Category Archives: Khrushchevism/ Brezhnevism

The Syrian National Revolution – The Role of Khaled Bakdash or “Bagdash”

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This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”

December 2002; based on an article of 1996

Contents:
Introduction – Pan-Arabism in the Middle East
(i) Syria – The place, peoples and religion
(ii) Early History of Syria to the Ottoman Empire
(iii) The End of the Ottoman Empire and the French Colonial Yoke
(iv) The Post-Independence Economy
(v) What Were The Class Forces of Syria?
(vi) The Ba’th Party and the Ba’th Arab Socialist Party
(vii) The Egyptian Modification of Ba’th Ideology – Nasserism
(viii) The Syrian Communist Party
(ix) The Syrian CP, the Ba’th and the United Arab Republic
(x) The Syrian CP and the Khruschevite Revisionists

Introduction – Pan-Arabism in the Middle East

As Comrade Bland pointed out in his analysis of Sultan-Galiyev, the dubious attractions of “Muslim Nationalism,” were a pit-fall for communists in Muslim dominated countries. Bakdash – from his initial revolutionary phase to his later revisionist phases, was closely involved with the question of the relationship between bourgeois nationalism in the Middle East, and communism.

The English historian Patrick Seale writes:

“The prophet of Syrian (In fact “greater Syrian” ) nationalism was Antun Sa’ada… His bitterest opponent was the Communist leader Khalid Bakdash, an eloquent Kurd who had steered the chequered fortunes of the Syrian party since 1930.”

Seale, Patrick, “Asad. The Struggle For the Middle East”; London; 1988; p.26.

However, Marxist-Leninists examining Bakdash’s views, would have to concede that he was the engineer of the revisionist disembowelment of the most advanced Arab communist party.

Sa’da was the founder of the Syrian National Party, and represented the regional Syrian based bourgeoisie who wanted an undivided Greater Syria, rather than the more ambitious Pan-Arabists.

“Pan-Arabism” swept the Middle East, partly in response to the rising Zionist tide. As early as June 1913, the First Arab Congress was held in Paris (Walter Laquer “A History of Zionism”; New York; 1972; p.224). Later at the Pan Arab Congress of Jerusalem December, 1931, held simultaneously with the General Islamic Congress, an ‘Arab Covenant‘ was proclaimed. Hourani uses this as a “standard definition of the aims of the nationalists”:

“(i) The Arab lands are a complete and indivisible whole, and the divisions of whatever nature to which they have been subjected are not approved or recognized by the Arab nation.
(ii) All efforts in every Arab country are to be directed towards the single goal of their complete independence, in their entirety and unified ; and every idea which aims at limitation to work for local and regional politics must be fought against.
(iii) Since colonization is, in all its forms and manifestations, wholly incompatible with the dignity and highest aims of the Arab nation, the Arab nation rejects it and will combat it with all its forces.”

Hourani A.K. “Syria and Lebanon. A Political Essay”; London 1968; p. 114.

The main tenets of this proclamation were to live on, in the form of the Ba’th Party, and in Nasserism and the Wahd movement. An increasingly urgent problem played a role in side-tracking the main goal of Arab liberation. This was the Zionist presence in Palestine. In September, 1937, the Pan-Arab Congress of Bludan in Syria, organized by the Syrian Committee for the Defence of Palestine, which passed:

“a number of resolutions in regard to the solution of the Palestinian problem and stated that the adoption of the policy embodied in these resolutions would be regarded as a condition of friendly relations between the Arab peoples and the British Empire”

Hourani Ibid; p.114-5.

However the establishment of the state of Israel continued a destruction of bourgeois nationalist dreams. It became increasingly likely that only lesser goals would be achieved. This article examines the narrowing focus of Arab nationalism, as it played out in Syria.

Following the enforced departure of France as an overt occupying imperialist presence in 1946, the French adopted a pattern of disguised neo-colonial relations. France took over Syria at a time when the British dominance over the Middle East was adequate to push France into a subordinate imperialist position, while Britain waited to see how it would fight off the USA interests in the area.

(i) Syria – The place, peoples and religion

The ancient idea of a ‘bilad al-Sham’ – The “Lands of Damascus”, was built on the premise  that there was a distinct Syrian entity. The so-called “Natural Syria” was vast – extending from Taurus mountains in the North, to the Western Mediterranean shores, the Eastern Euphrates, and the Arabian Southern deserts. As such, it was frequently divided up during the centuries.

Later, Syria was known under the French Mandate rule, as both Syria and Lebanon being part of one administrative area (with Latakia and Jebel Druze) from 1925 to 1936. Syria as a term, refers to the Syrian Republic formed in 1936, from Syria, Jebel Druze and Laakia (also known as the State of the Alawis).

Syria ranks fourth in population in the 15 countries usually considered to be a part of the “Middle East” extending between Libya and Afghanistan (excluding these two countries); eighth in gross domestic product, fourth in size of military force, and sixth in rate of growth of GDP. (Ramet, Pedro “The Soviet-Syrian Relationship Since 1955- A Troubled Alliance”; Boulder USA; 1990; p. 6).

The population is largely of the Muslim religious faith, and Arab speakers formed 85% of the population in 1946.  Although a Christian Maronite minority (taking its name from a 5th Century Syrian hermit) was always significant in number, as were other minorities. The population by the time of the French Mandate 1920-1946 was made up of:

Sunnis (60% of the total population); ‘Alawis 11.5%; Druze 3.0 %; Ismaílis 1.5%; Christians 9.9%; Non-Arabs (Kurds 8.5%; Armenians 4.2%; plus small numbers of Circassians and Jews etc; (See Malik Mufti: “Sovereign Creations- Pan-Arabism & Political Order in Syria & Iraq”; Cornell; 1966; p.45).

When Mohammed died (632 BC), as the head – supposedly appointed by God – of both temporal and religious parts of the Muslim world, a crisis of leadership was precipitated. This engulfed all the expansionist desert Arabs who had embraced Islam. They solved it be appointing a temporal and religious head of the Muslim world, as a “deputy” – the Caliph, or Khalif:

“Islam as an expansionist ideology began during the lifetime of Mohamed, who made several unimportant expeditions outside the desert of the Arabian peninsula, The real expansion and invasions were to come after the death of Mohammed from the caliphs, or his “representatives”, the heads of or leaders of Moslem communities.”

“Hoxha Enver, “The Glorious past of Peoples Cannot be Ignored”; Written 1983; In “Reflections On the Middle East”; Tirana 1984; Toronto N.D.; p. 469.

“The death of Mohammed … (led to).. a constitutional crisis… The crisis was met by the resolute action of three men: Abu Bakr, Úmar, and Abu Ubaida who by a kind of coup d’état imposed Abu Bakr on the community as the sole successor of the prophet… with the title of Khalifa or “Deputy,” and his election marks the inauguration of the great historic institution of the Caliphate”

Lewis Bernard, “The Arabs in History”; New York 1966; p. 50-1.

Sunni are adherents of the sunnah (practice) of Mohammed alone whose sayings (hadith) form the Holy Words. They are the largest grouping of Muslims, and are themselves divided into sects. The most important of these is the Wahhabi sect largely based in Central Arabia, and headed by the Ibn-Saud dynasty of what is now Saudi Arabia. The Wahabis are named after a jurist of the area of Najd, called Ábd al-Wahhab (1703-1791). During the period of Ottoman expansion, he founded a sect that:

“Was based on a rigid anti-mystical Puritanism. In the name of a pure primitive Islam of the first entry he denounced all subsequent accretions of belief and ritual as superstitious innovation,” alien to pure Islam. … The conversion to the Wahhabi doctrine of the Najdi emir Muhammed ibn Su-ud gave the sect a military and political focus.. spreading by conquest over most of central Arabia wresting the holy cities of Mecca and Medina from the Sharifs who ruled them in the Ottoman name… (till-Ed) 1918, when an invading Turco-Egyptian army sent by Muhammad Ali the pasha of Egypt broke the power of the Wahhabi Empire and confined them to its native Najd”

Lewis Bernard, “The Arabs in History”; New York 1966; p. 161.

The ‘Alawis [meaning followers of ‘Ali] are members of the Shi’i  (Or Shi’ia) Muslim sect; as indeed are the Druzes (originating from Egypt) and the Isma’ilis. The Shi’ia trace their roots to the 8th century, when ‘Ali the Prophet Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law – was – as the claim goes –  robbed of his inheritance by the first three Caliphs. The Shi’ites also claim that ‘Ali was granted a divine essence, making them ‘infidels’ to the Sunni Muslim orthodoxy. The materialist reality underlying the Shiía sect was a factional grouping based on the claims of Ali to the Caliphate.

In present day Syria, the Alawi are concentrated in the mountainous areas. Previously, they tended to be dominated by the Sunni or the Christian-Maronites.

The various divisions of sects played a role in preventing a united ‘national’ identity. Colonising powers used the minorities in a divide and rule strategy. The Sunnis were closely linked to the Turkish rulers of the Ottoman Empire, and oppressed the ‘Alawis and the other minorities. The French reversed the preferences:

“In Turkish times the Sunni Muslim had been the privileged community, growing rich on ‘Alawi labour….(who) could be expected to be ground down by the Sunni or Christian merchant, money-lender or landowner….But….in the early 1920’s the French gave the ‘Alawi privileges….”

Seale P: “Asad – The Struggle for the Middle East”; Ibid; p.17.

“France tried to pit all of Syria’s minority communities against the Sunni Arabs, who constituted the core of its traditional political elites;”

Malik Mufti; “Sovereign Creations- Pan-Arabism & Political Order in Syria & Iraq”; Cornell; 1966; p. 45.

(ii) Early History of Syria – To the Ottoman Empire

Being at the intersection of the Mediterranean and India and the Far East – Syria was always subject to international influences and trade. Its peoples were initially Arabs from the South, who brought with them Semitic influence – but they then intermingled with invaders from central Asia and Anatolia (Hourani A.H.: “Syria & Lebanon- A Political Essay”; London 1968; pp.11-13).

Historic Syria was dominated first by the Semitic tribes such as the Phoenicians. Later waves of invaders included the Egyptians, Assyrians, the Hittites, Persians, under Alexander the Great – the Greeks and later by the First Century BC – the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire introduced Christianity. But Christianity gave way to Islam in Syria, during the course of the Persian-Roman wars in the 3rd Century AD.

Although the Byzantine Empire tried to hold onto Syrian territories, by 633 the Arabs from the Egyptian peninsula took it by war. A Moslem Government was established. It became a central part of the Moslem empire, under the Umayyad Caliphate of Mu’awiya in 661. Till the 8th century, the Caliphate territories extended from Spain to Morocco to Central Asia. As the Abbassi Dynasty took control of Syria, its fortunes waned under the pressure of repeated wars with the Byzantine Empire.

Ultimately this allowed the Mameluke Sultans of Egypt – led initially by Baibars to dominate Syria. By 1516, Syria was ruled as a single unit by Egypt, from the seat of Damascus. This was the first modern time that this had occurred since the rule of the Umayyad caliphs 1200 years earlier. However the Ottoman Turks easily displaced the waning Egyptian Mamelukes in 1516, and the Osmani Sultans became the Caliphs.

Upon the end of Egyptian rule, bilad al-Sham (Syria) reverted to the Ottoman Empire, and became sub-divided into provinces. These were not ‘national divisions’; or even ‘natural division’ but administrative divisions facilitating rule over the provinces. As the Ottoman Empire was challenged by Ibrahim Pasha (son of Muhammed Ali a vassal to the Ottoman Sultan) of Egypt, a modernisation began in Syria. A central government was formed with a measure of modern progress such as education. But Ibrahim Pasha then attempted to invade Constantinople in 1839, and the Great Powers intervened. They ‘propped up the Sick Man of Europe’ – the Sultanate of Constantinople.

The Ottoman Empire was an Oriental Despotic form of state; broadly speaking it was the equivalent of feudalism in the West. Its characteristic was the almost complete absence of private property in land. As Marx characterised it:

“Bernier rightly considered the basis of all phenomena in the East – he refers to Turkey, Persia, and Hindustan – to be the absence of private property in land. This is the real key to the Oriental heaven”

Letter Marx to Engels; 2 June 1853; In Collected Works; Volume 39; Moscow; 1983; p.334 (See Appendix 1 to this article).

“The absence of landed property is indeed the key to the whole of the East. Therein lies its political and religious history. But how to explain the fact that oriental never reached the stage of landed property not even the feudal kind? This is I think largely due to the climate, combined with the nature of the lands more especially the great stretches of desert extending from the Sahara right across Arabia, Persia, India and Tartary to the highest of the Asiatic uplands. Here artificial irrigation is the first prerequisite for agriculture, and this is the responsibility either of the communes, the provinces or the central government. In the East, the government has always consisted of 3 departments only; Finance (pillage at home); War (pillage at home and abroad); and travaux (i.e. works –Ed) publics, provisions for reproduction”;

Letter Engels to Marx; 6 June 1853; In Collected Works; Volume 39; Moscow; 1983; p.339.

(iii) The End of the Ottoman Empire and French Colonial Yoke

By the end of the 19th Century, the break-up of the Ottoman Empire was eagerly expected by the imperialists. After several secret organizations had struggled for years, in 1908, some young reformers led by a small bourgeoisie forced a parliamentary system. In 1913 the Committee of Union and Progress, led by the army officer Enver Pasha, took power in the seat of the Ottoman Empire at Constantinople, finally un-seating the Sultanate.

The Sultanate of the Ottoman Empire, a dictatorship based on Oriental Despotism was forced into a democratic reform. At the opening phases of the First World War, Enver Pasha led Turkey into an alliance with Germany. This was sealed in the secret Treaty of Berlin July 28. By its provisions, the Ottoman Empire would observe strict neutrality and Germany would defend Ottoman territory in case of external threats.

Within a few months, Turkey’s secret dealings with Germany had been revealed. Following incidents where German cruisers evaded British ships to obtain safe berths in Turkish waters, Britain declared war on Turkey. As the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill initiated war actions against Turkey on November 1 1914 War was formally declared by Britain only on November 5th. Churchill noted that with the Ottoman Empire as an enemy, its territories were free to being divided up much easier.

As the war progressed, the Allied forces blundered into the defeat at Gallipoli. This invasion between 25 April 1915, to 17 November 1915, left half a million dead. British command had led an Allied force with a large Australian contingent, was defeated by the Turkish forces commanded by Mustapha Kemal – later to be known as Attaturk.

Naturally at the end of the First World War, the victorious super powers led then by the Allied powers, in particular Britain and France – took the opportunity to divide up the Ottoman territories. In 1914:

“At the end of a fevered expansionist movement that was rooted in the 1880’s, France had built the second largest colonial empire in the world, an empire of more than 10 million square kilometers, with nearly 50 million inhabitants.”

Thobie J, Meynier G, Coquery-Vidrovitch C, Ageron C-R: “Histoire de La France Coloniale 1914-1990”; 1990; p.7.

France had up to then, no significant colony in the Middle East. This did not deter its pretensions in the area, based on the rather tenuous, and distant history of the Crusades:

“During the Crusades, French knights won kingdoms and built castles in Syria….In 1914…there were still Frenchmen who regarded Syria as properly part of France. France maintained close contacts with one of the Christian communities along the Mount Lebanon coast of Syria, and French shipping, silk, and other interests eyed commercial possibilities….The moment that the Ottoman Empire entered the war, French officials in the Middle East therefore formulated plans to annex Turkey’s Syrian provinces. Frances’ Minster in Cairo and Consul General in Beirut immediately joined in urging their government to invade the Lebanese coast”

Fromkin, David: “A Peace to End All Peace. The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East”; New York; 1989; p. 94.

Meanwhile, in Britain manoeuvring had also begun. The De Bunsen Committee was appointed by Prime Minister Asquith to advise on polices post-war in the Middle East; the proceedings were dominated by Sir Mark Sykes a Tory MP. It reported five autonomous provinces should be created in the decentralised Ottoman Empire: Syria, Palestine, Armenia, Anatolia and Jazirah-Iraq.

During the war, Lord Kitchener Minister of War in the British Cabinet, proposed a pact to the Sherif of Mecca – Hussein. Kitchener’s plan was to make the Sherif Caliph, thereby displacing both religious and temporal power away from Constantinople to Mecca – Arabia proper. This would appeal to the majority of the Ottoman Empire who were Arabs, yet ruled by the 40% of Turkish speakers – by the Ottoman Empire. In return Hussein was to assist with the overthrow of Turkish rule:

“Kitchener’s telegram … sent by Grey at the Foreign Office, told the British Agency (in Cairo-Ed) that Storr should reply to Abdullah Hussein that (son of Sherif Hussein of Mecca-Ed):

” If the Arab nation should assist England in this war that has been forced upon us by Turkey, England will guarantee that no internal intervention take place in Arabia, and will give the Arabs every assistance again foreign aggression”…. In other words if the Arabian leaders freed their peninsula from the Sultan and declared their independence, Britain would help to protect them against any invasion from abroad.”

Fromkin Ibid; p. 102-3.

This promisory note was to lead to serious future conflicts. Apart from anything else, British calculations that the Mecca Sharif Hussein dynasty (the Hashemites) would be given the allegiance of all Arabs was mistaken. It ignored the ambition of the Wahabi sect led by the Sunni Abdul-Aziz Ibn Saud, based in Central Arabia.

Nonetheless, the illusions of Britain’s backing took hold of Sharif Hussein somewhat. An illustration of this was in the demands he made, in what came to be known as the Damascus Protocol. This demanded an independent Arab kingdom under his rule. This was presented by Hussein to the British command at Cairo in summer 1915. The British High Commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon – was pressurised by Kitchener to write accepting the demands of Hussein (See Fromkin Ibid; p. 178). This led to the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence. In these McMahon used duplicitous wording, to the effect that Hussein should understand a British commitment towards Palestine. The British imperialist had understood that they would have to:

“pay a price… to obtain France’s consent to the making of promises to Hussein”

Fromkin Ibid; p. 182.

Accordingly McMahon forced Hussein to relinquish claim to Syria, Lebanon, Basra and Baghdad, leaving only Arabia. This would mean negotiation with other contenders such as Ibn Suad (See Fromkin; Ibid; p.183).  Hussein explicitly rejected this “offer” – stating that:

“Any concession designed to give France or any other Power possession of a single square foot of territory in those parts is quite out of the question”

Fromkin, Ibid; p. 185.

In reality he had little other choice, as the Ottoman Empire Young Turks were about to depose him. The British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey gave the signal:

“Not to worry about the offers being made by Cairo as “the whole thing was a castle in the air which would never materialise”

Cited Fromkin Ibid; p. 185.

Hussein then insisted that there could be no Arab uprising against the Ottomans without an Allied landing on the Syrian coast. This spurred an imperialist presence in the Middle East.

This frames the  talks between imperialist France and Britain. France, represented by the son of an African French colonist – Francois Georges Picot and Britain – represented by Tory M.P. Sir Mark Sykes. These two simply secretly divided Syria up, under the secret provisions of theSykes-Picot Agreement of February 1916. Partition kept the Allies united. Palestine was to be “placed under an international regime”- to be determined after “consultation” with all parties involved – including (sic) other interested allies such as Russia and Italy!

Such negotiations between “Allies” were un-trustworthy. In the meantime a secret French-Russian pact between the French Prime Minister Aristide Briand, and the Russian foreign ministry, it was “decided” that the post-war administration of Palestine was to be French controlled.

Hussein tried for as long as possible to temporise, but when the Ottoman Young Turks discovered his plots, they mobilised. To circumvent this, Hussein “declared” war, leading to the pathetic Arab Uprising in June 1916. It did not ignite any reaction, and the Arab tribes largely ignored the call. Simmering continued. However, in 1920, the Battle

Thus ensued the Balfour Declaration of 1917. The United Nations “awarded” the French the Mandate over Syrian and Lebanon. France ‘took’ the North , which became the republics of Syria and Lebanon. Meanwhile in the South, Britain seized Palestine and Transjordan. This,  occurred despite the fact that the population itself, had made clear its own desire for independence:

“The inhabitants of the whole region made it clear that they wanted natural Syria to be independent and undivided: In July 1919 an elected body calling itself the Syrian National Congress repudiated the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration and demanded sovereignty status for a united Syria-Palestine.”

Seale; Ibid; p. 15.

In the interim, an Arab administration led by Amir Faysal established itself in Damascus. The contradictions between the European waning imperialisms of France and Britain were set against the rising imperialism of the USA. Even the USA led King-Crane Commission visited the area and confirmed the popular view. But the USA was as yet unable to effectively challenge the hegemony of the USA in the area. Thus in 1920, the European powers were given Mandates over the new states carved out of the former Ottoman provinces. Although Faysal fought against this both politically and then in armed struggle, the troops of French General Geraud entered Damascus in 1920. At the Battle of Maisaloun, they decisively defeated Faisal.

The French dismissed Faysal and set up a classic colonial state. Their Mandate, made the French Government the ‘intermediate’ between its High Commissioner and the League of Nations. On the principle of divide and rule, they quickly proceeded to create new states, and to foster the remaining divisions between people of the former bilad al-Sham.

They created out of Syria a newly detached State of Greater Lebanon; by detaching Tyre, Sidon, Beirut and Tripoli, the Baqa’ Valley and the Sh’i region of North Palestine. These were attached to Mount Lebanon – the fief of Maronite compradors of France.

Then in 1921, France yielded to Turkey, large parts of Aleppo, and Alexandretta-Antioch.

A further administrative manoeuvre divided Syria into four parts: These were the mini-states of Damascus, Aleppo, and the “independent” Alawi mountains and the Druze mountains.

Finally the Northern part of Syria was colonized and further division fostered by encouraging settling by Christians and Kurds. Of course the purpose of all this sub-division of Syria was to ‘ensure’ French hegemony:

“The French fully understood that Syrian nationalist sentiment would be opposed to their rule. This in effect meant the that the Sunnis were their principal antagonists and they thus proceeded to capitalise on the .. Christians, their oldest friends, by creating a new state that stripped Tyre, Sidon, Tripoli, the Baaka valley & Beirut itself from Syria and added them to the Ottoman sanjak (administrative district) of Mount Lebanon the very backbone of Maronite Christianity. Syria was cut off from its finest ports and Damascus … was weakened at the expense of Beirut and the new Christian dominated regime”:

Fisk R; “Pity the Nation – The Abduction of Lebanon”; London 1990; p. 62.

Political parties were only allowed a legal existence in January 1925. At that time, the Peoples Party launched armed struggle. This party had been the first that the French had legalised  ( Ismael T & Ismael J: The Communist Movement in Syria & Lebanon, Gainsville; 1998 p. 12). Within 2 years it was crushed. But, the French remained aware of the depth of feeling, and allowed a national assembly to convene in 1928. But it was soon dissolved, in 1930, by the French. Large popular protests erupted by 1936. This compelled the French Government, under the leadership of the Popular Front Government to enter negotiations with the Syrian nationalists. The Franco-Syrian Treaty of September 1936, called for a Syrian [neo-colonial] ‘independence’ in return for French privilege in trading and military status. The National Bloc was elected to power, but the Second World War supervened. The French suspended the 1930 Constitution by the imposition of martial law (Dilip Hiro: “Inside The Middle East”, London; 1982; p. 42).

“was not a unitary party so much as a working alliance of individuals and groups. It including leading members of important land-owning families… like Hashim al-Atasi, the President… individuals…”

Hourani A.H. “Syria and Lebanon. A Political Essay”; 1968; Beirut; p.191.

In 1943, the British pushed Vichy France, to hold elections in Syria. The National bloc was again elected. Syria declared war on Germany in February 1945, thereby winning a seat at the Founding Conference of the United Nations. France was clearly a faltering imperialist nation. Britain, at that time was still struggling hard to keep the upper hand, against a new insurgent USA imperialism. However, it still had could browbeat the French out of Syria. Britain had foreseen that unless the Syrians were allowed a nominal ‘independence’, the whole Middle East was threatened from the perspective of imperialism.

It was only in April 1946, that the French left Syria as an occupying colonial military power. As the History of Colonial France puts it:

“The Syrian Affair had ushered in decolonisation at the worst possible time for France. It was under the very powerful menace of the British, and suffering from the injuries inflicted by the Arab League, these forced it to abandon its mandate without contradiction.”

Thobie J, Meynier G, Coquery-Vidrovitch C, Ageron C-R: “Histoire de La France Coloniale 1914-1990”; 1990; p.360 (Tr Kumar H).

The Syrian Parliament of the 1943 elections, was deposed by a military coup led by Husni al-Za’im  in March 1949. This was assisted by the debacle of the first Arab-Israali war of 1948 and the defeat of the Syrian army. It was only in 1954, that his successor (Colonel Adib al-Shisakli) was overthrown by a further military coup.

This was precipitated by the United Front meeting at Homs in July 1953, where the National Party, the People’s Party, the Arab-Socialist party, the Ba’th party and the Communist party signed a National Pact to overthrow the Shishakli dictatorship.

At this time, parliamentary democracy was restored. The ensuing poll in September 1954 was the first in the Middle East with full women’s suffrage, and was generally free.

Syria by the time of the French withdrawal in 1946 had been whittled down to 185,190 square kilometers from 300,000 square kilometers in Ottoman times. (See Seale; Ibid; pp14-16). Open colonialism was to be replaced by a neo-colonialism.

(iv) The Post-Independence Economy

The class character of Syria after the war, was that of a neo-colony dominated by French and British interests, with  major feudal remnants. The economy was largely based on peasant based, raw material production, with oppression from the landowners.

The French had developed a comprador base. Since industry was weak in the area, both from previous Oriental Despotism, and the depredations of  Ottoman oppression followed by European imperialism, the representatives of the national bourgeoisie were initially weak.

The French had created a large comprador class by fostering various sections of the ‘Alawis (eg. The Kinj Brothers; the Abbas family); and in Mount Lebanon from 1860 onwards the Maronite Christians; and other landowners throughout the former bilad al-Sham.

Previously, a collective type of farming , known as musha’ had enabled the peasantry to each gain a subsistence living. The plots were periodically re-distributed in order that each family would have turns on the better plots. But following the previous example by the Ottomans from the 1858 Ottoman Land Code, the French drew up a land register. This meant that local notables and tribal shayks were enabled to seize property by legal title.

Under this pillage, comprador owned latifundia were built up. Monied merchants and moneylenders in the cities also became Latifundists. In the process the peasantry was of course expropriated and impoverished to the status of being share-croppers. This meant that they obtained between 25-75% of the crop they worked, depending upon how much they provided in money for seed, and water.

Since as Seale puts it, Syria was a “predominantly agricultural country”, the solution of the misery of the peasant was a major goal for the country’s development. This required a national democratic revolution. The extent of the poor development of industry, and the misery of the people can be seen from the following statistics:

“Syria was a predominantly agricultural country, its backbone being two million peasants out of a then population of about 3.5 million, inhabiting some 5,500 villages built mostly of mud and mostly lacking piped water sewerage electricity tarred roads or any other amenity of modern life… The population was ravaged by disease… In 1951-3, 36% of registered deaths occurred among children under five. National income per head was a mere 440 Syrian lire (US$157), although socials disparities were such that most Syrians earned even less. Outside the two main cities of Damascus and Aleppo electricity was rare, serving fewer than three-quarters of a million people in the whole country. There were only some 13,000 motor vehicles a single port Latakia, and three small railways all Ottoman built and of different gauge.”

Seale; Ibid; p. 44.

By the Second World War and immediately after, a small industrialist class, and its corollary a working class had arisen in cotton and rayon cloth, soap, cement, glass, and matches; and some industrial penetration into the countryside latifundia had also occurred. (Seale Ibid; p. 46).

The French had created several divisions in the area, or had deliberately stoked up older, historic division – these were at the minimum the following:

Divisions of land into arbitrary areas with peasant expropriations; and

Divisions of territory between potentially hostile ‘religious’ divisions (Sunni versus Shi’i Muslim  sects – of the latter being Druzes, ‘Alawis, and Isma’ilis).

But, the class divisions overlay – but sometimes depended upon the above divisions.

(v) What Were The Class Forces of Syria?

These can be characterized with respect to their relations to the ownership of the means of production; and to their relations to the democratic revolution and a subsequent second socialist stage:

1. Those Forces Interested in the Social Revolution
i) The predominant class was the peasant class, the majority of whom were actually share- croppers;
Initially they were led by the Arab Socialist Party (ASP) of Akram al-Hawrani, formed in 1950.
ii) A small working class based mainly in Damascus and Aleppo;
These were initially led and represented by the Communist Party Syria and Lebanon (founded October 1924, admitted Comintern 1928), who ultimately, also gained the leadership of the peasantry. After Syrian territory was divided into Syria and Lebanon, the two parties formed separate organisations in 1930, leaving in Syria the Syrian Communist Party (SCP).

2. The Class Forces Implacably opposed to any phase of National or Social Revolution:
i) The feudal-type latifundia land owners; who were comprador bourgeoisie;
these were led and represented by the French imperialists;
and then later by the so-called pro-“Pan-Syrian” nationalists; Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP – or Parti Populaire Syrien) established by Antun Sa’ada. The Pan-Syrians only wished that the territory of Syria and Lebanon not be divided, and allowed a diversion to offer against the Pan-Arabists. They had established a management hold over the tobacco growers of the mountains, and had a monopoly with the French ‘regie de tabacs’. They were known to be pro-West and anti-communist (See Seale Ibid; p. 49-50).

3. Forces interested in  “national democratic” revolution – but wished to abort the second stage, the socialist revolution.
The petit bourgeoisie, and the peasantry, and at a later stage the small but potentially important national industrialist capitalist class, was represented by the Ba’th Party at first and then by the Arab Socialist Ba’th Party (ASBP).

The industrialists were as always frightened of the arousal of the workers and peasantry. They were at best then ‘vacillating’ allies of the national democratic revolution.

(vi) The Ba’ath Party and the Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party

Welding Arab nationalism into a  movement that could make strides against imperialism in reality needs Marxism-Leninism. But nationalists who shied away from revolution, tried to find a different solution. They tried to ignite Arab pride. This involved a mystical Pan-Arabism.

The formation of the Ba’th Party (or Baath) in Syria took place in 1947, led by Michel ‘Aflaq, Salh al-Din Bitar and Wahib al-Ghanim. The concept originated in Syrian intellectuals who upon return to Syria from the Sorbonne in Paris, were dismayed to find themselves treated as ‘colonials’:

“The party was…founded…by two rival schoolmasters, the ‘Alawi from Antioch, Zaki al-Arsuzi, and the Damascene Christian, Michel ‘Aflaq…Zaki al-Arsuzi was a Syrian intellectual from a modest background who in the late 1920s, won a place at the Sorbonne from which he emerged four years later with a philosophy degree and a boundless enthusiasm for French poetry, painting and civilization … Arsuzi … gathered a circle of young followers to whom he explained that the ‘renaissance’ of the Arabs – that is what the word ‘ba’th’ means – was in their grasp.. (but-ed) he came to suffer from delusions” …. In Hama Akram al-Hawrani led a youth movement and …. a lawyer, jalal at-Sayyid, started a boys’ club with a strong nationalist flavour which was to be the first Ba’th party branch in eastern Syria. But of all these youth groups, the most significant for the future was that of Michel ‘Aflaq and Salah al-Din Bitar who, like Arsuzi graduates of the Sorbonne, on their return home to Damascus in 1934 became teachers ….By 1940 ‘Aflaq and Bitar had set up their own study circle … At the start they called their group the Movement of Arab Revival (barakat al-ibya’al-arabi)”

Seale P; Ibid; p. 27 -28

These intellectuals repudiated Marxism, and were explicitly anti-communist. Although the Ba’th movement built on prior sentiments of Syrian nationalism, these had been close to a religious interpretation dominated by the Sunni sect. This alienated other parts of the Muslim Arabs, who consequently did not join in with the national movement:

“In the past, the Arab nationalist movement had always been interwoven with a kind of Sunni Islamism. And the Sunni Arabs, who usually played first fiddle in this movement, assigned in  their Arabism such an important and central role to (Sunni) Islam that heterodox Muslims, let alone Christians, were allotted a secondary place: ‘timid subordinates’ tolerate by (Sunni Arab) ‘superiors.’ In fact, many Sunni Arab nationalists tended to regard members of the Arabic speaking religious minorities as ‘imperfect Arabs’ because they were heterodox Muslims or not Muslims at all. Equally, the religious minorities tended to suspect Arab nationalism as a disguise for unrestrained Sunni ascendancy, similar to the situation that pertained during the Ottoman Empire, the only difference being that Arab rather than Turkish Sunnis now held power.”

Van Dam Nicholas: “The Struggle for power in Syria. Politics & Society Under Asad & the Ba’th party”; London 1997; p. 17.

The Ba’th ideology was supposed to be secular and it based itself on all Arabs irrespective of sect of Islam, or even of Islam itself. Ba’th means “re-birth” and took the notion as central, to mean the renaissance of the Arab movement, also holding out a promise of “socialism” to “all Arabs“:

“Ba’th ideology had a quite different basis. The Ba’th wanted a united secular Arab society with a socialist system, i.e. a society in which all Arabs would be equal, irrespective of their religion. This did not imply that Islam was of secondary importance to Ba’thist Arabism. In the Ba’thist view Islam constituted an essential and inseparable part of Arab national culture. Other than the Sunni variants of Arabism, however, the Ba’th considered Islam to be not so much an Arab national religion as an important Arab national cultural heritage, to which all Arabs, whether Muslim or Christian, were equal heirs apparent. In the opinion of Michel ‘Aflaq, the Ba’th Party’s ideologist, Christian Arabs therefore need feel in no way hindered from being Arab nationalists:

“When their nationalism awakens in them completely and they regain their original nature, the Christian Arabs will realise that Islam is their national culture with which they should satiate themselves, in order that they may understand and love it and covet it as the most precious thing in their Arabism.’

Van Dam Nicholas: “The Struggle for power in Syria. Politics & Society Under Asad & the Ba’th party”; London 1997; p. 17.

However, they slipped frequently into defense of the religious aspects – of Islam, stressing the social and progressive aspects, as preached by its religious leaders. To get the full flavour of mystic philosophy of Ba’th philosophy, a portion of their words are in Appendix Two , which contains a short extract from a 1955 speech by a leader Elyas Farah.

An appeal to the entire Arab peoples should have instantly appealed to the nascent bourgeoisie. But its more immediate appeal was to the petit-bourgeois intellectuals, and only to a limited extent to the peasant masses. Intellectuals who were already breaking away from tribal and narrowing holds, saw its potential:

“It was thus only natural that the Ba’th ideology appealed strongly to Arabic-speaking religious minority members, who may have hoped that the Ba’th would help them to free themselves of their minority status and the narrow social frame of their sectarian, regional and tribal ties.’

Finally, the minority members must have been attracted by the idea that the traditional Sunni-urban domination of Syrian political life might be broken by the establishment of a secular socialist political system as envisaged by the Ba’th, in which there would be no political and socio-economic discrimination against non-Sunnis or, more particularly, against members of heterodox Islamic communities.

After the take-over of Hafiz al-Asad in 1970, membership of the struggle for party apparatus was opened to all Syrians, including non-Arabs such as (Arabised) Kurds, Circassians and Armenians.” The number of non-Arabs in an Arab nationalist party like the Ba’th was bound to remain small, however. “

Van Dam Nicholas: “The Struggle for power in Syria. Politics & Society Under Asad & the Ba’th party”; London 1997; p. 17-8.

The Pan-Arabic vision, was illustrated by the Constitution of the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party, which officially states:

“The Arab nation constitutes a cultural unity. Any differences existing among its sons are accidental and unimportant. They will disappear with the awakening of the Arab consciousness … The national bond will be the only bond existing in the Arab state. It ensures harmony among the citizens by melting them in the crucible of a single nation, and combats all other forms of factional solidarity such as religious, sectarian, tribal, racial and regional factionalism.”

Bashir al-Da’uq ed; Nidal al-Ba’th; Volume 1; Beirut 1970; pp172-6; Cited by:
Van Dam Nicholas: “The Struggle for power in Syria. Politics & Society Under Asad & the Ba’th party”; London 1997; ; p. 15.

Michel Aflaq and Zaki Arsouzi, in 1943, at first formed the Arab Ba’th Party, in secret out of two small groups. But the legal establishment of the party: had to wait till the French military left in 1946 (Dilip Hiro; ” Inside The Middle East”; London 1982; p. 130).

From its formal beginning in 1947, the Ba’th Party intended to cover all countries where Arabs were predominant. It was not restricted to Syria. Its’ programme called for land reform and nationalisation of major parts of the economy, and a constitutional democracy:

“At its first pan-Arab congress in Damascus in April 1947, delegates from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Transjordan, and Morocco adopted a constitution and a programme. The party’s basic principles were described as: the unity and freedom of the Arab nation within its homeland; and a belief in the ‘special mission of the Arab nation’, the mission being to end colonialism and promote humanitarianism. To accomplish it the party had to be ‘nationalist, populist, socialist and revolutionary’. While the party rejected the concept of class conflict, it favoured land reform; public ownership of natural resources, transport, and large-scale industry and financial institutions; trade unions of workers and peasants; the cooption of workers into management, and acceptance of ‘non-exploitative private ownership and inheritance’.” It stood for a representative and constitutional form of government, and for freedom of speech and association, within the bounds of Arab nationalism.”

Dilip Hiro; ” Inside The Middle East”; London 1982; p. 130.

The main social base for the Ba’th was not initially the larger sections of the bourgeoisie. They were not yet convinced that the Ba’th would serve their interests. Later, these were to follow the lead of  President Nasser of Egypt:

“In Syria the party drew its initial support either from the urban Sunni (Muslim) and Orthodox (Christian) petty bourgeoisie, or the rural notables, particularly those in the Alawi and Druze areas of Latakia.

‘The party’s social base remained the petit bourgeoisie of the cities, and in the countryside middle landlords with local social prestige,’ notes Tabitha Petran. ‘However, the Baath did not develop much in the cities. Most of the Sunni petit bourgeoisie, even in Damascus, was influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood and later also by President Nasser. But the Ba’th won a following among students and military cadets: future intellectuals and army officers.”

Dilip Hiro; ” Inside The Middle East”; London 1982; p. 130.

A related party was the Arab Socialist Party. This party had a mass peasant base, which was to become vital to the Ba’th:

“The other party to draw support from the military cadets was the Arab Socialist Party, founded in January 1950 by Akram Hourani, a lawyer from Hama. .. At his suggestion the Syrian government had instituted the egalitarian policy of disregarding the social background of the applicants to the only military academy at Horns. Since a military career was the only way a son of a poor or middle peasant could raise his social status, the Horns academy attracted many applicants from this section of society. Given the ASP’s commitment to ending feudalism and distributing government land to the landless, and its leadership of peasant agitations, it was not surprising that it enjoyed considerable following among young cadets and officers.”

Hiro; Ibid; p. 131.

Soon the ASP and the Ba’th Party came together, forming the Arab Socialist Ba’th party (ASBP) in 1953. Its’ leaders, who later forced into exile, were Michel ‘Aflaq, Salh al-Din Bitar, and Akram al-Hawrani.

As discussed they represented the “middle ground” elements consisted of representatives of the petit bourgeoisie who having become educated, were cognizant of the need for progressive modern change. But most of these elements (white-collar urban workers school-teachers, government employees, large sections of the army and the air force etc;) were not of communist mentality. The Ba’th Socialist Party now restated the Ba’th’s founding aims:

“Drawn together by their opposition to the dictatorial regime of Colonel Adib Shishkali, the leaders of the Baath and the ASP decided in September 1953 to form the Arab Baath Socialist Party: this was formally done six months later. The new party re-stressed the Baath’s central slogan: ‘Freedom, unity, socialism’.” 

Hiro, Ibid p.131.

What did “socialism” mean for the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party? It was a very vague and imprecise ideology:

“Socialism, which comes last in the Baath trinity, is less a set of socio-economic principles than a rather vague means of national moral improvement. . . . All they [Ba’thist leaders] said was that socialism was a means of abolishing poverty, ignorance, and disease, and achieving progress towards an advanced industrial society capable of dealing on equal terms with other nations.”

Hiro Ibid; p.131.

The ASP’s peasant base gave the new party a mass following:

“The infusion of the ASP’s predominantly peasant following into the new party gave it the militant mass base that the old urban-based party had lacked. Winning sixteen parliamentary seats in Hama, the ASP’s stronghold, in the general election of September, strengthened the hands of the leftists in the party, and softened its anti-Communist stance, associated with the founders of the pre-merger Arab Ba’th Party.” 

Hiro Ibid; p.131.

(vii) The Egyptian Modification of Ba’th Ideology – Nasserism

Nasserism was  a specific form of Pan-Arabism, led by Gamel Abdul Nasser. Starting in the context of a nationalist movement in Egypt alone, Nasser struck a renewed hope for liberation from imperialism throughout large sections of the Middle East, using instead of Ba’th – the notion of Wahda, to mean ultimately the same. Wahda (Arabic for union) was to be a renewal of Arabic “culture,” under a twentieth century guise of nationalism.

As a strategy of the national bourgeoisie in the Middle East, both these ideologies aimed to contain the mass movement, emphasising the notions of an Arab peoples, denying any class content.

Revisionism in the parties of the entire Middle East had deprived the working class of capable leadership. Nasserism was only able to consolidate itself because the Egyptian Workers Party, the Communist Party, was itself under the influence of the now Soviet-revisionist leaders.

Wahda called for unity of several different struggling national bourgeoisies against imperialism. It hoped to be able to avoid the social revolution, by using nationalistic demagogic slogans. Effectively a class coalition was to be created, of all the national bourgeoisies, and the working classes of the different countries, led by the national bourgeoisie.

That way it was to be hoped, that the singly weak national bourgeoisie together would be strong enough to fight imperialism, and yet still be able to contain the social revolution.

Ultimately Pan-Arabism failed, as there was a single dominant national bourgeoisie, which itself tried to create “comprador” relations with the other weaker national bourgeoisie. This dominant national bourgeoisie was Egyptian and it was led by Nasser. It was successful for a time, as evidenced by the short lived creation of the UNITED ARAB REPUBLIC– consisting of Egypt and Syria. However the dominant Egyptian bourgeoisie, could not suppress the Syrian national bourgeoisie of the coalition. The experiment thus failed.

(viii) The Syrian Communist Party

The party was founded by Yusuf Ibrahim Yazbak, who used the paper al-Sahafi al-T’eh (The Wandering Journalist) to form a base; and Fouad al-Shamli, who after expulsion from Egypt, formed a base for the Lebanese Communist party. The two groups united to form the first Arab communist party:

“After two meetings were held in October 1924 at al-Hadath (a suburb of Beirut), a communist party in Syria and Lebanon was formed on 24 October 1924 by five Arabs (four workers and one intellectual): Yazbak, al-Shamali, Farid Toma, Ilyas Qashami, and Butros Hishimah. They selected Yazbak as secretary general and called the party the Lebanese People’s Party (LPP) as a public front for the communist party. The Supreme Committee of Syndi-cates constituted the main membership of the communist party and its front organization, the Lebanese People’s Party. This was the first organized and constituted communist party in the Arab world.”

Tareq Ismael and Jacqueline Ismael: “The Communist Movement in Syria And Lebanon”; Gainsville Florida, 1998; p. 8.

They contacted the Comintern in 1924, who sent them Joseph Berger of the Palestine Communist Party (PCP). This was only established in 1923, but it was a member of the Communist International (Degras J: Volume 2; p. 95). Berger was assigned the responsibility of “setting up the Lebanese CP”.  But problems rapidly surfaced as he insisted on a PCP hegemony:

“Almost since the very beginning there were signs of major disagreement between the representative of the Palestinian Communist Party, Joseph Berger, and the Lebanese communists in connection with the rejection by those present of the Palestinian guardianship of the Lebanese party. It was obvious that the Palestinian Communist Party wanted the Lebanese party to be a branch, whereas the Lebanese insisted on maintaining their independence. This occurred in spite of the coordination that was going on between members of the party and their counterparts in Palestine during the party’s first decade. The Communist Party of Palestine, which was then almost exclusively Jewish, was at that time the most ideologically mature, organizationally coherent, and genuine communist outpost in the Middle East. Its leaders believed the party to be “the only communist front in the Arab Orient” and considered it their duty “to pay attention to every question … in relation to the revolution … to look into matters relating to Syria, Egypt, and Islamic Congresses in Cairo, Mecca, and elsewhere.”” However, their aspirations were soon curtailed by the Secretariat for Oriental Affairs of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, which in December 1926 “censured” the Palestinian communists for their “ambitious demand to monopolize work in contiguous countries” and considered it to be a malady, harmful for the further expansion of communist influence in the region.”

Ismael and Ismael; Ibid; p. 8.

This attitude of the Palestine CP persisted, as seen in the 1929 Comintern discussion on the revolution in Arabistan. This forms Appendix 3 (See: Comintern on Arabistan).

The party put forward a short term programme including labour demands, and

“promotion of Lebanese industry agriculture and trade” and nationalisation; and control of religious endowments by public agencies”

(Ismaels Ibid; p. 10-11).

In 1925, an Armenian organisation (Spartacus League) initiated contacts, and they fused on May Day to form the Communist Party of Syria and Lebanon (CPSL). The first Central Committee also included a representative of the Palestine CP – Jacob Tepper (Heikal M; “The Sphinx and the Commissar”; New York; 1978; p. 41).

In 1926 however, the Oriental Secretariat Executive Committee of the Communist International, placed the party under the supervision of the Palestine CP, countermanding the prior Lebanese decision (Ismael and Ismael; Ibid; p.14). At the 6th Congress of the Communist International in September 1928, the CPSL took part.

During the French mandate, the Syrian CP (SCP) legally functioned, though suffered harassment such as the banning of its paper – al-Insaniya (Mankind – or Humanity).

At the time of partition of Greater Syria, the CPSL strongly objected. In 1930, it emerged from secrecy to become public (Ismaels Ibid; p.17). Its first full programme was published in 1931. 

The programme called for the national liberation of Syria and Lebanon and a democratic revolution to include land reform and abolition of feudalism.

Khalid Bakdash joined the party in 1930, recruited by al-Shamali. Promoted to the Central Committee in mid-1931, he was sponsored by Artin Madoyan. Within six months he had ensured al_Shamali’s expulsion – on:

“unsubstantiated and specious allegations that he had connections with the Security”

Ismaels Ibid; p.20.

Six months later, Bakdash became the party Secretary-general in early 1932, and went on to translate the Communist Manifesto in 1933 into Arabic. He was given further training in Moscow, and there, was made the permanent representative of Arab communist parties in 1934. Although the Comintern rejected the formation of a federation of Arab communist parties, on the grounds of security, the CPCL was accorded in effect the guardianship of the region.

The CPSL supported the French Popular Front government and hoped this would led to the independence of Syria.  During this time, the first legal organ of the Syrian CP was allowed – Sawt-al-Sha’b (People’s voice). However the SCP remained small, in the range of 200 members, rising to 2000 by 1939. In the mid-1930’s an internal purge was undertaken of those calling for collaboration with Arab Nationalists (Ramet, Pedro: “The Soviet Syrian Relationship Since 1955 – A Troubled Alliance”; Boulder; 1990; p.65.).

On the declaration of war on the USSR, the CPSL came to the aid of the Allied efforts against fascism. But during the war, significant steps towards downplaying the revolution were taken. In the elections of August 1943, the CPSL declared:

“We assure the national capitalist , the national factory owner, that we do no look with envy or malice on his national enterprise. On the contrary, we desire his progress and vigorous growth. All that we ask is the improvement of the conditions of the national worker. We assure the owner of land that we do not and shall not demand the confiscation of his property.. All that we ask is kindness towards the peasant and the alleviation of his misery”

Ismaels Ibid; p. 32.

While it is correct to fight for a national democratic revolution – such promises violate the meaning of a principled united front. Similarly, Bakdash was prepared to accept the leadership of the National Bloc. Bakdash went so far as to state that the CPSL was ‘a party of national liberation’:

“above all, and before ever consideration, a party of national liberation, a party of freedom and independence.”

Ismaels Ibid; p. 33.

And he traced the attraction to the USSR to a nationalist perspective:

“We approach this [issue of relation with the USSR] as patriots and as Arabs… not because the Soviet Union has a particular social system”

Ismaels Ibid; p. 33.

It can be concluded that already as early as 1945, Bakdash was a revisionist.

In 1943, Bakdash reversed the whole prior policy of the CPSL and assisted the goals of the French colonists and future neo-colonists by splitting the party into separate organisations for Syria and for Lebanon. This decision took place at the national Congress of 1943 held in Beirut. Its grounds were contradictory – arguing that firstly the “national movement in Lebanon was less developed than in Syria,” and that “democracy is more deeply rooted in Lebanon than in Syrian. where the feudal landlords still continue to rule” (Ismaels Ibid; p.35).

The relations with the French CP were one of close liaison – if not instruction. Since, in the post Independence year of 1947 – the new Syrian government again banned the CP – the two sections of Lebanon and Syria amalgamated again, until 1958.

Since its inception the Syrian CP had been anti-Zionist. However with the revisionist inspired support of the diplomatic corps of the USSR, the USSR vote at the United Nations for the creation of Israel, led the Syrian CP to reverse itself. (The revisionist manoeuvres underlying this are described in Alliance 30).

As a result of this the party rapidly lost public support (Ismaels Ibid; p.39). Bakdash refused to tolerate criticism of this within the party, which was purged. At the Central Committee meeting of 1951, he reasserted control. At this juncture, Bakdash re-discovered the injunction of Stalin to maintain a “complete freedom to carry out its political and organisational activity” within a United Front” (Ismaels Ibid; p.43). He also correctly reasserted that the strategic aim at that time, was the democratic national liberation. As a result of these steps, party support ws re-built.

In the 1954 general election, in Damascus Khalid Bakdash became the first Communist deputy to be elected, his margin was 11,000 votes. This indicated a popular respect for the Communist Party. (Mohamed Heikal “The Sphinx and the Commissar”; New York; 1978; p. 48).

This suggests that the Syrian CP was following correct strategy and tactics at this stage. Indeed Bakdash declared in 1955, in parliament, an unequivocally Marxist-Leninist viewpoint:

“We, the communists, always announced, and repeat today, that the center of our policy is to find meeting points, not disagreements, with all true nationalists…. Our program in this national democratic lib-eration stage that our country is now experiencing is crystal clear: to strengthen the foundations of independence and sovereignty … ; to participate in strengthening world peace; and to challenge imperialist conspiracies;… to spread democracy and strengthen it; to liberate our economy and work to improve it; to reform our agriculture; to raise the standard of living of workers, peasants and all toilers. After the achievement of national democratic liberation, we open the door to a higher stage of socialism … scientific socialism admits that the road of each nation toward socialism must be consistent with the character-istics of each nation and with its historic evolution, economic conditions and the other national specificities of the society … this is our program, and these are our grand aims. Show me where these conflict with the interests of Syria.”

(Ismaels Ibid; p.47).

At the same elections, the Arab Ba’th Party also won several seats. They were cooperating with the Syrian CP in the control of the streets (Hiro Ibid; p. 131).

The correct policy, was indeed to move from the first stage towards the second stage of the National democratic liberation struggle – for socialism. Yet one year after, after the USSR 1956 20th Party Congress, Bakdash again steered the party towards a more total emphasis on purely national goals rather than a conscious movement to the second stage.

(ix) The Syrian CP (SCP), the Ba’th and the United Arab Republic

By 1957, the Syrian party was one of the strongest in the Middle East. At the same time, the  alliance with the Ba’ath party, was stronger than it had ever been. The coalition between the SCP and the Ba’ath, proceeded to expel American diplomats, sign arms agreements with Moscow, and appoint a member of the Syrian CP (General Afif el-Bizri) as Chief of staff – all in August 1957 (Mohammed Heikal; “The Sphinx and the Commissar – The Rise and Fall of Soviet Influence in the Middle East”; New York; 1978; p.76-78).

This precipitated anti-Syrian moves by the USA imperialists – who arranged that an Iraqi and Turkish troop amassment took place on the borders with Syria. In September 1957, Kermit Roosevelt  of the CIA was sent to Egypt to warn Nasser not to proceed with an arms agreement with the USSR. Nasser pre-empted the USA by a public announcement of the impending arms. This transformed the Middle East from a pure “Western” preserve into a free-for-all.

When the Suez incident led to the subsequent humiliation of the British and French, the USA was using the episode as a further breach through which their imperialism would dominate. (This is discussed in more detail at: Three Tactics of the Nationalists in the Middle East).

This led to further USA attempts to destabilise Syria. A coup they sponsored had already failed in August (Hiro Ibid p.132).  Under pressure a polarisation took place, and it appeared that the Syrian CP was likely to gain further control of the leading positions in the coalition government with the Ba’thists. The Ba’thist leaders called for Nasser’s aid in fighting off the communists.

A situation analogous to the Shanghai massacre of the peasants and workers during the 1928 Chinese Revolution – was in the making. (See Notes on “Stalin & the 1928 Chinese Revolution” at Stalin & China). Stalin had repeatedly urged the CCP, through 1926 and early 1927 to break the bloc with the right KMT and move to a militant revolutionary struggle. The CCP did not heed this.

“The victory of the revolution cannot be achieved unless this bloc is smashed, but in order to smash this bloc, fire must be concentrated on the compromising national bourgeoisie, its treachery exposed, the toiling masses freed from its influence, and the conditions necessary of the hegemony of the proletariat systematically prepared. … the independence of the Communist Party must be, the chief slogan of the advanced communist elements, of the hegemony of the proletariat can be prepared and brought about by the Communist party. But the communist party can and must enter into an open bloc with the revolutionary part of the bourgeoisie in order, after isolating the compromising national bourgeoisie, to lead the vast masses of the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie in the struggle against imperialism.”

J.V.Stalin “Stalin’s Letters to Molotov”; Edited Lars T.Lih; Oleg V. Naumov; and Oleg V. Khlevniuk; Yale 1995; p.318-9.” at: Stalin & China

The situation of the Syrian Ba’th and the Syrian CP was very much the same. The Ba’th were preparing to renege. The Syrian CP was refusing to take the struggle forward, using the guise of preserving the united front. The Ba’th flew emissaries to Egypt offering Nasser an immediate military and political union of Syrian and Egypt. It was well understood that Nasser had brutally suppressed Egyptian communists. The Syrian army was strongly in support of this offer of the Ba’th leadership.

As the Syrian CP refused to go beyond their “national front,” they were dragged further backwards. Rather than oppose Nasser – the “hero” of Suez – they abandoned their prior insistence on a loose federal formula with Egypt. They now outdid the Ba’th, and insisted on a “total union” with Egypt (Ismaels; Ibid; p. 50). Belatedly they again changed tack, but it was now too late.

Nasser had seized the opportunity to accept the disastrous (For Syrian workers and peasants, and national bourgeoisie) formation of the United Arab Republic (UAR) in February 1958. This was the formal amalgamation of Syria and Egypt, and represented an expansionist phase of Egyptian national capital under Nasser. After the UAR was formed, the Arab Socialist Ba’th party was completely dissolved by its leaders on Nasser’s insistence. (Seale Ibid; p. 60). The Syrian CP refused to dissolve. Nasser was never a whole-hearted supporter of the USSR, as evidenced by his treatment of Egyptian communists.

The Egyptian suppression of both Ba’thists and communists proceeded apace. Syria’s rule was transferred to Nassers’ aide, Marshall ‘Amer (Seale Ibid; p. 59).

But when the Iraqi monarchist regime was toppled by the USSR supported military coup of General Abdul Karim Qasssem, the UAR relations became tense with Iraq. Iraq was now a client state of the USSR. Matters became worse for Syrian communists, whose Syrian CP supported Qassem. Qassem refused Nasser’s offer to join in the UAR.

But by 1961, the suppression of native Syrian capital had been so blatant, that the Syrian nationalists allied to the army,  launched a coup that separated the states of Egypt and Syria once mere. Strongly supported by Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and  Syrian businessmen. Another wing  of discontents were led by Hafiz al-Asad in a “Military Committee”. Because the Ba’th leading politicians had first asked for the Union with Egypt, and then reneged on it – they were discredited. The Military Committee members were jailed. This situation allowed the former comprador notables to take control of the state, led by Dr Ma’ruf al-Dawalibi, then Dr Bashir al-‘Azmah, and finally, Khalid al-‘Azm (Seale Ibid p. 72).

The Military Committee now united with the Ba’thists under Michel ‘Aflaq. In the coup of March 1963, the Military Committee took power in a complex coalition with both the Ba’thists and elements of ex-Nasserites. Asad was very much in the background at this stage. When the Nasserites were prompted by Egypt, they tried to seize power. In a pitched battle on 18 July 1963, the Ba’thist loyalists of the army won. In the ensuing years, Asad took control of the Ba’th Party. By 1966 the leading lights of the Ba’th were dealt with – Amin al-Fafiz was arrested; and Michel Aflaq & Salah al-Bitar were expelled (Seale Ibid p.102).

Bakdash had been previously expelled from Syria. When he was now allowed back to Syria in 1966, it was only under severe conditions:

“Khalid Bakdash the veteran leader of the Syrian Communist Party was allowed home after eight years of exile, while for the first time in Syrian History a Communist – Samih ‘Atiyya entered the government as Minister of Communications… Bakdash came home on stringent terms forbidden to hold meetings or make speeches.. “

Seale; Ibid; p. 108-109.

In fact, Bakdash had only been allowed back as a quid pro quo – the Khruschevites had demanded his return in lieu of payment for the construction of the Euphrates dam – only able to be constructed with the Khruschevite “aid.” The other two conditions included the Cabinet post named above to Atiyya – and the permission to publish a CP paper in Damascus. (Ramet Pedro: Ibid; p. 38).

The Syrian state was now fast becoming a client state of neo-USSR imperialism.

There were two primary vehicles for the USSR-  the Syrian CP – but now increasingly important – and over-taking the SCP was the Ba’th.

(x) The Syrian CP and the Khruschevite Revisionists

Over the very same period, counter-revolutionary events were taking place inside the USSR. Khrushchev was eliminating the Marxist-Leninists from any state positions. Shepilov, Molotov, Kaganovich, were all removed from any control in the party of the USSR by July 1957.

The positions of the Syrian Communist Party (SCP), were unlikely to recieve revolutionary clarification from the Khruschevites. In particular, a correct approach to the question of United Front in alliance with bourgeois democracy was jeopardised. We have detailed the switches and turns engineered by the revisionists following Stalin’s death, on this question (See Alliance 25: Khruschev Revisionism On The Colonial Question). Bakdash was to launch open polemics with the Khruschevite forces.

As Egypt was an important new semi-colony of the revisionist USSR, the Middle East merited special attention. R.A.Ulianovsky who specialised in national liberation struggles, was an aide to the revisionist Boris Ponomarev, himself an aide to Mikhail Suslov chief party ideologist. Ulianovsky was assigned a special role in the Middle East. Nasser and Ulianovsky came to an understanding over what would supposedly constitute the Arab Socialist Union.

The debate first opened in its new form at the 23rd Congress of the CPSU, in Moscow between 29 March and April 8 1966. Already Khrushchev had denounced Stalin at the 20th Party Congress (February 1956). The issue erupted as to how Communists interacted with bourgeois nationalists in the Middle East.

Bakdash took yet another turn, and now took a correct Marxist-Leninist line, against the Russian revisionists led by Ulianovsky.  We believe that it is likely that Bakdash was now becoming concerned that the USSR revisionists were favouring the Ba’th Party as their “vehicle of choice”. He therefore tacked back towards a more correct Marxist-Leninist viewpoint on the question.

Bakdash opened the subsequent printed debate in the Cominform monthly “Problems of Peace and Socialism”, called the “National Liberation Movement and the Communists” (December 1965). Here:

1) Bakdash asserted the independence in united fronts of the Communist parties: In his article he denied that:

“Even though the Soviet Union and other socialist countries pursued a policy of alliance with some of the newly free countries in Asia and Africa, this does not mean that the communist parties and the democratic forces generally must under all circumstances support their governments and renounce the fight for democratic freedoms.”

(Heikal Ibid; pp 157-161).

2) Bakdash asserted that the communists should hold the hegemony in the united front on behalf of the working class:

In fact Bakdash insisted that:

“No other social group, no class and no individual leader could take over the historic mission of the working class. Though he admitted that situations might arise in which another social group of individual leader was ‘carried to the fore on the tide of struggle against fascism, imperialism, feudalism and in some cases, also against the big bourgeoisie.'”

3) Bakdash asserted that bourgeois nationalists should be critically supported:

Bakdash stated that:

“They should be supported, ‘But we must be on our guard against attempts to justify such alliances by spurious theories repudiating the role of the working class.’ Bakdash insisted the proletariat must be the leaders of socialist transformation and the ‘future depends on the struggle between the classes and the outcome of this struggle.'”

4) Bakdash rejected any “populist” variants on Scientific socialism, such asArabic socialism”:

“He cast doubts on the argument that those who have come to Marxism partially, can be induced to accept it completely at some future stage- ‘there are those who say that the supporters of the so-called ‘Arab’; ‘African’; or ‘Islamic’ socialism will ultimately discover that the only real socialism is scientific socialism… Experience shows that this is not the case.”

5) Bakdash asserted that socialism required a centralized mass Communist party; that took power; and was not the same as the enactment of simple reforms:

He argued that reforms undertaken in state were NOT the same as establishing socialism, and that the latter is dependent upon the working class being the leaders of the revolution and of the government:

“He rejected the idea that the superstructure in a country always reflected the base: ‘On the contrary internal and domestic factors can cause sudden changes in the superstructure capable of influencing the base’; Referring to land reforms in countries like Algeria and The U.A.R., and Syria, he said that the machinery of state alone, with army and police, was not sufficient to deal with the problems involved:

‘What is needed is an influential authoritative revolutionary mass party enjoying the confidence of the people’… ‘At the same time there are no grounds for saying that the given country has taken the socialist way. To take this view would be tantamount to saying that the leading role in establishing socialism no longer belongs to the working class but has passed over to the nationalist groupings and the small bourgeoisie.'”

6) Finally he rejected the Egyptian variant of Liquidationism.

He openly criticized the Egyptian communist party for dissolving itself, in April 1965. This had been on the advice of the Khruschevites.

“Its members were advised to join the Arab Socialist Union – as individuals.”

(see Heikal Ibid; p. 140-1)

In return the USSR Revisionists, in their turn now chastised Bakdash.

As Heikal says, the official answer to Bakdash came in an article by R.A.Ulianovsky entitled: “Some problems of the Non-Capitalist Development of liberated Countries” – which appeared in the Soviet monthly magazine “Kommunist” for January 1966. Here Ulianovsky repudiated on behalf of Khruschevite revisionism – all these points. (Heikal Ibid; pp.158-161). There, Ulianovsky wrote:

“Life demands the creation of a left-wing bloc in wihhc the more conscious and better equipped Marxist-Leninist elements would play the role of friend and helper of the national democrats….If the Marxist-Leninists undertake this mission in a left-wing bloc they will help the progressives to avoid making mistakes and will thus exert a beneficial influence at critical moments of development”;

Cited heikal; Ibid; pp. 158-159.

Unfortunately, even now, to the best of our knowledge, Bakdash did not yet openly and fully repudiate Khruschevite revisionism.

Later on during the post 1967 Egyptian/Arab war with Israel, after the collusion of the Russians revisionists, with the USA and the state of Israel, in the  estruction of the Arab forces, (See Heikal, Ibid; pp 178-183) various attempts were made to enforce a so called “negotiated settlement.”

During this period, Bakdash was asked to comment upon the two rival plans being floated for this “negotiated settlement”. One emanated from Gromyko and the Russian revisionists; one came from the USA imperialists. His comment was revealing:

“After reading the Russian version…He was shown the American proposals. He could not help noticing the similarities, and admitted that there was no Arab Communist who could defend the Gromyko Plan – and no Arab nationalists who could defend it either. Bakdash’s explanation of what had happened was… That the Russians wanted to demonstrate to the Americans that it was the Arabs who were being negative… Bakdash confessed that he was disappointed at the other communist parties over Palestine. ‘We have to admit it,’ he said, ‘That there is a lot of Jewish influence in European Communist parties, and that if it had not been for Soviet influence the resolution on the Middle East at the Moscow Conference would have been weaker. Over Zionism the Rumanians showed themselves more royalist than the king- the Israeli communists were prepared to recognize the rights of the Palestinian people, but the Rumanians refused.'”

Heikal Ibid; p. 195-196.

By 1971 when the Russians formally left Egypt, Khaled Bakdash was again in Moscow, now able to argue that the policy of an un-principled support – to the point of jettisoning the independence of the Communist party – had been proven again to be wrong. But the revisionists had by now created huge damage already in the Middle East (Heikal; Ibid; p. 253).

The later career of Bakdash was however a renewed slide into revisionism.

In Conclusion

We believe that Bakdash tried to fight the Soviet revisionist distortions of the revolutionary line in colonial and semi-colonial countries, but ultimately, due to the disintegration of the world communist movement led by revisionism, Bakdash was unable to overcome the world propagation of the new revisionist line, pushed by Moscow. As Heikal puts it:

“There was a considerable contrast between the views of Khaled Bakdash and Ulianovsky – Khaled Bakdash wanted each local party to be an individual entity….whereas Ulianovsky was trying to keep them inside the national organizations.”

(Heikal; Ibid; p.160).

Overall Conclusion:

There can be no solution to the problems of Syria’s people until the formation of a new Marxist-Leninist party there.

The “solutions” of Pan-Arabism have been shown to be false.

Enver Hoxha on Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic “Socialism”

256

This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the Alliance issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”

January 1980

THE EVENTS WHICH ARE TAKING PLACE IN THE MOSLEM COUNTRIES MUST BE SEEN IN THE LIGHT OF DIALECTICAL AND HISTORICAL MATERIALISM

The international situation is very tense at present. In many regions of the world and mainly in the large zone of the oil-producing countries, especially those of Asia, the struggle between the two imperialist superpowers, the United States of America and the Soviet Union, not excluding imperialist China and the other capitalist powers, over the division and re-division of markets and spheres of influence, as they try to elbow one another out, has reached new, major proportions just as our Party correctly predicted long ago. Their pressures and plots are accompanied with diplomatic efforts and a propaganda clamour about “agreements and compromises” allegedly to preserve the peace and the balance of power. In fact, as recent events have shown, we see that agreements and compromises are still the basic principle of their policy towards each other regardless of their very acute rivalry. One day,however, the rivalry between them may reach such a point that they can no longer overcome it and settle matters except through military confrontation. The consequences of such a confrontation will descend upon the peoples, just as has occurred in previous imperialist wars.

The most recent result of this rivalry is the military aggression of the Soviet social-imperialists against Afghanistan, the occupation of that country through armed force by one of the imperialist superpowers. The fact is that what is now being done openly by the Soviets through their armed forces against the sovereignty of the Afghan people had long been prepared by the Soviet social-imperialist chauvinist politicians and military leaders and their Afghan agents. In order to arrive at the present situation, both the former and the latter exploited the overthrow, first of King Mohammed Zahir Shah in 1973 and, later, of Prince Daoud in 1978. They also exploited for their evil aims the desire of the Afghan people for social liberation from the oppression they suffered under the absolute monarchy and its foreign friends, first of all, the Soviets, who financed the monarchy and kept it in power. So, irrespective of the “alliance” which they had with the king of Afghanistan, the Soviet social-imperialists worked and acted for his overthrow. In order to disguise their imperialist aims, at first they brought their men, allegedly with more progressive sentiments, to power. Later, these, too, were changed one after the other, through actions in which blood was shed, by means of putsches and tanks, and Noor Mohammed Taraki and Hafizullah Amin were sent to the slaughter.

Nevertheless, no foreign occupier, however powerful and heavily armed, can keep the people, against whom aggression has been committed, subdued for ever. In every country which is invaded the people, apart from anti-national and anti-popular cliques of agents, receive the foreign aggressors with hatred and resistance, sporadic at first and later with more organized revolts which gradually turn into popular uprisings and liberation wars. We are seeing the proof of this in Afghanistan, where the people have risen and are fighting fiercely in the cities, villages and mountains against the Soviet army of occupation. This war of the Afghan people enjoys the support and sympathy of freedom-loving peoples and revolutionary forces throughout the world. Our people, too, support it with all their might. The war of the Afghan people against the Soviet social-imperialists is a just war, and therefore it will triumph.

The current war of the Afghan people against the Soviet military aggression and the anti-feudal, anti-imperialist, anti-American uprising of the Iranian people must make us reflect somewhat more profoundly, from the political, theoretical and ideological aspects, about another major problem which, in the existing situation of complicated developments in the world, is becoming ever more prominent: the popular uprisings of “Islamic inspiration,” as the bourgeoisie and the revisionists like to describe these movements, simply because the Moslem peoples of the Arab and other countries have placed themselves in the vanguard of the liberation movement. This is a fact, an objective reality. There are insurrectionary movements in those countries. If we were to examine and judge these movements and uprisings of Moslem peoples in an over-simplified and very superficial way as movements simply of an Islamic character, without probing deeply into the true reasons which impel the broad masses of the peoples to advance, we could fall in the positions of the revisionists and imperialists, whose assessments of these movements are denigrating and conceal ambitions to enslave the peoples.

We Marxist-Leninists always understand clearly that religion is opium for the people. In no instance do we alter our view on this and we must not fall into the errors of “religious socialism,” etc. The Moslem religion is no different in this regard. Nevertheless, we see that at present the broad masses of the Moslem peoples in the Arab and other countries have risen or are rising in struggle against imperialism and neo-colonialism for their national and social liberation. These peoples, who were deliberately left in ignorance in the past and remain backward in their world outlook to this day, are now becoming aware of the great oppression and savage exploitation which were imposed on them by the old colonizers and which the new colonizers and the internal feudal-bourgeois capitalist cliques continue to impose on them. They are coming to understand the political-economic reasons for their oppression and, irrespective that they are Moslems and have been left in backwardness, they are displaying great vitality and making an important contribution to the anti-imperialist bourgeois-democratic revolution which opens the way to the proletarian revolution. Those who have adopted and exploited the Moslem religion to exert social oppression over these peoples and to exploit them in the most ferocious ways are the anti-popular oppressive regimes and the reactionary clergy. They have protected and continue to protect their blood-thirsty power through the weapons and support which they have received from abroad, that is, from the imperialist powers, the neo-colonialist robbers, as well as through inciting and developing religious fanaticism. Thus, the development of events is more and more confirming the Marxist-Leninist thesis that the internal enemies collaborate closely with the external enemies to suppress their own peoples and that they use religion as a weapon to oppress the peoples and keep them in darkness.

The events taking place before our eyes show that the Moslem Arab peoples are fighters. Their anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal struggles and uprisings are accompanied with and result in armed clashes. These struggles and uprisings have their source in the savage oppression which is imposed on these peoples and in their freedom-loving and progressive sentiments. If you are not progressive and freedom-loving you cannot rise in struggle for freedom and national independence against the twofold internal and external oppression.

Another social cause and powerful impulse to anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal uprisings is the grave economic situation of these peoples, the burden of hunger and suffering under which they live. Hence, we cannot fail to take into account their political awakening and. to some extent, also their social awakening.

Looking at the whole struggle of the peoples of Moslem belief, we notice that there are marked differences in its level of development: there are periods when it mounts, but also periods of decline or stagnation, the latter caused by various factors and especially, by the pseudo-progressive bourgeoisie which places itself at the head of these peoples.

In Morocco, for example, there has been some movement, but the anti-feudal and anti-imperialist movement of the people of that country is not at the same height as that of other countries. On the contrary, the monarchy and feudalism dominate the Moroccan people, through violence and liberal pseudo-reforms, as well as by exploiting their religious sentiments.

In Algeria the people waged the national liberation war against the French colonialists and, although it was not led by a Marxist-Leninist party but by the national bourgeoisie, the war for national liberation ended with the withdrawal of the foreign occupiers, but it was carried no further…

In Tunisia the people seem to be asleep and very apathetic, are showing little sign of awakening, but they are not all that backward. Recently there was talk about a trade-union movement there and the general secretary of the trade-unions was arrested, but nothing more happened.

In 1952 there was a revolt in Egypt, too. The monarchy was overthrown without bloodshed. King Farouk was expelled from Egypt by a group of officers. Those who removed him from the throne accompanied him to Alexandria, gave him money, put him on board a ship and helped him to get away and save his neck. In other words, they told the monarch he had better leave of his own accord and save his skin, because he could no longer stay in the country, he no longer had any basis there. Thus, the group of officers, headed by Nasser, Naguib and Sadat, carried out what you might call a bloodless military coup against an utterly degenerate monarchy and seized power. What was this group of Egyptian officers that carried out the putsch and what did they represent? These officers were of the bourgeoisie, its representatives, they were anti-British, but amongst them there were also pro-Hitlerites. As I have mentioned, Anwar el-Sadat himself declares he collaborated with the “Desert wolf,” the Nazi field-marshal Rommel. 

This event, that is, the removal of Farouk from the throne, was exaggerated to the point of being called a “revolution.” However, the Egyptian people, the working masses of that country, gained nothing from this whole affair. Virtually no reform to the benefit of the people was carried out. The so-called agrarian reform ended up in favour of the feudals and wealthy landowners. Under the disguise of the unity of Arab peoples the newcomers to power tried to bring about the “unification” of Egypt with Syria. However, every effort in this direction was in vain because in Syria, too, at this time the capitalist bourgeoisie in the leadership of the state had simply changed their horses and their patron. The imperialist Soviet Union had replaced France. It sabotaged this baseless «unification» and established itself firmly in that country.

As is known, in 1969 there was a revolt in Libya, too; the dynasty of King Idris was overthrown and a group of young officers, headed by Qaddafi who poses as anti-imperialist, came to power. We can describe this revolt, this movement, as progressive at first, but later it lost its impact and at the moment it has fallen into stagnation. Qaddafi who came to power and claims to be the head of Islam, exploited the Moslem religion to present Libya as a “progressive” country and even called it “socialist,” but in reality the great oil wealth of the country is being exploited for very dubious adventurous and sinister aims. Of course, for purposes of demagogy and because the income from the sale of oil is truly colossal, some changes have been made in the life of the people in the cities, while the poverty-stricken nomads of the desert remain a grave social problem. As we know, Qaddafi was a disciple of Nasser’s in politics, ideology and religious belief, as well as in his aims. 

A somewhat more advanced and more revolutionary uprising against the monarchy took place in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, in 1958. It ended with the killing of King Faisal and his prime minister, Nuri Said. The “communists” took power there together with General Kassem, a representative of the liberal officers. Only five years later, however, in 1963, there was a coup d’état and Kassem was executed. He was replaced by another officer, Colonel Aref. In 1968 General Al-Bakr came to the head of the state and the “Baath” Party, a party of the reactionary feudal and compradore bourgeoisie, returned to power.

The events which are occurring in Iran and Afghanistan are a positive example for the peoples of neighbouring states, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the Emirates of the Persian Gulf, Syria, Egypt and many others, but they also constitute a great danger to the ruling cliques of some countries in this region. Hence, the whole Arab world is in ferment, in evolution. 

The echo of this anti-feudal, anti-imperialist uprising of the Iranian people which is shaking the economic foundations of imperialism and its ambitions for world hegemony extends as far as Indonesia, but there the movement is weaker than in the countries of Central Asia, the Near and Middle East or even North Africa, where the Islamic religion is more compact and the assets are greater. In those regions, for instance in Iran, there is a progressive awakening of the masses, which for the moment is led generally by religious elements who know how to exploit the sentiments of these peoples for freedom and against oppressive imperialism, the monarchist leaders and rapacious feudal cliques of robbers and murderers, etc., etc. Therefore, we must make a Marxist-Leninist analysis of this situation. We cannot accept the tales that the bourgeois revisionist propaganda, American imperialism and world capitalism are spreading that Ayatollah Khomeini or this one or that in Iran are people who do not understand politics or are just as backward as Imam Ali, Imam Hassan and Imam Hussein were. This is not true. On the contrary, the facts show that people like Khomeini know how to make proper use of the existing movement of these peoples, which, in essence and in fact, is a progressive bourgeois-democratic and anti-imperialist movement.

Employing various ways and means, the different imperialists and social-imperialists are trying to present themselves as supporters of these movements and win them over for their own aims. At present, however, these movements are in their disfavour, are against them. So true is this that the Soviet social-imperialists were obliged to send their tank regiments and tens of thousands of Soviet soldiers into Afghanistan, in other words, to commit an open fascist aggression against an independent country, in order to place and keep in power their local puppets who were incapable of retaining power without the aid of the bayonets and tanks of the Soviet army, the armed forces of the Soviet Union.

Obviously, this event, this Soviet armed occupation of Afghanistan, was bound to have repercussions and cause concern in international public opinion, to arouse great anger and indignation among the freedom-loving peoples and progressive forces and, from the strategic standpoint, to provoke the anger of their rivals for hegemony, especially of the United States of America. In fact we see that these days the American president, Carter, seems to want to make a move, apparently to create difficulties for the Soviet Union and to strengthen his own positions which are growing steadily weaker, wants to take measures to prevent a possible Soviet invasion of Pakistan, or rather, to stop the Soviet social-imperialists from exploiting the anti-imperialist revolutionary sentiments of the Moslem people of Pakistan for their own ends.

The Pakistani people nurture sympathy for the anti-imperialist movement of their Iranian neighbours, and what is occurring in Iran could occur there, too. Precisely to forestall this eventuality, the United States of America, through President Carter, has proposed to the Pakistani government to dispatch 50,000 soldiers to Pakistan and to increase the supplies of arms, allegedly to cope with the Soviet danger. The United States of America sent its Secretary of Defence to China to concretize and activate the Sino-American alliance. During this visit both sides expressed their concern over the extension of the Soviet social-imperialist expansion in this region and, in connection with this, their determination to defend their own and each other’s imperialist interests. The United States of America promised China the most sophisticated modern armaments.

Is there really a Soviet threat to Pakistan? Yes, there is. However, in Pakistan the anger against Zia-ul-Haq, accompanied by sympathy for Khomeini, might erupt even without the intervention of the Soviets. In order to escape the Soviet pressure and the uprising of the Pakistani people, Zia-ul-Haq himself might link up with the Soviets and thus enable them to justify their intervention in Pakistan. That is why the United States of America is revising its military agreements with Pakistan.

For his part, Carter is trying to preserve the balance, because an intervention of the Soviet Union in Pakistan constitutes a threat to American imperialism in that region of the world. Carter must have influence in Pakistan, also, because that country has a “defence treaty” with the United States of America. Apart from this, in the new situation which has been created in these times in Central Asia, Carter also sees other dangers, such as the return to power of Indira Gandhi who is pursuing her pro-Soviet policy. If the Soviets are able to strengthen their position in India, which is in conflict with Pakistan, the latter country might be more vulnerable from the Soviet side, in other words, the penetration of Soviet influence there would be made easier and would increase. That is why the American imperialists want to forestall the eventuality of a military intervention or the build-up of the Soviet influence in Pakistan. On the other hand, the United States of America is very concerned about the possibility of Soviet pressure on Iran under the pretext of aid against the threats made to that country by American imperialism.

It is clear that the peoples of this region are Moslems and when we say this we have in mind the fact that the majority of them are believers, but their belief is relative and does not predominate over politics. There are also progressive people there who believe in and respect the Koran and religion more as a custom and tradition. When we speak about the overwhelming majority, we have in mind that part of the people to whom the Moslem religion has been presented as a liberal progressive religion which serves the interests of the people and to whom everything preached in its name “is for the good of the people,” because “to wash, to pray and to fast is for the benefit of the health, the physical strengthening and spiritual satisfaction of man,” etc., etc. In other words, people are told that the rites of this religion are “useful” not only for this life but also for the “next life,” after death. This is preached openly. However, the poverty and oppression, schooling and a certain political development have shaken the foundations of this belief.

In general, from all these events and developments, we see that the imperialists and the social-imperialists are in difficulties in these regions of the world. It is understandable that their puppets, likewise, are in difficulties. Both for the former and for the latter it is the progressive, anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal revolutionary movement of the popular masses of the Moslem Arab peoples, whether Shia or Sunni, that is the cause of these great difficulties. The whole situation in this region is positive, good, and indicates a revolutionary situation and a major movement of these peoples. At the same time, though, we see efforts made by the enemies of these peoples to restrain this movement or to alter its direction and intensity.

Hence, we must regard these situations, these movements and uprisings of these peoples as revolutionary social movements, irrespective that at first sight they have a religious character or that believers or non-believers take part in them, because they are fighting against foreign imperialism and neo-colonialism or the local monarchies and oppressive feudalism. History gives us many positive examples in this direction when broad revolutionary movements of the popular masses have had a religious character outwardly. Among them we can list the Babist movements in Iran 1848-1851; the Wahabi movement in India which preceded the great popular uprising against the British colonizers in the years 1857-1859; the peasant movements at the time of the Reformation in the 16th century which swept most of the countries of Europe and especially Germany. The Reformation itself, although dressed in a religious cloak, represented a broad socio-political movement against the feudal system and the Catholic Church which defended that system. 

When the vital interests, the freedom and independence of a people are violated, they rise in struggle against any aggressor, even though that aggressor may be of the same religion. This is what occurred, for example, in North Yemen in 1962 when Nasser sent the Egyptian army allegedly to aid that country. Later he was compelled to remove the troops he had sent to Yemen, because a stern conflict began between the people of that country and the Egyptian army, irrespective that both sides professed the one religion.

In South Yemen, with a population of Moslem believers, there was a popular revolutionary movement against British imperialism which owned the port of Aden. Britain would never have left the port of Aden voluntarily, because it constitutes a very important strategic key to the Indian Ocean and the entrance to the Red Sea, but it was the anti-imperialist struggle of the people of Yemen that compelled it to clear out, because remaining there became impossible. After this, in 1970 a “popular democratic” regime which gradually came under the influence of the Soviet social-imperialists, was formed in South Yemen. The revolutionary movement against Soviet social-imperialism is bound to flare up there, if not today certainly in the near future.

Throughout the Principality of Oman there is an anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist revolutionary movement which is also opposed to the ruling Sultan. A similar situation will develop in Ethiopia, Somalia, the countries of the Persian Gulf, etc.

The peoples of the countries of this region are all religious, believe in the Koran and Mohammed, and link the question of the struggle against imperialist oppression with their religion. This is a reality. Obviously, however, we cannot come to the conclusion that it is religion which is causing these revolts and this revolutionary awakening. By no means. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the fact that these peoples believe in the Moslem religion and, at the same time, are fighting heroically for their national and social liberation against imperialism of every hue.

Before Liberation there were people who professed the Moslem religion in Albania, but there was no fanaticism. In the Arab or Moslem countries of Central Asia, too, the classical fanaticism of the past cannot exist, especially today. Such fanaticism can exist neither among the Moslems nor among the Catholics, the Calvinists and other schisms of Christianity. We must not forget the epoch in which we are living. We cannot fail to bear in mind the great development of science today, the growth and strengthening of the revolutionary proletariat and the spread of the ideas of Marxism-Leninism. Today the reactionary religious leaders, lackeys of the feudal order and oppressive monarchies linked with them, who want to keep the people in ignorance and bondage and to combat their liberation movements, incite fanaticism in its classical sense in those countries.

In regard to Khomeini, he is a religious leader, a dedicated believer and an idealist philosopher. He may even be a fanatic, but we see that, at the same time, he is in accord and united with the revolutionary spirit of the Iranian people. Khomeini has taken the side of the opponents of the monarchy. The imperialist bourgeoisie, the supporters of the Pahlavi monarchy and other reactionary forces in the world say that he wants to become a monarch himself. Let them say this, but the fact is that the anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal liberation movement in Iran is in the ascendancy and Khomeini still maintains a good stand in regard to this movement.

What is occurring in Iran might occur also in Pakistan or in the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, it may spark off a revolutionary situation in some other neighbouring country and even in the Soviet Union itself, because social-imperialism and revisionism carry national oppression everywhere and, as a consequence, arouse the national liberation sentiments of the peoples. Socialism and the Marxist-Leninist theory alone provide a just solution to the national question. Today the national rights of nations and peoples have been violated and trampled underfoot in the Soviet Union and wherever American imperialism and international capitalism rule. There is great oppression there, logically, therefore, there will certainly be movement.

We must examine and analyse the present events in Iran as they take place and draw conclusions from them on the basis of the teachings of our Marxist-Leninist theory. In the vanguard of the active forces in the uprising against imperialism and the monarchy in that country, are the religious zealots, the student youth, the workers and intellectuals. So, neither the proletariat nor a genuine Marxist-Leninist party is in the leadership of the movement. On this question we must also bear in mind the fact that we do not really know the strength and the basis of the different political currents in that movement. We know from experience that in our country, too, the working class was not developed, nevertheless, since the objective and subjective factors existed in the conditions of the occupation and the National Liberation War, the Party led the people to victory by basing itself on Marxism-Leninism, which means it put the working class and its vanguard, in other words itself, in the leadership. This is not the case in Iran. In that country there is a Marxist-Leninist party, the Workers and Peasants’ Communist Party of Iran, a young party which, has just been formed, but it is still small, untempered, not linked with the working class and the masses, etc., while the revisionist “Tudeh” Party has existed legally and illegally, is now legal again, but is a tool of the Soviet Union. Hiding behind Marxist-Leninist slogans, this party is sabotaging the anti-imperialist revolutionary struggle of the Iranian people and trying to bring Iran into the sphere of influence and under the thraldom of the Soviet Union. That is why the Moslem people of Iran, who have risen in revolution, are not acquainted with Marxism-Leninism either as a theory or a revolutionary practice. The students who are studying at Iran’s Moslem universities with great traditions and of the Shia Moslem sect, are both believers and non-believers in religion. In regard to the secular progressive elements there are those who believe in and are fighting for a liberal bourgeois-democratic state, those who believe in a “progressive” capitalist but anti-communist society, and those who still think that the Soviet Union is a socialist country which represents and applies Leninism. This is one of the reasons that genuine Marxism-Leninism has still not won acceptance in Iran, therefore the people there are fighting for liberation from the yoke of American imperialism and from Soviet influence, but under the banner of Islam. This means that the Shia Moslem clergy are in the leadership, in the vanguard of the uprising, but we have no illusions and know that they are for a bourgeois capitalist regime with religious predominance, hence, a theocratic regime. As to what course the movement against American imperialism and the barbarous compradore monarchy of the Pahlavis will take in the future, this depends mainly on the seething internal forces.

What general definition can be made of these forces?

In the present world situation and at the existing stage of the movement of the peoples for their national and social liberation, the popular revolution in Iran represents a new stage. Regardless of what others do or say, we must document this stage more carefully and make a critical Marxist-Leninist analysis of it.

Iran is a country very rich in oil, hence, has a working class comprised of oil workers and other industrial workers, but also has artisans. Of Iran’s 33 million inhabitants about 17 million are in the countryside and work the land. They are poverty-stricken, oppressed and exploited to the limit by the mullahs, the religious institutions, the big-landed bourgeoisie in the service of the Pahlavis, by the wealthy mercantile and money-lending bourgeoisie linked with the monarchy. Of the total population of Iran 99 per cent are of the Moslem religion and the majority of the Shia sect.

The Pahlavi regime was one of the most barbarous, the most bloodthirsty, the most exploiting, the most corrupt of the modern world. It employed bloodshed and terror to suppress any progressive movement, any even mildly liberal demonstration, any protest or strike of workers or students, and any attempt to develop a small-scale, auxiliary subsistance economy. The savage dictatorship of the Pahlavis was based on the big feudal landowners, the wealthy property-owners that the regime created, the reactionary army and the officer caste which ran it, and on SAVAK , the secret police, which the Shah himself described as “a state within a state.” The Pahlavis ruled by means of terror, robbed the people, enriched themselves in scandalous ways, were the personification of moral and political degeneration, were partners with and sold out to British and American and other imperialisms. The Pahlavis had become the most heavily armed gendarmes of the Persian Gulf under the orders of the CIA.

Iran was oppressed, but the people were seething with revolt, although wholesale executions were carried out every day. The ayatollahs who were discontented with the regime began to move. In 1951, Mossadeq, a representative of the bourgeoisie, supported by the mullahs opposed to the Shah, and by the “Tudeh” Party, seized power. In 1953 the Shah was driven out, but his overthrow and departure were not final, because the CIA organized a putsch, overthrew Mossadeq, brought the Shah back to Iran and restored him to the throne. Thus, Iran became the property of the Americans and the Shah and its oil became their powerful weapon. 

It is characteristic of the revolt of the Iranian people that, despite the great terror, it was not quelled, but continued spasmodically, in different forms and in different intensities. This revolutionary process steadily built up in quality and overcame the stage of fear of suppression

Despite the great terror, in 1977 the opposition to the Shah began to be displayed more forcibly, became more open and active. If we follow these trends opposed to the Shah and his regime separately we shall see that they are to some extent autonomous, but have a common strategy. Thus, we see the opposition of Mossadeq’s supporters, the resistance of the religious forces, the actions and demonstrations of the students, the stands of intellectuals, officials, writers, poets and artists against the regime expressed at rallies, in the universities and in other public places, etc., and together with all these currents we also see the self-defence and resistance of the working class and the whole oppressed and exploited people. SAVAK attacked mercilessly, but the suppression and executions only added to the anger of the masses. This resistance turned into a permanent activity. 

In the same period we see the re-awakening of the political opposition of Mossadeq’s supporters in the National Front. One of the elements of this current was Shapour Bakhtiar, who became prime minister on the eve of the overthrow of Shah Pahlavi. This was the last shot of the Shah and the American imperialists against the Iranian anti-imperialist revolution and Khomeini.

In the course of the development of this political opposition, the “Movement for the Liberation of Iran,” the “Iran Party,” and the “Socialist League of the National Movement of Iran,” broke away. The “Movement for the Liberation of Iran,” which was headed by Bazargan, who became prime minister after the departure of the Shah, was closer to Khomeini and the other imams.

We must always bear in mind that neither this political opposition, nor the religious opposition to the Pahlavis was united. Some of those who comprised this opposition were against the so-called agrarian reform, against the right of women to vote, etc. This section, which comprised conservative clergy, was steadily losing its influence amongst the masses, who were moving closer to that part of the clergy who openly fought the dictatorship of the Shah on the basis of the Shia principles of the Moslem religion. One of these was Ayatollah Khomeini, who was imprisoned, tortured, imprisoned again, and sent into exile and his son murdered. This enhanced the influence of the imam among the people, in the “Bazaar” (the main market centre of Tehran), hence, amongst the merchants, and also amongst the workers. In the rising tide of agitation and the great demonstrations against the Shah, the masses demanded the return of the Imam to the homeland. The death of his son and of a political personality, Ali Shariat, in mysterious circumstances led to the emergence of the religious elements in the forefront of the clashes and the whole people united with them, especially in Tabriz on February 18-19, 1977, as well as in Tehran, Qum and other Iranian cities. Al l this testifies to the fighting spirit of the people of Iran. As a result the Pahlavi monarchy was quite incapable of resisting the repeated waves of the onslaught of the insurgent people. 

Hence, in this climate of progressive insurgency against feudalism, the monarchy and imperialism, the Marxist-Leninists must analyse the various political trends, the orientations of these trends, the alliances and contradictions between them inside Iran and with the capitalist-revisionist world outside that country.

At present we see an active and militant unity of the uprising against American imperialism and the Shah and, to some extent, also against Soviet social-imperialism, and, at the same time, we also see increased vigilance and opposition towards all other capitalist states, though not so open and active as against the Americans. This situation will certainly undergo evolution. We see that the universities in Iran have become centres of fiery manifestations with both political and religious tendencies, and likewise see that the religious opposition and the political opposition are uniting. Thus, despite the contradictions which exist between them, it seems that the supporters of Mossadeq and those of Khomeini are moving closer together. In Tabriz, which has an important working class, apart from the oil workers, we can say that this unity has been brought about. Similar things are taking place at Abadan and the other regions where there are oil-fields and refineries. 

The Iranian Marxist-Leninists must, in particular, submit the strength and orientations of the working class to a Marxist-Leninist analysis and then their party must base its activity on this analysis, go among the working class, educate it and clarify it politically and ideologically, while tempering itself together with the working class in this revolutionary class struggle which, far from being ended, has only begun and will certainly assume diverse aspects. The revolutionary activity of the working class and the Marxist-Leninist ideology alone must become the factor deciding the correct directions which this anti-imperialist revolution must take. Certainly, in the present situation in Iran much can and must be gained from the revolutionary force of the Iranian working class, by the progressive elements, and especially by the students and the poor and middle peasantry. 

The Marxist-Leninists will be committing a mistake if they do not understand the situation created and do not utilize it in the right way, if they come out as anti-religious fighters and thus damage their anti-imperialist and anti-feudal unity with the followers of Ayatollah Khomeini and the followers of Mossadeq’s, Bazargan’s or others’ anti-imperialist bourgeois-democratic parties and movements.

Although anti-religious in their principles, the Iranian Marxist-Leninists must not for the moment wage a struggle against the religious beliefs of the people who have risen in revolt against oppression and are waging a just struggle politically, but are still unformed ideologically and will have to go through a great school in which they will learn. The Marxist-Leninists must teach the people to assess the events that are taking place in the light of dialectical and historical materialism. However, our world outlook cannot be assimilated easily in isolation from the revolutionary drive of the masses or from the anti-imperialist trends that are trying to remain in the leadership and to manoeuvre to prevent the bourgeois-democratic reforms of the revolution. The Iranian Marxist-Leninists and working class must play a major role in those revolutionary movements, having a clear understanding of the moments they are going through; they must not let the revolution die down. The working class and its true Marxist-Leninist vanguard should have no illusions about the “deep-going” bourgeois-democratic measures and reforms which the Shia clergy or the anti-Shah elements of the old and new national bourgeoisie might carry out. Certainly, if the working class, the poor peasantry and the progressive students, whether believers or non-believers, allow the impetus of the revolution to ebb away, which means that they do not proceed with determination and maturity towards alliances and activities conducive to successive political and socio-economic reforms, then the revolution will stop halfway, the masses will be disillusioned and the exploitation of them will continue in other forms by pseudo-democratic people linked in new alliances with the different imperialists. 

These special new revolutionary situations which are developing among the peoples of Islamic religious beliefs must be studied, conclusions must be drawn from them and new forms of struggle, action and alliances must be found. These revolutionary situations are much more advanced than those in Europe and Asia and, to some degree, even Latin America, where the revolutionary movements have assumed a petrified form, linked with and led by reformist and counter-revolutionary social-democracy and modern revisionism.

For instance, we do not see such revolts of a marked revolutionary political spirit occur in Europe where there is a big and powerful proletariat. For what reasons? For all those reasons which are known and have to do with the grave counter-revolutionary influence and sabotage of social-democracy and modern revisionism. The question is not that there is no exploitation on our continent, and therefore there are no movements. No, here, too, there is exploitation and there are movements, but they are of another nature. They are not “very deep-going, Marxist-Leninist revolutionary movements” which are waiting “for the situation to ripen,” etc., as the social-democrats, revisionists and other lackeys of the capitalist bourgeoisie describe them. No, the capitalist bourgeoisie itself and its lackeys do not permit such situations to ripen, do not permit such occurrences as are going on at present in the Arab-Moslem countries, where the revolutionary masses rise in struggle and create difficult situations for imperialism, feudalism and the cosmopolitan capitalist bourgeoisie.

Some claim that the Arab peoples and the peoples of the other Moslem countries are moving, because they are “poor!” Indeed, they are poor. But those who say this must admit that they themselves have become bourgeois and that is why they do not rise against oppression and exploitation, while the truth is that capitalism barbarously oppresses and exploits the peoples everywhere, without exception.

It is claimed, also, that in the countries of Islamic religion, the “masses are backward,” therefore, they are easily set in motion. This means that those who support this reasoning have degenerated and are not for revolution, because at a time when capitalism is in decay, honest people must be revolutionary and rise in struggle against capitalism, aiming the weapons they posses against it. Here, in Europe, however, we do not see such a thing. On the contrary, we see the “theory” of adaptation to the existing situation being preached.

Political debates are organized all over the capitalist countries. It has become fashionable for the social-democrats, the Christian-democrats, the revisionists and all sorts of other people in these countries to talk about “revolution” and allegedly revolutionary actions, and each of them tries in his own way to confuse and mislead the working masses with these slogans. The “leftists” scream for “revolutionary measures,” but immediately set the limits, “explaining” that “revolutionary measures must not be undertaken everywhere and in all fields,” but that only “certain changes must be made,” that is, a few crumbs must be thrown to the masses, who are demanding radical revolutionary changes, in order to deceive them and to hinder and sabotage the revolutionary drive of the masses.

We must analyse these situations and phenomena in theoretical articles or in other forms and with other means of our propaganda on the Marxist-Leninist course, with the aim of explaining the essence of the revolt and uprisings of peoples against imperialism, neo-colonialism and local rulers, of explaining the question of the survival of old religious traditions, etc. This does not rule out our support for liberation movements, because such movements occurred even before the time of Marx, as mentioned above. To wait until religion is first eliminated and carry out the revolution only after this, is not in favour of the revolution or the peoples. 

In the situation today, the people who have risen in revolt and believe in religion are no longer at the stage of consciousness of Spartacus, who rose against the Roman Empire, against the slave-owners, but they are seething with revolt against the barbarous oppression and exploitation and policy of imperialism and social-imperialism. The slaves’ revolt led by Spartacus, as Marx and Engels explain, was progressive, as were the beginnings of Christianity.

In these very important situations we see that the other peoples of Africa have risen, too, but not with the force and revolutionary drive of the Arab peoples, the Iranians, etc. This is another problem which must be examined in order to find the reasons why they, too, do not rise and why they are not inspired to the same level as the peoples that I mentioned. It is true that the African peoples are oppressed, too, indeed, much more oppressed than the Arab peoples, the Iranians and others. Likewise, Marxism has still not spread to the proper extent in Africa, and then there is also the influence of religion, although not on the same scale as in the Moslem countries. Work must be done in Africa to disseminate the Marxist-Leninist theory more extensively and deeply. That is even more virgin terrain, with oppressed peoples, amongst whom the sense of religion is still in an infantile stage. There are peoples in Africa who still believe in the heavenly powers of the sun, the moon, magic, etc., they have pagan beliefs which have not crystallized into an ideology and a concrete theology such as the Moslem religion, let alone the Christian or Buddhist religions and their sects. Although there is savage oppression and exploitation in Africa, the movement in this region of the world is developing more slowly. This is because the level of social development in Africa is lower. 

If we take these questions and examine them in unity, we shall see that at the present stage of development, Islam as a whole is playing an active role in the anti-imperialist liberation struggles of the Moslem peoples, while in the European countries and some other countries where the Catholic religion operates, preaching the submissive Christian philosophy of “turn the other cheek,” its leaders take a reactionary stand and try to hinder the movement, therevolt, the uprising of the masses for national and social liberation. Of course, in those countries the oppressive power of the bourgeoisie and capitalism, social-democracy and modern revisionism is greater, but the Catholic religion, too, serves to suppress the revolutionary spirit of the masses in order to keep the situation in stagnation.

From the stand-point of economic development the Moslem peoples have been held back; as a consequence of colonialist occupation and colonialist and neo-colonialist exploitation in past decades the Moslem religion in those countries was suppressed by the Catholic or Protestant religions which were represented by the foreign invaders, a thing which has not passed without consequences and without resistance, and herein we might find a political and ideological-religious reason for the anti-imperialist revolution of the Moslem peoples.

The question presents itself that we should look at the present stage of development of the Moslem religion as compared with past centuries. The development of human society has exerted an influence that has made the Moslem religious belief less and less functional. That is, it has been infiltrated by a certain liberalism which is apparent in the fact that, while the Moslem believer truly believes in the Islamic religion, today he is no longer like the believer of the Middle Ages or the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Today the veiled women in the Moslem countries have those same feelings which our veiled women had before Liberation, as for example in Kavaja [town in central Albania – E.S.] although, of course, not completely those of women as progressive as ours were. Nevertheless, the feelings of revolt exist deep in their hearts, and are expressed to the extent that public opinion permits. Today the Iranian women are involved in the broad movement of the Iranian people against the Shah and imperialism.

Hence, we see that religious oppression exists in the countries with Moslem populations, too, but the religion itself has undergone a certain evolution, especially in its outward manifestations. Let me make this quite clear, religion has not disappeared in those countries, but a time has come in which the spirit of revolt, on the one hand, and the liberalization of the religion, on the other, are impelling people who believe in the Islamic dogmas to rise against those who call themselves religious and want to exercise the former norms of the religion in order to suppress the peoples and keep them in poverty. Their struggle against imperialists, whom they continue to call infidels, that is, their enemies, enemies of their religion, is linked precisely with this. These peoples understand that the foreign occupiers are people of Catholic or Protestant beliefs who want to oppress both countries and religions. The westerners call this religious antagonism, which also contains the class antagonism against foreign occupiers, simply a religious struggle, or apply other incorrect denigrating epithets to it. This is how they are treating the liberation struggles of the Moslem peoples of Arab and non-Arab countries in Asia and Africa today and even the liberation struggle of the Irish people, most of whom are Catholics, against the British occupiers who are Protestants. At the same time, we see incorrect manifestations also among the Moslem peoples who have risen in revolt. They, too, say: “The Giaours, unscrupulous people who are against our religion, are oppressing us,” etc. In this way they link the question of national liberation with the religious question, that is, they see the social and economic oppression which is imposed on them by imperialism as religious oppression. In the future the other Moslem peoples will certainly reach that stage of development which the people of Algeria, Syria and some other countries have reached on these matters. 

These struggles lead not only to increased sympathy for the peoples who rise in revolt, but also to unity with them, because they are all Moslems. If a people rise against imperialism and the reactionary chiefs ruling their country, who use religion as a means of oppression, this uprising destroys the sense of religion even among those who believe in it at the moment. When a people rise in insurrection against oppression, then the revolutionary sentiment is extended and deepened and people reach the stage which makes them think somewhat more clearly about the question of religion. Until yesterday the poor peasant in Iran said only “inshallah!” and comforted himself with this, but now he understands that nothing can be gained through “inshallah!” In the past all these peoples said, “Thus it has been decreed,” but now the masses of believers have risen united and come out in the streets, arms in hand, to demand their rights and freedom. And certainly, when they demand to take the land, the peasants in those countries will undoubtedly have to do battle for the great possessions of the religious institutions, that is, with the clergy. That is why the sinister forces of reaction are making such a great fuss about the fanatical aspect, about the question of putting the women back under the veil, etc., etc., because they are trying to discredit the Iranian revolution, because imperialism and world capitalism have a colossal support in religion. This is how matters stand with the Vatican, too, with the policy of that great centre of the most reactionary world obscurantism, with the mentality and outlook of Catholics. But the revolution disperses the religious fog. This will certainly occur with the Arab peoples, with the other Moslem peoples, who are rising in insurrection, and with the peoples of other faiths, that is, there will be progress towards the disappearance, the elimination of religious beliefs and the religious leadership. This is a major problem.

Here we are talking about whole peoples who are rising in revolt in the Moslem countries, whether Arab or otherwise. There are no such movements in Europe. On this continent social-democratic reformist parties and forces operate. The number of Marxist-Leninist parties here is still small, while there are big revisionist parties, which operate contrary to people’s interests and sentiments, have lost credibility among the masses, and support capitalism, imperialism and social-imperialism. The Moslem peoples of the Arab and non-Arab countries trust neither the American imperialists nor the Soviet social-imperialists, because they represent great powers which are struggling to oppress and plunder the Moslem peoples; also, as Moslems they put no trust in the religious beliefs of those powers.

As a result, the uprising which is developing in Iran and Afghanistan is bound to have consequences throughout the Moslem world. Hence, if the Marxist-Leninist groups, our comrades in these and other countries of this region properly understand the problems emerging from the events in Iran, Afghanistan and other Moslem countries, then all the possibilities exist for them to do much work. However, they must work cautiously there. In those countries religion cannot be eliminated with directives, extremist slogans or erroneous analyses. In order to find the truth we must analyse the activity of those forces in the actual circumstances, because many things, true and false, are being said about them, as is occurring with Ayatollah Khomeini, too. True, he is religious, but regardless of this, analysis must be made of his anti-imperialist attitudes and actions, which, willy-nilly, bring grist to the mill of the revolution. 

This whole development of events is very interesting. Here the question of religion is entangled with political issues, in the sympathy and solidarity between peoples. What I mean is that if the leadership of a certain country were to rise against the revolt of the Iranian people, then it would lose its political positions within the country and the people would rise in opposition, accuse the government of links with the United States of America, with the “giaours,” because they are against Islam. This is because these peoples see Islam as progressive, while the United States represents that force which oppresses them, not only from the social aspect but also from the spiritual aspect. That is why we see that none of these countries is coming out openly to condemn the events in Iran.

Another obstacle which reaction is using to sabotage the revolution of the Iranian people is that of inciting feuds and raising the question of national minorities. Reaction is inciting the national sentiments in Azerbaijan, inciting the Kurds, etc., etc., in order to weaken this great anti-imperialist and “pro-Moslem” uprising of the Iranian people. The incitement of national sentiments has been and is a weapon in the hands of imperialism and social-imperialism and all reaction to sabotage the anti-imperialist and national liberation wars. Therefore, the thesis of our Party that the question of settling the problems of national minorities is not a major problem at present, is correct. Now the Kurds, the Tadjiks, the Azerbaijanis and others ought to rise in struggle against imperialism and its lackeys and, if possible, rise according to the teachings and inspiration of Marxism-Leninism. The Kurds, the Tadjiks and the Azerbaijanis who live in the Soviet Union and are oppressed and enslaved today, must rise, first of all, against Russian social-imperialism.

In broad outline this is how the situation in these regions presents itself and these are some of the problems which emerge. The events will certainly develop further. Our task is to analyse these situations and events which are taking place in the Moslem world, using the Marxist-Leninist theory as the basis, and to define our stands so that they assist a correct understanding of these events, and thus, make our contribution to the successful development of the people’s revolutionary movement.

Enver Hoxha, “Reflections on the Middle East,” Tirana; 1984; pp. 355-392

Meeting to Commemorate the 96th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution

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The Workers’ Unity Trade Union (WUTU) organised a meeting to commemorate the 96th Anniversary of the Great Socialist Revolution on 10th November 2013 at Kapashera. This time the meeting was held at the place where the working class resides who worked in the various industrial centres of Gurgaon and the National Capital Region. The meeting was attended by representatives from Janpaksh, New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI), Marxist Communist Party of India (United) (MCPI-U), Campaign for Peace and Democracy (Manipur), Manipur Students’ Association Delhi, Nirman Mazdoor Shakti Sangathan, Pratidwani cultural group and concerned individuals.

At the beginning tributes were made to Comrades Lyallpuri and V.B. Cherian. The Internationale was played by Pratidwani.

Gautam Modi, NTUI: Comrade Gautam Modi congratulated WUTU for celebrating the Great October Socialist Revolution and said that WUTU is the one among the few organisations that has taken an initiative for this great occasion. He stated that the economic crisis which began in 2008 is still continuing. Though the objective situation is ripe for social transformation the Left movements and organisations are not yet either prepared to challenge the system nor are they organised to bring any kind of transformation. Since the disintegration of Soviet Union, the left has only taken part in protest demonstrations but could not convert this into struggles. It is essential to learn from October Revolution. He stressed the need for unity among different left and progressive organisation despite the differences. Regarding the conceptualisation on revolution, he said that Western scholars and including Russians had redefined the Russian Great October Revolution as a ‘coup’ and pre-mature, ill-timed actions led by Lenin. Other sections remained committed to October Revolution as the only way for social transformation. The disintegration of Soviet Union took place not because of the offensive from imperialism but because of internal crisis within the CPSU and USSR. In the 21st century, it is essential to learn from the critiques. He also stressed the need to change the working style in organisations.

Comrade Kuldeep Singh (MCPI-U): Comrade Kuldeep congratulated the WUTU for the meeting. He discussed in detail the context of the October Revolution. Lenin has learnt the lesson from the failure of the Paris Commune of 1871 which lasted only for 72 days and he applied it in both theory and practice by consolidating the Bolshevik Party and enriched the concept of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Lenin defended this concept form the attack of opportunists and revisionists. During the decades of 1960s and 1970s, with the emergence of “Euro-Communism,” the main attack was on the Dictatorship of Proletariat. Comrade Kuldeep distinguished the Dictatorship of Proletariat from Bourgeois Democracy as it is the democracy for all working masses, peasants and other oppressed masses which includes 95 percent of the total population. He stated that the deviation from the basic fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism in the guise of “three peacefuls” by Nikita Khrushchev after the death of J.V. Stalin led to its degeneration into a bourgeois republic. Regarding unity among various Left and progressive sections, he stressed that unity should be based on a common programme. The CPI (M) has completely transformed into a bourgeois party through its practice. The ongoing economic situation in our country is the consequence of the implementation of liberalism, privatisation and globalisation and the economic crisis which began in 2008 reflected the crisis of the global capitalist system and imperialism.

Dr. Rakesh Kumar Chamar (BSP): Dr. Rakesh discussed in detailed the day to day problems faced by local people particularly the depressed castes and he criticised the obstacles put by the bourgeois parties that is they even did not allow properly the implementation of the civil and constitutional rights which were laid down in the Constitution of India.

Comrade Abita (MSAD): She elaborated the consequences of the Indian occupation of Manipur on the day to day life of the people. She stressed the need to have collaboration of the workers’ movement in India and the national liberation struggle in Manipur.

Comrade Jaya Mehta (Economist): Comrade Jaya narrated her experiences of her recent visit to China. She stressed the importance of history and that it provides essential information regarding the success and failure of any revolution. Revolution is always made by the people and is led by the Party. The October Revolution is one among the great revolutions. She discussed the conditions of the working class in India, that is, out of 46 crores of people working in India, only 3 crores are in the organised sectors. In the last few years capitalism is in deep crisis and a new consciousness has to be developed based on socialism.

Comrade Satish (Maruti Union): He narrated the problems faced by workers in Maruti Company. Though 150 workers have been put behind bars, none of the unions or political parties seem to be concerned about their release.

Comrade P.P. Sawant: Comrade Sawant spoke of the illusion about justice in the minds of people. Though the Constitution of India declared itself as a Sovereign Democratic Secular Socialist Republic but since last 25 years, the terminology ‘socialism’ is completely missing in people’s minds. Regarding capital punishment, it has never been awarded to any rich capitalist or landlord but to the struggling people. He concluded that struggle is the only way for the success and legal battle is only part of larger struggle.

Comrade Shakir (WUTU): Comrade Shakir narrated his personal experience that he faced and how he tackled the police harassment. He also told the role played by the trade unions in sorting out the problems faced by the workers in day to day life. He stressed the need of organising the working class and building unity.

Mr. Vimal: Mr. Vimal narrated his personal experiences argued the workers must not compromise but engage in struggle.

Comrade Aurobindo Ghosh: He discussed the celebration of Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia and other parts of world. He tried to link various incidents in Tsarist Russia starting from the abolition of serfdom in 1861, the dress rehearsal of 1905, the bourgeois democratic revolution in February 1917 and leading it to the successful Great October Revolution under the leadership of V.I. Lenin. He enumerated the achievements during the Lenin-Stalin era in Soviet Union where women played a prominent role. Beside this he also acknowledged the role of Comrade Mao-Tse-Tung and the Chinese Revolution in continuation of October Revolution. Regarding India, he said that it would not be appropriate to say that objectively it is ripe for revolution but it is closer to it whereas the subjective conditions are completely lacking in our country.

Prof. Tripta Wahi: Comrade Tripta said that it was the first time in the history of mankind that state power was transformed to the exploited class, that is, workers and peasants. This revolution is continued for several years until the socio-economic system was transformed. It divided the whole world into two camps, that is, one section favoured the revolution and others opposed the cause. She highlighted the development in the field of medicine which was ahead of the Western countries.

In conclusion the film ‘Ten Days that Shook the World’ was screened.

Source

Communist Platform: The European People’s Democracies of the 20th Century: A Specific Form of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat

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From Unity & Struggle No. 25, Spring/Summer 2013

Italy

1. Between August 1944 and May 1945 the Red Army, in its unbeatable advance toward Berlin, freed Poland, Hungary, Rumania, Czechoslovakia and eastern Germany from Nazi rule, also aiding the liberation of Yugoslavia and Albania.

In those countries anti-fascist fronts were set up against the Nazi occupiers (for example, the Patriotic Front in Bulgaria, the Independence Front in Hungary, the National Democratic Front in Romania, the National Anti-Fascist Front in Czechoslovakia, the Anti-Fascist Front of National Liberation in Albania, and so on).

With the exception of Albania, where the Communist Party (later the Party of Labour) undertook by itself the leadership of the new people’s democratic State that arose from the war of liberation, in other countries coalition governments were formed with the participation of various political  parties, the expression of  different social classes.

In the beginning, the communists who took part in those coalition governments had the task of assuring the democratic development of those countries against the reactionary and fascist remnants, building inside the Front a bloc of left-wing forces, and preventing the right-wing forces from strengthening their traditional ties with the middle strata of the city and countryside. Profound agrarian reforms were carried out and some nationalisations were introduced; new organs of people’s power were established, such as the People’s Councils in Albania, the Committees of the Patriotic Front in Bulgaria, the Committees of the National Front in Czechoslovakia, and so on.

But from the theoretical and political point of view, for the communists this presented the problem of perspective. What was the class nature of these new systems of people’s democracy? And what “road” would they have to follow in their development towards socialism?

In this article we intend to examine – through the declarations of some leaders of the communist parties of those countries – the positions assumed by their parties in the first years of existence of the people’s democratic States, and how those positions were later modified through a process of profound Bolshevik criticism and self-criticism. (From here on the bold face is ours.)

2. “The struggle for socialism is different today from the struggle of 1917 and 1918 in tsarist Russia, at the time of the October Revolution. At that time it was essential to overthrow Russian tsarism, the dictatorship of the proletariat was essential in order to pass over to socialism. Since then, more than thirty years have elapsed, and the Soviet Union, as a socialist State, has become a great world power. […] There is no doubt that all counties, big and small, are destined to pass over to socialism, because that is historically inevitable for both big and small peoples. The crucial point of the question, and we Marxist-Leninists should know this well, is this: every nation will carry out the passage to socialism not through a road already drawn, not exactly as occurred in the Soviet Union, but proceeding along its own road, in accordance with its historic, national, social and cultural peculiarities” (G. Dimitrov, Report to the Congress of the Bulgarian Workers’ Party, February 1946).

Our people are for a parliamentary republic, which should not be a plutocratic republic. They are for a people’s republican system and not for a bourgeois republican system. What does this means? It means: 1) that Bulgaria will not be a Soviet republic, but a people’s republic in which the leading function will be performed by the great majority of the people – by the workers, peasants, artisans and intellectuals linked to the people. In this Republic there will not be any dictatorship, but the fundamental and decisive factor will be the labouring majority of the population” (G. Dimitrov, Speech of September 16, 1946).

Experience and the Marxist-Leninist teachings show that the dictatorship of the proletariat and the building of a Soviet system are not the only road leading to socialism. Under certain conditions, socialism can be achieved by other roads. The defeat of fascism and the suffering of the peoples in many countries have revealed the true face of the ruling class and have also increased the confidence of the people in themselves. In similar historical moments new roads and new possibilities appear. […] We are marching on our own road toward socialism” (K. Gottwald,Speech to the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, October 1946).

We must show what the relation is between the building of Hungarian people’s democracy and the road leading to socialism. The communist parties have learned, in this last quarter century, that there is no single road to socialism, but that the only road effectively leading to socialism is the road that takes into account the situation of each country. […] Only people’s democracy allows our country to march toward socialism through social evolution, without civil war (M. Rakosi, Speech to the 2nd Congress of the Hungarian Communist Party).

3. In this analysis and in these theoretical and political positions, the existence of indefiniteness, confusion and errors are evident, whether owing to an initial and not very mature experience of the “new roads”, or to a not clear relation between the immediate task (the consolidation of the new democratic systems emerging from the anti-Nazi and anti-fascist victory) and the long-term tasks of building socialism. There is also an excessive and one-sided emphasis on the national element, which is “isolated” and unlinked from its connections with proletarian internationalism.

These declarations correctly acknowledge and affirm that each nation will carry out the passage to socialism not “through a path already drawn”, but “according its own road, in conformity with its own historical, national, social and cultural peculiarities.

There were some important particularities in that historical situation: for example, the exclusion from power of the old ruling classes not as the result of a civil war, but on account of the armed presence of the Red Army on the territory; the survival of the parliamentary institution (an inheritance from the pre-war period) that coexisted with the new organs of people’s power. But these particularities were confused with the fundamental question of the class nature of the new power. The question of political leadership was not made clear. The leading role of the working class and its party – the communist party – in the power system of people’s democracy (a role that is decisive and irreplaceable in the dictatorship of the proletariat) is not asserted, or it is overshadowed.

In the following years those errors of analysis and perspective could be corrected self-critically, as we mentioned above. But we must not forget that, inside some of the communist parties, there were also right-opportunist tendencies, which led to the open theoretical revision of the foundations of Marxism-Leninism.

The most crude revisionist position was the one expressed in the Polish United Workers’ Party [PUWP] by the right-wing tendency represented in those years by its general secretary Wladislaw Gomulka. In his speech on November 30, 1946, to the assembly of Warsaw activists of the Polish Workers’ Party and the Polish Socialist Party [which later merged into the PUWP], Gomulka expressed his views in this way:

“The Polish Workers’ Party has based its conception of a Polish road to socialism that does not imply the necessity of violent revolutionary shocks in the evolution of Poland and eliminates the need of a dictatorship of the proletariat as the form of power in the most difficult moment of transition. On the basis of real elements, we have realized the possibility of an evolution toward socialism through a people’s democratic system, in which power is exercised by the bloc of democratic parties.”

He then explained “the three principal differences between the road of the evolution of the Soviet Union and our road”:

“The first difference is this: the social and political changes were accomplished through bloody revolutions, whereas in our country they are accomplished in a peaceful manner. The second difference consists in the fact that, whereas the Soviet Union had to pass through a period of dictatorship of the proletariat, in our country this period has not existed and can be avoided. The third difference that characterizes the roads of evolution between the two countries is that, whereas in the Soviet Union power is in the hands of the Council of Deputies, or Soviet, that unites in itself both legislative and executive functions, and that represents the form of socialist government, in our country the legislative functions and the executive ones are separate, and a parliamentary democracy is at the base of the national power.”

[…] “In Russia the dictatorship of the proletariat continues to be the form of government necessary after bringing down the counter-revolution. […] Today the dictatorship of the proletariat has changed its form and it can be said that it has died out with the disappearance of the class of exploiters and their ideology; its place has been occupied by Soviet democracy as the form of government of the country. The enemies of the Soviet Union, those who do not understand what the dictatorship of the proletariat means, continue to assert that this dictatorship still exists in Russia. This naturally does not make political sense.”

[…] “Thus we have chosen a Polish road of evolution, which we have called the line of people’s democracy. On this road and in these conditions, a dictatorship of the working class, let alone the dictatorship of one of the parties, is not necessary and is not our aim. We think that power should be exercised by the coalition of all the democratic parties. […] Polish democracy exercises power through a parliamentary system of different parties, whereas Soviet democracy realises the power of the people through the Councils. […] The Polish road to socialism is not the road that leads to the dictatorship of the working class, and the form of exercise of power by the working masses does not necessarily have to be represented by a system of Councils.”

Gomulka – who went so far as to even deny the existence of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union – synthesized the essentials characteristics of Polish people’s democracy in this way:

“The elimination of reaction from power in a peaceful manner, and the accomplishment of great social reforms by democracy without bloodshed, without revolution and without civil war.”

These anti-Leninist positions (that, one should remember, never had any legitimacy in the Party of Labour of Albania under the firm political and ideological leadership of Enver Hoxha) were later defeated in Poland in consequence of the sharp class struggle developed inside the party. But they re-emerged with Khrushchev at the 20th Congress of the CPSU, giving rise to the principal trend of modern revisionism.

Just as full of errors, and particularly significant, is this definition of the countries of people’s democracy adopted in Hungary by Eugene Varga in the first years after the Second World War:

It is neither the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, nor the dictatorship of the proletariat. The old state apparatus was not destroyed, as in the Soviet Union, but it has been renewed through the continuous assimilation of the supporters of the new system. They are not capitalist States in the usual sense of the word, but they are also not socialist States. Their evolution toward socialism is based on the nationalisation of the principal means of production and on the actual character of these States. Even while the state power is maintained as it now exists, they can pass progressively to socialism by pushing forward the development of the socialist sector that already exists together with the simple-commodity sector (peasants and artisans), and the capitalist sector that is losing its dominant position.”

4. In the second half of 1947 the international situation went through profound changes, due to the passage of U.S. imperialism to an aggressive and expansionist policy (creation of military bases in the eastern part of the Mediterranean, military loans and aid to the reactionary regimes in Greece and Turkey, rearmament and support to all reactionary international forces), a policy that had its maximum expression in the “Truman Doctrine,” the “Marshall Plan” and the violent anti-communist ideological campaign unleashed by Yankee imperialism all over the world.

In his Report to the Information Conference of the representatives of nine communist parties (Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, France and Italy), held in Poland in September 1947, Andrei Zhdanov denounced the tendency of the United States of America to world domination, emphasised the formation at the international level of two camps – the imperialist anti-democratic camp and the anti-imperialist democratic camp – and criticized the tendency, present in some communist parties, to interpret the dissolution of the Communist International as if it “meant the liquidation of any ties, of any contact between the fraternal communist parties.

As the conclusion of that Conference, the “Information Bureau of Communist and Workers’ Parties” (Cominform) was set up, and inside the parties some important questions of a theoretical and political nature were re-examined, including those relating to the class content of the States of people’s democracy.

5. On December 19 1948, in his Report to the 5th Congress of the Bulgarian Workers’ Party (at that time again the Communist Party of Bulgaria), G. Dimitrov stated:

“In order to proceed with determination and firmness on the road toward socialism, it is necessary to completely clarify the ideas about the character, function and perspectives of people’s democracy and the people’s democratic State. In this respect, we must define more precisely some of the positions we have held until now, and rectify other positions, starting from the experience accumulated up to now, and from the more recent data on this new complex question. Briefly, in what does the question consist?

“First. The people’s democratic State is the State of a period of transition and has the task of assuring the development of the country toward socialism. This means that, although the power of the capitalists and large landowners has been demolished and the property of these classes has become property of the people, the economic roots of capitalism have not yet been extirpated, the capitalist elements aiming to restore capitalist slavery remain and are still developing. Therefore the march toward socialism is possible only by leading an implacable class struggle against the capitalist elements in order to completely liquidate them.

Second. In the conditions created by the military defeat of the fascist aggressor States, in the conditions of the rapid worsening of the general crisis of capitalism and of the huge increase in strength of the Soviet Union, our country, like the other countries of people’s democracy, once assured of the close collaboration with the USSR and the other people’s democracies, is seeing the possibility of accomplishing the passage to socialism without creating a Soviet system, through the system of people’s democracy, provided that this system is strengthened and developed with the aid of the Soviet Union and the countries of people’s democracy.

Third. The system of people’s democracy, representing in these particular historical conditions the power of the labouring people under the guidance of the working class, can and must – as experience has already shown – successfully exercise the functions of the dictatorship of the proletariat through the liquidation of the overthrown capitalist elements and landowners, in order to crush and liquidate their attempts to restore the power of capital.”

No less important and rich in lessons is the analysis in the Report to the First Congress of the Polish United Workers’ Party (December 1948), by the new secretary of the Party, Boleslaw Bierut, who denounced the positions of Gomulka as the result of a “nationalist limitation” and a “petty-bourgeois mentality”, as “a return to social-democratic opportunist conceptions that have not been completely defeated and are continually reborn; against them our party has conducted and must ceaselessly conduct  a fight to the finish.”

In that Report, Bierut pointed out the role and character of the State of people’s democracy in this manner:

“The Polish road to socialism, despite of its particular characters, is not something essentially different, but only a variant of the general road of development toward socialism, a variant which can exist only thanks to the earlier victory of socialism in the USSR, a variant based on the experiences of socialist construction in the USSR, with regard to the specific nature of the new historical period which determines the conditions of the historical development of Poland.

“What is a State of people’s democracy according to Marxist-Leninist theory? How can one define the essence, the class content and character of people’s democracy? Some people began to think that people’s democracy was a system qualitatively and fundamentally different from a system based on the dictatorship of the proletariat. Defining the system of people’s democracy in Poland as a specific Polish road toward the new system, its particularity was often understood in the sense that it was considered a special process of development whose point of arrival was impossible to establish previously, as was said.

“Some people imagined the result as a synthesis of its own kind of capitalism and socialism, as a particular socio-political system in which the socialist and capitalist elements coexisted on two parallel tracks and on the basis of a reciprocal recognition,. Other people, believing that the system of people’s democracy was a temporary effect of the specific situation determined by the post-war conditions, strived to temporarily stabilize this situation, in the hope that would be possible to return again to the situation existing before September [alluding to the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 – Editor’s note].

[…] “People’s democracy is not a type of synthesis or stable coexistence of two social systems of different natures, but the form through which the capitalist elements are undermined and progressively liquidated, and at the same time the form that allows the development and strengthening of the bases of the future socialist economy.

“People’s democracy is the particular form of revolutionary power that emerged in the new historical conditions of our epoch, it is the expression of the new array of class forces on the international level.

[…] “The development of our march toward socialism takes place through carrying out the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism in new conditions and in a new international situation.

“The principles are as follows:

  1. “The need for the working class, at the head of the popular masses, to seize political power;
  2. “The pre-eminent position of the working class in the worker-peasant alliance and in the national democratic front;
  3. “The leadership entrusted to the revolutionary party;
  4. “The merciless class struggle, the liquidation of big capital and the large landowners, the offensive against the capitalist elements.”

6. The historical experience of the international workers and communist movement is an extraordinary heritage of victories, elaborations and events, thanks to which fundamental pages on the road leading to communism have been written. The ability to verify the political theories and positions in practice, to admit and correct errors, to arrive at new formulations and conclusions, is a distinctive feature of Marxism-Leninism.

In the last century, the revolutionary creativity of the working class and peoples has produced different forms of the dictatorship of the proletariat, from the Soviets to the systems of people’s democracy, under specific historical conditions, which we communists must transform into the treasury for the development of our revolutionary theory and practice, as powerful tools for the transformation of the world.

The emergence of the people’s democracies as new State forms of the proletarian dictatorship, socialist states in the first phase of their development, that have run through various stages and applied different measures in order to destroy the bourgeois relations of production, has a great historical and present importance.

The study of the forms in which are embodied the historical necessity and inevitability of the political rule of proletariat, in alliance with and at the head of the labouring masses for the transition to classless society is essential for today’s communists. Our task is to win over the vanguard of the proletariat and to lead the masses to the seizure of power, applying the principles of Marxism-Leninism and finding the specific forms of approach to the proletarian revolution and socialism, in accordance with the historical conditions and characteristics of each country.

The idea of people’s democracy is still alive in the consciousness of the working class and the labouring masses, and it maintains its great force.

Will the Italy of the future be a people’s democracy? What is certain is that in the new century that has begun, in which we communists are continuing our battle, new proletarian revolutions will shake the world and new States will emerge from them: but each State will be a particular form of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

 “That all nations will arrive at socialism is absolutely certain, but all will arrive with some particularities, each nation will bring something particular to this or that form of democracy, to this or that variant of the dictatorship of the proletariat” (Lenin).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pablo Miranda
Ecuador, 2012

Source

Thoughts About the Class Roots of Counter-Revolution in the Territory of the Soviet Union

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Alexei Danko

I will not try to give a solid and complete answer to the question posed above given the shortness of this article and the lack of proper preparation. However, I feel obliged to at least draw the attention of revolutionary proletarians to the need to study this question deeply and scientifically for the benefit of the future class struggle of the Russian and international proletariat. Moreover, if we call ourselves Marxists we should not ‘close our eyes to reality’, regardless of how bitter and tough this truth may be for us. We need to clarify the truth and its fundamental essence among the proletarians so that the workers are not deceived by the tricks of the bourgeoisie. It is necessary to explain the essence scientifically from the point of view of dialectical and historical materialism so that the working class can see itself as the maker of historical progress and so that it does not leave all the class responsibility to the vanguard or its leaders.

In the conditions of the bourgeois system the working class is the progressive class, which develops the revolutionary class struggle against the reactionary class of capitalists. The Communist Party is essentially the political vanguard, the most advanced section of the working class. In the process of class struggle political leaders arise, i.e. the cadre who are best prepared and capable for revolutionary struggle, ‘the best of the best’ of a small group of professional revolutionaries.

In correspondence to the Marxist-Leninist teachings, the leading force of the revolution is the most advanced class in the concrete stage of historical development, which opposes the decadent system and the class that embodies it. The role of the individual in the process of revolutionary struggle (including any political leader) is undoubtedly great, but can become determining only in particularly tense moments of the struggle, i.e. temporarily.

Therefore it would be fundamentally wrong to state that the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union depended mainly on the leadership and political activity of comrade Stalin, and that the counter-revolution in the country after the death of comrade Stalin was successful as a result of a conspiracy and the will of a bunch of Soviet revisionists who took over political power (the so-called ‘Khrushchevites’).

During the period of socialism, after the proletarian revolution and the suppression of the open class resistance of the bourgeoisie and the most obvious class enemies, for a long time there remain non-antagonistic, non-belligerent classes and social strata, as well as remnants of capitalism and certain social inequalities. As a result of this it is natural that under socialism the class struggle continues to exist in different manifestations and forms and, given certain negative class conditions, counter-revolution may become a real threat. The main revolutionary force capable of preventing counter-revolutionary threats or suppressing counter-revolutionary activities, as before, is the working class led by its political vanguard – the communist party. Therefore the most important task of the party is to establish a tight and relentless control over the purity of its members and to develop a continuous ideological struggle against anti-proletarian ideologies and political ‘teachings’ – a tenacious dictatorship against any counter-revolutionary expression and for a general political party line aimed at the liquidation of remnants of capitalism.

The essence of the existence of the party consists in that it becomes the brains of the working class and essentially becomes a monolithic organism together with the working class. If it is isolated from the working class, the Communist party ceases to be its political vanguard and necessarily degenerates from the class point of view; the party should be able to predict the social-class issues in society, to understand them in a timely manner and to recommend to the working class the most effective methods to ‘cure them’.

The petty-bourgeois ideology and its consolidation in society is particularly dangerous for the dictatorship of the proletariat. The intelligentsia (including officers of the army and whatever repressive organs) and the peasantry are objectively massive conductors of the petty-bourgeois psychology. The influence of petty-bourgeois ideology on the working class is also significant, since the working class to a sufficiently large degree includes recruits from the petty-bourgeoisie and it is not separated from it by a ‘Chinese Wall’. At the time of the Great Patriotic War (most commonly known as the Second World War, editor’s note) the working class suffered tremendous losses especially in terms of old party cadre who had experience in the class struggle and a stable class psychology. They were replaced by youths without sufficient class solidity.

The proletarian ideology and the petty-bourgeois ideology express different class interests. Therefore it is necessary to have a very clear conception about the differences between the interests of the petty-bourgeoisie and the interests of the working class

It is the petty-bourgeois masses who reproduce bourgeois aspirations in socialist society and who engender a new bourgeoisie. To neglect the struggle against the petty-bourgeois ideology and to lose revolutionary awareness of this cowardly enemy of the proletariat may become a mortal danger for the interests of the proletarian revolution and socialism.

Under capitalism a certain fraction of the petty-bourgeoisie becomes an active ally of the proletariat, especially when the contradictions between large capital and that of the petty owner deepen. Under socialism the petty-bourgeoisie, in conformity to its class essence and its class ambiguity, may become a dangerous counter-revolutionary force when the struggle against the petty-bourgeois ideology by the communist party and the working class loses momentum. The petty-bourgeoisie then goes on the offensive when opportunities for personal profiteering exist and when certain goods or services become scarce. The petty-bourgeois easily change their class attitude depending on the situation and due to the selfish class interests of the petty owners since they function only according to considerations of the individual or family, purely animal instincts and they cannot think about social life in perspective, in global terms. The attitude and political activity of the petty-bourgeoisie often even becomes irresponsible and rather aggressive.

The realisation of petty-bourgeois aspirations under socialism happens through the necessary preservation of certain elements of capitalism and the application of the ‘bourgeois right’, which it is impossible to liquidate in a short period of time. For instance, take the distribution according to labour, which necessarily results in income differentiation and the existence of significant differences between mental and manual labour and between the city and the countryside. A concrete expression and source of petty-bourgeois aspirations are the existence of private peasant plots, private real estate and dachas, goods of excessive luxury, the special status of managerial and intellectual labour, the existence of commodity-money relations in the sphere of distribution of products, commodities and services of broad demand and so forth. These elements can only be eliminated by means of gradual liquidation of ‘bourgeois right’ in the process of the progressive development of the material and technical basis of socialism. Only in this way can the conditions which reproduce the petty-bourgeois system with all its negative manifestations be liquidated.

The forms of class struggle are diverse: from the ideological struggle to armed struggle including civil war. Marxists acknowledge all forms of class struggle. In order to secure victory in the class struggle as a whole, Leninist Bolsheviks should first attain victory in the ideological struggle. At that time they became victorious. Nevertheless the ideological struggle continued. The ideological struggle between petty-bourgeois ideology, which has a multiplicity of forms, and proletarian ideology continued in different forms during the years of proletarian socialism: at times it weakened; at times it became more prominent. The thesis of comrade Stalin about the continuation of the class struggle in the process of construction of socialism is convincingly confirmed by real practice, by real life, since the only criterion of truth is practice.

Marxism-Leninism teaches that the pre-conditions for the change of one social system to another develop within society long before the revolutionary events. I am convinced that this fundamental thesis also applied to the case of counter-revolution in the socialist country.

Since we are dealing here with the victory of counter-revolution and the defeat of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the USSR, therefore in the Soviet Union during the post-war period decisive changes in the correlation of class forces took place, not in favor of the proletarian forces, especially within the Bolshevik party. As a result of the class struggle these anti-proletarian forces took over. No other interpretation here is possible if we are to stick to the science of classes and class struggle.

The invasion by fascist Germany of the socialist Soviet Union should not be considered in a primitive fashion, from the point of view of a regular aggression of one country against another. In this deadly conflict two irreconcilable class forces faced each other: the most reactionary forces of capitalism siding with fascist Germany and the progressive communist forces represented by the Soviet Union, which made a breakthrough in the future of world civilisation and was dangerous for capitalism as a whole. While paying the price of countless victims and sacrifices, the Soviet people led by the Bolshevik party defended the independence of the proletarian state, expelled the aggressor from the territory of its socialist country and crushed the fascist beast in its own lair. The working class of the Soviet Union ferociously defended its revolutionary conquests against the same reactionary forces of world capital. However, at the same time the class enemy managed to inflict a mortal wound on the Bolshevik party and the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union from which later the power of the working class and proletarian socialism died in the USSR.

The Bolshevik party was the vanguard of the working class of the Soviet Union not only as a result of its specific political position. The Bolshevik party continuously directed its best party cadre to the most difficult and responsible sections of practical work, where they outstandingly demonstrated the high level of authority and respect enjoyed by party members among non-party comrades due to success in concrete practical deeds. In the years of the Great Patriotic War the Bolshevik party directed its best party cadre and the best representatives of the working class to the hardest sections of the front and the rear. The communists were the first to enter battle and the first to die. Therefore the losses among party cadre were extremely severe, especially during the first years of the war. However, the party membership grew, its ranks filled to a great degree by heroes of the front since heroism in the front was not only a mass phenomenon but an obvious one and the communists were the best of those heroes. Therefore the title of communist became a special distinction.

The fact that the overwhelming majority of new party cadre did not have party and political experience helped to dilute the class content of its ranks. As a result of this development especially during the years of the war, the party suffered a significant qualitative damage in the political sense of the word. Nevertheless, this should not be considered an error or lack of political foresight by the Bolshevik party. During the war the fate of the proletarian state was being decided at the front. Therefore the most important political goal, slogan and task at the time was: EVERYTHING FOR VICTORY. All the politics and life of the Bolsheviks were devoted to the latter. Therefore, by virtue of this the heroes of the front were not only heroes but were the political vanguard in the most advanced aspect of the practice of the class struggle, i.e. they essentially made up the base of the party under those conditions. This completely conformed to the politics of the party and the class demands of the war period, but it had within itself the threat of petty-bourgeois degeneration of the party ranks especially due to peasants and intellectuals.

During wartime the consciousness of the peasant masses was dominated by the psychology of the peasant-labourer. Why? The proletarian revolution and the success of socialism greatly improved the standards of living of the peasantry. The proletarian power provided the peasants with land and the necessary means, modern agricultural technique under preferential conditions through the creation of the machine-tractor stations (MTS), support in case of poor crops, many social-cultural benefits, it liberated the peasantry from the dangers of chaotic market relations when realising their production, etc. Under the tsars, the peasants could not even dream about such things. Therefore soldiers from peasant background displayed great heroism in the front lines, defending their class interests, and through this, the defence of the proletarian revolution and the proletarian state from the belligerence of the fascist invaders. Because of this the communist psychology dominated in the consciousness of the peasant-labourer during the years of the war, compelling many peasants to join the Bolshevik party, which defended the interests of the peasantry at the cost of many lives of the best children of the party.

In the post-war period the situation fundamentally changed. Having returned from the front, the peasantry faced significant material difficulties. The kolkhozes, many of which were destroyed during the war, could barely fulfill the state contracts. Industry faced the need to accommodate to the requirements of peaceful times and could not provide the peasants with the necessary industrial goods and technique rapidly enough, while at the same it justly demanded that the peasants increase the production of food and agricultural products. The private plots of peasants were not productive enough; food, clothing and many other necessary means for a modest family life were scarce. Those who fought in the front had already suffered severe scarcity, enjoyed war glory and many dreamed of a better life. This impelled the peasantry to focus on its own material interests,and that included taking advantage of the glory earned in the war and the party membership. These factors encouraged the peasantry to develop strong elements of private thinking in their consciousness. However, as a result of the duality of the peasants’ psychology, the psychology of the petty owner and the psychology of the labourer, most of the peasant masses trusted the Bolshevik party with regard to the construction of communism since they were already convinced of the economic benefits brought by socialism. On the other hand, with regard to questions of everyday life and activity, the peasants as a rule gave priority to their private interests over the interests of society.

Such is the dialectics of the psychology of the peasant, a petty owner and a labourer at the same time. This psychology was inherited and further propagated even more aggressively by city inhabitants originally coming from the peasantry.

To defend the party ranks from the dangerous contaminations from elements with the psychology of the petty owner was already a very complicated task. Firstly, such elements already had become a large section of the party. Secondly, these elements had war achievements in serving the socialist Fatherland and this prevented other comrades from exposing them.

The intellectuals, by virtue of their social position, always serve the dominating class regardless of the social system.

Under capitalism the intellectuals, on the one hand also relate to the exploited class. On the other hand, the intellectuals, as a result of their social functions, participate in the accomplishment of the exploitation of the workers and peasants, since it is though the intellectuals that the capitalist class exerts and regulates its direct domination, i.e. the intellectuals are used as tools for the exploitation of the workers and peasants.

Under socialism the intellectuals are bound to execute the will of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Many intellectuals see themselves unwillingly forced to offer such a ‘service’, since they have to serve the interests of the workers and peasants whom the intellectuals had traditionally considered as lower classes. The standard of living of the intellectuals depends on their social position in society. This explains the tendency of the intellectuals to indulge in such social illnesses as careerism, bureaucratism, idealism, overestimation of their social role and the will to have a special position in society. To a great degree this explains the tendency of the intellectuals to join the Bolshevik party. As a result of their social-class specifics, the duality of their class position, the intellectuals are easy targets for petty-bourgeois influence and decomposition.

It is common to the intellectuals and peasants, who are influenced by individualism, to make the country’s leadership responsible for the organization of social life and the party.

In the post-war period the Bolshevik party was dangerously infiltrated by such petty-bourgeois elements.

It is necessary to note that ‘if we do not close our eyes to reality we must admit that at the present time the proletarian policy of the Party is not determined by the character of its membership, but by the enormous undivided prestige enjoyed by the small group which might be called the Old Guard of the Party. A slight conflict within this group will be enough, if not to destroy this prestige, at all events to weaken the group to such a degree as to rob it of its power to determine policy’ (V.I. Lenin Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1966, volume 33, page 257).

As a result of the class struggle during the war and in the post-war period this ‘small group … of the Old Guard of the Party’ also suffered great losses and became even smaller and after the death of Stalin ‘slight conflicts within this group’ weakened it to the extent that it did not have the ‘power to determine policy.’

The war and the severe military consequences inflicted tremendous losses on the Soviet Union not only from the class, material point of view and in terms of population, but also strengthened a number of dangerous tendencies for the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The war period demanded that the economy re-direct the focus of the development of the forces of production and the efforts of all of society on the needs of the struggle against the fascist aggression. In the course of accomplishing this goal the production relations also suffered changes toward a strictly top-down structure. This shift took place not only in the organisation of the economy but in all fields of social life including politics. The need to liquidate the most severe consequences of the war also required a speedy economic restoration and the development of the forces of production under a regime of general mobilisation.

The development of production relations seriously lagged behind the development of the forces of production as a result of these extreme measures and conditions, and not only as a result of the inertia so characteristic of production relations in general.

Under the pressure and the disguise of these and other adverse conditions the functions of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the development of proletarian democracy were significantly hampered. The dictatorship of the proletariat was then applied from top to bottom, mostly as a result of the activity and authority of the leading organs of the Bolshevik party, and the development of proletarian democracy in society was basically reduced to endorsing the government and party decisions produced at the top.

The strictly top-down character of the management of economic and social life seriously weakened the class control from below of the activity of the apparatus and the intellectual elite. This lack of control from below led to the social alienation and petty-bourgeois decomposition of the apparatus. As a result, the petty-bourgeois interests and actions of the managers and intellectual elites began to diverge from the class interests of the proletariat.

The situation worsened from the class-political point of view due to the replacement of managerial cadre as the result of personnel losses during the war. The replacements came mostly from demobilised army cadre and specialists of war industry who traditionally, in virtue of the organisational specifics of their previous activity, resisted the development of proletarian democracy in production and social relations, and even most probably did not understand the danger to the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism concealed in their actions.

The class and social-economic phenomena described above represented a substantial danger for the dictatorship of the proletariat, but while Stalin was alive the proletarian forces within the party managed to maintain the political situation under control in the party and in society. How can this be explained?

The most honest and deepest trust of the Soviet people towards the Bolshevik party and the proletarian power was engendered by real life and was tested to death during the years of the war. It was specifically the monolithic class unity of the Bolshevik party and the working class in alliance with the labouring masses (non-party members) of the Soviet Union that was one of the most determining factors that made possible the successful and rapid development of practical life of the socialist society. Therefore it is disturbing and laughable when today bourgeois ideologists claim that the Bolsheviks and their leadership allegedly usurped power and remained in power with the help of mass violence and terror. Such ignorant garbage and irreverent slanders would be denied by even the most vicious enemy of the Bolsheviks and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

When we say Lenin we mean the party. By analogy, the name of Stalin incorporated the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union during the so-called Stalinist period. This was related not only to Stalin’s greatest contributions to the Bolshevik party and the working class. This phenomenon also has a social-class explanation. The victory of the proletarian revolution and the tremendous success of socialism during the dictatorship of the proletariat under the leadership of the Bolshevik party created a strong morale among the masses and their hopes for a bright future. The dreams of a better life turned into reality in a planned and rapid fashion. The petty-bourgeois consciousness, first of all of the peasants and the intellectuals, was used to link the good and the bad in their lives, victory or defeat, with the name of a given leader and not with the politics of the leading class; in the concrete historical case we are dealing with the dictatorship of the proletariat led by the Bolshevik party. This way it was easier for the petty-bourgeois consciousness to understand, and the successes of the country were indeed legendary. Therefore while Stalin was alive, through such manifestations, the influence of the proletarian nucleus in the party was further strengthened by the authority of the party attained during the epoch of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Marxist-Leninist line of the party did not suffer changes and the party formally displayed class unity among its members; this all corresponded to the post-war period while comrade Stalin was still alive.

After the death of comrade Stalin the petty-bourgeois forces within the party (the Soviet revisionists, the so-called ‘Khrushchevites’) worked hard to seize the key party positions, since to achieve control in the party structures gave them the chance to take over political power and ideological control. However, in order to change the politics of the CPSU towards the opposite class direction, i.e. to bring it in correspondence with the real power, it was necessary to discredit the Stalinist dictatorship of the proletariat and to isolate it from the Leninist party of the Bolsheviks,even though the Stalinist dictatorship of the proletariat solidly followed the Leninist party of the Bolsheviks.

It was because of this that the 20th Congress of the CPSU had to replace the class dictatorship of the proletariat and the vanguard role of the Bolshevik party with the ‘cult of personality of Stalin’, it had to replace the class struggle with the unilateral dictate of the leader and to slander his name after his death. This completely contradicts Marxism-Leninism as a science of classes and class struggle and the whole world practice of class struggle, but it is easily comprehended by primitive petty-bourgeois consciousness.

The 20th Congress of the CPSU should be considered as the date that formally marks the defeat of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the USSR and the execution of a counter-revolutionary coup.

The counterrevolution did not hesitate to resort to slanders, intrigues, terror and threats to use the armed forces directly in order to attain power.

It is true that not all the party leaders agreed with the concrete actions of the class enemy. In particular Malenkov, Kaganovich, Molotov, Shepilov and other party members tried to remove Khrushchev after a while. But their actions were not reflected in the class struggle and were more like a struggle for power among the high party echelons, as if their actions had nothing to do with the class struggle and the class enemy and were a result of private organisational inner-party discussions. It is due to this that their ‘struggle’ did not become an example of revolutionary class struggle. Khrushchev and his supporters declared this group ‘anti-party’ and expelled them from the party leadership in their entirety.

Power in the territory of the Soviet Union fell completely into the hands of the new class forces forged in the petty-bourgeois medium who defeated the dictatorship of the proletariat in the class struggle.

These were communists only in words, but capitalists in practice. The new party leadership was obliged, above all, to transform the party documents according to the new essence of power and the real situation in society. Fundamental class concepts such as the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, ‘class struggle’, the ‘political vanguard of the working class’ and other concepts which make up the basics of the Marxist-Leninist teachings simply disappeared. At the same time theses about the ‘complete and final victory of socialism in the USSR’ were introduced, which pointed without proof to the impossibility of restoring capitalism and excluded the possibility of class struggle, about the ‘party of the whole people’, etc. In other words, Marxism-Leninism was subject to open and conscientious petty-bourgeois revision. However, the external attributes of the CPSU remained untouched; the party preserved its communist name; the state was still called socialist and the party propaganda still called for loyalty to Marxism-Leninism. This was also consistent with the psychology of the rank-and-file Soviet petty-bourgeois of that time. The revision of Marxism-Leninism also had another hidden aspect: the revisionists concealed their true (bourgeois) selves using Lenin.

Lenin was transformed by them into an icon for mass oration, which was harmless for the new power, and Marxism-Leninism was transformed into a petty-bourgeois pseudo-science under the excuse of ‘creative development’ and ceased to inspire revolutionary action among the working class and the communists.

The representatives of the petty-bourgeois forces, who seized power and destroyed the dictatorship of the proletariat, took over all the socialised means of production; therefore de facto they became corporate owners, i.e. capitalists. From this point on we are dealing here with a bourgeois state and the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

Now the corporate capitalist, by virtue of the main economic law of capitalism, the law of maximum profit, should distribute the means of production accordingly. These class aspirations force changes in the economic basis at all levels with respect to ownership of the means of productions and the corresponding state policies.

A fundamental example of such transformation in the basis is the decision to liquidate the machine-tractor stations (MTS). The liquidation of the MTS represents the liquidation of social property of the means of production in the countryside, the return to group property of the machine stations and their inclusion in the system of commodity-money relations. That is a fundamental turning point in the essence of the economic relations between industry and the countryside towards capitalist relations.

The dictatorship of the proletariat or the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie determines the existence of socialism or capitalism; there is no intermediate step between them.

Leningrad

Published in Proletarskaya Gazeta, No. 26

Source

 

Enver Hoxha on the 1962 Sino-Indian Conflict

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“It was the American imperialists who brought about the crisis in the Caribbean Sea and the threat of aggression against Cuba. Encouraged by the imperialists the Indian reactionaries launched their attacks on the Chinese border guards and again encouraged and assisted by them they are trying to widen the conflict with China by turning down the proposals of the People’s Republic of China to settle the Sino-Indian conflict by peaceful methods. Wherever and whenever the situation deteriorates wherever there is bloodshed in the world today, the imperialists, with the American imperialists at the head, are the cause.”

– December 6th 1962, “Zeri I Popullit”

“Are we to consider the attitude of Khruschev’s group towards the Sino-Indian border conflict as ‘a major contribution to the cause of peace?’ The question is that Khruschev’s group did not only take the side of the Indian reactionaries led by Nehru, against a socialist and peace-loving country – the People’s Republic of China, but they collaborate with the American, British and other imperialists in supplying Nehru with modern weapons (rockets, fighter and transport aircraft, etc.) which are used for aggressive purposes against China. This is an open incitement to the Indian reactionaries for them to carry on aggressive acts against the People’s Republic of China, a thing which aggravates the international situation and endangers peace in Asia. What is more, Khruschev’s group is trying to set the neutral countries of Asia against China by very base means. All this cannot be considered otherwise but as an open betrayal of the cause of socialism and peace.”

– October 4th 1963, “Zeri I Popullit”

Grover Furr: German Intelligence, Communist Anti-Trotskyism, and the Barcelona “May Days” of 1937

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Originally posted by Grover Furr

German Intelligence, Communist Anti-Trotskyism, and the Barcelona “May Days” of 1937

I’m writing an article on the falsifications in Khrushchev’s infamous 1956 “Secret Speech.” A few weeks ago I ran across the following statement, in an article on the subject of this speech:

“…в угоду политической конъюнктуре деятельность Троцкого и его сторонников за границей в 1930-1940 годах сводят лишь к пропагандистской работе. Но это не так. Троцкисты действовали активно: организовали, используя поддержку лиц, связанных с абвером, мятеж против республиканского правительства в Барселоне в 1937 году. Из троцкистских кругов в спецслужбы Франции и Германии шли “наводящие” материалы о действиях компартий в поддержку Советского Союза. О связях с абвером лидеров троцкистского мятежа в Барселоне в 1937 году сообщил нам Шульце-Бойзен…Впоследствии, после ареста, гестапо обвинило его в передаче нам данной информации, и этот факт фигурировал в смертном приговоре гитлеровского суда по его делу.” (| Судоплатов, П. “Разведка и Кремль.” М., 1996, с. 88; | Haase, N. Das Reichskriegsgericht und der Widerstand gegen nationalsozialistische Herrschaft. Berlin, 1993, S. 105) [1]

English translation from Gen. Pavel Sudoplatov, _The Intelligence Service and the Kremlin, Moscow 1996, p. 58: 

“In the interests of the political situation the activities of Trotsky and his supporters abroad in the 1930s are said to have been propaganda only. But this is not so. The Trotskyists were also involved in actions. Making us of the support of persons with ties to German military intelligence [the ‘Abwehr’] they organized a revolt against the Republican government in Barcelona in 1937. From Trotskyist circles in the French and German special intelligence services came “indicative” information concerning the actions of the Communist Parties in supporting the Soviet Union. Concerning the connections of the leaders of the Trotskyist revolt in Barcelona in 1937 we were informed by Schuze-Boysen… Afterward, after his arrest, the Gestapo accused him of transmitting this information to us, and this fact figured in his death sentence by the Hitlerite court in his case.” 

This passage is indeed in Sudoplatov’s book. But the footnote to the Haase volume is not. I assume it was added either by Lifshits, author of the Russian-language article, or by Trosten, author of the German version. 

So I obtained the Haase volume. The text on pp. 105 ff. is the actual text of the German Reichskriegsgericht (Military Court of the Reich) against Harro Schulze-Boysen, charged with espionage for the Soviet Union (Haase, Norbert. Das Reichskriegsgericht und der Widerstand gegen die nationalsozialistische Herrschaft. Berlin: Druckerei der Justizvollzugsanstalt Tegel, 1993).The relevant paragraph, also on p. 105, reads thus:

Anfang 1938, während des Spanienkrieges, erfuhr der Angeklagte dienstlich, daß unter Mitwirkung des deutschen Geheimdienstes im Gebiet von Barcelona ein Aufstand gegen die dortige rote Regierung vorbereitet werde. Diese Nachricht wurde von ihm gemeinsam mit der von Pöllnitz der sowjetrussischen Botschaft in Paris zugeleitet.

English translation: 

“At the beginning of 1938, during the Spanish Civil War, the accused learned in his official capacity that a rebellion against the local red government in the territory of Barcelona was being prepared with the co-operation of the German Secret Service. This information, together with that of Pöllnitz, was transmitted by him to the Soviet Russian embassy in Paris.”

“Pöllnitz” was Gisella von Pöllnitz, a recent recruit to the “Red Orchestra” (Rote Kapelle) anti-Nazi Soviet spy ring who worked for United Press and who “shoved the report through the mailbox of the Soviet embassy” (Brysac, Resisting Hitler: Mildred Harnack and the Red Orchestra. Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 237). 

* * * * *

By itself Sudoplatov’s statement only proves that Soviet intelligence sincerely believed that Trotskyists were involved with “persons with ties to German military intelligence” in preparing this revolt. By the time he wrote his memoirs, in the 1990s, Sudoplatov was very anti-Soviet, and showed much remorse for many of the things he had done in the Soviet secret service. The fact that he insisted that the Trotskyists were involved with the Nazis in the “May Days” revolt of 1937 in Barcelona surely means that he sincerely believed it was true.

The information from the German Military Court published by Haase provides independent confirmation of Sudoplatov’s statement and of Soviet contentions at the time. It fully confirms Communist suspicions that German intelligence was involved in planning the Barcelona revolt of May 1937. Communist hostility towards Trotskyists and Trotskyism becomes understandable in the light of this information. 

There’s good evidence that the real panic over clandestine Trotskyists did not take place, even in the USSR, until after the May Days in Barcelona, 1937. Stalin’s speeches (two of them) to the February – March 1937 Central Committee Plenum, minimized the dangers of Trotskyists; declared them marginalized; and encouraged CC members not to discriminate against people who used to be Trotskyists but no longer were. [2]

By June or July this had all changed. At the enlarged session of the Military Soviet, held on June 1-4 to discuss the just-uncovered and very serious Tukhachevsky conspiracy, Stalin gave a speech in which he states that Tukhachevsky and the rest “tried to make out of the USSR another Spain.” [3] The meant create a civil war, of course. But specifically it seems to have meant: Do what the Trotskyists and others had done in the May Days in Barcelona — stab the USSR in the back in the course of a war with the fascists.

The Soviet NKVD had very credible evidence that Trotskyists were collaborating with the German military and Japanese. Soviet leaders certainly believed it. Pavel Sudoplatov believed it, in his memoirs, and he became very, very “anti-Stalin” and anti-Soviet in his old age.

The real panicked hunt for hidden oppositionists, Rights, Trotskyists, and others, began after that Plenum, in the atmosphere of the Tukhachevsky conspiracy. But the Tukhachevsky conspiracy was preceded by the Barcelona “May Days” revolt. 

The German Military Court evidence cited above shows that the German Secret Service was involved in the planning of the “May Days” revolt. Later in May 1937 Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky wrote out by hand a lengthy statement in which he admitted to conspiring against the Soviet Union with the German General Staff. [4] Tukhachevsky stated that the commanders discussed their planned revolt with Trotsky. These events provide the most likely explanation for the beginning of the fervent persecution by Communists of Trotskyists in Spain. [5]

Notes

[1] S Lifshits, “Preslovutyi Doklak Khrushcheva, ili CACATUM NON EST PICTUM”. In Moskva Sadovoe Kol’tso, http://m-s-k.newmail.ru , downloaded July 5 2004. The same article is published as a pamphlet in German: Gersch Troston, Chruschtschows berüchtigte Rede, oder CACATUM NON EST PICTUM (hingeschissen ist nicht gemalt). «Marxistisch-leninistische Schriftenreihe für Geschichte, Politik, Ökonomie und Philosophie» (ISSN 1861-2954), Heft 45. Berlin: Ernst-Thaelmann-Verlag, n.d. I have verified all the Russian and English quotations in this article with the originals.

[2] J.V. Stalin, Mastering Bolshevism. NY: Workers Library Publishers, 1937, pp. 26-7; 43-4. Cited from http://ptb.lashout.net/marx2mao/Stalin/MB37.html

[3] J.V. Stalin, “Speech by J.V. Stalin at the Ministry of Defense,” Secret Documents. Toronto, CA: Northstar Compass, n.d. [1996], p. 115: “These people tried to make out of the USSR another Spain…” Original in Lubianka. Stalin i Glavnoe Upravlenie Gosbezopasnosti NKVD 1937-1938. Eds. V.N. Khaustov et al. Moscow: “Materik”, 2004, p. 206; Stalin, Sochineniia [Collected Works], vol. 14, at http://grachev62.narod.ru/stalin/t14/t14_48.htm 

[4] Partial English translation in Steven J. Main, “The Arrest and ‘Testimony’ of Marshal of the Soviet Union M.N. Tukhachevsky (May – June 1937),” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 10, No. 1 (1997), 151-195. Trotsky and his followers are mentioned throughout Tukhachevsky’s statement.

[5] It’s important to emphasize that there is no evidence that any Trotskyists were killed by Soviet or other communists in Spain, with the exception of Andres Nin, POUM leader and former secretary of Trotsky. See Grover Furr, “Fraudulent Anti-Communist Scholarship From A “Respectable” Conservative Source: Prof. Paul Johnson,” at http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/pol/pauljohnsonfraud.html

Grover Furr: Anatomy of a Fraudulent Scholarly Work: Ronald Radosh’s “Spain Betrayed”

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Grover Furr

Spain Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War by Ronald Radosh (Editor), Mary Radosh Habeck (Editor), Grigory Sevostianov (Editor). Annals of Communism series. Yale University Press, June 2001.

1. Long awaited and published to rave reviews — albeit predictably by Cold War conservatives (Arnold Beichman) and anti-communist liberals (Christopher Hitchens) — Radosh’s commentary on the 81 documents from the Comintern archives in Moscow concerning its involvement in the Spanish Civil War turns out to be notable for quite another reason: it is an utterly fraudulent work. [1]

2. In the course of this review-essay I’ll present a lot of evidence to substantiate this serious charge. I’ll also discuss, though briefly, the major positive reviews of the book. They are full of the same stuff. In several instances, an innocent reader might think that the reviewers had not actually read the documents themselves, but only Radosh’s commentary. For how could anyone compare what the Comintern documents state with what Radosh says about them, without noticing the enormous discrepancies between the two?

3. I won’t say much in this report about the documents themselves. Many of them are fascinating and valuable, though Radosh, in his zeal to arraign the communists, basically neglects them.

4. But one conclusion is so striking that it cannot be left unstated. Far from showing Soviet “betrayal,” these 81 documents make the Comintern, the International Brigades, and the massive Soviet aid to Spain appear in an extremely positive light. Reading the documents alone, and ignoring Radosh’s “commentary,” any objective person will come away with tremendous respect for the communist effort in the Spanish Civil War, not only by the Comintern and the justly famed International Brigades, but of the Soviet Union — or, as Radosh says it, in his crude demonizing synecdoche, of “Moscow” and “Stalin.”

5. Despite itself, Radosh’s book represents something valuable: an object lesson in the rhetorical strategies of anti-communism. Perhaps the biggest question of all — “Why lie, if the truth is on your side?” — will require a few remarks about the uses of anti-Stalinism in foreclosing any objective understanding of the successes and failures of the communist movement.

6. Radosh’s book contains so many errors and distortions that even a much longer review could not discuss them all. Therefore, I examine the documents in which the major “revelations” are supposedly to be found. To identify those, I’ve used (a) the four-page publicity handout from Yale University Press that accompanies the book, and (b) a number of the major reviews favorable to this volume, from leading publications (all are listed at the end). A few other documents were chosen because they seem to me particularly interesting. This close examination constitutes the bulk of the review.

7. I’ll also point out some examples of simple editorial incompetence. Radosh could have provided useful summaries of long and significant documents, or helpful and specific references to other scholarly work — surely the duty of a competent commentator — but scarcely ever does.

8. At the end of the review I’ve included some remarks of a more general nature about the issues raised both by these documents themselves and by Radosh’s commentary. There’s a good deal that can be said by Marxists in criticism of the Bolsheviks and the Comintern during the Stalin period — or of any political group, communist or not, at any period — and in conclusion I’ll allude to one or two things with special reference to Spain. But any and all criticism should be based on what actually happened as that can be deduced from the best evidence available, rather than on fabrications or demonization, as with Radosh and many other Cold-War writers, either from the Right or, not infrequently, the so-called Left.

9. What follows is a short outline of the main ideological frameworks for interpreting the Spanish Civil War. Some knowledge of them is essential to an appreciation of Radosh’s interpretation, the documents themselves, and the present review. Considerations of space preclude any more detailed discussion of the foundational texts of these frameworks. (I am planning a critique of Orwell’s influential book at a future time.)

10. The Spanish Civil War has always posed a special problem for the kind of anti-communist who is determined to argue that the leadership of the international Communist movement never acted out of any idealistic motives. Such people are convinced — at any rate, they are determined to convince others — that all communist struggles, no matter how noble in appearance, were in reality aimed at manipulative, cynical, authoritarian goals, ultimately far worse than those of the capitalist exploiters they professed to oppose. Khrushchev’s portrayal of a malevolent, virtually demonic Stalin after 1956, while it differed little from Trotsky’s, was far more influential, and except in China and Albania quickly became widely accepted within the Communist movement itself. It was essential in smoothing the path for Trotskyist and, in terms of Spain, Anarchist narratives, hitherto current only among tiny, marginalized groups.

11. George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia is basically such an account, though Orwell’s superior literary ability, British patriotism during World War II, and subsequent endorsement of mainstream Cold War ideology, gave his work the status of a somewhat independent authority. Orwell’s book remains the main representative of these anti-communist paradigms, the only book about the Spanish Civil War that most people ever encounter.

12. According to this interpretation, further popularized in British director Ken Loach’s film Land and Freedom (1995), Trotskyists and, especially, Anarchists are the true revolutionaries, collectivizing the land, ceding control of factories to the workers, and promoting egalitarian relations generally. The Communists are portrayed as counter-revolutionaries, whose rank-and-file think they are fighting to defeat the fascists in order that, in the victorious bourgeois-democratic Spanish Republic, they can then initiate a struggle for working-class revolution, but whose leadership — Stalin — aims in reality at a bleak authoritarian dictatorship of the kind Trotskyists, Anarchists, conventional capitalist anti-communists and even fascists, claimed was the state of affairs in the USSR itself. This creates a certain tension within the otherwise “united front” of anti-communist versions of the Spanish Civil War, since capitalist anti-communism is normally aimed at the radical, not the putatively conservative, nature of the communist movement.

13. The Communist version, on the other hand — the version by far the best supported by the evidence — is that the “United Front Against Fascism” and for a liberal, bourgeois-democratic (and therefore capitalist) society was the only way to unite as many social forces as possible, including nationalists, urban capitalists, and wealthier peasants, to defeat the fascists. According to this view, upon victory a Spanish Republic would have a strong, organized working class which would continue the fight for progressive social reforms and, ultimately, socialist revolution. The Communists held that to begin a revolutionary struggle in the midst of the war against the fascist armies would guarantee the defeat of the Republic — a defeat which, in fact, happened.

14. A critique of the Communist view from the Left is certainly warranted — indeed, essential. But what passes for a “left” critique, the Anarchist-Trotskyist version outlined above, accepts the basic premises of the reactionary Cold War critique, to the point that it can be cited in service to the latter, as Radosh does here. To clear the ground for a real Left critique, it is first necessary to recover the historical truth of what did, in fact, happen, both in the Spanish Civil War and in the Soviet Union itself. A real Left critique of the Comintern’s politics which both fully and correctly appreciates its successes and goes beyond it to identify the main roots of its failures, is yet to be made, despite a few promising starts which have long been available, albeit little known (see below, and note 6).

15. Radosh’s own view, as represented in his commentary in Spain Betrayed, is contradictory. In places Radosh argues, according to the fashion of conservative capitalist anti-communists, that the Comintern was hiding its truly revolutionary intentions. In other passages, however, he endorses the Orwell-Trotskyist-Anarchist view that the Communists were a conservative force that “betrayed” the revolutionary potential in Spain. Radosh seems untroubled by, indeed unaware of, this basic contradiction, as in the case of the many passages in which he — in the most generous description of his practice — makes flagrant and egregious errors in reading the very texts upon which he is “commenting.”

Document 5

16. Document 5, a report by Georgi Dimitrov, head of the Comintern, to the Secretariat of the ECCI (Executive Committee, Communist International) of July 23, 1936, contains the following lines:

We should not, at the present stage, assign the task of creating soviets and try to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat in Spain. That would be a fatal mistake.

Radosh claims that this statement (a statement repeated in the press release)

. . . supports the contention of some scholars that the Communists purposely disguised their true objective, social revolution. (5-6)

But it does not. It clearly states that there are “stages,” the present one being the stage of “maintaining unity with the petty bourgeoisie and the peasants and the radical intelligentsia . . .” (11). Radosh’s claim could only be true if he gave evidence that the Communists were denying what everyone would have expected of them — to wish to move to another “stage,” once the fascists were defeated. Radosh gives no evidence that the Communists were making any such claims to have abandoned the ultimate goal of a Soviet-style revolution in Spain. So there can be no question of “disguising their true objective.”

17. It ought also to be noted that Radosh also wants it “both ways.” Sometimes he criticizes the Communists for opposing social revolution, which the Anarchists supposedly stood for. This is Ken Loach’s main contention in Land and Freedom. But other times, as here, Radosh criticizes the Communists for wanting social revolution but supposedly “disguising” their intentions.

18. Document 5 also offers an obvious mistranslation from the Russian. Immediately after the lines quoted above, Radosh et al. allege that Dimitrov wrote the following:

Therefore we must say: act in the guise of defending the Republic. . . . (p.11; emphasis added)

In his commentary Radosh states:

The very careful use of these terms, as well as the injunction to “act under the semblance of defending the republic,” supports the contention of some scholars that the Communists purposely disguised their true objective, social revolution. (pp. 5-6; emphasis added)

19. Evidently Radosh is referring to a different translation of the document than that which finally ended up in the volume, although arguably “in the guise of” and “under the semblance of” convey much the same thing: duplicity, dishonesty. However, there is an interesting footnote in the text of Document 5 attached to the phrase “in the guise.” That note, number 11 on page 515, reads thus: “Literally, ‘under the banner.'” In other words, what Dimitrov actually said is this:

Therefore we must say: act under the banner of defense of the Republic. . . .

20. The question is: What does “under the banner” — in Russian, “pod znamenem” — mean in Russian? The answer is: it means the opposite of what Radosh says it means. Rather than “under the semblance” or “in the guise,” it means “in service to” or “in defense of.” At exactly this time, one of the foremost Soviet philosophical journals was titled “Pod Znamenem Marksisma“: literally, “Under the Banner of Marxism,” often translated as “In Defense of Marxism.” No one would even think of translating that title as “In the Guise of,” or “Under the Semblance of,” Marxism! “Under the banner of” is a military metaphor, meaning “In the ranks of.”

21. In other words, what Dimitrov actually said was:

. . . act in defense of the Republic. . . .

There must be an interesting story behind that footnote. Whoever translated Document 5 — Radosh tells us (p. xxxi) that there were two translators for the Russian documents — that person evidently knew that “in the guise” was not the correct translation, and wanted to tell the world, even if by a footnote, that he or she was not responsible for this particular mistranslation.

22. This is the only mistranslation from the Russian that can be discerned in this collection, because Radosh et al. don’t give us the documents in the original languages (mostly Russian, but a few in Spanish, German and French). This would have been easy to do — on a book-related web page, for example. But the way this mistranslation is treated makes one wonder whether there may be more.

Document 42

23. Radosh spends a lot of words on Documents 42 through 44 because one of the central points of his book is that in these documents, especially Document 42, is to be found the proof that the Communists instigated the Barcelona uprising of May, 1937 as a pretext for violently suppressing their Anarchist opposition.

24. Briefly, the context for Radosh’s comments is as follows, in the words of Helen Graham, who has written authoritatively and most recently on this event (Graham 1999, p. 485):

On the afternoon of Monday 3 May 1937 a detachment of police attempted to seize control of Barcelona’s central telephone exchange (Telefónica) in order to remove the anarchist militia forces present therein. . . . Those days of social protest and rebellion have been represented in many accounts, of which the single best known is still George Orwell’s contemporary diary account, Homage to Catalonia, recently given cinematic form in Ken Loach’s Land and Freedom. It is paradoxical, then, that the May events remain among the least understood in the history of the civil war.

25. Radosh takes Document 42 to be directly related to this event:

. . . we have the proof that the view held by the Communists’ opponents was essentially correct. The Spanish Communist Party, with the support and knowledge of the Comintern and Moscow, had decided to provoke a clash, in the full understanding that the outcome would give them precisely the opportunity they had long been seeking. (174)

Radosh does not bother to tell us what would have been wrong with the communists’ seizing the telephone exchange from the anarchists. After all, the government, not one of the various parties, should have been in control of the exchange. And the assault was led by the Police Chief of Barcelona who, though a communist, was also a government official.

26. The anarchists had clearly been prepared for such an attack for a long time — after all, they had a machine-gun nest in the first floor which prevented the police from seizing the building at once. What justification did the anarchists — not the government, but one of the political parties in Barcelona — have controlling the telephone exchange in the first place?

27. The words that Radosh takes as “proof” that “the view held by the Communists’ opponents was essentially correct” — I emphasize “essentially” because even Radosh feels he has to qualify this statement, evidently realizing he is on weak grounds here — are as follows:

. . . the author of the report noted that the Communists had decided not to wait for a crisis, but to “hasten it and, if necessary, to provoke it” (emphasis added).

But Document 42 says nothing whatsoever about the attack on the telephone exchange, or about any plan for confrontation with the anarchists. The sentence quoted in part by Radosh in his commentary reads this way in full:

In a word, to go decisively and consciously to battle against Caballero and his entire circle, consisting of some leaders of the UGT. This means not to wait passively for a “natural” unleashing of the hidden government crisis, but to hasten it and, if necessary, provoke it, in order to obtain a solution for these problems.  . . . The leadership of the party is more and more coming to the conviction that with Caballero and his circle the Republic will be defeated, despite all the conditions guaranteeing victory. (194)

These lines do not refer at all to the attempt by the Communist Chief of Police to take possession for the Republican government of the telephone exchange that had been unlawfully seized and held by the anarchists, the event that precipitated the “May Days” in Barcelona and to which Radosh tries to tie this statement, or to any plan to incite any actions against the anarchists. Instead, the paragraph quoted just above refers to the previous points 8 through 14 of Document 42, in which the unnamed communist author says that the PCE has decided to take action against the Caballero government. There is nothing whatsoever in this document that connects it with the attempt to retake the telephone exchange.

28. Radosh’s allegation — one of the “bombshell” findings Radosh claims to have found — is a lie. This whole “discovery” is a complete swindle on the unsuspecting reader. I stress this point because Radosh’s supposed “discovery” here has been so widely touted as one of the major “revelations” of these Soviet documents. For example, the Press Release from Yale University Press that accompanied the books publication lists seven documents and summarizes what Radosh says they contain. The blurb on Document 42 reads:

Barcelona — the civil war within the Civil War. The five-day street battle in Barcelona was portrayed by Orwell in Homage to Catalonia and by Ken Loach in the film Land and Freedom. The historical dispute has always been: Was the anarchist reaction deliberately provoked? Document 42 shows that the view held by the Communists’ opponents was essentially correct. The Spanish Communist Party, with the support and knowledge of the Comintern, decided to provoke the clash. (emphasis added)

We should also note, in passing, the esteem in which Loach and Orwell are held by establishment anti-Communist ideologues like Radosh, and the way in which the echo-chamber of the “big lie” functions in the blurb above by pairing these supposed “authorities” with the specious “facts” that Radosh is creating here.

29. Richard Bernstein, whose very positive review of Radosh’s book appeared in the New York Times, tacitly recognizes that Document 42 did not prove what Radosh says it proves:

Two weeks later, the Communists, in the view of this book’s editors, did provoke the desired crisis, unleashing the Barcelona street battles that essentially eliminated the anarchist leadership and led to the replacement of Largo Caballero by a more malleable premier. [emphasis added]

(Bernstein makes it sound like Caballero was the leader of the anarchists; in fact, he was head of the government and a Socialist.)

30. In the interest of good sense, I would like to make a few additional remarks at this point.

1. The assumption, in Radosh’s Commentary and in other anti-communist accounts Radosh quotes, is that, by taking the Telephone exchange away from the anarchists and returning it to government control, the Communists were “provoking” the anarchists.

2. The anarchists had no business whatsoever holding the telephone exchange. The Police Chief, besides being a communist, was also a government officer. If removing an armed group of occupiers who have taken control of the telephone exchange is not a legitimate matter for the police, what is?

3. Imagine if the Communists had occupied the telephone exchange, fortified it with a machine-gun nest, interrupted government phone calls whenever they wanted to, and then a non-Communist police chief had tried to oust them? Would Radosh not take that as evidence that the Communists wanted to take over?

Document 43

31. One of Radosh’s statements about Document 43 has been cited in several favorable reviews of his book:

As the Comintern document cited earlier revealed, Stalin had in mind a Spanish version of the Moscow purge trials most likely to be held in Barcelona. (209) [2] 

The document in question, No. 43, is a report from an anonymous source, presumably to the Comintern. In it the informant states:

The immediate political consequences of the putsch [the anarchist attempt to seize power — this is the way this writer interprets the “May Days” in Barcelona] are very great. Above all, the following one: the Trotskyist-POUMists revealed themselves to the nation as people who belong totally to Franco’s fifth column. The people are nourishing unbelievable animosity toward the Trotskyists. The masses are demanding energetic and merciless repression. This is what is demanded by the masses of people of all of Spain, Catalonia, and Barcelona. They demand complete disarmament, arrest of the leaders, the creation of a special military tribunal for the Trotskyists! This is what the masses demand. (196-197)

In his discussion of this document on p. 176, Radosh wrote:

In other words, the call was out for the creation in Spain of the equivalent of the Moscow purge trials. . .

“In other words” (why not use the same words?) “the call was out for” can only mean one thing: Radosh assumes that our unnamed informant, writing to the Comintern in Moscow, is speaking for someone other than himself. But this assumption is invalid. This document does not mean that any “call is out.” So far as we know, it’s the opinion of the writer alone. After all, he’s reporting to the Comintern. If the PCE, or Soviet advisers, had “put out the call” for a Moscow-style purge trial, he would have said so, for why hide it to the Comintern? And if Stalin had expressed interest in a Spanish “purge trial,” surely this writer would have said so as well.

Document 44

32. Document 44 is a report to the Comintern sent to Marshal Voroshilov, Commissar (Minister) of Defense of the USSR and the man whose office oversaw military equipment and material aid for the Spanish Republic, by a certain “Goratsy,” whom Radosh, in another failure of his editorial responsibility, does not further identify. Radosh accuses the Comintern of lying to itself, in that it states the communist belief

that the “uprising” carried out by “the extremist wing [of the anarchists] in the block with the POUM” was prepared in advance over a “long period of time.” (177) [This refers to the “May Days” in Barcelona — GF].

33. A few considerations are in order:

1. How does Radosh know that this is false? He has not proven it.

Furthermore, Radosh has already claimed that, in Document 42, he has evidence that the Comintern itself planned the Barcelona uprising, whereas here the Comintern reporter blames the uprising on the Anarchists. Why would the Comintern lie to itself? If the Comintern had successfully provoked this confrontation, as Radosh claims, why wouldn’t they be gloating over their success? Instead, they blame it on the anarchists, even in private communications within the Comintern. (206)

2. The document itself claims that the uprising was unexpected by the Communists. Once again: if it had been not only expected, but in fact “provoked,” as Radosh would have it, why would this not be noted, with pride, as a successful operation?

Document 1

34. Here a Spanish Communist in Moscow is writing to the Communist Party in Spain.

Radosh: “. . . the imperative tone taken by Moscow made it clear that there was little room for argument or maneuver by the small and relatively powerless PCE . . . (1-2).

Doc. 1: “After considering the alarming situation in connection with the Fascist conspiracy in SPAIN, we advise you: — . . . Please let us know your opinions on our proposals.” (7,9; emphasis added)

Conclusion: This document is not “imperative” in tone. Radosh is simply trying to make “Moscow” appear dictatorial and high-handed. The text will not support that interpretation, so he simply puts it into his commentary.

35. I put “Moscow” in quotation marks because this message, while certainly sent from the city of Moscow, was sent by a Spanish Communist, “Dios Major,” who signed the document. Why doesn’t Radosh mention this, saying only that “Moscow” sent it? Perhaps because to say that one Spanish Communist is “advising” other Spanish Communists does not support the impression — which Radosh evidently wants to give — that the Bolsheviks, Stalin, the Politburo, or whatever “Moscow” usually conveys, was trying to say anything to anybody. It appears that through metonymy, a linguistic trope in which “Moscow” represents any Communist leader, anywhere, allows Radosh to reduce all Communist leaders to “Moscow,” and “Moscow” to “Stalin.” Demonize Stalin, then, and all Communist leadership is automatically demonized as well.

36. Radosh gives other invidious readings of Document 1, but is rather vague about it. I’ll mention only one more example.

37. Document 1 reads, in part:

4. It is necessary to take preventative measures with the greatest urgency against the putchist attempts of the anarchists, behind which the hand of the Fascists is hidden.

The worst one could say about this piece of analysis — given, we recall, by one Spanish Communist to others, all of whom had extensive experience with the Spanish anarchists and hated them just as the anarchists, in turn, hated the communists — is that it was rhetorical over-statement to say that “the hand of the Fascists is hidden behind” the anarchists’ attempts at seizing power.

38. But here is what Radosh himself says about the anarchists:

Throughout the conflict, Soviet and Comintern advisers would decry the ‘subversive’ activities of the anarchists, and particularly their refusal to curtail revolutionary activities or to allow the formation of a regular, disciplined army. (3, emphasis added)

Radosh admits that the anarchists took this attitude towards the army. Yet how could the Fascists — who certainly had “a regular, disciplined army” — ever be defeated unless the Republic had one too? Guerrilla warfare — what Mao Tse-tung and Vo Nguyen Giap later refined into the doctrine of “People’s War” — is very important. But no theoretician of guerrilla or people’s war ever suggested that a war could be won without “a regular, disciplined army.”

39. In refusing to form such an army the anarchists played directly into the hands of the Fascists. Yet even while admitting this, Radosh attacks the Communists for stating the obvious: that this played into the Fascists’ hands. Elsewhere, in passages Radosh does not comment on, the Communists expressed the view that Fascist agents chose to infiltrate the Anarchists precisely for this reason.

40. Radosh’s Commentary continues:

The demand to establish a single union also stemmed from a new understanding of how to construct a socialist state: not through open revolution, but through the absorption of independent unions or parties into a single entity controlled by the Communists.

Radosh gives no evidence to support this statement at all. He certainly can’t cite Document 1, the document he is supposedly elucidating, because in it Dios Mayor proposes that

the C.G.T. (U.) [the Communist-led union movement] ought to propose to C.N.T. [the Socialist-led union movement] the immediately construction in the center and locally of joint committees to fight against the Fascist insurgents and to prepare the unification of the syndicates.

. . . At the same time you must establish broad social legislation, with extensive rights reserved in the unified C.G.T. . . .

41. Dios Mayor is proposing that the Communists call for unified action and a unified trade union organization. Radosh suggests that there is something underhanded about calling for unification: the Communists want to “absorb independent unions into a single entity controlled by the Communists.” But there is no suggestion of this in the document itself. I would note also Radosh’s concept of “absorption” here is standard anticommunist rhetoric. Other parties might “win a political struggle” for leadership of an organization, but communists only “control” — never “lead” — and “absorb,” with connotations of “suffocation,” “snuffing out independence.” [3] 

42. One might say, “Well, Radosh hates Communism, so for Radosh the communists can never do anything right.” But it’s more than that. For Radosh, if a non-communist makes a good proposal — say, trade union unity — that is good; whereas when Communists do the same thing, it’s bad. That’s because, for Radosh, communists never do anything honestly; their “dishonesty” is a given.

43. The interesting thing is that Radosh, using the documents his collaborators have selected, cannot demonstrate “dishonesty” on the part of the communists. An honest researcher would consider the possibility that, if the evidence at hand did not suggest the communists were “dishonest,” it just may possibly be because the communists were not dishonest.

Document 79

44. Radosh confesses that the previous document, no. 78, “suggests that he [Negrín] enjoyed a degree of autonomy from Communist control” (497). Radosh further acknowledges that even some anti-communist scholars of the SCW believe Negrín was “a more independent figure.” Radosh stresses that Document 79, a report by Marchenko, a Soviet and a Comintern representative, to Litvinov (Soviet Foreign Minister) and Voroshilov,

. . . makes it clear that the Spaniard’s views of politics closely coincided with the Soviets’, while the similarities between his vision for postwar Spain and that of the Soviet Union are striking This document suggests that if the Republicans had won the Civil War, Spain would have been very different from the nation that existed before 18 July 1936 and very close to the post-World War II “people’s democracies” of Europe.

This is false. Document 79 itself reveals that Marchenko was not supportive at all of Negrín’s outline of what a post-war Spanish Republic might look like:

I reacted in a very reserved way to Negrín’s idea and drew his attention to the difficulties and complications that the organization of a new party would cause. . . . If there are military successes, he can begin the formation of “his” united-Spanish political party, with the participation of the Communists if they will allow it, and without the Communists (and that means against them) if they refuse. (499; emphasis added).

The post-WWII “people’s democracies” of Eastern Europe were (a) propped up by the presence of the Red Army; (b) directly on the borders of the USSR; and (c) governed by Communist Parties (or communist-socialist united parties) run frankly by pro-Soviet communists. Negrín’s conception of a post-war Spanish Republic is very different from the post-war pro-Soviet regimes of Eastern Europe, sharing no essential similarity with them at all. Yet the allegation that a post-war Republic would have been forced into the mould of the post-WWII Eastern European regimes is, supposedly, one of the major “discoveries” of this collection of documents. This document alone shows that this claim of Radosh’s is without foundation.

Document 62

45. This is an important report by Palmiro Togliatti, head Comintern representative in Spain, to Dimitrov in Moscow. It is of great interest, and Radosh can find nothing to say about it that is at all negative. He makes false statements about its contents, however.

46. For example, Radosh writes:

Togliatti’s reports of are special importance. It is clear that, unlike other apparatchiks, Togliatti was extremely candid and forthright in his observations. (370, emphasis added)

But Radosh gives not a single example of these “other apparatchiks,” supposedly not-candid and not-forthright. Since Togliatti was later the head of the Italian Communist Party and a major leader of the Comintern, it does not seem to have hurt his reputation to have been “extremely candid and forthright.”

47. Note, too, Radosh’s use of a Russian term for an official of the Italian Communist Party. Radosh would never refer to an official of the Spanish Socialist party as an “apparatchik.” The point here is to give the impression, by whatever means possible, that “Moscow” controls everything.

48. Radosh’s discussion of this report contains several outright lies, including one that is very blatant — always provided that one actually reads the document itself. Radosh states:

At the same time, in Catalonia, Togliatti called for a policy of reinforcing the moderation of the Popular Front, rather than demagogic appeals to a revolution-minded populace. If the anarchists tried to move toward open revolt and stage a coup, he advised one solution only: “We will finally do away with them.” (emphasis added)

Here is the passage (390):

As for the anarchists, on this question, in my opinion, we have not merely hesitated, but made absolutely real mistakes in our tactics [Togliatti is referring to methods of political struggle — GF.] On the role from Barcelona to Valencia, I posed the question to the comrades accompanying me. Their opinion was very simple: the anarchists have lost all influence, in Barcelona (!) there is not even one anarchist worker, we are waiting until they organize a second putsch, and we will finally do away with them [emphasis added].

So this attitude is not that of Togliatti, but of some “comrades.” Here is what Togliatti wrote about this attitude; this passage begins immediately after that above:

This opinion is very widespread in the party, in particular in Catalonia, and when we stick to such an idea, it is impossible to carry out a policy of rapprochement with the anarchist masses and differentiation of their leaders. (390; emphasis added)

Radosh attributed to Togliatti the very views that Togliatti cites in order to strongly oppose them!

49. Again, Radosh writes:

While publicly advocating attempts at cooperation with opposition anarchists, Togliatti noted that their leaders were “scum, closely tied to Caballero,” and had to be fought via “large-scale action from below.” (371)

It is clear from the context of p. 390 — see the emphasis in the quotation above — that the “large-scale action from below” that Togliatti hoped for was action by the “anarchist masses,” as he stated in the passage quoted above, which alone can lead to “differentiation of their leaders.” In other words, Togliatti proposed relying on a democratic plan — winning over the anarchist masses to replace or repudiate their own leadership. Communist authors show appreciation for the political instincts of the anarchist rank-and-file many times in these documents; it is the anarchist leadership they see as the stumbling blocks to effective unity against Franco.

50. In addition to Togliatti, another Soviet adviser, Antonov-Ovseenko comes across very well in these documents. Radosh seriously distorts Document 22. Antonov-Ovseenko wrote:

The PSUC repeatedly proposed to the government that weapons at the rear [i.e. in areas not involved in battle] be seized and put at the disposal of the government. (p. 80)

Radosh calls this “Communist attempts to seize all the weapons at the rear (and thus to disarm the anarchists)” (p. 71). In reality, the PSUC (the Unified Socialist Party) — not just the communists, who were only a part of the PSUC — was proposing that armed men should be at the front fighting the war, and that arms were needed at the front, not in the rear. Orwell himself complains time and again about the obsolete, broken, and useless arms available to his own unit at the front, and that even these arms were in short supply. If, as Radosh suggests here, the armed anarchists were all in the rear, what were they doing there? If armed communists had been “all in the rear,” would Radosh not think this sinister?

51. In Document 21 Antonov-Ovseenko quotes an informant, “X,” who told him that the anarchists were carrying out mass executions in Catalonia and that they had executed 40 priests.

X. told me . . . [t]hree days ago, the government seriously clashed with the anarchists: the CNT seized a priest. . . . The priest pointed out another 101 members of his order who had hidden themselves in different places. They [the anarchists] agreed to free all 102 men for three hundred thousand francs. All 102 appeared, but when the money had been handed over, the anarchists shot forty of them. (76-7; emphasis added).

52. Radosh does not condemn the anarchists at this point for shooting the priests. Nor does he suggest that this charge against the anarchists is false (p. 71). Imagine if the communists had been executing up to 50 people a day, as “X” told Antonov-Ovseenko — would Radosh have let this pass without criticism? Rather, such a document would have been featured as a major find, one of the most important documents in the book. Yet when anarchists are alleged to be committing mass murder, and Communists are opposed to it, Radosh scarcely mentions the matter, and certainly does not praise the Communists for stopping such massacres. This illustrates one of the central weaknesses in Radosh’s commentary: he is, in fact, not much interested in these documents except insofar as they can be used to show the communists as “bad.”

53. A strongly positive review of the Radosh book in First Things states baldly: “Although leftist atrocities against the Church, including the execution of thousands of nuns and priests, were widespread, they are nowhere mentioned in these documents.” In his rush to provide Radosh with another positive review, this anonymous reviewer in a right-wing, “pro-religion” journal clearly never read even Radosh’s own commentary, much less the documents themselves.

Document 46

54. This is a report by Dimitrov, head of the Comintern, to Marshal Voroshilov. Radosh makes many false statements about the contents of this 14-page report. For example, Radosh states that “the writer [of the report] came to the stunning conclusion that the war and revolution “cannot end successfully if the Communist party does not take power into its own hands.” (212). In fact, Dimitrov explicitly refuses to endorse the idea that the only way to victory is if the Communist party takes power.

The influence of the party is growing more and more among the masses, and chiefly among the soldiers; the conviction is growing among them that the war and the popular revolution cannot end successfully if the Communist party does not take power into its own hands. Who knows, that idea may indeed be correct. (232; emphasis added)

Arnold Beichman’s review makes the same inaccurate statement: “It is sad to read these Soviet archives and read the words of a Soviet agent to the Comintern’s Georgi Dimitrov: ‘The war cannot end successfully if the Communist Party does not take power in its own hands.'”

55. In fact, this is a very interesting statement, especially coming from Dimitrov, famous since the Seventh Comintern Congress in 1935 for championing the concept of the Communist International’s abandoning its independent advocacy of socialist revolution in order to make possible “united fronts” with all anti-fascist parties, as in Spain. The Spanish Communists, with the support of the Comintern, were struggling hard to make the United Front in Spain work. Here Dimitrov shows that he himself has doubts about it. The documents published in this volume could indeed provide much evidence for an argument that it was precisely the insistence on a United Front with the Spanish socialists and Anarchists that doomed the Republic. A competent commentary should have discussed this issue.

Document 70

56. This long report by General Walter (a Polish communist general whose real name was Karol Svershevsky) is of special interest since it includes the longest discussion of the International Brigades among the documents in this volume. These pages give Radosh a chance to slander not only the Soviets, but the members of the International Brigades as well, and he tries his best to do so by ignoring positive statements made about the Brigadistas in the documents at hand, while emphasizing the criticisms made about some of them.

57. Radosh begins with the following statement:

By early 1938, the international units were important to the Soviets and the Comintern only as a means of scoring points in the propaganda war and as bargaining chips in negotiations with the other great powers. (431)

Radosh continues immediately with the words, “Nowhere is this more clearly shown than in the series of documents that follow.” However, nowhere in these documents is the statement above documented in the least.

58. Walter shows admirable frankness in discussing both strengths and weaknesses within the Brigades. Radosh ignores the strengths and distorts Walter’s words about the weaknesses.

59. For example, Radosh generalizes Walter’s criticism of some Brigadistas, that they thought themselves superior to the Spanish, and implies Walter said it was true of all Brigadistas. (431)

In Sverchevsky’s words, they [the international soldiers] believed they had come to Spain to save it from the fascists. This viewpoint had led directly to their superior attitude toward the Spanish, whom they treated like second-class citizens. (431)

60. In reality, Walter’s remark is a general one, critical of an ideological attitude to be found in the Brigades (438). The words “second-class citizens” are never used. Rather, Walter’s incisive political criticism is directed towards a shallow understanding of internationalism among many Brigadistas, as illustrated in the following passage:

It seems to me that the fundamental reason for, and primary source of, our troubles lies, first and foremost, in a deeply rooted conviction which stubbornly refuses to die that we, the internationalists, are only “helping,” that we “save” and “are saving” Spain, which, they say, without us would not have escaped the fate of Abyssinia. This harmful theory prevents the German and Italian comrades from seeing the silhouettes of “Junkers” and “Fiats” in the fascist air force; they forget that here, on Spanish soil, they are fighting with arms in hand, that is, in the most effective and revolutionary way, first and foremost against their own enemy, which has already oppressed their own countries and peoples for many years. French “volunteers” do not always notice the direct connection between Franco, De la Roque, and Doriot; they forget . . . that their vital interests lie in preventing a fascist sentinel from looming on the last border, the Pyrenees. The Poles do not completely comprehend that every one of their victories here is a direct blow against the Pilsudski gang, which has turned their country into a prison for the people. . . . (438)

61. Walter is unsparingly frank in his criticisms of the shortcomings of the Brigades. His analysis appears to be a model of honest criticism, including much criticism of the performance of communists. But Walter’s report also contains the highest praise for the Brigades (for example, see the first three paragraphs, p. 436). Typically, Radosh’s commentary is utterly one-sided; he mentions many of Walter’s critical comments, but not a single one of the positive ones.

62. In his extremely positive review, Schwartz is more shameless yet in quoting some of Walter’s frank criticisms of the political problems in the Brigades as though they were characteristic. Radosh and Schwartz are of the same kidney; see Radosh’s praise of Schwartz on p. xxv.

Schwartz: “Anti-Semitism was a serious problem among these “progressive” fighters.”

Document 70: “It is true that even then there were more than enough petty squabbling and strong antagonisms in the international units. The francophobia was most transparently obvious . . . anti-Semitism flourished (and indeed it still has not been completely extinguished). . . . (448)

Schwartz: “Above all, the International Brigades possessed transport, food, and other supplies far in excess of their Spanish counterparts, with whom they resolutely refused to ‘share their wealth.'”

Document 70: “The English and American soldiers not long ago were smoking ‘Lucky Strikes,’ not paying attention to the Spanish fighters next to them, who had spent days looking for a few shreds of tobacco. The internationalists receive frequent packages from home but are very rarely willing to share them with their Spanish comrades.” (453)

Schwartz: “International Brigade officers accounted exactly for the numbers of foreigners killed and wounded in battle, but ‘never knew of the casualties of the Spanish personnel.'” [emphasis added]

Document 70: “Richard, the commander of the 11th Brigade, reporting on the casualties suffered by the brigade at Brunete and Saragossa, always gave the exact number of dead and wounded and frequently even the names of the internationalists. But he never knew the casualties of the Spanish personnel.” (454)

In this case, Schwartz transformed the behavior of one commander, in one battle — behavior that the Communist general Walter was holding up for criticism — as typical of “International Brigade officers” generally. (Schwartz gives no page numbers, so verifying his dishonest quotations is a tedious job.)

63. Neither Radosh nor Schwartz put Walter’s criticisms of the Brigades into context. But Walter does. In addition to high praise for the International Brigades’ heroism and importance in the war (see pp. 436 and 459) Walter explains the difficult problems of overcoming national chauvinism, racism and distrust among nationalities:

The International Brigades and units were created literally within the course of one or two days from those volunteers who were on hand at the time . . . there were subunits that contains dozens of nationalities all of these were people who were absolutely unacquainted, not accustomed to one another, and right off found themselves in a battle. If you add to this the extremely acute shortage of political workers, the lack of qualified military cadres, and a whole number of other needs, then the weaknesses and the solution to this problem (adequate at that time) are not surprising. (448)

Schwartz: “According to Walter, the International Brigades, inspired by slogans of worldwide unity against Fascism, were plagued by a ‘petty, disgusting, foul squabble about the superiority of one nationality over another. . . . Everyone was superior to the French, but even they were superior to the Spanish, who were receiving our aid and allowing us to fight against our own national and class enemies on their soil.'”

Immediately preceding the passage quoted by Schwartz (449) occurs the following passage (Document 70):

The great, very exalted, and revolutionary objective, armed struggle with fascism, united everyone, and for its sake Germans, Italians, Poles, Jews, and representatives of the world’s numerous nationalities, including blacks, Japanese, and Chinese, had to agree among themselves, found a common language, suffered the same adversities, sacrificed their lives, died heroes, and were filled with the very same hatred for the common enemy.

But at the very same time as the volunteers were unifying, this petty, disgusting, foul squabble about the superiority of one nationality over another was going on. . . .” (448-9)

64. At a time when every army in the world except communist-led armies were organized along officially racist lines (and some, like the Israeli army, are officially racist even today), this struggle for internationalism inspired millions around the world. Yet the venomous Schwartz sees the racist attitudes among Brigadistas as “the most shocking element of the picture, especially for those who for sixty years have witnessed the Lincoln veterans preening themselves for their antifascist virtue” (emphasis added). The International Brigades set a standard for anti-racism and internationalism that has never been equaled before or since. Schwartz’s insult is simply a measure of his contempt for such values.

Conclusion: Why Lie If You Have the Truth On Your Side?

65. The flagrant inadequacy of Radosh’s discussion of these very important and fascinating documents itself would fatally mar any work with scholarly pretensions. But there is a deeper problem with Radosh’s work. It is not merely that Radosh fails to comment accurately on the documents he publishes (Habeck did most of the translations; Sevostianov did the archival work in Moscow). More than that: Radosh actually lies, time and again, about the contents of documents which readers can study themselves a few pages after his commentary.

66. Radosh is one of a small number of former Communist Party members who, once they realized that the Soviet-led world Communist movement no longer championed an egalitarian, non-exploitative world and was not the answer to human liberation, simply decided that the other side must, therefore, have been right all along and became uncritical supporters of American capitalism and imperialism. Anyone familiar with Radosh’s history — any reader of his autobiography, Commies and the many reviews of it — might expect to find a lot of anti-communist prejudice — for example, giving a document the most anti-communist possible interpretation whenever there was any ambiguity.

67. But even a wary reader would also expect at least a couple of real “revelations” of communist deviousness, dishonesty, double-dealing, some kind of “betrayal” — something that would at least partially substantiate the claims of Radosh, and of those who reviewed his book positively. Even the wary reader would be unprepared for the extent of Radosh’s dishonesty. Not a single of Radosh’s allegations of Comintern or Soviet trechery is born out by the documents he himself publishes and comments on.

68. Is Radosh deliberately lying about the documents on which he’s commenting? Is he hoping that his only readers will be like-mindedly anti-communist drones that will simply take his word at face value? Or that those who notice his mendacity will be ignored or marginalized? Some of the distortions in the commentary are so blatant that one cannot account for them in any other way.

69. Yet I think that dishonesty and incompetence cannot provide the whole answer. On a deeper level, Radosh’s anti-communism, and specifically his allegiance to the demonization of Stalin, seems to produce a kind of tunnel vision that imposes a systematic distortion on everything he sees or reads.

70. Radosh mentions the name of Stalin dozens of times, although none of his documents were written by Stalin or are under his name, and only a few were sent to him. For Radosh, the word “Stalin” no longer denotes an individual, but is a synecdochal signifier for — depending on the circumstance — the Comintern, the Soviet political leadership, or even any Communist, anywhere. Like a kind of mirror-image of the “cult of personality” that existed from about 1930 until Stalin’s death in 1953, Radosh too attributes all the initiative and agency of all communists to Stalin alone. A more radical reductionism can scarcely be imagined, and is all the more noteworthy since Radosh seems entirely oblivious to his own practice here. It never occurs to him to justify it theoretically, historically, or in any way at all.

71. This ideological distortion is more serious because more pervasive. Many who think of themselves as “liberal” or even “left” share with Radosh a kind of reflexive assumption that, whenever “Stalin” — read, the Comintern — seems to have been acting according to its professed motives of supporting the exploited and oppressed around the world, it must really have been acting out of selfish motives which, if not obvious, are simply cleverly disguised. [4] 

72. I hope that readers of this review will be inspired to read Radosh’s book and see for themselves. In view, however, of the inaccurate and misleading nature of Radosh’s commentary there is only one way to read this book:

First, ignore Radosh’s commentary entirely. Read the documents themselves, and only them, very carefully.

Only after doing that should you read Radosh’s commentary. But every time Radosh makes any kind of assertion about any document, go to that document, find the relevant passage, and note what the document really says.

Often this is not easy to do. Radosh does not include page numbers to the passages of the documents when he gives his comments or summaries. Often he will write things like “As we have seen . . .” ( p. 502); “Nowhere is this more clearly shown than in the series of documents that follow . . .” (p. 431); “The documentary evidence, as we have shown . . .” (p. 372). Here the job of finding the passage in question can take quite a long time. It’s always worth taking the time, though, because what one usually discovers is that that NO previous document has shown anything of the kind.

73. Radosh reminds us that one of the main stumbling blocks for Marxists is the figure of Stalin. Stalin has been demonized — by Trotsky and those who have relied on Trotsky; by some Soviet émigrés, also imitators of Trotsky, in the main; and by Khrushchev and those who have been accustomed to believe that Khrushchev’s so-called “revelations” about Stalin were true. As Robert Thurston has written, the demonized “Stalin” is “a powerful cultural construct in scholarship, film, popular works, etc. The difficulty is to try to get past that construction as best we can.” (Thurston, 2000). Radosh has not even tried.

74. As Roger Pethybridge, a well-known British Sovietologist, commented long ago:

If one considers all the well-known biographies of Stalin, a common feature emerges: the volumes are a quite accurate reflection of biographical method current at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, when historical biographies dwelt on so-called “good” and “bad” kings. The personality who reigned appeared to dominate not only the political but the social and economic life of his kingdom, so that by a sneeze or a yawn he could magically change the whole socioeconomic pattern of his reign. This method of historical biography has long been discounted in the treatment of authoritarian rule in earlier history. It has also been discarded with regard to the study of Nazi Germany. Unfortunately, it still remains as a specter from the past in the study of Soviet personalities in high politics. (Pethybridge, 1976).

75. Since the end of the Soviet Union, many formerly secret Comintern and Bolshevik documents have been published, with more coming out all the time. Like the Comintern documents in Radosh’s book, most of them contradict the widely-propagated, and widely-believed, horror stories about the history of the Communist movement during the Stalin years. [5] 

76. It’s up to us all of us who recognize the desperate need for a truly classless, egalitarian society to learn from the successes and failures of our predecessors, including, especially, the Bolsheviks during the time of Stalin’s leadership. But in order to do this, we must first convince ourselves that we do not already know these things.

77. For example, many of the Comintern documents in this collection support the suggestion made by some on the Left that the United Front Against Fascism was doomed from the outset, even as a tactic in fighting fascism. [6]  For no matter how devotedly the communists supported only bourgeois democratic goals, many capitalist forces refused to co-operate with them, in effect preferring to risk a fascist victory rather than take their chances in a liberal capitalist state with a strongly organized working class and peasantry under communist leadership. The subsequent fate of the communist parties of Western Europe and the USA after World War II, who were viciously attacked by the capitalists despite their adherence to a reform-oriented, non-revolutionary program, further suggests that the united front strategy was wishful thinking.

78. That is, we have to be ready and willing to question the Cold-War, Trotskyist, and Khrushchevite versions of this history, and “do it all again,” so we can actually begin to understand what really happened. [7] 

79. If that’s what we’re about — and I think we should be — then Radosh’s book can help us, by reminding us not to be like him.

Reviews used in this essay 

Beichman, Arnold. “Deceit in the Spanish Civil War.” The Washington Times, Op-Ed, July 17, 2001, p. A21.

Bernstein, Richard. “Aiding Dictatorship, Not Democracy.” The New York Times, July 23, 2001. Cited at <http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/23/books/23BERN.html>.

Review of Spain Betrayed in First Things 116 (October 2001). Cited at <http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0110/reviews/briefly.html#spain>

Hitchens, Christopher. “Who Lost Spain?” Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2001. Cited at <http://wwics.si.edu/OUTREACH/WQ/WQCURR/WQBKPER/BOOK-1.HTM>

———, “The Unfolded Lie.” Los Angeles Times, July 15, 2001. Cited at <http://www.calendarlive.com/top/1,1419,L-LATimes-Books-X!ArticleDetail-38407,00.html>

Schwartz, Steven. “The Red and the Black. The end of the myth of the Spanish Civil War.” Weekly Standard, July 16, 2001. Cited at <http://www.weeklystandard.com/magazine/mag_6_41_01/schwartz_bkart_6_41_01.asp>

Other materials

Graham, Helen. “‘Against the State’: A Genealogy of the Barcelona May Days (1937).” European History Quarterly 29(4), 485-542.

Pethybridge, Roger. 1976. Review of Ronald Hingley, Joseph Stalin: Man and Legend (New York, 1974), in Slavic Review 35 (March 1976): 136.

Thurston, Robert W. Post to H-RUSSIA list, August 24, 2000.

Notes

1 There is absolutely no question that Radosh is lying in some places — e.g., in Document 62 where, as I discuss in the text, he attributes to Togliatti the views that, in the document itself, which any reader can study a few pages later, Togliatti explicitly criticizes. Radosh does this kind of thing many times.

The book is also an example of incompetence. Radosh simply does a poor job at what a commentator should do: summarizing the documents, isolating the most important aspects of them, putting them into an overall historical context, and so on.

These kind of faults should have been red flags to any editor. But there is a long history of anti-communist works getting published even though filled with errors that would doom any other kind of research.

The uncritical praise of so many reviewers suggests that one purpose of Radosh’s book is to influence those who will not read it carefully. Perhaps someone made the estimation that few people will read such a book anyway, and most of those who do will probably rely on the commentary, rather than study the documents themselves. Again, this is no excuse for the kind of mendacity displayed in Spain Betrayed, but rather a grasping after some kind of explanation for so poor a work.

Finally, the book is a failure. Radosh had boasted for years — in some ways, since the ’80s, when he began publishing stuff about the Spanish Civil War, but explicitly since he began working on this book — that it would “prove” the USSR (“Stalin”) betrayed Spain. In the event it not only fails to “prove” any betrayal; it fails to come up with a single example of anything devious, dishonest, anything at all to make the communist side or the USSR specifically look bad.

2 Radosh betrays his ignorance of Soviet history. “Purge trials” is a term no longer used even by anti-communist Sovietologists. The chistki, or “purges,” were expulsion of Communist Party members for many reasons, most commonly drunkenness, neglect of duty, etc., though sometimes for political deviations. They were completely separate from the three famous Moscow Trials of 1936-8, of persons who confessed to plotting to overthrow the Soviet government. The best, and classic discussion of this is J. Arch Getty, Origins of the great purges: the Soviet Communist Party reconsidered, 1933-1938. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

3 See the excellent typology of anti-communist rhetoric in James R. Prickett, “Anti-Communism and Labor History,” Industrial Relations 13 (October, 1974), 219-227.”

4 For example, Stalin stated that “The cause of Spain is the cause of all humanity.” The USSR sent huge amounts of aid, in materiel and men, to the Republic both itself and through the Comintern, much of which was not, in fact, repaid. Yet Cary Nelson, a staunch supporter of the American veterans of the Spanish Civil War and a prominent left-liberal, still feels compelled to explain Soviet aid in this way: “Stalin’s motivations, no doubt, were pragmatic. He probably hoped, for example, to use an alliance to help the Spanish Republic as a way of building a general antifascist alliance with the Western democracies.” (“The Spanish Civil War: An Overview,” accessed at <http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/scw/overview.htm> on 20 February 2003). “Pragmatic” in this context explains nothing; the Soviets knew very well that the antifascist alliance they aimed at was jeopardized by their aid to the Republic, but did it anyway. For Nelson, the International Brigade volunteers can, and did, have idealistic motives, but Stalin cannot, even though the whole effort could hardly have taken place without his strong support at every step.

5 For example, the interrogations and confessions by such major figures as NKVD chief Genrikh Yagoda and Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky have been published, making it clear that the accusations leveled against them by the Soviet government in the late ’30s were substantially accurate. There is also some additional evidence of Leon Trotsky’s contacts with oppositionists in the USSR who were plotting the overthrow of the government, as well as the first evidence of Trotsky’s contact with the Japanese fascist government, both central claims of the Communist movement in the ’30s but both strongly denied by Trotsky’s followers.

6 See, for example, “Lessons of People’s War in Spain 1936-1939,” Progressive Labor, Vol. 9, No. 5 (Oct.-Nov. 1974), 106-116, cited at <http://www.plp.org/pl_magazine/pws.html> (February 22, 2003). For more on a left critique of the consequences of the Popular Front strategy upon the world communist movement, see “Road to Revolution III: The Continuing Struggle Against Revisionism” (1970), at <http://www.plp.org/pl_magazine/rr3.html#RTFToC5>.

7 J. Arch Getty, the dean of the younger generations of American historians of the USSR, is quoted by the prominent (and very anti-communist) Russian historian Yuri Zhukov as having said Soviet history is poisoned by Cold War “propaganda,” and has to be done all over again. See Aleksandr Sabov, “Zhupel Stalina” (“Stalin’s Boogeyman”), Komsomolskaya Pravda, Nov. 5, 2001.

Contents copyright © 2003 by Grover Furr.

Format copyright © 2003 by Cultural Logic, ISSN 1097-3087.

Source

Alliance Marxist-Leninist: The Cominform Documents

meeting_cominform_1949_november_hungary

THE COMINFORM DOCUMENTS

INTRODUCTION (by N. Steinmayr); For Alliance and Communist League. Published on web June 13th 1999.

The Cominform documents have been published – in their original versions in both Russian and English – in The Cominform: Minutes of the Three Conferences 1947/48/49 (edited by Giuliano Procacci, in Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, Annali, 1994, Feltrinelli Editore, Milano, ISBN 88-07-99050-4).

The volume contains both the original texts (the bulk of which had never been published before) and some introductory essays and notes. This critical edition resulted from an agreement of scholarly cooperation between the Russian Centre of Conservation and Study of Records for Modern History and the Feltrinelli Foundation.

As known, nine European communist parties (from the USSR, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, France and Italy) joined the Cominform and participated at its three Conferences – respectively, in September 1947, in June 1948, and in November 1949. No other conferences were organized from 1950 until its disbanding in 1956.

The reasons of its decline may be found in the emergence of Khrushchevite revisionism and in the new changes in the international situation (namely, the Chinese revolution and the Korean war). I have selected below only a few sections from the original documents which highlight some interesting and revealing aspects, i.e., the presence of revisionist, centrist positions in the international communist movement at that time and Dimitrov’s role in Bulgarian-Yugoslav-Soviet relations.

These original sources, as well, contribute to explain – in retrospect – the origins of the revisionist degeneration that later became apparent in the international communist movement. I have numbered the various sections of the original documents I quote. The extracts are preceded by some notes that I present.

EXTRACT 1:
FROM THE REPORT BY A. A. ZHDANOV (SOVIET DELEGATION) “ON THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION” AT THE FIRST CONFERENCE (25 September 1947) .

NS:
I have selected the definition of people’s democracy. In this famous report by Zhdanov, outlining the “two camps” theory, the main task of the communists appears to be the defence of peace and democracy against US-led imperialist expansionism, rather than the advance of socialism. There is no mention of the dictatorship of the proletariat as the main feature of the socialist society. But the crucial phrase is mentioned of the “transition to socialism”. It was this very key step that the revisionist Dimitrov would neglect in his policies for Bulgaria.

EXTRACT 2:
THE REPORT BY V. CHERVENKOV (BULGARIAN DELEGATION) “ON THE ACTIVITY OF THE BULGARIAN WORKERS’ PARTY (COMMUNISTS)” AT THE FIRST CONFERENCE (23 September 1947)

NS:
This emphasizes the special relationship existing between Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. Reference is made to the meeting which took place at Lake Bled from 30 July to 1 August 1947 between a Bulgarian delegation, headed by Dimitrov, and a Yugoslav delegation, headed by Tito. At the end of the meeting, a joint declaration was signed (on 1 August) and announced, providing for a conclusion of a treaty of friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance which they intended to sign.

In a harsh telegram sent to both governments on 12 August, Stalin criticized the initiative, both because it had been taken without prior consultations with the Soviet government and because it might feed Anglo-American opposition to a treaty signed by a country, such as Bulgaria, which would have lost the status of conquered nation won only with the entry into force of the peace treaty on 15 September 1947.

In early July, in fact, both Tito and Dimitrov had informed Moscow of their intention to imminently sign this Yugoslav-Bulgarian treaty. But Stalin, in his answer to Dimitrov on 5 July, had instructed them to wait until the peace treaty came into force. The Yugoslav-Bulgarian announcement of 1 August 1947, therefore, was a deliberate violation of Stalin’s directives.

Extract 3:
FROM THE SPEECH BY T. KOSTOV (BULGARIAN DELEGATION) AT THE SECOND CONFERENCE (21 JUNE 1948).

NS:
I have selected quotations relating to:
a) Yugoslav-Bulgarian relations, with particular regard to the Macedonian question (it is now stated that it was Yugoslavia which had had territorial and hegemonic pretentions in the Balkans against the USSR), and:
b) mistakes and defects in the Bulgarian Workers’ Party (Communists), apparently corrected thanks to Soviet advice.

It must be taken into account that:

(a) during that period of time, both Dimitrov and Kostov were the two most prominent leaders in the Bulgarian party (the former held the position of Central Committee chairman, the latter was first secretary). Both of them had remained in Moscow until November 1945 and Kostov had been appointed party secretary thanks to Dimitrov’s personal intervention and backing;

(b) Kostov was replaced by Dimitrov as party general secretary at the fifth party congress in December 1948 (the post of party chairman having been abolished). Soon afterwards, Dimitrov began a discussion of “mistakes” made by Kostov, accusing him of nationalism and “intellectual individualism”. Kostov was purged from the party in March 1949 while Dimitrov died of natural causes in July.
In December Kostov and others were accused of being agents of the Anglo-Americans and having committed treason in connection with the Balkan federation proposals (aimed at making Bulgaria an appendage of Yugoslavia, thus severing links with the Soviet Union and the people’s democracies). But no blame was attached to Dimitrov in connection with these proposals, while Kostov was executed immediately after the trial (he was partly rehabilitated in 1956 and completely exonerated in 1962). Kostov’s trial can eventually be regarded as an episode in the struggle for leadership within the Bulgarian party after Dimitrov’s death.

According to J.D. Bell, in The Bulgarian Communist Party from Blagoev to Zhivkov (1986):

“When the charges against him were read to the court, Kostov admitted that he had tried to keep the prices of certain Bulgarian goods from Soviet officials, but he pleaded innocent to the rest of the charges and repudiated his confession. Even after the final guilty verdict was pronounced, he remained unrepentant. ‘I never served English intelligence,’ he said, ‘never participated in the criminal plans of Tito and his clique . . . I have always held the Soviet Union in devotion and respect . . . Let the Bulgarian people know that I am innocent!’”
(Bell, op. cit., p. 106);

(c) It is a well-known fact that it was Dimitrov that had publicly and ardently expressed himself – at variance with Soviet positions – in favour of a Balkan federation until early 1948. (The Soviet-Yugoslav split began to emerge in March). In an interview on 17 January 1948, he expressed himself in favour of a large federation including Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Albania, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and eventually Greece. The rebuke came from Pravda on 28 January and on 2 February, at the second Congress of the Fatherland Front, Dimitrov made self-criticism expressing Bulgarian acceptance of the Soviet line;

(d) new documents have recently been declassified in Yugoslav, Bulgarian and Soviet archives with regard to the meeting on 10 February 1948 between delegations from these three countries (Bulgaria being represented by Dimitrov, Kostov and Kolarov).

The meeting’s proceedings amounted to a harsh reproach by the Soviets for Dimitrov’s statement about a federation in Eastern Europe and for Tito’s attempts to send a Yugoslav division into Albania. Emphasized once more were both the incorrectness of these steps and the inadmissibility of any action taken without informing the USSR. The Yugoslav and Bulgarian delegations admitted their “mistakes”.

What resulted from the meeting was the signing on 11 February, as proposed by the Soviet side, of agreements in which an obligation was recognized for consultation on international questions to take place between the USSR and Yugoslavia and between the USSR and Bulgaria.

EXTRACT 4
FROM THE REPORT BY G. MALENKOV (SOVIET DELEGATION) AT THE SECOND CONFERENCE (23 JUNE 1948).

NS:
We discover that Moscow was not in favour of the Communist Party of Albania (CPA) even after the official Soviet/Cominform split with Yugoslavia. Its entry was regarded as “inexpedient” and, it was argued, it would have complicated Albania’s international position, since it hadn’t been admitted to the UN and since its independence was allegedly guaranteed, at that time (i.e., June 1948), by “an agreement between three Powers” reached six years before!

The reference is, in fact, made to the agreement between the governments of the USSR, USA and Great Britain, according to which on 17-18 December 1942 each of the threee powers had made a similar declaration concerning the repudiation of the Italian occupation of Albania and support for the re-establishment of its independence. But already in November and December 1946, the Council of Foreign Ministers in New York had agreed to consider Albania an associated power with regard to the application of the peace treaty with Italy and had also recognized Albania’s right to an indemnity of five million dollars, which was to be paid by Italy in respect to war damages.

Finally, in February 1947, the peace treaty with Italy was signed (and later ratified by Tirana on 24 October 1947): Albania was not one of its signatories but ranked among the victorious states. Accordingly, Italy was bound to respect Albanian independence and Albanian legal and administrative sovereignty was sanctioned over the island of Sazan.

But, indeed, the CPA’s admission to Cominform was rejected on the basis of rather preposterous justifications on the part of the Soviet representative at the second Cominform conference in 1948! And also, Albania hadn’t been admitted at the UNO due to Anglo-American opposition: by 1947 both Washington and London had established diplomatic links with all Eastern European states – except Albania (whose gold, looted by the Germans, continued to remain kept in the vaults of the Bank of England in London).

What about all the Soviet and Cominform calls for struggle against the new American imperialist and warmongering plans to enslave Europe? Particularly in the light of the consistent Marxist-Leninist policies which had been implemented in Albania since its liberation, there can be no doubt that the Albanian communists’ continued exclusion from Cominform – even after Yugoslavia’s withdrawal from the organization – was masterminded by hidden and powerful revisionists within the Soviet leadership.

From Hoxha’s memoirs, it becames crystal clear that Stalin was personally determined to support Albania’s political stands and its independence at that crucial time. For its part, the CPA immediately and unconditionally supported the Soviet and Cominform positions on Yugoslav revisionism. The 9th Plenum of its Central Committee convened between 27 and 30 June 1948, having on its agenda analyses of the three letters addressed to the Communist Party of Yugoslavia by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (on 27 March, 4 and 22 May 1948) and the Cominform resolution on Yugoslavia. Unanimous solidarity with and support for the stands adopted by the CPSU and the Cominform against Yugoslavia were expressed. Consequently, all the agreements and conventions which had been signed with Yugoslavia – except the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Aid of July 1946 (later abrogated by Belgrade in November 1949) – were denounced by Albania. These decisions were made public on 1 July 1948 in a communiquè of the CPA’s Central Committee.

EXTRACT 5
THE REPORT BY M. A. SUSLOV (SOVIET DELEGATION) ON “THE DEFENCE OF PEACE AND THE STRUGGLE AGAINST WARMONGERS” AT THE THIRD CONFERENCE (16 November 1949):

NS:
This emphasizes and further develops – along the positions expressed by Zhdanov two years earlier – the necessity of maintaining peace and independence as the main task of the communist and workers’ parties. However, two years had elapsed. What had happened to the “transition” correctly discussed by Zhadanov? Was the establishment of a socialist society now forgotten? What about the dictatorship of the proletariat as the indispensable transition stage towards communism?

All these political stands, which effectively dump class struggle for socialism in favour of class collaboration, became included in the final Cominform resolution on “The Defence of Peace and the Struggle against the Warmongers”. As for the other resolution on “Working-Class Unity and the Tasks of the Communist and Workers’ Parties”, this was unanimously approved on the basis on Togliatti’s report on the subject: similar revisionist and right-wing stuff calling for “peace, bread and democratic liberties”! The third approved resolution dealt with “The Communist Party of Yugoslavia in the Power of Murderers and Spies”.

Extract 6
THE SPEECH BY V. CHERVENKOV (BULGARIAN DELEGATION) AT THE THIRD CONFERENCE (17 November 1949).

NS:
Directs a sharp criticism to Kostov who now becomes the scapegoat for former Bulgarian attempts to detatch, together with Tito, the country from the anti-imperialist, democratic camp (namely, the USSR) and to prevent the consistent advancement towards socialism in Bulgaria.

As for Dimitrov’s role in preventing the transition from the first stage of the anti-fascist, democratic revolution to the second, socialist stage, see “Alliance (Marxist-Leninist), n. 12, January 1995 (“Georgii Dimitrov and the Bulgarian Communist Party”).

Kostov was to be executed in December, while Dimitrov had died in July. It was also widely known that they had both coordinated Bulgarian policies towards the USSR and Yugoslavia during the forties. According to Chervenkov, Bulgaria had been able to strengthen its socialist foundations and fight nationalistic deviations only thanks to the Soviet Communist Party and Stalin, who is referred to as the “direct teacher and leader” of the Bulgarian people. Not even a passing reference is made to Dimitrov in Chervenkov’s whole report.

EXTRACT 7:
THE SPEECH BY V. POPTOMOV (BULGARIAN DELEGATION) AT THE THIRD CONFERENCE (18 November 1949);

NS:
Deals with the condemnation of Yugoslav revisionism. I have only selected a few quotations referring to the Balkan federation proposals. Not even in this report is mention made to Dimitrov. In fact, the Bulgarian delegates’ speeches at the third Cominform Conference do imply Dimitrov’s serious responsabilities for right-wing errors which had occurred in the international communist movement and in Bulgaria. From these proceedings, as well, Marxist-Leninists can hardly draw the conclusion that Dimitrov had been an outstanding and consistent Communist fighter during his lifetime.

THE EXTRACTED DOCUMENTS

1. FROM THE REPORT BY A. A. ZHDANOV (SOVIET DELEGATION) “ON THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION” AT THE FIRST CONFERENCE (25 September 1947) (pp. 219, 227,229,251):

“…The new democratic power in Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Albania, supported by the mass of the people, has proved capable of carrying through in a very short time progressive democratic changes…a new type of state was created – the People’s Republic, in which power belongs to the people, large-scale industry, transport and the banks belong to the state, and the leding force is a bloc of all the classes of the population who work, headed by the working class. As a consequence, the peoples of these countries have not only been delivered from the clutches of imperialism, they have laid the basis for transition to the path of socialist development…The aim of this [anti-imperialist and democratic] camp is to fight against the threat of new wars and imperilalist expansion, to consolidate democracy and to uproot what remains of fascism…All the forces of the anti-imperialist and anti-fascist camp have rallied to the task of ensuring a just and democratic peace. This is the soil on which the friendly cooperation of the USSR with the democratic countries on all questions of foreign policy has grown and strengthened. These countries, and in the first place, the countries of new democracy – Yugoslavia, Poland, Czechosiovakia, Albania – which played an important part in the war of liberation against fascism, together with Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and, to some extent, Finland, which have joined the anti-fascist front, have all become in the post-war period staunch fighters for peace and democracy, for their own freedom and independence against all attempts by the USA and Britain to reverse the trend of their development and drag them back under the imperialist yoke…The Communists must be the leading force in drawing all anti-fascist, freedom-loving elements into struggle against the new American expansionist plans for subjugating Europe…A special task falls to the Communist Parties of France, Italy, Britain and other countries. They must take up the banner of defence of the national independence and sovereignty of their countries…”

2. FROM THE REPORT BY V. CHERVENKOV (BULGARIAN DELEGATION) “ON THE ACTIVITY OF THE BULGARIAN WORKERS’ PARTY (COMMUNISTS)” AT THE FIRST CONFERENCE (23 September 1947) (pp. 103):

“. . . We can regard Bulgaria’s international position as having been normalised. The basic line of our foreign policy consists in safeguarding at all costs our national independence and state sovereignty, in co-operation with all freedom-loving peoples. The fundamental principle of this policy, as Comrade Dimitrov has frequently stressed, is eternal friendship with our liberator, the great Soviet Union, fraternal alliance with the new Yugoslavia, and close collaboration with all the other Slav countries and with the other democratic peoples.

The conference held at Bled and the decisions adopted there mark the beginning of a new phase in relations between the new Bulgaria and the new Yugoslavia and signify a big step forward in establishing close rapprochement between them. Decisions were taken at Bled on co-ordinated action and common defence of peace in the Balkans.

We are going to conclude treaties of friendship and mutual aid with Yugoslavia, Romania, Czechoslovakia and Poland which will still further strengthen Bulgaria’s position in the world. . . .”

3. FROM THE SPEECH BY T. KOSTOV (BULGARIAN DELEGATION) AT THE SECOND CONFERENCE (21 JUNE 1948) (pp. 561, 563, 565, 567, 569):

“. . . Comrade KOSTOV says that the CC of the Bulgarian Workers’ Party (Communists) received with amazement and alarm the news of the anti-Marxist and anti-Soviet stand of the leaders of the KPJ, because they realise that in the present international situation, which calls for cohesion of all democratic forces under the leadership of the Soviet Union, any split in the democratic camp plays in the hands of the imperialists and is a stab in the back for the forces of democracy. The Bulgarian communists have further ground for anxiety because they were moving towards closer relations with Yugoslavia, going so far as a federation, which was to have strengthened the position of democracy in both countries and facilitated their progress along the road to socialism.

The policy of the present leaders of the KPJ is leading to rupture of the line which had been marked out and advanced for rapprochement between Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. . .

. . . Comrade Kostov turns to the question of Bulgaro-Yugoslav relations and, in particular, speaks about the Macedonian question. After the First World War, says Comrade Kostov, Royal Yugoslavia annexed part of Western Bulgaria which remains to this day within the frontiers of Yugoslavia. During the Balkan Wars part of Eastern Macedonia (the Pirin region) became part of Bulgaria. The population of Eastern Macedonia speak Bulgarian and are linked economically with Bulgaria.

The process of forming the Macedonians into a nation was intensified after the creation of the Macedonian People’s Republic within the Yugoslav Federation. Even today, however, this process cannot be reagrded as complete.

Proceeding from the principles of the teaching of Lenin and Stalin, and considering the national question to be a subordinated one, we proposed to the Yugoslav comrades to consider as fundamental the possibility of a closer rapprochement between our two countries which must result in the near future in the creation of a federal state. The national question, too, could find its solution within the framework of a federation. In that there would be no special obstacles to the solution of this question, because in a federation there would be no frontier between Macedonia and Bulgaria.

Until the federation was formed we undertook, on the advice of the Soviet comrades, to promote the national development of the Macedonian people. To this end a hundred teachers were invited from Yugoslav Macedonia, agreement on this being arrived at between Comrades Dimitrov and Tito at Bled. In spite of this, differences continue to exist.

The Yugoslav comrades, especially Djilas, Vukmanovic and Kolisevski, still consider that the Macedonian question should be settled separately from the creation of the federation. Anybody who does not agree with their view they accuse of Greater-Bulgarian chauvinism. They want simply to annex the Pirin region to Yugoslav Macedonia and thereby to weaken Bulgaria. . . .

. . . In the light of the current behaviour of the leaders of the KPJ it has become clear that they were never sincere when they discussed the question of federation, that in their federation Bulgaria would not have had equal rights, that, in reality, they were trying to bring it about that, by means of federation, Tito’s Yugoslavia would become hegemon of the Balkans against the USSR. Evidently, Comrade Kostov concludes, the question of federation must be put aside for the time being. . . .

. . . Comrade Kostov proceeds to describe the situation in the Bulgarian Workers’ Party (Communists) and to criticise certain mistakes made by and defects in this Party. Alongside great achievements there are, says Comrade Kostov, major defects and mistakes in the Party’s work. Inner-Party democracy does not prevail at the level it should. Criticism and self criticism have not yet become the basic driving force in the Party. The CC itself does not yet work as a firmly welded collective, and command methods in relation to the Party organisations have not yet been fully outgrown. There has been no Party Congress for 20 years: since 9 September 1944 the CC has confined itself to convening enlarged plenums and conferences.

Comrade Kostov mentions the unfavourable state of affairs in respect of the Party’s social composition. There are persons in it who ought to be merely candidates for membership. Certain Party members have in the past sabotaged government decisions on grain-procurement. Some have joined the Party with venal aims and some Party organisations are being torn apart by squabbles over the allotment of jobs. Within a short space of time the Party has increased its membership twentyfold, from 25,000 to 500,000.

Taking account of the danger inherent in excessive growth of the Party, the CC has taken measures to restrict recruiting, and at the moment recruiting is suspended until the congress takes place, when a probationary period for candidates for Party membership will be laid down.

Comrade Kostov says that he considers his Party’s line to be fundamentally correct. They have achieved serious successes, smashed the forces of reaction, strengthened the Fatherland Front and proceeded to lay the foundations of a socialist economy. A correct general line does not mean, however, says Comrade Kostov, that the Party is free from mistakes and defects. The Party has these: underestimation of the class struggle, illusions about the possibility of softening this struggle in the conditions of present-day Bulgaria, failure to have a clear notion of the roads and tempos of developoment, talk of harmoniously combining the state, co-operative and private sectors in the economy, and so on. But all these mistakes have been corrected in good time, often thanks to advice from the CC of the VKP(B) and comrade Stalin personally.

All these mistakes of ours resulted in a number of cases in slowing down the pace of our struggle and our advance. In some cases, though, we ran too far ahead, as with the formulation about complete liquidation of the antagonistic classes. . . .

. . . On behalf of the Political Bureau of the Bulgarian Workers’ Party (Communists) Comrade Kostov declares his agreement with the conclusions of Comrade Zhdanov’s report on the situation in the KPJ.”

4. FROM THE REPORT BY G. MALENKOV (SOVIET DELEGATION) AT THE SECOND CONFERENCE (23 JUNE 1948) (pp. 601, 603):

“. . . We must also, says Comrade Malenkov, tell the Information Bureau that the CC of the CP of Albania has also expressed desire that their Party join the Information Bureau. We should like to state our view on this, namely, that it must be explained to the Albanian comrades that for the present it would be inexpedient for their Party to enter the Information Bureau. Our motives for this decision are these. The independence of Albania is at present guaranteed by an agreement between three Powers, Albania has not yet been admitted to the United Nations Organisation and there can be no doubt but that joining the Information Bureau in this international situation would complicate Albania’s international position, which is delicate enough even without that. It seems to us that the Albanian comrades agree with these reasons. We think that the Albanian comrades, too, should be kept informed of the activity of the Information Bureau. . . .”

5. FROM THE REPORT BY M. A. SUSLOV (SOVIET DELEGATION) ON “THE DEFENCE OF PEACE AND THE STRUGGLE AGAINST WARMONGERS” AT THE THIRD CONFERENCE (16 November 1949) (pp. 699, 701, 705):

“. . . The change in the relation of forces in the world arena in favour of the camp of peace and democracy evokes fresh outbursts of frenzied fury in the camp of imperialism and warmongering. . . .
. . . In this situation in which the danger of another war is intensifying, a great historical responsibility is imposed on the Communist and Workers’ Parties. They must use every means of struggle to ensure a firm and long-lasting peace, subordinating all their activity to this, the central task at the present time . . . .

. . . It is the duty of the Communist and Workers’ Parties in the capitalist countries to merge together the fight for national independence and the fight for peace, tirelessly to expose the anti-national, traitorous nature of the policy of the bourgeois governments, which have been turned into direct bailiffs for American imperialism, to unite and weld together all the democratic and patriotic forces of each country around the slogans of doing away with the shameful slavery to America and going over to an independent external and internal policy which corresponds to the national interests of the people. The Communist and Workers’ Parties must hold high the banner of protection of the national independence and sovereignty of their countries.

The Communist and Workers’ Parties must unite the broad masses for defence of democratic rights and liberties, tirelessly explaining to them that defence of peace is inseparably bound up with defence of the vital interests of the working class and all the working people, that the fight for peace is at the same time a fight against poverty, hunger and fascism.

Particularly important tasks face the Communist Parties of France, Italy, and Britain, West Germany and other countries whose peoples the American imperialists want to use as cannon-fodder for carrying out their aggressive plans. Their duty is to develop still more strongly the fight for peace, to frustrate the criminal designs of the Anglo-American warmongers.

To the Communist and Workers’ Parties of the people’s democracies and the Soviet Union falls the task, while opposing the imperialist warmongers and their accomplices, of further strengthening the camp of peace and socialism, for the defence of peace and the security of the peoples. . . .”

6. FROM THE SPEECH BY V. CHERVENKOV (BULGARIAN DELEGATION) AT THE THIRD CONFERENCE (17 November 1949) (pp. 749, 751, 753, 755, 757):

“. . . At the present time the question of the defence of peace and national independence is the decisive question for the working class and the Communist Parties.
Since the time of the first conference of the Information Bureau, says Comrade Chervenkov, our Party has achieved important successes on the consolidation of people’s democracy in Bulgaria. . . .

. . . the people’s democracy of Bulgaria has been substantially reinforced, both economically and politically, in the past two years. One of the most important factors in this reinforcement is the nation-wide and profound nature of Bulgarian-Soviet friendship, which is a most important driving force in our social development. . . .

. . . Our working people see Comrade Stalin as our direct teacher and leader. . . .

. . . ruthless struggle against any manifestations of nationalism within the CP is a direct duty, an absolutely necessary precondition, or more correctly, a component part of the fight for peace.

Comrade Chervenkov stresses that nationalism not only helps the warmongers, it is actually the ideology of the enemies of peace, the enemies of the Soviet Union, the warmongers themselves. Nationalists are direct agents of imperialism. . . .

. . . What we are dealing with is a plan by the imperialists to subvert the Communist Party from within, to implant nationalists espionage agents in the Party. . . .

. . . Comrade Chervenkov says that with the direct aid of the CC of the VKP(B) and of Comrade Stalin personally – for which the Bulgarian people will be forever grateful – Kostov, the former secretary of the Party’s CC was exposed.

What did Kostov turn out to be? A British spy. He confessed that he had been recruited by British intelligence so far back as 1942 and that since 1944 he had had links with the Tito clique.

On the orders of the Anglo-American intelligence agents in our country and in conjunction with the Tito-ites, Kostov formed in the Party and the state apparatus a group of persons, spies like himself, who sought by various ways and means, exploiting our weakness, trustfulness, and carelessness, to damage the Party and the state primarily in the economic sphere, and to prepare, with the Tito-ites’s help, to detach Bulgaria from the Soviet Union, restore capitalism, and bring Bulgaria into the camp of imperialism.

This separation of Bulgaria from the Soviet Union they proposed to bring about by using the slogan of a federation of the Southern Slavs and a Balkan Federation. Of course, says Comrade Chervenkov, Kostov’s federation of the Southern Slavs had nothing and has nothing in common with what we mean by an alliance of the Southern Slavs, since Kostov’s federation of the Southern Slavs was to have been directed against the USSR. The Kostovites wanted to unite Bulgaria with Yugoslavia, and counted on military help from the Tito-ites…

. . . Our successes, says Comrade Chervenkov, would have been very much greater but for the wrecking done by the Kostovites. They did damage mainly through distorting in practice the policy of the Party and the governrnent, thereby creating discontent among the people. They harmed us especially in the sphere of our econornic policy, in our relations with the peasants. . . .

. . . All the preparation for the coming elections to the organs of state power is proceeding under the sign of ruthless criticism of shortcomings and determined reorganisation of our work. Comrade Chervenkov says that the whole of the Party’s work is being subjected to thorough criticism, along with the work of the state apparatus and of the social and economic organs. The working people are being very vigorously involved in creative criticism of shortcomings and weaknesses.

Speaking of the Party’s immediate tasks, Comrade Chervenkov emphasises that it is first of all necessary to purge the Party, from top to bottom, of Kostovites and of all who maintain a conciliatory attitude to them. This task will be carried out. Although a Party purge has not been formally announced, purging of the Party’s ranks is going on, and after the Kostov trial this purge will be pursued still more vigorously.

It must be said, Comrade Chervenkov observes, that we exposed Kostov in good time. That we owe to the VKP(B) and Comrade Stalin.

The fight against the Kostovites, says Comrade Chervenkov, has welded our Party together as never before. Vigilance has been heightened, inner-Party democracy has been extended and strengthened, and the process of Bolshevik tempering of the Party is progressing. We realise that Kostov was not, of course, alone. Kostovites have hidden themselves in the Party. But they will not be able to go on hiding after the exposure of Kostov and his principal associates. . . .”

7. FROM THE SPEECH BY V. POPTOMOV (BULGARIAN DELEGATION) AT THE THIRD CONFERENCE (18 November 1949) (pp. 935, 937):

“. . . The Tito-ites now not only do not conceal their territorial pretentions regarding Bulgaria, they quite openly and impudently speak of their intervention to seize the Pirin district – Bulgarian Macedonia. They are negotiating with the Greek monarcho-fascists not only about strangling the national liberation movement in Greece, and not only about dividing Albania with them, but also about forming a united front against Bulgaria. . . .

. . . The task of Trajcho Kostov’s gang was, with the aid of the Tito-ites, to take all power in Bulgaria into its hands, and then to wrest it from the Soviet Union and the front of peace and democracy, and behind the screen of some sort of federation to join the country to Tito’s Yugoslavia, i.e., to make it an actual colony of American imperialism. . . .

. . . Comrade Poptomov notes that the Tito clique, which previously did all it could to prevent the realization of a South-Slav federation, is now trying to appear as a warm supporter of such a federation, trying in this way to speculate on the fraternal feelings of these two Slav peoples, trying to give the slogan of a South-Slav federation an anti-Soviet character which would help to bring about a breakaway of the South Slavs from the Soviet Union. This same speculation is being practised by the Tito-ites with the slogans about a Balkan and a Balkan-Danubian federation, in an attempt to create a bloc of the peoples of South-Eastern Europe directed against the Soviet Union. . . .”

END

The Lie About Stalin: 22nd June 1941

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V.M. Zhukhrai

The leader of the German fascists, Adolf Hitler, whilst instructing his own propagandists, said: ‘If we want to score a victory, we must actively make use of lies. They have to be big. The bigger the lies the quicker people will believe them. When we score a victory, nobody will ask us whether we spoke the truth or whether we lied’. Goebbels, the minister for fascist propaganda and developing the ideas of his fuehrer said that a lie repeated a thousand times becomes a truth. And it was according to this Hitlerite recipe that our enemies used their criticism of Stalin’s activity as soon after he had died. And here is a probable lie. In the newspaper Glasnost (Openness) where we had been preparing material concerning the case of Kirov’s murder, there are examples of lies given which were poured over Stalin and our party. I do not wish to quote all of the examples, you probably know them already, and so I will stop on just one example. In the press it is said that when the Bolsheviks took the Crimea, they executed by firing squad 100 thousand officers of the White Guard. At that time the whole of Kolchak’s army consisted of 26 thousand men, 6000 of whom were officers. You can see what I mean about lies, can’t you? Therefore, our comrades asked to explain several interesting moments in the life and activity of Stalin, which in much, reveal the methods of our class enemies and which in practical examples illustrate the fallacy of this lie. Many people have already read my book ‘Stalin – the truth and the lies’. Now my new book has been published entitled ‘Stalin and politics’, and also articles have been published concerning the case surrounding the murder of Kirov and the case concerning Tukhachevsky. In other words, we have fulfilled the task of somehow assisting our propagandists in the preparation for the socialist revolution, because they have been in the main, going along with this lie. Those comrades who have given speeches before me have very good reports. I was very pleased with them. Our conference was a lot worse than this one. The reports have simply been excellent at your conference. Excellent reports.

And so, Comrades, allow me to stop on several questions. The first thing which is usually asked is why Comrade Stalin, on the 22nd June 1941 did not go on the radio and make a speech to the Soviet people? And enemy of Soviet people Khrushchev, carrying out the will of his masters on the other side of the Atlantic, declared that Stalin had become confused, afraid, locked himself away in his dacha (country house) and sat there for three days. What? Stalin, a professional revolutionary, a man who back in 1902 in Baku, walking at the front of a demonstration under a red banner, where tsarist troops had opened fire killing 45 workers, was never afraid of anybody or anything. All those Comrades who knew Comrade Stalin say this. And Zhukov, even though he was an enemy of Stalin at heart, did much so that Khrushchev did what he did, unfortunately. Vinogradov, second in command of the rear around Moscow and who had met Comrade Stalin every day, told me about this. He says that a significant number of our military leaders, including Zhukov, became quite nervous, the only calm, even-tempered person being Stalin. Do you know what Rokossovsky says concerning this? That is to say, that all the data we have indicates that this business concerning Stalin locking himself away for three days at the start of the war, is nothing but a Khrushchevite lie, since that same Khrushchev himself was at this time in Kiev, and could not have seen how Stalin was behaving. Nevertheless, such a lie was released, and it was from here that I first of all started, when writing a book, a book I had been working on for almost 20 years or so, and had to verify all the facts which were on hand. Therefore I began by finding out the real reason why Comrade Stalin, on the night of 22nd June 1941, suddenly at the start of the second night left the Kremlin, when all the country’s leadership were at their posts expecting an attack from fascist Germany. Throughout that year Comrade Stalin had been leaving at 5 am. This pattern had been set, so he left at 5 am. And on the eve of such hard days, he had suddenly left! And while closely scrutinising this question, luck fell into my hands on two occasions.

First of all, I was well acquainted with Professor Preobrazhensky, a well-known academician and specialist in ear, throat and nose disorders. Preobrazhensky was the only doctor who in the period of 20 years had treated Stalin. Comrade Stalin had a very weak throat and in the latter years it became sore quite often because of angina; he had a very weak throat. However, he refused to have his glands removed. Boris Sergeivich knew this condition well. Speaking of which, when I began asking him about this, we then met to discuss this many times, for we were working together at the same institute and he had at one time saved my life.

He began telling me that on the night of the 22nd June 1941 he was called out to Volinskoe. And when he arrived he saw Comrade Stalin lying under a blanket on the couch inside the hall where meetings of the politburo usually took place, and who said in a broken voice: ‘Take a look to see what is wrong with me. I’m not feeling at all well. I can hardly talk or swallow’. And when, says Preobrazhensky, I took a look at Comrade Stalin’s throat I was horrified. What he was actually suffering from was terrible phlegmatic angina, an abscess in the throat. And when I took his temperature, it was well over 40. I said: ‘Comrade Stalin, you have to get to the hospital immediately or you will suffocate’. Stalin said: ‘Unfortunately that can’t be done now. And don’t mention a word to anyone about my illness. Not even the guards’. Zhukov confirms this in his memoirs: when he phoned Stalin and heard his irregular breathing, he could not say why he had stayed quiet for a long time. And when he told him that the Hitlerites had started attacking us, it was then that Stalin went to the Kremlin. And Stalin’s chauffeur, Mitryukhin says: ‘I watched Comrade Stalin coming out and could see him swaying. We knew that Comrade Stalin did not drink and was never drunk, but here he was, shaking; when he got into the back seat of the car and sitting behind me, I could see that this man was gasping for breath’. And it was in this semi-conscious state that Stalin arrived in the Kremlin. This is why he was laid up for three days without food. It is true what Lozgachev, one of Stalin’s bodyguards writes, that Stalin did drink one cup of tea. Therefore it was obvious that Comrade Stalin could not make a speech on radio under such conditions.

I was also lucky to have found out that Lilya Alexandrovna here, an old friend of mine and wife of Vice General Vlasik, also knew about these things very well. We together met Comrade Stalin’s personal guard, Colonel Borisov from the personal guards, the so-called ‘ninth’, which was standing on the night of the 22nd at the gate of Volinskoe dacha. And he has this on tape; for the three whole days that Stalin was there all the time, nobody came over to the dacha. Only Preobrazhensky came over who was brought over by Poskrebyshev and nobody else. And Comrade Stalin did not leave to go anywhere either. Well it has been said that diaries, records by some of the secretaries had been found, and let this be on the conscience of Boldin and Gorbachev. I do not believe these records. I know that Comrade Stalin did not allow anybody to record who came to see him. Lenin had such records made but Stalin did not. And Molotov at the same time confirms that they had not seen Stalin for three days. Also, Peoples Commissar of the Naval Fleet, Kuznetsov, who noted that he was with Stalin on the 24th June writes in his memoirs: ‘I could not find Stalin for three days. I arrived at the Kremlin, phoned all the telephone numbers, but Stalin was nowhere to be found’. So. This is the way things stand concerning this lie about Stalin.

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Enver Hoxha on the Path of Khrushchevite Revisionism in the Soviet Union

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“Khrushchevite revisionism in the Soviet Union has undergone several stages, in compliance with which its forms, methods and tactics of struggle and action to carry out in practice its anti-Marxist and traitorous course and to camouflage it, have also changed.

The first stage was that of the building up, maintenance and establishment of the betrayal, accompanied with a great and scandalous noise and with a sham ‘optimism’ to distract the minds of the people. It was characterized by the frantic campaign of attacks on J. Stalin, to discredit the ideas of Marxism-Leninism and the cause of the Bolshevik Party, under the fraudulent pretext of the ‘fight against the personality cult and its consequences.’

[….]

In the ideological field the revisionists replaced the ideas and the consistent Marxist-Leninist line of Stalin on all the fundamental questions with the ideas and the anti-Marxist line of modern revisionism. Opportunists and various Trotskyist, Bukharinist and Zinovievist enemies, nationalists, and others, in the Soviet Union were proclaimed as ‘victims of Stalin’ and where placed on the pedestal of ‘martyrs’ and ‘heroes.’ The renegade Tito clique in Yugoslavia was rehabilitated and Titoism was proclaimed as a variant of ‘creative Marxism-Leninism’ and of ‘socialism.’ In various socialist countries condemned traitors were rehabilitated and revisionist cliques attached to Khrushchev’s chariot were brought to power. They launched the slogan of unity with the social-democrats on a national and international scale ‘in the joint struggle for socialism,’ and the way was paved for the complete ideological, political and organizational rapprochement and merger of the communist parties with the social-democratic parties.

[…]

In the political field Khrushchev and his group besmirched and discarded the Marxist-Leninist theory and practice about the class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat, calling it a ‘Stalinist distortion’ and proclaiming the whole historic period of Stalin’s leadership a ‘dark, anti-democratic period, a period of violations of socialist legality, of terror and murders, of prisons and concentration camps.’ The road was thus opened for the liquidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat and for its replacement with the bureaucratic and counterrevolutionary dictatorship of the new ‘socialist’ aristocracy which was born and was developing, all this being covered with the deceptive slogans of ‘democratization’ and of ‘restoration of freedom and socialist justice’ allegedly ‘lost and now regained.’

In the economic field the Khrushchevites declared as erroneous and incorrect the Stalin line and methods of development and management of the socialist economy in all branches, especially in that of agriculture, rejected Stalin’s directives on further improvement and development of socialist relations of production in the historic period of the transition from socialism to communism, and, under the pretext of overcoming the economic ‘stagnation’ and difficulties allegedly created as a result of the Stalin ‘dogmatic’ line, undertook a series of ‘reforms’ which paved the way to the gradual degeneration of the socialist economic order and to the uncontrolled operation of the economic laws of capitalism.

In the field of international relations the Khrushchevite revisionists proclaimed as ‘erroneous,’ ‘rigid’ and ‘dogmatic’ the Stalin foreign policy line, the line of the blow for blow fight against imperialism and of determined internationalist support for the revolutionary and liberation struggle. They replaced it with the ‘peaceful coexistence’ policy as the general line of the foreign policy of the Soviet state.

[….]

The anti-Stalin campaign served the Khrushchevite renegades to pass over to the second stage—to that of the efforts for the strengthening and stabilisation of the betrayal in the economy, policy and ideology, at home and in foreign relations. This is the stage of the codification of the viewpoints of Khrushchevite revisionism and of the large-scale implementation of its policy.

N. Khrushchev and his group completely liquidated the Marxist-Leninist proletarian party, they transformed it into a weapon of the revisionist counter-revolution, they replaced the Leninist norms of party building with revisionist norms and, finally, they proclaimed it a ‘party of the whole people.’

[…]

In the field of international relations this stage was characterized by the complete establishment of the counter-revolutionary alliance of the Soviet leadership with U.S. imperialism for sharing the domination of the world, at the expense of the freedom and independence of the peoples of the vital interests of the socialist countries, of the cause of revolution and socialism. The selling out of the interests of the liberation struggle of the Congolese people, the bargainings with U.S. and West-German imperialism to the detriment of the national interests of the German Democratic Republic, the treachery towards the Cuban people in the days of the Caribbean crisis, the joint plots with the U.S. imperialists and the Indian reactionaries against the People’s Republic of China, the signing of the ill-famed Soviet-U.S.-British treaty on the partial prohibition of nuclear weapons tests, the sabotage of the revolutionary struggle of the Vietnamese people against the U.S. aggressors, and of the just struggle of the Arab people against the imperialist-Israel aggression, etc.—all these, and other acts, are links of the long chain of the counterrevolutionary alliance of the Soviet revisionist leadership with U.S. imperialism.

[….]

All this counter-revolutionary line and the anti-Marxist-Leninist viewpoints of the Khrushchevite revisionists were consecrated in the decisions of the 22nd Congress of the CPSU, especially in the program of the CPSU adopted at this congress, which, due to the dominating position of the Soviet leadership in the revisionist camp, became the main code of the trend of international modern revisionism.

At this ill-famed congress were repeated openly and publicly now the monstrous attacks and calumnies against Stalin. This showed, in the first place, that the feelings of sympathy towards J. Stalin had remained alive among the Soviet people and this greatly worried the Khrushchevite leading clique; in the second place, that this clique was obstinately advancing on its anti-Marxist road, and in the third place, that it needed the ‘bogy of Stalinism’ in order to defeat the ever more resolute resistance which was rising in the international communist movement against its treacherous line.

[….]

The struggle of the Marxist-Leninist parties and forces, and life itself, which is the best judge of every policy, rejected the line and theories of the Soviet revisionist leadership, exposed their anti-Marxist and counter-revolutionary essence. Difficult days have come for the Khrushchevite revisionists. Khrushchevite revisionism has entered the third stage, which is the stage of its decline, of its deep and general crisis, the stage when treachery develops but yields bitter fruits and brings defeats to the revisionists.”

 – Enver Hoxha, “The Demagogy of the Soviet Revisionists Cannot Conceal Their Traitorous Countenance”

On Closed Speech of Khrushchev at the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU

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George Gruenthal

Book Review:  Khrushchev Lied, by Grover Furr

Prof. Grover Furr has done a great service to Marxist-Leninists and all revolutionaries and to all those who are interested in historical truth. He has picked out 61 major statements from Khrushchev’s 20th Congress speech, checked them against other material, especially from the Russian archives that have recently been made public, and found that they are all lies. He gives extensive quotes from primary sources, as well as from internet web-sites that give English translations of the source material. Thus, he has made available and translated a wealth of material, especially valuable for those who do not read Russian.

In order to make the book more readable, Furr has divided it into two parts. In the first, with 221 pages, he presents each of 61 statements and the basic material that refutes them. In the second part, an Appendix of 194 pages, Furr presents additional documentation to back up the refutations. Thus, people who want to read the ‘short version’ can read only the first part; those who want the full details may find it easiest to read each chapter together with the corresponding chapter in the Appendix.

I will give several examples of Furr’s revelations to provide an idea of the scope of his book.

1) Khrushchev claimed that ‘Stalin acted not through persuasion, explanation and patient cooperation with people, but by imposing his concepts and demanding absolute submission to his opinion. Whoever opposed this concept or tried to prove his viewpoint and the correctness of his position was doomed to removal from the leading collective and to subsequent moral and physical annihilation.’

There are many facts that contradict this. We will mention only one, by Marshal Zhukov on military matters, which Furr quotes: ‘After Stalin’s death appeared the one about how he used to take military and strategic decisions unilaterally. This was not the case at all. I have already said above that if you reported questions to the Supreme Commander with a knowledge of your business, he took them into account. I know of cases when he turned against his own previous opinion and changed decisions he had taken previously’ (both quotes, Furr, p. 245).

2) Khrushchev implied, without actually stating it, that Kirov was killed by or on the orders of Stalin. Furr points out that very little of the material on Kirov’s murder has been published, or even made available to researchers. He does note that the well-known author on Soviet history, J. Arch Getty, pointed out that several Soviet and post-Soviet commissions had tried and failed to find evidence that Stalin was behind Kirov’s murder. Former Soviet General Sudoplatov, who provided much information (or misinformation) on Soviet activities to the West after the fall of the Soviet Union, stated in 1996: ‘No documents or evidence exist to support the theory of the participation of Stalin or of the apparat of the NKVD in Kirov’s assassination… Kirov was not an alternative to Stalin. He was one of the staunchest Stalinists. Khrushchev’s version was later approved and used by Gorbachev as part of his anti-Stalin campaign’ (p. 274).

3) Khrushchev claimed that Stalin was responsible for mass repressions in the late 1930s. But Furr points out that Khrushchev himself was guilty of mass repressions, both as Party head in Moscow and then as Party head of the Ukraine. Furr quotes from a note that Khrushchev sent to Stalin: ‘Dear Iosif Vissiaronovich! The Ukraine sends [requests for] 17,000 – 18,000 [persons to be] repressed every month. And Moscow confirms no more than 2,000 – 3,000. I request that you take prompt measures. Your devoted N. Khrushchev’ (p. 259). Furr thinks that Khrushchev was responsible for more repressions than anyone else except for Ezhov (Yezhov).

4) Furr points out that Stalin was always in favour of dealing with Trotskyites and other agents as individuals, not through mass repression. He also proposed carrying out political education of leading Party officials. Some of this has been known for a long time to those not blinded by bourgeois-Trotskyite propaganda. Stalin discussed this in ‘Mastering Bolshevism,’ in which he called for each of the leading Party cadre to select temporary replacements for themselves while they attended courses in Party history and ideology (see Furr, p. 280-281). As to the question of mass repression, Stalin stated: ‘how to carry out in practice the task of smashing the German-Japanese agents of Trotskyism. Does this mean that we should strike and uproot not only the real Trotskyites, but also those who wavered at some time toward Trotskyism; not only those who are really Trotskyite agents for wrecking, but also those who happened once upon a time to go along a street where some Trotskyite or other had once passed? At any rate, such voices were heard here at the plenum. Can we consider such an interpretation of the resolution to be correct?

‘No, we cannot consider it to be correct. On this question, as on all other questions, there must be an individual, differentiated approach. You must not measure everyone by the same yardstick. Such a sweeping approach can only harm the cause of struggle against the real Trotskyite wreckers and spies’ (p. 282, Furr’s emphasis).

In this connection it is also worth reading the section of Zhdanov’s speech at the 18th Party Congress in 1939, Amendments to the Rules of the C.P.S.U.(B.), on eliminating mass purges. This is not discussed in Furr’s book, but is available in the archives of Revolutionary Democracy at www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/archive/zhd.htm.

5) After Khrushchev came to power, he and his supporters began a process of ‘mass rehabilitations’ of many high-level officials who had been repressed earlier. Without doing any investigation to see who was actually innocent of any crimes and who was really guilty, people were simply declared innocent. In so doing, crucial statements of people who had admitted their guilt were sometimes totally distorted to make them appear to be claiming innocence.

One example of this is a letter to Stalin written by Gen. Iakir, who had been found guilty of treason along with Marshal Tukhachevskii and was soon to be executed. Marshal Zhukov read from this letter at the CC Plenum in June of 1957 (the Plenum at which the ‘anti-Party bloc’ of Malenkov, Molotov and Kaganovich were expelled from the CC). However, a more complete version of the letter has since been published, in 1994. Zhukov had omitted from the text the words printed below in bold:

‘Dear, close com. Stalin. I dare address you in this way because I have told everything and it seems to me that I am once more that honourable warrior, devoted to Party, state and people, that I was for many years. All my conscious life has been passed in selfless, honourable work in the sight of the Party and its leaders. – then I fell into a nightmare, into the irreparable horror of treason… The investigation is finished. The indictment of treason to the state has been presented to me, I have admitted my guilt, I have repented completely. I have unlimited faith in the justice and appropriateness of the decision of the court and the government. Now each of my words is honest. I die with words of love to you, the Party, the country, with a fervent belief in the victory of communism’ (pp. 214-215).

Zhukov tries to turn an admission of guilt into a proclamation of innocence. It would be hard to imagine a more dishonest example of falsifying a quotation.

6) In 1936, Ezhov took over as head of the NKVD after the removal and later execution of Yagoda for being a member of the Rightist conspiracy. Ezhov had many people, including many who were innocent, arrested and executed from 1937 to 1938. This period was colloquially known as the Yezhovshchina. Ezhov was removed from his post in late 1938 and was arrested and executed the following year. He was replaced by Beria, who put an end to the mass arrests and, after investigations, had many innocent people released from prison. It was this writer’s understanding that Ezhov had been executed simply for taking a heartless, bureaucratic attitude towards these mass arrests.

In the last few years, however, many of the transcripts of the interrogations of Ezhov have been published, and Furr refers readers to the English translations of these on the Internet. They show that Ezhov organised these mass arrests and executions ‘to cover up his own involvement in the Rightist conspiracy and with German military espionage, as well as in a conspiracy to assassinate Stalin or another Politburo member, and to seize power by coup d’état’  (p. 57). Furr includes some 15 pages of documents on Ezhov’s case in his Appendix.

7) We shall shortly move on to areas dealt with in Furr’s book, and particularly some of the fables about Stalin’s behaviour during World War II.

However, we would like to first point out a short but fascinating account of the behaviour of the Trotskyites in the Spanish Civil War. Furr quotes Gen. Sudoplatov:

‘The Trotskyites were also involved in actions. Making use of the support of persons with ties to German military intelligence [the ‘Abwehr’] they organised a revolt against the Republican government in Barcelona in 1937…. Concerning the connections of the leaders of the Trotskyist revolt in Barcelona in 1937 we were informed by Schulze-Boysen…. Afterward, after his arrest, the Gestapo accused him of transmitting this information to us, and this figured in his death sentence by the Hitlerite court in his case’ (p. 269).

Schulze-Boysen was a German citizen who spied for the Soviet Union from within the SS. The Nazi military court which tried and executed him for this espionage confirmed Sudoplatov’s statement.  It declared: ‘At the beginning of 1938, during the Spanish Civil War, the accused learned in his official capacity that a rebellion against the local red government in the territory of Barcelona was being prepared with the co-operation of the German Secret Service. This information, together with that of Pöllnitz,’ [a member of the ‘Red Orchestra,’ the famous Soviet anti-Nazi spy ring] ‘was transmitted by him to the Soviet Russian embassy in Paris’ (p. 270).

8) Let us now take up some of Khrushchev’s lies, since repeated by many others, about Stalin’s actions during the war.

a) The first is that Stalin was not prepared for the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union. There is no question that Stalin knew that Nazi Germany would eventually attack the Soviet Union. The Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact was signed to delay that attack for as long as possible. Furr points out that, in these circumstances, Stalin could not have carried out a mobilisation of Soviet forces, as that would have given Hitler the opportunity to declare war and possibly make a deal with the Western allies. He quotes a statement from a German General-Major Marks in 1940 that ‘The Russians will not do us the favour of attacking us first’ (p. 88). Moreover, the Soviet Union could not rely on British warnings of an impending attack, since Britain clearly wanted to set Hitler against the Soviet Union, and then possibly make a deal with Hitler.

b) Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union in the early hours of June 22, 1941. In his speech, Khrushchev blamed Stalin for allegedly ignoring information about the impending attack. He quoted a statement by a Soviet Captain, Vorontsov, that had contained information from a Soviet citizen, Bozer, that ‘Germany is preparing to invade the USSR on May 14.’ This information is contained in a letter by Admiral Kuznetsov to Stalin of May 6, which has now been published in full. The letter concludes with Kuznetsov’s statement that  ‘I believe that this information is false, specifically directed through this channel with the object of reaching our government in order to find out how the USSR would react to it’ (pp. 344-345).

c) In his speech, Khrushchev also told of a German citizen who crossed the border with the Soviet Union on the eve of the invasion and stated that the Soviet Union would be attacked at 3 AM the following morning, June 22. Khrushchev claims that ‘Stalin was informed of this immediately, but even this warning was ignored..

Furr points out that the warning was not ignored, that the information was transmitted to Moscow as quickly as possible considering the need to find a reliable translator and to verify the information. In fact, after the attack the statement by the German soldier, Alfred Liskow, a self-declared communist, was published by Pravda and made into a leaflet to undermine the morale of the German soldiers by letting them know that there were opponents of the war and Hitlerism, friends of the Soviet Union, in their ranks.

Furr also refutes Khrushchev’s statement, again repeated by many others, that Stalin was demoralised at the beginning of the war and that he had withdrawn from any activities in those first days. Furr points out that the logbooks of visitors to Stalin’s office show that Stalin was extremely active in those days and quotes from Dimitrov, as well as Zhukov and the anti-Stalinists Volkogonov and Sudoplatov, all of whom testified to Stalin’s activity in the first days of the war.

Khrushchev also denigrated Stalin’s abilities as a wartime commander. In response, Furr quotes military figures such as Marshals Zhukov, Vasilevsky and Golovanov, all of whom testified in their memoirs not only to Stalin’s great abilities as wartime commander but also to the great respect felt for him by other commanders at the front.


To conclude, I would like to add a few remarks on Furr’s standpoint, his position and views toward Stalin and Soviet socialism.

Furr is an objective researcher and scholar, although he clearly also is sympathetic to Stalin and the Soviet Union under his leadership. In this way he is different from other researchers such as J. Arch Getty who, although he is not a sympathiser of socialism, was one of the first researchers in the post-Stalin period to dispel some of the myths behind the general anti-communist depictions of Stalin as some sort of ogre.

It is certainly necessary for researchers who adopt a proletarian class stand to start from objective facts; otherwise one becomes an idealist who wants the world to correspond to his ideological views, instead of vice-versa. Throughout the book, Prof. Furr starts from objective facts and follows them to their conclusions, which lead to a clear demonstration that Khrushchev lied throughout his ‘secret speech’ in 1956.

However, Furr does not go much beyond this conclusion. He correctly states that the facts overturn the ‘anti-Stalin paradigm’ that has been basic to much of the anti-communist view of Soviet history, both in the Soviet Union and the rest of the world, since the middle of the last century. But he barely discusses the significance of this. For example, there is little mention of the fact that Khrushchev’s speech was accepted by a large part of the international communist movement, that this led to the split in this movement between Marxist-Leninist forces and revisionists a few years later, and that the struggle between them is still of great significance for the world communist movement today.

Of course, one cannot rebuke Furr for not taking up a task that he had no intention of taking up. Furr does briefly discuss what he sees as the reasons for Khrushchev’s attack on Stalin in Chapter 12: ‘Conclusion: The Enduring Legacy of Khrushchev’s Deception.’ He says: ‘Stalin and his supporters had championed a plan of democratisation of the USSR through contested elections. Their plan seems to have been to move the locus of power in the USSR from Party leaders like Khrushchev to elected government representatives. Doing this would also have laid the groundwork for restoring the Party as an organisation of dedicated persons struggling for communism rather than for careers or personal gain. Khrushchev appears to have had the support of the Party First Secretaries, who were determined to sabotage this project and perpetuate their own positions of privilege’ (p. 200).

He then mentions other so-called ‘reforms’ that were carried out after Stalin’s death. These include: a shift towards ‘market’-oriented reforms; a shift from heavy industry, production of the means of production, towards light, consumer industry; from the Marxist-Leninist view that war is inevitable as long as imperialism exists to the avoidance of war with imperialism at any cost; a de-emphasis on the vanguard role of the working class in the revolution; the view that capitalism could be overcome through ‘peaceful competition’ by parliamentary means; and an abandonment of Stalin’s plan to move towards communism, classless society.

This writer is in agreement with the need to prevent the party from becoming an organisation of careerists. However, it is not at all clear that ‘contested elections’ would prevent bureaucratisation. (Besides, in choosing candidates for the Soviets, there were discussions of different candidates all along this line. For more on this, see the fascinating chapter of Sam Darcy’s memoirs: ‘How Soviet Democracy Worked in the 1930s’, in Revolutionary Democracy Vol. XI. No. 2, Sept. 2005, available at: www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/rdv11n2/darcy.htm.). Rather, this writer thinks it would be more important to reinforce the Party maximum (maximum salary that a Party member was allowed to receive, regardless of what position he held) and limit other material privileges available to Party leaders. Nor is it clear why moving the ‘locus of power’ from Party leaders to government representatives would increase democracy. This writer thinks that it would have been more important to strengthen the struggle against revisionism. For example, the necessary fight against Titoism seems to have been itself carried out in a bureaucratic way, compared to the way the struggles against Trotskyism and Bukharinism were carried out in the 1920s. That may be why the Soviet Union and all the Eastern European countries except for Albania followed the path of Titoism less than a decade later. However, this is all the subject for much further debate.

‘Khrushchev Lied’ is available from Erythrós Press at: www.erythrospress.com/store/furr.html

Source

Long Live the Union of the Fraternal Slav Peoples? No! Workers of the World, Unite!

KPRF

by Aleksander Budilo

This article from Proletarskaya Gazeta is excellent in its exposure of the bourgeois nationalism of parties such as the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and other organisations that claim to be communist in the former Soviet Union. Rather than organising the working class against ‘their own’ bourgeoisie, they support the bourgeoisie ‘against’ the U.S. and NATO. However, it is these same bourgeois leaders of the Russian Federation, from Yeltsin to Putin to Medvedev, who have made an alliance with the U.S. and NATO, as is detailed in this article.

Together with unity with their own bourgeoisie, these Russian nationalists disguised as communists take a chauvinist position towards members of oppressed nationalities within Russia, particularly towards people from the Caucasus and Central Asia. This is the other side of the coin of Russian nationalism, which identifies the Russian bourgeoisie as their friend and workers of other nations as their enemy.

In the year since the article was written, the contradictions between U.S. and Russian imperialism have become clearer. This can be seen clearly with the recent war in the Caucasus, and they are certain to become sharper as the inter-imperialist struggle sharpens on a world scale.

Overall the article is an important contribution to the understanding of opportunism and nationalism in the Russian communist movement.

George Gruenthal

To the editorial board of ‘Against the Current’ (PT) come letters from our readers, in which they express their views on the political positions taken by the bulletin, analyse the events taking place in Ukraine and the world and request us to elucidate these and other burning questions.

Thus, Leonid Constantinovich Nezhivenko, from the city of Melitopol, Zaporozhskaya region, writes: ‘Greetings, comrades! I received from you ‘PT’ No. 6; many thanks. The articles are good, but some things are not clear. In particular, about the union of the fraternal peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Byelorussia. The fact is that NATO is getting close to Russia’s borders and there is a danger that Russia will be divided into pieces. In this case the union of fraternal peoples will be impossible’.

The question put by Leonid Konstantinovich is very important and, of course, is of interest not only to him. Therefore it makes sense to discuss it not only in private correspondence, but publically…

If we judge from the last boastful publications in the newspaper of the CC of the Communist Party of Ukraine ‘Communist’ and the newspaper of the All-Ukrainian Union of Workers ‘Working Class’, ‘the insidious plans for NATO to advance further towards the East have already been foiled’. And this happened because of the decisive, skillful actions of the united ‘white-blue [pro-Russian nationalist] and red’ forces.

As they say, judge for yourself. First, there was the brilliant joint victory of the pro-Russian patriots and Communists against the landing of the aggressor in Feodosia [town in the Crimea that was the scene of a demonstration against the unloading of a NATO cargo ship in May of 2006 – translator’s note], thanks to which the uninvited guests were forced to return home in disgrace.

Second, an attempt of the so-called Pomaranchevites (i.e., orange – ed.) forces to create an independent pro-Western, pro-NATO coalition in the Supreme Council [Ukrainian Parliament] suffered a complete failure. Neither protégé [of the Orange forces – translator’s note] Yushchenko, nor Yulia Tymoshenko, but Victor Yanukovich became Prime Minister as a result.

A defeat for the West and a victory for Russia in the fight for Ukraine – this is a fact, they claim, which does not require proof.

This is what practically all ‘bull-headed’ people think today – members of the KPU [Communist Party of Ukraine], the white-blue, members of the Union of Soviet Officers, the orthodox MP (Moscow Patriarchate – ed.) and even the majority of the Pomaranchevites. Nevertheless, there is nothing more naive, not to say foolish, than this assertion.

In reality these and many other facts tell us something completely different. The fact is that the strategic partner of the USA, the West and NATO on the territory of the CIS [Confederation of Independent States] is precisely the Russian Federation, not Ukraine or any other state. …

Incapable of comprehending the situation as a whole, the ‘Communist’ philistine today rejoices. Why! Ukraine is slipping away from the predatory paws of the West and NATO!

However, in reality the West is simply playing the game on a large scale. Its position consists of the following: let Russia control Ukraine and other countries of the CIS, and we will control Russia. That is the whole story.

For bourgeois Ukraine there is no alternative to integration into the economic, political and military structures of the West, since Russia itself is intensively moving in the same direction. The question is as follows: should it be integrated independently or under Russian ‘patronage’? It is already clear today that the West can fully accommodate not only the first, but also the second possibility.

Here is the evidence for this, in particular:

1. The calm, one could even say, benevolent reaction to the increase by the Russian Federation in the price of gas for the Ukrainian consumer. The absence of real large-scale material aid to Yushchenko’s team in the solution of economic problems inside the country in order to make the idea of an accelerated independent integration of Ukraine into the economic, political and military structures of the West attractive to the majority of its population, in particular in the industrial southeast.

2. The statements of Western leaders that they are ready to collaborate with any coalition, with any government, which will be created with a majority in the Supreme Council of Ukraine.

3. The leaders of the G-8 countries achieved complete agreement, without confrontation, in St. Petersburg regarding the solution of the most important problems of world policy: Iran, Iraq, North Korea. Recognition of the Russian Federation as a democratic country by Putin’s partners in the G-8. Absence by members of the G-8 of serious claims on Russia in regard to its relations with Georgia, Ukraine, Chechnya and so on.

The assertion that the West, the USA and NATO are supposedly interested in the disintegration and splitting up of the Russian Federation is unfounded for the following reasons.

First, Russia today is not the Soviet Union of yesterday. At this time the Russian Federation does not represent a threat to the USA, the West or NATO, neither in the political, economic or military sense. After the liquidation of the Warsaw Pact, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance [COMECON], the splitting up of the Soviet Union and the so-called socialist camp, the Russian Federation proved to be a second-rate imperialist power, which concentrated on the solution of the numerous internal problems of the CIS.

Second, the capitalist West and capitalist Russia have much more in common (at the present time – ed.) than that which separates and contradicts their interests. The Russian Federation is one of the main suppliers to the West of sources of energy (gas and oil), ferrous and nonferrous metals, chemical products, wood and other such items. The splitting up of Russia, in particular the separation of western and eastern Siberia from the European part of the country, would inevitably put the stability of supply of these items of strategic importance for Western production in danger.

At the recent summit of Russia and the European Union in Sochi, we read in the newspaper ‘Communist’ of No. 47 dated June 14, that Vladimir Putin stated that Russia ‘was, is and will be’ the reliable supplier of sources of energy to Europe. He also proposed to the European companies that he would grant access to the Russian gas-pipeline monopoly under condition that reciprocal steps by the European countries for the admission of Russian companies to the European energy infrastructure will follow. …

Third, today the Russian Federation is a huge market for the sale of commodities by Western Europe and the USA. Today Russia supplies the West with basic raw material and imports finished products. In this sense a united and stable Russia is one of the important conditions for the stable development of Western industry. …

The fact that … the integration processes between the West and Russia are developing not only in the economic, but also in the political and even the military sphere, is witnessed by the inclusion of Russia in the club of powers which today determine the world order (G-8). Beginning in 1991, the Russian Federation has been intensively developing its relations with NATO. Here are the basic steps in this process:

1991 – Russia joins the North Atlantic Cooperation Council.
1994 – Russia joins the programme ‘Partnership for Peace’.
1996 – A Russian peacekeeping contingent is deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina (together with NATO – ed.).
1997 – The Founding Act is signed in Paris and the Permanent Joint Council (PJC) is created.
1998 – The Mission of the Russian Federation to NATO is opened.
2001 – The NATO Information Bureau is opened in Moscow.
2002 – NATO opens its Military Liaison Mission in Moscow. The Rome Declaration is signed and the NATO-Russia Council (of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs) (NRC) is created.
2003 – The NATO-Russia Council meets for the first time in Moscow. …

The struggle (so-called – ed.) of the left parties in Ukraine (KPU, PSPU [Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine], SPU [Socialist Party of Ukraine]) against NATO and for the notorious union of fraternal Slav peoples in reality is only one of the forms of struggle of big capital for its own interests in the southeast of Ukraine, closely related to the transnational corporations of the Russian Federation. This found its political expression in the alliance of the KPU and SPU with the Party of the Regions of Yanukovich and in the struggle of the Regions with the Pomaranchevites for control of parliament and the cabinet of ministers. As far as the entry of ‘Our Ukraine’ into the parliamentary majority is concerned, it will not weaken but only strengthen the positions of the Regions in the Supreme Council. The Party of Regions will be able to carry out those decisions, against which the KPUniks (KPU and their supporters – ed.) will come out, with the aid of the faction ‘Our Ukraine’, and unacceptably for ‘Ours’ (‘Our Ukraine’ – ed.) the laws and decrees of the Regions will go through with the aid of the factions of Simonenko and Moroz.

Leonid Constantinovich Nezhivenko, as well as many other members of the KPU, KPRF [Communist Party of the Russian Federation], PSPU, apparently is still feeding hopes for the revival of the USSR and considers the union of Byelorussia, Ukraine and Russia as a necessary step on this path. But in reality, the integration of the former republics of the USSR around Russia on a capitalist basis leads to the formation of new and the strengthening of old imperialist unions and alliances; if it is drawing us nearer to something in the long term, it is not to the recreation of the USSR, but to a new world struggle of imperialists.

The bourgeoisie understands well: for the Soviet Union to be revived, as the members of the KPU, KPRF, PSPU and the ranks of other such parties continue to dream – this is as easy as writing on the water with a fork. But the bloc of ‘left’ parties with the parties of the big bourgeoisie of Yanukovich and ‘Our Ukraine’ is already a reality. People like Simonenko and Moroz are crawling out of their skin to prove that they are using the ‘naïve’ bourgeois in their own interests and in the interests of the workers of Ukraine. But all those who think more or less sensibly understand that today it is precisely the big bourgeoisie that is successfully using ‘those who reject narrow party interests’, the ‘constructive ones’, ‘those who think in the interests of the state’, the KPUniks, SPUniks (and, thus, the ones elected by the workers) to solve their class problems. (This once again clearly confirms the class hypocrisy of the revisionists, who in the concrete situation are even formally ready to rise to the side of the bourgeois class – ed.).

Taking into account the logic of the development of the inter-imperialist contradictions, the 180 degree turn in the ideological-political orientation of ‘our’ Ukrainian ‘communist-patriots’ is completely realistic. Today, for example, they come out as ardent champions of Christian Orthodox values, as anti-NATO and anti-Western, but tomorrow they will even more ardently defend the general (Christian) values of the West and Russia in the face of the general threat of the “anti-Christ” from the East. As far as bourgeois Russia is concerned, the main object of nationalist persecution and terror here have already long ago been ‘blacks, coloureds, slant-eyed people’.

– Against whom do the skinheads, the activists of the DPNI (‘Movement Against Illegal Immigration’) and simply ‘patriotic’ citizens turn their anger? On the Americans, Germans, French or English…?

No!

On the Tadzhiks, Africans, Chinese, people of Caucasian nationalities, Jews and so on.

In relation to the former our common man sees himself as a second class person, while in relation to the latter he sees himself as a representative of the superior, WHITE race.

On November 4, 2005 in Moscow the so-called ‘Russian march’ took place organised by the DPNI (with the participation of many members of the KPRF) under the slogans: ‘Russia for the Russians’ and ‘Moscow for the Muscovites’.

(It is remarkable that at approximately the same time the administration of the president of the USA unleashed an active fight in the United States against undocumented immigrants, the majority of whom come from the countries of Latin America. But that was not the end of it. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans came out into the streets of their cities with protest signs. Bush, an ‘activist of the DPNI’ (in essence – ed.) received a worthy rebuff from the popular masses.

In the opinion of the organisers of the ‘Russian march’, the main social contradiction of modern Russian society is the contradiction between the native residents and ‘aliens’, between foreigners and ethnic Russians. They say, if we remove the ‘strangers’ – all the ‘Khachey’ and ‘Churok’ [pejorative terms for people from the Caucasus and Central Asia respectively – translator’s note], then life, you see, will be alright.

A member of the KPRF, Peter Miloserdov, participated in the march. Here is what this so-called ‘Communist’ wrote about this event in his article “Why I took part in the “Russian march”?’:

‘I, a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, took part in the “Russian march”, organized in November in Moscow by the Movement Against Illegal Immigration. And, I must state, I do not feel sorry about that for a minute. In the columns of the march, which went from Chistiye Prudy to Kitai Gorod, I met several thousand ordinary Muscovites, who wished to leave our rulers with one simple thought: we are just not “Russian citizens”, but ethnic Russians…. We Communists do not have a right to ignore this fact. But this means that before us now stands the complex, but solvable task, written down, by the way, in the programme of the KPRF. Here are the words: ‘The Communist Party of the Russian Federation sees its task as uniting the social-class and national liberation movements into a united mass movement of resistance, giving it a conscious and focused character’. We Communists are leading the social-class struggle … But why does this prevent us in practice from combining it with national liberation? (That is, in practice, this ‘Communist’ and ‘patriot’ calls upon the oppressed masses of Russia – in union with the local imperialists – to the national liberation struggle against our ‘alien’ class brothers, who are already completely disenfranchised in Russia and are incredibly suppressed by the Russian (including ethnic Russian) predator-capitalists, and who do the hardest and dirtiest work for such ‘Russians’ and ‘Muscovites’ for pennies – ed.).’

The only answer, which the author (i.e., Peter Miloserdov – ed.) sees so far – is ‘… our respect for the sacred cow of Soviet internationalism… let us say honestly: international peace cannot be built on to the backs of one people. Yes, at the table none of us is superfluous. But each one who is seated has his own place’.

What does this mean?

Do not be confused. This is the ‘normal’ ideology of national-socialism, i.e., the ideology of simple Russian fascism.

Do you think that Peter Miloserdov has been expelled from his party for this article? Not at all! Today he is a member of CC of the Union of Communist Youth and the assistant to the Deputy of the State Duma Ivan Melnikov – the deputy chairman of the CC of the KPRF of G. Zyuganov.

In this we have the whole essence of social chauvinism as a form of opportunism: the main enemy of the workers is not the bourgeoisie, but foreigners, even those immigrants from the former republics of the USSR. But if the enemy happens to be the bourgeoisie, then it is not our own local bourgeoisie, but the foreign bourgeoisie.

Why do these ‘patriots’ of ours frighten the proletariat with American imperialism, with foreigners, with a world Jewish-Masonic conspiracy? In order to push them into the embrace of their own bourgeoisie, their own imperialists!

Why do they create anti-crisis coalitions together with the bourgeoisie? In order to get their bourgeois state out of the crisis, to prop up ‘our’ weak oligarchs at a difficult moment in their fight with the American imperialist sharks. Here, they say, after we lead them, our family, out of crisis, then we will begin the fight for socialism. But now is not the time! One must understand this!

Lenin wrote: ‘Opportunism and social-chauvinism have the same ideological-political content: collaboration of classes instead of class struggle, renunciation of revolutionary methods of struggle, helping one’s ‘own’ government in its embarrassed situation instead of taking advantage of these embarrassments for revolution’ (Socialism and War).

Here is this so-called ‘Bolshevism’ – to carry out any task for the local bourgeoisie when different kinds of politico-economic problems arise. Moreover, so far the direct threat of full-scale imperialist war is still absent. However, that will take place if the imperialists bring matters to a second edition of 1914? Then what?

You remember how a gigantic wave of chauvinism rose and shook Europe, what a deafening collapse the Second International and the majority of its leaders suffered under its pressure, including such authoritative leaders as Kautsky and Plekhanov? But indeed these were Marxists, in comparison to whom our Zyuganovs, Simonenkos, Miloserdovs, Bondarchuks, Belevskys, Yakushevs and the like do not hold a candle. Only the Leninist-Bolsheviks could withstand it at that time …

How did the leaders of European social-democracy defend their treachery at that time? Very logically, convincingly and most importantly through ‘patriotism’. Let us look at the testimony of the worker… A.G. Shlyapnikov. ‘German opportunists, from Sheidemann to Kautsky, fought the “Russian autocracy”, the French “protected the republic”, the English “freed Belgium”, but the Russians “did not prevent” the Generals-Liberators from conducting the war in the name of “freedom of Western-style democracy”. In this way they solved the problem of distracting the thoughts and actions of democracy and the working class from their own situation inside the country, from their fight for their own class aims’ (A.G. Shlyapnikov ‘On the eve of 1917. Seventeenth year’…).

What can we conclude from all this? In the epoch of imperialism to divide peoples into fraternal and non-fraternal ones means, to retreat from clear Marxist class positions to the position of social-chauvinism, to the position of national-socialism; it means, to ignore the contemporary division of the peoples into bourgeoisie and proletariat; it means to preach the idea of collaboration with our own (in our case – Slavic or Russian) bourgeoisie.

The slogan of real Marxists, real Communists, always was, is and will be: not ‘Brother Slavs (Arabs, Jews and so on), Unite!’ but ‘Workers of all peoples and countries, Unite!’ Any retreat from this slogan will inevitably, sooner or later, turn into treachery to proletarian internationalism and communism.

Very well, they will answer us, this is all understandable. But what about the slogan of the revival of the Soviet Union, which our ‘Soviet patriots’ defend today?

The slogan of the revival of the USSR is both utopian and reactionary. It is utopian because those historically concrete conditions which led to the formation of the world’s first proletarian state have forever, permanently, receded into the past. It is reactionary because the ‘Soviet patriots’ see the ideal, that is, the ‘Golden Age’ of socialism, in the past but not in the future and this still determined by the specific, historically limited form of socialism … (together with the invariability of the basic tenets of scientific socialism there is a need to consider present historical conditions. For example, in this historical stage, as a result of the strengthening rule of finance capital, there is taking place the transfer of many industrial enterprises from the metropolises to the former colonial countries, which contributes to the rapid growth in the numbers of the proletariat in these countries and to the weakening of the proletarian forces in the metropolises. Consequently, this historical peculiarity will exert its influence on the state and development of the class struggle both in these former colonial countries and in the metropolises. In this sense imperialist Russia is not an exception – ed.).

The shock waves of the revolution, which began with the February revolution of 1917 in Russia, were felt throughout the entire world. Thanks to the Leninist Bolshevik Party the revolution of October 1917 led to the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia. Thanks to the social-chauvinists, the social-patriots of the Second International and, first of all, to the German social-democrats, the bourgeoisie succeeded in drowning in blood the proletarian revolution in Germany in 1918-1919, and also in Austria and Hungary, and thus putting an end to the revolutionary wave in Western Europe.

The victory of the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia and the defeat of the revolution in Germany in November 1918 were the main conditions that determined the establishment and further development of the USSR for years and decades afterwards. ..

The victory of the right wing of German social-democracy, of the social-chauvinists of Ebert, Scheidemann and Noske over its revolutionary wing (Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were brutally killed by social-patriots) in the end led to the Nazis coming to power (NSDAP – the National-Socialist Workers Party of Hitler, was formed in 1919). As a result Western Europe instead of becoming red became brown, and the Soviet Union found in Germany – one of the most industrially developed countries at that period – its sworn (class – ed.) enemy.

A feature of our epoch, the epoch of imperialism, is that it is the epoch of the fight between imperialist powers for world supremacy… The growing over from competition to wars on a world scale means that the productive forces have found the framework of the traditional national bourgeois state too narrow, that the productive forces have reached a world, global scale, but production relations still have a private, national character

The threat of a new world war… to which capitalist society is rushing with irresistible force as a result of the development of its own (inter-imperialist – ed.) … contradictions, will inevitably revolutionise the proletariat of Europe, America, Russia, China and other countries, on which the world order depends today.With one condition, of course, that the proletariat succeeds in time to free itself from the Siren song of the ‘patriots’, nationalists, great-power chauvinists, to create their own class organisations, which stand firmly on the positions of the revolutionary theory of Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism. …

August 8, 2006
Alexander Budilo
Kiev, Ukraine

Abbreviated for printing

Actually, at the present time Russia is a weaker imperialist power than, say, the USA or the imperialist countries of the West. Therefore the Russian imperialists are compelled, from time to time, to take into account their own situation in the inter-imperialist relations, in the competitive struggle with their stronger rivals. In particular, this circumstance is precisely the basis of reasoning of the author of this article.

However, no imperialist will agree to be eternally dependent on a stronger competitor. Every imperialist will attempt to push his rival away in the competitive struggle, to strengthen his own positions, to exact profit from his rival’s account and to seize more advantageous positions in the circle of imperialist powers. In this respect the Russian imperialists are no exception.

This is confirmed by many obvious examples – the fight of Russia for spheres of influence in Iran and Venezuela, the strengthening of relations as allies with the Chinese social-imperialists and the German imperialists, the persistent struggle for markets for the sale of Russian armaments to the countries of Latin America and on the African continent and so forth.

Proletarskaya Gazeta
No. 28, Leningrad
November, 2007

Translated from the Russian by Rafael Martinez and George Gruenthal

Source

The Tukhachevsky Conspiracy

М.Н._Тухачевский

Yuri Yemelianov

On the 70th Anniversary of the Treason Trials

On the 11th of June 1937 Moscow radio announced the arrest of the former chief of the Red Army General Headquarters Marshal M. Tukhachevsky and 7 other Soviet leading military figures. The arrested were put to trial before the military branch of the USSR Supreme Court. The radio report said that they were ‘accused of having violated their duty as soldiers, of having broken their military oath of allegiance and of having committed treason against the Soviet Union in the interests of a foreign country… It was established that the defendants… had organised an anti-State movement and had been in contact with the military circles of a foreign country pursuing an anti-Soviet policy. In favour of that country the defendants conducted military espionage. Their activity was aimed at ensuring the defeat of the Red Army in the event of the country being attacked. The ultimate aim was the restoration of big land ownership and capitalism. All accused made confessions’.

After a brief trial the USSR Supreme Court passed death penalty on all the defendants. Subsequently a substantial number of other military and Party officials were arrested and put to trial.

Now these events which happened over 70 years ago are used in post-Soviet Russia as a pretext for another noisy anti-Soviet propaganda campaign. Mass meetings and marches with Christian crosses are organised to commemorate the 70th anniversary of these events. TV and other mass media use this occasion in order to continue depicting the USSR history as the time of ‘Great Terror’ against innocent people, falsely accused of crimes which they did not commit. It is also claimed that the arrest of Tukhachevsky and other Soviet military leaders seriously handicapped the Red Army which led to severe setbacks in 1941, loss of great Soviet territories and manpower.

For the first time this interpretation of the arrest and trial of Tukhachevsky and others was made public by N. S. Khrushchev over 50 years ago. The then First Secretary of the CPSU asserted that the German Gestapo concocted papers, which compromised Tukhachevsky and others in order to weaken the Red Army on the eve of World War II. These forged papers were passed to the Soviet Government. Khrushchev claimed that Stalin was pathologically suspicious and this was the reason why he took the German fabrication at its face value and ordered the arrest of Tukhachevsky and others. According to Khrushchev further arrests and trials were caused by Stalin’s paranoia and his inborn cruelty.

Though there are some real facts behind Khrushchev’s version (e.g. the existence of papers forged by the Gestapo) his explanation is refuted by a number of comparatively recent publications made by a number of Russian historians, including the author of the present article. In such books as A. Martirosyan’s ‘The Conspiracy of Marshals’ (Moscow, Veche, 2003), S. Minakov’s ‘Stalin and the Conspiracy of Generals’ (Moscow, Yauza, 2005), ‘The Conspiracies and the Struggle for Power. From Lenin to Khrushchev’ (Moscow, Veche, 2003) by R. Balandin and S. Mironov, a reader will find detailed and ample evidence which contradicts the essence of Khrushchev’s version.

But even before the publication of these and other Russian books a number of authors in the West presented some facts which proved beyond doubt that the Tukhachevsky conspiracy was not a result of Stalin’s gullibility or a figment of his imagination but a stark reality. The appropriate facts were narrated in memoirs by a former German Intelligence chief Walter Schellenberg, in a book by a former NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) officer Alexander Orlov, who escaped from the USSR to the West in 1938, in a book ‘The Conspirators’ by an American historian Geoffrey Bailey. A brief account of how the Tukhachevsky plot was formed and developed was given in the book ‘Hitler Moves East 1941–1943’ by a former personal interpreter of Hitler, Paul Schmidt (his literary name — Paul Carell).

Summarising all these facts narrated and analysed by Russian, German and American authors one comes to a conclusion that the origin of the June 1937 events differs radically from the explanation given by Khrushchev and modern Russian political mass media. First of all, these events were connected with the struggle going on inside the Soviet Communist Party in the 1920s. One should take into account that since 1918 L. D. Trotsky was the chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Soviet Republic and its People’s Commissar for military affairs. Many of the leading figures in the Red Army were appointed by Trotsky during the Civil War. Sharing the political views of their chief they tended to overrate military methods of administration and the role of the Red Army in the world revolutionary process. Many of them continued to occupy commanding posts in the Red Army after Trotsky was ousted from his posts in 1925.

Despite their public recantations, many of them continued to share Trotsky’s views and attitudes with their typical blend of adventurism and disregard for ideological principles, especially when dealing with the enemies of the Soviet Revolution. The adventurist approach to the problems of military strategy and organisation of the Red Army was characteristic for Tukhachevsky and the group of his supporters. The differences on these issues led to latent but growing confrontation of this group with the majority of the Red Army commanders.

Like Trotsky himself many of the Trotskyists in the Red Army were prone to put their personal ambitions above the interests of the working class and the Soviet state. Some of them dreamt of Bonapartist careers.

The tendency to conclude alliances with politically and ideologically alien forces for the sake of personal struggle for power (so typical for Trotsky during his political career) revealed itself in establishing close relations between some Soviet and German officers. At that time the Versailles treaty barred Germany from having military educational establishments. According to a secret Soviet-German agreement concluded at the initiative of Trotskyist Karl Radek who was then influential in the Soviet Government, a large group of German officers set up their military schools in Soviet Russia thus by-passing the clauses of the Versailles treaty. Not only Radek, but other Soviet leaders supported this agreement since at that time the cooperation of Soviet Russia with Germany was seen as a breakthrough of the united Anti-Soviet front of capitalist states. The possible negative consequences of the agreement were not taken into account.

While the Soviet-German agreement existed Tukhachevsky and a number of other Soviet military commanders cultivated friendly relations with their German colleagues. The latter often invited the Soviet officers to Germany. Unfortunately such contacts were not limited to exchanges of opinions in the field of purely professional problems. Some of the military of both countries tended to discuss the benefits of military rule and possibilities of joint interference of the military into civilian lives of both countries. Plans for mutual assistance of the military of the two countries in case of political changes in the two countries began to evolve.

The Nazi takeover in 1933 interrupted the active military cooperation between Germany and the USSR. Though at that time the German military wholly supported Hitler, they were keen to mind their own interests and were ready to take power if the Nazi regime was to totter. (The German military plotters almost performed a coup d’etat in September 1938. Then they were afraid that Germany would lose the war in case Britain and France would take a resolute stand and defend Czechoslovakia. Only the capitulation of France and Britain at Munich made the plotters discard their plans. Another attempt to overthrow the Hitler government was undertaken by them in July 1944 at the time when the Nazi regime was already doomed.)

Their own plans of military takeover in the USSR were nourished by Tukhachevsky and his supporters. At the same time Tukhachevsky and others tried to enlist support of some ambitious Party leaders for realisation of their Bonapartist plans. According to Paul Carell, ‘since 1935 Tukhachevsky had maintained a kind of revolutionary committee in Khabarovsk… Its members included senior administrative officials and Army commanders, but also some young Party functionaries in high posts, such as the Party leader in the Northern Caucasus, Boris Sheboldayev’.

Despite the termination of the Soviet-German military agreement Tukhachevsky maintained close cooperation with the German generals. Carell wrote: ‘In the spring of 1936 Tukhachevsky went to London as the leader of the Soviet delegation attending the funeral of the King George V. Both his outward and homeward journeys led him through Berlin. He used the opportunity for talks with leading German generals. He wanted to make sure that Germany would not use any possible revolutionary unrest in the Soviet Union as a pretext for marching against the East. What mattered to him most was his idea of a German-Russian alliance after overthrow of Stalin… Tukhachevsky became increasingly convinced that the alliance between Germany and the Soviet Union was an inescapable commandment of history’.

In his book ‘The Conspirators’ Geoffrey Bailey quotes an attested remark by Tukhachevsky made at that time to the Rumanian Foreign Minister Titulescu. He said: ‘You are wrong to tie the fate of your country to countries which are old and finished, such as France and Britain. We ought to turn towards new Germany. For some at least Germany will assume the leading position on the continent of Europe’.

Meanwhile the pro-German statements made by Tukhachevsky in Western European countries during his trip to Britain became known in France and Czechoslovakia. The mutual assistance treaties of both countries with the USSR concluded in 1935 united them in a joint anti-Nazi coalition. The information that such an important figure as Tukhachevsky took a pro-German stand caused grave concern in Paris and Prague. The two governments notified the Soviet Government about Tukhachevsky’s statements.

Meanwhile at the end of 1936 and the beginning of 1937 a number of Red Army officers were arrested in the USSR. During their interrogation the NKVD got information about the existence of a wide-spread plot against the Soviet Government. It was a time when arrests of some saboteurs, connected with the Trotskyist opposition revealed the lack of vigilance and political insight on the part of many Party functionaries.

It all happened at the time when the USSR adopted a new Constitution, called Stalinist, as Stalin was its initiator. Its constitution was meant to promote the democratisation of Soviet society. Unfortunately many of the Party officials, especially on a local level were reluctant to put the principles of the new Constitution into practice. Since 1917 during almost two decades they got accustomed to methods of administration used at the time of the Civil War. Many of them grew accustomed to their unchallenged high positions and they drew support from close circles of their personal friends. In fact their political attitudes were close to those of Tukhachevsky and his supporters. At the plenary session of the Central Committee of the USSR Communist Party held in February-March 1937 many of its members demanded increased repressive measures instead of the democratisation urged by the Stalinist Constitution.

In his speech at this plenary session Stalin spoke about the urgent need to raise the ideological and political level of all Party functionaries and offered a plan for their education. At the same time he severely criticised the tendency of Party officials to surround themselves by groups of their personal supporters. He suggested electing new functionaries at every Party level while the old functionaries were being educated at specially set-up schools. Stalin warned that unless the Communist Party kept close contacts with the working class it might perish. He reminded of the fate of Antaeus from Greek mythology, who lost the battle with Hercules as soon as he failed to have a contact with the Earth, who was his mother.

But the words of Stalin were unheeded by many of the Party officials. They were afraid to lose their jobs and they started to devise plans of mass reprisals in order to get rid of potential competitors for their posts.

Meanwhile Tukhachevsky and other conspirators, using unrest among the Party functionaries, accelerated preparations for a coup d’etat. Tukhachevsky intended to ask the USSR People’s Commissar for Defence K.E. Voroshilov to convene a conference on military problems in the Kremlin. Tukhachevsky planned to come to the conference with his supporters and to surround the Kremlin with troops loyal to him. Stalin and some of his Politbureau colleagues were to be arrested and shot immediately.

After the end of the plenary session of the Central Committee the conspirators increased their preparations. Carell wrote: ‘In March 1937 the race between Stalin and Tukhachevsky was becoming increasingly dramatic… Why did the Marshal not act then? Why was he still hesitating? The answer is simple enough. The moves of General Staff officers and Army commanders, whose headquarters were often thousands of miles apart, were difficult to coordinate especially as their strict surveillance by the secret police forced them to act with the utmost caution. The coup against Stalin was fixed for the 1st of May 1937, mainly because the May Day Parades would make it possible to move substantial troop contingents to Moscow without arousing suspicion’.

At that time Trotsky in his ‘Bulletin of the Opposition’ wrote about a probable rebellion of the Soviet military against Stalin. On the 9th of April 1937 the chief of the Red Army Intelligence Board S. Uritsky informed Stalin and Voroshilov that in Berlin there were rumours about the opposition of the Soviet military to the Soviet leadership.

By that time the Gestapo got wind of the negotiations of Tukhachevsky with the German military leaders. In order to get fuller information about relations between the military leaders of the two countries Gestapo agents penetrated the archives of the Wehrmacht and stole some of the documents pertaining to the contacts of the German military with the Soviet. The Gestapo agents tried to conceal the theft of documents by setting fire to the archives. After the stolen documents were analysed the Gestapo deputy chief Heydrich came to the conclusion that there was ample evidence of the secret cooperation between the leaders of the Wehrmacht and the Red Army. The Gestapo informed Hitler about the documents.

Despite the pro-German statements of Tukhachevsky, Hitler and others in the Nazi leadership were not happy over clandestine contacts between the military leaders of Germany and the USSR. The Nazi leaders considered that the establishment of the military dictatorship in Russia might stimulate similar developments in Germany. And the military dictator of Russia Tukhachevsky might help his German colleagues during the future coup. Hitler decided to thwart the joint conspiracy of the military leaders of the two countries. He ordered the sending of the stolen documents to Moscow, but adding to them fabrications to make the materials even more shocking. German Intelligence chief Walter Schellenberg later wrote that the false additions constituted but a minor part of the whole collection, which was secretly sold to the Soviet Union. (Later in 1971 V. M. Molotov claimed that he, Stalin and other Politbureau members knew about the Tukhachevsky conspiracy before they got the German documents.)

There are different versions of the subsequent events. On the one hand there is substantial evidence that the military coup scheduled for the 1st of May was frustrated at the last minute. Some people present at the time at Red Square remembered that immediately after the beginning of the parade the rumours were spread about an imminent terrorist act against Stalin and other Politbureau members who at that time occupied the tribune on the Lenin Mausoleum. Later NKVD officer Pavel Meshik claimed that he personally arrested a terrorist on the upper floor of the building adjacent to Red Square just when he was getting ready to shoot. Meshik said that he was awarded the Order of Lenin for this arrest.

A British correspondent Fitzroy MacClean who was present at the May Day parade stated that he noticed nervousness in the conduct of the Politbureau members. Some of them hardly watched the parade. According to MacClean only Stalin preserved an unperturbed mien.

On the other hand there is evidence that the coup was postponed. Just before the 1st of May in London it was announced that on the 12th of May there would be the coronation of George VI who had become the King after the abdication of Edward VIII. The Soviet delegation was invited for the ceremony and the Soviet Government decided that Tukhachevsky would be a leader of the delegation. According to Carell, Tukhachevsky ‘postponed the coup by three weeks. That was his fatal mistake’.

On the 3rd of May documents of Tukhachevsky were sent to the British Embassy in connection with his visit to London. But on the next day the papers were called back and it was announced that the Soviet admiral V. M. Orlov would be a chief of the delegation.

On the 10th of May it was announced that Tukhachevsky was relieved from the duties of the deputy of the People’ Commissar for Defence and made the commander of the Volga military district. On the 24th of May Stalin sent a circular letter to all the members and alternate members of the Party Central Committee. They were informed about the conspiratorial activities of Tukhachevsky and others. Since Tukhachevsky was an alternate member of the Central Committee, other members and alternate members of this highest body of the Party were asked to vote for or against his expulsion from the Party and transfer of his case to the NKVD. All the members and alternate members of the Central Committee supported the suggested measures against Tukhachevsky.

The leader of the conspiracy was arrested on the 27th of May. Between 19 and 31 his major collaborators were arrested. But one of them, the deputy People’s Commissar for Defence Y. B. Gamarnik committed suicide just before his arrest.

On the 2nd of June the session of the Military Council of the People’s Commissary of Defence was convened. Though the investigation was not over yet and it was probable that some of the participants of the plot were present at the session Stalin attended it and spoke before it.

He began his speech, saying: ‘Comrades, I think that now nobody has doubts about the existence of military-political conspiracy against the Soviet power’. Stalin explained the reason why the conspiracy was not exposed earlier by euphoria of the Party and the Soviet people. He said: ‘The general situation, the growth of our ranks, the achievements of the Army and the country as a whole decreased our political vigilance, diminished sharpness of our sight’.

Stalin spoke about the dependence of Tukhachevsky and other arrested commanders on the German military and suggested that the conspirators did not have any profound ideological platform. Stalin said: ‘What was their weakness? They lacked contact with the people… They relied on the forces of the Germans… They were afraid of the people’.

Stalin suggested that some of the military officers got involved into conspiracy out of sheer opportunism. At the same time Stalin spoke about some of the plotters who were intimidated by Tukhachevsky and others and were forced to join them. Stalin proposed to forgive such people if they came and honestly told about their participation in the plot.

Refuting concern expressed by some of the speakers at the session that the arrests among the military might weaken the Red Army Stalin said: ‘We have in our army unlimited reserves of talents… One should not be afraid to move people upwards’.

Though Stalin expressed hope that the number of conspirators was not great, soon many of the military, including some of those who participated at the 2nd of June session, were arrested. Among those who were arrested many were innocent. First and foremost their arrests were caused by the atmosphere created by many local Party officials (and Khrushchev was among the most active) who, instead of searching for political and social reasons for the military conspiracy started to foment mass hysteria. They used the Tukhachevsky conspiracy as a pretext to prove that the USSR was full of foreign spies and thus to retain administrative methods typical of the Civil War. (Later Khrushchev tried to conceal his participation in this witch hunt by putting all the blame for it upon Stalin.) The toll of arrested increased also due to slanderous accusations made by careerists in the NKVD, ready to get promotion for their successes in exposing ‘enemies of the people’, or by career-minded military officers, eager to take the posts of those who were arrested.

Now the Russian mass-media assert that the arrests and executions of the Red Army commanding officers were fatal for the development of the Great Patriotic War. It is claimed that the officers’ corps of the Red Army was almost decimated. Some point out that 40 thousand of the commanding officers were subjected to various reprisals in 1937 – 1939. In fact out of 37 thousand officers who were dismissed from the Army in this period about 9 thousand were those who died due to natural causes, got severe chronic diseases or were punished for non-political crimes and misbehaviour. Out of 29 thousand officers sacked for political offences 13 thousand were later restored to the Army. Many of them (like Marshal Rokossovsky) fought heroically in the Great Patriotic War. Four thousand were executed and about 12 thousand served their terms in the labour camps. Though these are large numbers, one should be aware that the total number of the Army officers in 1941 was 680 thousand.

In place of Tukhachevsky and his supporters came a new cohort of generals and marshals who proved quite worthy in performing their military duties. The recognition of this fact came from none other than Joseph Goebbels. When Nazi Germany was practically defeated he recognised at last the merits of those whom he for many years treated as representatives of an inferior race. In his personal diary Goebbels wrote on the 16th of March, 1945: ‘The General Staff presented me a book with biographies of Soviet generals and marshals… Most of them are young; almost none of them is over 50 years. They have a rich experience of revolutionary-political activity. They are convinced Bolsheviks, very energetic people. When one looks upon their faces one can see that they are made of healthy folk staff. Most of them are sons of workers, cobblers, small holding peasants, etc. In short, I must make an unpleasant conclusion that the military leaders of the Soviet Union are of better social origin than our own… From this book it is easy to see what mistakes we made in the previous years’.

Belatedly lamenting that Nazi Germany did not get rid of its own Tukhachevskys before it was too late, Goebbels explained the strength of the Red Army in the fact that it had strong ties with the popular masses. Inadvertently the chief of Nazi propaganda recognised the truth of Stalin when the latter spoke about ‘unlimited reserves of talents’ in the ranks of the Red Army and stated that Tukhachevsky and others ‘lacked contact with the people’ and ‘were afraid of the people’.

The victory over Nazi Germany and its allies achieved mostly by the Soviet effort would not be possible if the Soviet leadership failed to get rid of its ‘Fifth Column’, similar to those which existed in many countries of the world and which allowed Hitler to establish his control over half of Europe. Unfortunately by 1991 both the Soviet Army and the Party changed their character and lost most of their staunch ties with the people. These changes facilitated the temporary triumph of capitalist restoration forces over socialism.

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