprise within the socialist sector, which is embodied by the ability of the individual economic subject to act as a more or less independent producer, since

‘…in the socialist countries, the enterprise possesses a bank credit, acquires money, produces with the money that it receives, sells its production, and then grants to the State part of the profit and part of this profit is preserved for internal needs. The difference is that our company does not sell, but delivers products and workers are awarded through the State’ (Che Guevara, Conference ‘Economy and Plan’ of the People’s University, 1961. Translated from Spanish.)

In Guevara’s system the enterprise does not sell, as the commodity-money becomes effective both in form and content only when the product is alienated by an independent producer or the individual consumer. Guevara understands the retribution of the worker in the socialist enterprise as an operation, in which in essence the socialist toiler establishes an employer-employee relationship with the socialist state, bypassing the enterprise. We believe he considers this relationship from the point of view of the essence of the labour relationship, as in reality this relationship has unavoidably to take the form of employment via the individual enterprise.

As opposed to the revisionist system of financial self-management, labour circulates among the individual enterprises of the state sector and between the enterprises and the State via the form of allocation or assignments according to contracts stipulated by the socialist plan:

‘To elaborate a budget through which the enterprise will be assigned necessary funds by the state to make effective contracts…; and also to transfer to public accounts the revenue from sales.’ (Che Guevara, op. cit. in ‘Collective Discussion: Unique Decision and Responsibility’, p. 3. Translated from Spanish.)

In Guevara’s system the enterprise functions as an aggregate of a larger enterprise, which does not possess financial resources with which to make its own decisions in terms of production and reproduction. Since the socialist enterprise:

‘The company does not have resources of its own; therefore its income is transferred to the national budget’ (Che Guevara, op. cit. in ‘Considerations on Expenses’, p. 46. Translated from Spanish.)

Guevara is adamantly opposed to any form of exchange among socialist enterprises in the socialist sector other than allocation of resources. The circulation of labour within the socialised sector is viewed by Guevara as an aggregation of labour in a complex productive chain. In this system the enterprises are not able to establish labour exchange independently from the plan, since the entire productive activity of the enterprise is dictated by it. The state, in the form of the State Bank is the beginning and the end of labour flow concerning the productive activity of the socialist enterprise: it acquires the necessary financial means to acquire the means of production and it deposits the revenue in the Central Bank. These resources are then utilised by the socialist planning system to provide for extended reproduction of the individual productive unit, for capital investment or non-productive social needs. In this sense the enterprise does not extract profit per se; it transfers a positive balance between the production cost and the income and it is the socialist state which makes the final decision according to the plan as to the fate of this positive balance.

The concept of socialist planning in Guevara’s system is closely linked to the concept of profitability of the whole productive system. The effectiveness of the socialist economy is not the results of the mechanical summation of individual enterprises. A positive balance in the arithmetic sum of individual profits is possible in the capitalist system during times of expansion, although it becomes negative in times of recession. Regardless of the fact that the socialist productive system does not know recession or crises, the socialist productive system displays the greatest rates of growth not just because the arithmetic aggregation of individual profitability amounts to a positive balance. The advantage of the socialist mode of production over capitalism lies in the planned character of the economy, that the socialist state is in a position to decide at the scale of the whole productive system, not the coordination of individual producers but the regulation of labour flow among socialist enterprises. While it is of paramount importance that the productive unit be most profitable by means of maximum reduction of production costs, the efficiency of the economy needs to be assessed as a whole.

‘Since this system is based on the central control of the economy, the relative efficiency of an enterprise would become just an index; what really matters is the total profitability of the entire productive system’ (Che Guevara, op. cit. in ‘Considerations on Expenses’, p. 48. Translated from Spanish.)

This concept, which is a more complex concept with respect to the profitability of the individual enterprise, had been stated explicitly by Stalin in Economic Problems. In arguing against the right-wing deviationists, the only way to understand that certain sectors of the economy may function without profit or even producing losses over a certain period of time is to introduce a more complex concept of profitability of the whole socialist economy:

‘If profitableness is considered not from the standpoint of individual plants or industries, and not over a period of one year, but from the standpoint of the entire national economy and over a period of, say, ten or fifteen years,… then the temporary and unstable profitableness of some plants and industries is beneath all comparisons with that higher form of stable and permanent profitableness which we get from the operation of the law of balanced development of the national economy and from economic planning…’ (J.V. Stalin, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR,Foreign Language Publishing House, Moscow 1952, pp. 28-29.)

Many have been led to believe that the establishment of socialised planning in certain areas of the State-owned sector during the transitional economy is a dangerous utopia. The transition to NEP is commonly used as a historical example, which allegedly illustrates that socialised forms of organisation do not correspond to the economic conditions given in a backward, agricultural country. Much to the contrary, not only the implementation of market-like economic accounting in the State industry is a relatively short-lived phenomenon in the economic history of the Soviet Union, it was soon realised that the NEP-style approach could lead to catastrophic consequences if the market-like economic accounting were to be imposed on all the areas of the State sector. Since the first stages of the transition from the economy of War Communism to the liberalisation of the Soviet economy, the Soviet leadership expressed worries that Lenin’s plans for the industrialisation of the country would be jeopardised if market relations were to be made effective in all the State-owned sectors. Already in 1923, the XII Congress of the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) expressed ample concerns:

‘On the other hand, heavy industry, which has barely entered in contact with the market and which depends completely on State contracts, needs for its reconstruction large and well-calculated financial resources from the State. This also applies to a great degree to railway and sea transport.’ (Decisions of the Soviet Government on Economic Questions, Moscow 1957, Volume 1, p. 380. Translated from Russian.)

Despite what right-wing revisionism led many to believe, the Soviet government since the early stages of the NEP established a line of demarcation within the sectors I and II of the economy. While light industry displayed significant growth during the early stages of the liberalisation of the economy, mostly due to the revival of market relations, heavy industry showed little or no signs of flourishing under the conditions of market-style economic accounting. If the market-type economic accounting were to be imposed on heavy industry, if the Soviet plan, regardless of the level of development of the forces of production and the correlation of forces within the various sectors of the economy and the weight of non-socialist forms of production, were to deny heavy industry large long-term financial assistance for a sustained process of re-production, this sector would be forced into recession. The plans for the speedy industrialisation of a vast and backward (both technically and culturally) country would be doomed and with it collectivisation and socialist construction.

‘The interrelations between light and heavy industries cannot be resolved by means of the market, as this would threaten to liquidate heavy industry in the next few years; heavy industry could recover, but this time as a result of the anarchic development of the market and on the basis of private property. (Ibid. p. 382. Translated from Russian.)

The socialist law of development, according to which the industry of means of production should develop faster than light industry and agriculture, necessarily leads a more or less significant fraction of the forces of production owned by the socialist state to operate according to laws of labour distribution and organisation different from those inherited from the capitalist form of production. While market relations to a considerable degree were temporarily allowed by the NEP to regulate production and labour distribution among more or less disseminated and independent economic units in the State industry, the Soviet State was forced since the beginning to define the concretisation of this law of socialist production, in a sense breaking with NEP itself. The establishment of socialist planning on the basis of the socialised mode of production in certain sectors of the economy holds absolute character. This principle holds regardless of the level of development of the forces of production in the economy of the country in transition to socialism as a whole. The level of socialisation of the State sector does strongly depend upon the concrete-historical conditions of the country in transition. However, the State is bound since the very beginning to establish a socialist planned principle to operate in a direct, socialised way (not by means of the market) on certain sectors of the economy, primarily on the sector I. This is the basic principle of the transitional economy that Guevara tried his best to uphold by advocating the budgetary system, as a system opposed to the system of market-type economic accounting proposed by the followers of Soviet revisionism in the island.

As will be touched upon in more detail, Guevara’s economic thought, the budgetary system that he advocated is completely opposed to Trotsky’s concealed right-wing economic theories. Trotsky opposed since the early stages of NEP, all the way till the end of his political career the establishment of a genuine planned principle in certain sectors of the State sector, by advocating the absolute and universal character of NEP:

But the New Economic Policy does not flow solely from the interrelations between the city and the village. This policy is a necessary stage in the growth of state-owned industry. Between capitalism, under which the means of production are owned by private individuals and all economic relations are regulated by the market –I say, between capitalism and complete socialism, with its socially planned economy, there are a number of transitional stages; and the NEP is essentially one of these stages.

Let us analyze this question, taking the railways as a case in point. It is precisely railway transportation that provides a field which is prepared in the maximum degree for socialist economy… The railway lines, not only those privately owned, but also the state-owned lines, settled their accounts with all the other economic enterprises through the medium of the market. Under the particular system this was economically unavoidable and necessary because the equipment and development of a particular line depends upon how far it justifies itself economically. Whether a particular railway is beneficial to the economy can be ascertained only through the medium of the market.’ (L.D. Trotsky, ‘The First Five Years of the Communist International’, Volume 2, New Park Publications, London, 1953, pp. 233-4.)

Guevara’s budgetary system is the means for the industrialisation of Cuba. One of the fundamental principles of the socialist economy is based on the development of industrial production, mainly heavy industry, as the basis and engine of the development of the socialist economy. Imperialist domination is based upon the concentration of industry and technology in the hands of imperialist corporations. Exploited countries are deprived of the means and necessary knowledge to secure the development of labour productivity, a key element to sustained development of the forces of production.

In order to overcome economic backwardness and the relations of dependence on the imperialist countries, i.e. the ultimate goal of a genuine process of national-liberation, it is imperative to turn around the character of economic relations with the outside world. This implies a deep re-structuring of the economies, which for long years have been geared towards fitting the economic needs of the imperialist countries, and to turn these countries into self-sufficient and prosperous socialist industrial ones. Genuine independence, true anti-imperialism is no more than rhetorical statements without massive policies of socialist industrialisation, which is the material basis for long-term and sustained independence.

Over a hundred years of national liberation movements have taught us that the socialisation of the means of production, as opposed to half-measures disguised by pseudo-socialist phraseology, is the only way towards national independence. Here lies the essence of the internationalist policies of the Soviet State during the post-war period.

The economies of dependent countries, such as Cuba back in the 1950s, are based upon the extraction and the early stages of manufacturing of raw materials. The main source of revenue of Batista’s Cuba was the export of sugar, whose price in the international market was out of the control of the country and, as repeatedly pointed out by the leaders of the Cuban revolution, undershot the actual value.

The only possible way that economically and culturally backward countries can attain economic and sustained political independence, lies in the development of heavy industry, which is the only possible way to lay the foundations for sustained economic growth. This fundamental point of the socialist construction lies at the centre of attention of Guevara’s economic thought and to it he devoted most of his practical and theoretical efforts while remaining in office.

Commodity-Money Relations and the Law of Value

In this section we will briefly cover Guevara’s understanding of the role of commodity-money relations and the law of value in the socialist industry. At this point we lack written materials to throw light on his attitude towards the agrarian reform performed during the early stages of the Cuban revolution. His understanding of the collectivisation of the large mass of petty producers is also unknown to us, although we hope that in the near future archival materials may be made available to the public in Cuba.

As illustrated in the previous section, at the centre of Guevara’s economic thought stands the model of budgetary system. This system is intimately related to Guevara’s understanding of the role of plan, which, as discussed, fundamentally differs from that envisioned by right-wing revisionism in the Soviet Union and the former People’s Democracies in Eastern Europe. Much to the contrary, it bears close resemblance to the conception of economic planning, which prevailed in the Soviet Union before Stalin’s death and stands in line with the economic policies that had become ‘standard’ in the former People’s Democracies in Eastern Europe in the period of 1948-1953.

Guevara’s attitude to the role of market categories and relations are consistent with his understanding of plan and are very close to Stalin’s formulations in Economic Problems. Guevara explicitly denies the need for commodity exchange between socialist enterprises and categorically denies the commodity character of the means of production. He supports the correct view that commodity exchange involves change of ownership. Commodity exchange between state enterprises is viewed by the Argentinean as a contradiction per se, since in the budgetary system the socialist enterprise is an organic element of a bigger enterprise, the State. Within this system the labour among enterprises does not adopt the form of commodity exchange. Means of production, financial resources are not owned by the socialist enterprise, as the latter lacks its own account and revenue is automatically deposited in a socialised account. In this system, the means of production are allocated to a given production unit according to the needs and future perspective of economic development and dictated by a centralised plan.

Guevara does not deny the existence of commodity production and the coexistence of different modes of production. He supports Stalin’s views that commodity relations are not inherent to the socialist sector but that their existence is due to the presence of different forms of property within the Cuban economy. As opposed to the Soviet Economy in Stalin’s time, the Cuban countryside had not undergone the process of collectivisation of the petty producer. In the concrete-historical situation of Cuba, the incipient socialist industrial sector had to coexist with a large mass of independent producers. However, this concrete-historical circumstance does not prevent the socialist sector, however small and poorly organized, to operate under a different regulator of production than that operating in the countryside. Guevara writes:

‘We believe that the partial existence of the law of value is due to the remnants of the market economy, which also manifests itself in the type of exchange between the State and the private consumer’ (Che Guevara, op. cit. in ‘On the Budgetary System’, p. 95. Translated from Spanish).

This statement is very close to Stalin’s well-known statement given in Economic Problems:

‘But the collective farms are unwilling to alienate their products except in the form of commodities, in exchange for which they desire to receive the commodities they need… Because of this, commodity production and trade are as much a necessity with us today as they were thirty years ago…’(J.V. Stalin, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow 1952, p. 19-20.)

In addition, as pointed out by Guevara, there remains the need for commodity-money bonds between the State and the private producer, as the worker in socialism still receives a significant fraction of the social fund for the satisfaction of individual needs in money terms. The exchange between the state and the individual producer is performed under the form of a commodity exchange, as

‘…this transfer occurs when the product leaves the state sector and it becomes property of an individual consumer’ (Che Guevara, op. cit. in ‘Considerations on Expenses’, p. 46. Translated from Spanish.)

With the socialisation of all the means of production and the liquidation of individual and collective forms of production, there would be no need for commodity-money exchange in socialism. As a matter of fact, the realisation of the socialist principle of distribution does not necessarily imply the existence of commodity-money relations, as a category of production. These views were ‘exposed’ and refuted by Soviet economists, who after a series of discussions re-wrote chapters in the Manual of Political Economy regarding the political economy of socialism.

Naturally, these views were also not shared by many economists in Cuba, as manifested in a more or less full-fledged controversial discussion during 1963-1964. For instance, Alberto Mora (Minister of Foreign Trade during that time) in 1963 openly attacked Guevara’s views, by comparing them with Stalin’s, which were published in Economic Problems. He rejected Guevara’s theses on the grounds that the most serious ‘scientific’ discussions held in the Soviet Union during the second half of the 1950s and early sixties indicated that Stalin’s views were wrong, that the law of value operates in socialism as a regulator of production, as the products in the socialist economy remain and will remain commodities all the way till communism:

‘When some comrades deny that the law of value operates in the relations among enterprises within the State sector, they argue that the entire State sector is under single ownership, that the enterprises are the property of the society. This, of course, is true. But as an economic criterion it is inaccurate. State property is not yet fully developed social property that will be achieved only under communism.’ (A. Mora, in ‘On the operation of the law of value in the Cuban Economy’, published in Man and Socialism in Cuba, Atheneum, New York, 1973, p. 227).

The well-known Trotskyite economist, Ernest Mandel, who was very active during what he called the ‘Great Debate’ in Cuba, enters into a long-standing controversy with Charles Bettelheim, a French right-wing revisionist scholar. The latter also became active during the economic debate, this time as a fervent supporter of the ‘socialist-market’ conception advocated by the pro-Soviet economists in the island. Despite Mandel’s views that means of production in the socialist economy do not circulate as commodities, he is very keen on exposing Stalin’s views advocated by Guevara with regard to the causes of the law of value in the socialist sector. In the section of the ‘Historical conditions leading to the extinction of mercantile categories’ of a well-publicised article in Cuba, he states:

‘Although we have criticized several of comrade Bettelheim’s positions, we agree with him completely in rejecting Stalin’s theory that the basic reason for the mercantile categories in the Soviet economy is the existence of two forms of socialist property: ownership by the people (that is, the State) and ownership by more limited social groups (essentially the Kolkhozy)’. (E. Mandel, in ‘On the operation of the law of value in the Cuban Economy’, published in Man and Socialism in Cuba, Atheneum, New York, 1973, p. 70.)

Mandel has an opinion of his own and does not need to refer to the Soviet pseudo-science to ‘expose’ Guevara’s ‘primitivism’. The author advocates that only the abundance of consumer goods, which are closely linked to the development of forces of production, will create the objective conditions for the abolition of commodity-money relations in the sphere of private consumption. Moreover, he seems to be proud that

‘The new program of the CPSU, approved by the XXII congress, incorporated this idea as set forth in our Traite d’Economie Marxiste’ (E. Mandel, in ‘On the operation of the law of value in the Cuban Economy’, published in Man and Socialism in Cuba, Atheneum, New York, 1973, p. 71).

Guevara advocated the correct view that the law of value does not operate within the socialist sector as a regulator of production. He is able to grasp, unlike his detractors, a crucial element in the political economy of socialism:

‘We insist on the analysis of the cost, since part of our conception refers to the fact that it is not strictly necessary that cost of production and price coincide in the socialist sector’. (Che Guevara, op. cit. in ‘Considerations on Expenses’, p. 47. Translated from Spanish.)

Guevara understood that the price setting in the socialist sector, as a quantifier of the flow of labour circulating among different subjects of the state industry, does not necessarily have to coincide with the cost of production. If the labour exchange between different sectors of the socialist economy were to be governed by the exchange according to equal value, less profitable or even not profitable enterprises would not be able to survive and the process of extended reproduction of the socialist economy would be brought to its knees. If the law of value is forced to operate as a regulator of the proportions of labour exchanged between enterprises in the socialist sector it would not be possible to overcome the disproportions between sectors of the economy, which are inherited from capitalism, let alone colonialism and neo-colonialism. This consequently leads to a more complex concept of profitability of the socialist economy, which was touched upon in the previous section, which Stalin formulated in Economic Problems and which Guevara embraces wholeheartedly.

It is true that the abstract formulation that prices in the socialist sector do not necessarily correspond to the cost of production contains within itself a strong potential and it represents a serious step forward in the evolution of the understanding of political economy of socialism. This statement represents a tremendous step forward with respect to the theories of right-wing revisionism, which does not conceive labour exchange outside the boundaries of commodity-money relations. However, this statement does solve right away the most intricate problem of the political economy of socialism, which is to concretise what are the actual proportions of labour that correspond to the historical-concrete situation and the development of the forces of production and forms of management of a given country. This is a titanic task that needs to be resolved by the revolutionaries of a given country, which Guevara genuinely and with the best of his abilities tried to solve for the concrete conditions of Cuba.

Guevara is an advocate of the strictest economic accounting, for the same reasons that Stalin criticised many Soviet managers and plan making for neglecting the operation of the law of value as a strong instrument for economic accounting in socialism. Indeed, accounting in value terms proves a powerful tool to evaluate the effectiveness of the socialist enterprise, and this is most appreciated by Guevara:

‘The cost would yield an index of the management of the enterprise; it is irrelevant that these prices are higher or lower than the prices in the socialist sector, or even, in some isolated cases, than those prices used to sell the product to the people; what matters is the sustained analysis of the management of the enterprise…, which is determined by its success or failure to reduce costs’ (Che Guevara, op. cit. in ‘Considerations on Expenses’, p. 49. Translated from Spanish.)

At the end of the day, one of the fundamental goals of the enterprise in socialism as well as in communism

‘…reduces to a common denominator…: the increase of labour productivity as the fundamental basis for the construction of socialism and indispensable premise for communism.’ (Che Guevara, op. cit. in ‘Considerations on Expenses’, p. 51. Translated from Spanish.)

In Guevara’s budgetary finance system, money within the socialist enterprise is used primarily as means of calculation, as a strong algebraic tool for determining the effectiveness of the enterprise, the correctness of the use of the resources granted by the State to the enterprise, a means to determine if the enterprise is doing enough to reduce costs, etc… In his very important article, ‘About the Budgetary System’ he exposes one of the most prominent differences between his conception and the role given to money by the pro-Soviet economists in Cuba within the so called ‘Economic Accounting’ system:

‘Another difference is the way money is used; in our system money operates as arithmetic money, as a reflection, in prices, of the management of the enterprise, which the central organs will analyze in order to control the functioning of the latter.’ (Che Guevara, op. cit. in ‘About the Budgetary System’, p. 80 Translated from Spanish.)

Guevara’s views are consistent with the well-known exposure of Notkin’s ‘marketist’ views by Stalin:

Why, in that case, do we speak of the value of means of production, their cost of production, their price, etc.?

Firstly, this is needed for purposes of calculation and settlement, for determining that the enterprises are paying or running at a loss, for checking and controlling the enterprises. …’ (J.V. Stalin, op. cit, p. 58-59.)

As the economic discussion in Cuba progresses and the contradictions between Guevara’s line and the pro-Soviet economists (including Charles Bettelheim) on the one hand, and the Trotskyite elements in Cuba (Cuban nationals as well as foreigners) on the other, Che has unavoidably to clash with the economic conception advocated by the Soviet revisionists. Towards the end of this discussion, in 1964 Guevara expresses himself in a more and more explicit and eloquent way regarding the differences between his model and the ‘market-socialist’ type of development advocated by the revisionists. The exposition of the differences, which at first, in 1961 Guevara had put in rather mild, almost academic terms, turns controversial and bitter in 1964, leaving no doubt that the contradictions had become irreconcilable and that the Cuban leadership would have to take a stand sooner rather than later. Whether the Soviet revisionist leadership demanded Guevara’s removal from his posts in the economy of the island, as a pre-requisite to sustained economic aid, or whether his detractors in Cuba played a leading role in the events that followed the economic discussions, remains a matter of speculation. Regardless, it is clear to us that Guevara engages in an important theoretical debate till the very end and was never curbed by the overwhelming wave of criticism triggered by his writings, which he faced almost alone. In addition, we can only imagine how upsetting to pro-Soviet and Trotskyite elements in the island it would be to accept that the leading economist, a holder of a key command position in the Cuban economy, dares, not once, not twice, but at least three times that we are aware of, to cite and defend Stalin’s works as an authoritative reference against his opponents.

Che openly and in print criticises the revisionist manual of political economy published in the Soviet Union in the early sixties, with regards to the insistence of the Soviet revisionists on developing commodity-money relations in socialism, let alone the transition to socialism. After a series of gradual changes operated in the economic literature of the 1950s followed by crucial economic discussions held towards the end of that decade, the Soviet economists published a new manual of political economy under the editorship of a leading economist, Ostrovitianov. In this important document all the products in socialism are proclaimed to be commodities, including the means of production (with the utterly inconsistent exemption of labour force), and the law of value, which is used in a conscious way by the socialist plan, operates as the regulator of proportions of labour among enterprises, whether state owned or cooperatives.

As opposed to Stalin’s plans for the gradual shrinkage of the sphere of operation of the commodity-money relations and categories, the Soviet revisionists envisioned a plan to further enhance the role of these in the economy and to provide the enterprises with more independence. The operation of the law of value will disappear only when the highest stage of communism is accomplished in a more or less distant future. Guevara rebels against the new theses advocated by the Soviet revisionist economists by rejecting altogether the plans for developing commodity-money relations in socialism, which are treated by us as a departure from the political economy of socialism developed by Lenin and Stalin:

‘Why develop? We understand that the capitalist categories are retained for a time and that the length of this period cannot be predetermined, but the characteristics of the period of transition are those of a society that is throwing off its old bonds in order to move quickly into the new stage.

The tendency should be, in our opinion, to eliminate as fast as possible the old categories, including the market, and, therefore, material interest – or better, to eliminate the conditions of their existence’ (Che Guevara, in Man and Socialism in Cuba, Atheneum, New York, 1973, p. 142).

It is unfortunate, however, that Che’s reasoning is plagued with idealist assertions, according to which commodity-money relations allegedly embody within themselves the ideological burden of the capitalist society. As will be touched upon the next section, Guevara equates to a great extent commodity-money relations and categories with the concept of material incentive, which he understands as a mechanism aimed at motivating and enhancing labour productivity by the same means as used in capitalism. Material incentive and consciousness appear in Guevara’s thought as two poles of one of the main (if not the most relevant) contradiction in the process of socialist construction.

Guevara should not be accused of a left-wing attitude with regard to the role of commodity-money relations in socialism. Nowhere in Che’s writings can one find appeals to implement the policies of war communism in the Cuban economy. Much to the contrary, he is aware of the need to retain commodity-money relations for an undetermined period, as a result of the presence of a large mass of individual producers. Despite glaring idealist elements in Guevara’s thought we need to give him credit for identifying correctly the sphere of application of commodity-money relations and the fundamental reasons leading to the inevitability of the latter in the socialist transition in general and in the Cuban revolutionary process, in particular. In summarising the increasing contradictions between the line of thought and the economic reforms accomplished under his office, and the push for market relations advocated by the ‘marketists’ in Cuba Guevara states:

‘We deny the possibility of consciously using the law of value, in the conditions that a free market does not exist, which expresses directly the contradiction between producers and consumers; we deny the existence of the commodity category in the relation among state enterprises and we regard them as part of one big enterprise, the State (although in practice it does not happen yet in our country).’ (Che Guevara, op. cit. in ‘On the Budgetary System’, p. 96. Translated from Spanish.)

When Guevara admits to the fact that the state sector in Cuba does not function as a ‘one big enterprise’ he is most likely referring to the coexistence of the Ministry of Industry, the INRA and the Ministry of Foreign Trade, the latter two lead by Carlos Rafael Rodriguez and Alberto Mora, respectively, both rabid ‘market-socialists’. The latter had expressed their disagreement with Guevara’s plans for industrialisation of the island based on the argumentation that Cuba was not prepared for forms of economic relations consistent with developed stages of socialisation of the labour process. Rodriguez states as late as in 1988:

‘The budgetary system is closer to the future society… this system requires conditions that we will not be able to achieve in a long time’ (Carlos Rafael Rodriguez in Che Guevara, Cuba y el camino al socialismo, New International, New York, 2000, p. 42. Translated from Spanish.)

By arguing that Cuba was never (not even after 30 years of revolution) ready for higher forms of exchange between state enterprises, Rodriguez openly polemicises in 1988, as he used to do 25 years before, with Che’s assertion that products exchanged between state enterprises do not adopt the form of commodities.

Guevara to the very end sticks to his conception that the commodity-money relations are not inherent to the socialist economy, and especially to the socialised sector, which he tried so hard to build up since the very early stages of the Cuban revolution. Market relations come about as a result of the presence of important remnants of private producers and they are bound to disappear with them (both in form and content). Even though, Guevara refrains (to the best of our rather sketchy and fragmental knowledge of the evolution of Guevara’s thinking) from referring openly to his opinion with regards to the plans of collectivising the private producer, we believe that he would have advocated for a ‘Soviet-style’ type of bond between the socialised sector and the collective farms. As an advocate of retaining the main means of production outside the operation of commodity-money relations (i.e. means of production are not treated as commodities in content, regardless of the need to use value categories to assess the amount of labour involved in them), it seems natural that Guevara would have envisioned a concept pretty much like the machine tractor stations, as a main factor for the increase of labour productivity. We believe this statement is substantiated since the rational core of Guevara’s economic thought, despite strong elements of idealism and mechanicism, remains very close to the economic forms adopted in the Soviet Union under Stalin, which had become standard and were successfully applied with whatever modifications in the countries of People’s Democracies in Eastern Europe between the end of the 1940s and Stalin’s death. We have every reason to believe that Guevara was to a certain extent acquainted with Stalin’s Economic Problems and the basic differences of principle between the so-called Stalin model and the model of ‘market-socialism’ advocated by Rodriguez, Mora et al. in Cuba.

In probably his last article ‘Man and Socialism in Cuba’ a letter addressed to Carlos Quijano, editor-publisher of the Uruguayan weekly Marcha, written in early 1965, Guevara reiterates his position once more, leaving us no doubt that he stood for his principles till the very end.

‘Pursuing the chimera of achieving socialism with the aid of blunted weapons left to us by capitalism (the commodity as the economic cell, profitability, and individual material interests as levers, etc.) it is possible to come to a blind alley’ (Che Guevara, in Man and Socialism in Cuba,Atheneum, New York, 1973, p. 342).

Unfortunately, Guevara does not give up certain elements of idealism that make his economic thought so distinct as well as vulnerable and inconsistent. This side of Guevara’s economic thought has been publicised the most both in Cuba by his detractors and outside Cuba by Trotskyism and neo-Trotskyism. The clear connection between a significant number of Guevara’s statements on political economy and the so-called ‘Stalinist’ model of socialist construction is very much silenced. Che’s writing are twisted by picturing his economic thought as a continuation of his idealist and voluntarist stand in questions regarding the interrelation between the masses, the party and the guerrilla warfare, for which he is most commonly known.

On Guevara’s Alleged Trotskyism

Guevara soon entered into conflict with the Soviet revisionist leadership. As we have seen above, Che acknowledges differences of principle, as early as 1961, between the economic model established in what he used to call socialist countries, and the plans for industrialisation he was advocating. Guevara’s economic reforms were bound to clash with the character of the agrarian reform and the plans suggested by the Soviet Union that Cuba was to remain primarily a sugar cane producer for longer than anticipated by Che. As the character of the Cuban revolution consolidated and the Cuban leadership accommodated to the economic relations between the island and the Soviet Union, it was necessary that Cuban economists align with the new political economy created by the revisionists.

Guevara’s plans soon met glaring resistance within Cuba. Due to the worsening of Guevara’s relations with the Soviet leadership, many in Cuba felt a great deal of embarrassment. According to several of Guevara’s biographers, the Soviets accused Che’s economic views of Trotskyism. It was just a matter of time before Che is to leave his post of Minister of Industry and that his plans for industrialisation of the island are to be revised in favour development based on the sugar cane industry.

Trotsky is usually portrayed as a ‘radical left-wing’, as an advocate of extreme measures with regard to resolution of contradictions both in politics and economics. Trotsky’s alleged push for the militarisation of the economy has led many to believe that Trotskyite economic theories are opposed to the politics of the New Economic Policy (NEP) with regard not only to the relations between the individual producer and the state sector but also with regard to the liberalisation of the state sector. In this section we will try to substantiate the fact, that Trotsky’s economic theory cannot be classified as left-wing; much to the contrary, it does not deviate significantly from the right-wing revisionism in questions of socialist construction and the role of commodity-money relations during that period.

The myth about Trotsky’s alleged leftist stand in resolving contradictions in the transitional period, conceals the true essence of Trotskyism in economic questions. Guevara’s economic thought has nothing to with Trotsky’s attitude to commodity-money relations and categories in the transitional period; their views are completely opposed to each other. Such allegations with regards to Guevara’s economic thought are unfounded and preposterous, to say the very least. As covered above, Guevara’s economic thought does suffer from serious elements of mechanicism, which does not make him a Trotskyite, as such mistakes were common to many economists in the Soviet Union during the Stalin period.

It is very interesting to observe how the Russian bourgeoisie is willing to appreciate in Trotsky the ‘virtues’ of a ‘market-socialist’, which many in the left movement do not seem to be able to grasp. To commemorate the 125th anniversary of Trotsky’s birth, a leading economic journal, Voprosi ekonomiki (‘Questions of Economy’) published an article under the title ‘Economic views of L.D. Trotsky’. In this article the authors attribute Trotsky’s heavy-handedness during the revolution and the civil war to the historical circumstances of that time, that in fact Trotsky had become one of the first to push for the liquidation of the policies of war communism and the liberalisation of the economy by allowing several forms of property to coexist for an indefinite period of time. The authors draw the bourgeois reader’s attention to Trotsky’s true and poorly publicised merit as being one of the first to advocate a mixed economic model for the transition to socialism:

‘The transition to NEP significantly changed Trotsky’s economic views. In a number of his works during that time he agitates in favour of the development of market relations, material stimulation, the understanding of the plan, as rigorous management in the sense of foreseeing and synchronising various sectors of social production. During the period of NEP Trotsky formulated a number of very important, even original ideas, namely: about the incompatibility of the methods of war communism in the conditions of NEP, about the need for each enterprise to have its own accounting balance, about the objective limitations to transferring resources from the agrarian sector to industry…’ (M. Voeikov and S. Dzarasov, ‘Economic Views of L.D. Trotsky’ in Voprosi Ekonomiki No. 11, 2004, p. 152).

Trotskyite economic doctrine seriously overlaps with Bogdanovism/Bukharinism in the understanding of the essence of the plan. Trotsky, in his renowned work ‘The Soviet Economy in Danger’, written in late 1932, starts off by equating one of the economic laws of the socialist economy and the transition to socialism, the planning principle with preconceived harmony of economic proportions:

‘However, light-minded assertions to the effect that the USSR has already entered into socialism are criminal. The achievements are great. But there still remains a very long and arduous road to actual victory over economic anarchy, to the surmounting of disproportions, to the guarantee of the harmonious character of economic life.’ (The Soviet Economy in Danger, in ’Writings of Leon Trotsky 1932’, Pathfinder Press, New York, 1973, p. 260. Our emphasis.)

The famous and infamous principle of equilibrium and harmony of the proportions of labour in the socialist economy is advocated by Trotsky in a rather unambiguous way. Within the eclectic framework of Trotskyism, centralisation of the economic policy alters the abstract principle of harmony of the economic processes. Trotsky, in his attempt to oppose the transition of the Soviet economy towards higher forms of economic organisation, comes around as a full-fledged right-wing revisionist, adding no more substance to the right wing opposition led by Bukharin/Rykov.

‘It is impossible to create a priori a complete system of economic harmony. The planning hypothesis could not but include old disproportions and the inevitability of the development of new ones. Centralized management implies not only great advantages but also the danger of centralizing mistakes, that is, of elevating them to an excessively high degree. Only continuous regulation of the plan in the process of its fulfillment, its reconstruction in part and as a whole, can guarantee its economic effectiveness’ (loc. cit.).

Trotsky’s ‘continuous regulation’ is the back door to substantiating his rebuff of the party’s line to shrink the operation of the commodity-money relations in the economy, which leads to the liquidation of capitalist exploitation in the country and the consolidation of the socialist economic laws. Once opponents, Bukharin and Trotsky converged into Bogdanovism as the construction of socialism progressed in the Soviet Union.

When Trotsky appeals to the impossibility ‘to create a priori a complete system of economic harmony’ it is implied that the central economic organs, are not in a position to undertake the tasks of centralised economic management, regardless of the development of the forces of production and the socialisation of the means of production. Deformations of the socialist economy inevitably take place as centralised decision-making overpowers workers’ democracy and a caste of administrators takes over as a ‘communist bureaucracy’. Once more, the objective character of the economic laws in general and the economic laws of socialism in particular, is overruled and loses its raison d’etre in the economic thinking of right-wing revisionism. Instead, Trotsky, as a poorly concealed right-wing revisionist, appeals on and on to the need for establishing harmony between the different branches of the socialist economy, which lies at the basis of his political economy.

Trotsky’s Bogdanovism is not a phenomenon of the 1930s; much to the contrary, it is inherent to his economic thinking from the very early stages of economic reforms in Soviet Russia. In summarising the developments in Soviet Russia since the victory of the October revolution, Trotsky states that the period of war communism had to end in order to restore equilibrium in labour exchange between the peasantry and the working class and between branches of the state sector, as:

‘Every economy can exist and grow only provided certain proportionality exists between its various sectors. Different branches of industry enter into specific quantitative and qualitative relations with one another. There must be a certain proportion between those branches which produce consumer goods and those which produce the means of production. Proper proportions must likewise be preserved within each of these branches. In other words, the material means and living labor power of a nation and of all mankind must be apportioned in accordance with a certain correlation of agriculture and industry and of the various branches of industry so as to enable mankind to exist and progress.’ (L.D. Trotsky, ‘The First Five Years of the Communist International’, Volume 2, New Park Publications, London, 1953, pp. 228.)

The postulate about proportionality of portions of labour among branches of the economy was conceived as a general, non-historic law that would apply to all economic systems. Marx’s considerations about the need for the establishment of certain proportions in which labour is exchanged in every economic system, and revised in a mechanical fashion by Bogdanov/Bukharin had a simple consequence in practice: the application of the law of value as a regulator of production was to be perpetuated in the socialist economy under the abstract consideration about the need for proportionality. This abstract concept is shared by Bukharin and Trotsky:

‘The problem of the proportionality of the elements of production and the branches of the economy constitutes the very heart of socialist economy’. (The Soviet Economy in Danger, p. 265.)

The ultimate goal of right-wing revisionism in questions concerning the transition to socialism is to provide every possible ideological means to perpetuate the economic relations of capitalism and to undermine the process of socialisation of the relations of production. In doing so, right-wing revisionism creates eclectic forms, Trojan horses in political economy. The postulate about the need of proportionality proved a euphemistic attack against the party line to curtail the operation of the law of value in the socialist sector and capitalist exploitation in the Soviet economy. By appealing to an abstract concept of proportionality without, leaving its concretisation as a loose end in the economic thinking, naturally leads to the perpetuation of relations of production existing hitherto. Abstract formulations in general, and in political economy in particular, without a concretisation within the concrete-historical framework inevitably render hollow abstractions, double-edged swords in the hands of revisionism.

Certainly, Trotsky casts out his disguise of a left-wing revisionist by bluntly stating:

‘The innumerable living participants in the economy, state and private, collective and individual, must serve notice of their needs and of their relative strength not only through the statistical determinations of plan commissions but by the direct pressure of supply and demand. The plan is checked and, to a considerable degree, realized through the market.’ (The Soviet Economy in Danger, p. 275. Our emphasis.)

Here, Trotsky makes an open appeal to the implementation of market relations as the ‘judge’ of the correctness or effectiveness of the economic policies developed by the plan makers. In other words, in the transitional economy the market is the beginning and the end of the economic system, the medium in which the struggle between the planned and market principles evolves into higher forms of development. It is within the market and according to the rules of the market that the superiority of the socialisation of the means of production is supposed to be put to the test. At some point in time the capitalist and petty bourgeois forms of productions will collapse under the inevitable overwhelming economic pressure of the socialised sector, at the time when it is able to develop higher forms of labour productivity. Trotsky, as a vulgar right-wing economist, therefore stands against what had been usually referred to by them as extra-economic measures to suppress the market principle in the economy, advocating instead a gradualist approach to the resolution of the contradictions between the socialist and other economic forms.

Trotsky’s economic thought is plagued with metaphysics; the metaphysical division of the economic system of the transitional society into the planned system and the market system holds a prominent place in the economic works of Trotskyism. This anti-dialectical approach to the economic processes had been already exposed in the mid 1920s in the Soviet Union by the majority of the party, including Bukharin/Rykov. But despite these differences, the left-wing and right-wing opposition agreed on the main proposition: let the market be the regulator of the labour exchange not only between industry and the countryside, but within the economic subjects of the socialist sector.

The idealist, metaphysical and non-historic postulate of proportionality of the elements of production is at the basis of the right-wing theories of Trotsky/Bukharin and gives them a certain semblance of self-consistency. The market represents the realm where the law of value, which is the concretisation of the postulate of proportionality, regulates the flow of labour among economic subjects, whether socialised or not. Needless to say, Trotsky is not the first to concretise the postulate of proportionality, which he had recently embraced, nor he was the first to establish such a line of thought. The appeal to preserve the commodity-money relations in the form that existed during NEP clearly predates Trotsky’s assertions about the need for proportionality. While we have to give credit to Bogdanov/Bukharin for their pioneering work in the descending line of modern revisionism, Trotsky does not deserve such an honour, as his contribution does not go beyond popularising the vulgar political economy of right-wing revisionism.

Apart from the metaphysical as well as mechanical idiosyncrasy of Trotskyite thought, which does not deserve to be the main topic of the present discussion, it is useful to bring out quotations like the following:

‘In this connection three systems must be subjected to a brief analysis: (1) special state departments, that is, the hierarchical system of plan commissions, in the center and locally; (2) trade, as a system of market regulation; (3) Soviet democracy, as a system for the living regulation by the masses of the structure of the economy.(The Soviet Economy in Danger, p. 273. Our emphasis.)

Far from sticking to left-wing orthodoxy, Trotsky sounds more like a Yugoslav Titoite, more like a pro-Western market liberal than anything else.

Trotsky takes a right-wing stand with regard to the role of NEP in the transition to socialism. Despite earlier attacks on the party to strengthen and develop further the economic and political link between the working class and the peasantry, Trotsky turns into a fervent advocate of the early forms of the transition to socialism adopted by the party. Moreover, he accuses the latter of liquidating the union between the working class and the peasantry. As a vulgar ‘market-socialist’, Trotsky considers the NEP as an inevitable step due to the significant weight of petty private production in the countryside, regardless of the concrete-historical conditions of revolutionary Russia:

‘The need to introduce the NEP, to restore market relationships, was determined first of all by the existence of 25 million independent peasant proprietors. This does not mean, however, that collectivization even in its first stage leads to the liquidation of the market.’ (The Soviet Economy in Danger, p. 275.)

The need for a transition to market relations between industry and the peasantry holds absolute character. According to Trotsky, due to the backwardness of the Russian peasantry and the level of mechanisation of labour in the countryside, the only possible form of peasant production with other producers is inevitably commodity-money relations. Trotsky’s mechanical and metaphysical thinking does not conceive of the socialist state and the individual peasant engaging in other forms of exchange, as well. Trotsky views the process of collectivisation as a forced administrative measure to unnaturally suppress the commodity-money bond between the city and the countryside. It is only through the evolution of the market, that certain conditions are created that the peasant feels it is more profitable to produce as a member of a larger production unit rather than remaining an individual producer. Hence it is believed that collectivisation should be performed by the forces of the market, that the market will suppress itself in a natural way.

Trotsky’s inevitability of market relations as the dominating bond between production agents during the transition to socialism does not reduce only to the interrelations between industry and the peasantry, much to the contrary:

‘This policy [NEP, our note] is a necessary stage in the growth of state-owned industry. Between capitalism, under which the means of production are owned by private individuals and all economic relations are regulated by the market – I say, between capitalism and complete socialism, with its socially planned economy, there are a number of transitional stages; and the NEP is essentially one of these stages’ (L.D. Trotsky, ‘The First Five Years of the Communist International’, Volume 2, New Park Publications, London, 1953, pp. 233).

NEP involved far more than the realisation of peasant production in a free market and the establishment of economic ties between the countryside and industry based on supply-demand. Never mind the cohabitation of the socialist sector with state capitalism and petty capitalist exploitation in both the countryside and the city; NEP introduced broad pro-market reforms within the socialist sector based on commercial accounting. It is true, however, that the expansion of commodity-money relations was seriously curtailed in the socialist sector in the second half of the twenties, which Trotsky viewed as a bureaucratic-administrative attack on the principles upon which Lenin allegedly conceived the path to socialist construction. It is here, where Guevara rebels against right-wing revisionism by advocating the right of the socialist state to determine the character of the relations of production and to regulate the proportions of labour exchange between branches of the state sector according to the global needs of the socialist state rather than the profitability of individual enterprises.

Much against Guevara’s views, Trotsky during the very early stages of NEP, during the transition from ‘war communism’ advocated the de-centralisation of the state sector:

‘The policy of a centralized bureaucratic management of industry excluded the possibility of a genuine centralized management, of fully utilizing technical equipment along with the available labor force.’ (L.D. Trotsky, ‘The First Five Years of the Communist International’, Volume 2, New Park Publications, London, 1953, pp. 230.)

As a result of the efforts to de-centralise state industry in 1921, especially light industry, as advocated by Trotsky, negative effects were felt soon, such as:

‘…violation of plan discipline, separatism; some state officials tried to replace the state plan organisation – VSNKh – by some ‘social organization of industry’’ (P.I. Lyashchenko, History of the People’s Economy of the USSR, Moscow 1956, Volume III, p. 153. Translated from Russian.)

Guevara supported the correct view that economic calculation does not necessarily imply market relations as factors determining production in the state sector, that economic accounting is not necessarily tied to commodity-money relations, as advocated by the supporters of the Soviet-style model in Cuba. Trotsky takes sides with Soviet revisionism:

After the administrative suppression of the NEP, the celebrated ‘six conditions of Stalin’ – economic accounting, piecework wages, etc. – became transformed into an empty collection of words. Economic accounting is unthinkable without market relations.” (The Soviet Economy in Danger,p. 276. Our emphasis.)

The history of the political economy of socialism has exposed the intimate link between the postulate of proportionality in the exchange of labour among different branches of the economy and the mechanical transportation of market relations to socialism. Metaphysics and mechanicism, common to the economic thought of right-wing revisionism, are closely interrelated with vulgar and superficial understanding of economic categories, which impels the ideologists of right-wing revisionism to equate exchange to commodity exchange and economic equilibrium to the operation of the law of value. The vulgar economic thought advocated by Trotsky and the right-wing opposition does not conceive another form of economic exchange other than commodity-money relations. It is not conceivable that the socialist state could establish a different content in the economic ties among objects of the socialist economy, which may violate the rigid principle of profitability of the individual enterprise. The ability of the planning bodies to establish labour exchange among socialist enterprises, which violates that principle, is viewed as a deformation, as a disproportion. Right-wing revisionism is unable to grasp and appreciate the great power in the hands of socialist planning to establish certain proportions of labour exchange that fit the needs and growth perspectives of the socialist economy, regardless of the overall level of socialisation of economy. In this sense, right-wing economists conceive the plan as a corollary of subjective (aprioristic, according to Trotsky) measures to organise, rationalise the labour exchange among profit-making individual enterprises. Guevara wholeheartedly rejects such a vulgar view of the plan, by advocating the right of the socialist planning to establish a different character of economic relations among the state enterprises, which does not necessarily follow the principle of profitability of the individual enterprise as the leading criterion for economic effectiveness.

Guevara openly exposed the view advocated by Trotsky and the ideologists of modern revisionism that economic accounting ‘is unthinkable’ without commodity money relations. Much to the contrary, Che advocated strict accounting, based on centralised responsibility and accountability of the management of the socialist enterprise, as a key element of the budgetary finance system, which lies at the centre of this economic thought. In his economic system economic accounting in the socialist sector is dissociated from the essence carried by commodity-money relations. Even though Guevara does not seem to grasp the dialectical evolution of market categories in socialism, his thought contains the basic elements to arrive at this understanding. Guevara’s accepts the correct view that the price, despite being a category inherited from the market economy, may be used within the socialist sector for calculation purposes. Hence, he does not reject the use of the form of market categories, which brings him closer to the Marxist-Leninist understanding developed by Lenin-Stalin. On the other hand, it is not clear to us that Guevara understood the evolution of the principle of economic accounting, which was introduced in 1921, through the NEP all the way to the massive collectivisation and the consolidation of the economic basis of socialism in the 1930s, all the way to the publication of Stalin’s Economic Problems. An analysis of the category of economic accounting shows that a deep change in the content had taken place which, despite the fact that the term was in use in the 1930-50s, reflected a different type of management to which Guevara’s budgetary system bears strong resemblance.

According to Tablada and Borrego, Che Guevara paid special attention to the analysis of the causes which led to the abolition of the war economy and the establishment of NEP. This issue is covered on multiple occasions in their books and has been the topic of a great deal of speculation, including allegations that Guevara accused Lenin of going too far in the development of market relations during the early stages of the NEP. Regardless of speculations, Che makes a strong case out of Lenin’s statements, in which NEP is considered as a retreat in the practice of the revolutionary process like the peace of Brest-Litovsk. It is evident, despite the wealth of confusion fostered by Guevara’s bourgeois, Trotskyite and neo-Trotskyite biographers, that Guevara does not consider NEP as an inevitable step in the transition to socialism, as a general and universal statement, but rather, a product of the historical-concrete conditions of revolutionary Russia. After quoting Marx, Lenin and Stalin (this article was written in 1964, when anti-Stalinism was already solidly established in the Soviet Union and the former People’s Democracies in Eastern Europe, with the exception of Albania), Guevara concludes:

‘As we see, the retreat that Lenin mentioned was due to the economic and political situation of the Soviet Union. These policies may be characterised as a practice, which is closely linked to the historical situation of the country, and, therefore, they do not hold universal character.’ (Che Guevara, ‘Che y la Economia’, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, Habana, Cuba 1993, p. 74. Translated from Spanish.)

The argumentation in favour of NEP-type of economic reforms as an unavoidable step in the transition process between capitalism and socialism is a fundamental element of the economic theory of right-wing revisionism, including Trotskyism, which Guevara rejected altogether. A historical example, which refutes NEP as a compulsory stage for new revolutionary states, is served by the first steps adopted by the People’s Democracies in Eastern Europe between 1948 and 1953. The governments of the People’s Democracies set an economic course based on the priority of heavy industry over other sectors of the economy. The policies of what bourgeois ideologists called the Stalinist economic model resulted in a spectacular growth of the socialist industry, a conditio sine qua non for a massive process of socialisation of means of production both in the city and the countryside. Even a vicious anti-communist publicist, such as F. Fejto, a Hungarian-born journalist based for a long time in France, admits:

‘Between 1949 and 1953, the industrial production of the six Comecon countries rose by 114 per cent, and in certain countries, like Hungary, where the ambitious planners knew no limits the results had been even more spectacular. Heavy industrial production increased fivefold; the engineering industry was seven times more productive in 1953 than in 1938. (F. Fejto, A History of the People’s Democracies, Penguin Books, 1977, p. 362.)

Further, Fejto elaborates on the very interesting case of the transition to socialism in Hungary, especially the events that followed the abrupt change of ‘gears’ imposed by the Soviet leadership weeks after the death of Stalin. In 1949 Hungary’s party, led by Matyas Rakosi, one of the most fervent supporters of Stalin’s policies, launched a campaign of collectivisation, which, although far from finalised, was well underway towards 1953. With Stalin’s death a swift change in the character of the Soviet leadership took place. The new Soviet leadership, at first initiated most likely by Beria, imposed on the leaders of the fraternal parties in Eastern Europe a line of forcible de-Stalinisation. The revisionist leadership ordered Eastern European leaders to slow down the tempo of industrialisation and to basically liquidate the process of ‘forcible’ collectivisation. In a number of countries, peasants were allowed to desert the collective farms (‘de-collectivisation’) if they wished to; private exploitation of land together with the restoration of the artisan class and private business. It was argued that the ‘Stalinist’ economic reforms had gone too far, that allegedly broad masses of the peasantry and the working class in those countries were frustrated at seeing that the unquestionable economic growth did not result in meaningful enhancement of the standards of living of the population, including that of the working class. There is no question that the ideological and organisational chaos induced by the policies of forcible ‘de-Stalinisation’ encouraged anti-communist elements within the middle classes, petty bourgeoisie and workers aristocracy to demonstrate compulsively, while entire party organisations proved hopeless, in disarray.

The Hungarian leader, Matyas Rakosi, did his best to stand up against Soviet revisionism and its supporters in the country; he succeeded in remaining in office till July 1956, when he was basically forced into exile by the Soviet leadership. Following orders from the Soviet revisionist leadership, in July 1953 Rakosi was forced to give up the post of Prime Minister, which passed to Imre Nagy, who even in the words of Fejto:

‘…revived Bukharinist ideas that had gone underground in Stalin’s lifetime’ (F. Fejto, A History of the People’s Democracies, Penguin Books, 1977, p. 363).

Certainly, Nagy was a fervent advocate of NEP-style treatment of the economic contradictions between the socialist sector, the peasantry and other petty producers. Soon after he gains office in July 1953, he launches a set of ‘liberalising’ measures, which became known as the ‘New Course’. In his last work, written in 1955, he states:

‘In a socialist society, when determining the tempo of economic development and the ratio between the various economic branches, the proportion between production and consumption and between consumption and stockpiling must be in harmony with the requirements of the basic economic law of socialism, guaranteeing a gradual advance of society’ (I. Nagy, ‘On Communism’, Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, New York, 1957, p. 98).

Nagy advocated ad nauseam the need for harmonic balance between the resources spent on sector A and sector B of the economy. The well-known concept of certain harmonic proportions invented by Bogdanov/Bukharin and plagiarised by Trotsky comes out again and again, as the back door to the development of commodity-money relations both in the socialist and non-socialist sectors, as a regulator of production. It is interesting, that unlike Bukharin/Trotsky, he uses Stalin’s citations of the mid twenties to substantiate the need to have NEP-style relations in the transitional economic system. In fact, by ‘basic economic law of socialism’ Nagy implies the well-known formulation given by Stalin in Economic Problems. This, however, does not prevent Nagy from remaining a vulgar right-wing economist, which Guevara’s economic thought has nothing to do with.

According to Nagy, the only bond that the socialist sector and the private producer can have in the early stages of the transition from capitalism to socialism is the market. It is only through the market that the process of socialisation of production can prove its advantages over capitalist forms of management and production. Nagy is explicit:

‘‘The NEP policy must be carried out unconditionally, as it means the establishment of increasingly closer relations in the exchange of goods between the city and the village, between the socialist industry and the system of small holdings producing for the market, facilitating the switch to a socialist system of agricultural farms on a large scale.’ (I. Nagy, op. cit., p. 82. Our emphasis.)

Nagy on and on bitterly complains about the staggering disproportions and ‘distortions’ inflicted on the Hungarian economy by Rakosi’s ‘clique’, referring to the fast development of heavy industry with respect to light industry, and especially the countryside. Nagy’s attack on Rakosi’s ‘clique’ becomes even more acute when touching upon the treatment of individual peasants and the collectivisation. He initially refers to Rakosi’s ‘clique’ as adventurous, later on as open left-wing ‘fanatics’ and deviationists. Finally, while quoting Lenin and Stalin’s works in the 1920s, taking their writings out of context, Nagy establishes a parallel between Rakosi’s struggle to uphold the principles of Marxism-Leninism, regardless of whatever mistakes in its implementation, and the Trotskyite left-wing opposition in the Soviet Union in the 1920s by appealing to:

‘The resolutions of the Bolshevik Party in the Fifteenth Congress, which were forged in the battle against the extreme ‘left-wing’ Trotskyist opposition…’ (I. Nagy, op. cit., p. 82.)

It is not the first time that right-wing opportunism portrays the struggle for the basic principle of centralisation of means of production in the construction of socialism as a left-wing, Trotskyite deviation. These allegations of Trotskyism that were thrown at Guevara are to be understood in the historical context, which corresponds to the time when right-wing revisionism, led by the revisionist leadership of in the Soviet Union, disbanded the ‘Stalinist’ plans for the socialisation of the means of production in industry and the countryside. Modern revisionism turned the state sector in the People’s Democracies into an aggregation of independently producing enterprises, which engage in labour exchange with other enterprises and the state via commodity-money relations; in the countryside the process of collectivisation was halted and reversed, and in some countries farm cooperatives were turned into independently producing enterprises, following the model imposed by the revisionists in the Soviet Union. It is in this context, that Guevara’s fight against followers of the Soviet economic model in Cuba, despite his mechanical and idealist mistakes, renders a substantiated critique against right-wing revisionist theories for the construction of socialism.

Guevara’s plans for the industrialisation of the Caribbean island need to be understood within the historical-concrete situation corresponding to the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and the People’s Democracies in Eastern Europe. Despite elements of idealism and mechanicism, Guevara’s model of budgetary finance system and his refusal to implement commodity-money relations and the law of value as the regulator of proportions among state enterprises bears strong resemblances with the economic system existent in the Soviet Union during the 1930-50s. Hence, it was natural that Guevara’s plans for industrialisation faced fierce resistance by Soviet revisionism and its followers in the island. It is evident to us, that allegations of Trotskyism or left-wing deviationism thrown by right-wing revisionists are utterly unfounded. Nevertheless, more investigation is needed to throw light on Guevara’s ideological evolution in the 1950s and early 1960s and on how he came to propose the budgetary finance system, as the fundamental pillar for the industrialisation in Cuba.

Idealism and Mechanicism in Che’s Economic Thought

Despite the progressive character of Guevara’s economic thought, and its invaluable positive impact on the economic discussion held in Cuba during the first half of the 1960s, which represents a courageous and more or less consistent and substantiated struggle against modern revisionism, Che’s thinking needs to be considered critically. Notwithstanding the substantiated struggle against the right-wing theories of socialist construction, which makes Guevara’s works most relevant materials for the study of questions related to socialist transformation, he is plagued with serious mistakes. Guevara’s eclecticism is inherent to his thought in general, and cannot be neglected when evaluating Guevara’s role in the Cuban revolution and the theory of socialist transformation.

Guevara’s mistakes in political economy can be classified into two groups: idealism and mechanicism. Idealist mistakes were committed by Guevara when evaluating the role of consciousness in political economy. When we refer to mechanicism in Guevara’s economic thought we mainly imply his failure to grasp the dialectical evolution of economic categories involved in commodity-money relations during the transitional epoch. Needless to say, Guevara’s mistakes have been extensively used by the bourgeoisie and the representatives of revisionist tendencies, such as Trotskyism and neo-Trotskyism to mystify the revolutionary and rip his contribution to the political science and political economy from its Marxist logical core and divorce it from a number of Marxist-Leninist principles, which Guevara tried to uphold in a more or less consistent manner.

Guevara’s mistakes in political economy have been used inside and outside the island to consider Guevara’s contribution to the economic transformations in the early stages of the Cuban revolution in isolation from the principles of socialist transformation adopted by the People’s Democracies during the post-war period, so demonised by modern revisionism. Guevara’s thought is portrayed by many as a specific phenomenon of the Cuban revolution, thus completely ignoring its strong links with the so called ‘Stalinist’ economic theories and modus operandi during the transitional period. Although we do not wish to portray Guevara’s economic thought as a faithful concretisation of the principles of Marxism-Leninism in the conditions of revolutionary Cuba in the 1960s, we feel it would be a serious mistake not to evaluate Guevara’s thought within the concrete-historical epoch corresponding to systematic violation of the principles of Marxism-Leninism, which led to the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and the liquidation of socialist construction in Eastern Europe. While evaluating critically Guevara’s economic thought and identifying areas of inconsistency, we feel compelled to appreciate and value the positive and progressive that Che upheld under very difficult conditions of struggle against imperialism and revisionism.

Idealism is present throughout Guevara’s works all the way till his last published work, ‘Man and Socialism in Cuba’. It leads Guevara to proclaim consciousness and education as primary with respect to the study of relations of production in the transitional economy, including the construction of communism. Impressed by the early philosophical works of young Marx, Guevara states:

‘The word conscious is emphasized because Marx considered it basic in stating the problem. He thought about man’s liberation and saw communism as the solution to the contradictions that brought alienation – but as a conscious act. That is to say, communism cannot be seen merely as the result of class contradictions in a highly developed society, contradiction that would be resolved during a transitional stage before reaching the crest. Man is a conscious actor in history. Without this consciousness, which embraces its awareness as a social being, there can be no communism.’ (Che Guevara, in ‘On the budgetary finance system’, published in Man and Socialism in Cuba, Atheneum, New York, 1973, p. 124. Our emphasis.)

The role of consciousness and education is ubiquitously stressed by Guevara in his economic works as the leading factor in the transition to higher forms of economic organisation. In Guevara’s system political economy ceases to be an independent discipline, the objective character of the economic laws of the transitional society is secondary to the cultural formation of the new man. The economic laws of socialism, like those of capitalism, exist and evolve with the development of the forces of production and the historical conditions at times independently from the level of consciousness of the masses. In fact, in certain historical situations, the masses as a whole remain unaware of the economic essence of both revolution and counter-revolution.

The role of consciousness and education undoubtedly play a fundamental role in the construction of the new society. However, political economy remains an independent discipline and the study of the objective laws that govern it remains a titanic effort. Only scientific analysis and synthesis of the relations of production can make possible the sustained economic development necessary for the construction of the socialist and communist societies. As opposed to capitalism, during the course of the transition to socialism, objective and subjective conditions are given for the masses to participate consciously in the construction and scientific analysis and synthesis of the socialist construction. It is clear that the more conscious and active participation of the working class in the socialist construction, the more solid are the foundations of the socialist formation. It is clear too, that the more conscious the working class is about the essence of the economic transformation, the more robust is the economic development and the less influential are the forces of counter-revolution.

Economic development under socialism and the development of consciousness and socialist culture – two phenomena which go hand in hand. Generalisation on the basis of the history of the Soviet Union indicates that consciousness and socialist culture require a material basis, without which further economic development and further development of consciousness. However, according to Guevara consciousness and socialist education are supposed to be the primary engines of economic development in socialism:

‘The hopes in our system [budgetary finance system – our note] point to the future, towards a more rapid development of consciousness, and through consciousness, to the development of the productive forces’. (Che Guevara, op. cit. in ‘Socialist plan: its meaning’, p. 147. Translated from Spanish.)

In Guevara’s system, socialist economic development is not really the engine of consciousness, but the other way around, consciousness is the source of socialist economic development. Guevara’s idealism turns voluntarist. In this respect, Che’s idealism may be compared to Mao’s idealist views in political economy, despite the fact that Guevara displays a significantly more progressive stand with respect to commodity-money relations than the latter. Mao, in his critique of Stalin’s Economic Problems, bitterly complains about the fact that the latter does not include the study of the superstructure in the analysis of the socialist economy:

Stalin’s book from first to last says nothing about the superstructure. It is not concerned with people; it considers things not people…

They speak only of the production relations, not the superstructure nor politics, nor the role of the people. Communism cannot be reached unless there is a communist movement’. (Mao Tsetung, A Critique of Soviet Economics, Monthly Review Press, New York and London, 1977, pp. 135-136.)

Guevara supports the wrong idealistic view that commodity-money relations per se and in general are a manifestation of the alienation of the human being in the process of production. Guevara interprets mechanistically and metaphysically the role and place of economic forms inherited from capitalism in the socialist economy:

‘The alienated human individual is bound to society as a whole by an invisible umbilical cord: the law of value. It acts upon all facets of his life, shaping his road and his destiny. (Che Guevara in ‘Man and Socialism in Cuba’, Atheneum, New York, 1973, p. 340.)

One of the major and profound mistakes displayed by Guevara’s economic thought, a mistake common to many others who have genuinely claimed allegiance to Marxism-Leninism, is his failing to grasp Lenin’s and Stalin’s teachings with regards to the dying off of economic categories inherited from capitalism. These teachings may be succinctly expressed in Stalin’s well-known assertion in Economic Problems. In his answer to A. Notkin, Stalin stresses:

‘The fact of the matter is that in our socialist conditions economic development proceeds not by way of upheavals, but by way of gradual changes, the old not simply being abolished out of hand, but changing its nature in adaptation to the new, and retaining only its form; while the new does not simply destroy the old, but infiltrates into it, changes its nature and its functions, without smashing its form, but utilizing it for the development of the new. This, in our economic circulation, is true not only of commodities, but also of money, as well as of banks, which, while they lose their old functions and acquire new ones, preserve their old form, which is utilized by the socialist system.’ (J.V. Stalin ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR’, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1952, p. 59.)

Guevara commits the colossal mistake, which has been more or less successfully exploited by neo-Trotskyism and other bourgeois ideologies, of mechanically and metaphysically extrapolating the character of the economic categories implemented during the NEP to later stages of the socialist construction in the Soviet Union. Guevara, de facto blames the adoption of such economic forms as economic accounting, profit, credit, etc. implemented in the 1920s for the right-wing deviationist economic theories that he was fighting in the 1960s, without appreciating the profound changes that operated in the content of those categories during the 1930-50s:

In the Soviet Union, the first country to build socialism, and those who followed its example, determined to develop a planning process that could measure broad economic results by financial means. Relations among enterprises were left in a state of more or less free play. This is the origin of what is now called economic calculus (a poor translation of the Russian term, that might better be expressed as auto-financing, or, more precisely, financial self-management).

Roughly speaking, then, financial self-management is based on establishing broad financial control over the enterprise activities, banks being the principal agencies of control. Suitably designed and regimented material incentives are used to promote independent initiative toward maximum utilization of productive capacity, which translates into greater benefits for the individual worker or the factory collective. Under this system, loans granted to socialist enterprises are repaid with interests in order to accelerate product turnover’. (Che Guevara, in ‘On Production Costs and the Budgetary System’, published in Man and Socialism in Cuba, Atheneum, New York, 1973, p. 114.)

It is clear that, the transition to socialism in the Soviet Union, which followed the implementation of market-type economic relations in most of the economy, had to carry within itself certain economic forms, which are inevitably inherited from capitalism. However, Guevara apparently fails to grasp the fact that the concept of economic accounting evolved dramatically over the years, as the character of the economic relations evolved. The concept of economic accounting never disappeared from the Soviet economic literature; however, its content evolved in time in order to accommodate the planned principle of the economy on the basis of socialised property and the liquidation of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois forms of production. The economic accounting of the more or less disseminated production subjects confined to the Soviet artels in the 1920s bears little resemblance with the economic accounting of highly concentrated Soviet industry in the 1930-50s. The character of the labour exchange among the different production subjects during the 1930-50s bear close resemblance to that of the budgetary finance system advocated by Guevara in the 1960s.

It is not clear to us, to what extent Guevara is able to appreciate the qualitative changes that operated in the interpretation of the content of economic categories over the history of the political economy of the Soviet Union. It is unclear whether Guevara sees the preservation in the Soviet Union of economic forms such us, economic accounting, profit, credit, banks, etc… as a sign of economic backwardness, or rather as a sign of the concrete historical conditions under which the transition to socialism took place in the Soviet Union. For instance, Guevara advocated the liquidation of the concept of credit in socialism, even though the form of credit was never liquidated in the Soviet Union:

‘In our system [the budgetary system – our note.] the Bank supplies a certain amount of resources to the enterprises according to the budget; here the interest rate is not present’. (Che Guevara, op. cit. in ‘Considerations on Expenses’, pp. 45-46. Translated from Spanish.)

The same applies to the economic category of profit, which was never liquidated in the Soviet Union but was categorically denied by Guevara within the context of the budgetary finance system in Cuba. Guevara seems to understand mechanically the economic relation of the State with socialised production subjects:

‘…because the State Enterprise in the conditions of Cuba, is just a centre for production. It has a budget, a budget for production; it should meet the goals of production and deliver its product to the Ministry of Domestic Commerce, or to other state industries. Thus, the enterprise does not have profit, does not have money; all the profit, all the difference between what was sold and the cost belongs to the Cuban state. The enterprise is reduced to production.’ (Che Guevara, Conference ‘Economy and Plan’ of the People’s University, 1961. Translated from Spanish.)

As a matter of fact, the history of the political economy of the Soviet Union has demonstrated that the principle of socialist planning on the basis of socialised forms of production does not contradict the implementation of such economic forms as profit, as long as the latter do not express the relationship between independent producers, but on the contrary is used as one of the indexes of economic effectiveness, etc… To state that profit is not the leading economic criterion in socialist industry is generally speaking correct. However to interpret the sole presence of the concept of profit, regardless of its relative weight in the definition of economic effectiveness, as a sign of economic backwardness is strictly speaking incorrect.

In his article ‘Bank, Credit and Socialism’ Guevara brilliantly exposes the vulgar and fetishist economic views of those in Cuba who did not understand the need to re-define the role of banks in a socialist economy and that the economic functions of the banks in capitalism cannot be mechanically transported to socialism. His conclusions are generally speaking correct, correct in the sense of abstract formulations. So are his conclusions with regard to commodity-money relations and the role of the law of value in the transitional economy. However, they are correct in the abstract and may turn dangerous if applied mechanically to concrete-historical conditions.

Unfortunately, the evaluation of Guevara’s economic thought is confusing and inconclusive since the budgetary finance system is conceived as a result of the struggle with right-wing economic theories, which absolutise the role of commodity-money relations. The budgetary finance system is without a doubt a reaction against right-wing economic theories and needs to be appreciated as such. Further investigations, possibly on the basis of archival materials, will hopefully throw valuable light on the role of mechanicism and metaphysics in Guevara’s economic thought.

Source

Communist Party of Labor (PCT): The theory of the revolution and how it is expressed in the Dominican Republic

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From Unity & Struggle No. 25, Spring/Summer 2013

Dominican Republic

The proletarian revolution is the result of the conscious action of the workers and peoples, and can only succeed if the revolutionary theory and practice are combined. The greatness of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels was that they provided the oppressed with a theory to transform the bourgeois capitalist world and to free themselves.

Marx and Engels wrote the Manifesto of 1848 as a program of action of the Communist League. This document and other works of the great teachers formed the theory of revolution in the conditions of that epoch. According to the revolutionary postulates of that time, the revolution would take place simultaneously in the countries where capitalism was most developed, with the greatest industrial growth, where the proletariat was the largest, culturally most advanced and with the highest level of organization.

The creators of our doctrine devoted special attention to the formation of social-democratic labor parties in such countries and with them as affiliates, in 1864 the International Workers Association, that is, the First International, was formed, which existed for twelve years.

The conclusions of the fathers of Marxism could go no further and were those that corresponded to the reality of that historic moment. They had put in first place the contradictions between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, but the capitalist system was still on the rise, it was in the stage of free competition, some European countries had just achieved national unity and imperialism had not yet emerged.

For its part, the workers’ movement was taking its first steps as an independent force, because it was fighting together with the peasants against the nobility, but under the political leadership of the bourgeois that was a rising class. In those days it was said that the proletariat was fighting against the enemies of its enemies. Moreover, the national and democratic movement of the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America was scarcely taken into consideration and the revolution was considered mainly confined to Europe and North America. Marx and Engels’s theory was of the revolution that corresponded to the realities of their time, to the stage of pre-monopoly capitalism and free competition.

Later conditions changed. Since the last quarter of the 19th century, the forces of capitalism grew to levels previously unknown, monopolies emerged, the size and power of finance capital increased, the export of capital to the broadest areas of the globe began, and the world was definitely bound by the chain of the global economy. It was what might be called the economic globalization of that epoch.

Between the publication of the Manifesto and the emergence of imperialism a whole period of colossal struggles went by, including the rich experience of the Paris Commune in 1871. It was an epoch of advances and retreats, stumbles and falls, confusion and betrayal, with the aggravating factor that, from that very movement sectors had emerged that renounced the most valuable foundations of Marxism.

As has happened in our time, given the impressive growth of the forces of capitalism, the same defeatist voices as ever made their appearance, claiming that the system had become invincible, that the revolution had no purpose and was only an aspiration of dreamers and social malcontents.

In 1889, after the death of Marx and under the guidance of Engels, the Second International was formed. That International accommodated itself to the conditions of peaceful development of capitalism, while Engels was still alive and opposed to this; it threw the principles overboard and later, when World War I broke out in 1914, its leaders supported the bourgeoisies of their respective countries and caused enormous damage to the movement. Lenin proclaimed the bankruptcy of that international. In 1919, with Soviet power already established, he led the resurgence of the international unity of the communist movement, and the Third or Communist International was formed, which remained active until 1943.

Let us point out some similarities that can serve as historical references. At that time a bloc of parties, an entire international degenerated and succumbed; something similar to what happened in our time with the degeneration of the former socialist bloc. But the difference is that, instead of a bloc of parties, now a bloc of countries where the working class had established its power fell into the abyss. In passing another similarity should be noted. Just as it was the party of Lenin’s homeland which led to the abandonment of principles in the middle and late 20th century, in the earlier epoch it was the Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Germany, the birthplace of Karl Marx, that led the betrayal and from whose ranks emerged the worst renegades, such as Bernstein and Karl Kautsky, who proclaimed that the Marxist doctrine was obsolete and went on to revise it to adapt it to the interests of the bourgeoisie.

The revolution seemed buried forever in the abyss of obscurity and uncertainty, until Lenin emerged who started from a faction formed in 1903, the Bolsheviks, in the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party; he rescued the doctrine of Marx and waged a successful battle of everlasting value against its distorters.

It is up to us communists of today to create another similarity between that period and the present, and to make the movement recover, revitalize itself and reach new heights, as Lenin, Stalin and their followers did in their time in the various parts of the world.

With the militant stance that he assumed against the opportunists and traitors, Lenin swept away the rubbish of the old parties and revisionist leaders, analyzed the new reality of the world, denounced imperialism, exposed the brutal nature of that system and proclaimed the necessity and possibility of defeating it by the revolution of the workers, nations and peoples. Based on Marx’s teachings, Lenin developed the Theory of the Revolution under new conditions, in the era of imperialism. Since then, under the name of Marxism-Leninism, Lenin’s name was inextricably linked with that of Karl Marx.

According to the Leninist theory of the revolution, now it is not a matter of the revolution breaking out just in the developed capitalist countries simultaneously. Instead, the revolution has become a universal phenomenon, and to bring it to victory one must strike at the weakest link in the chain of imperialist domination, whether or not it is in a highly developed country. Just as Lenin did in the old Russia in 1917, which was the most backward capitalist country in all Europe.

For the revolution to succeed, the Leninist doctrine also maintains that a revolutionary situation must be created. The crisis of power of the ruling classes and, at the same time, the willingness of the masses to launch the assault for political power, that is, that those above cannot continue to rule as before and those below no longer wish to live as before. Together with these and other conditions that are the objective factor of the revolution, for the crisis to end in a successful revolution, it is essential to include the subjective factor, the revolutionary consciousness, organization and political leadership that should position itself at the vanguard of the process. In clearest terms, one must have the clear and correct leadership of the communist party, whose features and characteristics were defined by Lenin himself.

In the same way, in the Leninist theory of the revolution, to determine the character of the revolution is very important. In this respect, the Teacher wrote works of great theoretical value on this question, such as Two Tactics of Social Democracy, The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky and other of an equally scientific character.

It is worth repeating that the strategic objective to which Lenin and the Bolsheviks were aiming was always socialism, but it was after the victory of the democratic revolution of February 1917 against the Czar, when he declared the change in character of the revolution and he proclaimed socialism as the next step. Before, and despite all the accusations that were made against them, he maintained with the full strength of his arguments that this was a revolution of a democratic character and not directly socialist.

This was vital to the success and further development of the movement. From this were derived, among other essential things, the policy of allies, the central and secondary tasks and the nature of the provisional government that the Bolsheviks were setting as the immediate goal.

Lenin had the merit of supporting the validity of the theory of the revolution that he elaborated with facts. At the head of his party he led it to victory in his country, and after the Great October Revolution, the world revolutionary movement entered a new phase. It had three main components: 1. The struggle for socialist construction in the country of the Soviets; 2. The workers’ movement in the capitalist countries, and 3. The democratic and national liberation movement in the countries and nations oppressed by the imperialists.

The Leninist theory of revolution served as general orientation to the communist and workers’ parties for the development of their struggle, and our Communist Party of Labor has followed that general guide since the moment of its foundation.

When it emerged 32 years ago, our party proclaimed its adherence to the Leninist conceptions. It had a generally correct view. It knew its enemies, knew the general course to follow and knew clearly the supreme goals for which it fought. But it suffered from certain deficiencies in its general line and this resulted in a heavy degree of schematism and rigidity in some aspects of its tactics. This problem dragged on for some time, even after the First Congress and the abstentionism, the lack of flexibility in relations with certain political forces, as well as the vision with which the Revolutionary Popular Front was conceived that the party encouraged, are examples of those faults.

Looking back to the past, maybe it was impossible to avoid these defects in line, given the difficult conditions and the hostile environment surrounding the emergence of the party, which entered onto the scene as a new force, which defended its right to exist in a real environment of siege, fighting blow for blow to win spaces that its opponents denied it. Yet this was not to excuse our faults in the hostile environment around us, but to overcome them and better define the general line of the party.

At first we had a major deficiency in not having defined the character of the Dominican revolution in this epoch. Some of these positions came from that lack of clarity, but to solve this theoretical problem was not easy. The other left-wing parties and groups had dealt with this by the expedient method of  copying formulas and schemes of other parties. The pro-Chinese with their slogan of New Democratic Revolution, as Mao Tse-tung had raised in his country in the 1940s. Almost all the others raised the rigid and strict slogan that the Dominican revolution had no choice but to move directly to socialism. The latter theory had spread like an ideological plague and it was against this that the PCT had to fight its fiercest theoretical and conceptual battle.

The PCT categorically separated itself from a mechanical copy of the pro-Chinese concepts and the semi-anarchist concept of immediate socialism. It took seriously into account the Leninist principles of the democratic revolution and its uninterrupted progression to socialism. It thoroughly studied the experiences of the national liberation movements in other countries and especially subjected the historical process and the concrete reality of our own country to study.

As a summary of its reflections it published a document entitled The Character of the Dominican Revolution, published as a draft in October 1982 and made official as the general line and programmatic basis and approved as a textbook for the theoretical training of party members three years later at our first congress in 1985.

Anyway, the challenge is today. The party has reiterated with renewed emphasis its policy of a Broad Front, but always being clear that the outcome of any revolutionary process always depends on the role that its vanguard plays; for us, the communist party. But it should be made clear once again that a party is not the vanguard merely by proclaiming it or by considering itself predestined to be such. The recognition of the role of vanguard is not imposed, it is won based on political intelligence and clarity and tenacious and consistent work.

The Broad Front is a matter of advanced politics and cannot succeed if one does not have a clear awareness of the problem. It is much more comprehensive than a coalition or a left front. From the theoretical point of view, by its technical definition, the Broad Front is the organ of political collaboration of the communists with other forces of various natures and identities. They have different interests and ultimate goals in many cases, but important points of agreement in which we must support each other in order to advance together for them. Here there is no room for narrowness or sectarianism. We must study the matter thoroughly and consciously master it as a science.

One must give historical meaning to our present struggles. The Broad Front should give continuity to the national movement that comes from the times of the First Republic, taking its precedents as a reference and a school from which to learn to fight and carry out what the patriots of the past could not bring to a successful conclusion, due to circumstances that should also be studied.

That is not just any task. Today’s task is greater than at any other time in our past history of national struggles. In previous episodes as glorious as the War of Restoration, for example, that ended in military victory in 1865, national liberation was won. But it was not possible for that great fight to lead to a sovereign and democratic state, because national liberation was not accompanied by economic changes and social emancipation.

That glorious war achieved its national political objectives, to the immortal glory of its protagonists, but after the victory the economic and social bases, the large estate and ranch owners, the old reactionary oligarchy, the political and military warlordism based on them, remained little changed, and because of that, neither a sovereign Republic nor a democratic state nor substantial economic changes could be achieved. Even worse, the annexationist current, which had seemed to die with the defeat of the Spanish colonial forces, maintained its roots and continued to live. Then, just two years after the end of the Spanish occupation, it was necessary to wage a new, longer war, the Six Years War, from 1868 to 1874, against the traitor Buenaventura Baez and the threat of a new annexation, this time by our worst enemy, U.S. imperialism.

As one can see, ours is a formidable task. To achieve national liberation, political emancipation, economic and material progress and social salvation, all in a single process that can only be the fruit of consciousness and work by us and the entire people.

Source

Today in History: People’s Republic of China seated at United Nations Security Council

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Taken from the FRSO Facebook page on November 23

Today in history: November 23, 1971 – People’s Republic of China is seated at the United Nations Security Council for the first time. After the communist-led Chinese revolution of 1949, the reactionary former ruling class who fled the country and set up the “Republic of China” in Taiwan held China’s seat in the UN while the People’s Republic of China — the actual government of China — was shunned. After a long diplomatic struggle, the People’s Republic of China was admitted to the UN in General Assembly Resolution 2758 passed on October 25, 1971, which also expelled the delegates of the “Republic of China”. (picture: People’s Republic of China representatives react to the vote that admitted the PRC into the UN, Oct. 25, 1971)

The Beijing Olympics and the Question of Tibet

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In the run-up to the Olympic Games which are to be held in the Beijing, US imperialism is conducting a campaign of disinformation against the nationalities policies in Tibet using the remnants of feudalism such as the Dalai Lama as their instrument, alongside the normal imperialist accredited newspapers, ‘human rights institutions’ and Hollywood film personalities. It is a familiar game which was last played out in the Reagan years when the US carried out a similar political exercise against its imperialist rival before the Moscow Olympics and which peaked with the US boycott of the games. The US campaign today needs to be seen for what it is: an attempt to politically undermine the Chinese state in its ‘own’ backyard and to accelerate further the half-century long path of ‘market socialist’ development in China and to push for the casting-off of the shell of the people’s democratic state. It is also part of the US endeavour to militarily encircle from land and sea a country which it sees as a dangerous imperialist rival. Within China agency reports speak of an upsurge of Han chauvinism which is a reflex of the disturbances in Tibet and the recent round of the denigration of China by the US. The promotion of internecine strife of the nationalities and religions is an integral part of the politics of US imperialism across the globe.

No amount of US propaganda from the universities and newspapers can wipe away the fact that after the revolution of 1949 the Chinese people assisted in the democratic transformation of Tibetan society. The People’s Republic of China helped to abolish feudalism, it introduced land reform, abolished slavery, emancipated the serfs, ended the Buddhist lama theocratic despotism and carried out the economic transformation of Tibetan society bringing it out of medieval tyranny and darkness into the light of the twentieth century, introducing the benefits of industrial society and democratic transformation, of state and co-operative economic institutions; food, shelter, and clothing; literacy, education, and social security amongst the Tibetan masses. It is a supreme irony that the United States which oppresses the Afro-American and Puerto Rican nations within its state frontiers, exploits the colonial, semi-colonial and dependent countries around the planet, and has a destructive policy towards democracy and secularism should point its finger at China. Democratic opinion must understand these policies for what they are.

The early years of the revolutionary movement in China saw the Communist Party pursue an exemplary approach and programme with regard to the national question. Mao Zedong in his capacity as President of the Central Executive Committee of the Chinese Soviet Republic in 1931 and in his speech at the Second Soviet Congress in 1934 in blunt terms denounced the national oppression under the rule of the Chinese militarists and the landlords as well as the oppression by the ruling classes of princes, living Buddhas and lamas of the smaller nationalities and their surrender to imperialist colonisation. He well understood the exigency of uniting the oppressed nationalities such as the Mongolians, Tibetans, Koreans, Annamites, the Miao and many others around the Soviets in China in order to strengthen the revolution against imperialism and the Kuomintang. [1] Mao commended the Constitution passed by the First Soviet Congress held in 1931 in Juichin, Kiangsi, which in its 14th article said that ‘Soviet China recognises the complete self-determination of the minorities who may go so far as to secede and form independent free states.’ (Emphasis in the original.) The Soviet Chinese Constitution of 1931 argued that the ‘free union of nationalities will replace national oppression’. This implied the creation of a federal ‘Union of Soviet Republics’ along the lines of the Soviet Union, a democratic state structure which was based upon the views of Marx in relation to the Irish question.

Such an approach was maintained up to the founding of the People’s Republic of China. A tremendous social, economic and political revolutionary transformation took place in the minority national territories after 1949. But in terms of the resolution of the national question it cannot be said that a full democratic solution was accomplished. The contiguous areas of the Tibetan-speaking peoples were not administratively united after liberation while in Inner Mongolia the Mongolian people were administratively separated. The Communist Party of China and the People’s Democratic state shrank from the promised construction of a free union of nationalities in which the right of national-determination would be recognised up to the point of secession. By this method the nationalities of Mongolia, Tibet, Sinkiang and elsewhere were subordinated to the majority Han Chinese, and the latter now became a constitutionally privileged nation which could direct the destinies of the nationalities which inhabited the vast areas of the People’s Republic of China. The nationalities of Mongolia, Tibet and Sinkiang as elsewhere which formed the numerical majority in their ancient national territories were now designated as ‘national minorities’. This broad picture became apparent in the Constitution of 1954 and it was to be reproduced in the subsequent Fundamental Laws which were promulgated by the Chinese state. The unity and integrity of the territories of the Chinese state and not the free union of the nationalities based on the right of self-determination of the peoples became the basic fundamental constitutional principle. In this manner the CPC’s political approach to the national question having moved away from Marxism now came to approximate to the views of Sun-Yat-sen and the Kuomintang.

The camp of socialism and democracy which spanned a dozen states witnessed a fundamental break in its economic policies in the years between 1954 to 1958 which became typified by the ascendant role of ‘market socialism’ in the Soviet Union, People’s China and the majority of the people’s democracies. These years also saw corresponding theoretical, political and ideological transformations in which the treatment of the national question was an important component part. This gave way to interesting paradoxes. The Soviet Union in its Fundamental Law in form right through to its self-destruction in 1991 maintained the basics of the Leninist-Stalinist principles on the national question. But the communist parties aligned to the CPSU quickly abandoned the Marxist approach to the national question after 1953, particularly the democratic principle of national self-determination. The CPUSA for example repudiated the application of this principle with reference to the Afro-American nation which had been elaborated by Lenin, Stalin and the Comintern. On our own doorstep the CPI in the mid-nineteen-fifties dispensed with the understanding that India was a multi-national state in which the right to secession had to be accorded as the basis of a voluntary union of people’s democratic republics and after some moments of hesitation after its foundation the CPI (M) also essentially fell in line with what it termed the Soviet revisionist ideology of the CPI. Step by step the CPI and the CPI (M) effected an harmonious rapprochement with the ‘nationalist’ doctrines of the Congress Party. These corresponded to the economic requirements of the big bourgeoisie and its multi-national market in India which had been put together by Sardar Patel by the arm-twisting of the feudal princely states and appropriate ‘non-violent’ ‘police actions’.

The Communist Party of China as already noted had broken with the Marxist approach to the national question after liberation. But the revolutionary communist parties and organisations which were formed in the 1960s and which were aligned with Beijing and Tirana in the main have upheld Leninist-Stalinist principles on the right of nations to self-determination. The CPI (ML) tradition right from its inception returned to the earlier pre-revisionist understanding of the CPI and accepted the right of secession particularly with reference to Kashmir and the nationalities in the north-east region of the Indian state which having been fighting for their national emancipation.

Paradoxes apart, a widespread intermeshing and intermingling of the opportunist ideological currents has emerged on the nationality question to justify the abandonment of the Marxist views. It is inferred from the active role of US and German imperialism in the destruction of the Soviet and Yugoslav Federations in the 1990s that the right of national self-determination and secession facilitates the work of imperialism and so has to be discarded. Secessionism it is said has become a preferred tool of US imperialism. And there can be no doubt that despite the restoration of capitalism in the USSR by the late 1950s and the liquidation of the people’s democracy in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia at the end of the 1940s, the preservation of the federal structures in these states was formally progressive, and it is clear that they constituted important barriers to the penetration of the leading world imperialist powers such as the US and Germany. The ‘new’ arguments against the recognition of the democratic right of national self-determination in the contemporary period are only a reiteration of the policies of the international communist movement of the Khrushchev period and, going further back still, the notions of right-wing social-democracy in the earlier part of the 20th century. The Bolsheviks, who also fought against imperialism when Soviet Russia had to fight the multitude of foreign armies on Soviet soil who were allied to the white army in the time of the civil war, upheld the principle of the union of nations based on the right to self-determination. It was on this basis that the free federation of nations was constructed in Soviet Russia and later the Soviet Union. The Bolsheviks clearly established that the struggle for socialism in multi-national countries was inextricably linked with the recognition of the right of the peoples to self-determination: one of the expressions of the right to decide one’s future was the formation of a federative republic.

The recent statement by the CPI (M) leader Prakash Karat on Tibet expresses in a succinct manner the ideological framework of contemporary right-wing social-democracy on the national question. Karat entirely omitted any allusion to Marxism or democracy while criticising the views of the Hindu fascist BJP which had chimed in with the US anti-China campaign on the Lhasa disturbances. Karat, basing his arguments on ‘nationalist’ logic, reminded the BJP that by raising the question of an independent Tibet they were ‘doing a disservice to our own country’ for this would raise secessionist demands in India: ‘Are we going to support a free Nagaland? Or a free Jammu and Kashmir? Or those other secessionist demands?’ So there you have it: the democratic right to national self-determination may not be recognised within the multi-national Chinese state as the mention of this right can threaten the frontiers of the existing multi-national Indian state. This position Karat tells us must apply around the world in Europe (Chechnya, Kosovo), China or any Asian country as it negatively impinges on the sovereignty of nations in the ‘name of human rights’ and ‘ethnic minorities’. [2] It is interesting to note how Karat merges the notion of the ‘state sovereignty’ of multi-national states with the idea of the ‘national sovereignty’ of nation-states, denying in this manner in real terms the notion of ‘national sovereignty’ for those nations who choose to opt for the construction of nation-states. Taken to its logical conclusion this stand implies that any national struggle against imperialist rule cannot be supported as this affects the ‘national sovereignty’ of the imperial power. The CPI (M) sees itself as the guardian of the state frontiers of India and for its defence it is willing to sacrifice the last Meitei, Naga and Kashmiri. It was Stalin who stated that those who do not recognise the right of peoples to free self-determination cannot be regarded as democrats let alone be considered as socialists. [3] It is on the basis of this understanding that the views of the CPI (M) on the national question must be judged.

The current attacks of US imperialism and its supporters on the Tibet policy of the People’s Republic of China must be opposed while defending the basic democratic principle of national self-determination. The struggle against US imperialism must not be utilised to propagate or justify views alien to Marxism on the national question.

Footnotes:

1. Report of the President of the Central Executive Committee of the Chinese Soviet Republic, Before the Second National Soviet Congress, Mao-Tse-Tung, January, 1934, in: Victor A. Yakhontoff: ‘The Chinese Soviets,’ New York, 1934, pp. 249-283.

2. ‘Free Tibet? Karat utters the K-word’, The Telegraph, Kolkata, April 1, 2008.

3. J. Stalin, Works, Vol. 4, FLPH, Moscow, p. 3.

From Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. XIV, No. 1, April 2008

Trotskyism Revisited

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I. Trotsky and the FBI 

Red Youth

An article appeared in The Independent on the 25/11/1993 which gave details of a friend of Leon Trotsky’s living in Mexico, Diego Rivera, who provided information to the FBI on anyone that he suspected of being GPU (Soviet intelligence) agents. His allegations were directed against anyone working in such organisations as the Mexican Communist Party (PCM) to Mexican trade unions. This in itself is interesting because, officially Rivera and Trotsky broke personal relations on May 31, 1940. Trotsky wrote in a letter to the chief of the Federal District in Mexico, ‘I have nothing in common with the political activities of Diego Rivera. We broke our personal relations fifteen months ago.’ (US National State archives; Trotsky Archive.)

But many people were mutual friends of the two, both of them worked in the same organisations such as the American Committee for the Defence of Leon Trotsky (ACDLT). Charles Curtiss was such a friend who sent Trotsky several reports of his meetings with Rivera:‘During my visit in Mexico, from July 4, 1938 to approximately July 15, 1939, I was in close association with Diego Rivera and Leon Trotsky…. I served as an intermediary between them,’ (Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1939-40)

Trotsky of course knew of this, thus helping Rivera in supplying information to the FBI.

To return to the article in The independent, a Professor William Chase of the University of Pittsburgh was quoted at the end stating that he has ‘concrete information’ to prove that Trotsky was an FBI informant. Red Youth has subsequently obtained this information (the source relevant to this particular revelation is US State archives – RG 84 or from Prof. Chase himself. Any other evidence will be referred to after the quotation).

According to the Professor, the information Trotsky provided to the FBI was a means to obtain a US visa. But as the Professor points out, ‘By providing the US Consulate with information about common enemies, be they Mexican or American communists or Soviet agents, Trotsky hoped to prove his value to a government that had no desire to grant him a visa.

Trotsky’s hysterical allegations were directed against anyone who might share sympathies with the USSR under Stalin. In America the ACDLT campaigned for the asylum of Trotsky in the US. At the time of the World Congress Against War and Fascism and the Latin American Labour Congress, Trotsky asked his supporters to ‘mail as soon as possible known names of congress delegates who are GPU agents’. Prof. Chase admits himself the ridiculous nature of these allegations which leads one to think of the number of honest proletarian and democratic persons whose names who were supplied to the FBI, ‘Trotsky’s accusations that liberals and radicals who did not share his views on certain issues were Stalinists or GPU agents further diminished his support in the US.’

But there is more. With this array of high-flown allegations Trotsky accepted an invitation to appear in front of the ‘Dies Committee’. This is otherwise known as the US Congress House Un-American Activities Committee. It was linked to overtly fascist figures, conducted anti-democratic witch-hunts and played a leading role in passing many anti-labour laws. Such was the anti-fascist and proletarian stance of Trotsky (fortunately, Trotsky never appeared on this committee because he never got a visa, but as we shall see he passed on information to the US government by other means). Now we come to the central point of this Red Youth exclusive: Trotsky’s courtship of the FBI:

‘In June [1940], Robert McGregor of the [US] Consulate met with Trotsky in his home… he met again with Trotsky on 13 July… Trotsky told McGregor in detail of the allegations and evidence he had compiled… He gave to McGregor the names of Mexican publications, political and labour leaders, and government officials allegedly associated with the PCM [Mexico and the USSR were the only countries in the world to materially support the fight against Franco’s Fascism in the Spanish Civil War 1936-39]. He charged that one of the Comintern’s [the Communist international’s] leading agents, Carlos Contreras served on the PCM Directing Committee. He also discussed the alleged efforts of Narciso Bassols, former Mexican Ambassador to France, whom Trotsky claimed was a Soviet agent, to get him deported from Mexico.’

‘Upon receipt, the State Department transmitted McGregor’s memo to the FBI.

‘…The Information, while not new, responded to both bodies’ concerns.’

Well, there you have it. The outwardly anti-communist and anti-democratic veneer of the US was shared by Trotsky.

While the whole world was facing the onslaught of fascist forces, when the USSR with the guidance of the communist party and comrade Joseph Stalin were facing this attack single-handedly on the behalf of all progressive humanity, when the colonies of imperialism were striving for national liberation, Trotsky and his vile organisations were aiding reaction every-where and still play their significant part in this today. While Red Youth prints this new evidence, it is of no surprise to us or anyone at all acquainted with the role of Trotskyism, that Trotskyism is truly the agent of the ruling class within the ranks of the working class and is used to full advantage by our enemies to this day as much as in the past. ‘Overnight many of the older anti-Bolshevik crusaders abandoned their former pro-Czarist and openly counter-revolutionary line, and adopted the new, streamlined Trotskyite device of attacking the Russian Revolution ‘from the left’. In the following years it became an accepted thing for a Lord Rothermere or a William Randolph Hearst to accuse Josef Stalin of ‘betraying the revolution’ [one can still see this as we are taught that it was obvious that Trotsky was the natural successor to Lenin in our schools and have to read the books of another state informer and Trotskyist – George Orwell]….

‘Adolf Hitler read Trotsky’s autobiography as soon as it was published. Hitler’s biographer, Konrad Heiden, tells in ‘Der Fuehrer’ how the Nazi leader surprised a circle of his friends in 1930 by bursting into rapturous praise of Trotsky’s book’ (‘The Great Conspiracy Against Russia,’ Kahn and Sayers).

But to be fair, Trotsky should be left to speak for himself. ‘The wretched squabbling systematically provoked by Lenin, that old hand at the game, that professional exploiter of all that is backward in the Russian labour movement, seems like a senseless obsession…. The entire edifice of Leninism Is built on lies and falsification and bears within itself the poisonous elements of its own decay. ‘(Letter to Chkeidze 1913)

‘Brilliant!’ cried Hitler, waving Trotsky’s ‘My Life’ at his followers. I have learned a great deal and so can you!’ (‘Great Conspiracy’).

Lalkar, March-April 1997.

II. On the Use of Trotskyists as Japanese Spies in China

Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong, the Secretary of the Communist Party of China, states about the cooperation of the Japanese with the Trotskyists: ‘only a short while ago in one of the divisions of the Eighth Revolutionary Peoples’ Army, a man by the name of Yu Shih was exposed as a member of the Shanghai Trotskyist organisation. The Japanese had sent him there from Shanghai so that he could do espionage work in the Eighth Army and carry out sabotage work.

‘In the central districts of Hebei the Trotskyists organised a ‘Partisan-Company’ on the direct instructions of the Japanese headquarters and called it a ‘Second Section of the Eighth Army’. In March the two battalions of this company organised a mutiny but these bandits were surrounded by the Eighth Army and disarmed. In the Border Region such people are arrested by the peasant self-defence units which carry out a bitter struggle against traitors and spies.

‘Trotskyist agents are being sent to the Border Regions where they systematically apply all methods in their sabotage work against the cooperation of the Kuomintang and the Communist Party. They try to destroy the morale of the soldiers of the Eighth Army, the students and the people of the Border Regions. They try to incite people against the United Front, against the Central Government, against the war of independence, against Marshal Chiang Kaishek.’

In an interview with the Soviet journalist, R. Carmen who is at present in China, Mao, who is recognized by the Japanese as the best strategist in China, declared that the attempts of the reactionary English and other politicians to convince China to renounce its plans are destined to be shattered. ‘China is not only determined to beat the Japanese but also to strengthen the National and United Front and to extend it. Only very few people want to have an understanding with the Japanese and fight against the Central Anti-Japanese Government and the United Front… If we do not destroy these people then it will be difficult to be victorious against the Japanese. But the Chinese people – and with them the Communists, the progressive elements in the Kuomintang and the other parties – are determined to carry out the struggle to a victorious conclusion.’

Translated from the German by V.P. Sharma.
Rundschau (Basel), No. 41, 3rd August, 1939, p. 1169.

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.

J.V. Stalin on “National Marxism” and the General Laws of Socialism

joseph-stalin-1949

11th July 1949

“You speak of Sinified socialism. There is nothing of the sort in nature. There is no Russian, English, French, German, Italian socialism, as much as there is no Chinese socialism. There is only one Marxist-Leninist socialism. It is another thing, that in the building of socialism it is necessary to take into consideration the specific features of a particular country. Socialism is a science, necessarily having, like all science, certain general laws, and one just needs to ignore them and the building of socialism is destined to failure.

What are these general laws of building of socialism.

1. Above all it is the dictatorship of the proletariat the workers’ and peasants’ State, a particular form of the union of these classes under the obligatory leadership of the most revolutionary class in history the class of workers. Only this class is capable of building socialism and suppressing the resistance of the exploiters and petty bourgeoisie.

2. Socialised property of the main instruments and means of production. Expropriation of all the large factories and their management by the state.

3. Nationalisation of all capitalist banks, the merging of all of them into a single state bank and strict regulation of its functioning by the state.

4. The scientific and planned conduct of the national economy from a single centre. Obligatory use of the following principle in the building of socialism: from each according to his capacity, to each according to his work, distribution of the material good depending upon the quality and quantity of the work of each person.

5. Obligatory domination of Marxist-Leninist ideology.

6. Creation of armed forces that would allow the defence of the accomplishments of the revolution and always remember that any revolution is worth anything only if it is capable of defending itself.

7. Ruthless armed suppression of counter revolutionaries and the foreign agents.

These, in short, are the main laws of socialism as a science, requiring that we relate to them as such. If you understand this everything with the building of socialism in China will be fine. If you won’t you will do great harm to the international communist movement. As far as I know in the CPC there is a thin layer of the proletariat and the nationalist sentiments are very strong and if you will not conduct genuinely Marxist-Leninist class policies and not conduct struggle against bourgeois nationalism, the nationalists will strangle you. Then not only will socialist construction be terminated, China may become a dangerous toy in the hands of American imperialists. In the building of socialism in China I strongly recommend you to fully utilise Lenin’s splendid work ‘The Immediate Tasks of Soviet Power’. This would assure success.”

—  J.V. Stalin, Sochinenia, Tom 18, Informatsionno-izdatelskii tsentr ‘Soyuz’, Tver, 2006, pp. 531- 533.

Translated from the Russian by Tahir Asghar

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Biography of Bill Bland

bland

Biography

Bland, William “Bill” (1916-2001)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Hari Kumar, 2005

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Meeting Kim Il Sung in His Last Weeks

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BY MARK BARRY, APRIL 15, 2012

The first (non-communist) Americans to meet North Korea’s president Kim Il Sung likely were journalists Harrison Salisbury of The New York Times, and Selig Harrison, then ofThe Washington Post, in 1972. Congressman Stephen Solarz was the first U.S. public official to meet him in 1980, and Rev. Billy Graham later met him in 1992 and 1994. Little did I realize when I met Kim Il Sung on April 16, 1994, weeks before his death, I would be among a very small group of Americans ever to do so. On Sunday, April 15, North Korea celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of the “Eternal President,” perhaps the North’s biggest celebration ever. Kim ruled North Korea for nearly half a century, far outliving Stalin and Mao, and holding power from Truman through Clinton. More importantly, Kim Il Sung embodied North Korea, a country and people he molded in his image. His legacy is now carried on by the young Kim Jong Un, who, North Koreans are constantly reminded, resembles his grandfather.

*  *  *

I was senior staff in a delegation organized by a Washington, DC-based NGO, the Summit Council for World Peace, an association of former heads of state and government, that arrived in Pyongyang at the time of Kim Il Sung’s 82nd birthday. The group was chaired by a former president of Costa Rica, Rodrigo Carazo, and included a former Governor General of Canada, former Egyptian prime minister, former chief of staff of the French armed forces, a U.S. think tank executive, and CNN’s chief news executive, among others. TV crews also came from CNN and Japan’s NHK. The Council had a prior record of successfully arranging meetings with Kim Il Sung, and Carazo himself had met Kim several times in the past.

Mid-morning on April 16, 1994 – the day after Kim’s birthday – our international delegation was brought in a fleet of black Mercedes to the Kumsusan Assembly Hall in Pyongyang, Kim Il Sung’s official residence. Our minders kept repeating how lucky we were for this opportunity. Inside, we lined up single file and were introduced individually to the waiting Kim Il Sung by a vice chairman of the Korea Asia Pacific Peace Committee. By Kim’s side was his superb English translator, and party secretary Kim Yong Sun, then the number three figure in North Korea (who later played an instrumental role in the 2000 inter-Korean summit) and chair of the Peace Committee. Kim Il Sung stood and walked on his own without assistance, but had a military aide nearby just in case. He did not seem to be wearing a hearing aid. His handshake was firm, he did not look overweight and appeared to be in good health, although his voice was rather gravelly (a Korean affairs analyst later told me this was because Kim used to smoke a lot). Very noticeable on the right side of his neck was a baseball-sized growth, which was benign, but because of its location, was said to be inoperable; official photos of Kim always were taken from a leftward angle to hide the growth.

Official Meeting Photo

Official Meeting Photo

After our official greetings, we were brought before a huge mural in the main lobby of the palace for our official photos. They were taken in two groups: the former heads of state and government and other senior members of the delegation, and the journalists. As with other visitors to the palace, we later each received a copy of the official photo with the date gold-stamped.

We were then escorted into the palace conference room with a long table that could accommodate two dozen. Each place setting had a pen, writing pad, and microphone, as well as coffee cup and dish of small candies. After we sat down, the window curtains and room lighting were remotely adjusted. Noticeably, neither the translator nor Kim Yong Sun sat too close to President Kim. On the DPRK side of the table were also Kim Yong Sun’s wife, and two other officials from the Asia Pacific Peace Committee.

President Carazo, who founded the United Nations Peace University in Costa Rica, spoke first, thanking Kim for receiving our group, and noting we were a goodwill delegation that had come to the DPRK for the sake of peace in the entire peninsula. President Kim responded that he regretted that we did not come through Panmunjom because we could then better understand the division of Korea (in fact, we had sought permission from the ROK to do so, but the Kim Young Sam administration denied our request; however, we later traveled to the northern end of Panmunjom, as well as a small town by the DMZ that clearly was not a Potemkin village). Kim added that earlier in the year, Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY) had come to see him, and had returned to South Korea by way of Panmunjom, becoming the first American to do so since the Korean War.

Kim then began to expound. He said, “We always open our doors widely. Our only secrets have to do with the military. But apart from that, we are ready to open to the outside.” The nuclear issue, which had become quite serious by that time, was not brought up in this meeting, but was left to the journalists. Later that day, Kim Il Sung would personally hand to Josette Sheeran, then managing editor of The Washington Times (now vice chair of the World Economic Forum), a booklet of his written answers to her questions, that included his candid responses about the DPRK nuclear program. The full-length interview, her second with him, was published on April 19th. I do not believe his answers were ghost-written, but were largely dictated by Kim, because the tone had the same unmistakable authority as when I heard him speak.

Kim then proceeded to boast that in North Korea “there are no beggars, no unemployed, no homeless.” He recalled asking Billy Graham if there were beggars, unemployed and homeless in America, to which Graham said “yes.” While this statement seems laughable in the context of the severe food shortages that North Korea would endure from 1996 on, it was not a ludicrous thing to hear about the North in 1994. Flying in on Air Koryo, President Carazo had peered out the cabin window and saw the expanse of freshly planted rice paddies, and said it appeared North Korea could produce enough food to feed itself. Kim Il Sung also told a story about a visiting Hong Kong businessman who had lost his wallet in a Pyongyang hotel with $10,000 in it. His wallet was returned to him within two hours, everything intact.

Kim then turned to what seemed a favorite theme of his: what made the DPRK different from the Soviet Union, China and other communist states. He said, “After 1945, I tried to find intellectuals to rebuild the country, but could only locate a handful. The partisans who fought with me against the Japanese knew how to fight, but not how to build institutions.” The Japanese in their 35-year colonial rule, he said, left no college functioning in the North. “So I had to start my own, which became Kim Il Sung University, and then other schools. Today [1994], there are 1.76 million intellectuals out of a population of 20 million, almost one out of ten citizens.” What still impresses me about his point is how North Koreans value education, are inquisitive, and possess great human capital that can easily be trained to a high-level of professional skill.

Suddenly, Kim Il Sung leaned to the side and asked Secretary Kim Yong Sun for his Korean Workers Party card. I will never forget the look on Kim Yong Sun’s face. He almost turned white, because even though President Kim wanted the card just to make a point, Kim Yong Sun did not know if the request meant something more serious, such as losing his party post. But as he handed the card to his leader, Kim Il Sung held it up and pointed to the large gold-stamped party emblem, consisting of the usual hammer and sickle, but also a calligraphy brush in the middle. “In 1946, I created this emblem for our party. The brush symbolizes our highest commitment to intellectual pursuits in every discipline. Our emblem is unique among communist parties in the world. This is an example of juche, doing things our own way. We did everything in our own way.” President Kim then handed the party card back to its relieved owner.

At this juncture, Bill Taylor, vice president of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, who was meeting the North Korean leader for the second time, told Kim that he had not changed a bit from two years ago, and looked to be in good health. Kim responded, “I always live with optimism.” Eason Jordan, president of CNN International, greeted Kim on behalf of Ted Turner, founder of CNN, and expressed hope for a face-to-face interview, which did not materialize. Taylor praised Kim’s decision to allow in CNN and NHK as a very important step. In fact, CNN’s Mike Chinoy conducted the first live broadcast from Pyongyang during this trip, using state television’s satellite uplink.

The meeting ended and we adjourned across the hall for lunch. We sat at a large round table with white tablecloth, although most journalists sat at a second table. The northern Korean cuisine was extraordinary, including my first time to taste blueberry wine. Conversation became a bit more free-flowing. Kim was asked about the role of his son and successor, Kim Jong Il. He responded, “I am so proud of him. As an elderly man, I cannot read easily, and every day my son dictates reports into a cassette recorder so I can listen to them later on. But he keeps me fully informed. He is truly a filial son.” The North Korean leader also noted he likes to hunt, especially wild boar. One participant asked him if he would like to come to the United States. He responded, “I have yet to visit the United States, but I hope to do so in the future.” Someone suggested he even come to the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 1994. Kim smiled. Though he likely feared flying, the State Department could not have prevented him from coming to the UN with other world leaders in attendance because Kim was head of state of a member nation.

According to one Korean affairs specialist, in Kim’s 1994 discussions with Rev. Billy Graham, a large U.S. National Council of Churches delegation, and former president Jimmy Carter, he frequently returned to his youth and engaged in a discussion of religion with curiosity. In a sense, he began to mellow, as older Korean men can be  quite susceptible to this; among older overseas Korean men, there is an urge to return to one’s hometown in Korea. This seemed to me to be true based on my observation of Kim Il Sung that day.

After the banquet, we said our individual farewells to Kim Il Sung. Several participants told him they wanted to return to the DPRK with others so they could see the country for themselves. One even invited Kim to come to the U.S. to enjoy sport fishing. Kim seemed genuinely appreciative of each gesture. As we walked out of the reception room, Kim was left standing with just Kim Yong Sun, his translator and military aide. He seemed to regret seeing us leave. We were outsiders, non-Koreans, from Europe, the U.S., Canada, Japan, Egypt, and elsewhere. He appeared to enjoy nothing better than to tell us his story, one few foreigners in the non-communist world had heard. For Kim Il Sung, it was a rare opportunity, to get courtesy and respect from foreign leaders and let them know his legacy. We did not realize Kim had only weeks to live.

Kim Il Sung would see two more outside visitors in June 1994, Selig Harrison and Jimmy Carter, as the nuclear issue reached a fever pitch and both the Clinton and Kim Young Sam administrations prepared for a possible outbreak of hostilities. Carter’s historic trip as the first former U.S. president to meet Kim Il Sung*, defused the nuclear crisis, averted war and led to the 1994 Agreed Framework, which froze the DPRK nuclear program until 2003. Kim also told Carter he agreed to hold the first-ever inter-Korean summit that summer with Kim Young Sam. It was not to be.

Kim Il Sung died suddenly of a heart attack on July 8, 1994. We later learned that Kim knew he was dying and felt an urgency to initiate major policy measures while still alive to effect a strategic change; Kim Jong Il would have been unable to implement major policy change after his father’s death. Kim senior’s meeting with Carter was that pivotal moment, and U.S.-DPRK relations eventually were elevated to where, in October 2000, the top North Korean general, Vice Marshall Jo Myong Rok, greeted Bill Clinton in the White House and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang weeks later. The same pattern appeared to unfold last fall: Kim Jong Il knew he would not live long, and in his final weeks, set into motion policy initiatives, including toward the U.S., to pave the way for Kim Jong Un’s succession.

*  *  *

Kim Il Sung’s official residence became his mausoleum, renamed the Kumsusan Memorial Palace. Kim Jong Il, who died in December, soon will join his father there. In February, Kim Jong Un rechristened the mausoleum the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, named for his father, but foremost for his grandfather, Kim Il Sung.

* Excellent sources for this trip include Marion Creekmore, Jr., A Moment of Crisis: Jimmy Carter, the Power of a Peacemaker, and North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions, 2006, and Douglas Brinkley, The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter’s Journey to the Nobel Peace Prize (cf. Chapter 20, “Mission to North Korea”), 1998. Bill Clinton was the only former U.S. president to meet Kim Jong Il, in 2009.

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