Category Archives: Karl Marx

The Manifesto on the Disappearance of National Differences

14192064_1178185952253023_5441033432407046505_n

“National differences and contrasts are already tending to disappear more and more as the bourgeoisie develops, as free trade becomes more general, as the world market grows in sire and importance, as manufacturing conditions and the resulting conditions of life become more uniform.”

 — Karl Marx and F. Engels, “The Communist Manifesto”

The CPSU(B), Gosplan and the Question of the Transition to Communist Society in the Soviet Union 1939-1953

12701129433_89ed8e97b1_b

by Vijay Singh

Marxism recognises the primary role of the industrial working class in the democratic and socialist revolutions and in the transition to communist society. In the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels indicated that of ‘all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class. The other classes decay and finally disappear in the face of modern industry: the proletariat is its special and essential product.’ V.I. Lenin in A Great Beginning expressed the Marxist position that only the urban workers and the industrial workers were able to lead the whole mass of the working and exploited people to overthrow capitalism and create the new socialist system. Socialism required the abolition of classes which necessitated the abolition of all private ownership of the means of production, the abolition of the distinction between town and country as well as the distinction between manual workers and brain workers. Lenin explicitly rejected the proposition that all the ‘working people’ were equally capable of performing these historical tasks. He considered that the assumption that all ‘working people’ were able to carry out the tasks of the socialist revolution was an empty phrase or the illusion of a pre-Marxist socialist. The ability to abolish classes grew only out of the material conditions of large scale capitalist production and was possessed by the workers alone. Marxism excludes from the definition of the working class the urban and rural petty-bourgeoisie, the office staff, the mental workers as well as the toiling masses. The attempts of Russian neo-Brezhnevism to broaden and extend the definition of the working class must be rejected just as historically the attempts of the Narodniks to include the petty-bourgeoisie in this category were fought by the Bolshevists. Confusion on this question carries grave implications for the character and composition of the Communist Party, for the very existence of the dictatorship of the proletariat, for the abolition of classes and the commodity system under socialism and for the transition to Communism.

The logic of Marxism did not permit the ‘working people’ as opposed to the proletariat to direct the construction of a socialist society. In The Agrarian Question in Russia Towards The Close of The Nineteenth Century, Lenin unequivocally considered that Socialism ‘means the abolition of commodity economy’ and that so long as exchange remains ‘it is ridiculous to talk of socialism’. The dictatorship of the proletariat must remain until such time as classes disappeared, Lenin argued in his article Economics and Politics In The Era of the Dictatorship of The Proletariat. The abolition of classes under socialism entailed the end of the difference between factory worker and peasant so that all became workers. It follows from this that the proletarian party cannot be a ‘party of the whole people’ or the dictatorship of the proletariat a ‘state of the whole people’. These positions were defended in the Stalin period. In the period after collectivisation in his Speech on the Draft Constitution Stalin held that the Soviet Union had already in the main succeeded in building the foundation of a socialist society; he nevertheless in these years argued, as in his Report to the 17th Congress of the CPSU(b), that the project of building a classless socialist society remained a task for the future.

The perspective of completing the building of a classless socialist society and the gradual transition from socialism to communism was the dominating leitmotif at the 18th Congress of the CPSU(b) held in March 1939. This emerges clearly from the speeches of the Soviet leadership at the Congress. In his opening remarks to the Congress Molotov asserted that Socialism had basically been constructed in the Soviet Union and that the forthcoming period was one of the transition to Communism. Stalin in his Report to the Congress, while noting that the USSR had outstripped the principal capitalist countries with regard to the rate of industrial development and the technique of production, indicated it had yet to economically outstrip the principal capitalist states in terms of industrial consumption per head of the population, which was the pre-condition of that abundance of goods which was necessary for the transition from the first to the second phase of Communism. He anticipated that the continued existence of the Soviet state was necessary during the period that Soviet Communism was being established. Until such time as capitalist encirclement was not superceded by socialist encirclement and the danger of foreign military attack did not recede, the military, penal and intelligence organs were necessary for the survival of the USSR. The Soviet state was not to wither away in the near future, it would, however, undergo changes in conformity with domestic and international requirements. Engels’ proposition that the state would wither away in Communism, Stalin opined, assumed that the victory of communism had taken place in the major countries which was not the case in the contemporary world situation.

In his Report on the Third Five Year Plan for the Development of the National Economy of the USSR Molotov linked the new plan specifically to the task of the completion of a classless socialist society and the gradual transition from socialism to communism. Collectivisation, during the course of the Second Five Year Plan, had economically destroyed the kulaks which had been the last exploiting class existing in Soviet society. It had thus ended the private ownership of the means of production and formed the cooperative form of property relations through the establishment of the collective farms which now co-existed with the state property which had been created in the October revolution. The first phase of Communism had already been built in the USSR. The Third Five Year Plan was to be considered as a major step towards the formation of full communism. Molotov then examined the social classes which existed in the Soviet Union. Social differences persisted between the working class, the collective farm peasantry (as well as with the newly formed stratum of socialist intellectuals) corresponding to the nature of the differences in property relations between the state enterprises and the collective farms. In the transition to communist society the working class would play the leading role and the collective farm peasantry would exert an active role. Noting the distinctions between the advanced and backward strata of these classes Molotov argued that, while the majority of the populace placed the general interests of society and the state over private interests in the course of building the new society, there were sections which tried to snatch advantages from the state, just as sections of the peasantry were more worried about the welfare of their own collective farms and their own individual interests. It was the Stakhanovite movement in the factories which had established technical norms and raised labour productivity in the Second Five Year Plan period which guaranteed further successes for the Soviet Union.

In his speech to the 18th Congress the Chairman of the State Planning Commission, N.A. Voznesensky, fleshed out some basic five tasks which were required for the programme of communist construction to be brought into effect: first, the productive forces needed to be developed to that extent that the USSR economically surpassed the foremost capitalist states; second, labour productivity had to be raised to a level which would allow the Soviet Union to produce an abundance of products which would lay the basis for distribution founded upon need; third, the survivals of the contradiction between town and country had to be wiped away; fourth, the cultural and technical level of the working class had to be raised to the level of the workers who were engaged in engineering and technical work with the objective of eliminating the differences between mental and physical labour; and finally, the Socialist state had to develop new forms while building communism in the conditions of capitalist encirclement. It is significant that Voznesensky, while presenting an outline of the changes required in the society and state in the transition period to communism did not broach the question of the necessary radical reconstruction of productive relations in agriculture. In the 17th Congress of the CPSU(b) of 1934 Stalin had touched upon the necessity of effecting the transition of the collective farms based upon group property to the communes founded upon social property and the most developed technique which would lay the ground for the production of an abundance of products in society. In a pregnant remark Voznesensky suggested that the task of completing the construction of socialist society, the transition to communism and catching up and overtaking the leading capitalist countries would extend beyond the period of the Third Five Year Plan; whereas two decades had been needed for the Soviet Union to establish socialism an historically shorter span of time would be necessary for the transition to communism.

Molotov struck a note of sobriety in his concluding remarks at the Congress. While the perspective had been established of overtaking the leading countries of capitalism it was important to be aware of the shortcomings of the USSR in the economic field. Whereas the position of the working masses had improved in Soviet Russia and would further so do during the course of the Third Five Year Plan, and while the country surpassed the West in terms of production technique, it was important to recall that it lagged behind in terms of the industrial output per head of the population.

The perspectives outlined at the 18th Congress had wide-ranging ramifications. They implied that a re-writing of the programme of the party was imperative. The existing programme which was still operative formally had been adopted by the 8th party Congress in March, 1919 just a year and a half after the revolution. A new programme would of necessity have to take into account the path traversed under War Communism, the New Economic Policy, collectivisation and industrialisation in addition to the anticipated path to be followed on the way to ‘complete socialism’ and ‘full communism’. The 1919 programme had correctly called for the conversion of the means of production into the social property of the working class of the Soviet Republic. In the realm of agriculture it had enjoined the establishment of Communes for conducting large-scale socialised agriculture. The demand for the abolition of classes clearly pointed to the end of the peasantry as a class. A new programme would have to squarely face the delicate question of the conversion of the group property of the collective farms into the full social property of the whole of society. The 18th Congress constituted a 27 man Commission which was charged with the responsibility of drafting the changes in the projected Third Programme of the party. The members included Stalin, Molotov, Kaganovich, Zhdanov, Beria, Voznesensky, Vyshinsky, Kalinin, Malenkov, Manuilsky, Khrushchev, Mikoyan and Pospelov.

The transition to Communist construction implied also the long-range reorientation of Soviet planning to the goal of the laying of the material and technical basis for the new society. After consultations with members of the Academy of Social Sciences of the USSR and with members of Gosplan, Voznesensky held an extended sitting of the State Planning Commission in July 1939 which took up the question of the elaboration of the development of the Soviet economy, particularly of the expansion of the energy base of the economy. Gosplan resolved to elaborate its perspectives in terms of construction of the Angarsk hydro-electrical complex, the raising of the level of the Caspian Sea and linking the Volga with the northern rivers. These developments immediately bring to mind Lenin’s understanding that electrification would open the door to Communist society. Communism was, he said, Soviet power plus electrification of the entire country. In the context of GOELRO he had spoken of the necessity of elaborating a perspective plan for Soviet Russia which would extend over a period of 10-15 years. With the goal of strengthening the pool of scientific talent available to Gosplan for the construction of the long-term economic plan a number of Academicians, including members from the USSR Academy of Sciences were involved in the activities of the Council of Scientific-Technical Experts under Gosplan for preparing the conspectus plan. Within a year and half Gosplan prepared a perspective of the long-term plan which raised questions which went beyond the limits of the Third Five Year Plan. Arising from this Voznesensky drafted a note for Stalin and Molotov which was read at a Gosplan meeting in September 1940. The central questions for a long run economic plan designed to build a classless socialist society and communism at the level of building the productive forces were the building of the ferrous and non-ferrous metallurgical industries; the complete reconstruction of railway transport; the construction of the Kuibyshev, Solikamsk and Angarsk hydro-electrical complexes; the realisation of the Baikal-Amur mainline railway; the creation of oil and metallurgical bases in the northern part of the USSR and the development of the individual regions of the country. In his note Voznesensky requested permission for Gosplan to elaborate a general economic plan for a 15 year period to be presented to the Central Committee of the Party by the end of 1941.

Tightly integrated into the projected long term perspective plan was a new approach to regional planning involving the better utilising of productive forces by basing the new industrial complexes close to the sources of energy and raw materials, thereby economising in labour in the course of the various stages of manufacture and preparation of the final product. Voznesensky secured the creation of an Institute of Commissioners of Gosplan in all of the economic regions of the country which had the responsibility of verifying the fulfilment of the state plan and securing the development of the industrial complexes of the economic regions. The Gosplan Commissioners were charged to pay special attention to the fulfilment of the Third Five Year Plan with respect to the creation of industrial fuel bases in each economic region, securing electricity sources in each region, eliminating irrational transport hauls, mobilising local food supplies in each region and bringing economic resources to light in the economy. Special departments were created in the Gosplan apparatus to deal with the development of the economy in the different regions of the country.

On February 7th, 1941 Gosplan received a reply to its proposal to be granted permission to elaborate a 15 year economic plan which had been sent by Voznesensky to Stalin and Molotov some five months earlier. The Central Committee of the CPSU(b) and Sovnarkom now formally sanctioned the preparation of a perspective plan by Gosplan to surpass the per capita production of the capitalist countries in pig iron, steel, oil, electricity, machinery and other means of production and articles of necessity. This necessitated the independent development of science and technology in the USSR so that the natural wealth of the country could be utilised by the most developed methods to advance the organisation of production. It required, moreover, the pre-determination of the development of the basic branches of the national economy, the economic regions and the tempo and scale of production. The general plan had to determine the changes in social and political relations, the social tasks, the methods of raising the level of the workers and collective farm workers to that of workers in the technical and engineering sectors (this would have facilitated the process of the abolition of classes and the obliteration of the distinctions between the industrial working class the intelligentsia and the collective farm peasantry which followed from Lenin’s injunctions in Economic and Politics in The Era of the Dictatorship of The Proletariat).

Work on the perspective plan was allocated over two stages between January and March 1941, and April to June of the same year. As instructed the Gosplan apparatus prepared the prototype of the general plan for the period 1943-1957 in 2 volumes. This project represented the first major attempt to tackle the problems arising from the perspective of developing the Socialist economy and its growing over to a Communist economy over a period of 15 years. On the 20th anniversary of Lenin’s decree which led to the creation of the State Planning Commission Pravda on the 22nd February, 1941 began a series of articles which widely publicised the new 15 year plan.

The Nazi invasion put paid to the projects for providing the economic basis for the transition to Communism. Yet amazingly the close of hostilities witnessed a resumption of pre-war plans and projects. The Report on the Five-Year Plan for 1946-1950 and the Law on the Five-Year Planpresented by Voznesensky to the Supreme Soviet in March 1946 marked the resumption of the path of development adumbrated at the 18th Congress of the CPSU(b) for the building of the classless socialist society and the gradual transition to communism. The plan was considered a continuation of the pre-war steps designed to catch up with and surpass the main capitalist countries economically as regards the volume of industrial production per bead of the population. Stalin in September, 1946 reiterated the possibility of the construction of Communism in One Country in the USSR. A year later at the foundation of the Cominform in 1947 at Shklyarska Poremba, Malenkov added that the Central Committee of the CPSU(b) was working on the preparation of a new programme for the party as the existing one was out of date and had to be substituted by a new one.

Running parallel to these developments was the renewed attempt to formulate a long range economic plan to lay the economic and social basis for communism. In mid-1947 Voznesensky posed this question before the Central Committee. He argued that such a plan was imperative for a number of reasons. First, it was directly connected to the preparations for the new programme of the CPSU(b) as well as for the carrying out of the concrete plans which would be drawn up on the basis of the programme; second, as the tasks of expanding the productive forces and the construction of the new and large construction works (railway lines, hydro-electrical stations, metallurgical factories) did not fit into the constraints of the current 5 year plan. While reiterating the pre-war objectives of the general plan as being to overtake the advanced capitalist countries in terms of the per capita industrial production, Voznesensky now proposed a 20 year plan for the construction of Communist society in the USSR. Stalin was requested to support a draft resolution of the Central Committee of the party and the Council of Ministers giving Gosplan the responsibility to produce a 20 year general plan for submission by 15th January, 1948. This authorisation was granted on the 6th August, 1947.

The scale of activity for the drafting of the general economic plan may be judged from the fact that 80 sub-commissions were established under the Chairman of Gosplan to elaborate different aspects of the plan having the participation of economic directors, ministerial experts and academic specialists. In the autumn of 1947 Gosplan re-examined the structure of the Institute of Economics of the Academy of Sciences and modified its working by re-orientating it towards the problems facing the Soviet economy. In 1948 Gosplan, the Academy of Sciences, local party and Soviet organs held conferences to study the productive strength of the economic regions of the country; especial attention was paid to the regions of the North-West, the Central Black Earth regions, the Kuzbass, Kazakhstan, eastern Siberia and the Far East. On the basis of these preparations the framework of the perspective plan was formulated for the different branches of the national economy and the different economic regions of the Soviet Union. A draft report on the general plan for the period 1951-1970 was prepared with necessary balance calculations and other materials for presentation to the Central Committee of the CPSU(b) and the Soviet government. The Special Commission directed by Voznesensky examined the preliminary theses on the general plan in September, 1948.

Despite these energetic beginnings the 20 year General Plan was not to be completed though the theme of the transition to Communism remained a central question for the CPSU(b). The reason for this would appear to be the involvement of Voznesensky as Chairman of Gosplan in attempts to utilise commodity-money relations in the Soviet economy at an inordinate level to the extent that the very survival of the socialist economy was endangered which led to his being removed from responsible positions. Nevertheless the views of Voznesensky on the transition to communism which have come down to us through the efforts of his biographer, V.V. Kolotov have a certain interest. The elaboration of the 20 year plan was inextricably linked in the thinking of Voznesensky with laying the basis of communist society. He considered it his task to work out the laws for the establishment of communism and how the productive forces and productive relations would be connected. In his last discussions with Gosplan workers he argued that each social formation had economic laws, some which operated over different social formations, and some which were operative specifically to a particular social formation. Each social formation had its basic economic law. It was important to uncover the economic laws of Communist construction, that is the paths by which the productive relations of socialism were transformed into the relations of production of Communist society. It was necessary to elucidate the possible contradictions between the forces of production and the relations of production under the Communist mode of production, and the manner in which these might be resolved. These were the very questions which were taken up for discussion by Stalin in his comments on the November 1951 economic discussion.

While the general plan for Communist construction did not see the light of day, a number of projects designed to expand the productive forces of the Soviet Union, which had originated in the pre-war work of Gosplan, and which pertained to electrification, mechanisation, automation, and the chemification of industry did get underway. Electrification of all branches of the national economy was envisaged by the development of electro-chemistry, electro-metallurgy in ferrous and non-ferrous metals, as well as in aluminium, magnesium and their alloys. The electrification of railway transport was considered desirable for economy on fuel and rolling stock. In agriculture electricity was to be extensively used in the mechanisation of livestock farming, threshing and irrigation. In accordance with this general understanding the directives of the 19th congress of the CPSU provided for an increase of electricity by some 80% for the period 1951-55. Electrification of the economy was a central feature of the literature of the period. The grandiose construction works for communist construction included the construction of the Kuibyshev and Stalingrad hydro-electrical stations which were designed to generate about 20,000 million Kwh of electricity annually which was more than half of the total power generated in the USSR before the second world war.

The question of the changes necessary in the relations of production for the impending transition to Communism were chalked out in Stalin’s last major work. After arguing that a continuous expansion of social production was necessary in which a relatively higher rate of expansion of the production of the means of production was necessary so that reproduction on an extended scale could take place, Stalin argued that productive relations also required to be adapted to the growth of the productive forces. Already factors such as the group property of the collective-farms and commodity circulation were beginning to hamper the powerful development of the productive forces as they created obstacles to the full extension of government planning to the whole of the national economy, particularly in the field of agriculture. To eliminate contradictions it was necessary to gradually convert collective farm property into public property and to gradually introduce products-exchange in place of commodity circulation.

Needless to say the programme for developing the productive forces and restructuring the relations of production in line with the transition to communism was demolished after the death of Stalin. Under Khrushchev the question of a relatively higher rate of expansion of the means of production was not considered decisive. The perspective of the replacing of commodity circulation by the exchange of products was terminated. The new programme for ‘communist construction’ explicitly called for the utmost development of commodity-money relations: Group property, the collective farms and commodity circulation were to be preserved and not eliminated. The CPSU(b) now distanced itself from the Leninist understanding that under socialism classes needed to the abolished and that the distinctions between the factory worker and the peasant, between town and country and between mental and physical workers had to be eliminated.

The history of the CPSU(b) confirms that clarity on the question of the class approach and the necessity of defending the Marxist-Leninist approach to the definition of the proletariat is an imperative if a true Communist Party is to be constructed in the former Soviet Union. Only on this basis is it possible for the dictatorship of the proletariat to be constructed which is the decisive pre-condition for the abolition of classes, commodity production and exchange under socialism on the path to the construction of communist society.

References

  • XVIII S’ezd Vsesoyuznoi Kommunisticheskoi partii (b), Stenograficheskii otchet, Moscow, 1939.
  • V.V. Kolotov, Nikolai Alekseevich Voznesensky, Moscow, 1974.
  • V. Kolotov and G. Petrovichev, N.A. Voznesensky, Moscow, 1963.
  • G. Kozyachenko, ‘Krupnyi deyatel sotsialisticheskogo planirovaniya’, Planovoe Khozyaistvo, No. 10-12, 1973.
  • G. Perov, ‘Na perdenem krae ekonomicheskoi nauki i praktiki sotsialisticheskogo planirovaniya’, Planovoe Khozyaistvo No. 7-9, 1971.
  • Programma i ustav VKP(b), Moscow, 1936.
  • M. Rubinstein, O sozdannii material’no-tekhnichesko bazy Kommunizma, Moscow, 1952.
  • I. Stalin, Economicheskie problemy sotsializma V SSSR, Moscow, 1952.
  • N.A. Voznesensky, Izbrannye proizvedeniya 1931-1947, Moscow, 1979.

Paper presented to the International Scientific-Practical Conference with the Theme ‘Class Analysis in The Modern Communist Movement’ organised by the International Centre for the Formation of the Modern Communist Doctrine in Moscow on the 8-10th November, 1996.

Karl Marx on Alienated Life Under Capitalism

2-karl-marx-unknown

“By counting the most meagre form of life (existence) as the standard, indeed, as the general standard – general because it is applicable to the mass of men. He turns the worker into an insensible being lacking all needs, just as he changes his activity into a pure abstraction from all activity. To him, therefore, every luxury of the worker seems to be reprehensible, and everything that goes beyond the most abstract need – be it in the realm of passive enjoyment, or a manifestation of activity – seems to him a luxury. Political economy, this science of wealth, is therefore simultaneously the science of renunciation, of want, of saving and it actually reaches the point where it spares man the need of either fresh air or physical exercise. This science of marvellous industry is simultaneously the science of asceticism, and its true ideal is the ascetic but extortionate miser and the ascetic but productive slave. Its moral ideal is the worker who takes part of his wages to the savings-bank, and it has even found ready-made a servile art which embodies this pet idea: it has been presented, bathed in sentimentality, on the stage. Thus political economy – despite its worldly and voluptuous appearance – is a true moral science, the most moral of all the sciences. Self-renunciation, the renunciation of life and of all human needs, is its principal thesis. The less you eat, drink and buy books; the less you go to the theatre, the dance hall, the public house; the less you think, love, theorise, sing, paint, fence, etc., the more you save – the greater becomes your treasure which neither moths nor rust will devour – your capital. The less you are, the less you express your own life, the more you have, i.e., the greater is your alienated life, the greater is the store of your estranged being.”

– Karl Marx, “Human Requirements and Division of Labour Under the Rule of Private Property,“ The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844.

Lin Biaoism and the Third World: How Idealism Distorts Class

DSC08705

by Espresso Stalinist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And even proclaimed it to be universal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Nixon: And General DeGaulle.

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

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

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

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

Prime Minister Chou: Maybe you know this.

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

Prime Minister Chou: In Outer Mongolia.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He continued:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Karl Marx, “The German Ideology”).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And again in 1968:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In conclusion, perhaps Lenin said it best:

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

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

Marxism vs. Indigenism: An Anti-Critique of Ward Churchill

wardc

This article was posted in 2008 by Rowland Keshena on a blog which is no longer active. Though there are some very pronounced ideological problems with this essay (particularly its references to “Stalinism,” as well as the “anthropocentrism” of Marxism and the idea that the concept of domination of nature by man is somehow “Judeo-Christian,” it remains a thorough criticism of the anti-communism of leading figures of the Native community. Thus, I have posted it here to aid in struggling against this anti-Marxist line put forward by several Native scholars and figures.

 – E.S.

I have come out and stated a couple of times that I feel that the critiques of Marxism offered by many in the Indian radical movement seem to come across as either having been born from extreme ignorance and/or extreme sect baiting. It has also been my tendency not to really address the claims of people like Russell Means, as I find him a hypocrite and a not so closeted libertarian (despite claims to being anti-capitalist), Vine Deloria Jr., given his absurd beliefs that equate to American Indian creationism, complete with white people being made by aliens and dinosaurs surviving until the 19th century, or Frank Black Elk as they tend to demonstrate an utter lack knowledge about Marxism. The one who I have reserved space for criticism though is Ward Churchill, given my otherwise great respect for him and his scholarship on American history, his place of greater acceptance (relative to the other I mentioned) in leftist circles and his somewhat more intellectual, but still hallow I find, criticisms of Marxism.

His single greatest attempt to present an Indian/Indigenist critique of Marxism was the book of essays he edited in 1983 called Marxism and Native Americans (on a side note, I have often wondered why the term Native Americans here, given his later use of American Indian, and the wider rejection by that time of Native American by the Indian radicals, and Indian country in general). I will admit that the book does make some good criticisms of Stalinism, particularly its anthropocentrism and its continuation of the Judeo-Christian notion of the domination of the earth by man, leading to a continuation of the ecocidal capitalist notion of “grow or die.” However the book also contained a number of problems for me, one being the gross misrepresentation of Marxism contained within, in that both the criticisms given by Churchill, Means, Black Elk, Deloria Jr and Larson and the arguments for Marxism are largely geared towards and presented from the Soviet Marxist-Leninist (read. Stalinist) model of savagely mutilated and intellectually robbed Marxism.

However the goal of this essay is not to attack this book as many good critiques of it already exist, in particular there is one by Canadian Indian nationalist and dedicated Marxist Howard Adams (which for the life of me I cannot find online), which I find of particular interest as it comes from an Indigenous person instead of a white. With that said, my goal here is take a specific look at an essay from Churchill called False Promises: An Indigenist Examination of Marxist Theory and Practice. In this essay Churchill lays out his primary issues with Marxist theory, in particular the Marxist positions on dialectics, nature, Dialectical and Historical Materialism and the labour theory of value. I will not address his problems with Marxism on the national question as I have already given my thoughts on it many times in the past, including on the problems with Marx and Engels’ original formulation of it. In order to try and have an ordered approach to this critique, I have attempted to keep the are sections of my critique the same as his.

Dialectics and Nature:

To open up the essay Churchill begins with a description of dialectical, or relational, thinking, in particular as he finds it in the European traditions and the American Indian ones, which he sums up in the Lakota phrase Metakuyeayasi (my relatives/relations). He also traces the history of dialectical thinking in Europe, having come into Europe via the the Greeks, who Churchill identifies as having gotten it in turn from the Egyptian civilization, who also apparently in turn borrowed it from the Ethiopians. Next he jumps to Hegel, who he states revived the tradition of dialectical thinking in Europe, and from whom the idea was introduced to Marx and the other Young Hegelians.

He also at this point correctly states that the Hegelian/Marxist concept of thinking in terms of relationships stands solidly opposed to the history of European thought, exemplified in linear rationality. It is here that Churchill’s critique of Marxist dialectics begins, as he sees the primary problem with Marx being that he has a presumption of the supremacy of human agency in determining historical reality. This of course, for Churchill, is a supremely Eurocentric presumption. Churchill sums it up in his essay by saying:

“His (Marx) impetus in this regard appears to have been his desire to see his theoretical endeavors used, not simply as a tool of understanding, but as a proactive agent for societal transformation, a matter bound up in his famous dictum that “the purpose of philosophy is not merely to understand history, but to change it.” (sic) Thus Marx, a priori and with no apparent questioning in the doing, proceeded to anchor the totality of his elaboration in the presumed primacy of a given relation—that sole entity which can be said to hold the capability of active and conscious pursuit of change, i.e.: humanity—over any and all relations, the Marxian “dialectic” was thus unbalanced from the outset, skewed as a matter of faith in favor of humans. Such disequilibrium is, of course, not dialectical at all. It is, however, quite specifically Eurocentric in its attributes, springing as it does from the late-Roman interpretation of the Judeo-Christian assertion of “man’s” supposed responsibility to “exercise dominion over nature,” a tradition which Marx (ironically) claimed oft and loudly to have “voided” in his rush to materialism.”

As Marx quite truly stated in his Theses on Feuerbach, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” Indeed this has come to form the core of much of Marxist theory and practice, however for Churchill to take a quotation like this and make a jump into presuming that Marx was ascribing some kind of transcendental and transhistorical superpower to human agency is inaccurate at best. I also find this critique a little strange in that it comes a completely different direction than many other critics of Marx who felt that he was far to deterministic and actually tended towards undermining the power of human agency.

Marx was quite clear though that what he was looking at was the conditions in which humans can act, and he is clear that these conditions are independent of the will of the actors, a position that is best summed up in these two quotes:

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” – “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon.”

“In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.” – “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.”

We must also take into account that these conditions that Marx speaks of are eminently historical. In other words they had come from somewhere, and they will go somewhere. It also follows on from this that they are eminently social. To sum it up, when Marx speaks on the range of action and the range of inaction available to humans in a particular place and time, he is talking about the constrictions of the social reality; this involves the economics, the politics, the religious, the cultural, so on, so forth. All of these factors for Marx are social.

The next contention by Churchill is that Marx failed to see the human existence as being one relation among several, with Marx most conspicuously leaving out the relation of nature. However for Marx even the concept of nature itself is social. This is because Marx feels that nature is not a given, but rather something that exists only in relation to human being. However, if we take the idea that nature is a relation, and not a deified and transhistorical category, it exists because some humans define it as such, it does not mean that we feel natural events like hurricanes or blizzards will bend to the will of humans, rather we see that the categories we as humans use to define and describe the world around us are also historical and relational, which is to say that they are dialectical.

We also must realize that humanity exists within geography and territory, and hence is effected by the various effects that nature has, such as temperature and landscape. However we must also recognize that we have managed to alter these effects, namely temperature and landscape. In other words, we have been able to alter nature. It’s still relational, still dialectical. Even if we describe nature as being something separate from humanity, Engels is right to point out that whatever we define as nature is going to be historical, continuously coming into being and changing.

Churchill is also quite correct to state that Marx is a humanist and anthropocentric, however I feel his incorrect to conflate this with a continuation of the Judeo-Christian drive to dominate nature. Again I feel this is misleading on Churchill’s part, because while it certainly does very well sum up the history of Stalinism, it conflates this with all of Marxism, and certainly ignores the development of ecosocialism. However, if we go back to Marx himself we can see that even his supposed anthropocentrism is dialectical and does not ignore the myriad relations in which humans exist, certainly not that of nature. Marx’s writings are also not speaking of a Judeo-Christian drive to dominate nature. An excellent rejonder to this often brought up criticism of Marx is the book Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature by John Bellamy Foster. In the book Foster shatters the notion that Marx cared only about industrial growth and the development of economic forces. By covering not just Marx, but also other thinkers like Epicurus, Charles Darwin, Thomas Malthus, Ludwig Feuerbach, P. J. Proudhon, and William Paley he is able to construct a materialist conception of nature and society, and thereby also challenge the mysticism and spiritualism prevalent in the modern Green movement, pointing toward a method that offers more lasting and sustainable solutions to the ecological crisis.

I could say more about that book and the other works of Foster, and indeed I highly suggest that anyone even thinking of calling themselves Marxist or radical read his works, however, summing up his work is not the point of this essay, so instead I will a quote from Engels’ The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man that find to be particularly devastating to Churchill’s argument:

“Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first. […] Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature – but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.”

The quote speaks for itself, the simple fact is that Marx and Engels were in no way ignorant of humanity’s position as being one relation existing dialectically among many, most certainly not separate from nature, but in nature. This also means that nature is eminently social. To that we can add that Marx and Engels were also both concerned with what we now often refer to as “sustainable development.” Simply, they didn’t think humans fucking up the environment was a good idea. They were actually highly critical of ecological destruction and degradation. As for Churchill’s assertion of Marx continuing the Judeo-Christian of human dominion over nature goes, let us consider Marx’s own words:

“Even a whole society, a nation, or even all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not the owners of the globe. They are only its possessors, its usufructuaries, and, like boni patres familias, they must hand it down to succeeding generations in an improved condition.” – “Capital Vol. III Part VI: Transformation of Surplus-Profit into Ground-Rent.”

The simple fact is that Churchill’s assertion that Marx and Engels support the domination of nature of man is just plain wrong. It goes to show that Churchill, like many other critics of Marx, whether Marxist, non-Marxist, Indigenist, religious or whatever has failed to actually read Marx in anyway but a superficial manner before attempting to present a coherent argument against Marxism.

Historical and Dialectical Materialism:

After attacking Marx’s notions of dialectics and nature Churchill moves on to attempting to examine the heart of Marxist theory, historical materialism. To begin Churchill makes the assertion that historical materialism examining human society as a mass of contradictions rather than as a unified whole, that all of human history is simply the history of contradictions reconciling themselves to production. Churchill then tells us that “‘Productive relations,’ in [the Marxist] schema, determine all and everything.” The so-called orthodox Marxists, according to Albert and Hahnel (whom Churchill cites), assert that Marxism downgrades the “importance of the creative aspect of the human consciousness” and that consciousness rests primarily on objective production relations.

I will admit that there is a grain of truth in Churchill’s assertions here, however he launches into a full scale attack on historical and dialectical materialism before providing a coherent account of them, with his attacks relying on wildly out of context quotations from Althusser and Baudrillard. Because of this it is very difficult to actually provide a defence of them against Churchill’s assertions. Perhaps in this case the best way to present a critique of Churchill is to actually provide a brief summary of historical and dialectical materialism, and in this way hopefully provide an answer to some of his problems.

The primary concept behind Marx’s theory of historical materialism is that all of history is based on, and driven by, material realities rather than mysterious forces. Another way of putting this is that it is not so much the ideas we have that determine our existence as much as it is the factors of our material existence that determine our ideas. This does not mean that ideas have absolutely no effect on the course of history, rather just that they only have effect when put into material action.

The Marxist model of historical materialism looks for the various causes of developments and changes in human societies in the way in which humans collectively make the means to live, thus giving an emphasis, through economic analysis, to everything that co-exists with the economic base of society. But what is meant by economics in this context? We often hear the term “mode of production” get thrown around alot, e.g., capitalism is a mode of production. If we break down, humans need to eat, drink, sleep, etc and in order to do these things they have to produce things, in one fashion or another, and the “mode” is how the production is organized and carried out. Like all other factors, this organization to is intrinsically social and its impact and been seen and felt on all other aspects of society, including: culture, politics, the state, and law. To put it simply, our social relations of production play a major role in how our social relations are organized in general.

However, any given mode of production that a society utilizes does not appear out of thin air and and neither do things like culture and ideas. The fact is that these develop together, and develop because of the course of human actions and interactions. However, importantly, the behaviours and courses of action taken by people are determined by the possibilities, limits, and imperatives of historical conditions.

Additionally it must be noted that economics is not the sole factor in driving the course of human history, as other factors can, and do, play roles in this. The point here is that they can not be separated from one another, and one cannot ignore the foundational aspect of the material social realities. Also, different modes of production can and do exist at the same time, over the same spaces, but it also the case that there is one that is clearly more dominant and determining than others.

So now let us return to Churchill’s original critiques. By now I would hope that a few things have become apparent. Firstly, the mass of human society is a set of contradictions. However these contradictions are parts of a whole and they are determined by the logic of that whole. However the whole is not necessarily “unified,” however Churchill does not really explain what he means by that term anyway. Also, the contradictions do not actually have to reconcile themselves to production. Production is itself upheld by its own set of contradictions. The productive relations are fundamental, but they do not determine “all and everything.” Finally, it is true that human consciousness is determined by their material existence. Existence precedes essence, and not the other way around. However, the whole point of revolution is that the productive relations people enter into are independent of their wills doesn’t mean it has to remain that way.

Labour Theory of Value:

The final area of Churchill’s critique of Marxism that I will examine is Marx’s labour theory of value.

Churchill is partially correct in saying that the LTV forms the core of Marxist thought, as it actually forms the bedrock of the Marxist economic theory of capitalism as a mode of production. In the essay, Churchill describes the LTV as meaning that:

“value can be assigned to anything by virtue of the quantity and quality of human labor—i.e.: productive, transformative effort—put into it. This idea carries with it several interesting sub properties, most strikingly that the natural world holds no intrinsic value of its own.”

Again, this is partially true.

For us to really be able to understand the rationale behind Marx’s ideas on the LTV we examine what Marx is actually attempting to do with it. Marx’s drive behind formulating the LTV was to try and discover “the laws of motion” of the capitalist mode of production. What this means for us, and it is central in our attempt here to refute Churchill, is that Marx’s analysis is entirely specific to capitalism as an economic system.

So what is Marx speaking of when talks about value? Well, he is specifically speaking of the value of commodities. Now by this he means that a commodity is a thing that has some kind of use, though it does not matter how one defines that use. In Capital, Vol. 1 Marx states that the “utility of a thing makes it a use-value.” What he is saying is that things can and do have intrinsic value of their own, though only when they are viewed from the perspective of humans. We also need to be crystal clear about what Marx meant by “use.” If a person derives aesthetic, spiritual, or some kind of non-physical use from a thing it is still a use. It may be a different kind of use-value, but still a use-value none the less. This means that use-value is subjective. However Marx did not mean this when he spoke of “value”.

In order for a commodity to be one it has to have some sort of exchange-value. So how do two disparate use-values find themselves being equated for exchange? There is a medium, money in the case of capitalism, which facilitates this exchange. However, what determines the particular exchange-value of a thing? For Marx, exchange-value is created by the labour required to actually produce the thing. This means that exchange-value is determined by the labour required for its production in a capitalist economy. This is what Marx means when he is talking about the LTV. This means that in the capitalist market-economy value is expressed as, and through, exchange-value, and exchange-value has nothing to do with a given thing’s use-value.

It is also entirely possible for something to have a use-value while having no exchange-value, meaning that it is not a commodity. Marx put it like this:

“A thing can be a use value, without having value. This is the case whenever its utility to man is not due to labour. Such are air, virgin soil, natural meadows, &c. A thing can be useful, and the product of human labour, without being a commodity.” – “Capital, Vol. 1.”

With this in mind it is now possible for us to fully understand what Marx meant in Capital when he said, “nothing can have value, without being an object of utility. If the thing is useless, so is the labour contained in it; the labour does not count as labour, and therefore creates no value.” Here he is is quite specifically talking of exchange-value. If a thing is not useful to someone else, it will not be exchanged, and hence has no value in the capitalist economy.

What Churchill says is right on in terms of how a capitalist economy views value and Marx would have no problem in sharing Churchill’s critique, though it’s not actually the critique of Marx or Marxism the Churchill tries to present it as. Churchill says:

“A mountain is worth nothing as a mountain; it only accrues value by being ‘developed’ into its raw productive materials such as ores, or even gravel. It can hold a certain speculative value, and thus be bought and sold, but only with such developmental ends in view. Similarly, a forest holds value only in the sense that it can be converted into a product known as lumber; otherwise, it is mere an obstacle to valuable, productive use of land through agriculture or stock-raising, etc. (an interesting commentary on the Marxian view of the land itself). Again, other species hold value only in terms their utility to productive processes (e.g.: meat, fur, leather, various body oils, eggs, milk, transportation in some instances, even fertilizer); otherwise they may, indeed must be preempted and supplanted by the more productive use of the habitat by humans.”

As for what Churchill refers to as the “Marxian view of the land itself,” I would refer you back to the earlier quotes from Marx and Engels. I should also point out that Marx is very clear that nature is as much a source of wealth as labour, and was quite vociferous in his criticism of those who thought that labour alone was a source of wealth:

“Labor is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values (and it is surely of such that material wealth consists!) as labor, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labor power.” – “Critique of the Gotha Programme.”

Getting back to my earlier point about Churchill’s critique of Marxist ideas on dialectics and nature, it would seem that his critiques of the labour theory of value have little, if any, detailed analysis behind it. Again, it appears that Churchill has attempted nothing but the most superficial reading of Marx and Engels. Hence he comes off as little more than ignorant of what he trying to speak about.

However, the point behind this “anti-critique” of sorts is that what Churchill is presenting in his essay might go on to form the basis of further mistaken critiques of Marxism. I also feel that it is important the truth of Marxist thought is certainly not the kind of Soviet Marxism that Churchill and others repeatedly conflate with Marxism on the whole.

On a final note, I disagree with Churchill that Marxism and Indigenism are mutually exclusive. This perhaps because, rather than use his definition of Indigenism as being a mix of deep-ecology, soft-path technology and anarchism (more like minarchism), I prefer the definition given by Guillermo Bonfil Batalla. His definition of Indigenism boiled down to six basic demands:

* Right to ancestral lands including complete control of land and subsoil, the defence of land and recuperation of land lost.
* Recognition of the ethnic and cultural identity of indigenous people- all indigenous peoples and organizations reaffirm the right to be distinct in culture, language and institutions, and to increase the value of their own technological, social and ideological practices.
* Equal political rights in relation to the state.
* The end of repression and violence, particularly that against the leaders, activists and followers of indigenous political organizations.
* The end of family planning programmes which have brought widespread sterilization of indigenous women and men.
* The rejection of tourism and folklore, meaning the end of commercialization of Indian music, dance and other art forms as well as other forms of cultural appropriation. Instead, respect for true indigenous cultural expressions.

These original six demands, as well as many others such as the rejection of capitalism and neoliberalism, have framed many of the Indian liberation struggles in the Americas over the last century, from sections of the Red Power movement (especially in Canada), to the Zapatistas in Mexico, to the work of Hugo Blanco and others in the Andean region of South America, to the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia, to the current struggles in Canada. There is also absolutely no reason that this form of Indigenism cannot be compatible with Marxism and struggles for socialism, and I am proud to call myself both a Marxist and an Indigenist.

However, the indigenism that Ward Churchill propagates has become, in certain circles, a curse word on the left implying that someone seeks a return to a primitivist life-style, or at least a certain level of deindustrialization. This is also not far off of what Churchill, Means and others seek. However, the simple fact is that true Indigenism, not the vaguely disguised primitivism of Means and Churchill, it is not something people on the revolutionary left should be afraid of, indeed it should embraced alongside the struggles against capitalism, racial/national oppression of blacks and latinos, patriarchy and homophobia/heterosexism, only then can a truly emancipatory struggle be waged.

Engels in the Struggle for Revolutionary Marxism

10863950_740781336029484_370634250122085282_o

D.Z. Manuilsky

Speech on the Fortieth Anniversary of the death of Friedrich Engels, delivered at the Seventh Congress of the Communist International, August 5, 1935

The Seventh World Congress of the Communist International was held in Moscow from July 25 to August 20, 1935.

Contents

I. Engels and His Role in the Creation of Scientific Socialism

II. Engels as Leader of the Proletariat and Master of Proletarian Tactics

III. We Continue the Work of Engels

Engels and His Role in the Creation of Scientific Socialism

Forty years ago occurred the death of Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx’s closest comrade-in-arms, one of the greatest revolutionary thinkers in human history, organizer and leader of the international proletarian party. The names of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels will forever remain in the memories of the peoples as the names of two great geniuses, of the creators of scientific socialism and the founders of the international Communist movement.

The revolutionary activities of Engels are inseparably bound up with the life and activities of Marx.

Forty years ago Lenin wrote:

“Ancient legends tell of various touching examples of friendship. The European proletariat may say that its science was created by two scholars and fighters whose relations surpass all the most touching tales of the ancients concerning human friendship.”*

* Lenin, Marx, Engels, Marxism, p. 40. International Publishers, New York.

The fortieth anniversary of the death of Engels which we are commemorating today coincides with the change that has occurred in the world labor movement, with the turn – caused by the influence of the victory of socialism in the U.S.S.R. and the very profound crisis of capitalism – which the broad masses of the Social-Democratic and non-party workers have taken towards Communism, and with the accelerated collapse of the Second International.

The victory of the proletariat in the U.S.S.R. and the growth of the Communist movement all over the world are the direct result of the fact that the Bolshevik Party, the international Party of Lenin and Stalin, has remained loyal to the end to the teachings of Marx and Engels.

The collapse of the Second International, the defeat and bankruptcy of its parties, are the historically inevitable consequences of their desertion from the doctrines of Marx and Engels, of their vulgarization and distortion of Marxism. Millions of toilers – gripped in the vise of the crisis, hanging on the gallows, incarcerated in fascist jails and lying in the trenches of the imperialist wars that are flaring up – are now paying dearly for this desertion.

The opportunists of all colors, of the Second International – Bernstein, Cunow, Kautsky, Vendervelde and others like them – accused Engels of all mortal sins and opposed Marx and Engels in their effort to “refute” both, their real object being to extract the revolutionary spirit from Marxism. It was not an accident, it was inevitable, and absolutely in keeping with the laws of development, that the revisionists in the Second International, who first fought precisely against Engels on all the fundamental questions of theory and practice, passed to the position of cooperation with the bourgeoisie and gradually slipped into the mire of reaction.

From the very outset of his revolutionary activities Engels, together with Marx, waged a fight to lay the foundations of and to develop scientific socialism in the sphere of economics and the social sciences, in the sphere of philosophy and natural sciences; he waged a struggle to permeate the minds of the proletarian masses with revolutionary Marxism as widely as possible.

In the struggle against the German “true socialists”, those sentimental “high priests of human justice and right”, those pompous prophets of “class peace” and “peace among the peoples” in capitalist society, those pseudo-pacifists and supine humanitarians, Engels imbued the proletarian masses with ruthless hatred for the class enemy, called for the complete rupture with him and his ideological lackeys, the priests, the lawyers and the parliamentarians.

Engels fought furiously against the Lassalleans, the “royal Prussian socialists” who licked the jackboots of Bismarck, and their “state superstition”, their idealistic prejudices and loud talk about “general human rights”, and their “iron law of wages” which denied the necessity of independent economic struggle and independent industrial organization of the working class. Upholding and popularizing Marx’s political economy and emphasizing the inseparable connection that exists between the economic and political struggle of the proletariat, Engels exposed the reformist nature of Lassalleanism, its adaptation to the Junker-bourgeois state, its betrayal of the proletarian revolution.

In opposition to Proudhonism and Bakuninism, these two petty-bourgeois reactionary, utopian, anarchist trends in the labor movement, which for the mass revolutionary struggle substituted sonorous phrases about “mutual aid by means of peaceful cooperation”, “the equality of classes”, “the destruction of all states”, Engels urged the necessity of a political party of the proletariat, of a political struggle for the dictatorship of the working class.

In the struggle against all pseudo-Socialist and pseudo-revolutionary theories, Engels, on the basis of Marx’s analysis of the economic relationships of bourgeois society, proved the inevitability of the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the world historical role of the proletariat as the grave-digger of capitalism and the creator of the new socialist system. Together with Marx, Engels proved that the class struggle must lead to the dictatorship of the proletariat as the state of the transition period from capitalism to communism, that without the leadership of its own independent political party the proletariat cannot achieve victory in this struggle.

Engels combined a genuinely scientific analysis that penetrated the very “core” of historical phenomena, of economic and political processes, with the burning passion of a leader and teacher of the proletariat who called upon the masses of the workers to enter the revolutionary struggle. Scientific socialism illuminates the whole past, present and future of human society, it shows the proletariat what the exploited and enslaved classes were before it, what it is itself, and what it must become. Hence, Engels taught the workers: act in accordance with this revolutionary theory, fight for the proletarian dictatorship, and your emancipation will mean the emancipation of all humanity, the end of all exploitation, oppression and violence!

This idea of the unity of revolutionary theory and revolutionary action runs like a red thread through all Engels’ scientific works, through all his polemical articles and his party directives.

In the sphere of political economy Engels formulated the inevitable law of all exploiting societies, that:

“All progress in production is simultaneously regression in the position of the oppressed class, i.e., of the overwhelming majority. All good for some is simultaneously evil for others; every new emancipation of one class means the new enslavement of other classes.” *

* Engels, Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, Chapter IX.

This inherent contradiction of exploiting society finds most striking expression under capitalism. The living vehicle of this contradiction is the proletariat, the class that is bereft of all means of production, and is, therefore, the most revolutionary class among all the exploited classes that history has ever known. Engels said:

“By more and more transforming the great majority of the population into proletarians, the capitalist mode of production brings into being the force which, under penalty of its own destruction, is compelled to carry out this revolution.”*

* Engels, Herr Eugen Duehring’s Revolution in Science (Anti-Duehring), p. 314. International Publishers, New York.

In one of his earliest works Engels depicts the conditions of the working class under capitalism in a manner that is amazing for its stern veracity. Over ninety years have passed since that work was written. Read this description to any worker in any capitalist country; he will see himself and the fate to which capitalism dooms him as if reflected in a mirror.

“When one individual inflicts bodily injury upon another, such injury that death results, we call the deed manslaughter; when the assailant knew in advance that the injury would be fatal, we call this deed murder. But when society places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet; when it deprives thousands of the necessaries of life, places them under conditions in which they cannot live – forces them, through the strong arm of the law, to remain in such conditions until that death ensues which is the inevitable consequence – knows that these thousands of victims must perish, and yet permits these conditions to remain, its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual; disguised, malicious murder, murder against which none can defend himself, which does not seem what it is, because no man sees the murderer, because the death of the victim seems a natural one. …” *

* Engels, Conditions of the Working Class in England in 1844, Chap. V.

Under capitalism, tools, machines and the land confront the worker as an alien and hostile force. The supreme manifestation of this antagonism is the periodical crises which shake the exploiting system to its foundations and reveal to the ruling classes their inability to govern with the aid of the forces which they themselves called into being, forces which rage like blind elements over the whole of mankind, devastate flourishing countries, towns and villages and doom millions of people to degeneration.

Engels showed that the development of the proletariat, whose conditions of life impel it towards the social revolution, and the development of the productive forces, which have outgrown the framework of capitalist society, must inevitably burst this framework, must lead to the social revolution.

In this connection Marx and Engels advanced the “immediate ultimate aim” of overthrowing the power of the bourgeoisie and of establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is the core of Marxism.

In the struggle for revolutionary Marxism, Engels with the utmost clarity worked out the problem of the interaction between economics and politics throughout the history of social development; and on this basis he worked out the problem of the nature of the state of the exploiting classes. In a brilliant sketch he also depicted the general contours of socialist construction.

Engels’ profound analysis embracing the whole of so-called “civilization”, i.e., of the history of the exploiting classes and their states, leads to the conclusion that the disappearance of classes and of the state is as necessary historically as have been their rise and development up till now. Engels wrote:

“We are now rapidly approaching the stage of development of production in which the existence of classes has not only ceased to be necessary, but has actually become a hindrance to production.” *

* Engels, Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, Chapter IX.

We know what a furious howl, what frenzy and rage this proposition of Marxism that classes and the state must inevitably disappear called forth and still calls forth among all the paid advocates of the bourgeois system and bourgeois property, and how idiotically all the Bernsteins and Kautskys, who regard the slightly varnished and slightly reformed bourgeois state as the highest achievement of human progress, have failed to understand it.

In his struggle against the Social-Democratic opportunists and against the anarchists, Engels put in the forefront the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat and, in particular, the question of the radical difference between the exploiters’ state and the proletarian state. The revolutionary Marxian doctrine of the state and revolution and, in particular, Engels’ remarkable sketches on the question of proletarian democracy as opposed to bourgeois democracy, have been brilliantly developed in the works of Lenin and Stalin.

What irrefutable confirmation of the correctness of the Marxist-Leninist doctrine of the state as the organ of the exploiting classes for the purpose of keeping the exploited classes in subjection is obtained precisely at the present time, in the midst of the advance of reaction and fascism in the capitalist countries! How shamefully the lying tales of the Social-Democratic philistines about the state “expressing the common interests of the people”, conciliating the interests of antagonistic classes, and standing above those classes, have been scattered to the winds! And what confirmation is obtained today, particularly in fascist countries, of what Engels said about the state being the armed forces: the police, the army, the prisons and the courts. The fascist landknechts of finance capital, the Gestapo, Hitler’s and Goering’s defense corps, the fascist dungeons, the concentration camps and the scaffold – all these reveal the very nature of the exploiters’ state, which has thrown off the tinsel of bourgeois democracy, which is trampling upon the last remnants of the democratic rights and liberties won by the toilers by long years of sanguinary struggle. And in the face of these inexorable facts, what will those say today who, debasing and distorting Marxism, repudiated the path of the proletarian revolution, and, in conjunction with Noske and Severing, defended the bourgeois state against the attacks of the revolutionary masses?

Opposing the dictatorship of the proletariat to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, Marx and Engels fought all their lives for the creation of a party that could lead the masses to the seizure of power and the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship. After the Paris Commune all Engels’ utterances on the question of the immediate and urgent tasks of the proletariat in the socialist revolution were directed towards one point, viz., to utilize the experience of the Paris Commune, which was to lie at the basis of the program of the new mass parties of the proletariat. Not long before his death, on the twentieth anniversary of the Paris Commune, Engels wrote:

“Of late the Social-Democratic philistine has once more been filled with wholesome terror at the words dictatorship of the proletariat. Well and good, gentlemen, do you want to know what this dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the dictatorship of the proletariat.” *

* Engels’ “Introduction” to The Civil War in France, p. 19. International Publisher!, New York.

The Bolshevik Party alone, as far back as 1903, included the demand for the dictatorship of the proletariat in its program. After quoting what Marx and Engels had said on the experience of the Paris Commune, Lenin, in 1917, wrote:

“In revising the program of our Party the advice of Engels and Marx absolutely must be taken into consideration in order to come nearer to the truth, to re-establish Marxism, to purge it of distortions, to direct more correctly the struggle of the working class for its liberation.” *

* Lenin: State and Revolution, p. 55. International Publishers, New York.

The Bolsheviks alone, led by Lenin and Stalin, supplementing the rich experience of the Paris Commune with the experience of two Russian revolutions, put forward the creation of a state of the “Commune type” as the immediate aim of the proletarian revolution, and succeeded in leading vast masses of the proletariat and of the poorest peasants towards breaking up the bourgeois state and establishing the proletarian dictatorship in the form of Soviets.

Engels said that the class struggle of the proletariat would assume its widest dimensions when the proletariat captured power and, by means of its dictatorship, set to work radically to remold all productive relationships.

Today, on one-sixth of the globe, in irreconcilable revolutionary struggle, in the great laboratory of socialist labor and thought, under the leadership of Lenin and Stalin, creative Marxism has been day after day assuming its world historical dimensions. The victorious proletariat is making the epoch in which Engels said:

“The proletariat seizes the public power, and by means of this transforms the socialized means of production, slipping from the hands of the bourgeoisie, into public property. By this act, the proletariat frees the means of production from the character of capital they have thus far borne, and gives their socialized character complete freedom to work itself out. Socialized production upon a predetermined plan becomes henceforth possible.”*

* Engels, Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, pp. 74-75. International Publishers, New York.

The Bolsheviks have done that. They have expropriated the capitalists and landlords, removed the shackles of capital from material productive forces and from the greatest creative force in history, the proletariat, and in place of capitalist anarchy established the socialist plan.

Engels wrote:

“The appropriation by society of the means of production will put an end not only to the artificial restraints on production which exist today, but also to the positive waste and destruction of productive forces and products which is now the inevitable accompaniment of production and reaches its zenith in crises. Further, it sets free for society as a whole a mass of means of production and products by putting an end to the senseless luxury and extravagance of the present ruling class and its political representatives.”*

* Engels, Herr Eugen Duehring’s Revolution in Science (Anti-Duehring), p. 317. International Publishers, New York.

The Bolsheviks have done that. As a result of the socialist reconstruction of national economy, crises and unemployment have been abolished forever in the land of the victorious proletariat; the exploiting, parasitic classes have been liquidated and there is no place for the senseless waste of products. The socialist system has undivided sway in the country.

Engels spoke of a system of organization of production under which no one will be able to throw on the shoulders of others his share in productive labor and in which, on the other hand, productive labor, instead of being a means to the subjection of men, will become a means to their emancipation.*

* Ibid., pp. 328-29.

The Bolsheviks have done that. Instead of a curse, as it was under capitalism, labor in the land of socialism has become a matter of honor, glory and heroism; in the great school of socialist competition new forms of collective labor are arising.

The Bolsheviks are putting into practice the brilliant sketches of Marx and Engels on the necessity of abolishing the antithesis between town and country, on the planned distribution of the productive forces, of creating the prerequisites for the all-sided, mental and physical development of men and women. But the Party and non-Party Bolsheviks are putting these amazingly prophetic sketches into practice concretely, enriching them with the creative ideas of the most brilliant minds of modern times, of Lenin and Stalin – and they are filling them with the living experience of the revolutionary experience of the masses.

Engels said that those whose mission it will be to raze exploiting society to the ground and to erect classless, socialist society will possess exceptional power of theoretical foresight and iron will.

It was our Party, the Party of the Bolsheviks led by Lenin and Stalin, that Engels with his penetrating eye saw through the veil of the ensuing decades! He spoke of those millions who have built socialism in the land of the proletarian dictatorship. It signifies the entry in the historical arena of those who will achieve the great goal outlined by Marx and Engels all over the globe.

II

 

Engels as Leader of the Proletariat and Master of Proletarian Tactics

Engels was not only the great theoretician of the proletariat. Like Marx, he was primarily a revolutionary. As was the case with Marx, Engels’ real element was first of all the struggle – the persistent, consistent and passionate struggle for Communism.

The first half of the ‘forties. Young Engels spreads his wings. He abandons the Christian-Prussian philistine environment and beats a path for himself towards proletarian socialism. He meets Marx, with whom he concludes a fighting alliance – the great bond of union between the two geniuses of proletarian Communism. Together they organize and lead the Communist League; together they draw up the famous Manifesto of the Communist Party, the first program document of international Communism.

The revolution of 1848. Engels is one of the editors of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in which, in conjunction with Marx, he supports the extreme Left wing of Democracy, ruthlessly exposing its vacillations, and championing the special interests of the proletariat in the bourgeois revolution.

The ‘sixties. The first international proletarian party – the First International – takes shape, and in its work Engels, in conjunction with Marx, takes a most active part. In the First International the doctrine of Marx and Engels secures decisive victory over all its opponents.

The Paris Commune ushers in a new epoch in the history of mankind. New tasks arise; the transition to the creation in separate countries of mass proletarian parties, on the development of which Engels exercises decisive influence.

As far back as 1846, Engels, then only twenty-six years of age, formulated the tasks of the Communists with astonishing distinctness:

“(1) To achieve the interests of the proletariat in opposition to those of the bourgeoisie; (2) To do this through the abolition of private property and its replacement by community of goods; (3) To recognize no means of carrying out these objects other than a democratic revolution by force.” *

* The Correspondence of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, p. 2. International Publishers, New York.

Many years later Engels said:

“We want the destruction of classes. What are the means of securing this? The political domination of the proletariat…. But the highest act of politics is revolution. Those who recognize this must strive towards such means and political actions as will prepare the revolution, such as educate the workers for revolution, and without which the workers will always be tricked by the Favres* and Pyats** the day after the battle. The policy which should be followed is a workers’ policy. A party must be formed not as an appendage to some bourgeois parties, but as an independent party with its own aim, its own policy.” ***

* Jules Favre, French bourgeois republican lawyer, became a minister after September 4, 1870; Thiers’ right hand in suppressing the Paris Commune.
** Felix Pyat, French petty-bourgeois radical.
*** From Engels’ speech at the London Conference of the First International. See The Communist International, No. 21, Nov., 1934, p. 812.

And it was to these aims that Engels devoted his half century of struggle.

Engels’ distinguishing traits as a politician of the working class were distinctly formulated by Lenin as follows:

“… A most profound understanding of the fundamental revolutionary aims of the proletariat, and an unusually flexible definition of a given problem of tactics, from the point of view of these revolutionary aims, and without the slightest concession to opportunism and revolutionary phraseology.” *

* Lenin, Marx, Engels, Marxism, pp. 44-45. International Publishers, New York.

I now want to deal in detail with Engels as the master of proletarian tactics. Our Parties, the leaders of our Sections, can learn something from the brilliant examples of the art of tactics given by the great proletarian captain.

Of the rich treasury of tactical propositions which Engels worked out and applied in the course of his practical activities I will deal with only a few which directly concern the central task, of the Seventh Congress, viz., the task of preparing and organizing the working class and all the toilers for the decisive battles. There were not a few people in Engels’ time, and there are not a few today, who conceive of the proletarian revolution not dialectically, but mechanically. They argue that the class conscious, consistent, “pure” revolutionaries were in one camp, while the other camp was one reactionary mass: that there can be no changes in the relations of class forces, for all classes have once and for all adopted their prescribed positions in the revolutionary scheme; there are no vacillating intermediate strata, for all have been entered beforehand in the category of reaction; there is no vanguard and reserves, for all represent one revolutionary mass; there are no masses who are only just approaching revolution, for all have been, beforehand, included in the camp of the revolutionary vanguard; there are no stages in the development of the revolutionary struggle, for in some enigmatic way, the masses have been transferred to the supreme class “of the last and decisive battle”; the revolutionary party need not carry on everyday work to enlighten and prepare the masses for the struggle, for the masses are only waiting for the signal to rush into battle under the leadership of the arch-revolutionary leaders; organizational preparation for the purpose of accelerating the growth of the movement is superfluous, they say, because the spontaneity of the movement itself is working in our favor. This is the type of people Engels had in mind when he ridiculed the following scheme of development of the revolution:

“All the official parties united in one lump here, all the Socialists in one column there – great decisive battle. Victory all along the line at one blow. In real life things do not happen so simply. In real life… the revolution begins the other way round, by the great majority of the people and also of the official parties massing themselves together against the government, which is thereby isolated, and overthrowing it; and it is only after those of the official parties whose existence is still possible have mutually and successfully accomplished one another’s destruction that the great division takes place and with it the prospect of our rule. If… we wanted to start straight off with the final act of the revolution, we should be in a miserably bad way.” *

* The Correspondence of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, p. 401. International Publishers, New York.

This brilliant proposition of Engels on the progress and development of the revolution was still more strikingly and fully developed by Lenin more than thirty years later. He wrote:

“To imagine that social revolution is conceivable without revolts by small nations in the colonies and in Europe, without the revolutionary outbursts of a section of the petty bourgeoisie with all its prejudices, without the movement of non-class-conscious proletarian and semi-proletarian masses against the oppression of the landlords, the church, the monarchy, the foreign nations, etc. – to imagine that means repudiating social revolution. Only those who imagine that in one place an army will line up and say, ‘We are for socialism’, and in another place another army will say, ‘We are for imperialism’, and that this will be the social revolution…

“Whoever expects a ‘pure’ social revolution will never live to see it. Such a person pays lip service to revolution without understanding what revolution is.” *

* Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. V, p. 303. International Publishers, New York.

Further on he says:

“The socialist revolution in Europe cannot be anything else than an outburst of mass struggle on the part of all and sundry of the oppressed and discontented elements. Sections of the petty bourgeoisie and of the backward workers will inevitably participate in it – without such participation, mass struggle is impossible, without it no revolution is possible – and just as inevitably will they bring into the movement their prejudices, their reactionary fantasies, their weaknesses and errors. But objectively they will attack capital, and the class-conscious vanguard of the revolution, the advanced proletariat, expressing this objective truth of a heterogeneous and discordant, motley and outwardly incohesive, mass struggle, will be able to unite and direct it, to capture power, to seize the banks, to expropriate the trusts (hated by all, though for different reasons) and introduce other dictatorial measures which in their totality will amount to the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the victory of socialism, which, however, will by no means immediately ‘purge’ itself of petty bourgeois slag.” *

* Ibid., p. 304.

These remarkably profound words of Engels and Lenin contain the fundamental elements of the reply to the question of how we today can successfully fight against the offensive of capital, of fascism and the menace of war. They indicate the necessity of the proletarian party having a correct policy towards the masses of its own class and towards its allies and they indicate the task of creating a broad people’s front of struggle, the need for and the ability to take advantage of international antagonisms for the purpose of strengthening the position of the proletariat. All our experience have more than once confirmed the fact that the party which starts out with vulgarized and naive conceptions of revolution is incapable of playing the part of organizer and leader of the revolution. There is nothing more dangerous for a live and fighting party than a readymade, invented and lifeless formula, for it conceals all the living and motley variety of the conditions and forms of struggle.

It is wrong to think that the revolution will develop along a straight line like the flight of an arrow, that no hitches or interruptions, and retreats for the purpose of leaping further forward will occur in the maturing revolutionary process. It is wrong to think that the tactics of the revolutionary party should be based not on the relation of class forces that exist, but on relations as we would like them to be. It is wrong to think that in the process of preparing for revolution as well as in the process of its development it is sufficient for the proletarian party to rely entirely upon the forces of the vanguard and that there is no need to rely on the majority of the working class. It is wrong to think that by ignoring other class forces and by refraining from trying to win over the vacillating classes to the side of the revolution, at least temporarily, the proletarian party can create the clear situation of “class against class”. It is wrong to think that it is possible to prepare for the revolution and to bring it about without taking advantage of the antagonisms within the camp of the enemy, without temporary, partial compromises with other classes and groups which are becoming revolutionary, and their political organizations.

In 1889, in a letter to the Danish Socialist Trier, Engels recommends that other parties be utilized in the interests of the working class, that,

“…Other parties and measures should be temporarily supported which are either of direct advantage to the proletariat, or which represent a step forward in the direction of economic development or of political liberty….”

“But,” Engels adds, “I am in favor of this only if the advantage accruing directly for us, or for the historical development of the country along the path of economic and political revolution, is unquestionable and is worth-while striving after. Another obligatory condition is that the proletarian class character of the Party shall not thereby be brought into question. That for me is the absolute limit.” * (My italics – D.Z.M.)

* Bolshevik, No. 21, 1932, p. 84.

Strengthening the class character of the party, raising the class consciousness of the proletariat, raising its fighting capacity, strengthening its positions, weakening the position of the class enemy – such are the criteria which Engels regarded as essential in deciding the question of whether this or that compromise was permissible.

These tactics are profoundly hostile to the policy of class cooperation between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie pursued by international Social-Democracy, for that policy robbed the party of its class character, it strengthened the position of the bourgeoisie and weakened and demoralized the proletariat. These revolutionary tactics have nothing in common with the policy of the “lesser evil”, with voting for Hindenburg, with forming a bloc with Bruening; for, in pursuing the policy of the “lesser evil”, Social-Democracy surrendered to the bourgeoisie one proletarian position after the other, it paved the way for fascism, and prepared for the defeat of the proletariat.

Thirty years later, Lenin enlarged on this idea of Engels on the basis of the experience of the three Russian revolutions, and taught the young Communist Parties flexible and mobile tactics that would enable them to overcome their “Left-wing” sickness and to take up the struggle for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie in a really Bolshevik manner. He wrote:

“To carry on a war for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie, which is a hundred times more difficult, prolonged and complicated than the most stubborn of ordinary wars between states, and to refuse beforehand to maneuver, to utilize the conflict of interests (even though temporary) among one’s enemies, to refuse to temporize and compromise with possible (even though transient, unstable, vacillating and conditional) allies – is not this ridiculous in the extreme?… It is possible to conquer this most powerful enemy only by exerting our efforts to the utmost and by necessarily, thoroughly, carefully, attentively and skilfully taking advantage of every ‘fissure’, however small, in the ranks of our enemies, of every antagonism of interests among the bourgeoisie of the various countries, among the various groups or types of bourgeoisie in the various countries; by taking advantage of every opportunity, however small, of gaining an ally among the masses, even though this ally be temporary, vacillating, unstable, unreliable and conditional. Those who do not understand this do not understand even a grain of Marxism and of scientific modern socialism in general.” *

* Lenin, “Left-Wing” Communism, an Infantile Disorder, p 52. International Publishers, New York.

Comrades, if you ponder over these words of Engels and Lenin as applied to our epoch, to the policy which our Congress is now indicating for the ensuing period, you will understand that these tactics, tested by the experience of the whole of the world labor movement during many decades, now create for the Communist International, for all its Sections, great opportunities for emerging out of the agitational-propaganda period of our development and for becoming mighty factors in the whole of contemporary political life in the various countries and throughout the world. But it is precisely because we are now entering the broad road of great mass policy, because we are preparing to count, not in hundreds of thousands, but in millions, because we are beginning to bring under our influence those strata which only yesterday were in the ranks of Social-Democracy, or else were outside of politics altogether, because of this, the Sections of the Comintern must be particularly alert to possible Right and opportunist distortions of our mass policy, distortions which will retard the growth of our influence among the masses and the growth of the fighting capacity of the proletariat, and thereby retard the maturing of the conditions for the proletarian revolution. And here we must once again turn to our teacher Engels and recall the struggle he waged against opportunism, the ruthless, untameable struggle to which he devoted half a century of his life as a political fighter.

Engels saw right through the petty bourgeois who in scores of different disguises tried to entrench himself in the labor movement, weakening it and disorganizing it. With unerring aim and inimitable sarcasm, Marx and Engels tore the mask from the face of this philistine; they exposed the philistine grimaces beneath the mask of free and easy geniality. This philistine has the right to commit any despicable act because he considers himself to be “honestly” despicable. Engels wrote:

“Even stupidity becomes a virtue because it is the irrefutable evidence of firmness of conviction. Every hidden motive is supported by the conviction of intrinsic honesty, and the more determinedly he plots some kind of deception or petty meanness, the more simple and frank does he appear to be.”

This philistine is a

“…drainpipe in which all the contradictions of philosophy, democracy and every description of phrasemongering are mixed up in a monstrous manner.” *

* Marx and Engels Archive, Book V, p. 329.

While upholding revolutionary Marxism, Engels fiercely attacked German reformists, the French Possibilists, the British Fabians and the Ultra-Lefts. At the same time, with exceptional firmness and patience, he criticized and corrected the opportunist mistakes of the leaders of the proletarian parties such as Wilhelm Liebknecht and Bebel, Lafargue and Guesde.

This tireless struggle against opportunism, and particularly against conciliation with opportunism, caused some of the leaders whom he attacked to dub Engels “the rudest man in Europe”. All of us should learn from Engels how to be passionately “rude” in the interests of the party, in the interests of the revolution.

No one was so eager to unite the vanguard of the working class in the ranks of a united workers’ party as Engels was. He wanted to do that as much as we want to do it today. But he knew and saw that unity not based on principles would weaken the working class. Of what use would a mass party be for the proletariat if it served as a lasso, dragging it into cooperation with the bourgeoisie? In 1882 he welcomed the split in the workers’ party in France from Mallone and Bruse who had abandoned the class struggle, had sacrificed the proletarian class character of the movement and had made a rupture inevitable.

“All the better,” he said. “Unity is an excellent thing as long as it is possible, but there are things that are more important than unity.”

I think it is necessary to recall these words of Engels precisely at the present time when here at this Congress we are holding aloft the banner of the political unity of the international working class.

Through the medium of Comrade Dimitroff’s report, the Congress has very strongly emphasized its will to fight for a united workers’ party in every country, for a united workers’ world party. But such a party can be created only on the basis of unity of principles and not on the basis of a putridbloc between petty-bourgeois and proletarian elements after the model of the Second International. We would remind the thousands, tens and hundreds of thousands of Social-Democratic workers who regard themselves as followers and disciples of Marx and Engels that we and they would be committing a crime against our class if we re-created that fictitious “unity” which led to the catastrophe of August 4, 1914, to the bloc between a section of the working class and the bourgeoisie, and which, in the last analysis, facilitated the victory of fascism. The working class does not need unity of this kind! We want the unity for which our teacher Friedrich Engels fought all his life; we shall exert every effort to achieve this unity, and we shall achieve it.

But this unity can be achieved only by a party which by its increasing activities wins the confidence of the masses, by a party which overcomes schematism and vulgarization in its approach to the mass movement. It is for such a party that Engels fought. He ruthlessly scourged passivity and inactivity as among the most pernicious forms of opportunism. In his correspondence with the workers’ leaders he tirelessly repeated: the Party must act under all circumstances. It must participate in the whole of the political life of the country and take advantage of every event in home and foreign politics for active intervention; it must be with the masses everywhere and always, at the opportune moment it must issue real fighting slogans that shall emanate from the masses themselves, and it must issue new ones as the movement grows. This is the main tactical rule for the proletarian party upon which Engels insisted.

The party which exists in the close and narrow circle of its immediate supporters, which stands outside of the things with which the people are concerned, which cannot clutch at the things that are exciting the masses at the given moment, which is unable to generalize the complaints and desires of the people in distinct, intelligible slogans, such a party cannot take the lead of mass movements.

Engels was particularly sharp in his attacks upon those who failed to be on the spot at decisive moments of the mass struggle. In this connection Engels quite openly said that the party which misses such a decisivemoment, which fails to intervene, will be dead and buried for some time.

Often, in practice, passivity and inactivity, masked by “Left” phrases, is concealed by playing at conspiracies, playing at exclusive underground organizations and degenerates into Carbonarism, which is alien to the spirit of the workers’ party. On the other hand, parliamentary cretinism, adaptation to bourgeoislegality at all costs, denying the significance of illegal forms of organization, and fear of violence also paralyze the fighting capacity of the working class.

Engels fought against the manifestations of both forms of passivity. He taught the proletarian parties to take every possible advantage of bourgeois legality for the purpose of gathering the forces of the working class, of preparing them for the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat and thereby transforming bourgeois legality into a weapon of the struggle against the bourgeoisie. He exposed the Bakunin-Blanquist conspiracy tactics, which the international police utilized against the workers’ organizations, and urged the need for particular vigilance in regard to spies and provocateurs who penetrated the workers’ organizations. At the same time he spared no blows against those Social-Democrats who, toadying to the government, declared that the workers’ party was not a party of revolutionary violence.

“To attack violence,” he wrote in indignation, “as something which is impermissible in itself, when we know that, in the final analysis, we shall achieve nothing without violence …” *

* Marx and Engels Archive, Vol. I (VI), p. 78.

Engels insisted that proletarian revolutionaries must be able to utilize all forms of struggle against the class enemy. Under the leadership of Lenin and Stalin the Bolshevik Party applied these tenets of Engels in the course of twenty-five years of enormous experience in combining legal with illegal forms of work which, as is known, lay at the basis of the organizational decisions of the Second Congress of the Communist International.

Have our Sections made the utmost use of these tenets? No, they have not. Many comrades are convinced that under the fascist terror there is no room for “legal” footholds, for open manifestations of the labor movement, for developing a broad mass struggle. But fascism is compelled to create a mass basis, to create its mass organizations, to resort to social demagogy. Hence, it is the duty of the Communists to penetrate the mass fascist organizations, to turn the fascist social demagogy against the fascist dictatorship and thus to undermine the mass basis of fascism. It will be impossible to force our way to the masses under these conditions unless we carry on daily and systematic work in the fascist mass organizations and unless we combine legal with illegal methods of work.

At the same time it is wrong to think that we do not need illegal organizations in those countries where the labor movement is legal. Victimization by employers in all countries compels us to establish secret nuclei in the factories illegally. The growth of the menace of fascism compels the “legal” Communist Parties to adopt measures in preparation for the possible transition to an illegal position in order to avoid repeating the mistake committed by the Italian and German Communist Parties. We must remember that the united front movement spontaneously “legalizes” the most hunted and persecuted Communist Parties, that the mass struggle brings the most deeply underground organizations to the surface.

One of the varieties of the schematism and vulgarization against which Engels fought is the mechanical application of fundamental, tactical propositions without taking into consideration the specific conditions prevailing in each separate country.

We are the world party of the proletariat, the party built on the basis of genuine political and organizational unity, a party which sums up and generalizes the whole experience of the world labor movement, a party which pursues genuinely international tactics based on the unity of interests of the international proletariat. But these international tactics do not preclude variations created by the specific features of development of individual countries. The internationalization of the experience of the world labor movement does not mean making stereotypes equally applicable to the labor movement in all countries. Those who think that it is sufficient to have a few ready-made formulae in one’s pocket to apply to the whole world labor movement, do not internationalize the labor movement, but freeze it and hinder its development.

Engels was a classic example of the genuine international leader who knew to perfection the secret of properly combining the international character of our Communist movement with the ability to take into account its specific national features. He was closely connected with the German labor movement; he was excellently informed of all the details of the French labor movement; from 1844 onwards he took a most active part in the struggles of the British proletariat; he made a deep study of the American labor movement (he himself traveled across the ocean); he was exceptionally well informed about the conditions and progress of the proletarian struggle in Italy and in the Pyrenees; he was greatly interested in the revolutionary movement in Russia, the West Slav and the South Slav countries.

It is precisely this profound knowledge of the conditions in separate countries that enabled Engels properly to lead the workers’ parties in these countries, and to be a genuine leader and organizer of the proletarian International.

“The emancipation of the Italian peasant,” he wrote to Bovio, “will not take place in the form in which the emancipation of the English factory workers will be brought about; but the more both utilize the forms corresponding to their respective conditions, the more will things correspond to the substance of the matter.”

Such are Engels’ main tactical tenets in the light of our great epoch, in the light of the tasks that confront our Congress.

Engels taught us, in defining our tactics, to approach the vital revolutionary processes in the lives of the peoples not with cut-and-dried schemes, not with ready-made scales, but on the basis of a profound study of the disposition of class forces in every single country at every given moment. He taught us to take into consideration the position of each separate class, of each of its groups, to study the sum total of all class antagonisms and methods by which the proletariat may take advantage of them, and unfailingly to bear in mind the international situation as a whole.

Engels taught us to be a fighting, active party, both when the tide of the labor movement is in flood and when it is temporarily at ebb, and to be able to find that special question which deeply concerns the masses and enables the Party to extend and strengthen its contacts with the working class and all other toilers. He taught us to join a movement not only after it has started, but to prepare it, to organize it and, by winning the confidence of the masses, to lead it. He urged us to respond to every event that excites the masses, to develop great movements into decisive battles and thereby transform the Party into a force that will gain prestige among all the toilers and increase their confidence in their own strength.

Engels taught us not to become conceited at the moment of victory and not to lose heart at the moment of temporary defeat. He taught us not to be afraid to start from the beginning if we are defeated, but to start with the firm conviction that we must achieve victory at the second attempt.

Engels taught us to pursue a mass policy that corresponds to the vital interests of the broadest masses of the toilers, that helps to rally the masses of the peasants and the toilers in the towns around the proletariat. In the present situation this means, first of all, the establishment of a people’s front against fascism in capitalist countries, and a front of the peoples against war in the international arena.

Engels taught us to make a sober estimate of the situation, not to rush ahead before the masses have been drawn into the movement, but at the same time not to drag at the tail of these masses; not to adapt our tactics to the most backward sections of them; to be able by means of determined and rapid action to sweep these masses forward, consolidate every success of the movement and take that success as the starting point for fresh successes.

Engels taught us to fight for every inch of ground won by the working class, to take advantage of every antagonism in the camp of the enemy, never to sacrifice the class character of the Party and the aim of strengthening the proletariat, to be in all the organizations in which the masses of the workers are to be found, and to utilize illegal and legal forms of struggle, which, in the present conditions, means strengthening the illegal organizations by extending their legal influence among the masses and extending this influence by strengthening the illegal organizations.

We are living and fighting in an incomparably more complicated situation than that which existed in Engels’ time. But Engels’ rich tactical legacy still retains its significance in this new situation. The Communists will utilize this legacy for a long time to come yet, and they will apply the tenets of Engels in a Bolshevik manner.

Does this mean that these tenets are sufficient for the purpose of determining our tactics? Of course not. Owing to historical conditions, Engels, like Marx, was unable, and did not create a complete science of the strategy and tactics of the revolutionary proletariat. But at the basis of this science created by the genius of Lenin and Stalin lie the remarkable ideas of strategy and tactics which the great founders of Communism had developed and applied to the utmost extent they were able to.

III

We Continue the Work of Engels

We communists are the continuers of Engels’ work.

The great and invincible strength of the revolutionary doctrines he and Marx created lies in that it lives and develops together with the fighting proletariat, that it is becoming enriched with its new experiences and sharpened in the struggle against its enemies.

The leaders of the Second International proved incapable of developing Marxism further. They did not accept it as the doctrine of Marx and Engels, as a guide to the revolutionary action of the proletariat, as the doctrine of the necessity of preparing the masses for the violent overthrow of the rule of the bourgeoisie, for the abolition of classes in general. Some of the leaders of the Second International revised Marxism, “supplemented” it with the assertion that the development of capitalism is not accompanied by the intensification of class antagonisms, but, on the contrary, by their diminution. Others, while admitting the correctness of the fundamental propositions of Marxism in words, transformed these propositions into a dogma which justified conciliation with the realities of capitalism, justified support of reformist practices. These people called themselves Marxists; but they mutilated Marxism, vulgarized and extracted from it its revolutionary substance. In this way the theory and practice of the Second International more and more reproduced all the vulgar, petty-bourgeois wisdom against which Engels fought all his life. The leaders and ideologists of the Second International are not the continuers of the work of Engels, but of the work of his enemies.

Engels departed from us in the middle of the ‘nineties. This was exactly the time when Lenin – whose name has become a guiding star for the whole of the international proletariat – started his revolutionary work.

Marx and Engels lived, worked and fought in the pre-monopolist epoch of capitalism, when, in the main, the development of bourgeois society was proceeding in an ascending line, in the epoch of national wars and the consummation of the bourgeois revolutions in Western Europe, in the epoch when England still possessed world commercial and industrial supremacy and when the German proletariat was still the vanguard of the world proletariat, in the epoch when the labor movement was only just taking shape as an independent political movement and when proletarian parties were only just being formed. That epoch provided Marx and Engels with all the necessary elements with which to arm the proletariat with the mighty weapon of revolutionary theory.

But Marx and Engels never claimed to forecast the exact route of the proletarian revolution, they never prescribed precise tactical rules for it, or claimed to have answers for problems that were insoluble in the conditions of their epoch.

Engels, who had devoted brilliant pages to the development of socialism from utopia to a science, more than once poured ridicule on those who, departing from the soil of science, tried to say wise things about the “architectonics of future society”. More than once he wrote that he calmly left this to the “people of future society who at all events will not be more stupid than we are”.

Concerning Marx’s critique of capitalism Engels wrote that “the results of this critique also contain the embryo of so-called solutions, insofar as the latter are at all possible at the present time”. This, of course, also applies entirely to Engels’ own works. And these brilliant ideas, sketches, embryo, which the pedants and philistines of the Second International overlooked in their blindness, were further developed and transformed into a harmonious doctrine by the great Bolsheviks Lenin and Stalin.

Lenin did not regard Marxism is a dogma, but as a guide to revolutionary action. As far back as the end of the last century, in connection with the fight around the question of the Party program, Lenin wrote:

“We do not in the least regard Marxist theory as something complete and inviolable, on the contrary, we are convinced that it only laid the corner-stone of the science which the Socialists must advance further in all directions if they do not want to lag behind life.”

The gigantic growth of capitalist monopolies was already foretold in Capital. In Engels’ last works (for example in the sketch of his work on the Stock Exchange), attempts are already made to characterize a number of new phenomena in the economics of capitalism. But Engels died before he was able to bring out the specific features of the imperialist stage of capitalism that was already being ushered in in the ‘nineties.

Monopoly, decaying capitalism; the unprecedented intensification of all capitalist contradictions; the general crisis of capitalism, the starting point of which was the World War in 1914-18, and the victory of the October Revolution, which ushered in a new epoch in the history of mankind; socialist construction and the victory of socialism in the U.S.S.R. – these are the new factors which Engels was not and could not have been aware of, these are the new factors which the Marxist had to generalize theoretically and thereby arm the revolutionary proletariat for its future struggle.

In his interview with the American workers’ delegation, Stalin, in a few pages, gave a condensed characterization of the contribution which Lenin made to the treasury of Marxism. These few condensed pages ought to be read and re-read, they are equivalent to many volumes. In them Stalin gives a resume of the content of the Leninist stage in the development of Marxism: the analysis of imperialism as the last phase of capitalism; the further development of the core of Marxism, i.e., the doctrine of the proletarian dictatorship; the development of the question of the forms and methods of socialist construction in the period of the proletarian dictatorship; the creation of a harmonious system of the hegemony of the proletariat; the development of the national-colonial question as the question of the reserves of the proletarian revolution; the creation of the doctrine of the Party.

To Lenin belongs the merit of having defined the position of the Communists in imperialist wars, a position which he recorded in the slogan – transform the imperialist war into civil war. And this must be all the more emphasized for the reason that attempts have been made to make it appear that the founder of this slogan was Engels. This is not true, comrades, Engels rendered too many services to the world labor movement to make it necessary to ascribe to him what he never said. Engels did not live in the epoch of imperialism; he had to lay down the positions of international socialism principally in regard to national wars. Had the Bolsheviks approached the works of Engels of the ‘nineties in a dogmatic manner they would not have been able to develop the Marxian position on the question of imperialist wars in the way Lenin did. Lenin, and Lenin alone, gave what was the new in principle and the only correct line on the question of the character of imperialist war, aswell as on the question of the position the proletariat should adopt towards it. And it is precisely because we honor the memory of our great teacher Engels that we are opposed to his being transformed into an icon, that we are opposed to hushing up or glossing over, historical truth.

Lenin’s work, which raised Marxism to a new stage, is being continued in all directions by Stalin. In the works, speeches and all the activities of Stalin and of the international Bolshevik Party which he leads, the Marxist-Leninist theory of which Engels was one of the founders, lives, grows and is enriched.

Stalin developed Marxism in one of the fundamental questions of our epoch, in the question of building socialism in a single country. The Bolsheviks did not clutch atEngels’ old formulae which were suitable for a different stage, left behind long ago. Under the leadership of Stalin they utterly routed the Trotskyists and Zinovievists who tried to utilize these formulae against the proletarian revolution. Lenin showed that with uneven, spasmodic, capitalist development under the conditions of imperialism, the victory of socialism was possible in a single country. Stalin developed and upheld this theory and put it into practice.

At the Fifteenth Conference of the C.P.S.U. Stalin said:

“What Engels in the ‘forties of the last century, under the conditions of pre-monopolist capitalism, regarded as impracticable and impossible in a single country, became practicable and possible in our country under the conditions of imperialism. Of course, had Engels been alive today he would not have clung to the old formula. On the contrary, he would have greeted our revolution wholeheartedly and would have said: ‘To hell with the old formula, long live the victorious revolution in the U.S.S.R.'”

Neither in the Critique of the Gotha Program, nor in the works of Engels, nor in Lenin’s State and Revolution were the concrete problems of the first phase of Communism raised which Stalin raised and solved with the greatest boldness and profundity.

We began to build socialism in a poverty-stricken and ruined country which had inherited from the bourgeoisie a low technical economic level, in a country surrounded by capitalist states. Moreover, we began to build socialism for the first time in the history of mankind.

And Stalin, developing further the doctrine of Marx, Engels and Lenin, creatively put it into living practice; for the first time he concretely drew up a single and profoundly-thought-out plan for the socialist offensive in our country; he worked out the problem of socialist industrialization as a condition of victory for socialism in the U.S.S.R.; he worked out the problem of collective farming as the road to the socialist reformation of the peasantry under proletarian leadership; he worked out the problem of the stages and methods of abolishing the capitalist elements (from the policy of restricting these elements to the policy of liquidating the kulaks as a class); he worked out the problem of the organization of labor under the conditions of socialist construction and in the struggle against petty-bourgeois equalitarianism; he worked out the problem of the conditions for and ways of abolishing the survivals of capitalism in the minds of men and of building a new, socialist culture. Stalin showed that building socialism meant, first of all, strengthening the proletarian dictatorship; and that strengthening the proletarian dictatorship, and successes in socialist construction, cause proletarian democracy to come out in full bloom. And the Bolsheviks, led by Stalin, transformed all these theoretical propositions of Stalin into flesh and blood.

Such works and speeches of Stalin as his reports at Party Congresses, as his speech at the Conference of Marxian Agrarians, as his famous Six Conditions, as his new collective farm rules, as the changes in the Soviet Constitution he has proposed, as well as his speech on the new people who have mastered technique – in short, every pronouncement Stalin makes is not only a landmark on the road of socialist construction in the U.S.S.R., it is also a landmark in the enrichment and deepening of Marxist-Leninist theory. These works are the material from which the advanced workers of all countries have been and are acquiring their knowledge.

Stalin gives an example of the policy of the proletarian state which is building classless socialist society under the conditions of capitalist encirclement. Stalin works out the principles of the policy of the world proletarian party – the Communist International – amidst the conditions of the general crisis of capitalism and the struggle between two systems, i.e., capitalism and socialism. Basing himself on the experience of the Chinese Revolution, Stalin worked out the problem of the concrete paths by which the national revolutionary movements grow into the Soviet revolution.Stalin raised the doctrine of Marx, Engels, Lenin concerning the transition period from capitalism to socialism to a new stage.

Lenin and Stalin did not confine themselves to certain sketches of Marx and Engels on problems of strategy and tactics. In his Foundations of Leninism, the handbook of proletarian revolutionaries all over the world, Stalin wrote that only:

“…In the period of direct action by the proletariat, in the period of the proletarian revolution, when the question of the overthrow of the bourgeoisie became a question of immediate practice, when the question of the reserves of the proletariat (strategy), became one of the most burning questions, when all forms of struggle and of organization, parliamentary end extra-parliamentary (tactics), assumed definite shape – only in this period could a complete strategy and detailed tactics for the struggle of the proletariat be elaborated.” *

* Stalin, Leninism, Vol. I, p. 73, International Publishers, New York.

The merit of Lenin and Stalin lies in that they did not confine themselves to restoring certain tactical propositions of Marx and Engels, but developed them further and created the strategy and tactics of Leninism – the complete science of the leadership of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat.


Forty years have passed since the death of Friedrich Engels. What an enormously long path the world labor movement, the whole of mankind, has traversed during these years. In place of the old tsarist despotism we have the great country that is building socialism. The old Chinese Wall is collapsing; the four hundred million population of China has been set in motion. The banner of the Soviet revolution is flying over six provinces of China inhabited by a hundred million people. Influenced by the successes of socialism in the U.S.S.R., a powerful movement towards socialism is going on among the toilers all over the capitalist world. The bourgeoisie of the capitalist countries are devastating whole countries and cities, are re-opening the medieval dungeons for the enslaved peoples, are sowing a storm of hatred and anger among all the oppressed. The First International of Marx and Engels no longer exists and the Second International is crumbling like a piece of rotten fabric. But the men of labor are more and more closely rallying around the Third, Communist, International, the International of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin, the International of victorious socialism in the U.S.S.R., the International of the world proletarian revolution.

“I think,” wrote Engels in 1874, “that the next International – after Marx’s writings have had some years of influence – will be directly Communist and will openly proclaim our principles.”* (My italics – D.Z.M.)

* The Correspondence of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, p. 330, International Publishers, New York.

This Communist International is represented in this hall. It embraces over three score of countries, it has millions of adherents who are under the influence of the Communist Parties among all nations and races in all parts of the globe. The doctrine of Marx and Engels rules unchallenged over one-sixth of the globe, backed by a powerful state, by a socialist economy with wealth amounting to billions; it is backed by a country with a hundred and seventy million population. In all countries this doctrine is breaking the chains of the slaves in order that it may embrace the whole world.

Armed with this doctrine, the Communists, in spite of terror, torture and persecution, are organizing and rallying the proletarians, the toilers, the colonial slaves for the struggle, and are leading them to victory. The Communist International has become mankind’s guiding star and anchor of salvation from poverty, fascism and war.

Long live the Communist International, the great invincible Party of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin!

“Theses on Art” from the League of Socialist Artists

61UXDyZBecL

Introduction from Alliance for web presentation (Alliance 2000).

The “Theses on Art,” were put forward in 1972, by the “League of Socialist Artists”; and the “Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain (MLOB).”

The latter was the progenitor of the Communist League (CL).

This article was first re-printed by Alliance in hard copy with poems of Nazim Hikmet, as illustrated by the Socialist artist Maureen Scott, in issue number 8.

We have still not found a better and more concise and clear expression of Socialist aesthetics and thus offer this in web form.

It is preceded by short introductions to the First and the Second Editons.
After the “Theses,” is a short “Manifesto Of Socialist Arts.”

This, will form the first part of an on-going series on socialist aesthetics.

INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST EDITION

Of all spheres of Marxist-Leninist science, none has been so neglected, both by its classic founders and subsequent practitioners, as that of aesthetics. So far as the written heritage of Marx, Engels and Lenin is concerned, they were all to one degree or another compelled by the intensity of the struggle to concentrate their attention almost exclusively on problems more directly and closely relevant to the class struggle of the proletariat. In the case of J. V. Stalin an admittedly altogether larger contribution was made, but this again was restricted to certain fundamental theoretical questions largely concerned with the relationship between base and superstructure. (‘Marxism and Linguistics’)

The two names most closely associated with the development of Marxist aesthetics are, without doubt, Andrei Zhdanov and Georg Lukacs (Cf. Speech at the First All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers: A. Zhdanov; and Lukacs’ many works of theory and criticism, of which ‘The Historical Novel’ is perhaps the most important). As regards problems relating more generally to questions of reflective and effective content, it was Zhdanov who took the vitally important initiative, at a crucial moment in the history of the –Soviet Union and the CPSU(B), to combat various manifestations of schematic (mechanical or idealist distortions in the realisation of effective content) and formalism (abdication from the need to develop content through concentration on questions of form, not to illuminate and express an effective content, but for their own sake).

On the other hand, the work of Lukacs – so much lengthier, more complete and systematised than Zhdanov’s speeches – manifests certain tendencies towards over-estimating the value of classical critical realism in the literature of the bourgeoisie, and to evaluate these on an equal level with socialist realism to the detriment of the latter. Furthermore, since the collapse of the international communist movement to modern revisionism subsequent upon the death of J.V. Stalin, Lukacs has been at pains to repudiate his earlier correct, not to say pioneering, work and is now performing yeoman service on behalf of the right-revisionist centre in Moscow. This he is doing by denying in general any validity whatever of aesthetics as a science – thereby negating both his own earlier work and the objective growth and subjective need by the class conscious revolutionary proletariat wherever it may arise, of an art and Literature fully capable of expressing the world view and historical destiny of the proletariat as the prime mover of the socialist revolution.

The experience of past revolutionary movements of the proletariat – in particular in such developed monopoly capitalist countries as Germany, France, Britain and Italy before the rise of modern revisionism – reveals that, whereas revolutionary art may have been considered at that time as very much a secondary matter – as almost a luxury, in fact – today it has become a prime necessity to the building of any revolutionary proletarian mass movement in those countries. The tremendously intensified and wide-spread scale on which fetishistic, sensuously degraded and formalist art is being deployed for the purpose of achieving the more-or-less universal corruption of standards of judgment, sensitivity of emotional response and, ultimately, stultification of intellectual insight and capacity amongst ever more numerous sections of the working people, renders the task of neutralising this poison through the creation of an alternative organised network of centres of collective, proletarian cultural and artistic work of, by and for the class conscious revolutionary proletariat one of the fundamental prerequisites for the growth of the revolutionary mass movement, the mass base of the socialist revolution, to the necessary level of overwhelming superiority of forces which is indispensable if the vastly powerful and predatory state apparatus of monopoly capital is to be smashed and destroyed and the state of the democratic dictatorship of the working class is to achieve final victory. This work of revolutionary creativity and creation will form a vitally important part of the process of growth and the steady consolidation day by day of the structure and cohesive organisation of the revolutionary Red Front.

This great and growing regenerative cultural front, the inspirer and mobiliser of the working masses, the agency for their liberation from the soporific anodyne of culture-reaction, would enable workers and working people at all levels of class consciousness and militancy, each level through its appropriate forms, to contribute to the growth of the new proletarian-socialist culture which, like the socialist revolution itself, must and can only be born and grow strong out of that cleansing and purifying crucible of experience which is the bitter, steely hard, pitilessly uncompromising and all-demanding revolutionary class struggle which will surely arise and develop throughout the coming corporate-fascist era of capitalism, the eleventh hour of capitalism’s doom.

It is for all these reasons, of course, that the concealed representatives of monopoly capital posing within the ranks of the proletariat as “progressive artists,” at the head of which stand those hardened enemies of the working class and socialism, the modern revisionists and trotskyites, have obstructed the development of socialist aesthetics. In two recently published journals in particular – “Artery,” the journal of the revisionist Communist Party’s artists group, and “7 Days,” the latest essay in pop-kitsch produced by the businessmen of the “New Left” – have these reactionary tasks been taken up. Thus, in the October 1971 edition of “Artery,” we read, in an article by the revisionist “theoretician” Mike Steadman:

“Again, whilst the notion of Realism may be a very powerful tool in literary criticism, or in criticism of the visual arts, we are often guilty of quite grandiosely exterpolating and extending this analysis from one sort of art form, where it may be applicable, to other forms where it is not. Correspondingly, I believe that our all too frequent insistence that art is good art which most furthers the class struggle is another and related criterion which collapses before the same objection. My feeling is, that we have failed to develop a Marxist theory of art despite the fact of brilliant work by individual theoreticians in particular fields.” (‘Artery’, page 5).

By propagating this kind of liberal eclecticism, the treacherous revisionists attempt at one and the same time to “destroy” the unity of Marxist-Leninist theory and to give themselves the airs of “learned fools,” as Lenin once called this type of class traitor.

A little further we read:

‘The battle, the class struggle in art, is between the way in which industrial society alienates the human being and what we believe is to be the way in which we should struggle against this. That is, in raising as a political goal, raising in our daily lives, the need to expand, continuously, the art of a free creative labour.”(ibid; p 6).

So, in the place of the struggle to mobilise and build up the revolutionary consciousness of the proletariat stage by stage in preparation for the socialist revolution, we are presented with the misty goal of a mythical struggle –so fine-sounding in words, but devoid of any real class significance – to realise “free creative labour” even whilst capitalist production relations and the dictatorship of the capitalist class through its oppressive state apparatus still exist. The work of the co-partners of, revisionism in this counter-revolutionary task, the trotskyites, complements the encouragement of bourgeois dictatorship in the arts by advocating the “progressive” character of the distorted drug-orientated “underground culture” fanned by ‘capitalism and attacking the genuine struggle for a’ revolutionary culture.

In the coming final stage of growth of the proletarian-socialist revolution which lies ahead, both in the developed countries and on a world scale, the revolutionary proletariat will need its Gorkys, its Ostrovskys, its Anna Seghers. It is as a concise, simple and yet fully comprehensive theoretical guide to action in commencing upon the long and difficult tasks revealed in this guide that the Provisional Committee of the Union of Socialist Artists has prepared and published this outline of socialist principles of aesthetic science. Long and fruitfully may it serve all fighters for a revolutionary art underlying and illuminating the hard road to the victory of the proletarian-socialist revolution!

Provisional Committee,
LEAGUE OF SOCIALIST ARTISTS;
March 1972.

The LEAGUE OF SOCIALIST ARTISTS pledges themselves:

a) To work for socialism – a society based on the political power of the working people in which production is planned in their interests.

b) To work towards the development of a revolutionary art and to place that art at the service of the working people, in broad affiliation with the Red Front Movement and under the overall leadership of the Marxist–Leninist Organisation of Britain, in such a way that it functions as an inspiration and a weapon to them in the class struggle and in the emerging revolutionary movement to establish and maintain a socialist society.

Printed and published by the League of Socialist Artists.

INTRODUCTION TO THE SECOND EDITION

The appearance of a second and revised edition of the “Theses on Art” requires no lengthy comment. The fact that a first printing of 1,000 copies should have been exhausted in the relatively short space of 12 months alone provides a sufficient indication that the Theses are beginning to find their proper application as a theoretical guide to action for a small but growing number of worker-artists with a developing revolutionary-socialist consciousness and understanding, and who are anxious to place their talents at the service of the historic cause of the working class.

In this connection, it is perhaps not accidental that the publication of the Theses some eighteen months ago should have marked the beginning of a period in which the League of Socialist Artists has undergone a small but significant growth in the scope and quality of its tasks and activities. Typical of these have been the formation of the League of Socialist Artists Film Unit and the initiation of work to produce a series of propaganda films, and also the development of the poster workshop.

Apart from the exhaustion of available stocks and the correction of a few textual errors, the publication of a 2nd Edition has to a large degree been motivated by the need to re-formulate and extend the section on Beauty, in order to bring this hitherto highly esoteric – but in fact fundamentally important question more fully into line with the latest advances made in the infant science of dialectical-materialist revolutionary aesthetics. In particular, the all important psychological component in the formation of subjective responses to and appreciation of beauty – hitherto completely ignored by Marxist-Leninists – is now given its first clear, even if necessarily brief and sketchy outline. The important task of subjecting this germinal thesis to a complete theoretical elaboration in the light of the dialectical-materialist scientific method is one which must and will be taken up and developed further by students of scientific revolutionary aesthetics at the earliest moment consistent with the maintenance of essential priorities in the discharge of work and tasks.

Finally, the appearance of this 2nd Edition will, do doubt, give occasion for still louder and more frenetic accusations of “dogmatism,” “schematism,” “intellectual arrogance” and other allegedly anti-popular sins. That the Theses should have attracted their fair share of such attacks on the part of Trotskyite, Maoist and other disruptors and demagogues of petty-bourgeois class orientation was, of course, only to be expected, and of these there have been not a few, including one from an American Maoist (the subject of a forthcoming pamphlet) – the only one, incidentally, which summoned sufficient critical acumen and courage as to be expressed in written form – which condemns the Theses on the grounds that they attempt to “decide in words all questions of revolutionary aesthetics,” and that this allegedly “leaves the people out.” As Marxist-Leninists, as revolutionary proletarian-socialist artists we naturally treasure such attacks and savour them keenly – not, of course, because we ascribe the slightest objective validity to the ideas they propound, but because they provide us with a clear and reliable guide, by inverse example, that the League Of Socialist Artist cadres are working along fundamentally correct lines and in accordance with theoretical principles which are scientifically true.

However this may be, the experience of the period since the publication of the 1st Edition fully confirms the view that the “Theses” are proving their worth to those who comprehend the role of scientific Marxist-Leninist theory in the task of solving the vastly intricate and many-sided problems associated with the further growth and widespread dissemination of art-works and their corresponding art-forms capable of expressing, in all their conflict-ridden richness and complexity, the life and struggles of the working class in general and the proletarian-socialist revolutionary movement in particular. If we of the League of Socialist Artists have at least made a beginning in working out these essential theoretical principles of scientific revolutionary aesthetics, principles which can then assist tens, later hundreds and ultimately thousands of worker-artists with a proletarian-socialist consciousness and allegiance to master the media in which they work and to fashion them into works of socialist realism, in all art-forms, sufficiently truthful and insighted in content and powerful and sensitive in form as to arouse the respect and deepen the under-standing of at least, under present conditions, the most advanced class-conscious workers, we shall feel justified in the belief that our work has made a small but valuable contribution to the long and difficult task of mobilising and building the philosophically and politically conscious proletarian revolutionary movement and its scientific socialist-Leninist vanguard party.

Provisional Committee, LEAGUE OF SOCIALIST ARTISTS,
September 1973

THESES ON ART

ART

Art is a form of production in which the producer (the artist) endeavours to create, through its product (the work of art), certain thoughts and feelings in the minds of consumers (those who see, hear, read etc. his work of art).

In the words of J.V. Stalin:

“The artist is the engineer of the human soul.”

Clearly, it cannot be a matter of indifference to Socialists what kind of thoughts and feelings works of art create – whether they tend, objectively, to help forward the working class in its historical task of destroying the capitalist state in a socialist revolution, of establishing its own political power and of proceeding to construct a Socialist society; or whether they tend, objectively, to hold back the working class from these fundamental tasks.

SUBJECT

The subject of a work of art is simply what it is about – sunflowers, the Marriage of Figaro, Paradise Lost, the Spartacist uprising in Berlin, the construction of the Dnieper dam.

CONTENT

The content of a work of art is the character imparted to its subject. by the artist, a character which reflects the artist’s intellectual and emotional – in short, psychological – attitude towards his subject.

The content of a work of art comprises two inter-related components:
1) the reflective content, and
2) the effective content.

The reflective content of a work of art is the reflection in this work of art of the artist’s world outlook – itself the subjective expression of his whole life experience. This world outlook is essentially that of the social class to which the artist belongs or with which he identifies his interests. The reflective content of a work of art may be described in terms of the social class which holds the particular world outlook reflected in this content, or in terms of the social system in which this class is the ruling class. Thus, we may speak of the capitalist or bourgeois reflective content of a work of art (where this reflects the world outlook of the capitalist class or bourgeoisie), and of the working class, proletarian or socialist reflective content of a work of art (where this reflects the world outlook of the working class or proletariat, which is the ruling class in a socialist society).

The effective content of a work of art consists of the particular thoughts and feelings, which the artist endeavours to create in the minds of consumers through the work of art concerned. The effective content of a work of art is described in terms of the social effects which these thoughts and feelings tend, objectively, to produce: as progressive (where these thoughts and feelings tend, objectively to further the development of society) or as reactionary (where these thoughts and feelings tend, objectively, to hold back or turn back the development of society).

In the period when the bourgeoisie was playing an objectively revolutionary role in leading the mass of the people to break the fetters of feudalism, art with a bourgeois reflective content had a progressive effective content. Today, when the role of the bourgeoisie is to hold back the overthrow of the objectively obsolete capitalist social system, art with a bourgeois reflective content has a reactionary effective content. The inter-relation between the reflective and effective components of the content of a work of art is thus a variable one, dependent on the stage of the development of the society in which the work of art is produced.

The more conscious an artist is of the class basis of the reflective content of his art and of the social effects of its effective content, the closer will the two components of the content of his art be integrated, and the more will the reflective content reinforce the effective content – the more powerful will be the thoughts and feelings created by his art.

Before the development of the scientific materialist conception of history, the basis of which was laid by Karl Marx, an artist could at the most be only partly conscious of the class basis of the reflective content of his art and of the social effects of its effective content.

Today it is possible for an artist who has mastered the scientific materialist conception of history, who has embraced wholeheartedly and from within the innermost core of his psychological make-up the cause of the working class and of Socialism, to be fully conscious of the class basis of the effective content, so that the two components of the content of his art reinforces the progressive effective content to make it a powerful ideological weapon in the service of the working class and of Socialism.

FORM

The form of a work of art is the manner in which an artist constructs his work of art in order to express its content. On the form of a work of art depends its capacity to communicate its content to consumers.

The form of a work of art is described in terms of the degree to which it truthfully reflects its subject, that is, in terms of the degree of its realism. The further the form of a work of art departs from realism, the nearer it approaches to abstraction, in which the form of a work of art reflects its subject in no discernible way. An abstract painting is composed of shapes and colours, which reflect reality in no discernible way, an abstract poem is composed of sounds without discernible meaning, and so on.

AESTHETICS

Questions of quality, of “goodness” and “badness,” in art belong to what is called aesthetics.

To many people aesthetics is a subjective matter, a question of personal taste. To such people a work of art is “good” to one person if he likes it, while the same work of art may be “bad’ to another person if he dislikes it.

To scientific Socialists a work of art is good if its effective content is progressive and its form is such that this effective content is readily communicable to consumers, that is, if its form is realist.

In the period when the bourgeoisie was playing an objectively revolutionary role in leading the mass of the people to break the fetters of feudalism, art with a bourgeois reflective content had a progressive effective content and, to the extent that it was also realist in form, it was aesthetically good.

Today, when the role of the bourgeoisie is to hold back the overthrow of the objectively obsolete capitalist social system, art with a bourgeois reflective content has a reactionary effective content and, irrespective of its form, it was aesthetically bad.

Today, aesthetically good art can only be proletarian socialist in reflective content (and so progressive in effective content) and realist in form – can only, in other words, take the form of socialist realism.

BEAUTY

Beauty is that combination of qualities in a work of art, which affects the fundamental psychological and personality attributes of a consumer in positive manner. A work of art, which so affects those attributes, is beautiful to that particular consumer- whilst one which fails to so affect them is either not beautiful to him – i.e. is one to which his psychology and personality are either not able to respond or else-which he finds consciously ugly.

The same work of art may affect the psyche of one consumer in a positive way and the psyche of another consumer in a negative way – that is, it may be beautiful to one consumer and ugly to another. The beauty (or non-beauty, or ugliness) of a work of art is not, therefore, an objective attribute of a work of art; it is a subjective attribute which has meaning only in relation to a particular consumer, or to a particular category of consumers.

Aesthetics is sometimes defined as “the critical appreciation of beauty.” Scientific socialists reject this definition, since the beauty of a work of art is subjective, relative to a particular consumer or to a particular category of consumers, while the aesthetic quality of a work of art is, as has been said, objective, inherent in the work of art itself.

Whether a particular work of art is beautiful (or non-beautiful, or ugly) to a particular consumer depends, therefore, on more than mere sensory perception; it depends on the dialectical interaction and ultimate synthesis in one affective moment of response of all three of the above fundamental psychological attributes of personality:

sensory perception, intellectual judgment and emotional responsiveness.

This response is, in turn, dependent upon a complex of psychological characteristics built up during the consumer’s life experience, which may be called the consumer’s canons of beauty. The closer the content and form of a work of art correspond to the consumer’s canons of beauty, the more beautiful it is to him. As the consumer’s life experience continues, as the external world and his relations with it change, so do his canons of beauty change and develop in and through the psychological processes described above.

Within a particular society at a particular time, there are generally accepted canons of beauty just as there are generally accepted canons of morality, and these are socially determined. These generally accepted canons of beauty are those which best serve the interests of that society at that period – in the case of a class-divided society, those which best serve the interests of the ruling class at that period. As society changes, or as the interests of the ruling class within a particular society change, so do the generally accepted canons of beauty change.

Within a capitalist society in decay, such as that which exists in Britain at the present time, an aesthetically good socialist realist work of art affects, generally speaking, the psychological responsiveness of members of the capitalist class in a negative way; it appears ugly to them. Furthermore, it is in sharp contradiction with the generally accepted canons of beauty imposed on decaying capitalist society by the ruling capitalist class, and so is ugly to all consumers who accept these generally accepted canons of beauty. Here, therefore, there is a contradiction between aesthetic quality and beauty. On the other hand, the same work of art will affect in a positive way the psychological attributes of a consumer who is thoroughly socialist, who has thrown off the generally accepted bourgeois canons of beauty in favour of canons of beauty which serve the interests of the working class; to him it will be beautiful. Here, therefore, there is no contradiction between aesthetic quality and beauty.

In a capitalist society the canons of beauty of the ruling capitalist class are, by and large, accepted by the petty bourgeois intelligentsia – who are, in fact, the main proponents of these canons of beauty within society. But with the increasing decay of capitalist society at the stage of advanced imperialism and the consequent rise to dominance of formalist art, the canons of beauty of the ruling monopoly capitalist class cease to be “generally accepted,” in that they come to be rejected by the working class. The contradiction between aesthetic quality and the canons of beauty of the ruling class is now so great that it cannot be bridged, so far the working class is concerned, even by the use of all the ideological and propaganda resources at the disposal of the ruling class – which naturally, seeks to meet the situation by instilling in the minds of the workers the conception that beauty in art (and even art itself in all but its crudest, merely soporific, narcotic forms) is inappropriate for workers. This leads to the workers becoming largely sealed off from serious art and to the stunting of their sense of beauty, i.e., of the capacity to have their personality attributes in any way affected by serious works of art.

Thus, the awakening of the sense of beauty in the working class is an important part of the work of Socialist artists. It is in itself a potentially revolutionary act, an important aspect of the overall task of generating the revolutionary energies of the working class.

REALISM AND NATURALISM

Realism, the true reflection of reality in a work of art, does not mean mere photographic representation.

Scientific Socialists understand that, beneath the surface of something which appears static, the forces of change and development are at work, so that the thing itself is changing and developing, even though we cannot see this process on the surface.

True realism, therefore, penetrates beneath the surface of things to reveal the process of their change. Only scientific Socialism, the world outlook known as dialectical materialism, provides the key to penetrating beneath the surface of things; only a Socialist artist who has made Marxism-Leninism, dialectical materialism, his world outlook, can, therefore, be a complete realist in the form of his art.

Suppose a writer wishes to reflect in a novel the contemporary reality in Britain. On the surface one sees a working class which is far from revolutionary, a youth which has been corrupted on a wider scale than any previous generation, a country in which Marxist-Leninists can almost be counted on the fingers.

But this is a superficial and false picture. Scientific socialists, by their analysis of British contemporary capitalist society, understand that forces are at work which are in process of transforming the working class into an invincible revolutionary force, led by a strong vanguard party.

True realism in art, therefore, means the portrayal not so much of what lies on the surface of things (this is naturalism, not realism), but of what lies beneath the surface. It also involves the selection from all the infinite entities that make up reality of those which are significant in portraying the changing, developing essence of this reality.

Realism differs also from naturalism in that it permits deviation from naturalistic representation where this assists in the fuller expression of the aspect of reality concerned. In satire, in the cartoon, features are exaggerated not to falsify reality, but to heighten it.

If an artist paints the grass in a meadow red merely as a “gimmick,” this falsifies reality. But if he paints the grass in the exercise yard of the Attica State Prison red, to symbolise the massacre which took place there in 1971, this may well serve to heighten the realism of the painting.

Realism differs from naturalism also in that it concentrates the social essence of individuals into the type. As Maxim Gorky expresses it in “Literature and Life”:

“When a writer describes some shopkeeper, official or worker of his acquaintance, he is merely producing some more or less successful likeness of an individual; but such a likeness will remain a mere photograph, without any socially educative significance, and will contribute almost nothing either in breadth or in depth to our knowledge of life and of our fellow men. But if the writer is able to extract from twenty or fifty or a hundred shopkeepers, officials or workers the characteristic traits, habits, tastes, gestures, beliefs, mannerisms typical of them as a class and if he can bring these traits to life in a single shopkeeper, official or worker, he will have created a type and his work will be a work of art.”

BOURGEOIS CRITICAL REALISM

The unscientific, metaphysical world outlook of the bourgeois artist – a world outlook which underlies all bourgeois art, whether its effective content be progressive or reactionary – draws the content of his work towards one or other of the apparently opposite poles of mystical idealism, or arid mechanical materialism. It effectively prevents him from achieving that all-round, universalised, penetrating, developmental understanding of his subject which constitutes the hallmark of proletarian-socialist realism.

Since the inherent, objective laws of development of society are a closed book to the bourgeois artist, metaphysics must for him take the place of scientific method. Thus, even when the objective situation of the capitalist class to which the artist belongs is a progressive one, impelling him towards a progressive effective content in his work, this content is necessarily limited in its scope, in its insight, in its treatment of character and society’s processes. He may be capable of revealing the social evils, which are inherent in capitalist society even in its progressive stage of development, but he can discern neither the basic laws of motion of capitalist society nor the true role of the working class as the social force destined by history to resolve the contradictions of capitalist society by abolishing it and replacing it by a socialist society.

This type of progressive bourgeois art is termed by revolutionary Socialists bourgeois critical realism, because it can reveal in a critical way, through a superficial depiction of character and events, much of what is wrong with capitalist society, but can neither probe beneath the surface to reveal the basic causes of those evils nor point the way forward to their solution in a socialist society.

As far as form is concerned, therefore, bourgeois critical realism tends towards naturalism rather than realism (as in the work of such artists as Charles Dickens, Emile Zola and Gustav Flaubert). In the most developed work of bourgeois critical realism, however, (such as those of Ludwig van Beethoven, Thomas Mann, Georg Buchner, Vincent van Gogh and Gustav Mahler) a close approximation to true realism in form is realised.

Socialist realism bases itself upon and further develops the finest achievements of bourgeois critical realism, overcoming in the course of this development the limitations of content and form of the latter in order to achieve a truthful, penetrating, developmental and powerfully moving treatment of reality.

DISTORTED REALISM

Art which directly serves the interests of the capitalist class in the period of the decay of its social usefulness is at first glance realist in form, in that its images are recognisable reflections of real life in comparison with the abstractions, which make up the greater part of modern painting with a bourgeois content. This must be so in order that its reactionary effective content the thoughts or feelings which serve the interests of the capitalist class may be communicated to consumers. But because, in the period of the decay and disintegration of capitalist society, a truly realistic representation of the world cannot serve the interests of the capitalist class, its images are necessarily distortions of reality.

In a play with a bourgeois content about a strike, the workers may be physically recognisable as workers in that they wear overalls, live in council flats, etc. But they are distorted, in general, into sheep-like figures, easily led by some militant leader, who because of some psychopathological aggressive complex or because he is in the service of a foreign power, “pulls them out” on a futile strike which harms their interests.

FORMALISM

But for every hack artist who – is prepared to sell his integrity to the capitalist class for money, there are a dozen honest artists. These artists see the corruption, exploitation and immorality, which are all pervading features of capitalism in decay. Unless, therefore, they are revolutionary Socialists who can portray this reality truthfully with a Socialist content, they find the real world too unpleasant to reflect truthfully in their work. They therefore repudiate content more or less completely, take their stand on the slogan “Art for art’s sake” (which rejects the conception of social content in art) and base their art purely on form: on abstract or semi-abstract images. It is this repudiation of content and concentration on form that revolutionary Socialists call “formalism.”

NATIONAL FORM AND COSMOPOLITANISM

All art is necessarily the product of a particular community, and the reality of this community is national in substance; it is the reality of a particular nation, the characteristics of which are determined by the language, geography, economic life, psychological make-up and culture of that nation.

Art which is truly realistic in form, therefore, is also national in form. Furthermore, it is built upon and further develops that part of the cultural heritage of the nation which is progressive in its effective content.

Art which repudiates the national in its form in the direction of cosmopolitanism also deviates, therefore, from realism.

RELATION BETWEEN CONTENT AND FORM

In the relation between content and form in art, it is content which – at least in the broad developmental sense – determines the form in and through which this content is realised.

As, within a particular society, the existing mode of production becomes moribund, and the objective and subjective conditions mature for the birth of a new, higher mode of production (in our epoch, Socialism), new, political, ideological and other social factors impinge upon the life experience of the artist. To the extent that he absorbs the world outlook of the rising class whose interests are bound up with the, coming new mode of production (in our epoch, the world outlook of the working class), his art takes on a new reflective content and a new progressive effective content. This ultimately leads him to discard, or at least to modify positively, the existing, dominant art forms and to develop new ones more suited to act as expressions of this new content.

When Ludwig van Beethoven began to compose, he was content to use the classical sonata form he inherited from Mozart and Haydn, But at a certain stage in the maturing of the bourgeois reflective content and the progressive effective content of his music, he became aware that the complexity, power and objective realism of his sound-world was suffering through the attempt to pour new wine into old bottles. He therefore found it necessary to create a new symphonic form, that of the choral symphony, in which the scope, emotional impact and intelligibility of this content was greatly enhanced in complexity and degree of integration, partly through the inclusion of the choral poem, partly through the much greater fluidity and expressive flexibility of the thematic structure and the melodic line itself.

A similar process is to be, observed in the development of the modern novel, in particular in the transition from limited, naturalistically stunted critical realism of the revolutionary bourgeoisie ( e.g., Emile Zola, Thomas Mann) to the socially penetrating insight achieved in the socialist realist literature of the revolutionary working class (e.g., Maxim Gorki).

In the relation between content and form, it is, therefore, content which plays the primary role, while form arises out of and serves content as its vehicle of expression. It is the function of technique to serve content and form equally.

It must be understood, however, that the content of a work of art does not determine its form in any direct, mechanical way, but dialectically – that is to say, by creating the general conditions in and through which a change of form becomes necessary, or in which the adoption of one form as against another becomes preferable. Were this not so, the task of a Marxist-Leninist Party or of such organisations as Socialist Artists in the sphere of art could be confined to political education; an artist who acquired the political outlook of revolutionary Socialism and the desire to make the content of his art Socialist would be unable to create works of art in any but a realist form. In fact, an artist may be a revolutionary Socialist, a Marxist-Leninist, in every sphere but that of aesthetics, determined that every one of his artistic creations shall be imbued with a Socialist content – yet he may produce art which is non-realist in form.

While the content of a work of art is determined by the social outlook of the artist, its form is determined by his aesthetic outlook and his mastery of technique at the moment of its creation. It is, therefore, the task of the Marxist-Leninist Party and of such organisations as Socialist Artists to educate artists not only in the principles of revolutionary Socialism (so that their art may be imbued with Socialist content) but also in Marxist-Leninist aesthetics and in technique, so that this content may be expressed in appropriate realist form.

Content is not primary and form secondary because the former is more important than the latter. A work of art which is Socialist in content but non-realist in form lacks the capacity to communicate its socialist content to consumers; it is of no more value to the working class – and so is of no higher aesthetic quality – than a work of art which is bourgeois in content. Form and content are of equal importance for the Socialist artist. But the primacy of content over form must be recognised if the artist is to achieve the fullest realisation of form in the service of content, and of technique in the service of both.

REVISIONISM AND ART

Revisionism is a perversion of Marxism-Leninism to serve the interests of the capitalist class.

The modern revisionists, for the most part, reject the Marxist-Leninist concepts of progressive and reactionary effective content in art. They hold that aesthetic questions – i.e. questions of quality in art – must be confined to questions of craftsmanship.

On the basis that art which directly serves the interests of the capitalist class is realist in form (as discussed above), they hold that “revolutionary art” must break with the “reactionary” heritage of realist -art and embrace cosmopolitanism.

To the modern revisionists, the changed role of art in a socialist society means no more than the wider availability of art to the working people.

But, clearly, the interests of the working class and of socialism are not served by the wider availability, to the working people of art which serve’s the interests of the capitalist class – the class enemy of the working-class.

In fact, art which serves the interests of the capitalist class is widely available to the working people, within a capitalist society. A worker has little difficulty in obtaining access to the strip cartoons in the “Daily Mirror”; he can watch “Coronation Street” on TV; he can listen to “pop” music almost throughout his spare time; he can visit a “working man’s club”; and watch strip-tease shows every week-end.

The whole educational and propaganda apparatus of the ruling class in capitalist society is directed towards inculcating the idea: that these forms of “art” are appropriate for working people, while ballet and painting are for upper class homosexuals.

But the “art” which the ruling capitalist class directs to the working class is designed not only to make profits for its sponsors, but also to “divert” the working class, to drug them into acceptance of their role as an exploited class.

In the former socialist societies of Eastern Europe, the modern revisionists took the first steps towards the restoration of capitalism in the sphere of art. In the name of “artistic freedom,” they supported the introduction of art with a bourgeois content, declaring that the Marxist-Leninists had no business to seek to “interfere” in artistic questions. The introduction of art with a decadent bourgeois content served as preliminary ideological preparation for the introduction of bourgeois ideas in the sphere of economics and politics.

THE BATTLE OF IDEAS IN ART

The battle of ideas in art – between ideas which serve the interests of the working-class and those which serve the interests of the capitalist class, between the ideas of Marxist-Leninist aesthetics and those of revisionist aesthetics – reflects the class struggle in society between the working class and the capitalist class.

It is the task of Socialist artists to take their stand in this battle firmly on the side of the working class, to develop art which is Socialist in content and realist in form, – to make of their art a weapon in the struggle of the working class to destroy the capitalist state and construct a Socialist society.

“END OF THESES”

FROM THE MANIFESTO OF THE LEAGUE OF SOCIALIST ARTISTS

The epoch in which, as workers and artists, we live and pursue our creative work is one which bears as its fundamental feature the decay of the capitalist system based on exploitation and oppression and the maturing of the objective conditions making possible its final destruction at the hands of the revolutionary working people.

The supreme task of historical creation confronting all workers, of which we artists to an increasing degree are becoming a social part, is, to develop the science of the proletarian socialist revolution, Marxism-Leninism, in theory and in practice;

To organise to carry through that revolution to the end; thereby to destroy the capitalist system, root and branch, in country after country and in every quarter of the globe. . .

The securing of the maximum satisfaction of the constantly rising material and cultural requirements of the whole of society through the continuous expansion and perfection of socialist production on the basis of higher techniques.

It is within this revolutionary historical context that the confines of class dominated society, with its anti-human inheritance of exploitation, poverty and war, will be overcome and the objective social conditions created for the expansion of the boundaries of man’s knowledge and mastery of the natural universe around him.

Within these overall historic tasks of the proletarian-socialist revolution a role of unprecedented importance devolves upon the arts, and hence upon creative artists. For it is precisely through art that science, the knowledge–understanding and experience of the laws of motion of the universe, including particularly of human society, is distilled into generalised, concentrated form, is transmuted into those at one and the same time concrete and typical, images which are capable of arousing the most profound and stirring emotions -of the human soul, even whilst it is developing conscious intellectual awareness of the objective phenomena which those images symbolise and typify.

Thus artists, whether of the visual or the dramatic arts, are no less than “engineers of the human soul” (J.V. Stalin);

and a correspondingly vital significance attaches to their work in furtherance of that highest single creative task of the modern epoch: the carrying through to victory of the world proletarian – socialist revolution.

Taking the above principles as our fundamental guide, we Socialist Artists hold that art is a definite form of social consciousness. Proletarian socialist art is a reflection in artistic form of the class struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie, which lies at the heart of all social reality. The method of artistic creation of proletarian-socialist art is therefore proletarian-socialist realism. There can be no art without a fundamental philosophy, a basic world view.

And since all philosophy, all world views, are class philosophy, the world view of a class, there can likewise be no art which is not class art. The philosophical foundation of proletarian-socialist realism is dialectical materialism which provides all forms-of artistic sensibility with the objective scientific tool for cognising truthfully the real world.

Proletarian-socialist realism rests upon the firm foundation of human culture as a whole which has developed historically within class society. It recognises that the working class must utilise the finest and highest products of all previous culture in order to create there from the general basis for the development of its own infinitely more sensible, more dramatically intense and varied art and culture. It recognises that the highest achievement of all past art is critical realism. Proletarian socialist realism begins where this critical realism ends, distils from it all that was revealing of social reality, overcomes its weaknesses and one sided-nesses and thereby elevates art to a new and higher stage.

Proletarian-socialist realism is an active, affirmative realism. It upholds the principle of “being as deed.” Such an affirmative view of human practice is indissolubly fused together with a critical attitude towards the art of the past and a revolutionary-romantic consciousness of contemporary social and class reality in the light of the socialist future. In this sense proletarian-socialist realism anticipates creatively the future.

Proletarian-socialist realism possesses as one of the prime features of its aesthetic the creation of generally valid social characters and figures who express in their innermost being the laws of motion of history and society as a whole. Proletarian-socialist realism requires the delineation of typical characters living and moving in atypical environment and under typical conditions. It requires a historically and socially concrete typicalisation of dramaturgical elements in works of art, but this typicalisation must be combined with, the utmost individuality and qualitative distinctness of characters and figures, and must avoid all tendencies towards stereotyped caricatures.

Proletarian-socialist realism maintains that, for a genuinely progressive, revolutionary art serving the proletarian-socialist revolution, content is primary and plays the definitive role within any one work of art, whilst form, which itself is of vital significance to the artistically and aesthetically affective properties of the work, is secondary and reflects and serves that content. Thus we stand for the unity of form and content based on the primacy of content.

Being aware of the unbridgeable abyss in the cultural superstructure of decaying capitalism, we Socialist Artists declare our aims and work to stand completely apart from and in irreconcilable-opposition to the formalism and commodity fetishism of capitalist art- which serves at one and the same time – to mystify the movement and conflict of social classes, to preach and inculcate the helplessness of man before the “unknowable” universe and the “atomic chaos” of the “existentialist” society, as also to provide the effete, luxury loving ruling class with those soporific, sensationalised and alienated titbits which might, for an hour or a day, provide an anodyne to bring forgetfulness of the moment of doom for their class which the approaching proletarian socialist revolution is bringing ever nearer. In opposition to this we declare our aim to be the pursuit, the active construction and direction of an art which, in all its richness, its myriad fronts and facets; reflects and serves the struggle of the working people for socialism and communism; and which develops for this purpose aesthetic forms of expression which are at one and the same time organically free in relation to their content and yet ordered by the single function of serving to reflect that content; complex and many-sided as the realist stuff itself which they express – -yet unified by a single fundamental principle: to express truthfully the real world of class conflict and revolutionary mobilisation which lies beneath the surface of that average spontaneous activity which is all the vulgar empiricist or idealist mystifier can perceive, and who for that reason is at the mercy of every reactionary wind that blows from out of the vortex of disintegrating capitalism.

In place of the pop art, mobile junk, psychedelic and other fringe lunancy of decaying capitalist art we will erect an art which expresses the dignity of working people, into which life is breathed from out of their very struggles; whether for bread, for peace or for socialism; an art which leads to the growth of a working class culture and which, in the widest and most fundamental sense creates a visual and dramatic image of the socialist future, an assertive art of the revolutionary class in society, the producers of all material and cultural values. Fundamental to our aims, therefore, is that of fulfilling a vanguard role in teaching, educating, organising and raising the cultural values of this only revolutionary class, in a developed capitalist society, the proletariat.

Because we are workers alongside the mass of working people as a whole; because we increasingly sell our labour power firstly in order to live but increasingly also in order to create; and because we can expect no philanthropy from capital, for our art reflects the struggle of workers against
capital and is thus persecuted and outlawed – along with all other revolutionary activity, we Socialist Artists must possess our own collective organisation under the direction of the vanguard Marxist-Leninist party, the overall instrument of the future proletarian-socialist revolution, a revolutionary, democratic union of artists with the clear and simple aim:

“Our art must serve revolutionary politics. We place our art unreservedly at the service of the working class.”

Provisional Committee, The League of Socialist Artists;
August 1973.

Source

Was Stalin’s View on Art Different from that of Marx and Engels?

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

A talk given to commemorate Bill Bland at Conway Hall, London, September 2001

Preamble

This is not the occasion to dwell on Bill’s enormous contributions to the Marxist-Leninist movement in both theory and practice. That will be history to do. This evening, is to celebrate Bill as a man.

It is well known that he was passionate about the arts, and that he took very seriously, Stalin’s dictum that “art was the engineer of the human soul”. I thought it fitting therefore, to emulate Bill’s approach when answering difficult questions surrounding Stalin. It is even more fitting to attempt this upon a subject he was passionate about.

I regret that this was not done by Bill himself, for several reasons. But one of these is that to answer the question posed, will be impossible for me to do as well as Bill would have done.

Introduction

Critics and pundits continue to teach incessantly how ‘bad’ art was in Stalin’s lifetime in the Soviet Union. It is commonly asserted that Stalin’s view of art was only for self-glorification or for propaganda.

For example, the popular art historian, Robert Hughes writes this in “Time” in 1994: [Italics-Editor’s emphasis]:

“Throughout his rule, Stalin had sponsored a form of state art officially known as Socialist Realism. Geared to a naive, not to say brutish, mass public barely literate in artistic matters, Soviet Socialist Realism was the most coarsely idealistic kind of art ever foisted on a modern audience – though Capitalist Realism, the never-never land of desire created by American advertising, runs it a close second…As a young man Stalin had been snubbed by the Russian intellectual elite. His revenge was to grind their faces in the ice of miracle, mystery and authority, to make culture into a form of ventriloquism from on high. Socialist Realism was a religious art celebrating the transcendent power of communist ideology, the impending heaven of world socialism and the godlike benignity of its father, Lenin’s successor, Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, the man of steel. And like the traditional icons of Christ and the saints it replaced, the stuff was omnipresent. No square or schoolroom in Russia lacked its image of Stalin pointing to the future…

What strikes a modern non-Russian viewer most is Socialist Realism’s unabashed fantasy. Realism in Stalinist terms did not mean painting things as they were or even as they might be: the inevitability of Socialist progress erased that conditional “might,” along with the gap between present and future.

That which will be already is, under the world-sustaining gaze of Comrade Stalin. Ideology ascribed to Stalin the actual role of God, the creation of reality itself…

One sees how Socialist Realism transcends history, with Stalin (who in 1917 was the editor of Pravda but had no role in planning the October Revolution) being painted into the very heart of the first Bolshevik conclaves cheek by jowl with Lenin. One sees Stalin protecting the motherland from the Kremlin ramparts, towering over generals or members of the Politburo who in biological life were considerably taller than he. There he is conducting the defense of Stalingrad (though in fact he prudently avoided going anywhere near a battle), encouraging collective farmers and listening to Maxim Gorky read.

But most of all he is busy being himself: God. Fyodor Shurpin’s Morning of Our Motherland, 1946-48, is a portrait of Stalin in the literal form of the Pantocrator, contemplating a new world he has brought into being. He wears a white coat of radiant purity and is bathed in the light of an early spring morning. Behind him stretch the green pastures of a transfigured Russia, Poussin (as it were) with tractors and electricity pylons, and shy plumes of smoke rising to greet the socialist dawn from far-off factories.”

“Icons Of Stalinism Soviet Socialist Realism Portrayed A Godlike Maximum Leader Reigning Over A Communist Heaven” By Robert Hughes. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/archive/1994/940124/940124.art.html

But Stalin saw Art as being: “the engineer of the human soul.” But then could Stalin not distinguish between propaganda and art? Was Stalin only interested in Art for the purpose of his own glorification?

This would be quite inconsistent with what we know of Stalin’s own views, which were first highlighted by Bill Bland. Stalin detested the Cult of Personality and recognised that it was being used by enemies to attack him (See for example, “Stalin Myths & Realities”; at http://ml-review.ca/aml/STALIN-TXT/WBBSTALINMYTHSPARIS1999.html).

Nonetheless, the prevalent view is that Stalin was a vain-glorious dictator – in the arts as well as all other spheres of life. It is no wonder that any hint of alternative viewpoint is suppressed. So for example the influential New York Review of Books (NYRB), published Isiah Berlin’s article, that was originally written in the 1930’s for the British secret service on the state of arts under Stalin.

Berlin’s article is very convenient for conventional wisdom in that it is generally vituperative of the USSR. But the article applauded in general, the results of the state policies on art. This was most inconvenient for the NYRB. To retain even a tiny fragment that did support the USSR arts policy was anathema. Which fragment was correspondingly cut. This read:

“On the other side it must be said that the childlike eagerness and enthusiasm of Soviet readers and Soviet theatrical audiences is probably without parallel in the world. The existence of State-subsidised theatres and opera, as well as of regional publishing houses, throughout the Soviet Union is not merely a part of a bureaucratic plan, but responds to a very genuine and insufficiently satisfied popular demand. “

Isiah Berlin: ‘The Arts in Russia under Stalin’ ; [Passage Omitted From the New York Review of Books, 19 October 2000, p. 60] at: http://www.wolfson.ox.ac.uk/berlin/vl/published_works/artscut.htm

Despite the epithet “childlike” – this perspective of a Soviet arts policy that stemmed from and spoke to the masses – was too uncomfortable for the NYRB.

Thus the general view is propagated, that in contrast to Marx and Engels, Stalin was a ‘boor’ – too uncivilized and uninterested to see beyond a propagandist art that glorified him. It is generally argued even by bourgeois critics, that Marx and Engels were men of taste who would not have inflicted “Socialist Realism” on the world. Of course it is well known how erudite Marx and Engels were, and this has been extensively catalogued (See SS Prawer: “Karl marx and World Literature”; Oxford 1978).

Even the bourgeoisie now acknowledge this.

But Marx and Engels did not live in an era when it was possible to build a Socialist state. For that reason, and for the reason that they are now long dead, they are ‘spared’ too much abuse, while more recent enemies of the bourgeoisie like Stalin who could build socialism, are vituperated.

We will ask tonight:

“How far apart were Marx and Engels from Stalin, concerning their views on the arts?”

In general the views of Stalin on the arts have been represented well by Zhdanov in his lectures and writings on art. [See Bland’s own article on “Stalin and the Arts” in this issue of Alliance 53 [At http://ml-review.ca/aml/AllianceIssues/A2004/STALINART.html].

This is not here, an examination of the Ultra-leftist deviations in the arts such as Proletkult [See Bland cited before & Alliance 7 at http://ml-review.ca/aml/AllianceIssues/ALLIANCE7COMMUNISTACADEMY.html] and AKhRR (The Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia)

Instead, I propose here to examine primarily, whether Stalin’s views substantially varied from those of Marx and Engels.

We will examine FIVE specific questions:

1) How did Marx and Engels view the inter-relationship of the mode of production & society to art ?

2) What did Marx and Engels view as making for ‘good art’?

3) How did Marx and Engels view art that frankly proclaimed the workers cause?

4) What were the favourite pictures of Marx, Engels and Stalin?

5) Was there good art produced in the USSR up to 1953?

State Art, Propaganda and Caricature

But first we should define certain recurrent artistic terms. 

When one sees pictures like this one by Freidin and entitled “Glory To Stalin”; it does appear to be celebrating a state event in the USSR. This could be thought of as being propaganda because it depicts Stalin favourably.

glory2stalin50GFreidin

Or at the very least, it may be doubted whether this is “great art.”

But it is in fact a form of art well recognised in every society. It is what we will here call, an “Art of State”; one that helps to form the “myths” and “self-images” of a state.

Such imagery and icons are necessary to each and every state, and indeed ubiquitous in every state.

It would be quite wrong to even suggest that the USSR was unique in having such art.

For instance, this painting, by  Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, American, (1816-1868) is entitled “George Washington Crossing the Delaware”, 1851 (378.5 x 647.7 cm ,  is in the  Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Emanuel_Leutze_(American,_Schwäbisch_Gmünd_1816–1868_Washington,_D.C.)_-_Washington_Crossing_the_Delaware_-_Google_Art_Project

It is a central iconic image that depicts George Washington’s heroic victories over the English colonists in the American War of Independence.

Whether Washington in these battles actually struck such poses or was quite as well dressed and clean is immaterial to the purpose of the artist.

It is meant to focus a nation’s gaze on one of its formers and heroes.

Copley

Similarly, the painting in the Tate Gallery Of  “The Death of Major Peirson, 6 January 1781” by John Singleton Copley (1783) was iconic for its time, in England.

It showed a battle between English and French troop in Jersy (the Channel Islands) in a conflict sparked by the American Revolutionary Wars. Peirson’s death for the British flag was revenged by his personal manservant – whose name is not honoured in the title fo the painting.

Or even more well known, is the statue of Boadicea on the banks of the Thames just below the Houses of Parliament.

Boadicea

Propaganda art is at a different level from “State Art” in our view, and is more clearly designed for a day to day persuasion. Propaganda art, in general, carries a negative overtone. However, such art may be both very well done and may serve an extremely useful function. Such is the case for the posters seen here, from the USSR.

Much of the poster art from the USSR, is nowadays recognised as being both technically, but artistically as well, very fine, and is collected for huge amounts of money.

SaveBooks1919Kupreyanov

The caption is “Save Books”; by Kupreyanov

MayakovskyNoBureacracy1921

The caption is “Anti-bureaucracy” by Mayakovsky

DimitriMoorHelp1921

The caption is “Help!” (During the imperislist blockade); by Dimitri Moor.

Caricature should be distinguished from propaganda, and perhaps its’ hallmark is that of an extreme exaggeration of features.

A master of this was Honore Daumier, who here, lampooned the King of France as never-endingly receiving into his vast mouth the people’s wealth:

GargantuaDaumier1808

It is quite true that some posters may be less useful, and sub-serve a true ‘propagandist’ purpose. Such for example are the numerous images of J.V.Stalin, and of V.I.Lenin in these:

Bizukhov’s “Stalin and the Railway”

BizukovStalinRail1932

“Lenin and Stalin”; Anonymous, 1948

LeninStalinAnon1948

But, it should be again reiterated that Stalin is clearly on record as abhorring and trying to prevent the Cult of Personality.

I strongly doubt postes such as these were produced at the behest of Stalin, and his stated preferences in art (See below) are a strong indication of this.

But stronger evidence, comes from the history of the USSR where Stalin at many points attempted to obstruct a Cult of the Personality arising. 

Summary:
I have argued that all States have an ‘official’ art that serves as a vehicle to reinforce national images.

This was not unique to the USSR.

I have also argued that propaganda and caricature can both be valuable media for different progressive purposes.

(1) The Views of Marx and Engels on Art in Relation to Society

The Inter-relation of Art and the Society in which it is produced

As all who are interested in art will know, the origins of art lie very early on in man’s history:

“Anatomically modern humans had existed for at least the previous 50,000 years, but 50,000 years ago there appear the first signs of art, of versified tools for specific functions, and other clues to enhanced culture.”;

Johnson D & Edgar B: “From Lucy to Language”; New York; 1996; p. 52; .

“If art is an attempt to imitate nature, our Upper Paleolithic ancestors were master artists. It is impossible to visit a cave like Lascaux in south western France or Altamira in Northern Spain and not be moved by the images of horses, bison, deer, and other prehistoric animals. Art painted on the ancient cave walls. Reaching across eons of time, these lifelike yet hauntingly impressionistic paintings immediately connect us with the artists who rendered their world on cave walls nearly 20,000 years ago. When the painted cave of Altamira first came to the attention of researchers, in 1880, the immediate reaction was that such sophisticated and well-executed paintings could not have been made by prehistoric people.”

Johnson D & Edgar B: “From Lucy to Language”; New York; 1996; p. 53.

What more can connect ancient cave art than the common themes of food animals and hunting?

Lascaux

Early discoveries of such cave paintings were initially controversial. Pundits instantly dismissed them as “too sophisticated” to have been drawn by primitive men and women. But it is interesting that Engels did not share the general skepticism of his age, and he also accurately located the first pieces of art as being a very early part of  mankind’s history.

“By the combined functioning of hand, speech organs and brain, not only in each individual but also in society, men became capable of executing more and more complicated operations, and were able to set themselves, and achieve, higher and higher aims. The work of each generation itself became different, more perfect and more diversified. Agriculture was added to hunting and cattle raising; then came spinning, weaving, metalworking, pottery and navigation. Along with trade and industry, art and science finally appeared. Tribes developed into nations and states. Law and politics arose, and with them that fantastic reflection of human things in the human mind — religion.”

‘The Part Played By Labour In The Transition From Ape To Man’ By Frederick Engels;
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1876hand/index.htm

Elsewhere Engels relates that the essential development needed to enable the advent of Art, was that the hand became free of a need for locomotion:

“At first, therefore, the operations for which our ancestors gradually learned to adapt their hands during the many thousands of years of transition from ape to man can only have been very simple ones. The lowest savages, even those in whom presumably a regression to a more animal-like condition with a simultaneous physical degeneration occurred, are nevertheless far superior to these transitional beings. Before the first flint was fashioned into a knife by the human hand, a period of time must have elapsed in comparison with which the historical period known to us appears insignificant. But the decisive step was taken: the hand had become free and could henceforth attain ever newer skills, and the greater flexibility thus acquired was transmitted and increased from generation to generation.

Thus the hand is not only the organ of labour, it is also the product of labour. Only through labour, through constant adaptation to new operations, through inheritance of the special development thus acquired of muscles, ligaments and, over longer periods of time, bones as well, and by the ever renewed use of this inherited refinement in new, increasingly complicated operations, has the human hand attained that high degree of perfection that has enabled it to conjure into being the paintings of a Raphael, the statues of a Thorwaldsen, the music of a Paganini. “

Frederick Engels: “The Part Played By Labour In The Transition From Ape To Man”;
in “Dialectics of Nature”: ; http://www.marx2mao.org//M&E/PPL76.html

Yet, if the physical anatomy of hands that produce art have not substantially changed over historical time, art certainly has.  

What explains the emergence of paintings of a Raphael from the anatomically similar hands that created the art of the Lascaux Paleolithic hand?

What makes the art of one historical period different from that of another period? Marx and Engels recognised that it was the “relations of production.

These will form the “economic structure of society”; which in turn explains all social life – “the social, political and intellectual life-process in general.” When the underlying economic conditions changes, the whole of society undergoes changes. But Marx nonetheless points out that in “the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic, in short, ideological, forms” – the relation is not as exact as in the “material transformation of the economic conditions of production.” This early and central passage from Marx’s writings is as follows:

“In the social production of their existence, men enter into definite, necessary relations, which are independent of their will, namely, relations of production corresponding to a determinate stage of development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation on which there arises a legal and political superstructure and to which there correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life-process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary it is their social being that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or — what is merely a legal expression for the same thing — with the property relations within the framework of which they have hitherto operated. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. At that point an era of social revolution begins. With the change in the economic foundation the whole immense superstructure is more slowly or more rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic, in short, ideological, forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such an epoch of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social forces of production and the relations of production.”

Karl Marx: “Preface And Introduction To A Contribution To The Critique Of Political Economy”; 1844;  
http://www.marx2mao.org//M&E/PI.html
(p3-4)

In so far as the artistic object itself goes (object d’art)  Marx identifies this product as resulting from a specific form of production, centred on “beauty” and its’ appreciation. But this form of production cannot be analysed separately from analyses of a more general production. In early [‘original’] production, the overall state of the finished product is ‘primitively crude’. However, artistic production is part of the overall production in a society.

And its production itself creates a “public with artistic taste” :

“So production creates the consumer.  

3) Production not only provides the material for a need, but it also provides a need for the material. When consumption emerges from its initial natural crudity and immediacy — and its remaining in that state would itself be the result of production being stuck in a state of natural crudity — it itself is mediated as an urge by the object. The need it feels for the object is created by perception of the latter. Like every other product an objet d’art creates a public with artistic taste and a capacity to enjoy beauty. Production accordingly produces not only an object for the subject, but also a subject for the object.”

Karl Marx: “A Contribution To The Critique Of Political Economy”; Appendix I ; I. Production, Consumption, Distribution, Exchange (Circulation). http://www.marx2mao.org//M&E/PI.html (pages 20, 21).

Moreover, Marx points out that in the era of capital, even art takes place within a production work place in cooperation between a small group of workers who have divided up their labour:

“Sancho … thinks that “no one can compose your music for you, complete the sketches for your paintings. No one can do Raphael’s works for him.” Sancho could surely have known, however, that it was not Mozart himself, but someone else who composed the greater part of Mozart’s Requiem and finished it,”‘ and that Raphael himself completed “only an insignificant part of his own frescoes.

[Sancho].. imagines that the so-called “organisers of labour” wanted to organise the entire activity of each individual, and yet it is precisely they who distinguish between directly productive labour, which has to be organised, and labour which is not directly productive. In regard to the latter, however, it was not their view, as Sancho imagines, that each should do the work of Raphael, but that anyone in whom there is a potential Raphael should be able to develop without hindrance. Sancho imagines that Raphael produced his pictures independently of the division of labour that existed in Rome at the time. If he were to compare Raphael with Leonardo da Vinci and Titian, he would see how greatly Raphael’s works of art depended on the flourishing of Rome at that time, which occurred under Florentine influence, while the works of Leonardo depended on the state of things in Florence, and the works of Titian, at a later period, depended on the totally different development of Venice. Raphael as much as any other artist was determined by the technical advances in art made before him, by the organisation of society and the division of labour in his locality, and, finally, by the division of labour in all the countries with which his locality had intercourse. Whether an individual like Raphael succeeds in developing his talent depends wholly on demand, which in turn depends on the division of labour and the conditions of human culture resulting from it.”

The German Ideology. The Leipzig Council. III. Saint Max 393

Two related matters are often raised as a general criticism of these notions as they are applied to art:  

Firstly is the relationship between the economic times and the art produced an absolute relationship?

Engels made clear that anyone who insisted that “the economic factor is the only determining” factor for any particular aspect of life, was not a Marxist. The subtleties of many other factors would often intervene in an “endless host of accidents,” to make a mechanical and simple equation linking economics to each manifestation of real life – silly. Nonetheless, Engels reiterates that economics is the “ultimately determining factor”:

“According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimately determining factor in history is the production and reproduction of real life. Neither Marx nor I have ever asserted more than this. Hence if somebody twists this into saying that the economic factor is the only determining one, he transforms that expression into a meaningless, abstract, absurd phrase. The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure-political forms of the class struggle and its results, such as constitutions established by the victorious class after a successful battle, etc, juridical forms, and especially the reflections of all these real struggles in the brains of the participants, political legal, philosophical theories, religious views and their further development into systems of dogmas-also exercise their influence upon the course of the historical struggles and in many cases determine their form in particular. There is an interaction of all these elements in which, amid all the endless host of accidents (that is of things and events whose inner interconnection is so remote or so impossible of proof that we can regard it as non-existent and neglect it) the economic movement is finally bound to assert itself. Otherwise the application of the theory to any period of history would be easier that the solution of a simple equation of the first degree.”

Engels to Joseph Bloch; September 21-22, 1980. Marx and Engels; in Collected Works; 

In addition to this, Marx points out that there is an “unequal development” in both material production and in art. Marx however points out that even in spite of this “unevenness,” there are material and rational explanations  – provided the subject is explored in enough detail. He takes as an example the case of ancient Greek art – that could only arise upon the basis of a Greek mythology. Yet the level of production in Greece a that time was not as high as the “peak” of Greek art might otherwise suggest: 

6. The unequal development of material production and, eg that of art. The concept of progress is on the whole not to be understood in an abstract form. Modern art etc. This disproportion is not as important and difficult to grasp as within concrete social relations e.g. in education. Relations of the United Sates to Europe. However , the really difficult point to be discussed here is how the relations of production as legal relations take part in this uneven development. For example the relation of Roman civil law (this applies in smaller measure to criminal and constitutional law) to modern production. …..

As regards art it is well known that some of its peaks by no means correspond to the general development of society; nor do they therefore to the material substructure, the skeleton as it were of the its organisation. For example, the Greeks compared with modern [nations], or else Shakespeare. It is even acknowledged that certain branches of art, e.g. the epos, can no longer be produced in other epoch making classic form after artistic production as such has begun; in other words that certain important creations within the compass of art are only possible at an early stage in the development of art. If this is the case with regard to certain branches of art within the sphere of art itself, it is not so remarkable that this should also be the case with regard to the entire sphere of art and its relation to the general development of society. The difficulty lies only in the general formulation of these contradiction. As soon as they are reduced to specific questions, they are already explained.

Let us take for example the relation of Greek art, and that of Shakespeare, to the present time. We know that Greek mythology is not only the arsenal of Greek art but also its basis. Is the conception of nature and of socials relations, which underlies Greek imagination and therefore Greek [art] possible when there are self-acting mules, railways, locomotives and electric telegraphs? What is a Vulcan compared with Roberts & Co; Jupiter compared with the lightning conductor, and Hermes compared with the Credit Mobilier? All mythology subdues, controls and fashions the forces of nature in the imagination and through imagination; it disappears therefore when real control over those forces is established… Greek art presupposes Greek mythology, in other words that natural and socials phenomenon are already assimilated in an unintentionally artistic manner by the imagination of the people… Egyptian mythology could never become the basis of or give rise to Greek art… Is Achilles possible when powder and shot have been invented? And is the Iliad possible at all when the printing press and even printing machines exist?”

Marx “Introduction” to Economic Manuscripts of 1857-58; in “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” [“The Grundrisse”]; in Collected Works; Volume 28; Moscow; 1986 p.46-47

Secondly, why does art of an earlier era resonate with us?

After all, if art is “of its’ time” – of what consequence should it be to humans many generations later? Marx also addresses this problem, in the same Introduction to Political Economy cited above, where he so memorably compares Hermes with the Credit Mobilier:

“But the difficulty we are confronted with is not, however, that of understanding how Greek art and epic poetry are associated with certain forms of social development. The difficulty is that still five us aesthetic pleasure and are in certain respects regarded as a standard and unattainable ideal. An adult cannot become a child again, or he becomes childish. But does the naiveté of the child not give him pleasure, and does he not himself endeavour to reproduce the child’s veracity on a higher level? Does not the child in every epoch represent the character of the period in its natural veracity? Why should not the historical childhood of humanity, where it attained its most beautiful form, exert an eternal charm because it is stage that will never recur? There are rude children and precious children. Many of the ancient peoples belong to this category. The Greeks were normal children. The charm their art has for us does not conflict with the immature stage of the society in which it originated. On the contrary it charm is a consequence of this and is inseparably linked with the fact that the immature socials conditions which gave rise, and which alone could give rise, to this art cannot recur.”

Marx “Introduction” to Economic Manuscripts of 1857-58; in “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy”; [“The Grundrisse”] in Collected Works. volume 28; Ibid; p. 47-48.

Neither Stalin nor Lenin devoted too much time to a fully integrated view of art and art history. They had to build socialism. Lenin confessed to Anatol Lunarchasky that art was fascinating but that it would take a lifetime to sort out the innumerable problems posed in its history, but that he would have liked to do so.

Even so, it is very easy to demonstrate that Stalin agrees with these fundamental elements of the Marxist world view.

These views expressed summarise the general analysis known as Historical Materialism. Stalin wrote “Dialectical and Historical Materialism,” that forms a chapter in the famous “History of the CPSU(B).” This piece continues to be excoriated by many who see it as “reductionism” and an “over-simplification” of Marx and Engels. Marxist-Leninists however accept that it is a very cogent and clear explanation of Marx’s views:

“Hence, the source of formation of the spiritual life of society, the origin of social ideas, social theories, political views and political institutions, should not be sought for in the ideas, theories, views and political institutions themselves, but in the conditions of the material life of society, in social being, of which these ideas, theories, views, etc., are the reflection. Hence, if in different periods of the history of society different social ideas, theories, views and political institutions are to be observed; if under the slave system we encounter certain social ideas, theories, views and political institutions, under feudalism others, and under capitalism others still, this is not to be explained by the “nature,” the “properties” of the ideas, theories, views and political institutions themselves but by the different conditions of the material life of society at different periods of social development.

Whatever is the being of a society, whatever are the conditions of material life of a society, such are the ideas, theories, political views and political institutions of that society. In this connection, Marx says: 

“It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.” (Marx, Selected Works, Vol. I, p. 269.)”

J. V. Stalin: “Dialectical And Historical Materialism”: September 1938; In “History of the CPSU(B)”; Moscow 1939; p.115; Or in “Problems of Leninism”; Moscow; 1954; p.725. OR at: http://www.marx2mao.org//Stalin/DHM38.html

If this general postulate of a link between modes of societal production and thought is true, are there at least some examples in art, that they specified? Fortunately as already pointed out in the fragments of Marx and Engels, there are, and we will point out some further examples.

SUMMARY: Marx, Engels and Stalin believed that the mode of production determined human consciousness. This final determinant was qualified by a complex interaction with society, but nonetheless was the starting point for an evaluation of changes in society. This determinant even determined human appreciation of “beauty.”

(2) Did Marx and Engels give us Clues as to what makes for “Good Art?”

Fortunately for us, despite the lack of any single unifying statement, both Marx and Engels were so interested in art that they left many useful analyses on art. At least some of their views are able to be condensed into the statements below. 

(i) Art must be “true” to life: The depiction artistically, of truth must be a complete one – Tomorrow’s world as well as today’s.

Art should express not only what is an apparent and obvious truth now, but also what is a latent and developing truth. This may then take a stance that projects from the world of today into the world of tomorrow.

Not only should the truth be given in all its’ aspects, but in addition true events should be presented so that it can be clear why they have become a reality. These aspects can be seen in the letter (extant only in a draft form now) that Engels sent to Margaret Harkness whose novel “City Girl”  had been sent to me:

“[Draft] [London, beginning of April 1888]  
Dear Miss Harkness, 

I thank you very much for sending me your City Girl. through Messrs. Vizetelly. I have read it with the greatest pleasure and avidity. It is indeed, as my friend Eichhoff your translator calls it, ein k1eines Kunstwerk [Original Footnote A small work of art]; to which he adds, what will be satisfactory to you, that consequently his translation must be all but literal, as any omission or attempted manipulation could only destroy part of the original’s value.  

What strikes me most in your tale besides its realistic truth is that it exhibits the courage of the true artist. Not only in the way you treat the Salvation Army, in the teeth of supercilious respectability, which respectability will perhaps learn from your tale, for the first time, why the Salvation Army has such a hold on the popular masses. But chiefly in the plain unvarnished manner in which you make the old, old story, the proletarian girl seduced by a middle-class man, the pivot of the whole book. Mediocrity would have felt bound to hide the, to it, commonplace character of the plot under heaps of artificial complications and adornments, and yet would not have got rid of the fate of being found out. You felt you could afford to tell an old story, because you could make it a new one by simply telling it truly.

Your Mr. Arthur Grant is a masterpiece. 
If I have anything to criticise, it would be that perhaps, after all, the tale is not quite realistic enough. Realism, to my mind, implies, besides truth of detail, the truth in reproduction of typical characters under typical circumstances. Now your characters are typical enough, as far as they go; but the circumstances which surround them and make them act, are not perhaps equally so. In the City Girl the working class figures as a passive mass, unable to help itself and not even showing (making) any attempt at striving to help itself. 

All attempts to drag it out of its torpid misery come from without, from above. Now if this was a correct description about 1800 or 1810, in the days of Saint-Simon and Robert Owen, it cannot appear so in 1887 to a man who for nearly fifty years has had the honour of sharing in most of the fights of the militant proletariat. The rebellious reaction of the working class against the oppressive medium which surrounds them, their attempts – convulsive, half conscious or conscious-at recovering their status as human beings, belong to history and must therefore lay claim to a place in the domain of realism.” 

Letter to Margaret Harkness; Engels April 1888; Marx and Engels Selected Correspondence, Moscow; 1975; p.379-81. 
at: http://ml-review.ca/aml/SocialistArt/Final-ME_LASSALLE.htm

(ii) Characterisation must be accurate and represent both an individual and the background of that person – becoming a “type.”

Engels thought that it was important to depict not only a generic “type” in a character, but that the “type” should at the same time be sufficently realistic as to be recognisable as a true single “personality.”

“I have now also read Die Alten und die Neuen [The Old Ones and the New], [Original Footnote: A novel by Minna Kautsky] for which I sincerely thank you. The life of the salt-mine workers is described with as masterly a pen as were the portraits of the peasants in Stefan. [Original Footnote: Stefan von Grillenhof was the first novel written by Minna Kautsky……. the characters exhibit the sharp individualisation. so customary in your work. Each of them is a type but at the same time also a definite individual, a “Dieser,” [Original Footnote “This one”] as old Hegel would say, and that is how it should be.”

Engels To Minna Kautsky, November 2th 1885; From “Marx & Engels: On Literature & Art”; Moscow; 1976; p.87-89; London, November 26, 1885;
at: http://ml-review.ca/aml/SocialistArt/Final-ME_LASSALLE.htm

It should also reflect the future reality. See earlier quote from Engels.

But to do this in art, is very different from having a simple “cut-out” propagandist “formula.”

(iii) The stylistic presentation of the art must be at the highest level in order to allow the content to come out the clearest.

Numerous citations can be given of Marx and Engels insistence on achieving the highest level of professional stylistic presentation of art. It should not be forgotten that both Marx and Engels had at an early stage considered literature and poetry as a career and had both rejected this path – at least in part because they recognised their own limitations. 

A good illustration of Marx’s view that it is necessary to strike the right balance between form and content is in a letter to Ferdinand Lassalle, where Marx  critiques Lassalle’s play “Franz von Sickingen”: 

“London, April 19, 1859.
Marx To Ferdinand Lassalle, on his drama Franz von Sickingen

I am now coming to Franz von Sickingen. [Original Footnote: A Drama by Lassalle-Ed]

First of all, I must praise the composition and action, and that is more than can be said of any other modern German drama. In the second instance, leaving aside the purely critical attitude to this work, it greatly excited me on first reading and it will therefore produce this effect in a still higher degree on readers who are governed more by their feelings. And this is a second and very important aspect.

Now the other side of the medal: First -this is a purely formal matter – since you have written it in verse, you might have polished up your iambs with a bit more artistry.

But however much professional poets may be shocked by such carelessness, I consider it on the whole as an advantage, since our brood of epigonous poets have nothing left but formal polish.”

Marx To Ferdinand Lassalle; Problems Of Revolutionary Tragedy: Marx To Ferdinand Lassalle On His Drama Franz Von Sickingen Transcribed By Alliance From: “Marx And Engels On Literature And Art”; Moscow; 1976.
at http://ml-review.ca/aml/SocialistArt/Final-ME_LASSALLE.htm

Summary

Those creative geniuses Marx and Engels therefore recognised a core of aesthetic principles. As can be readily appreciated by a comparison against either Zhdanov’s writings, or of the “Theses of Art,” from the Marxist Leninist Organisation Britain, drafted by Bland, the views of Marx and Engels are very similar to those enunciated by the proponents of what came to be called Socialist Realism.

(3) Should Art be “Committed?”

Whether art should be committed or not – is at the centre of the debate between pure aesthetes (“Art for Art’s Sake”) and those who argue that art has a purpose. But committed art might not art that “wears its’ heart on its sleeve.” Committed art, might be better if it does not fire the viewer’s eye with a blunderbuss. This might be another distinction between high art and propaganda art. In general, we will argue that Marx and Engels both took this line of thought. 

Thus Engels argues to Mina Kautsky, that while art “with a purpose” can well be great art (Such as that of Aeschylus, Schiller, Dante, Cervantes etc), it is not necessary to “serve the reader on a platter the future historical resolution.”

“The novel itself reveals the origins of this shortcoming. You obviously felt a desire to take a public stand in your book, to testify to your convictions before the entire world. This has now been done; it is a stage you have passed through and need not repeat in this form. I am by no means opposed to partisan poetry as such. Both Aeschylus, the father of tragedy, and Aristophanes, the father of comedy, were highly partisan poets, Dante and Cervantes were so no less, and the best thing that can be said about Schiller’s Kabale und Liebe is that it represents the first German political problem drama. The modern Russians and Norwegians, who produce excellent novels, all write with a purpose. I think however that the purpose must become manifest from the situation and the action themselves, without being expressly pointed out and that the author does not have to serve the reader on a platter the future historical resolution of the social conflicts which he describes. To this must be added that under our conditions novels are mostly addressed to readers from bourgeois circles, i.e., circles which are not directly ours. Thus the socialist problem novel in my opinion fully carries out its mission if by a faithful portrayal of the real conditions, it dispels the dominant conventional illusions concerning them, shakes .the optimism of the bourgeois world, and inevitably instils doubt as to the eternal validity of that which exists, without itself offering a direct solution of the problem involved, even without at times ostensibly taking sides. Here your exact knowledge and admirably fresh and lifelike presentation of both the Austrian peasants and Vienna “society” find ample material, and in Stefan you have demonstrated that you are capable of treating your characters with the fine irony which attests to the author’s dominion over the beings he has created.”

Engels To Engels To Minna Kautsky, November 2th 1885; From “Marx & Engels: On Literature & Art”; Moscow; 1976; pp.87-89.
At http://ml-review.ca/aml/SocialistArt/Final-ME_LASSALLE.htm 

He also points out to Margaret Harkness, that it is often better for the authors true opinions to remain hidden:

“I am far from finding fault with your note having written a point-blank socialist novel, a “tendezroman”, as we Germans call it, to glorify the social and political vies of the authors. That is not at all what I mean. The more the opinions of the author remain hidden, the better for the world of art. The realism I allude to may crop out even in spite of the author’s opinions. Balzac whom I consider a far greater master of realism than all the Zolas, passes, presents et a venire [past present and to come], in La Comedie Humaine gives us a most wonderfully realistic history of French “society”, especially of “le monde parisien”, describing.. almost year by year from 1816-1848 the progressive inroads of the rising bourgeois upon the society of nobles that reconstituted itself after 1815 and that set up again, as far as it could the standard of la veille politesse francaise [Old French Refinement]…. Even in economic details.. I have learned more from [Balzac] than from all the professed historians, economists and statisticians of the period together. Well, Balzac was politically a Legitimist [adherents of the Bourbons overthrown in France in 1792, who represented the interests of the landed aristocracy]; his great work is a constant elegy on the irretrievable decay of good society, his sympathies are all with the class doomed to extinction. … That Balzac was compelled to go against his own class sympathies and political prejudices, that he saw the necessity of the downfall of his favourite nobles, and described them as people deserving no better fate; and that he saw the real men of the future where, for the time being they alone were to be found – that I consider one of the greatest triumphs of Realism, and one of the grandest features in old Balzac.”

Letter to Margaret Harkness; Engels April 1888; Marx and Engels Selected Correspondence, Moscow; 1975; p.379-81;
At http://ml-review.ca/aml/SocialistArt/Final-ME_LASSALLE.htm 

Similarly, Marx points out to Lassalle that while the content of an art work needs to be historically accurate, it is not necessary – indeed it is often counter-productive – (“Your gravest shortcoming”) – to allow characters to be “transform(ed) [from] individuals into mere mouthpieces of the spirit of the time.”

Art therefore is not a series of speeches, it is a different article from propaganda:

“London, November 26, 1885; Marx To Ferdinand Lassalle, on his drama Franz von Sickingen ;

Hence, if you did not want to reduce the collision to that presented in Gotz von Berlichingen – and that was not your plan – then Sickingen and Hutten had to succumb because they imagined they were revolutionaries (the latter cannot be said of Gotz) and, just like the educated Polish nobility of 1830, on the one hand, made themselves exponents of modern ideas, while, on the other, they actually represented the interests of a reactionary class. The aristocratic representatives of the revolution –behind whose watchwords of unity and liberty there still lurked the dream of the old empire and of club-law — should, in that case, not have absorbed all interest, as they do in your play, but the representatives of the peasants (particularly these) and of the revolutionary elements in the cities ought to have formed a quite significant active background. In that case you could to a much greater extent have allowed them to voice the most modern ideas in their most naive form, whereas now, besides religious freedom, civil unityactually remains the main idea. You would then have been automatically compelled to write more in Shakespeare’s manner whereas I regard as your gravest shortcoming the fact that a la Schiller you transform individuals into mere mouthpieces of the spirit of the time. Did you not yourself to a certain extent fall into the diplomatic error, like your Franz von Sickingen, of placing the, Lutheran-knightly opposition above the plebeian Munzer opposition?  Further, the characters are lacking in character. I exclude Charles V, Balthasar and Richard of Trier. Was there ever a time of more impressive characters than the 16th century? Hutten, I think, is too much just a representative of “inspiration” and this is boring. Was he not at the same time an ingenious person of devilish wit, and have you not therefore done him a great injustice?”

“Marx To Ferdinand Lassalle; Problems Of Revolutionary Tragedy: Marx And Engels To Ferdinand Lassalle On His Drama Franz Von Sickingen Transcribed By Alliance From: “Marx And Engels On Literature And Art”; Moscow; 1976
At http://ml-review.ca/aml/SocialistArt/Final-ME_LASSALLE.htm.

Summary:
Both Marx and Engels thought that the best art was distinct from propaganda. The latter depicts people acting as “mouthpieces.” But the best art while being very realistic and true to life, did not need to “itself offer a direct solution of the problem involved” or “even without at times ostensibly taking sides.”

(4) What Paintings  did Engels, Lenin and Stalin Admire?

Some indication has been given of this from the references of Marx and Engels in literature already cited, but there is far less regarding the visual arts.

I have not dealt with Stalin’s literary preferences as Bill has already dealt with this in his article Stalin and the Arts [http://ml-review.ca/aml/AllianceIssues/A2004/STALINART.html]. 

But since this talk is more about the visual arts, and a picture is worth a thousand words, I would like to show the favourite paintings as far as we know, of Engels and Stalin. We have some indication of their preferences in this regard, but none of either Lenin or Marx.

(i) Frederick Engels: Karl Hubner: “The Silesian Weavers”

hubner

The example that we know of for Engels, is vividly described by him in an article.

Engels clearly has absolutely no compunction about highlighting a picture that is both partisan and highly emotional.

These are two of the very elements that bourgeois ideologues find most repugnant about socialist realism:

“Let me on this occasion mention a painting by one of the best German painters, Karl Hubner, which has made a more effectual Socialist agitation than a hundred pamphlets might have done. It represents some Silesian weavers bringing linen cloth to the manufacturer, and contrasts very strikingly cold-hearted wealth on one side, and despairing poverty on the other. The well-fed manufacturer is represented with a face as red and unfeeling as brass, rejecting a piece of cloth which belongs to a woman; the woman, seeing no chance of selling the cloth, is sinking down and fainting, surrounded by her two little children, and hardly kept up by an old Man; a clerk is looking over a piece, the owners of which are with painful anxiety waiting for the result; a young man shows to his desponding mother the scanty wages he has received for his labour; an old man, a girl, and a boy, are sifting on a stone bench, and waiting for their turn; and two men, each with a piece of rejected cloth on his back, are just leaving the room, one of whom is clenching his fist in rage, whilst the other, putting his hand on his neighbour’s arm, points up towards heaven, as if saying: be quiet, there is a judge to punish him. This whole scene is going on in a cold and un-homely-looking lobby, with a stone floor: only the manufacturer stands upon a piece of carpeting; whilst on the other side of the painting, behind a bar, a view is opened into a luxuriously furnished counting-house, with splendid curtains and looking-glasses, where some clerks are writing, undisturbed by what is passing behind them,. and where the manufacturer’s son, a young, dandy-like gentleman, is leaning over the bar, with a horsewhip in his hand, smoking a cigar, and coolly looking at the distressed weavers. The painting has been exhibited in several towns of Germany, and, of course, prepared a good many minds for Social ideas. At the same time, we have had the triumph of seeing the first historical painter of this country, Charles Lessing, become a convert to Socialism.”

Frederick Engels: “Rapid Progress of Communism in Germany”; First Printed In: The New Moral World No. 25, December 13, 1844; In Collected Works; Volume 4; Moscow; 1975; pp. 229-233

(ii) V.I. Lenin

It is not known what Lenin’s favourite painting was. But it is known that he detested “Futurism,” and “incomprehensible art.”

Here is Vladmir Tatlin’s “Model of the Monument to the Third International 1920”:

tatlin

Everything we do know about Lenin’s views on art, are quite consistent with those of Stalin:

“All Lenin’s recorded utterances on art at this time suggest he approved the traditional and deplored the formally innovative. In February 1921, on a midnight visit to Varya Armand (the daughter of the revolutionary Inessa Armand), who was studying art in Moscow, Lenin became involved in a discussion with a group of art students in their hostel.These students recognised ‘nothing to the right of constructivism’ in art; but among their number was one student (a Siberian whose name, for one reason or another, has not come down to us) who made realistic works:’

“This,” says Lenin, “I understand. This is comprehensible to me, and comprehensible to you, and comprehensible to a worker and to everyone else.”‘

Similarly, in his most extended reported discourse on art, a conversation with Klara Tsetkin, he reportedly called for an art that was ‘comprehensible to the masses’.

This comprehensibility appears to have signified, in Lenin’s mind, a kind of party-oriented reportage; discussing the Soviet cinema, which he regarded as the most important art form (this was, in fact, a prescient and not at all conventional view circa 1920), Lenin emphasised the importance of documentary films, stating that ‘the production of new films, imbued with Communist ideas, reflecting Soviet actuality, should begin with the newsreel’.”

Matthew Cullerne Bown; “Socialist Realist Painting”; New Haven 1998; p. 62.

It was very soon after this time, that Lenin began a counter-attack on the ultra-leftism of the Proletkult (See http://ml-review.ca/aml/AllianceIssues/ALLIANCE7COMMUNISTACADEMY.html).

(iii) J.V.Stalin: Ilya Repin: “Zaporozhe Cossacks Write a letter to Tartar King”

repin75As described by Brown, Stalin was impressed by Repin, but espeically this picture:

“Picture depicts Cossacks writing a rude and rebellious letter to the Turkish Sultan in reply to his demands for their capitulation. The Cossacks are collectively splitting their sides in anticipation of the Sultan’s reaction…. Stalin wrote modestly leaving the exhibition in the visitor’s book: ”Was at the exhibition. Generally in my opinion good”

Matthew Culhearne Brown; “Art Under Stalin”; New York; 1991; p. 56.

(iv) W.B. Bland: Diego Rodriguez De Silva y Velazquez: “Pope Innocennzo X.”

While not in any way attempting to elevate Bland to the levels of the Marxist-Leninists discussed in this article, it is nonetheless appropriate in a memorial on Bill, to ask what were some of his favourite paintings? Bland’s relation to his leaders, Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Hoxha, is a matter for history and deeper analysis.

However – In Bill’s house in Ilford, the walls were hung with a variety of impressionist painting, including Van Gogh’s “Chair and boots”; “Sunflowers.” There was also a small reproduction of Degas’s statuette of the Dancer. He lived by himself, and these articles certainly reflected his own taste.

Diego Rodriguez De Silva y Velazquez: “Pope Innocennzo X.”

Diego Velazquez-538583

On the back of a postcard sent to me, of this painting Bland wrote: “I think this portrait (on loan here at present) is one of the finest I have ever seen”;

(5) Was Good Art Made in the USSR?

In this format, it is impossible to give a full and comprehensive history of USSR painting.

However we cna give some some indication, that all range of contents dealing with human life was depicted with vivid realism and accuracy. A range of paintings will be presented as examples.

Even Anatol Lunacharskii, who at times wavered in his views, as the Commissar for enlightenment, declared himself in favour of realism; despite his pull towards the futurist leftist tendency.

In 1919 Lunarchaskii appealed in “The Artistic Task of Soviet Power’  that:

‘The central content … is the struggle for socialism and the socialist ideal itself”;
Cited Matthew Cullerne Bown; “Socialist Realist Painting”; New Haven 1998;   p. 54.

How well did the artists respond?  Flipping through the excellent publiction by Matthew Cullerne Bown, “Socialist Realist Painting” published by Yale in 1998, we can readily see some extremely wonderful works. The illustrations below are all drawn from that work.

In terms of the ‘Iconic State Art’ that was discussed earlier, perhaps the first memorable piece was that of Isaak Brodski – who was introduced to Lenin by Lunacharskii as follows:

“From an ethical and political point of view the artist Brodskii merits complete trust’;

Cited Bown M.C. Ibid; p. 57.

Thereafter an immense painting “The Ceremonial Opening of the Second Congress of the Third International” [350×550 cm] was shown in 1924. Of the 218 delegates from 67 parties, Brodski made 125 portraits, combining these into the picutre.  Each individual delegate – including Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin – are recognisable.

Brodski

In the meantime, while he was working away on this massive scale, he painted Lenin and Trotsky. 

It is not recorded as far as I can find, that Trotsky modestly declined to have his picture painted. Indeed Trotsky urged that Lenin be depicted, as did Krasin (Bown Ibid p. 56).

In a later march of the Ultra-leftists of the AKhR, Brodski was driven out:

“AKhR began a purge of its own ranks in 1928. The bete-noir of the young activists was the arch-traditionalist Brodksi. In a declaration issued at the time of the May 1928 Congress, they called for a struggle with ‘photo-naturalism – Broskiism’. Brodskii was driven out fo the AKhR; soon afterwards he was followed buy the painter of Russian hisotricla scences Gavriil Gorelov – hounded out becassue in 1927 he had aprticiated in the decoration of a church – and by Leningrad apinter Mikhail Avilov.”

Cullerne Bown Ibid; p. 115.

An early example of an artistically exaggerated perspective, one that enhanced an overall realism is that of Kustodiev B.M. “A Bolshevik’; 1920 [101×141 cm].
In my view, tihs illustrates nicely the distinction between “Realism” and “Naturalism.”

Kustodiev

Kustodiev was previous to this picture, better known for nudes and portraits. He became a respected member of the arts community, and exhibited both with ultra-leftists from the Protekult and other groups. He remained unaligned.

The difficulties of daily life were portrayed with unflinching realisms as in Savitski’s G,K. “The year 1919’; 63×43 cm].

Savitski

An example of a “realism” that was quite novel – and “anti-naturalism” – in its depiction of stark cold plain background was Alexander A Deineka’s “The Defence of Petrograd”; 1927 (218×354 cm);

Deineka

Although not a member of the AKhRR, Deineka was invited to show at the 10th exhibiton of AKh RR, and this painting was “considered the star of the
exhibition” Cullerne Bown Ibid; p. 77.

He studied workers’ movements in the factory for hours at times before a picture, and he was fascinated by “rhythm.” This can be seen above.

As well can seen sharp contrasts – “the struggle of white and black elements in graphics” – as expounded by Vladimir Favorski.

Deineka was a bridge between the graphics of the socialist poster and the canvas art of Socialist Realism.

Later commentators would remark on the multi-spatial dimension (Two lines of soldiers – before and after the revolution) – as a “paradigm of the “dialectical-materialist” approach to painting.”; Cited Culleren Bown Ibid; p. 95.

The new life under sociailism was depicted as being a wide open avenue along which a young lady could drive a car towards the city, by Yuri I Pimenov “New Moscow”; in 1937 [140×170 cm].

Pimenov

The image of “A Partisan” by Sergei V Malyutin 1936 [100×150 cm] is deceptively simple. With intense focus on the man, the rutted snow behind shows how this man will travel on guard for danger.

Malyutin

While George C Nisski’s “Sebastopol – The Meeting”;(1935 77×101 cm) shows with luminescent colouring, an age-old scene of boy meets girl. With the kicker of a bunch of mates in the background no doubt good humouredly – but perhaps slightly jealously? – watching their comrade’s good fortune.

Nisski

The natural beauty of the world, was not lost on artists in the USSR of socialist realism, as a famous impressionist artist, Aleksandr M Gerasimov shows in “An Orchard in Blossom”; (1935; 124×133 cm).

Gerasimov

With the War years of course, the emphasis changed, and the war reality and bravery of the USSR people was shown clearly. Despite the privations of the war, painting went on. Exhibitions were once more held from 1942, and one, “Leningrad in the Days of the Patriotic War,” held ins the still besieged city, drew:

“weak, scarcely moving people .. to our cold exhibition hall .. carrying their most recent works”;
Bown M.C. Cited Ibid; p.216.

To be singled out are perhaps Sergei V. Gerasimov’s “The Mother of  a Partisan” (1943 184×232 cm); 

GerasimovS.V

And once more the work of Alexsandr A Deineka, whose rapid movement in “The Defence of Sebastopol” (1942 200×400 cm) makes the canvas appear cinematic. This is helped by the unusual horizontal canvas shape, a “wide angle” frame. The naked figure on the far left hurling a grenade swirls into the dressed sailor brandishing a piece of fencing as defence, who in turn is thrown into the distant sailor wielding a rifle in hand-to-hand combat.

Deineka2

Naturally again the emphasis would shift after the war, to once more depict the life of the people. “Galya of the Birds” by Pavel F Globa [1950 137×201 cm] is very far from the image that is presented by the bourgeoisie of socialist Realism. As for A.M.Gerasimov, it would not be very far-fetched to think of this in an exhibition of the Impressionists.

Globa

Conclusions

Contrary to received wisdom, Stalin’s views, and personal preferences in art were not at all dissimilar to those of Marx and Engels and Lenin.

He was not the moving force behind the plethora of bad propagandist art that was seen in the late period of the USSR. Undoubted distortions occurred, and need further exploration. However, Ultra-leftist trends were supported by a combination of misguided honest elements, and hidden revisionists. 

Nonetheless, the era of Socialist art covered a number of trends over the period 1917-1953, and undoubtedly has left future progressive artists and peoples a lasting legacy of extraordinary art. 

Whether it is to everyone’s taste is another matter. But then – not everyone is a supporter of socialism. I submit, that the art of that era is more consistent with people’s views than the modern art collected by the Saatchi’s of this world.

Source

Bill Bland: Stalin & the Arts – On Marxist-Leninist Aesthetics

Vera Mukhina: Monument to Collectivisation

Vera Mukhina: Monument to Collectivisation

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

Preface

This talk was given by Bill Bland to the ‘Stalin Society’ in 1993. He later expanded this talk in some detail, into the manuscript here.

It gives a history of Socialist Realism in the society of its birth – the Soviet Union.
It also depicts leftist-revisionist strands in art policy in the USSR.

In part Alliance has discussed these revisionist elements before (See Alliance 7 on Ultra-leftism in the Communist Academy & Proletkult: at: http://ml-review.ca/aml/AllianceIssues/ALLIANCE7COMMUNISTACADEMY.html).

But Bill’s analysis goes much further than this, and he comprehensively covers many of the usual controversies as thrown out by liberal aesthetes, who charge Stalin with having “killed the arts and artists.”

As a talk, slide and tape cues are given. This version does not include the musical clips, but does include some slide clips as used by Bland in his talk. Missing segments are indicated. As far as possible, pictures of slides are credited with the web-source from where they were derived.

Editors Alliance Marxist-Leninist (North America)
August 2004

INTRODUCTION — ART AND SOCIETY

ART is a form of production in which the producer (the artist strives by his product (the work of art) to create certain thoughts or feelings in the minds of its consumers.

A product which is exclusively artistic and has no other significant function is termed fine art. A product which is primarily functional may be secondarily a work of art if its producer has been concerned not merely with its function but also with creating certain thoughts of feelings in the minds of its users. Such art is termed applied art.

The content of a work of art is its subject.

The form of a work of art is the manner or style in which the artist has presented the content of his work of art.

Realism is a trend in art which seeks to represent its subject faithfully and truthfully.

An artist is a member of society, so that the art of a particular time and place cannot but be influenced by the social environment existing in that time and place.

When and where a particular a social system is in harmony with the needs of the mass of the people, the prevailing thought tends to be rational, favourable to science and optimistic, while the prevailing art tends to be realistic.

When and where a particular social system has outlived its usefulness to the majority of the people, the prevailing thought tends to be irrational, unfavourable to science and pessimistic while the prevailing art tends to be unrealistic, tends to degenerate into a greater or lesser degree of abstraction.

SLIDE 1: MARGARITONE OF AREZZO: ALTAR-PIECE.

Margaritone

Thus, in Europe in the late Middle Ages, when the long-established social system of feudalism was in decline, the prevailing art was typically Byzantine in style — like this altar-piece by Margaritone of Arezzo* in the National Gallery, painted in the late 13th century. Painting from real life had by this time come to be regarded as heretical, and artists tended to confine themselves to making copies of works of art previously approved by the Church. Thus, Byzantine art tended to be flat and lifeless.

Then, in the 14th century, above all in Italy, the embryonic capitalist class began to exert its influence, giving rise to that flowering of science, art and culture we call the Renaissance.

SLIDE 2: CARAVAGGIO : “THE SUPPER AT EMMAUS”

emmaus

The difference between this picture by Caravaggio* and the previous one by Margaritone is not just a matter of improved technique, the use of light and shade, the mastery of perspective. The main difference is that it is no longer based on previous works of art; it is painted from life and it glows with realism.

SLIDE 3: GIOVANNI BELLINI: “THE DOGE LEONARDO LOREDANO”

Leonardo-Loredan-Gentile-Bellini-Oil-Painting-AB00494

This sumptuous portrait of the Doge of Venice, by Giovanni Bellini*, conveys with realism all the pomp and prosperity of the wealthy state of Venice.

Most sitters of the Renaissance and the rising embryonic capitalist class felt self-confident, and did not demand that painters prettified them. Thus, Oliver Cromwell* ordered the painter Peter Lely* to paint him “warts and all.”

SLIDE 4: ATTRIBUTED TO QUENTIN MASSYS: PORTRAIT OF AN OLD WOMAN

massys

And this sitter no doubt gave the same instructions to her painter.

SLIDE 5: PIETER DE HOOCH: “INTERIOR OF A DUTCH HOUSE”

Hooch

In the 17th century we find Dutch painters like Pieter De Hoochpainting realistically the interiors of bourgeois houses like this, in which he expresses his joy in painting sunlight. The figure standing before the fireplace was an afterthought added to improve the design of the grouping, and that is why the black-and-white tiles of the floor can be seen through the woman’s skirt.

But when a social system ceases to serve the interests of the majority of the people — for example, in France in the years immediately preceding the French Revolution of 1792 sensitive artists, other than conscious revolutionaries, find reality too unpleasant and sordid to portray realistically, so that they tend to reject realism in favour of falsity.

SLIDE 6: JEAN-HONORE FRAGONARD: “THE SWING”

Fragonard

Jean Fragonard* was court painter at Versailles in the years just prior to the French Revolution. This painting, “The Swing,” is typical of the artificiality of his work. The decadent court is concealed in a completely false world of eternal youth and perpetual pleasure, of endless summer filled with laughter and the scent of flowers.

In the twentieth century, capitalism reached the stage of imperialism, where it became ever more clearly contrary to the interests of the mass of the people.

In such a period, revolutionary artists make use of realism to further the revolutionary cause. But the honest, sensitive artist who is not a revolutionary, who sees no way out of existing social problems, finds reality too painful to portray, and consequently moves away from realism.

Even in the 19th century, artists like William Turner* began to sense the poverty and exploitation which lay behind the surface of Victorian prosperity, and to move away from realism.

SLIDE 7: J. M. WILLIAM TURNER: “RAIN, STEAM AND SPEED”

turner

In this late picture by Turner of a train crossing a viaduct, the train is not the realistic assembly of gleaming pistons which would have brought joy to the heart of George Stephenson*. The train is no more than an impression, lost in the wild rush of colour of the elements and the steam from the engine.

Today capitalism has been in increasing decay for almost a century.

Britain, once the workshop of the world, has been turned into an industrial museum; some four million people are out of work and school-leavers face the prospect of spending all their lives on social security; in the heart of London, thousands of people are forced to sleep in the open air winter and summer . . .

So, with the coming of imperialism, which is capitalism in its final stage, capitalism in decay, reality became uglier still, and honest, sensitive artists who are not socialists reject even the impression of reality.

Among the many non-realistic artistic trends which arose in the 20th century is Cubism, associated particularly with the name of Picasso.

SLIDE 8: PABLO PICASSO: “PORTRAIT OF M. KAHNWEILER”

Picasso

In later Cubism the image is first cut up into geometrical forms, then these are shifted around. In this portrait by Picasso, all we can recognise are fragmentary aspects of the sitter’s waistcoat and face drowned in chaos.

SLIDE 9: SALVADOR DALI: “SUBURBS OF THE PARANOIC-CRITICAL TOWN”

Dali

Another 20th century non-realistic artistic trend was Surrealism, allegedly based on the unconscious mind, the dreams of which are declared to be more real than objective reality. The Spanish-born painter Salvador Dali* deserted Cubism for Surrealism. His paintings — like this one, entitled “Suburbs of the Paranoic-Critical Town” — are naturalistic in appearance, but with objects in the weirdest juxtaposition — a temple, an armchair, a horse’s skull and a girl with a bunch of grapes.

Of course, this movement from realism is not confined to the visual arts.

In the theatre, for instance, it has produced a whole trend known as “the Theatre of the Absurd.” Here “absurd” is used in the sense of “incongruous,” “illogical,” “contrary to reason.” It is often humorous, but its humour comes not from satire on real life, but from incongruity. It is the humour of “Monty Python.” It portrays life and the world as senseless and meaningless:

“The Theatre of the Absurd is . . . part of the ‘anti-literary’ movement of our time, which has found its expression in abstract painting.”

(Martin J. Esslin: ‘The Theatre of the Absurd’; Harmondsworth; 1977; p. 26).

A milestone in the development of “the Theatre of the Absurd” was the play “Waiting for Godot,” written in French by the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett*, and first published in Paris in 1952.

The play is set in a country lane where two tramps are waiting for a mysterious person called Godot. As they wait, they converse in the manner of cross-talk comedians on the variety stage. Eventually a boy arrives and tells them that Godot is not coming that day. In the second act, they continue to talk as they wait for Godot, and again the boy comes to tell them that Godot won’t be coming.

As one eminent critic has put it: “Waiting for Godot” is a play in which nothing happens — twice!

Here are the last few lines of the play:

RECORDING 1: EXTRACT: “WAITING FOR GODOV.”

“Vladimir: We’ll hang ourselves tomorrow….. Unless Godot comes. Estragon: And if he comes?
Vladimir: We’ll be saved.
Estragon: Well? Shall we go?
Vladimir: Pull on your trousers.
Estragon: What?
Vladimir: Pull on your trousers.
Estragon: You want me to pull off my trousers?
Vladimir: Pull ON your trousers.
Estragon: True.
Vladimir: Well? Shall we go?
Estragon: Yes, let’s go”.
(Samuel Beckett: ‘En attendant Godot, piece en deux actes’; London; 1966; p. 88).

They do not move, and the curtain falls.

The American playwright William Saroyan*, who greatly admires the play, says:

“The play is about nothing. All is nothing. All comes to nothing.”

(William Saroyan: ‘A Few Words about Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”‘: Record Sleeve).

In the field of music, the retreat from realism has taken the form of atonality. If you listen to this scale –

KEYBOARD DEMONSTRATION: INCOMPLETE DIATONIC SCALE.

— something is clearly missing. We are left hanging in the air, unsatisfied, waiting for ‘the other shoe’ to drop. Tonality is a system of relations between tones having a tonic or central pitch as its most important element. In atonal music, all sense of key or resting place is lost. There are no longer “consonances” and “dissonances,” but only varying degrees of dissonance.

Here is a piece of modern atonal music — “Duo for Two Violins in the Sixth-Tone System,” by the Czech composer Alois Haba*.

RECORDING 2: EXTRACT: ALOIS HABA: ‘DUO FOR 1140 VIOLINS IN THE SIXTH-TONE SYSTEM’

Atonal composers say that in rejecting tonality, they are liberating music from restrictions. Yet Bach, Beethoven and Mozart did not feel restricted by tonality.

The fact is that, unlike the music of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, who did not feel themselves restricted by tonality, this kind of music fails to move listeners. It does not do so — it is unloved — because it has rejected melody, it has rejected realism.

What limits modern composers is not tonality, but paucity of ideas.

In some respects, the music of composers like Haba has its counterpart in the junk music of “pop.”

Here is an extract of a group called “The Swirlies” playing a piece called “Blondatonaudiobaton” — whatever that may mean.

RECORDING 3: EXTRACT: THE SWIRLIES: “BLONDATONAUDIOBATON”

It is not accidental that pop concerts have become associated with drugs — for the music itself (if one can call it that) has many of the characteristics of a drug.

Capitalism in decay survives by means of the old Roman policy of “Divide and Rule” — by dividing black from white, office worker from manual worker, Protestant from Catholic, and — as in the case of “pop music” — young from old. Indeed,, in a society where there is hopeless mass unemployment the ideal young person is one who is too stoned to do anything more than stagger down to the chemist’s and collect his methodone.

As George Melly*, puts it, pop is:

“. . . based on the corruption of standards deliberately engineered by skilful vested interests for their own gain. . . .Pop is in many ways an ersatz culture feeding off its own publicity….It draws no conclusions. It makes no comments. It proposes no solutions.”

(George Melly: ‘Revolt into Style: The Pop Arts in Britain’; Harmondsworth; 1972; p. 6, 7).

AESTHETICS IN THE SOVIET UNION (1917-1932)

Aesthetics is the science of quality in art.

Marx, Engels and Lenin did not develop a thoroughgoing theory of aesthetics, and even their passing comments on the subject were not systematically investigated until the 1930s.

After the Russian Socialist Revolution of November 1917, in the absence of any authoritative guidelines, all kinds of artistic trends flowered, including many from the West.

“Proletarian Culture” (1920-24)

There was general agreement in Soviet Russia that culture in a socialist state, a state of the dictatorship of the proletariat, should be “proletarian culture.” But there was no agreement as to what ‘proletarian culture’ should consist of.

One influential view was that put forward by Aleksandr Bogdanov*, who became the leader of the “Proletarian Cultural and Educational Associations,” (Proletkult), formed in September 1917.

The leaders of Proletkult held that “proletarian culture” must be a new, specially created culture:

“Its (Proletkult’s — Ed.) members actually denied the cultural legacy of the past… isolated themselves from life and aimed at setting up a special ‘proletarian culture.'”

(Note to: Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 31; Moscow; 1974; p. 567).

They also demanded that there should be no leadership of Proletkult by the Party:

“Proletkult continued to insist on independence, thus setting itself in opposition to the proletarian state.”

(Note to: Vladimir I. Lenin; ‘Collected Works’, Volume 31; ibid.; p. 567)

Lenin was strongly opposed to Bogdanov’s conception of “proletarian culture,” insisting that it should be a natural development of all that was best in previous world culture:

“Marxism . . . has . . . assimilated and refashioned everything of value in the more than two thousand years of the development of human thought and culture. Only further work on this basis and in this direction . . . can be recognised as the development of a genuine proletarian culture.”

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘On Proletarian Culture’ (October 1920), in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 31; ibid.; p. 317).

“Only a precise knowledge and transformation of the culture created by the entire development of mankind will enable us to create a proletarian culture. The latter . . . is not an invention of those who call themselves experts in proletarian culture. That is all nonsense. Proletarian culture must be the logical development of the store of knowledge mankind has accumulated under the yoke of capitalist, landowner and bureaucratic society.”

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘The Tasks of the Youth Leagues’ (October 1920), in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 31; ibid.; p. 287).

Lenin further demanded that:

“. . . all Proletkult organisations . . . accomplish their tasks under the general guidance of the Soviet authorities (specifically of the People’s Commissariat of Education) and of the Russian Communist Party.”

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘On Proletarian Culture’ (October 1920), in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 31; ibid.; p. 317).

The Proletkult organisations declined in the 1920s:

” . . . ceasing to exist in 1932.”

(Note to: Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 31; ibid.; p.567).

The Period of Party Neutrality in Aesthetics (1925-1932)

In May 1925 Stalin put forward a view which expressed the basis of an objective Marxist-Leninist aesthetic — that proletarian culture should be socialist in content and national in form:

“Proletarian culture . . . is socialist in content . . . national in form.”

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The Political Tasks of the University of the Peoples of the East’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 7; Moscow; 1954; p. 140).

However, the leadership of the Party rejected the conception of aesthetics put forward by Stalin, and in June 1925 adopted:

“…a rambling, repetitious, verbose and pompous document.”

(Edward J. Brown: ‘The Proletarian Episode in Russian Literature: 1928-1932’; New York; 1935)(hereafter listed as ‘Edward J. Brown (1935)’); p. 43).

This resolution was entitled “On the Policy of the Party in the Field of Literature,” and declared the Party’s neutrality between aesthetic trends:

“The Party can in no way bind itself in adherence to any one direction in the sphere of artistic form. . . . All attempts to bind the Party to one direction at the present phase of cultural development of the country must be firmly rejected.
Therefore the Party must pronounce in favour of free competition between the various groupings and streams in this sphere. . . .Similarly unacceptable would be the passing of a decree or party decision awarding a legal monopoly in matters of literature and publishing to some group or literary organisation, . . . for this would mean the destruction of proletarian literature.”

(Resolution of CC, RCP, ‘On the Party’s Policy in the Field of Literature’ (July 1925), in: C. Vaughan James: ‘Soviet Socialist Realism’; London; 1973; p;. 118, 119).

Edward J. Brown* comments:

“As a result of that liberal policy, the years from 1921 to 1932 saw the growth of a literature in Russia which is thoroughly congenial to the tastes of Western intellectuals.”

(Edward J. Brown: ‘Russian Literature since the Revolution’; London; 1963 (hereafter listed as ‘Edward J. Brown (1963)’; p. 23).

The adoption of this “liberal” attitude towards aesthetics was due to the fact that the Party leadership at this time was dominated by revisionists, by concealed opponents of socialism. The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party elected after the 13th Congress of the Party in June 1924 consisted of (in alphabetical order):

Nikolay I. Bukharin*,
Lev B. Kamenev*;
Aleksey I. Rykov*;
Josef V. Stalin;
Mikhail P. Tomsky*;
Lev D. Trotsky*;
Grigory E. Zinoviev*.

(Leonard Schapiro: ‘The Communist Party of the Soviet Union’; London; 1960; p. 607).

The revisionist control over literature in the next period was exercised through the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP), founded in 1920, which published the journal “On Literary Guard” from 1926 to 1932. RAPP was headed by the concealed Trotskyist Leopold Averbakh*, who exercised a virtual dictatorship over literature:

“Averbakh exercised a virtual dictatorship over early Soviet Russian literature.”

(Robert H. Stacy: ‘Russian Literary Criticism: A Short History’; New York; 1974; p. 196).

“Averbakh’s first book, published in 1923, had appeared with a preface by Trotsky.”

(Edward J. Brown (1963): op. cit.; p. 217).

“In 1937 Averbakh was unmasked as an agent of Trotsky, one whose errors formed a pattern of subversion in Soviet literature.”‘

(Norah Levin: ‘The Jews in the Soviet Union since 1917: Paradoxes of Survival’, Volume 2; London; 1990; p. 863).

Averbakh was the brother-in-law of Genrikh Yagoda*, at this time Deputy Commissar for Internal Affairs, who later, in 1938, admitted in open court to treason:

“The main figure, Averbakh, had come under the protection of his relative by marriage, Yagoda. . . . Soon after Yagoda’s arrest, he (Averbakh — Ed.) was attacked as a Trotskyite.”

(Robert Conquest: ‘The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties’; Harmondsworth; 1971; p. 446).

“The RAPP leaders . . . were, shortly after the Moscow Trial of 1937, accused of having been themselves Trotskyists.”

(Edward J. Brown (1935): op. cit.; p. 223).

In the absence of any Party guidance on aesthetics, the Trotskyites in the leadership of RAPP caused great harm to Soviet literature during the period of their domination, partly by their sectarianism:

“Averbakh was sectarian and oppressively dogmatic in his treatment of literary questions.”

(Victor Terras: p. 29; ‘Handbook of Russian Literature’; New Haven (USA); 1985;)

For example, during the period of the First Five-Year Plan (1929-34) the leaders of RAPP decreed in 1930 that only literature which directly boosted the Plan should be published:

“‘Literature should help the Five-Year Plan’ was the slogan. . . .The depiction of the Five-Year Plan is the one and only problem of Soviet literature, proclaimed the organ of RAPP in 1930. . . .For about three years, the Five-Year Plan became the only subject of Soviet literature.”

(Gleb Struve: ‘Soviet Russian Literature’; London; 1935; p. 86, 229).

As might have been expected:

” . . . the result was a drying-up of the creative sources of Russian literature and a narrowing-down of its themes.”

(Gleb Struve: ibid.; p. 229).

Even more serious, the leaders of RAPP used their positions to persecute writers who attempted to follow a socialist line in their art — this extending even to such famous and outstanding artists as Maksim Gorky*, Mikhail Sholokhov* and Vladimir Mayakovsky*.

The Case of Maksim Gorky

The persecution of Maksim Gorky by the Soviet revisionists, particularly Grigory Zinoviev, became so serious that in 1921 Gorky was forced to leave Soviet Russia and move to Italy:

“His (Gorky’s –Ed.) relations with Zinoviev, the local dictator at Petrograd, became so strained that he left Russia in the autumn of 1921.”

(Jeanne Vronskaya & Vladimir Chuguev: ‘The Biographical Dictionary of the Former Soviet Union: Prominent People in All Fields from 1917 to the Present’; London; 1992; p. 157).

“Partly on account of his disagreements with the leading Bolsheviks (Zinoviev and Kamenev — Ed.). Gorky went abroad again in 1921.”

(Anthony K. Thorlby (Ed.): ‘Penguin Companion to Literature’, Volume 2; Harmondsworth; 1969; p. 325).

“Gorky did make a dire enemy of one of the new masters: Zinioviev.”

(Dan Levin: ‘Stormy Petrel: The Life and Work of Maksim Gorky’ London; 1967; p. 198).

in whose feud with Gorky:

“Zinoviev was supported by Kamenev. . . . It was the weakening of Gorky’s position in Soviet Russia, a growing sense of disillusionment and helplessness, that finally made him leave in 1921, not his health.”

(Dan Levin: ibid.; p. 210).

In 1928 the attacks on Gorky were taken up by the still concealed revisionists in the leadership of RAPP, headed by Averbakh. For example, in February 1928 Gorky was being depicted in the RAPP journal as:

“a man without class consciousness.”

(‘On Literary Guard’, February 1928; p. 94).

Averbakh’s attacks on Gorky in ‘On Literary Guard’ were echoed in the journal “The Present,” published by the Siberian writers’ association, which had been founded by Semyon Rodov* (formerly of the RAPP triumvirate). This journal described Gorky as:

“…a crafty, disguised enemy.”

(‘The Present’, Nos. 8 & 9, 1929, in: C. Vaughan James: op. cit.; p. 74).

“In tirades of mounting fury, Gorky was called a class enemy and said to be a protector of anti-Soviet elements.”

(C. Vaughan James: ibid.; p 74).

But by this time the exposure of the Opposition had reached the point where these attacks could be countered:

“At this point the Party stepped in with a resolution ‘On the Statement of Part of the Siberian Writers and Literary Organisations against Maksim Gorky.”‘

(C. Vaughan James: ibid.; p. 74).

and administered:

“a firm reprimand to the Communist fraction of the Siberian Proletkult.”

(C. Vaughan James: ibid.; p. 74).

During Gorky’s enforced absence abroad, Stalin continued to support him, writing to him, for example, in Italy in January 1930:

“I am told you need a physician from Russia, Is that so? Whom do you want? Let us know and we shall send him.”

(J. V. Stalin: Letter to Maksim Gorky, January 1930, in: ‘Works’, Volume 12; Moscow; 1955; p. 183).

But by 1931 the revisionists seemed to have been finally defeated, and Gorky felt it safe to return to the Soviet Union. He returned to Moscow in 1931 after the fall of his arch-enemy, Zinoviev. (Jeanne Vronskaya and Vladimir Chuguev: op. cit.; p. 157).

Since:

“. . the defeat of the Communist Opposition . . . must have seemed . . to Gorky the harbinger of unity. Zinoviev . . . had been Gorky’s arch-tormentor.”

(Dan Levin: op. cit.; p. 264).

But concealed revisionists continued to plot against Gorky. By utilising the services of medical members of the conspiracy, Genrikh Yagoda — who was Commissar for Internal Affairs from 1934 to 1936 — had arranged the murder of Gorky’s son, Maksim Peshkov, in 1934 and that of Gorky himself in 1936:

YAGODA: Yenukidze “. . . told me that the centre had decided to undertake a number of terrorist acts against members of the Political Bureau and, in addition, against Maksim Gorky personally. . . . Yenukidze explained to me that the ‘bloc of Rights and Trotskyites’ . . . regarded Gorky as a dangerous figure. Gorky was a staunch supporter of Stalin’s leadership, and in case the conspiracy was put into effect, he would undoubtedly raise his voice against us, the conspirators. . . .

VYSHINSKY: Do you admit being guilty of the murder of Alexey Maksimovich Gorky?

YAGODA: I do.”

(Report of Court Proceedings in the Case of the Anti-Soviet ‘Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites’; Moscow; 1938; p. 574, 577).

The physician Dmitry Pletnev told the Court:

“PLETNEV: No extraneous poisonous substances were introduced, but he (Gorky — Ed.) was subjected to a regime which was harmful. All the medicines were permissible, but in the individual case of Gorky they were harmful. . . .

VYSHINSKY: Formulate briefly the particulars of the plan which you drew up together with Levin (co-defendant physician Lev Levin — Ed.) for the killing of Aleksey Maksimovich Gorky.

PLETNEV: To tire out the organism and thus lower its power of resistance.

VYSHINSKY: For what purpose?

PLETNEV: To bring about Gorky’s death.”

(Report of Court Proceedings in the Case of the Anti-Soviet ‘Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites’; ibid.; p. 591, 593).

The Case of Mikhail Sholokhov

One of the finest Soviet novels is “The Quiet Don,” written in 1928-40 by the Cossack writer Mikhail Sholokhov who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for the work in 1965. An English translation of the novel was published in two parts, entitled respectively “Quiet Flows the Don” and “The Don Flows Home to the Sea.”

“The Quiet Don” is, above all:

“. . . a harsh denunciation of the policy pursued by the Trotskyites.”

(Geir Kjetsaa et al: ‘The Authorship of “The Quiet Don”‘; Oslo; 1984; p. 17).

among the Cossacks.

Almost immediately after the publication of the first volume of the novel in the journal “October” in 1929, rumours began to circulate that “The Quiet Don” was a plagiarism, that it had been written not by Sholokhov, but by someone else — the favourite candidate being another Cossack writer, Fedor Kryukov*:

“Rumours of plagiarism started to circulate as far back as 1928, simultaneously with the appearance of the first volume in the literary journal ‘October.”‘

(Geir Kjetsaa et al: op. cit.; p. 15).

These rumours were, understandably, spread by

“. . . supporters of Trotsky. . . .Even if Trotsky at that time had left the Soviet Union, some of his earlier adherents were still in power. One of them was S. I. Syrtsov* (1893-1938), . . ., an eager supporter of Trotsky’s brutal policy towards the Cossacks.”

(Geir Kjetsaa et al: op. cit.; p. 17).

As a result of these rumours,

“at the beginning of 1929, the editorial board (of ‘October’ — Ed.), decided to discontinue the publication of the novel.”

(Geir Kjetsaa et al: op. cit.; p. 16).

Sholokhov protested to the Party newspaper “Pravda,” which organised a special commission, headed by the writer Aleksandr Serafimovich*, to investigate the allegations. To this body, Sholokhov submitted his manuscripts and notes.

“At the end of March 1929, ‘Pravda’ published a letter in which the charges against Sholokhov were refuted as ‘malicious slander’ spread by enemies of the proletarian dictatorship.”

(‘Pravda’, 29 March 1929; p. 4).

In January 1930 Sholokhov had a meeting with Stalin, on which he (Sholokhov) commented:

“The conversation was very profitable to me and encouraged me to put into practice new creative ideas.”

(Herman Ermolaev: ‘Mikhail Sholokhov and his Art’; Princeton (USA); 1982 (herafter listed as ‘Herman Ermolkav (1982); p. 29).

By 1934, as we have seen [Editor: See prior writings via the Index pages of Alliance], the Soviet state security organs had come under the control of concealed revisionists, and in 1938:

“the NKVD began a large-scale operation against Sholokhov.”

(Herman Ermolaev (1982): ibid.; p. 41).

Sholokhov was accused of:

“preparing an uprising of the . . . Cossacks against the Soviet regime.”

(Herman Ermolaev (1982): op. cit.; p. 41).

In October 1938, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the CPSU carried out an investigation, in which Stalin played a leading role, into the charges against Sholokhov. These were found to be groundless. Sholokhov said in 1969 that:

” . . . Stalin looked closely into everything, and all the accusations against me were smashed to smithereens.”

(Herman Ermolaev (1982): op. cit.; p;., 42).

In the 1960s the charges of plagiarism against Sholokhov were renewed by the historian Roy Medvedev*, who admitted that:

“. . . it is a fact that Fedor Kryukov’s son was among the Cossacks who emigrated to the west and he never made any claims against Sholokhov. No such claims were made anywhere in emigre Cossack literature.”

(Roy A. Medvedev: ‘Problems in the Literary Biography of Mikhail Sholokhov’; Cambridge; 1966 (hereafter listed as ‘Roy A. Medvedev (1966)’; p. 204).

Nevertheless, Medevedev concluded:

“While we must refrain as yet from any definitive solutions and conclusions, the mass of new data seems to us to speak in favour of the now familiar theory of the double authorship of ‘The Quiet Don.'”

(Roy A. Medvedev (1966): op. cit.; p.

The main reason presented for this conclusion was the view that:

“. . . Sholokhov was too young to have produced such a mature piece of work.”

(Roy A. Medvedev (1966): op. cit.; p. 202).

In 1974 the charges of plagiarism against Sholokhov were revived in an anonymous pamphlet published in Paris, with a foreword by Aleksander Solzhenitsyn*. The pamphlet, in Russian, was entitled ‘The Current of ‘The Quiet Don’: Riddles of the Novel.” Reviving the old, discredited slanders of the 1920s, it claimed that:

“the bulk of ‘The Quiet Don’ had been written not by Mikhail Sholokhov, but by… Fedor Kryukov.”

(Geir Kjetsaa et al: op. cit.; p. 7).

A more recent study, published in 1982 by the American expert Herman Ermolaev*, based on computer textual analysis of the work of Sholokhov and Kryukov, concludes that:

“no evidence has so far been presented to show that Sholokhov utilised someone else’s imaginative work for writing ‘The Quiet Don’. Until there is convincing evidence to the contrary, Sholokhov ought to be treated as the sole author of ‘The Quiet Don.”‘

(Herman Ermolaev (1982): op. cit.; p. 300).

Similar computer textual analysis also compelled Geir Kjetsaa et al. to conclude in 1984 that:

“the use of mathematical statistics permits us to exclude the possibility of Kryukov having written the novel, whereas Sholokhov cannot be excluded as the author.”

(Geir Kjetsaa et al: op. cit. p. 152).

The Case of Vladimir Mayakovsky

The poet Vladimir Mayakovsky is regarded as:

“the real troubadour of the Revolution.”

(Herbert Marshall (Ed.): ‘Mayakovsky’; London; 1965 (henceforth listed as ‘Herbert Marshall (Ed.) (1965)’); p. 18).

He wrote poems on topical matters, in ordinary everyday language, and travelled from town to town and village to village, reciting them.

In April 1930 Mayakovsky committed suicide by shooting himself, leaving a note. The story was widely spread that he had:

“committed suicide because of a romantic and unfortunate love affair.”

(Gleb Struve: op. cit.; p. 167).

Indeed, the official report of the investigation into his death his death (issued less than 24 hours after his death) was at pains to deny that death was connected with his social or literary activity:

“The preliminary data of the investigation show that the suicide was due to causes of a purely personal character, having nothing to do with the social or literary activity of the poet.”

(‘Pravda’, 15 April 1930, in: Herbert Marshall (Ed.) (1965): op. cit.; p. 28-29).

But, as Shakespeare expressed it:

“Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love.”

(William Shakespeare: ‘As You like it’, Act 4, Scene 1, in: ‘The Complete Works’, Feltham; 1979; p. 226).

In fact, it was in October 1929 that Mayakovsky was informed that the girl he thought himself in love with — Tatiana Yalovleva*, the daughter of a White Russian emigrant living in Paris — had married someone else:

“In October Lilya Brik* received a letter from her sister Elsa (Elsa Triolet* — Ed.)…’Tatyana has got married.”‘

(A. D. P. Briggs: ‘Vladimir Mayakovsky: A Tragedy’; Oxford; 1979; p. 114).

His suicide occurred only in April of-the following year — six months later — so that one must agree with Helen Muchnic when she declares:

“It is absurd to think, as some have done, that he ‘died for love’ in the sentimentally romantic sense.”

(Helen Muchnic: ‘From Gorky to Pasternak: Six Writers in Soviet Russia’; New York; 1961; p. 263).

It is clear that some event or events must have occurred in the spring of 1930 which were more immediate causes of his suicide.

In fact. in February 1930, with the aim of bringing himself closer to his audience, Mayakovsky had joined the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP):

“Mayakovsky joined RAPP in order to get closer to his workers’ auditorium.”

(Viktor B. Shklovsky: ‘0 Mayakovskom’ (On Mayakovsky); Moscow; 1940; p. 215).

But, as we have seen, RAPP had fallen under the control of a gang of concealed revisionists, headed by Leopold Averbakh, who exerted a reactionary dictatorship over the arts. Thus, in joining RAPP:

“Mayakovsky . . . fell into a dead sea.”

(Viktor B. Shklovsky: ibid.; p. 215).

Averbakh and his bureaucratic cronies made it clear that Mayakovsky was a far from welcome recruit to RAPP. They insisted that he required ‘re-education in proletarian ideology’, making him feel isolated and depressed:

“There is no doubt that he felt his own increasing isolation and sensed the cloud of disapproval that in fact hung over him….The bureaucrats in control of RAPP…did not very much want him in their organisation.

Mayakovsky was not warmly welcomed in RAPP and…in this mass organisation he felt isolated and alone….From February until April 1930 the secretariat of RAPP constantly hauled Mayakovsky over the coals in a trivial and didactic fashion….From the moment of his entry until his suicide, the ‘secretariat’ of that organisation occupied itself with ‘re-educating’ him in the spirit of proletarian ideology, and literature, a truly depressing experience. Some people recalled that on the eve of his suicide…he was in a state of defenceless misery as a result of his sessions with the talentless dogmatists and petty literary tyrants whose organisation he had joined.”

(Edward J. Brown: ‘Mayakovsky: A Poet in the Revolution’; Princeton (USA): 1973 (hereafter listed as ‘Edward J. Brown; (1973)’); p. 362-63, 366, 367).

“The whole set of vindictive attacks on Mayakovsky, of all people, on the ground of insufficient closeness to and concern for the masses – arguments that read so absurdly at this distance of time, but which then momentarily hounded and isolated him — bear the smell precisely of those methods. Mayakovsky was indirectly the victim of the same hands that later directly slew the great Soviet writer of the generation that preceded him, Gorky.”

(Herbert Marshall (Ed.): ‘Mayakovsky and his Poetry’; London; 1945 (hereafter listed as ‘Herbert Marshall (Ed,): 1945’); p. 6).

When “An Exhibition of the Life and Work of Mayakovsky” took place in Moscow in February and in Leningrad in March, it:

“was boycotted by official and unofficial bodies, poets and critics; more and more bitter and scathing attacks were being made on him.”

(Herbert Marshall (Ed.) (1965); p. 23).

RAPP’s attacks on Mayakovsky continued — intensified — after his death:

“The cloud that had settled over Mayakovsky’s reputation during the last years of his life was not dispelled by his senseless death.”

(Edward J. Brown (Ed.) (1963): op. cit.; p. 369).

“They hounded him also after his death. His works only appeared in restricted editions, no new works published, no research, no production of his plays, his books and portraits were removed from libraries.”

(Herbert Marshall (Ed.) (1965); p. 39).

“For a time after Mayakovsky’s death, RAPP’s clique, by exploiting his suicide, even succeeded in hindering the publication of his works, delaying the opening of his museum, and removing his name from the school curricula.”

(Herbert Marshall (Ed.) (1945); p. 6).

When Elsa Triolet attended the Writers’ Congress in Moscow in 1934, she complained to “one of these petty bureaucrats” about the neglect of Mayakovsky in the Soviet Union and was told:

“There’s a cult of Mayakovsky, and we’re fighting against that cult.”

(Elsa Triolet: ‘Mayakovsky: Poet of Russia’, in: ‘New Writing’, New Series 3; London; 1.939; p. 222-23).

On Stalin’s initiative, as we shall see, RAPP was liquidated in April 1932.
In 1935 Lilya and Osip Brik* wrote to Stalin to complain of the neglect of Mayakovsky in the Soviet Union. (Edward J. Brown (Ed.) (1973); p. 370).

Stalin replied promptly:

“Mayakovsky was and remains the finest, most talented poet of our Soviet age. Indifference to his memory and his works is a crime.”

(J. V. Stalin, in: A. D. P. Briggs: op. cit.; p. 121-22).

As a result of Stalin’s initiative, Mayakovsky’s prestige was immediately restored:

“At once things began to happen, Mayakovsky’s ashes were re-interred in a place of honour alongside the remains of Gogol. Statues of the poet sprang up everywhere. His works were reissued and translated.”

(D. P. Briggs: op. cit.; p. 122).

One final point: the Trotskyist revisionists who drove Mayakovsky to his death plead not guilty to the crime. The American Trotskyist Max Eastman*, for example, cannot deny Mayakovsky’s talent nor the role of Averbakh and his gang in his persecution, so he simply inverts the truth by presenting Averbakh as:

“the young adjutant of Stalin.”

(Max Eastman: ‘Artists in Uniform: A Study of Literature and Bureaucratism’; London; 1934; p. 35).

AESTHETICS IN THE SOVIET UNION (1932-1953)

The Reformation of the Artistic Organisation (1932)

We have seen that in 1924 Stalin was the only Marxist-Leninist on the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. This situation was rectified by a carefully planned strategy of cooperating with the less dangerous revisionists in the leadership in order to remove the more dangerous. As a result of this strategy, the Political Bureau elected after the 17th Congress of the CPSU in February 1934 consisted of (in alphabetical order):

Andrey Andreyev*;

Lazar Kaganovich*;

Mikhail Kalinin*;

Sergey Kirov*;

Stanislav Kosior*v

Valerian Kuibyshev*;

Vyacheslav Molotov*;

Grigory Ordzhonikidze*

Josef Stalin;

Kliment Voroshi1ov*.

(Leonard Schapiro: op. cit.; p. 607).

That is, it was composed of eight Marxist-Leninists and two still concealed revisionists. Thus, by the 1930s Marxist-Leninists had won majority of the seats on the Political Bureau.

It is customary for learned professors to present the defeated revisionists as “brilliant intellectuals” and Stalin as “a clod from the Caucasian backwoods.”

The objective history of Stalin’s successful struggle against the Opposition belies such an analysis.

Having liquidated open revisionism in the political field, the Marxist-Leninists now in the leadership of the CPSU turned their attention to the development of a genuine proletarian culture.

The first step was to liquidate the existing cultural organisations under revisionist domination and to form new broad organisations in each field of culture — organisations open to all cultural workers who supported Soviet power and socialist construction, with a Communist Party fraction in each to give Marxist Leninist leadership.

Thus, in April 1932, the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party adopted a Decision “On the Reformation of Literary-Artistic Organisations”:

“The framework of the existing proletarian literary-artistic organisations…appears to be too narrow and to seriously restrict the scope of artistic creativity….Consequently the Central Committee of the ACP (b) resolves:

1) to liquidate the association of proletarian writers.
2) to unite all writers supporting the platform of Soviet power and aspiring to participate in the building of socialism into one union of Soviet, socialist writers with a communist fraction in it;
3) to carry out an analogous changes with regard to the other forms of art.”

(C. Vaughan James: op. cit. p. 120).

The fact that this radical decision was taken on Stalin’s personal initiative was revealed by Lazar Kaganovich at the 17th Congress of the CPSU in January-February 1934:

“A group of Communist writers, taking advantage of RAPP as an organisational instrument, incorrectly utilised the power of their Communist influence on the literary front, and instead of unifying and organising around RAPP the broad masses of writers, held back and impeded the development of the writers’ creative powers. . . .It might have been possible to bring out a resolution on the tasks of the Communists in literature; it might have been possible to suggest that the RAPP people alter their policy. But this might have remained merely a good intention. Comrade Stalin posed the question differently: it is necessary, he said, to alter the situation in an organisational way.”

(Lazar Kaganovich: Speech at 17th Congress, CPSU, in: Edward J. Brown (1935): op. cit.; p. 201).

The American music critic Boris Schwarz* tells us that:

“. . . the Resolution . . . was received with widespread approval.”

(Boris Schwarz: ‘Music and Musical Life in Soviet Russia: 1917-1970’; London; 1972; p. 110).

The single organisation created by this decree in the field of literature was the Union of Soviet Writers, in the field of music the Union of Soviet Composers.

It remained to lay down the principles of aesthetics which Soviet artists would be expected to follow — principles which came to be known as ‘the method of socialist realism.

The Origin of the Term “Socialist Realism”

The first known use of the term “socialist realism” was in an article in the “Literary Gazette” in May 1932:

“The basic method of Soviet literature is the method of socialist realism.”

(‘Literary Gazette’, 23 May 1932, in: Herman Ermolaev: ‘Soviet Literary Theories: 1917-1934’; Berkeley (USA); 1963 (hereafter listed as ‘Herman Ermolaev (1963)’); p. 144).

Five months later, in October 1932, at an informal meeting in Gorky’s flat, Stalin gave his support to the term:

“If the artist is going to depict our life correctly, he cannot fail to observe and point out what is leading towards socialism. So this will be . . . socialist realism.”

(Josef V… Stalin, in: C. Vaughan James: op. cit.; p. 86).

The Characteristics of Socialist Realism

Realism, as we have said, is a trend in art which seeks to represent its subject faithfully and truthfully.

It must be distinguished from naturalism, which represents reality only superficially and statically. In fact, the world is in process of constant change, so that a work of art which fails to hint at the forces working beneath the surface of reality is not a realist, but a naturalist, work.

For example, Russia in 1907 lay under the “Stolypin* Reaction”: the organisations of the working class were being destroyed; the prisons were filled with revolutionaries; Black Hundred terror raged unchecked. On the surface, it was a picture of unrelieved, hopeless gloom for the mass of the people. Yet less than ten years later the whole rotten system of Tsarism had been swept away in the October Revolution. Consquently, a novel set in Russia in 1907 which failed to hint at the revolutionary social forces operating beneath the surface would be a work not of realism, but of naturalism.

Marxist-Leninists understand that monopoly capitalism, imperialism, is moribund capitalism, capitalism which has outlived its social usefulness to the mass of the people. Consequently, a 20th-century work of art which fails to suggest the underlying forces of the working class, of socialism, which will bring about the socialist revolution, is not a realist work: 20th century realism must be socialist realism.

The key word here is “suggest”: a socialist realist work of art must not give the impression of being propaganda.

As Engels expressed it in 1888:

“The more the opinions of the author remain hidden, the better the work of art.”

(Friedrich Engels: Letter to Margaret Harkness* (April 1888). in: Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels: ‘On Literature and Art’; Moscow; 1976; p.91).

Thus, the Constitution of the Union of Soviet Writers adopted at the lst All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers in 1934 declares:

“Socialist realism demands from the author a true and historically concrete depiction of reality in its revolutionary development.”

(Constitution of Union of Soviet Writers, in: C. Vaughan James: op. cit.; p. 88).

Socialist realist art does not exclude distortion and exaggeration, so long as this departure from naturalism assists in bringing out the truth about the subject. Thus, a caricature of Margaret Thatcher* showing her as a vulture with bloody talons would be much more realistic than a naturalistic portrait showing her as a sweet, silver-haired grandmother.

Socialist realist art is not, however, just a passive reflection of reality; it must play an active role in building socialist consciousness:

“The relationship between art and reality is twofold. . . . Socialist Realism demands a profound and true perception of reality and reflection of its chief and most progressive tendencies ; but it is itself a powerful weapon for changing reality. . . . Artistic truth facilitates the development of communist awareness, and education in the spirit of communism is possible only through a true reflection of life.”

(Vaughan James: ibid.; p. 80).

In Stalin’s famous phrase, socialist realist artists are “engineers of human souls”:

“Comrade Stalin has called our writers engineers of human souls.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov: ‘Soviet Literature — the Richest in Ideas,* the Most Advanced Literature’ (hereafter listed as ‘Andrey A. Zhdanov (1934)’, in: H. G. Scott (Ed.): ‘Problems of Soviet Literature’; London; 1935; p. 21).

Socialist realist art is, therefore, “tendentious,” “partisan.” Far from pretending to be neutral in the class struggle, it consciously sides with the working people:

“Soviet literature is tendentious, for in an epoch of class struggle there is not and cannot be a literature which is . . . not tendentious.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov (1934): ibid.; p. 21).

Of course, all art is selective in its subject matter. There may be a millionaire who gives away all his money to the poor; but he would be so exceptional that a work of art with him as subject would give a completely false picture of millionaires. It would not be truly realist. True realism, socialist realism, requires typicality in its selection of subject matter:

“Realism . . . implies, besides truth of detail, the truthful reproduction of typical characters under typical circumstances.”

(Friedrich Engels: Letter to ‘Margaret Harkness’, (April 1888), in: Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels: op. cit.; p. 90).

Romanticism is a form of art expressing intense emotion. However, in the majority of cases romanticism became linked with idealist soarings into metaphysics. Socialist realist art makes use of romanticism, but shorn of its metaphysical tendencies to give revolutionary romanticism:

“Romanticism of the old type . . . depicted a non-existent life and non-existent heroes, leading the reader away from . . . real life into . . . a world of utopian dreams. Our literature . . . cannot be hostile to romanticism, but it must be romanticism of a new type, revolutionary romanticism.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov (1934): op. cit.; p. 21).

We have seen that the form of a work of art is the manner or style in which the artist has presented the content of his work of art. Where the artist gives priority to form over content, we encounter a deviation from realism known as formalism.

Finally, socialist realist art must be national in form, not cosmopolitan:

“Proletarian culture . . . is . . . national in form.”

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The Political Tasks of the University of the Peoples of the East’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 7; op. cit.; p. 140).

“Internationalism in art does not spring from depletion and impoverishment of national art; on the contrary, internationalism grows where national culture flourishes. To forget this is . . . to become a cosmopolitan without a country.

Our internationalism . . . is therefore based on the enrichment of our national . . . culture, which we can share with other nations, and is not based on an impoverishment of our national art, blind imitation of foreign styles, and the eradication of all national characteristics.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov: p. 61, 63).

The First Congress of Soviet Writers (1934)

The First Congress of Soviet Writers, held in Moscow in August 1934 resolved that socialist realism:

“. . . become the officially sponsored method, first in literature and subsequently in the arts in general.”

Vaughan James: op. cit.; p. 87).

Thus, by 1935 it could be reported truthfully:

“The Union of Soviet Writers comprises all those writers, living and writing in Soviet Russia, who adhere to the platform of the Soviet Government, support Socialist construction and accept the method of Socialist Realism.”

(Gleb Struve: op. cit.; p. 231).

However; revisionism in the arts had not been completely defeated. Papers were presented at the congress not only by the Marxist-Leninists Andrey Zhdanov and Maksim Gorky, but also by the still concealed revisionists Nikolay Bukharin, Karl Radek* and Aleksey Stetsky*:

“Bukharin . . . dismissed officially acclaimed ‘agitational poets’ as obsolete, and praised at length disfavoured lyrical poets, particularly the defiantly apolitical Pasternak*.”

(Stephen F. Cohen: ‘Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography: 1888-1938’; London; 1974; p, 356).

Thus, the battle of ideas between Marxist-Leninists and revisionists in the field of the arts did not end in 1934, but continued.

The Case of Dmitry Shostakovich (1936)

In November 1934 a new opera by Dmitry Shostakovich*, “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk,” had its premiere. The libretto was based on a short story by Nikolay Leskov* entitled “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District.” It tells the story of Katerina Ismailova, the wife of a provincial merchant, who has an affair with a clerk in her husband’s office, poisons her father-in-law, then joins her lover in strangling her husband and, finally, murders her little nephew. For Leskov Katerina was a depraved criminal, but Shostakovich presented the story as a tribute to woman’s liberation. While

“… for Leskov, Katerina was a squalid, selfish criminal — deserving of the condemnation which she encountered. Shostakovich, as he later said, intended his music to minimise her own guilt. ‘The musical language of the whole opera is intended to exonerate Katerina1, he declared.”

(Norman Kay: ‘Shostakovich’; London; 1971; p. 26).

The opera caused a sensation in the United States:

“A Western critic coined the word ‘pornophony’ to describe . . . the bedroom scene.”

(Boris Schwarz: op. cit.; p. 371),

And the “New York Sun” agreed:

“Shostakovich is without doubt the foremost composer of pornographic music in the history of the opera.”

(Boris Schwarz: ibid.; p. 120).

In January 1936, however,

” . . . when Stalin finally saw ‘Lady Macbeth’, he did not like it, . . . he walked out before it was over.”

(Victor I. Serov: ‘Dmitry Shostakovich: The Life and Background of a Soviet Composer’; New York; 1943; p. 220).

“For Stalin the opera was a painful experience.”

(Robert Stradling: ‘Shostakovich and the Soviet System’, in: Christopher Norris (Ed.): ‘Shostakovich: The Man and his Music’; London; 1982; p. 197).

A few days later, “Pravda” carried a leading article entitled “Chaos instead of Music” which, as its title indicates, was strongly critical of the opera.

Shostakovich himself insisted that the article

“… actually expressed the opinion of Stalin.”

(Solomon Volkov (Ed.): ‘Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitry Shostakovich1; London; 1981; p. 113).

and the editor of his memoirs, Solomon Volkov, agrees that the article was

“… dictated, in fact, by Stalin.”

(Solomon Volkov: Introduction to: ‘Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitry Shostakovich’; op. cit.; p. xxix).

The article declared:

“From the first moment, the listener is knocked over the head by an incoherent chaotic stream of sounds. The fragments of melody, the germs of musical phrases, are drowned in a sea of bangs, rasping noises and squeals. It is difficult to follow such ‘music’; it is impossible to remember it. … And so it goes on, almost right through the opera. Screams take the place of singing. If, once in a while, the composer finds his way on to a clear melodic path, he immediately dashes aside into the jungle of chaos, which sometimes becomes pure cacophony. . . . Expressiveness … is replaced by a crazy rhythm. Musical noise is supposed to express passion.

All this is not because the composer lacks talent, or because he is incapable of expressing ‘strong and simple emotions’ in musical terms. This music is just deliberately written ‘inside-out1, so that nothing should remind the listener of classical opera . . . and simple, easily accessible musical speech. . . . The danger of this ‘Leftism’ in music comes from .the same source as all ‘Leftist’ ugliness in painting, poetry, education and science. Petit-bourgeois ‘innovation’ produces divorce from real art, from real literature…Shostakovich, in reality, produces nothing but the crudest naturalism.. . . It is crude, primitive and vulgar.”

(Leading Article, in: ‘Pravda’, 28 January 1936, in: Alexander Werth; ‘Musical Uproar in Moscow’; London; 1949 (hereafter listed as ‘Alexander Werth (1949)’; p. 48-49).

A few days later, in February, “Pravda” published another leading article, this time strongly critical of Shostakovich’s ballet “The Limpid Stream”;

“The music is without character; it jingles; it means nothing.”

(Leading Article, ‘Pravda, 6 February 1936, in: Victor I. Serov: op. cit.; p. 208).

Shostakovich did not respond publicly:

“Shostakovich . . . suffered in silence.”

(Stanley Sadie (Ed.): ‘New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians’, Volume 17; London; 1980; p. 265).

but he took note of the criticism:

“In December 1936 he withdrew his 4th Symphony…saying that he was dissatisfied with the finale.”

(James Devlin; ‘Shostakovich’; Sevenoaks; 1983; p. 9).

Most Western musicologists agree with Peter Heyworth*, who holds that the Marxist-Leninist criticism of Shostakovich and other composers

“… did immense damage to the cultural life of the Soviet Union.”

(Peter Heyworth: ‘Shostakovich without Ideology’, in: Gervase Hughes S Herbert Van Thai (Eds.): ‘The Music Lover’s Companion’; London; 1971; p. 201).

In fact, criticism of a work of art by the Marxist-Leninist Party of a socialist state is not criticism by “politicians,” but represents the collective opinion of the most advanced cultural leaders of the country:

“Whereas Western criticism represents the subjective opinion of an individual critic, Soviet criticism is a collective opinion expressed in the words of an individual critic.”

(Boris Schwarz: op. cit.; p. 320).

And the view that the constructive Marxist-Leninist criticism was “harmful” is discounted by the fact that in November 1937 the first performance took place of Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony, inscribed:

“…’Creative Reply of a Soviet Artist to Just Criticism.'”

(Peter Ileyvorth: ibid.; p. 202).

RECORDING 4: EXCERPT: DMITRY SHOSTAKOVICH: SYMPHONY NO. 5.

Although this inscription did not originate with the composer,

“… Shostakovich . . . accepted it.”

(Stanley Sadie (Ed.): op. cit., Volume 17; p. 265).

And this new symphony, written in the light of the Marxist-Leninist criticism, proved to be his finest work to date:

“The Fifth … to this day remains Shostakovich’s most admired work.”

(Solomon Volkov: op. cit.; p. xxxi).

“Its first movement is Shostakovich at his best . . . and shows a new maturity; this maturity reaches its greatest depth and power in the third movement, the now famous Largo. The entire symphony seems, indeed, to satisfy the demand of the Soviet people that their new music should be ‘powerful and intelligible’. . . . Dmitry’s triumph could be compared only with the comeback of an idol of the prize-ring.”

(Victor I. Serov: op. cit.; p. 231-32).

“The 5th Symphony was received with unanimous praise and the critics rushed to acclaim it.”

(James Devlin: op. cit.; p. 10).

“Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony takes its place amongst the most profound and significant works of world symphonic music. At the same time, all its ethical and aesthetic elements, as well as the underlying idea and its embodiment in music, belong to Soviet art.”

(David Rabinovich: ‘Dmitry Shostakovich1; London; 1959; p. 50).

“It (the 5th Symphony — Ed.) proved to be Shostakovich’s first fully mature work. Naturally enough, the Party’s cultural officials were jubilant. Had not their criticism been admitted by its object as deserved? Better still, had it not yielded fruit in the shape of the finest score that Shostakovich had yet written?”

(Peter Heyworth: op. cit.; p. 202).

As a result, even Peter Heyworth feels compelled to point out:

“If Shostakovich’s weaknesses as a composer are to be attributed to the stultifying dogmas enforced by Zhdanov, why is his Symphony No. 12, written in the full flood of Khrushchev’s thaw, by far his worst.”

(Peter Heyworth: op cit.; p. 199).

Of course, Shostakovich was not sincere in paying tribute to the constructive criticism of the Party. He says in his memoirs:

“Stalin never had any ideology or convictions or ideas or principles…Stalin could definitely be called superstitious. . . . Stalin was half mad.”

(Solomon Volkov (Ed.): op. cit.; p. 187, 192).

The Wartime and Post-War Situation (1941-45)

During the Second World War, when Marxist-Leninists were primarily concerned with victory over the fascist invaders, revisionists were able to spread their ideas, in concealed form, in Soviet society to a considerable extent;

“Two famous decrees, one of August 1941, the other of December 1941, made it possible for any soldier ‘who had distinguished himself in battle’ to join the Party with the minimum of formalities… He could become a candidate member almost automatically and a full member in a much shorter time than usual. No serious ideological training was expected from him — in fact, practically none at all….As the war was nearing its end, there was growing anxiety among the older Party members at the thought that the Party had been diluted by millions of patriotic young soldiers with no ideological training to speak of…The general ‘ideological’ level of these organisations sharply declined in many cases after the war as a result of this influx.”

(Alexander Werth: ‘Russia: The Post-War Years’; London; 1971 (hereafter listed as ‘Alexander Werth (1971)’; p. 100, 102, 103).

In the summer of 1944, the writer Vsevolod Vishnevsky* drew this picture of “cultural coexistence” after the war:

“When the war is over . . . there will be much coming and going, a lot of contacts with the West. Everybody will be allowed to read whatever he likes. There will be exchanges of students, and foreign travel for Soviet citizens will be made easy.”

(Vsevolod Vishnevsky, in: Alexander Werth (1971): op. cit.; p. 99).

and Alexander Werth* himself says:

“All kinds of other ‘Western’ ideas were being toyed with — for instance, a project for publishing ‘escapist’ literature, including a series of hundreds of thrillers and detective stories, translated from the English and published under the general editorship of that great lover of thrillers, Sergey Eisenstein*. A lot of light and entertaining books, plays and films would also be produced. Already in 1944 there were signs of ‘decadence’ in Moscow — amusingly ‘escapist’ films with frivolous songs . . . and even concerts of highly ‘decadent’ songs sung by Aleksandr Vertinsky.*”

(Alexander Werth (1971): op. cit.; p. 99).

In June 1946 a poetry evening was organised in Moscow in honour of the revisionist poets Boris Pasternak* and Anna Akhmatova*.

“The young people of Moscow — above all its students — gave a tremendous ovation to … Boris Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova.”

(Alexander Werth (1971): op. cit. p. 201).

It was following this incident that the Marxist-Leninists launched a determined counter-attack against revisionism in the arts. Or, as Werth expresses it,

“… Zhdanovism blossomed out suddenly in August 1946.”

(Alexander Werth (1971): op. cit.; p. 201).

Incidentally, in 1944 Picasso joined the French Communist Party. But those who imagined that this might influence his art in the direction of socialist realism were sadly disappointed. The French Communist Party was already deep in the mire of revisionism — and not only in the sphere of the arts — and praised Picasso’s art unreservedly. When Stalin died in 1953, the Party commissioned Picasso to do a portrait of him for their literary journal “Les Lettres Francaises”:

SLIDE 10: PABLO PICASSO: “STALIN.”

Although, unlike many paintings by Picasso, this portrait is recognisably that of a human being, its publication brought a host of angry letters from readers and the editors were compelled to print an apology for having published it

[UNFORTUNATELY, PAGE 34 IS MISSING FROM THE ORIGINAL VERSION OF THE TEXT LEFT BY BLAND.

IT DEALS WITH ANNA AKHMATOVA]

“…reactionary morass in literature….She is one of the standard-bearers of the meaningless, empty-headed, aristocrat-salon school of poetry, which has no place whatever in Soviet literature….Akhmatova’s subject matter is individualistic to the core. The range of her poetry is sadly limited; it is the poetry of a spoiled woman-aristocrat, frenziedly vacillating between boudoir and chapel, Her main emphasis is on erotic love-themes, interwoven with notes of sadness, longing, death, mysticism, fatality… It would be hard to say whether she is a nun or a fallen woman; better, perhaps, say she is a bit of each, her desires and prayers intertwined….Her poetry is far removed from the people, It is the poetry of the ten thousand members of the elite society of the old aristocratic Russia, whose hour has long since struck and left them nothing to do but sigh for ‘the good old days.'”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov: op. cit.; p. 25, 26, 27).

The Soviet journalist David Zaslavsky* told a delegation of British writers in 1947:

“All these thirty years he (Zoshchenko — Ed.) has been writing and rewriting his one theme, portraying always that same petty, ignorant, mercenary character. His wit petered out. Laughter changed into vicious grumbling and the slandering of Soviet life. In latter years he had no success whatever among readers, and instead of writing short stories, he turned to mediocre and vulgar works of an allegedly philosophical nature, having nothing in common with either literature or science.”

(Edgell Rickword (Ed.): ‘Soviet Writers reply to English Writers’ Questions’; London; 1948; p. p. 41-42).

The Strike against Revisionism in the Theatre (1946-52)

In August 1946 the Central Committee of the CPSU adopted a resolution entitled “On the Theatrical Repertory and Measures to improve it.” This resolution strongly criticised the paucity of Soviet plays in the repertory of Soviet theatres and the presentation of British and American bourgeois plays:

“The Committee on Arts and Theatres is guilty of a grave political error in sponsoring the staging and publication of foreign plays such as George S. Kaufman’s* ‘The Man Who came to Dinner’ and Maugham’s* ‘Penelope’, which are examples of bourgeois dramaturgy, bound to poison the minds of the Soviet public and to revive vestiges of capitalist mentality.”

(Avrahro Yarmolinsky: ‘Literature under Communism: The Literary Policy of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from the End of World War II to the Death of Stalin’, in: ‘Russian and Eastern European Series’, Volume 20; 1957; p. 18).

The Party placed the principal blame for this situation on the leadership of the Union of Soviet Writers, which:

” . . . has virtually ceased to direct the work of the playwright and does nothing to raise the level of their compositions.”

(Avrahm Yarmolinsky: ibid.; p. 18).

while

“… acting and writing are poor, and drab, inartistic shows are the outcome.”

(Avrahm Yarmolinsky: ibid.; p, 18).

In January 1949 “Pravda” continued the offensive against revisionism in the theatre by publishing a leading article entitled “Concerning an Anti-Patriotic Group of Theatrical Critics.” It alleged that a group of critics were condemning good socialist realist plays on the false grounds of their alleged technical defects:

“An anti-patriotic group has developed in theatrical criticism. It consists of followers of bourgeois aestheticism….These critics…are bearers of a homeless cosmopolitanism which is deeply repulsive to Soviet man and hostile to him…Such critics attempt to discredit the progressive phenomena of our literature and art, furiously attacking precisely the patriotic and politically purposive works, under the pretext of their alleged artistic imperfection….The sting of aesthetic-formalist criticism is directed not against the really harmful and inferior works, but against the advanced and best ones which depict Soviet patriots. It is precisely this which attests to the fact that aesthetic formalism merely serves as camouflage for anti-patriotic substance.”

(‘Pravda1, 28 January 1949, in ‘Current Digest of the Soviet Press’, Volume 1, No. 5 (1 March 1949); p. 58, 59).

According to the new Constitution of the Soviet Union, adopted in 1935,

“…Soviet society consists of two friendly classes — the workers and peasants.”

(‘History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks): Short Course1; Moscow; 1939; p. 344).

After the Second World War, the revisionists distorted this formulation in the field of aesthetics into the so-called “no-conflict theory” — the theory that, in the realist drama of the new socialist society, no conflict should be shown.

In April 1952 “Pravda” published a leading article sharply critical of the “no-conflict theory,” and of the state of Soviet dramaturgy generally:

“The struggle between the new and old calls forth the most diverse living conflicts, without which there would be no life and hence no art. The chief reason for the feebleness of dramaturgy and the weakness of many plays is that the playwrights do not build their work around the profound conflicts of life, but evade them. If one were to judge by plays of this kind…everything is ideal, there are no conflicts….This approach is wrong. To behave thus is … to sin against truth. Not everything we have is ideal; we have negative types; there is no little evil in our life and no few false people….The play must show living conflict; there can be no play without that. The gross ‘theory’ of the dying out of conflicts . . . has had a harmful effect on the playwrights’ work. . . .The breath of life is lacking in the plays written according to the ‘conflictless dramaturgy’ recipe. . . .Our dramatists must expose and mercilessly scourge the survivals of capitalism, the manifesting of political unconcern, bureaucracy, stagnation, servility, vainglory, arrogance, conceit, graft, an unconscientious approach to duties, a heedless attitude to socialist property; they must expose all that is vulgar and backward and hinders the progress of Soviet society.”

(‘Overcome the Lag in Dramaturgy’, in: ‘Pravda’, 7 April 1952, in: ‘Current Digest of the Soviet Press’, Volume 4, No. 11 (26 April 1952); P. 3, 4).

The Struggle against Revisionism in Historiography (1934-36)

Before 1932, the organisation of historiography in the Soviet Union was, like the organisation of the arts, dominated by revisionists — headed by Mikhail Pokrovsky*, until his death from cancer in 1932;

“The main centres of … historical study and discussion — the History Section of the Institute of Red Professors, the Society of Marxist Historians, and (from 1929) the Institute of History at the Communist Academy — were all directed by him.”

(John D. Barber: ‘Soviet Historians in Crisis: 1928-1932’; London; 1981; p. 21).

“Pokrovsky . . . became the virtual dictator of historical science in the Soviet Union.”

(Jeanne Vronskaya & Vladimir Chuguev: op. cit.; p. 408).

Genuine Marxist-Leninists have always accepted Marx’s view that capitalist colonial expansion in the pre-imperialist period could have a progressive aspect, as Marx pointed out in the case of pre-imperialist British colonial expansion into the Indian sub-continent:

“England . . in causing a social revolution in Hindustan was actuated only by the vilest interests. . . . But that is not the question. The question is: can mankind fulfil its destiny without a fundamental evolution in the social state of Asia? If not, whatever may have been the crime of England she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution.”

(Karl Marx: ‘The British Rule in India’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 2; London; 1943; p.656).

“England has had to fulfil a double mission in India: one destructive and the other regenerating — the annihilation of old Asiatic society and the laying of the material foundations of Western society in Asia….

The political unity of India . . . was the first condition of its regeneration. That unity, imposed by the British sword, will now be strengthened and perpetuated by the electric telegraph. The native army, organised and trained by the British drill-sergeant, was the sine qua non of Indian self-emancipation, and of India ceasing to be the prey of the first foreign intruder. The free press, introduced for the first time into Asiatic society and managed principally by the common offspring of Hindus and Europeans, is a new and powerful agent of reconstruction. The Zemindaree and Ryotwar themselves, abominable as they are, involve two distinct forms of private property in land — the great desideratum of Asiatic society. From the Indian natives, . . . under English superintendence, a fresh class is springing, endowed with the requirements for government and imbued with English science. Steam has brought India into regular and rapid communication with Europe, has connected its chief ports with those of the whole south-eastern ocean and has revindicated it from the isolated position which was the prime law of its stagnation.”

(Karl Marx: ‘The Future Results of British Rule in India’, in: ibid., Volume 2; p. 658-59).

Soviet Marxist-Leninists, following Marx, applied Marx’s analysis to pre-revolutionary Russia to hold that Russia’s colonial expansion into Asia had a progressive aspect, so that local chieftains who resisted this expansion — like the famous Shamil* in the Caucasus — played a reactionary role.

Furthermore, genuine Marxist-Leninists hold that, under certain conditions, individuals may play a significant role in history. As Stalin said in his interview with the German writer Emil Ludwig* in December 1931:

“Marxism does not at all deny the role played by outstanding individuals….But…every new generation encounters definite conditions already existing….Great people are worth anything at all only to the extent that they are able correctly to understand these conditions, to understand how to change them. If they fail to understand these conditions and want to alter them according to the promptings of their imagination, they will land themselves in the situation of Don Quixote. . . Marxism has never denied the role of heroes. On the contrary, it admits that they play a considerable role, but with the reservations I have just made.”

(Josef V. Stalin: Talk with the German Author Emil Ludwig, in: ‘Works’, Volume 13; Moscow; 1955; p. 107-08).

However, the historian Pokrovsky and his school took an opposite view. They held that Russian colonial expansion into Asia was wholly reactionary, and that local chieftains who resisted it played a progressive role:

“Pokrovsky’s main reason for denying the validity of the cultural mission (of imperial Russia in Asia — Ed.) was that he considered Russian cultural attainments to be of very low order, inferior in most cases to those of the conquered peoples. . . .Pokrovsky scoffed at the idea, regarding everyone who saw progressive results of tsarist conquests as a Great Russian chauvinist.”

(Lowell Tillett: ‘The Great Friendship: Soviet Historians on the Non-Russian Nationalities’; Chapel Hill (USA); 1969; p. 30, 360).

Also,

“… Pokrovsky ignored the role of individual personalities.”

(Konstantin P. Shteppa: ‘Russian Historians and the Soviet State’; New Brunswick (USA); 1962; p. 114).

With the defeat of open revisionism in the Soviet Union,

“… the halcyon days of Pokrovsky’s school faded completely away.”

(Anatole G. Mazour: ‘An Outline of Russian Historiography1; Berkeley (USA); 1939 (hereafter listed as ‘Anatole G. Mazour (1939); p. 91).

In 1931 Stalin intervened with a letter to the magazine ‘Proletarian Revolution’ protesting:

“… against the publication … of Slutsky’s anti-Party and semi-Trotskyist article, ‘The Bolsheviks on German Social-Democracy in the Period of its Pre-War Crisis.'”

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘Some Questions concerning the History of Bolshevism’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 13; Moscow; 1955; p. 86).

“A little more than two years after Stalin’s intervention, official attacks on Pokrovsky’s ideas began, leading to total demolition of his reputation.”

(John D. Barber; op. cit.; p. 142).

In May 1934 the Central Committee of the CPSU and the USSR Council of People’s Commissars adopted a joint decree “Concerning the Teaching of History in the Schools of the USSR,” signed by Molotov and Stalin. This stated that:

“… the teaching of history in the schools of the USSR is not administered satisfactorily. . . . The students are given abstract definitions of social-economic structures, thus substituting obscure schemes for coherent narration of civic history.”

(CC, CPSU & USSR CPC: ‘Concerning the Teaching of History in the Schools of the USSR’, in: Anatole G. Mazour: ‘Modern Russian Historiography1; Princeton (USA); 1958 (hereafter listed as ‘Anatole G. Mazour (1958)’; p. 87).

The decree ordered new textbooks to be prepared for each field of history. It did not mention Pokrovsky by name,

“… but the implied criticism of him was plain.”

(John D. Barber: op. cit.; p. 139).

Eventually,

“… in January 1936, Pokrovsky’s influence was officially attacked.”

(John D. Barber: op. cit.; p. 139).

“Under Kaganovich’s leadership, and with Stalin’s support, a … campaign was launched against . . . M. N. Pokrovsky.”

(Roy A. Medvedev: ‘Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism1; London; 1971 (hereafter listed as ‘Roy A. Medvedev (1971)’; p. 143).

During 1936-37 the Society of Marxist Historians, the Institute of Red Professors and the Institute of History were all closed down. (John D. Barber: op. cit.. p. 139).

“Among the charges made against Pokrovsky was precisely that of having degraded personality to the status of a marionette controlled by the economic process.”

(Klaus Mehnert: ‘Stalin versus Marx: The Stalinist Historical Doctrine’; London; 1952; p. 76).

In November 1938 the Central Committee of the Party adopted a resolution

“… condemning Pokrovsky’s school for ‘anti-Marxist distortions’ and ‘vulgarisation'”

(John D. Barber: op. cit.; p. 140).

“Pokrovsky’s school…began to be associated with the teachings of the opposition. . . . Disciples of Pokrovsky were now proclaimed . , . ‘contemptible Trotskyist-Bukharinist agents of fascism’, who were trying to smuggle anti-Marxist, anti-Leninist ideas of Pokrovsky into historical literature.”

(Anatole G. Mazour (1939): op. cit.; p. 91).

“It is not accidental that the so-called school of Pokrovsky became a base for wrecking, as the NKVD has discovered; a base for enemies of the people, for Trotskyite-Bukharinite hirelings of fascism; for wreckers, spies and terrorists, who cleverly disguised themselves with the harmful anti-Leninist concepts of M. M. Pokrovsky.”

(‘Protiv istoricheskoi kontseptsy M. N. Pokrovskoyo’ , (Against the Historical Conceptions of M. N. Pokrovsky’); Moscow; 1939; p. 5).

This controversy in the field of historiography had important repercussions in fields of the arts — in the fields of historical fiction, historical drama and historical cinema.

The Struggle against Revisionism in the Cinema (1946)

In September 1946 the Central Committee of the CPSU adopted a resolution entitled “On the Film ‘The Great Life.'” The resolution criticised the film named in the resolution, but banned outright another film — “Ivan the Terrible,” Part Two, directed by Sergey Eisenstein — on the grounds of historical inaccuracy:

“Eisenstein . . . exhibited ignorance of historical facts by portraying the progressive army of the Oprichniki as a band of degenerates, similar to the American Ku Klux Klan, and Ivan the Terrible, a man of strong will and character, as weak and spineless, something like Hamlet.”

(Boris Schwarz: op. cit.; p. 208).

The ‘New Encylopaedia Britannica’ notes that

” . . . his nickname, ‘the Terrible’, is actually a mistranslation of the Russian word ‘grozny’, which more properly means ‘awe-inspiring’; Ivan was no more brutal than many of his contemporaries.”

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica: Macropaedia’, Volume 9; Chicago; 1983; p. 1.179).

In October 1946 Eisenstein admitted the justification of the criticism of his film:

“We forgot that the main consideration in art is its ideological content and historical truth. . . . In the second part of ‘Ivan the Terrible’ we permitted a distortion of historical facts which made the film ideologically worthless and vicious.”

(Sergey M. Eisenstein: Article in ‘Kultura i Zhizn’ (Culture and Life), 20 October 1946, in: George S. Counts & Nucia Lodge: ‘The Country of the Blind: The Soviet System of Mind Control’; Boston (USA); 1949; p. 147).

In February 1947 Eisenstein and the actor Nikolay Cherkasov* met Stalin, Molotov and Zhdanov to discuss the film, after which, Cherkasov relates,

“… we were then given full opportunity to correct the second part of ‘Ivan the Terrible’ . . . without any limits as to time or expense. S. M. Eisenstein was positively overjoyed at the prospect and thought about it unceasingly. . . . His premature death prevented him from undertaking the task.”

(Nikolay Cherkasov: Interview with Stalin, in: Sergey Eisenstein: ‘Ivan the Terrible’; London; 1989; p. 19-20).

However, after viewing the film in company with the director Vladimir Petrov*, they agreed that

“… there could be no question of correcting the material we had just seen; we would have to reshoot the whole of the second part”.

(Nikolay Cherkasov: ibid.; p. 20).

The Struggle against Revisionism in Music (1948)

In February 1948 the Central Committee of the CPSU adopted a resolution “On the Opera ‘The Great Friendship,'” which was sharply critical of the opera of that name by Vano Muradeli*, which had been given a private performance to the Central Committee at the New Year.

The decree declared:

“This opera is chaotic and inharmonious, full of continuous discords which hurt one’s ears.

The Central Committee considers that the failure of Muradeli’s opera is the result of his having followed the formalist road — a road that has been so pernicious to the work of Soviet composers.”

(CC Decree: ‘On the Opera “The Great Friendship”‘, in: Alexander Werth (1949): op. cit.; p. 29).

The decree asserted that the Union of Soviet Composers was dominated by a clique of composers who used their influence to foster formalism:

“The Central Committee has … in mind those composers who persistently adhere to the formalist and anti-people school — a school which has found its fullest expression in the work of composers like Comrades Shostakovich, Prokofiev*, Khachaturian*, Shebalin*, Popov*, Myaskovsky* and others. Their works are marked by formalist perversions, anti-democratic tendencies which are alien to the Soviet people and their artistic tastes. . . .

These composers have been indulging in the rotten ‘theory’ that the people are not sufficiently ‘grown up’ to appreciate their music. . . . This is a thoroughly individualist and anti-people theory, and it has encouraged some of our composers to retire into their own shell. . . .

The Organisational Committee of the Union of Soviet Composers became a weapon in the hands of the group of formalist composers and a source of formalist perversions.”

(CC Decree: ‘On the Opera “The Great Friendship'”, in: Alexander Werth (1949): op. cit.; p. 29,30,33).

Zhdanov had already made these points in January 1948 to a conference of music workers:

“Domination (of the Union of Soviet Composers — Ed.) was maintained in the interests of a trend.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov, in: Alexander Werth (1949): ibid.; p. 57).

Zhdanov insisted that the music of every nation should be developed upon the folk music of that nation:

“The development of music must proceed … by enriching ‘academic’ music from folk music.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov, in: Alexander Werth (1949): ibid. p. 61).

and cited with approval the saying of the Russian composer Mikhail Glinka*:

“The people create the music — we, the artists, merely arrange.”

(Mikhail I. Glinka, in: Alexander Werth (1949): ibid.; p. 60).

He accused the formalist composers of

“… a rejection of the classical heritage under the banner of innovation, a rejection of the idea of the popular origin of music and of service to the people, in order to gratify the individualistic emotions of a small group of select aesthetes.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov, in: Alexander Werth (1949): ibid.; p. 57-58).

of imitating Western bourgeois music:

“A certain orientation towards contemporary Western bourgeois music . . represents one of the basic features of the formalist trend in Soviet music….

As regards contemporary bourgeois music, it would be useless to try and profit from it, since it is in a state of decay and degradation and the grovelling attitude towards it is ridiculous.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov, in: Alexander Werth (1949): ibid.; : op. cit.; p. 61).

and of neglecting melody:

“Melodiousness is beginning to disappear. A passionate emphasis on rhythm at the expense of melody is characteristic of modern music. Yet we know that music can give pleasure only if it contains the essential elements in a specific harmonic combination. One-sided emphasis leads to a violation of the correct interaction of the various elements of music and cannot, of course, be accepted by the normal human ear.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov, in: Alexander Werth (1948): ibid.; p. 72).

Shostakovich issued a statement expressing his agreement with and gratitude for the Party’s criticism:

“Certain negative characteristics pertaining to my musical thought \ prevented me from making the turn. … I again deviated in the direction of formalism, and began to speak a language incomprehensible to the people. … I know that the Party is right. … I am deeply grateful . . . for all the criticism contained in the Resolution.”

(Dmitry Shostakovich: Statement, in: Boris Schwarz: op. cit.; p. 244).

Muradeli had already admitted:

“Comrades, in the name of the Party and the Government, Andrey Aleksandrovich (Zhdanov — Ed.) rightly and sharply criticised my opera ‘The Great Friendship’….

As a man, as a citizen and as a Communist, I must say that I agree with what he said.”

(Vano Muradeli, in: Alexander Werth (1949): op. cit.; p. 51).

while Prokofiev declared;

“However painful this may be to many composers, including myself, I welcome the Decree, which creates conditions for restoring the health of Soviet music. The Decree is valuable in having demonstrated how alien formalism is to the Soviet peoples.”

(Sergey S. Prokofiev: Statement, in: Alexander Werth (1971): op. cit.; p. 373).

In April 1948 a new directorate of the Union of Soviet Composers was elected, with the composer Tikhon Khrennikov* as General Secretary.

STALIN AND THE ARTS

Stalin’s concern for art and artists led him frequently to offer his personal assistance to artists, and to intervene where he became aware that officials were acting in reactionary or stupid ways.

The Case of Ilya Ehrenburg (1941)

After the signing in 1939 of the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact, Soviet censorship officials prohibited any mention in literature of the words ‘Fascism or “Nazism.” In April 1941 the publication of the second part of the novel ‘The Fall of Paris’ by Ilya Ehrenburg* was held up for this reason. Ehrenburg describes what occurred:

“On 24th April . . . a telephone call came from Stalin’s secretariat. I was told to dial a certain number: ‘Comrade Stalin wishes to speak to you’….

Stalin said that he had read the beginning of my novel and found it interesting; he wanted to send me a manuscript — a translation of Andre Simon’s book — which might be useful to me. …

Stalin asked me whether I intended to denounce the German Fascists. I said that the last part of the novel, on which I was now working, dealt with . . . the invasion of France by the Nazis, … I added that I was afraid the third part would not be passed, for I was not allowed to use the word ‘Fascists’ even where the French were concerned. Stalin said jocularly: ‘Just go on writing; you and I will try to push the third part through.'”

(Ilya Ehrenburg: ‘Men, Years — Life’, Volume 4: ‘Eve of War: 1933-1941’; London; 1963; p. 274-75).

Stalin’s Policy towards Openly Anti-Socialist Artists

Stalin stood firmly on the Marxist-Leninist principle that the maintenance of the dictatorship of the proletariat was essential for the construction of socialism, so that the exhibition and circulation of anti-socialist art must be prohibited by law.

Naturally, anti-socialist artists could not but regard this prohibition as “persecution.” The playwright Mikhail Bulgakov* described it as

” … tantamount to being buried alive.”

(Julie A. E. Curtis: ‘Manuscripts don’t burn: Mikhail Bulgakov; A Life in Letters and Diaries’; London; 1991; p. 109).

and the writer Evgeny Zamyatin* as his

“… death sentence … as a writer.”

(Evgeny. Zamyatin, in: Alex M. Shane: ‘The Life and Works of Evgeny Zamyatin’; Berkeley (USA); 1968; p. 78).

In fact, Stalin’s policy towards openly anti-socialist artists was to try to assist them, where possible, to utilise their artistic talents in ways that would not be harmful to socialist society. For example, anti-socialist authors who were linguistically qualified were assisted to work as translators, rendering the classics of world literature into Russian (as in the case of Boris Pasternak); anti-socialist writers who were not so qualified were permitted, if they so wished, to go abroad (as in the case of Evgeny Zamyatin); anti-socialist playwrights were assisted to work in the theatre as directors (as in the case of Mikhail Bulgakov).

The Case of Marina Tsvetaeva

So widespread is the myth of the “persecution” of artists in the time of Stalin that even when an artist committed suicide for what were clearly domestic or personal reasons — as in the case of the poet Marina Tsvetaeva* in August 1941 — efforts were made by anti-socialist propagandists to attribute the tragedy to “persecution.”

It is clear that Tsvetaeva’s wartime evacuation to the Tartar Republic was at her own request:

“She had already formed the idea of going off to the Tartar region.”

(Elaine Feinstein: ‘A Captive Lion: The Life of Marina Tsvetaeva’; London; 1987; p. 266).

and that she did not lack the material necessities of life:

“She was not without material resources.”

(Elaine Feinstein: ibid.; p. 269).

Her biographers place the blame for the despair that led to her suicide on the attitude of her highly self-centred son:

“It is hard to evaluate the mood of Tsvetaeva on the last day of her life because the key is most likely in her relationship with her son and we don’t know what went on between them in her last days. Dmitry Sezeman, who was Georgy Efron’s (Tsvetaeva’s son — Ed.) friend, describes him as monstrously egotistical, with no concern whatsoever for anyone’s feelings. . . . The Bredelshchikovs (Tsvetaeva’s landlords — Ed.) reported hearing violent arguments between mother and son in French, and his constant reproaches and demands for luxuries she could not provide.”

(Simon Karlinsky: ‘Marina Tsvetaeva: The Woman, her World and her Poetry’; Cambridge; 1985; p. 244).

“It was no longer possible to mistake the hostility that Mur (her son Georgy — Ed.), his face sullen, felt for her. On Saturday, 30 August, he could be heard quarrelling violently with her. He reproached her for a lifetime of irresponsibility.”

(Elaine Feinstein: op. cit.; p. 269).

Miscarriages of Justice

During Stalin’s lifetime there were cases where artists who were in no way involved with counter-revolutionary activity were wrongly sentenced for such crimes. The Soviet revisionist leader Nikita Khrushchev* blames Stalin for these miscarriages of justice, but there is a contradiction in this charge. For Khrushchov admits that

“… all this which we have discussed was done during Stalin’s lifetime under his leadership and with his concurrence; here Stalin was convinced that this was necessary for the defence of the interests of the working classes against the plotting of enemies and against the attack of the imperialist camp.”

(Nikita S. Khrushchev: Secret Speech to 20th Congress, CPSU:, in: Russian Institute, Columbia University (Ed.); ‘The Anti-Stalin Campaign and International Communism’; New York; 1956; p. 85).

But it is impossible to accept the absurd idea that Stalin could believe that the defence of socialism would be assisted by the fabrication of false charges against innocent persons. Since such miscarriages of justice could not fail to arouse the hostility of honest people who became aware of the truth, so weakening socialist society, the only people to benefit from them would be enemies of socialism.

To qualify as a candidate for such a frame-up, an artist had to be innocent of actual links with the counter-revolutionary conspiracy and be regarded as highly unlikely to make such links in the future — for the conspiracy aimed to protect such people as far as was possible. He had, however, to have had a ‘suspicious’ history that would lend at least some degree of credibility to charges of counter-revolutionary activity — for example, a former, terminated association with the Opposition, the production of a work of art expressing hostility to Stalin (this serving particularly that aspect of the conspiracy which aimed to create, and later denounce, a “cult of personality” around Stalin), etc.

Such miscarriages of justice occurred especially during the period from 1934 to 1938, when concealed revisionists were in control of the security forces, as in the cases of the writers Boris Pilnyak* and Osip Mandelshtam*. For obvious reasons, these fabricated cases — unlike the genuine treason cases of the 1930s — were invariably “tried” in camera.

The Case of Boris Pilnyak

The writer Boris Pilnyak was openly anti-socialist. He regarded the leaders of the Soviet Union

“…as barbarians who had let loose the age-old forces of anarchy upon the country.”

(Robert Payne: Introduction to: Boris Pilnyak: ‘The Tale of the Unextinguished Moon and Other Stories;’; New York; 1967; p. xv).

“His true political convictions are best described as unstable, with a strong undercurrent of anti-Soviet feelings. . . .He always remained antagonistic towards the Party and the government,. . . Pilnyak’s apoliticism sprang directly from his antagonism towards the Soviet regime.”

(Vera T. Reck; op. cit.; p. 95, 102, 103).

In October 1925 Milhail Frunze*, the Soviet People’s Commissar of Defence, died in hospital after abdominal surgery, and in May 1926 the literary journal ‘Novy Mir’ (New World) published a story by Boris Pilnyak entitled “The Tale of the Unextinguished Moon”:

“The boldest attempt of the Opposition to use the open press was the publication in the literary journal ‘New World’ of ‘The Tale of the Unextinguished Moon’… was a barely disguised version of the death on 21 October 1926 of Trotsky’s successor in the post of Commissar of Defence, Frunze. He had been operated on for a gastric complaint, began to recover, then died….The rumours that Stalin had murdered Frunze obviously served the Opposition. One plausible theory is that Karl Radek, a friend of Trotsky who had lost his membership in the Central Committee in 1924, inspired the novelist….The offending issue of the journal was withdrawn and apologies for such ‘error’ and ‘slander’, which ‘could play into the hands of the small-minded counter-revolutionary’, were forthcoming from both editors who were involved and the author.”

(Robert H. McNeal: op. cit.; p. 102-03).

“Radek was probably one of Pilnyak’s sources of rumours that surrounded the death of Frunze. Almost certainly these rumours first originated among Stalin’s enemies in the Kremlin.”

(Vera T. Reck: op. cit.; p. 41).

Pilnyak’s disclaiming preface (dated January 1926) reads:

“The plot of this story suggests the idea that the occasion and the material for writing it was provided by the death of M. V. Frunze, I do not know the real circumstances of his death, and they are not very important for me, since reportage about the death of the People’s Commissar for Defence was no part of the purpose of my story. I consider it necessary to inform the reader of all this so that the reader may not look in it for genuine facts and living persons.”

(Boris Pilnyak: Disclaimer, in: Edward H. Carr: ‘Pilnyak and the Death of Frunze’, in: ‘Soviet Studies’, No. 2, 1958; p. 162).

Six months later (in November 1926) the journal ‘Novy Mir’ carried a letter from Pilnyak:

“I never expected that this tale would play into the hands of the small-minded counter-revolutionary and would be used in a disgusting way to harm the Party; I did not for a single moment imagine that I was writing a malicious slander, I now see that I committed grievous errors not perceived by me when I was writing; I now know that much writen by me in the tale consists of malicious invention”.

(Boris Pilnyak: Letter to ‘Novy Mir’, (25 November 1926), in: Edward H. Carr: ibid.; p. 163-64).

It was impossible to take these disclaimers seriously in view of the close and detailed resemblance between the real Frunze and Pilnyak’s “fictitious” “Gavrilov”:

“Gavrilov’s personal history — lightly sketched in by Pilnyak — owes nearly everything to Frunze’s biography.”

(Vera T. Reck: op. cit.; p. 24).

Pilnyak’s biographer, although hostile to Stalin, feels that rumours of foul play in connection Frunze’s death can be dismissed as groundless:

“The question ‘was it murder?’ can probably be answered ‘No’…Stalin highly esteemed Frunze….The physicians were probably blameless in the death of the Commissar.”

(Vera T. Reck: op. cit. p. 17, 18, 19).

Although Pilnyak’s story was clearly a criminal libel under Soviet law, no action was taken against its author:

“Nothing happened at that time to Pilnyak or to the editor. . . . Stalin chose not to react to a libel which . . . would have provided ample grounds for criminal proceedings against its author and publisher.”

(Adam B. Ulam: ‘Stalin: The Man and his Era’; London, 1989; p. 260-261).

“Pilnyak went unpunished. He continued to write and to publish his works, and from time to time to travel abroad.”

(Robert Payne: Introduction to: Boris Pilnyak (1967): op. cit.; p. xviii).

Indeed, when there was a delay in issuing him with an exit permit for one of his foreign trips, it was Stalin who intervened to assist him in obtaining it:

“Pilnyak . . . wrote to Khozain, the Boss himself (Stalin — Eds.) asking him if there was any reasons why he should not be granted a visa. A reply came from Stalin to the effect that, after consulting his colleagues, he saw no reason why a visa should not be granted.”

(Vera T. Reck” op. cit. p. 182).

It is clear that Pilnyak had all the necessary qualifications to be a candidate for ‘frame-up’ by the revisionist conspirators:

“He (Pilnyak — Ed.) had made two trips to the Far East, spent five months in the United States, travelled through much of Europe, and ventured into the Middle East. While in Japan the first time, he was a ‘correspondent’ for ‘Asahi Shimbun’, a giant among Japanese dailies. . . . He had had contacts with the Japanese-Russian Literary Arts Society . . . founded in 1925. His trip to the United States had been sponsored and paid for, in part, by the Hearst’s ‘International Cosmopolitan’. . .For a time Pilnyak was under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a writer and lived in Southern California. He had made many friends in the United States.”

(Vera T. Reck: op. cit.; p. 3-4).

Accordingly, the revisionist conspirators arranged that Pilnyak should be arrested and

“… charged with espionage for Japan.”

(Jeanne Vronskaya & Vladimir Chuguev: op. cit. p. 402).

He was:

“… shot soon afterwards in 1937.”

(Vera T. Reck: op. cit.; p. 2).

“Pilnyak . . . was arrested and shot in 1937.”

(Robert H. McNeal: op. cit.; p. 103).

The Case of Osip Mandelshtam

Another artist who, like Pilnyak, was the victim of a revisionist frame-up was the poet Osip Mandelshtam.

In April 1934 Mandelshtam had recited to presumed friends a slanderous poem he had written about the leaders of the Party, and Stalin in particular, accusing them of being “murderers”:

“And every killing is a treat for the broad chested Ossete.”

(Osip Mandelstam: Poem, in: Olga Ivinskaya: ‘A Captive of Time: My Years with Pasternak’; London; 1978; p. 65).

Under Soviet law, this could have been interpreted as criminal libel:

“Under Article 161 of the Penal Code, libel, i.e., the spreading of false information about another person, is punishable by compulsory labour for a term of up to 6 months or a fine of up to 500 roubles.”

(David Zaslavsky: op. cit. p. 40).

However, it was a minor offence that honest and sensible people would have felt it best to ignore.

But, unfortunately for Mandelshtam, at this time the Soviet security forces were not under the control of honest and sensible people. The Marxist-Leninist Commissar of Internal Affairs, Vyacheslav Menszhinsky*, had been for some time

” . . .no longer responsible, as he was very ill and was now merely the nominal head of OGPU.”

(Boris Levytsky: ‘The Uses of Terror: The Soviet Secret Service: 1917-1970’; London; 1971; p. 72-73).

The man ultimately responsible for security was thus the Deputy Commissar, Genrikh Yagoda, who, as we have seen, was a concealed revisionist. In these circumstances, Mandelshtam was arrested. However, Stalin personally intervened:

“So great was his respect for poetic talent that he dealt personally with the case of Osip Mandelshtam,…who in 1934 had rashly recited to presumed friends a short poem that referred to Stalin as ‘the Kremlin mountaineer’, with fingers ‘fat as worms’, a killer surrounded by ‘half-men’. Stalin phoned Boris Pasternak … to ask if the culprit was really a genius. . . . Stalin at one point said that Mandelshtam would be ‘all right.'”

(Robert H. McNeal: ‘Stalin: Man and Ruler’; Basingstoke; 1988; p. 230).

“Stalin began by telling Pasternak that Mandelshtam’s case had been reviewed and that everything would be all right. This was followed by a strange reproach: why hadn’t Pasternak approached the writers’ organisations or him (Stalin) and why hadn’t he tried to do something for Mandelshtam? ‘If I were a poet and a poet friend of mine were in trouble, I would do anything to help him.”

(Nadezhda Mandelshtam: ‘Hope against Hope: A Memoir’; London; 1971; p. 140).

As a result of Stalin’s intervention,

“… Mandelshtam . . . was released from arrest.”

(Robert H. McNeal: ibid.; p. 230).

and

“… was given a ‘minus twelve’ exile, i.e., he could reside in’ any but twelve major urban centres.”

(Adam B. Ulam: ‘Stalin: The Man and His Era;’; London; 1989; p.391).

The Mandelshtams chose to live in Voronezh until Mandelshtam’s sentence of exile expired in May 1938, although he suffered a heart attack in the autumn of 1937. But in the month before his release (in April 1938) a new order for Mandelshtam’s arrest had been issued. (Clarence Brown: ‘Mandelstam’; Cambridge; 1973; p. 133).

As a result, in August 1938 Mandelshtam was

“… sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for counter­revolutionary activity.”

(Clarence Brown: ibid. p. 133).

In December 1938 he died of heart failure in the

“… perfectly decent and clean two-storey hospital”

(Nadezhda Mandelshtam: op. cit. p. 396),

of a transit camp in Vladivostok.

His widow was told by the novelist Aleksandr Fadayev* that Mandelshtam’s sentence had been ordered by the concealed revisionist Andrey Andreyev:

“Fadayev during the war whispered to me that it was Andreyev who had signed M’s sentence.”

(Nadezhda Mandelshtam: ibid.; p. 355),

“Mme. Mandelshtam records the inside information that it was Andreyev who ordered the second and fatal imprisonment of her husband.”

(Adam B. Ulam: op. cit.; p. 439).

The Case of Milkail Bulgakov

Let us return now to the question of Stalin’s policy towards anti-socialist artists.

The first novel of Mikhail Bulgakov, ‘The White Guard” (1921-22), adapted for the stage in 1926 as ‘The Days of the Turbins,” presented the. counter­revolutionary Whites as heroes:

“It describes the war from the White side. Its central characters, the Turbin brothers, are members of the White Guard. . . .Bulgakov’s treatment of the Whites as patriots and idealists, his refusal to glamorise the revolutionary proletariat, and the playing on the legendary opening night of the old Russian national anthem …”

(John Wakeman (Ed.): ‘World Authors; 1950-1970’; New York; 1975; p. 239).

aroused

“… a storm of controversy.”

(John Wakeman (Ed.): ibid.; p. 239).

Despite this, in July 1929 Stalin wrote to the dramatist Vladimir Bill-Belotserkovsky* to defend the play in that it was objectively progressive in spite of the author’s subjective intentions:

“‘Days of the Turbins’ … is not such a bad play, because it does more good than harm. Don’t forget that the chief impression it leaves with the spectator is one that is favourable to the Bolsheviks, ‘If even such people as the Turbins are compelled to lay down their arms and submit to the will of the people because they realise that their cause is definitely lost, then the Bolsheviks must be invincible and there is nothing to be done about it. ‘Days of the Turbins’ is a demonstration of the all-conquering power of Bolshevism. Of course, the author is altogether ‘innocent1 of this demonstration. But that is not our affair. “

(Josef V. Stalin: Reply to Bill-Belotserkovsky (February 1929), in: ‘Works’, Volume 11: Moscow; 1954; p. 343).

In fact,

“… Stalin was evidently very fond of the play (Bulgakov’s ‘The Days of the Turbins’ — Ed.); the Arts Council’s records indicate that he went to see it no fewer than 15 times.”

(Julie A. E. Curtis: op. cit.; p.70).

However, the revisionists in influential positions in the arts seized upon another passage in Stalin’s letter —

“Why are Bulgakov’s plays staged so often? Presumably because we have not enough of our own plays suitable for staging.”

(Josef V. Stalin: Reply to Bill-Belotserkovsky (February 1929), in: ‘Works’, Volume 11; op. cit.; p. 342-33).

— to force the withdrawal of all Bulgakov’s plays from production.

So, in spite of Stalin’s favourable comments on ‘The Days of the Turbins,”

“… the actual effect of his February 1929 letter was to put an end to all the productions of Bulgakov’s works in Moscow. . . . These developments completed the elimination of Bulgakov from the Soviet stage.”

(Julie A. E. Curtis: op. cit.; p. 70-71).

In the spring of 1930 Bulgakov completed a new play “Moliere,” which used historical events to make an attack on the principle of censorship. It depicted

“. . . the relationship . . . between Moliere and Louis XIV, Bulgakov’s portrayal of which was naturally read by his contemporaries as suggesting analogies to the modern world.”

(Julie A. E. Curtis: ibid.; p. 72).

In March 1930,

” … the Repertory Committee informed him that the play would not be licensed for performance.”

(Julie A. E. Curtis: op. cit.; p. 72).

Later the same month he wrote a letter to the Soviet Government:

“After the banning of all my works, I begin to hear voices among many citizens of my acquaintance, all giving me one and the same piece of advice: that I should write a ‘Communist play’ . . . and that quite apart from that I should address to the Government of the USSR a penitential letter, which should contain a renunciation of my previous opinions, as expressed in my literary works, and assurances that henceforth I was going to work as a fellow-travelling writer loyal to the idea of Communism. . I did not follow that advice. I would scarcely have succeeded in appearing in a favourable light in the eyes of the Government of the USSR by writing a mendacious letter, which would have represented a sordid and indeed naive political somersault. . . .

The entire press of the USSR, together with all the institutions to whom control of the repertory has been entrusted, throughout all the years of my literary career, has unanimously and with EXTRAORDINARY FURY demonstrated that the works of Mikhail Bulgakov cannot exist in the USSR.

I declare that the Soviet press is ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. . . .

For me, not being allowed to write is tantamount to being buried alive.

I REQUEST THAT THE SOVIET GOVERNMENT GIVE ORDERS FOR ME TO LEAVE THE TERRITORY OF THE USSR AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, TOGETHER WITH MY WIFE LYUBOV YEVGENYEVNA BULKAKOVA. . . .

If, on the other hand, . . . I am to be condemned to lifelong silence in the USSR, then I would request the Soviet Government to give me a job for which I am qualified and to second me to some theatre to work as a director on their staff.”

(Mikhail A. Bulgakov: Letter to Soviet Government (28 March 1930), in: Julie A. E. Curtis: op. cit.; p. 103-04, 105, 109).

Three weeks later (on 18 April 1930), Stalin telephoned Bulgakov at his home:

“Stalin’s first question was whether Bulgakov really wanted to go abroad. Bulgakov, somewhat stunned and unprepared, replied: ‘I have thought a great deal recently about the question of whether a Russian writer can live outside his homeland. And it seems to me he can’t’. . . Stalin . . . next asked him where he would like to work — what about the Moscow Arts Theatre? Bulgakov explained that he had asked about that and had been refused, at which Stalin suggested that he should try applying again. . . .Thirdly, Stalin proposed that he and Bulgakov should meet some time and have a talk. . . .

Stalin’s telephone call . . . was immediately followed by the Moscow Arts Theatre’s taking Bulgakov on its staff as an assistant director.”

(Julie A. E. Curtis: ibid.,; p. 111-12, 113).

The Case of Evgeny Zamyatin

In June 1931 the openly anti-socialist writer Evgeny Zamyatin, who had no experience in translation, wrote to Stalin asking for his intercession to be allowed to go abroad:

“I ask to be permitted to go abroad with my wife . , . with the right to return as soon as it becomes possible to serve the great ideas in literature without fawning on small people. . . I do not wish to conceal that the fundamental reason for my request to go abroad together with my wife is … the death sentence which has been passed on me here as writer.”

(Evgeny Zarayatin: Letter to Josef V. Stalin (June 1931), in: Alex M. Shane: ‘The Life and Works of Evgeny Zamyatin’; Berkeley (USA); 1968; p. 78).

As a result of Stalin’s intervention,

“… Zamyatin and his wife were granted an exit permit and were allowed to go abroad. . . .In November 1931 … he went abroad with the consent of Stalin himself…During his years abroad Zamyatin did not publicly attack the Soviet regime.”

(Alex M. Shane: ibid. p. 78-79, i, 82).

In March 1937

“… Evgeny Zamyatin died in self-imposed exile in Paris”.

(Alex M. Shane: ibid.; p. i).

CONCLUSION

The principles of Marxist-Leninist aesthetics elaborated by Zhdanov on the basis of theses put forward by Stalin have permanent importance for all societies in the world. Stalin fought to maintain socialist realism as the principled method of Soviet art.

Even Alexander Werth felt compelled to admit:

“There is an incontrovertible basis of truth in the Russian case. . . . The West cannot afford to ignore some of its own weaknesses, and it is not enough to sneer at Zhdanov’s theses and to pretend that all is well with Western art and Western literature.”

(Alexander Werth (1949): op. cit.; p. 16).

It is clear that the picture commonly drawn in anti-socialist writings, of artists in the time of Stalin suffering “persecution” because of their artistic creations, is based only on presenting the non-publication and non-circulation of anti-socialist art, and constructive criticism of other art, as “persecution.” In fact, the artists most strongly criticised — such as the composers Prokofiev and Shostakovich and the writers Akhmatova, Bulgakov, Pasternak and Zoschchenko — all died peacefully in their beds.

The first case in the Soviet Union of criminal proceedings against artists in connection with their work occurred long after Stalin’s death — in 1966, in the time of the revisionist Leonid Brezhnev*, when Audrey Sinyavsky* and Yuli Daniel* faced charges in connection with their writings. The trial of Sinyavsky and Daniel

“… was unique in Russian history. Neither under the tsars nor . . . under Stalin had ever there ever been any proceedings in which the main corpus delicti consisted of the actual contents of works of imaginative literature.”

(Max Hayward: ‘Writers in Russia: 1917-1978’; London; 1983; p. 278).

It was

“… unprecedented in the annals of not only Russian but world literature.”

(Leopold Labedz & Max Hayward (Eds,): ‘On Trial: The Case of Sinyavsky (Tertz) and Daniel (Arzhak)’; London; 1967; p. 17).

“The Sinyavsky-Daniel case . . . was unprecedented in modern Soviet history. . . . None (no intellectual — Ed.) had ever before been held criminally responsible for the political effects of their literary works.”

(Frances C. Locher (Ed.); ‘Contemporary Authors’, Volumes 85-88; Detroit; 1980; p. 550).

“A large part of the attention attracted by the Sinyavsky-Daniel case was due … to its precedent-setting nature.”

(Hal May (Ed.): ‘Contemporary Authors’, Volume 116; Detroit; 1986; p, 100).

In fact, we have seen that Stalin had respect for artists who were honestly anti-socialist, did not regard them as significantly dangerous to socialism, and on many recorded occasions assisted them in ways that would not be harmful to socialist society.

The people for whom he had no respect and whom he regarded as a serious danger to socialism were the concealed enemies of socialism who posed as Marxist-Leninists in order to attain positions of influence.

THE HISTORY OF THE LAST FORTY YEARS HAS SHOWN THE CORRECTNESS OF STALIN’S VIEW.

(This is an extended and annotated version of a lecture given by Bill Bland to the Stalin Society in London in May 1993).

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

AKHMATOVA, Anna A., Soviet poet (1889-1966).

ANDREYEV, Andrey A., Soviet revisionist politician (1895-1971); USSR Commissar of Transport (1931-35); Member, Political Bureau/Presidium, CPSU (193252, 1956-71); USSR Commissar of Agriculture (1943-46); USSR Deputy Premier (1945-53); Adviser to Presidium of Supreme Soviet (1962-71);

ARAGON, Louis, French novelist and poet (1897-1982).

AVERBAKH, Leopold L., Soviet literary critic (1903-38).

BECKETT, Samuel, Irish-born playwright (1906-89); in Paris (1937-89); awarded Nobel Prize for Literature (1969).

BELLINI, Giovanni, Venetian Renaissance painter (cl420-1516).

BILL-BELOTSERKOVSKY, Vladimir N., Soviet dramatist (1884-1970).

BOGDANOV, Aleksandr A., Soviet philosopher, literary critic and writer (1873-1928).

BREZHNEV, Leonid, Soviet revisionist politician (1906-82); Member, Secretariat, CPSU (1952-53, 1956-60, 1963-82); Member, Politburo/Presidium, CPSU (1957-82); lst. Secretary, CPSU (1964-66); General Secretary, CPSU (1966-82); USSR President (1977-82).

BRIK, Lillya: Russian-born French painter and sculptor (1891-1978).

BRIK, Osip M., Russian-born French critic and playwright (1888-1945).

BROWN, Edward J., American Slavist (1909- ); Associate Professor (1953-55), Professor (1955-65), of Russian, University of Indiana (USA); Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature, Brown University (USA) (1969

BUKHARIN, Nicolay I., Soviet revisionist politician (1888-1938); Chairman, Comintern (1926-29); Member, Politburo (1924-29); arrested (1937); admitted to treason at public trial and executed (1938).

BULGAKOV, Mikhail A., Soviet writer (1891-1940).

‘CARAVAGGIO’ (= Michelangelo Merisi), Italian Renaissance painter (1573-1610).

CHERKASOV, Nicolay K., Soviet film actor (1903-66).

CROMWELL, Oliver, British bourgeois revolutionary soldier and statesman (15991658).

DALI, Salvador, Spanish-born painter (1904-89); to France , then to USA (1940); returned to Spain (1955) and became supporter of Franco regime.

DANIEL, Yuli M. (= ‘ARZHOV, Nikolay”), Soviet poet (1925-88); imprisoned (1966); released (1970).

EASTMAN, Max, American journalist, author and editor (1883-1969).

EHRENBURG, Ilya G., Soviet writer (1891-1967); in France (1921-28); in Germany (1924-28); in Soviet Union (1928-36); in Spain (1936-39); in France (1939-40); in Soviet Union (1940-67).

EISENSTEIN, Sergey M., Soviet film director (1898-1948).,

ERMOLAEV, Herman S., Russian-born American lecturer (1924- instructor (1959-60), assistant professor (1960-66), associate professor (1966-67), professor (1970- ), of Russian Literature, Princeton University.

‘FADAYEV (= BULYGA), Aleksandr A., Soviet novelist (1901-56); committed suicide (1956).

FRAGONARD, Jean-Honore, French painter and engraver (1732-1806).

FRUNZE, Mikhail V., Soviet Marxist-Leninist military officer and politician (1885-1925); Chief of Staff and USSR Commissar of Defence (1924-25).

GLINKA, Mikhail I., Russian composer (1804-57).

GORKY, Maksim’ (= PESHKOV, Aleksey M.) Soviet writer (1868-1936); to Italy (1924); returned to Soviet Union (1931).

HABA, Alois, Czech atonal composer (1893-1973).

HEYWORTH, Peter L. F., American-born British music critic (1921-91); music critic, ‘Times Educational Supplement’ (1950-55), ‘Observer’ (1955-77).

HOOCH, Pieter de, Dutch painter (1629-1685).

KAGANOVICH, Lazar M., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1893-1991); USSR Commissar for Oil Industry (1939-40); Member, State Defence Committee (1941-44); USSR Minister of Building Materials Industry (1946-47, 195657); Ist Secretary, CP Ukraine (1953-55); dismissed from all posts by revisionists (1956).

KALININ, Mikhail I., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1875-1946); Soviet Russia, President (1919-38), USSR (1938-46); Member, Political Bureau/Presidium, CPSU (1925-46).

KAMENEV, Lev B., Soviet revisionist politician (1883-1936); Member of Politburo (1919-25); Ambassador to Italy (1926-27); arrested (1935); admitted to treason at his public trial and executed (1936).

KAUFMAN, George S., American playwright (1880-1961).

KHACHATURIAN, Aram I., Soviet composer (1903-78).

KHRENNIKOV, Tikhon N., Soviet composer (1913- );

KHRUSHCHEV, Nikita S.,, Soviet revisionist politician (1894-1971) Member Political Bureau, CPSU (1939-64); 1st Secretary, CPSU (1953-64); USSR Premier (1958-64).

KIROV, Sergey M., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1886-1934); 1st Secretary, CPSU, Leningrad (1926-34); Member, Political Bureau, CPSU (1934); murdered by revisionists (1934).

KOSIOR, Stanislav V., Soviet revisionist politician (1889-1939); Member, Political Bureau, CPSU (1930-38); Chairman, USSR State Planning Committee (1934-35).

KRYUKOV, Fedor D., Russian (Cossack) author (1870-1920).

KUIBYSHEV, Valerian V., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1888-1935); Chairman, USSR State Planning Committee (1930-35); USSR Deputy Premier (1930-35); murdered by revisionists (1935).

LELY, Peter, German-born British painter (1618-81).

LESKOV, Nikolay S., Russian writer (1831-95).

LEVIN, Dan, Russian-born American journalist (1914- )

LUDWIG, Emil, German playwright and biographer (1881-1948).

MANDELSHTAM, Osip E., Polish-born Soviet poet (1891-1938); victim of charges fabricated by revisionists and died in imprisonment (1938).

MARGARITO OF AREZZO, Italian painter (fl. 1262).

MARSHALL, Herbert, Brtish writer and translator (1906-91).

MAUGHAM, W. Somerset, British playwright and novelist (1874-1965).

MAYAKOVSKY, Vladimir V., Soviet poet (1893-1930).

MAZOUR, Anatole G., Russian-born American historian (1900- ); Professor of Russian history (1946-66), Professor Emeritus (1966- Stanford University.

MEDVEDEV, Roy A., Soviet historian (1925- )

MELLY, George, British singer, musician, journalist and music critic (1926 – )

MENZHINSKY, Vyacheslav R., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1874-1934); Deputy Chairman, OGPU (1926-34); Chairman, OGPU (192-34); murdered by revisionists (1934).

MOLOTOV, Vyacheslav M., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1890-1896); USSR Premier (1930-41); USSR Deputy Premier (1941-57); USSR Minister of Foreign Affairs (1941-49, 1943-56); USSR Ambassador to Mongolia (195760); USSR Representative, International Atomic Agency (1960-62); dismissed from all posts and expelled from Party by revisionists (1962).

MUCHNIC, Helen L., Russian-born American Slavist (1903- ); Professor of Russian (1947-69). Professor Emeritus (1969- ), Smith College ((USA).

MURADELI, Vano I., Soviet composer (1908-70).

MYASKOVSKY, Nicolay Y., Soviet composer (1881-1950).

ORDZHONIKIDZE. Grigory K., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1886-1937); Member, Political Bureau, CPSU (1930-37); USSR Commissar for Heavy Industry (1932-37); committed suicide (1937).

PASTERNAK, Boris L., Soviet poet and novelist (1890-1960); awarded Nobel Prize for Literature for novel ‘Dr. Zhivago’ (1958).

PETROV, Vladimir M., Soviet film director (1896-1966).

PICASSO, Pablo, Spanish painter (1881-1973); worked in Paris (1901-73); founder of Cubism.

‘PILNYAK’ (= VOGAU), Boris A., Soviet novelist (1894-1937); victim of charges fabricated by revisionists; died in imprisonment (1937).

POKROVSKY, Mikhail N., Soviet historian (1868-1932).

POPOV, Gavril N., Soviet pianist and composer (1904-72).

PROKOFIEV, Sergey S., Soviet composer (1891-1953).

RADEK, Karl B., Soviet revisionist politician (1885-1939); expelled from CPSU (1927); readmitted (1930); re-expelled (1937); tried and imprisoned (1937); died in prison (1937).

RODOV, Semyon A., Soviet literary critic (1893-1968).

RYKOV, Aleksey I., Soviet revisionist politician (1881-1938); Member, Politburo (1923); USSR Premier (1924-29); USSR Commissar for Posts and Telegraphs (1931-36); expelled from Party, arrested (1937); convicted of treason,and executed (1938).

SAROYAN, William, American playwright (1908-81).

SCHWARZ, Boris, Russian-born American violinist, conductor and musicologist (1906-83); assistant professor (1947-57), associate professor (1957-58), professor of music (1958-70), City University of New York.

SERAFIMOVICH, Aleksandr, Soviet writer and journalist (1863-1949).

SHAMIL, Caucasian military and religious leader (1798?-1871); Imam of Dagestan (1834-59).

SHEBALIN, Vissarion Y., Soviet composer (1913-63).

SHKLOVSKY, Viktor B., Soviet literary critic (1883-1984).

SHOLOKHOV, Mikhail A., Soviet novelist and journalist (1905-84).

SHOSTAKOVICH, Dmitry D., Soviet composer (1906-75).

SINYAVSKY, Andrey D. (= ‘TERTZ, Abram’) Soviet writer (1925- ); Lecturer, Russian literature, Moscow University (1952-66); imprisoned (1966); released (1971); Professor of Slavic Studies, Sorbonne (1973- ).

SOLZHENITSYN, Aleksandr I., Soviet physicist and author (1918- ); imprisoned for attempting to form rival political party to Communist Party (194553); expelled from Union of Soviet Writers (1969); awarded Nobel Prize for Literature (1970); deported from USSR (1974); to Western Europe, then (1979) to USA.

STEPHENSON, George, British inventor (1781-1848),

STETSKY, Aleksey I., Soviet revisionist politician (1896-1938); died in prison (1838).

STOLYPIN, Pyotr A., Russian politican (1862-1911).

SYRTSOV, Sergey I., Soviet journalist and politician (1893-1938); RSFSR Premier (1929-30); arrested (1938); died in prison (1938).

THATCHER, Margaret H., British Conservative politician (1925- ); Secretary of State for Education and Science (1970-74); Leader of Conservative Party (1975-90); Premier (1979-90).

THORLBY. Anthony K., British lecturer (1928- ); assistant lecturer (1956-57), lecturer in German (1957-61), University College of Swansea; lecturer in German, University of Sussex (1961-63); Reader in Comparative Literature (1963-66), Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Sussex (1966

TOMSKY, Mikhail P., Soviet trade union leader (1880-1930); committed suicide to evade arrest (1936).

TRIOLET, Elsa: Russian-born French novelist and translator (1896-1970).

TROTSKY, Lev D., Soviet revisionist politician (1879-1940); Commissar of Foreign Affairs (1917-58); Commissar of Defence War (1918-25);

Member, Politburo (1920-27); expelled from Party (1928); exiled to Alma Ata (1928); deported from USSR (1929); to Turkey (1929-33); to France (1933-35); to Mexico (1937).

TSVETAEVA, Marina I., Soviet poet (1892-1941); committed suicide (1941).

TURNER, J. M. William, British painter, especially of landscapes (1775-1851).

VERTINSKY, Aleksandr N., Soviet variety artist (1889-1957).

VISHNEVSKY, Vsevolod V., Soviet journalist and playwright (1900-51).

VOROSHILOV, Kliment E., Soviet military officer and Marxist-Leninist politician (1881-1969); Member, Political Bureau (1926-52); USSR Commissar of Defence 1934-40); USSR Deputy Premier (1946-53); USSR President (1953-60); Member, Politburo/Presidium, CPSU (1926-69).

WERTH, Alexander, Russian-born British journalist (1901-69).

YAGODA, Genrikh G., Soviet revisionist politician (1891-1938); USSR Commissar for Internal Affairs (1934-36); arrested (1937); admitted to treason at public trial, executed (1938).

YAKOVLEVA., Tatiana A., Russian-born French (later American) hat designer.

YENUKIDZE, Avel S., Soviet civil servant (1877-1937); Secretary, USSR Central Executive Committee (1923-35); expelled from CPSU (1935); tried and sentenced to death (1937).

ZAMYATIN, Evgeny I., Soviet writer and literary critic (1884-1937); to Western Europe (1931).

ZASLAVSKY, David I., Soviet writer and literary critic (1880-1965).

ZHDANOV, Andrey A., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1896-1948); 1st Secretary, Leningrad, CPSU (1934-44); Secretary, CC,’ CPSU (1944-48); murdered by revisionists (1948).

ZINOVIEV, Grigory E., Soviet revisionist politician (1883-1936); Member, Politburo (1921-26); Chairman, Comintern (1919-26); admitted to treason at public trial and executed (1936).
ZOSHCHENKO, Milhail M., Soviet writer (1895- 1958); expelled from Union of Soviet Writers (1946).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barber, John D.: ‘Soviet Historians in Crisis: 1928-1932’; London; 1981.

Beckett, Samuel: ‘En Attendant Godot, piece en deux actes’; London; 1966.

Briggs, A. D. P.: ‘Vladimir Mayakovsky: A Tragedy’; Oxford; 1979,

Brown, Clarence: ‘Mandelstam’; Cambridge; 1973.

Brown, Edward J.: ‘Mayakovsky: A Poet in the Revolution’; Princeton (USA); 1973.
‘The Proletarian Episode in Russian Literature: 1928-1932’; New York; 1935 ;
Russian Literature since the Revolution’ London; 1963.

Cohen, Stephen F.: ‘Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography: 1888-1938’; London; 1974.

Conquest, Robert: ‘The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties’; Harmondsworth; 1971.

Counts, George S. & Lodge, Nucia: ‘The Country of the Blind: The Soviet System of Mind Control’; Boston (USA); 1949.

Curtis, Julie A. E.: ‘Manuscripts don’t burn: Mikhail Bukgakov: A Life in Letters and Diaries’; London; 1991.

Devlin, James: ‘Shostakovich’; Sevenoaks; 1983.

Eastman, Max: ‘Artists in Uniform: A Study of Literature and Bureaucratism’; London; 1934.

Ehrenburg, Ilya: Men, Years — Life, Volume 4: ‘Eve of War: 1933-1941’; London; 1963.

Eisenstein, Sergey M.: ‘Ivan the Terrible’; London; 1980.

Ermolaev: Herman: ‘Mikhail Sholokhov and His Art’; Princeton*(USA); 1982.
‘Soviet Literary Theories: 1917-1934’; Berkeley (USA); 1963.

Esslin, Martin J.: ‘The Theatre of the Absurd’; Harmondsworth; 1977.

Feinstein, Elaine: ‘A Captive Lion: The Life of Marina Tsvetaeva’; London; 1987.

Hayward, Max: ‘Writers in Russia: 1917-1978; London; 1983.

Hughes, Gervase & Van Thal, Herbert (Eds.): ‘The Music Lover’s Companion’; London; 1971.

Ivinskaia, Olga: ‘A Captive of Time: My Years with Pasternak’; London; 1978.

James, C. Vaughan: ‘Soviet Socialist Realism’; London; 1973.

Karlinsky, Simon: ‘Marina Tsvetaeva: The Woman, Her World and Her Poetry’; Cambridge; 1985.

Kay, Norman: ‘Shostakovich’; London; 1971.

Kjetsaa, Geir, et al: ‘The Authorship of “The Quiet Don”‘; Oslo; 1984.

Labedz, Leopold & Hayward, Max (Eds.): ‘On Trial: The Case of Sinyavsky (Tertz) and Daniel (Arzhak); London; 1967.

Levin, Dan: ‘Stormy Petrel: The Life and Work of Maksim Gorky’; London; 1967.

Levin, Norah: ‘The Jews in the Soviet Union since 1917: Paradoxes of Survival’; London; 1990.

Levytsky, Boris: ‘The Uses of Terror: The Soviet Secret Service: 1917-1970,; London; 1971.

Locher, Frances C. (Ed.): ‘Contemporary Authors’, Volumes 85-88; Detroit; 1980.

Mandelstam, Nadezhda: ‘Hope against Hope: A Memoir’; London; 1971.

Marshall, Herbert (Ed.): ‘Mayakovsky’; London; 1965.
‘Mayakovsky and his Poetry’; London; 1945.

May, Hal (Ed.): ‘Contemporary Authors’, Volume 116; Detroit; 1986.

Mazour, Anatole G.: ‘An Outline of Russian Historiography’; Berkeley (USA); 1939.
‘Modern Russian Historiography’; Princeton (USA); 1958.

McNeal, Robert H.: ‘Stalin: Man and Ruler’; Basingstoke; 1988.

Medvedev, Roy A.: ‘Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism’; London; 1971.
‘Problems in the Literary Biography of Mikhail Sholokhov’; Cambridge; 1966.

Mehnert, Klaus: ‘Stalin versus Marx: The Stalinist Historical Doctrine’; London; 1952.

Melly, George: ‘Revolt into Style: The Pop Arts in Britain’; Harmondsworth; 1972.

Muchnic, Helen: ‘From Gorky to Pasternak: Six Writers in Soviet Russia’; New York; 1961.

Norris, Christopher (Ed.): ‘Shostakovich: The Man and his Music’; London; 1982.

Pilnyak, Boris: ‘The Tale of the Unextinguished Moon and Other Stories’; New York; 1987,

Rabinovich, David: ‘Dmitry Shostakovich’; London; 1959.

Reck, Vera T.: ‘Boris Pilnyak: A Soviet Writer in Conflict with the State’; Montreal; 1974,

Rickwood, Edgell (Ed.): ‘Soviet Writers reply to English Writers’ Questions’; London; 1948,

Sadie, Stanley (Ed.): ‘New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians’; Volume 17; London; 1980.

Saroyan, William: AA Few Words about Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”‘ (Record Sleeve).

Schapiro, Leonard: ‘The Communist Party of the Soviet Union’; London; 1960.

Schwarz, Boris: ‘Music and Musical Life in Soviet Russia: 1917-1970’; London; 1972.

Scott, H. G. (Ed.): ‘Problems of Soviet Literature’; London; 1935.

Serov, Victor: I.: ‘Dmitry Shostakovich: The Life and Background of a Soviet Composer’; New York; 1943.

Shakespeare, William: ‘As You like it’, in: ‘The Complete Works’; Feltham;’ 1979.

Shane, Alex B.: ‘The Life and Works of Evgeny Zamyatin’; Berkeley (USA); 1968.

Shklovsky, Viktor B.: ‘0 Mayakovskom (On Mayakovsky)’; Moscow; 1940.

Shteppa, Konstantin P.: ‘Russian Historians and the Soviet State’; New Brunswick (USA); 1962.

Stacy, Robert H.: ‘Russian Literary Criticism: A Short History; New York; 1974.

Struve, Gleb: ‘Soviet Russian Literature’; London; 1935.

Terras, Victor: ‘Handbook of Russian Literature’; New Haven (USA); 1985.

Thorlby, Anthony K. (Ed.): ‘Penguin Companion to Literature’, Volume 2; Harmondsworth; 1969.

Tillett, Lowell: ‘The Great Friendship: Soviet Historians on the Non-Russian Nationalities’; Chapel Hill (USA); 1969.

Ulam, Adam B.: ‘Stalin: The Man and His Era’; London; 1989.

Volkov, Solomon (Ed.): ‘Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitry Shostakovich’; London; 1981.

Voronskaya, Jeanne & Chuguev, Vladimir: ‘The Biographical Dictionary of the Former Soviet Union: Prominent People in All Fields from 1917 to the Present’; London; 1992.

Wakeman, John (Ed.): ‘World Authors: 1950-1970’; New York; 1975.

Werth, Alexander: ‘Musical Uproar in Moscow; London; 1949,
‘Russia: The Post-War Years’; London; 1971.

Zhdanov, Andrey A.: ‘On Literature, Music and Philosophy’; London; 1950.

‘History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks): Short Course’; Moscow; 1939.

‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica;, Volume 9; Chicago; 1983.

‘Protiv istoricheskoi kontseptsy M. N. Pokrovskogo’ (Against the Historical Conceptions of M. N. Pokrovsky); Moscow; 1939,

Report of Court Proceedings in the Case of the Anti-Soviet ‘Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites’; Moscow; 1938, Russian Institute, Columbia University (Ed.):

The Anti-Stalin Campaign and International Communism’; New York; 1956.

Marx, Karl: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 2; London; 1943.

Marx, Karl & Engels, Friedrich: ‘On Literature and Art’; Moscow; 1976.

Lenin, Vladimir I.: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 31; Moscow; 1974.

Stalin, Josef V.: ‘Works’, Volumes 7, 11, 12, 13; Moscow; 1954-55.

‘Current Digest of the Soviet Press’, Volumes 1, 4 (1949, 1952).

‘New Writing’, New Series 3.

‘On Literary Guard’, February 1928,

‘Pravda’-; 29 March 1929; 15 April 1930; 6 February 1936; 28 January 1949; 7 April 1952.

‘The Present’, Nos. 8 & 9, 1929.

‘Russian and East European Series’, Volume 20.

‘Soviet Studies’, No: 2, 1958.

Source

Helen Yaffe – Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara: A Rebel against Soviet Political Economy

Che_SClara

Helen Yaffe is author of Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution 

In January 1962 Guevara told colleagues in Cuba’s Ministry of Industries (MININD): ‘In no way am I saying that financial autonomy of the enterprise with moral incentives, as it is established in the socialist countries, is a formula which will impede progress to socialism’.[1] He was referring to the economic management system applied in the Soviet bloc, known in Cuba as the Auto-Financing System (AFS). By 1966, in his critique of the Soviet Manual of Political Economy, he concluded that the USSR: ‘is returning to capitalism.'[2] This paper will demonstrate that Guevara’s analysis developed in the period between these two statements as a result of three lines of enquiry: the study of Marx’s analysis of the capitalist system, engagement in socialist political economy debates and recourse to the technological advances of capitalist corporations.[3] At the same time Guevara was engaged in the practical experience of developing the Budgetary Finance System (BFS); an alternative apparatus for economic management in MININD.

Guevara was head of the Department of Industrialisation and President of the National Bank in 1960 when all financial institutions and 84% of industry in Cuba were nationalised. His BFS emerged as a practical solution to problems thrown up by the transition from private to state ownership of industrial production. Cuba had an unbalanced, trade dependent economy dominated by foreign interests, principally from the United States. The production units which passed under the Department’s jurisdiction ranged from artisan workshops to sophisticated energy plants. Many faced bankruptcy while others were highly profitable. Guevara’s solution was twofold: first, to group entities of similar lines of production into centralised administrative bodies called Consolidated Enterprises. This allowed the Department to control the allocation of scarce administrative and technical personnel following the exodus of 65-75% of managers, technicians and engineers after 1959; and second, to centralise the finances of all production units into one bank account for the payment of salaries, to control investment and sustain production in essential industries which lacked financial resources. With the establishment of MININD in February 1961, the BFS evolved into a comprehensive apparatus which embedded these organisational structures in a Marxist theoretical framework, to foster Cuba’s industrialisation, increase productivity and institutionalise collective management.

Advanced technology

Guevara set up the BFS with compañeros who understood the internal accounting practices, administrative centralisation and productive concentration of US corporations and their subsidiaries in Cuba. Guevara examined the documentation from these companies as they fell into state hands. He was impressed with their management structures, the use of centralised bank accounts and budgets, determinate levels of responsibility and decision-making, and departments for organisation and inspection.[4] He told colleagues that the BFS had an accounting system similar to the pre-1959 monopolies operating in Cuba, with their efficient control systems: ‘it’s not important who invented the system. The accounting system that they apply in the Soviet Union was also invented under capitalism.'[5]  

Guevara first travelled to the USSR in 1960. His deputy Orlando Borrego recalled that they visited an electronics factory which did accounts by abacus. Having studied the US-owned Cuban Electricity Company, Shell, Texaco and other corporations which used the latest IBM accounting machines, Guevara was struck by the backwardness of Soviet techniques. He believed that advances achieved by humanity should be adopted without fear of ideological contamination.

With the imposition of the US blockade, Cuba was forced to buy factories from the socialist countries, especially the USSR. This assistance was essential, but the relative backwardness of the equipment clashed with Guevara’s desire for advanced technology transfers. He did not criticise the Soviets for this backwardness per se. Rather, he complained about the contradiction between the high level of research and development in military technology and low investment applied to civilian production. He objected to their ideological resistance to appropriating advances made in the capitalist world. This was a costly mistake in terms of development and international competitiveness.[6] For example: ‘For a long time cybernetics was considered a reactionary science or pseudo-science… [but] it is a branch of science that exists and should be used’.[7] He added that in the US the application of cybernetics in industry had resulted in automation – an important productive development.

Basing a management system for socialist transition on capitalist technology was consistent with Marx’s stages theory of history, which predicted that communism would emerge from the fully developed capitalist mode of production. Marx showed how the tendency to concentration of capital, that is, to monopoly, was inherent in the system. Therefore, the monopoly form of capitalism was more advanced than ‘perfect competition’. The Soviet system originated from predominantly underdeveloped, pre-monopoly capitalism. A socialist economic management system emerging from monopoly capitalism could be more advanced, efficient and productive. The origin of the BFS was the multinational corporations of pre-1959 Cuba and it was therefore more progressive than the AFS which was adapted from pre-monopoly Russian capitalism.

Marx’s analysis of the law of value

While Guevara argued for the adoption of advanced technology he opposed the use of capitalist mechanisms to determine production and consumption. He challenged the Soviet’s reliance on capitalist categories to organise the socialist economy, particularly the operation of the law of value. The dispute about the law of value in transition economies is central to the question about the feasibility of constructing socialism in a country without a fully developed capitalist mode of production. It is integral to problems of accumulation, production, distribution and social relations. Communism implies a highly productive society in which conditions exist for distribution of the social product based on need, not surplus-generating labour time. However, the countries which have experimented with socialism have been underdeveloped, lacking the productive base for the material abundance implied by communism. The Soviet solution was to rely on the operation of the law of value to hasten the development of the productive forces, applying the profit motive, interest, credit, individual material incentives and elements of competition to promote efficiency and innovations. Guevara argued that these were not the only levers for fostering development. The BFS was the expression of his search for an apparatus to increase productive capacity and labour productivity without relying on capitalist mechanisms which undermine the formation of new consciousness and social relations integral to communism.

Between 1963 and 1965 these questions were examined in Cuba during the Great Debate on socialist transition. To the extent that commodity production and exchange through a market mechanism continued to exist after the Revolution in Cuba, it was clear to all participants in the Great Debate that the law of value continued to operate. The social product continued to be distributed on the basis of work done. However, the disagreements were about the conditions explaining the law’s survival, its sphere of operation, the extent to which it regulated production, how it related to the ‘plan’ and whether the law of value should be utilised or undermined, and if so, how. This discussion was linked to practical questions such as how enterprises should be organised, how workers should be paid and whether goods should be exchanged between state enterprises as commodities.

Guevara agreed that the law of value remained under socialism but argued that measures taken by the Revolution to undermine the capitalist market meant that the law could not serve as the dynamic catalyst to productivity and efficiency in the same way as it did under capitalism.[8] Socialisation of the means of production and distribution had ‘blunted’ the tools of capitalism.[9] Marx described a commodity as a good which changes ownership, from the producer to the consumer. Consistent with this definition, Guevara insisted that products transferred between state-owned enterprises did not constitute commodities because when they were transferred from one state factory to another there was no change in ownership. The state itself should be considered as one big enterprise.[10] For Guevara commodity-exchange relations between factories threatened transition, via ‘market socialism’, to capitalism. He stressed central planning and state regulation as substitutes to such mechanisms.

The Soviet’s argued that commodity production, the law of value, and money would disappear only when communism was achieved, but that to reach that stage it was necessary to use and develop the law of value as well as monetary and mercantile relationships. Guevara disagreed:

‘Why develop? We understand that the capitalist categories are retained for a time and that the length of this period cannot be predetermined, but the characteristics of the period of transition are those of a society that is throwing off its old bonds in order to move quickly into the new stage. The tendency should be, in our opinion, to eliminate as fast as possible the old categories, including the market, money, and, therefore, material interest – or, better, to eliminate the conditions for their existence.'[11]

For Guevara the task was not to use the law of value nor even hold it in check, but to define its sphere of operation and make inroads to undermine it – to work towards its abolition, not limitation. He developed many policies within the BFS to attempt just that.[12] In February 1964, Guevara concluded: ‘We deny the possibility of consciously using the law of value, basing our argument on the absence of a free market that automatically expresses the contradiction between producers and consumers… The law of value and planning are two terms linked by a contradiction and its resolution.'[13] For Guevara, centralised planning was the fundamental characteristic of socialist society. He conceded only: ‘the possibility of using elements of this law [of value] for comparative purposes (cost, “profit” expressed in monetary terms)’.[14]

The protagonists in Cuba were well-informed about the broader debate on incentives and financial autonomy contemporaneously underway in the eastern European socialist countries – a response to the problems of economic stagnation, low productivity and efficiency, particularly in comparison with economic growth in the developed capitalist world.  In July 1964 Guevara told colleagues that he had been reading analyses from the socialist bloc, including the resolutions of the 14th Congress of the Polish Communist Party: ‘The solution that they are proposing for these problems in Poland is the complete freedom of the law of value; that is to say, a return to capitalism.'[15] Commenting on the push to ‘liberalise’ the socialist economies Guevara said: ‘The theory is failing because they have forgotten Marx’.[16] Instead of Capital, the Soviet Manual of Political Economy had been turned into a bible.

Marx characterised the psychological or philosophical manifestation of capitalist social-relations as alienation and antagonism; the result of the commodification of labour and the operation of the law of value. For Guevara, the challenge was to replace the individuals’ alienation from the productive process, and the antagonism generated by class relations, with integration and solidarity, developing a collective attitude to production and the concept of work as a social duty. Capitalist competition created the drive to increase productivity through technological innovations and increasing exploitation. Alienation and antagonism increase with productivity. Under socialism, the development of the productive forces could be less accelerated, but it should be accompanied by a growth of consciousness. For Guevara, efforts to change consciousness must be incorporated into socialist transition at the earliest stage.

Critique on the Soviet Manual of Political Economy

In April 1965, Guevara left Cuba to lead a Cuban military mission in the Congo. The guerrillas were defeated and Guevara stayed in Tanzania and the Czech Republic between 1965 and 1966 where he began work on a comprehensive analysis of the political economy of socialist transition. In preparation for this work, Guevara took notes on the Soviet Manual, applying his theoretical arguments expounded in the Great Debate to that text. The notes were not written for publication, nor brought together as text. They were comments responding to specific paragraphs of the Manual; notes to himself, including indications of areas for further study.[17]  

Guevara criticised the Manual’s mechanistic adaptation of classical Marxist conceptions of class relations between the bourgeoisie and the working class, without considering the effects of imperialism which created a privileged working class in the advanced capitalist countries as well as beneficiary sectors in the exploited nations. He denounced as opportunism the Manual’s attempts to air-brush the inherent violence of class struggle integral to the transition from capitalism to socialism.

Turning to the period of transition, Guevara argued that the USSR’s Kolkhoz collective farm system was not a characteristic of socialism and that cooperatives were not a socialist form of ownership – they generated a capitalistic superstructure which clashed with state ownership and socialist social relations imposing their own logic over society. Guevara systematically refuted the so-called laws of socialism cited by the Manual, particularly the law of constant rising worker productivity – which he called an outrage: ‘It is the tendency that has driven capitalism for centuries.'[18]  He condemned as ‘dangerous’ the Soviet’s policy of peaceful co-existence and economic emulation with the advanced capitalist countries and pointed to serious disagreements between the socialist countries, blaming them on unequal exchange and the imposition of capitalist categories in trade relations.[19]

While declaring his daring, respect, admiration and revolutionary motives, Guevara announced that Lenin was the ultimate culprit because the New Economic Policy (NEP) which he had been forced to introduce in 1921 imposed a capitalist superstructure on the USSR. The NEP was not installed against small commodity production, Guevara stated, but at the demand of it. Small commodity production holds the seeds of capitalist development. He was certain that Lenin would have reversed the NEP had he lived longer. However, Lenin’s followers: ‘did not see the danger and it remained as the great Trojan horse of socialism, direct material interest as an economic lever.'[20] This capitalist superstructure became entrenched, influencing the relations of production and creating a hybrid system of socialism with capitalist elements that inevitably provoked conflicts and contradictions which were increasingly resolved in favour of the superstructure – capitalism was returning to the Soviet bloc.[21]

Guevara’s notes offer a profound criticism of Soviet political economy. He himself warned that some would misinterpret his proposed work as rabid anti-communism disguised as theoretical argument, but asserted that the inability of bourgeois economics to criticise itself, pointed out by Marx at the beginning of Capital, was seen in contemporary Marxism. He dedicated his work to Cuban students who go through the painful process of learning ‘eternal truths’ in eastern European manuals. He concluded that: Humanity faces many shocks before final liberation, but we cannot arrive there without a radical change in the strategy of the first most important socialist powers.[22]

Conclusion

This paper has summarised the analysis which led Guevara to forewarn the collapse of socialism in the socialist bloc. He made an important contribution to both the theory and practice of constructing socialism. He hoped to persuade socialist countries to gradually replace capitalist mechanisms during transition and offered alternative policies to serve this function. His warnings were not heeded and, for the reasons which Guevara predicted, among others, capitalism returned to all those countries. In Cuba, his analysis was revisited in the mid-1980s in the period known as Rectification which pulled the island away from the Soviet model before it collapsed, arguably contributing to the survival of Cuban socialism.

Notes

[1] Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, ‘Reunion Bimestrales’, 20 January 1962, in El Che en la Revolución Cubana: Ministerio de Industrias, tomo VI. La Habana: Ministerio de Azúcar, 1966, 147.

[2] Guevara, Apuntes Críticos a la Economía Política. La Habana: Ciencias Sociales, 2006, 27 & cited by Orlando Borrego in El Camino del Fuego, la Habana: Imagen Contemporánea, 382.

[3] This paper assumes knowledge of the laws governing the operation of the capitalist system expounded by Marx in Capital.

[4] Miguel Figueras, interview, 27 January 2006, Enrique Oltuski, interview, 15 February 2006 & Alfredo Menéndez, interview, 17 February 2005.

[5] Guevara, Bimestrales, 21 December 1963, 420.

[6] Guevara, Bimestrales, 14 July 1962, 289.

[7] Guevara, Bimestrales, 28 September 1962, 318-9.

[8] Guevara, ‘On the Concept of Value’ in Bertram Silverman (ed) Man and Socialism in Cuba: The Great Debate, New York: Atheneum, 234.

[9] Guevara, ‘Socialism and Man in Cuba’ in Silverman (ed) Socialism, 342.  

[10] Guevara, ‘On the Budgetary Finance System’, in Socialism, 143.

[11] Guevara, Budgetary, 42. Guevara’s italics.

[12] My book, Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution, details these policies.

[13] Guevara, Budgetary, 143.

[14] Guevara, ‘The Meaning of Socialist Planning’ in Socialism, 109.

[15] Guevara, Bimestrales, 11 July 1964, 505.

[16] Guevara, Bimestrales, December 1964, 566-9.

[17] First published in Havana, February 2006 as Apuntes, cited above.

[18] Guevara, Apuntes, 52.

[19] Guevara, Apuntes, 91-2, 185-6, 192-3.

[20] Guevara, Apuntes, 112.

[21] Guevara, Apuntes, 27.

[22] Guevara, Apuntes, 25-28 & Borrego, Camino, 381-383.

Source

Che Guevara and the Political Economy of Socialism

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

Rafael Martinez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Budgetary System versus Financial Self-Management

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commodity-Money Relations and the Law of Value

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Guevara’s Alleged Trotskyism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Idealism and Mechanicism in Che’s Economic Thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source

Karl Marx on the Jewish Question

Rabbis from Yemen. Photo: M.E. Lilien, 1906

Rabbis from Yemen. Photo: M.E. Lilien, 1906

This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #30, “Marx, Lenin and Stalin on Zionism.”

Marx’s Views

There can be little doubt that the position of Germany Jewry was that of a discriminated section of the German people. This is attested to even in the biographies of the few that managed to climb out of the slums such as the Rothschilds (Elon A; “Rothschild”; London; 1993).

We will not need to itemize these discrimination in detail, as the texts and interpretation are easily available. In brief, the Jews suffered severe restrictions including curfews, limits on where they could live, special mandatory requirements in order to allow them to perform any work, no State employment allowed, and a host of petty problems including upon marriage rights. This does not even discuss the excluding the possibility of pogroms.

The views of Lenin and Stalin on the Jews, followed those of Karl Marx – himself a Jew. In turn, Marx’s views on the Jewish Question, were very similar to contemporary Jewish progressives, such as seen in the early views of Moses Hess, a Jewish social democrat. In essence they all urged Jews to fully embrace secular society in order to merge into it. But Hess then renounced a secular progressive stand to adopt Jewish mysticism. But Moses Hess turned to embraced mysticism. In doing so he ensured that later on, ‘progressive minded Zionists,’ would point to Hess rather than Marx, in order to argue that Socialism and Zionism are supposedly compatible!

In contrast to their support of Hess, Zionists loathe Marx, and charge him of racism. But the grounds for this Zionist charge, are transparently flimsy. The charges invoke a Marx – “alienated” from his Jewishness. The charges of anti-Jewish racism has to deal with the fact that Marx was a descendant of a long line of Rabbis in Germany and Italy. His father in Trier had converted to Christianity, in order obtain livelihood, although his mother never did convert. Marx, it is claimed hated ‘his Jewishness’ – Saul Padover uses the term:

“Selbsthass [self hatred] of Marx.”

(Padover S.K.; “Introduction” vol 5, “On Religion”; Karl Marx Library; New York; 1974, p. Xiii.).

As Padover puts it :

“As an understandable defense mechanism, young Marx deprived of a spiritual base of support in Judaism, imbibed the ancient hostility to his people and accepted all the ugly stereotypes of the brutally caricatured Jew then widely prevalent in Europe .. This was an expression of what the Germans call Selbsthass.”

(Padover Ibid; p. xiii)

The evidence for this is said to reside in his letters, and, especially in his early work. But when these are read, it is clear that what is objectionable to the Zionists, is simply the boldness of the following assertion: That to be free, and to truly and fully exercise civil rights, the Jew must renounce Jewishness, just as the Christian must renounce Christianity.

Even the most antagonistic Zionists, such as Saul Padover, are forced to acknowledge, that Marx’s first published work on the “Jewish Question” which appeared in the Cologne Rheinische Zeitung in the summer of 1842, was a forthright defence of the Jews. At that time, Heinrich Hermes of the Kolnische Zeitung, a Catholic paper, had attacked Jews. In this attack, Hermes denied that Jews had any rights to “Civil Equality.” Marx openly counter-attacked this in print. Following his defence of civil rights for the Jews, Marx told Arnold Ruge that he had been approached by local Jews, to put a petition on behalf of Jews to the Landtag (Diet):

“Just now the chief of the local Israelites came to see me and asked me to forward a petition for the Jews to the Landtag [Diet] and I want to do it. Revolting [Widerlich] though the Israelite religion is to me, nevertheless Bauer’s opinion [on the Jewish Question] seems to me to be too abstract.”

(Marx; Letter to Ruge A; March 13th 1843; Cited Padover Introduction Ibid; p. Xxi.)

The petition was successful, and marked the first time that a German parliament had granted “Complete equality of Jews in civil and political matters.” Padover is forced to take note of this, but he deals with it, by simply dismissing it as: a “political gesture taken by Marx” in spite of “his revulsion for Judaism.” But it is clear that Marx calls the “Israelite religion” revolting, not Jews themselves. In fact the whole of Marx’s work testifies to his determination to tear the veils that perpetuate slavery and enchainment. With Engels, Marx identified backward looking nationalisms and religion as narcotic-laden veils – Marx called a spade a spade. He is just as virulent about Christianity, about Islam, about Hinduism – and all religions. Indeed all these were means to disguise and veil the reality of the world. Hear Marx on the Hindus and the Brahmins:

“We must not forget that.. that they restrained the human mind within the smallest possible compass, making it the unresisting tool of superstition, enslaving it beneath traditional rules, depriving it of all grandeur and historical energies. We must not forget the barbarian egotism…the perpetuation of unspeakable cruelties, the massacre of the population of large towns…this passive sort of existence evoked…murder itself a religious rite in Hindostan…the little [Hindoo] communities were contaminated by distinctions of caste and by slavery…they subjected man to external circumstances instead of elevating man to be the sovereign of circumstances…they transformed a self-developing social state into a never changing natural destiny, … brought about a brutalising worship of nature, exhibiting its degradation in the fact that Man the sovereign of nature fell down on his knees in adoration of Hanuman the monkey, and Sabbala the cow.”

(Marx.,”British Rule in India”; “Marx & Engels on Britain.” Moscow; 1971; p.168. p171-172.)

“I share not the opinion of those who believe in a golden age of Hindostan…the mythological chronology of the Brahmin himself, places the commencement of Indian misery in an epoch even more remote than the Christian creation of the world.”

(Marx, “The British Rule In India,” Ibid. p.168)

Who denies that Marx fought the religious vapours of the Brahmins? Just so, he fought the religious and pseudo-nationalist Zionist vapours. Neither of these fights, made him an anti-Indian racist, or somehow ‘alienated’ from Indian problems, as Padover would have us believe!

What did Marx say on the Jewish Question?
Marx only wrote two main articles that explicitly dealt with the Jews as a central theme. They both took the same essential line.
Namely that:

That the Jews in general, had found a niche in capitalist society, by acting as money lenders. Stripping away sanctimony, Marx therefore proclaimed that something else, besides religion, defined the Jews. In his first article, Marx contrasted the “actual secular Jew” with the “Sabbath Jew.” Since the public role of he most prominent Jews was as money merchants, he concentrates on the “haggling” and usurious life of the Jewish trader:

“Let us consider the actual secular Jew, not the Sabbath Jew as Bauer does, but the everyday Jew. Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of religion in the actual Jew. What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the world cult of the Jew? Schacer [Bargaining, haggling, or huckstering-Ed]. What is his worldly god? Money! What actually was the foundation in and of itself, of the Jewish religion? Practical need, egoism. Hence the Jew’s monotheism, is in reality, the polytheism of many needs, a polytheism that makes even the toiler an object of divine law…The god of practical need and self-interest is money. Money is the jealous god of Israel before whom no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of mankind and converts them into commodities.. The god of the Jew has been secularized and has become the god of the world. The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange… What is contained abstractly in the Jewish religion – contempt for theory, for art, for history, for man as an end in himself – is the actual conscious standpoint and virtue of the money man…The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the money-man in general.”

(On the Jewish Question – “Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbucher,” Vol 3 Marx Collected Works; pp 146-74).

Padover makes Marx into a mythical Christian loving and Jew hating person. But in reality Marx describes clearly, from where in his view, Christianity came from. It arose from Judaism:

“Christianity arose of Judaism. It has again dissolved itself into Judaism…Christianity overcame real Judaism only in appearance, It was too noble, too spiritual to alienate the crudeness of practical need except by elevating it into the heavens. Christianity is the sublime thought of Judaism, and Judaism is the common practical application of Christianity; but this application could become universal only after Christianity as the compete religion had theoretically competed the alienation of man from himself and from nature.”

(Marx; “On the Jewish Question”; p.191; in Padover Ibid).

For Marx, it was necessary to emphasize the need to dissolve the religious fetters upon the Jews, and by so doing allow them to enter into the rest of society. The article ends with the words:

“The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Jewishness.”

(Marx; “The Holy Family” (b) The Jewish Question No 1. The setting of the question. Volume 4; CW; Moscow; 1975; p. 87; also in Marx “On The Jewish Question”; p.192; in Padover Ibid.)

The second article was contained within a section of the “Holy Family,” which was a settling of accounts, by Marx and Engels, with the pre-Marxist ideologies in Germany as represented by Bruno Bauer, a member of a philosophical grouping known as Absolute Criticism.

Bauer argued to deny civil rights to Jews, because like everyone else, they had no inborn “Rights of Man,” no ‘dogmatic’ claim for this that over-rode everything else. The implication was that nothing was “owed” to the Jews. In an attack on the materialists, whom he names the “spokesmen of the masses,” Bruno Bauer repudiates any ‘Rights of Man’:

“How thoughtless the spokesmen of the Masses are; they have God knows what a great opinion of themselves for supporting emancipation and the dogma of the rights of man.”

(Karl Marx: “The Jewish Question No 1. The Setting of the Question.” Part of “The Holy Family.” (1844); In Collected Works; Volume 4; Moscow; 1975; p. 87).

Marx replies that the abstract “Rights of Man” are irrelevant as compared to the much more real, fundamental and practical assertions of the inborn rights of man to “fish, hunt etc,” as had been pointed out by Charles Fourier:

“As for the ‘rights of man,’ it has been proved to Herr Bruno (‘On the Jewish Question’ – Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbucher)- Vol 3 M CW- pp 146-74) that it is ‘he himself,’ not the spokesmen of the Mass, who has misunderstood and dogmatically mishandled the essence of those rights. Compared to his discovery that the rights of man are not inborn – a discovery which has been made innumerable times in England during the last 40-odd years – Fourier’s assertions that the right to fish, hunt, etc are inborn rights of men is one of genius.”

(Karl Marx: “The Jewish Question No 1.” Part of “The Holy Family”; Ibid; p.87-89).

One of Bruno Bauer’s assertions, had been that it was only to be expected, and indeed was quite natural, that a Christian state would not enshrine rights for Jews:

“The Christian state having as its vital principle a definite religion, cannot allow adherents of another particular religion … Complete equality with its own social estates.”

(Bauer cited in Marx, “The Holy Family” Ibid; p. 88.)

Marx in reply, points out that the Christian states render this whole question meaningless, since they do not even allow civil equality to their Christian their “own social estates”- to use Bauer’s phrase, to even non-Jews:

“The Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbucher [showed] that the state of social estates and of exclusive Christianity is not only an incomplete state but an incomplete Christian state… Absolute Criticism still regards the abolition of religion atheism, as the condition for civil equality… It has therefore not yet acquired any deeper insight into the essence of the state.”

(Karl Marx: “The Jewish Question No 1.” Part of “The Holy Family”; Ibid; p. 88).

For further detail, the interested reader can consult the Appendix [below] for a detailed annotation of Marx’s article. Although those two articles are the basic and longest exposition on the nature of the Jews by Marx, an isolated later description of the Jews by Marx is often quoted, as another example of Marx’s alleged “anti-Semitism.” Here Marx discussed the historical role of the Jews, and he was equally graphic as in his earlier remarks. Marx’s vivid phrasing – “Jews in the pores of society” – offends Zionists. It seems that this image of the Jews who were not fully visible in the middle of society, Marx painted by Marx, is somehow a ‘racist’ view of Marx. But in what context does Marx place this image? Marx is talking about trading for commodities in the ancient world, where the dominant relations of production are not commodity based. Marx asserts that Jewish trading is ancient in its history:

“In the modes of production of ancient Asia, of Antiquity etc; we find that the conversion of products into commodities, and hence the existence of men as mere producers of commodities plays a subordinate role, which however increases in importance as the ancient communities approach closer and closer to the stage of their decline. Trading nations proper exist in the ancient world only in its interstices, like the Gods of Epicurius in Intermundia, or like the Jew in the pores of Polish society. These ancient social organisms of production are extraordinarily more simple and transparent than the bourgeois ones, but they are based either on the immaturity of the individual man, who has not yet severed the umbilical cord that unites him naturally with his own species, or on direct master-servant relationships. They are conditioned by a lower stage of development of the productive forces of labour and the correspondingly encompassing relationships of men within their material generating processes, and hence to each other and to nature. This actual narrowness is realised ideally in the ancient worship of nature and in folk religions. The religious reflex of the real world can vanish altogether only when the relationships of practical everyday life offer men daily visible and reasonable relationships to each other and to nature.”

(Marx K; “Capital” Volume 1; Chapter 1; Section 4; Cited by Padover Ibid; p. 137.)

Well, is this unfair? Marx is simply pointing out that Jews were not given full civic right in then Poland. There is another dimension, relating to the Jewish concentration in trading. Perhaps Jews were not important traders in the ancient world, and perhaps commodity trading was a more main-stream and prominent feature in antiquity?

But, no evidence to contradict Marx, is shown by those such as Padover who critique Marx here.

The very useful function of providing loose monies for loan, had been the prerogative of the Jew, right up until the Reformation. Until then, loans were made only in the interstices of society. But the increasing need of capital, fueled a demand for the practice of charging interest, or usury. This became a root cause of the Reformation, the vast social movement that upturned traditional Catholicism, and is usually portrayed as the rise of the Protestant religion. But the underlying reasons for the Reformation are still often overlooked. The drawback of Catholicism, one the Protestant version of Christianity could overcome for society, was the lack of money trading. Under Catholicism but not under Protestantism, money trading by loans (known as usury) was forbidden as avarice:

“The historical background.. Consisted of the body of social theory stated & implicit, which was the legacy of the Middle Ages. The formal teaching was derived form the Bible, the works of the Fathers & Schoolmen, the canon law and its commentators, and have been popularized.”

(Tawney R.H. “Religion & The Rise of Capitalism”; London; 1975; p. 28)

The condemnation of usury supported a land owning feudal society. Pope Innocent IV argued:

“If usury were general, men would not give thought to the cultivation of their land except when they could do ought else, and so there would be so great a famine that all the poor would die of hunger.”

(Tawney R.H. “Religion & The Rise of Capitalism”; London; 1975; p. 56)

“Early Councils had forbidden usury to be taken by the clergy. The Councils of the 12th & 13th Centuries forbid it to be taken by clergy or laity, and laid down rules for dealing with offenders… The Legislation of the Councils of Lyons (1274) and of Viene (1312) … re-enacted the measures laid down by the third Lateran Council (1175) & supplemented them by rules which virtually made the money-lender an outlaw.”

(Tawney R.H. “Religion & The Rise of Capitalism”; London; 1975; p. 58.)

Luther‘s views largely echoed traditional Catholicism. But Calvinism, in contrast, was unlike Lutheranism – it was largely an urban movement that reflected the needs of the growing capitalist society. Calvin could write:

“What reason is there why the income from business should not be larger than that from landowning? Whence do the merchant’s profits come… except from his own indulgence & industry?”

(Tawney R.H. “Religion & The Rise of Capitalism”; London; 1975; p. 113)

There was an intense frustration, by all capitalists and traders, inside the developing capitalist Middle Ages society of developing nations. Even in Florence, the greatest mercantile centre in the Middle Ages, the patent nonsense of the old laws, was shown by the simultaneous hypocrisy of banning usury, whilst depending upon imported Jews to conduct it:

“Florence was the financial capital of medieval Europe; but even at Florence, the secular authorities fined bankers right and left for usury in the middle of the 14th Century, and fifty years later first prohibited credit transaction altogether, and then imported Jews to conduct a business forbidden to Christians.”

(Tawney R.H. “Religion & The Rise of Capitalism”; London; 1975; p. 49.)

So there was a societal need and drive, to adopt the mores of Calvinism.

Following this, the social utility of Judaism to a developing capitalist society diminished. Large scale pogroms would follow the rise of capitalism, which had now ensured its own secure form of usury. (This is a very truncated synopsis. Since Marx’s views on this question encompass the whole place of religion in civil society, we carry a more detailed view of this in Appendix 1).

In Conclusion: Marx stripped bare of camouflage, the vice in which modern workers of all colours and creed were held – capitalist relations. This meant the dissolution of religious faith. Naturally, religiously biased ideologues, like Zionists, will find this offensive. Too bad! We next examine how Marx’s views were echoed by Lenin and Stalin on this question.

Source

Appendix: A More Detailed Synopsis – with our commentary – of Marx’s views on the Jewish Question

All the quotations from Marx’s articles below are drawn from the Marx-Engels Internet Archive and can be found at the following web site for the full index of works by Marx on one particular Internet Archive: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844-jq/index.htm

Please note that all emphases below in the quotes are from the Alliance editors.

Marx’s article contains more than simply an analysis not only of the attitude that revolutionaries should take to the Jewish Question. Because the Jewish Question is a complex mixture of political, civil and religious victimisation, Marx has to deal with the relation of religion to society. Marx also deals with Bauer’s misconceptions surrounding the Democratic Rights Of Man – as adopted by the French Revolution and the USA War of Independence.

Marx first summarises the position of Bruno Bauer.

Bauer starts out saying that no one in Germany, has the type of freedom that Jews want, ie “civic political emancipation.” He argues that it is therefore “egoist-ic” to want a “special emancipation” separate from other humans. He argues that emancipation cannot come from those who are themselves “not free”:

“Bruno Bauer: The German Jews desire emancipation. What kind of emancipation do they desire? Civic, political emancipation. Bruno Bauer replies to them: No one in Germany is politically emancipated. We ourselves are not free. How are we to free you? You Jews are ‘egoists’ if you demand a special emancipation for yourselves as Jews. As Germans, you ought to work for the political emancipation of Germany, and as human beings, for the emancipation of mankind, and you should feel the particular kind of your oppression and your shame not as an exception to the rule, but on the contrary as a confirmation of the rule.”

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844-jq/index.htm

For Bauer the roots of the “Jewish Question” lie in a religious opposition. This opposition can only be resolved by rendering the opposition impossible. Christianity and Judaism are simply different stages “in the development of the human mind.” But there is only one way to render opposition “impossible” – by abolishing religion. The Jew must follow Bauer’s dictum of self-emancipation, the Jew must renounce religion:

“How, then, does Bauer solve the Jewish question?…
‘We must emancipate ourselves before we can emancipate others.’
The most rigid form of the opposition between the Jew and the Christian is the religious opposition. How is an opposition resolved? By making it impossible. How is religious opposition made impossible? By ‘abolishing religion.’ As soon as Jew and Christian recognize that their respective religions are no more than ‘different stages in the development of the human mind,’ different snake skins cast off by ‘history,’ and that man is the snake who sloughed them, the relation of Jew and Christian is no longer religious but is only a critical, ‘scientific,’ and human relation. Science, then, constitutes their unity. But, contradictions in science are resolved by science itself.”

For Bauer this renunciation and self-emancipation is necessary for Christians as well as Jews. It has a “universal significance.” The question embraces more than the individual, being also a “question of the relation of religion to the state”:

“The ‘German Jew,’ in particular, is confronted by the general absence of political emancipation and the strongly marked Christian character of the state. In Bauer’s conception, however, the Jewish question has a universal significance, independent of specifically German conditions. It is the question of the relation of religion to the state, of the contradiction between religious constraint and political emancipation. Emancipation from religion is laid down as a condition, both to the Jew who wants to be emancipated politically, and to the state which is to effect emancipation and is itself to be emancipated.”

In any case, argues Bauer, even if the State itself took the actions demanded by Jews, the State’s formal actions will not achieve the desired results. Bauer cites the French State as an example. Here the formal declaration of equality for all was not matched in practice. He then stresses that the responsibility for emancipation lies with the victim, the Jew – who should renounce religion and the Sabbath allowing him/her to attend the Chamber of Deputies and vote down the “privileged religion.” With the ending of a “privileged religion” (ie Christianity) the freedom of worship as an individual act will follow. Marx concludes:

“Bauer, therefore, demands, on the one hand, that the Jew should renounce Judaism, and that mankind in general should renounce religion, in order to achieve ‘civic’ emancipation. On the other hand, he quite consistently regards the ‘political’ abolition of religion as the abolition of religion as such. The state which presupposes religion is not yet a true, real state.”

Marx now begins his demolition of Bauer. In essence, Marx shows that Bauer:

(i) Confuses civil and political emancipation;
(ii) Does not understand the distinction between full human freedoms and state granted political freedom;
(iii) That he does not understand the concrete manifestations of the Jewish Question in the different States;
(iv) That he does not understand the Declaration of Rights Of Man.

Marx outlines the limitations and the questions left unanswered by the mechanistic Bauer. Especially asks Marx, What is the nature of the emancipation being demanded that Bauer has not addressed?

“At this point, the one-sided formulation of the Jewish question becomes evident. It was by no means sufficient to investigate: Who is to emancipate? Who is to be emancipated? Criticism had to investigate a third point. It had to inquire: What kind of emancipation is in question? [Editor’s emphasis]. What conditions follow from the very nature of the emancipation that is demanded? Only the criticism of political emancipation itself would have been the conclusive criticism of the Jewish question and its real merging in the general question of time. Because Bauer does not raise the question to this level, he becomes entangled in contradictions. He puts forward conditions which are not based on the nature of political emancipation itself. He raises questions which are not part of his problem, and he solves problems which leave this question unanswered.”

Bauer excuses the bigots who opposed Jewish emancipation, seeing them as only committing only one error- they assume a Christian state to be the only true one, and they do not criticise it as they do Judaism. For Marx the relevant criticism is the state itself, and the relationship of political emancipation to human emancipation:

“We find that his error lies in the fact that he subjects to criticism only the ‘Christian state,’ not the ‘state as such,’ that he does not investigate the relation of political emancipation to human emancipation and, therefore, puts forward conditions which can be explained only by uncritical confusion of political emancipation with general human emancipation.”

Thus Marx turns Bauer’s question to the Jews around. Marx defends in effect the right of a private choice to religion and Judaism in particular. This right is not dependent upon, nor subordinate to a superior political emancipation:

“If Bauer asks the Jews: Have you, from your standpoint, the right to want political emancipation? We ask the converse question: Does the standpoint of political emancipation give the right to demand from the Jew the abolition of Judaism and from man the abolition of religion?”

Marx also points out that freedoms necessitate understanding concrete realities. There are particular aspects that the Jewish question takes in different societies. Thus in Germany, a state not yet undergone the bourgeois revolution, a theological State is encountered by the Jew:

“In Germany, where there is no political state, no state as such, the Jewish question is a purely theological one. The Jew finds himself in religious opposition to the state, which recognizes Christianity as its basis. This state is a theologian ex professo. Criticism here is criticism of theology, a double-edged criticism — criticism of Christian theology and of Jewish theology. Hence, we continue to operate in the sphere of theology, however much we may operate critically within it.”

Whereas since France is a constitutional state with differing effects on Jews, there it was a question of a incompleteness of political emancipation:

“In France, a constitutional state, the Jewish question is a question of constitutionalism, the question of the incompleteness of political emancipation. Since the semblance of a state religion is retained here, although in a meaningless and self-contradictory formula, that of a religion of the majority, the relation of the Jew to the state retains the semblance of a religious, theological opposition.”

Only one state, the USA, has an apparently fully secular relationship with its peoples, allowing religious freedoms. Although Marx made it clear that he obviously understood that hypocrisies abounded, saying that although the USA Constitution was clear on the freedom of worship, North America is pre-eminently the country of religiosity. Nonetheless:

“Only in the North American states — at least, in some of them — does the Jewish question lose its theological significance and become a really secular question. Only where the political state exists in its completely developed form can the relation of the Jew, and of the religious man in general, to the political state, and therefore the relation of religion to the state, show itself in its specific character, in its purity. The criticism of this relation ceases to be theological criticism as soon as the state ceases to adopt a theological attitude toward religion, as soon as it behaves towards religion as a state — i.e., politically. Criticism, then, becomes criticism of the political state. At this point, where the question ceases to be theological, Bauer’s criticism ceases to be critical.”

In any case, the fundamental question is the relation of political emancipation to religion. Marx argues that if religious motivations still remain, despite “political emancipation” in countries like the USA, it is because of an incomplete secular freedom, a defect of a secular narrowness. Religion itself is not the cause of the defect. Religion can only be overcome not by overcoming religious narrowness but by getting rid of secular restrictions – Not by abolishing religion as Bauer proclaims:

“The question is: What is the relation of complete political emancipation to religion? If we find that even in the country of complete political emancipation, religion not only exists, but displays a fresh and vigorous vitality, that is proof that the existence of religion is not in contradiction to the perfection of the state. Since, however, the existence of religion is the existence of defect, the source of this defect can only be sought in the nature of the state itself. We no longer regard religion as the cause, but only as the manifestation of secular narrowness. Therefore, we explain the religious limitations of the free citizen by their secular limitations. We do not assert that they must overcome their religious narrowness in order to get rid of their secular restrictions, we assert that they will overcome their religious narrowness once they get rid of their secular restrictions. We do not turn secular questions into theological ones… The question of the relation of political emancipation to religion becomes for us the question of the relation of political emancipation to human emancipation. We criticize the religious weakness of the political state by criticizing the political state in its secular form, apart from its weaknesses as regards religion.”

Marx agrees with Bauer, that for both Jews and Christians, full liberty means shedding religious superstitions. But for a fuller human liberation, the first and immediate need is for separation of state and religion, for the emancipation of the state from any particular secular elements and from state religion. This is a political emancipation & not a religious emancipation which requires human emancipation:

“The contradiction between the state and a particular religion, for instance Judaism, is given by us a human form as the contradiction between the state and particular secular elements; the contradiction between the state and religion in general as the contradiction between the state and its presuppositions in general. The political emancipation of the Jew, the Christian, and, in general, of religious man, is the emancipation of the state from Judaism, from Christianity, from religion in general… the state as a state emancipates itself from religion by emancipating itself from the state religion — that is to say, by the state as a state not professing any religion, but, on the contrary, asserting itself as a state. The political emancipation from religion is not a religious emancipation that has been carried through to completion and is free from contradiction, because political emancipation is not a form of human emancipation which has been carried through to completion and is free from contradiction.”

It is irrelevant if even the majority of the people remain religious. For religious sentiments remain, until the people undergo a more profound freedom. The problem is the limits of a political emancipation by itself:

“The limits of political emancipation are evident at once from the fact that the state can free itself from a restriction without man being really free from this restriction, that the state can be a free state without man being a free man.”

Marx means by this, the need for a further and profound liberation of the human. To drive his point home, Marx draws an analogy to private property relations. As the USA state had abolished requirements of property for the right to vote, he argues that it had effectively abolished private property. But Marx says this is ridiculous since clearly, private property not only exists in the USA, but that it forms the presupposed basis for the state:

“Nevertheless, the political annulment of private property not only fails to abolish private property but even presupposes it. The state abolishes, in its own way, distinctions of birth, social rank, education, occupation, when it declares that birth, social rank, education, occupation, are non-political distinctions, when it proclaims, without regard to these distinction, that every member of the nation is an equal participant in national sovereignty, when it treats all elements of the real life of the nation from the standpoint of the state. Nevertheless, the state allows private property, education, occupation, to act in their way – i.e., as private property, as education, as occupation, and to exert the influence of their special nature. Far from abolishing these real distinctions, the state only exists on the presupposition of their existence; it feels itself to be a political state and asserts its universality only in opposition to these elements of its being.”

Consistent with this type of hypocrisy of the tenets of the bourgeois Constitution, religious conflicts will exist in politically bourgeois states. But these are no different in kind from contradictions even the bourgeoisie find themselves in with respect to their status as supposed free citizens. Marx locates Jew’s problems in civil society, in the same conflicts of the citizen whose political powers are merely a sophistry and not a real one:

“Man, as the adherent of a particular religion, finds himself in conflict with his citizenship and with other men as members of the community. This conflict reduces itself to the secular division between the political state and civil society. For man as a bourgeois [ here, meaning, member of civil society, private life], life in the state is only a semblance or a temporary exception to the essential and the rule. Of course, the bourgeois, like the Jew, remains only sophistically in the sphere of political life, just as the citoyen only sophistically remains a Jew or a bourgeois. But, this sophistry is not personal. It is the sophistry of the political state itself. The difference between the merchant and the citizen, between the day-labourer and the citizen, between the landowner and the citizen, between the merchant and the citizen, between the living individual and the citizen. The contradiction in which the religious man finds himself with the political man is the same contradiction in which the bourgeois finds himself with the citoyen, and the member of civil society with his political lion’s skin.”

For Marx, Bauer ignores the Jew’s secular problems, confining himself to the purely religious conflicts:

“This secular conflict, to which the Jewish question ultimately reduces itself, the relation between the political state and its preconditions, whether these are material elements, such as private property, etc., or spiritual elements, such as culture or religion, the conflict between the general interest and private interest, the schism between the political state and civil society — these secular antitheses Bauer allows to persist, whereas he conducts a polemic against their religious expression.”

As explained, Marx distinguishes political emancipation from the full human emancipation that tackles the religious sentiment. It is not surprising then, that Marx says that political emancipation of itself, often leaves religion intact. A thorough liberation, including from religion, requires special periods when new political states arise out of civil society, where a permanent non-stop revolution does not baulk at hurdles:

“Of course, in periods when the political state as such is born violently out of civil society, when political liberation is the form in which men strive to achieve their liberation, the state can and must go as far as the abolition of religion, the destruction of religion. But, it can do so only in the same way that it proceeds to the abolition of private property, to the maximum, to confiscation, to progressive taxation, just as it goes as far as the abolition of life, the guillotine. At times of special self-confidence, political life seeks to suppress its prerequisite, civil society and the elements composing this society, and to constitute itself as the real species-life of man, devoid of contradictions. But, it can achieve this only by coming into violent contradiction with its own conditions of life, only by declaring the revolution to be permanent, and, therefore, the political drama necessarily ends with the re-establishment of religion, private property, and all elements of civil society, just as war ends with peace.”

So Marx differentiates between the more limited liberation in political emancipation of the secular state of bourgeois society (that which in words denies religious persecution and property rights, but in fact endorses them) and a fuller human liberation. Where does all this leave the Jew? Bauer had denied the Jew civil rights till renunciation of Judaism. Marx denies that. But he adds, for full liberation, the Jew must strive for a human liberation from religion itself – as well as striving for political emancipation. The latter can be achieved without renouncing Judaism, but human liberation requires leaving religion. The Jew however, in confronting the Christian state, in demanding civic rights is acting politically:

“Therefore, we do not say to the Jews, as Bauer does: You cannot be emancipated politically without emancipating yourselves radically from Judaism. On the contrary, we tell them: Because you can be emancipated politically without renouncing Judaism completely and incontrovertibly, political emancipation itself is not human emancipation. If you Jews want to be emancipated politically, without emancipating yourselves humanly, the half-hearted approach and contradiction is not in you alone, it is inherent in the nature and category of political emancipation. If you find yourself within the confines of this category, you share in a general confinement. Just as the state evangelizes when, although it is a state, it adopts a Christian attitude towards the Jews, so the Jew acts politically when, although a Jew, he demands civic rights.”

Bauer had a somewhat mystical idea of how Democratic Rights were obtained. According to Bauer, the rights of man were not a gift of nature but were obtained by struggle against historical tradition:

“But, if a man, although a Jew, can be emancipated politically and receive civic rights, can he lay claim to the so-called rights of man and receive them? Bauer denies it. [Says Bauer]:

‘The question is whether the Jew as such, that is, the Jew who himself admits that he is compelled by his true nature to live permanently in separation from other men, is capable of receiving the universal rights of man and of conceding them to others. For the Christian world, the idea of the rights of man was only discovered in the last century. It is not innate in men; on the contrary, it is gained only in a struggle against the historical traditions in which hitherto man was brought up. Thus the rights of man are not a gift of nature, not a legacy from past history, but the reward of the struggle against the accident of birth and against the privileges which up to now have been handed down by history from generation to generation. These rights are the result of culture, and only one who has earned and deserved them can possess them.

Can the Jew really take possession of them? As long as he is a Jew, the restricted nature which makes him a Jew is bound to triumph over the human nature which should link him as a man with other men, and will separate him from non-Jews. He declares by this separation that the particular nature which makes him a Jew is his true, highest nature, before which human nature has to give way. Similarly, the Christian as a Christian cannot grant the rights of man.'”

In countering this naive mystic view, Marx shows that Bauer had not even understood the notion of the universal rights of man. For Bauer, man has to sacrifice the privilege of faith to obtain universal rights of man. But Marx points out that these rights were never seen, by either the French and the USA framers of the Declaration of Rights, as being contingent upon abolition of religion:

“Let us examine, for a moment, the so-called rights of man — to be precise, the rights of man in their authentic form, in the form which they have among those who discovered them, the North Americans and the French. These rights of man are, in part, political rights, rights which can only be exercised in community with others. Their content is participation in the community, and specifically in the political community, in the life of the state. They come within the category of political freedom, the category of civic rights, which, as we have seen, in no way presuppose the incontrovertible and positive abolition of religion — nor, therefore, of Judaism.”

Marx now examines the possible differences between the rights of man and the rights of the citizen:

“There remains to be examined the other part of the rights of man — the rights of man, insofar as these differ from the rights of the citizen. Included among them is freedom of conscience, the right to practice any religion one chooses. The privilege of faith is expressly recognized either as a right of man or as the consequence of a right of man, that of liberty. Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, 1791, Article 10:

‘The freedom of every man to practice the religion of which he is an adherent.'”

Marx quotes the Declaration, showing that the Right of freedom of conscience is drawn from Nature:

“All men have received from nature the imprescriptible right to worship the Almighty according to the dictates of their conscience, and no one can be legally compelled to follow, establish, or support against his will any religion or religious ministry. No human authority can, in any circumstances, intervene in a matter of conscience or control the forces of the soul.”

Marx now distinguishes between man and citizen. Man – as in rights of man – is the person who makes up civil society. Man, separated atomically from other men. He goes on to quote directly from the most radical Constitution that of 1793, that was used to define liberty, what is it that constitutes liberty?

“The rights of man, are, as such, distinct from… the rights of the citizen. Who is man as distinct from citizen? None other than the member of civil society. Why is the member of civil society called man; why are his rights called the rights of man? How is this fact to be explained? From the relationship between the political state and civil society, from the nature of political emancipation…

…Above all, we note the fact that the so-called rights of man.. as distinct from the rights of citizens, are nothing but the rights of a member of civil society — i.e., the rights of egoistic man, of man separated from other men and from the community. Let us hear what the most radical Constitution, the Constitution of 1793, has to say: Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Article 2. These rights, etc., (the natural and imprescriptible rights) are: equality, liberty, security, property.

What constitutes liberty?

‘Article 6. Liberty is the power which man has to do everything that does not harm the rights of others, or, according to the Declaration of the Rights of Man of 1791: Liberty consists in being able to do everything which does not harm others.’

Liberty, therefore, is the right to do everything that harms no one else. The limits within which anyone can act without harming someone else are defined by law, just as the boundary between two fields is determined by a boundary post. It is a question of the liberty of man as an isolated monad, withdrawn into himself.”

Marx returns to contrast Bauer‘s position with that of the 1793 Constitution. Bauer’s position in demanding of the Jew to renounce Judaism before granting human rights – Liberty in the words of the Declaration of Rights Of Man – is that unless the Jew does renounce Judaism he will remain separate from non-Jews:

“Why is the Jew, according to Bauer, incapable of acquiring the rights of man? As long as he is a Jew, the restricted nature which makes him a Jew is bound to triumph over the human nature which should link him as a man with other men, and will separate him from non-Jews.”

And Marx replies to him saying that the very notion of liberty under the bourgeois Declaration of Rights is of a separation of man from man, on an isolated individual. This is easily illustrated with respect to another aspect of the Declaration of Rights of Man, that concerning private property:

“But, the right of man to liberty is based not on the association of man with man, but on the separation of man from man. It is the right of this separation, the right of the restricted individual, withdrawn into himself. The practical application of man’s right to liberty is man’s right to private property.

What constitutes man’s right to private property?
Article 16. (Constitution of 1793):
‘The right of property is that which every citizen has of enjoying and of disposing at his discretion of his goods and income, of the fruits of his labor and industry.’

The right of man to private property is, therefore, the right to enjoy one’s property and to dispose of it at one’s discretion (a son gre), without regard to other men, independently of society, the right of self-interest. This individual liberty and its application form the basis of civil society. It makes every man see in other men not the realization of his own freedom, but the barrier to it. But, above all, it proclaims the right of man of enjoying and of disposing at his discretion of his goods and income, of the fruits of his labor and industry.”

Of the other rights of man: There remains the other rights of man: equality and security. Marx goes on to show that these also consist of a guarantee of individual rights as a self-sufficient nomad:

“Equality, used here in its non-political sense, is nothing but the equality of the liberty described above — namely: each man is to the same extent regarded as such a self-sufficient monad. The Constitution of 1795 defines the concept of this equality, in..

Article 3 (Constitution of 1795):
Equality consists in the law being the same for all, whether it protects or punishes.
And Security? Article 8 (Constitution of 1793):
Security consists in the protection afforded by society to each of its members for the preservation of his person, his rights, and his property.

Security is the highest social concept of civil society, the concept of police, expressing the fact that the whole of society exists only in order to guarantee to each of its members the preservation of his person, his rights, and his property. It is in this sense that Hegel calls civil society the state of need and reason.”

Marx concludes that egoism is enshrined in the Democratic Rights of Man:

“None of the so-called rights of man, therefore, go beyond egoistic man, beyond man as a member of civil society — that is, an individual withdrawn into himself, into the confines of his private interests and private caprice, and separated from the community. In the rights of man, he is far from being conceived as a species-being; on the contrary, species-like itself, society, appears as a framework external to the individuals, as a restriction of their original independence. The sole bound holding them together it natural necessity, need and private interest, the preservation of their property and their egoistic selves.”

As the Democratic Rights of Man signalled the victory of the bourgeois production over feudal production, Marx finds it consistent that an egoistic man should result:

“Feudal society was resolved into its basic element — man, but man as he really formed its basis — egoistic man. This man, the member of civil society, is thus the basis, the precondition, of the political state. He is recognized as such by this state in the rights of man.”

Again Marx stresses the incompleteness of the emancipation achieved under bourgeois rule, that there is freedom of religious opinion, but not freedom from religion:

“Hence, man was not freed from religion, he received religious freedom. He was not freed from property, he received freedom to own property. He was not freed from the egoism of business, he received freedom to engage in business. Man as a member of civil society, unpolitical man, inevitably appears, however, as the natural man. The rights of man appears as natural rights, because conscious activity is concentrated on the political act. “

Full emancipation has still to come, when the abstract citizen is re-absorbed into the individual man, – that is when recognises and exerts his conscious social powers:

All emancipation is a reduction of the human world and relationships to man himself. Political emancipation is the reduction of man, on the one hand, to a member of civil society, to an egoistic, independent individual, and, on the other hand, to a citizen, a juridical person. Only when the real, individual man re-absorbs in himself the abstract citizen, and as an individual human being has become a species-being in his everyday life, in his particular work, and in his particular situation, only when man has recognized and organized his ‘own powers’ as social powers, and, consequently, no longer separates social power from himself in the shape of political power, only then will human emancipation have been accomplished.”

For Bauer, the Christian is closer to freedom than the Jew, since the Christian only needs to give up religion. But the Jew not only has to give up religion but also has to give up struggle to perfecting his religion. Marx realises that Bauer has simply re-dressed in civic clothes, the old religious conflict between Judaism and Christianity. Marx condemns the transformation of Jewish emancipation into a purely religious question:

“For Bauer: The Christian has to surmount only one stage, namely, that of his religion, in order to give up religion altogether, and therefore become free. The Jew, on the other hand, has to break not only with his Jewish nature, but also with the development towards perfecting his religion, a development which has remained alien to him. Thus, Bauer here transforms the question of Jewish emancipation into a purely religious question. The theological problem as to whether the Jew or the Christian has the better prospect of salvation is repeated here in the enlightened form: which of them is more capable of emancipation. No longer is the question asked: Is it Judaism or Christianity that makes a man free? On the contrary, the question is now: Which makes man freer, the negation of Judaism or the negation of Christianity?”

Bauer uses a complex theological argument to portray the Jews need to overcome not only Judaism itself, but also Judaism’s link with Christianity. Jews must not only come to terms with Judaism, but also with Christianity by carrying out the Critique of the Evangelical History of the Synoptics and the Life of Jesus, etc. Since Bauer conceives of Judaism as a Acrude religious criticism of Christianity, and of Judaism merely of religious significance, he transforms the emancipation of the Jews, also into a philosophical-theological act. Finally Bauer notes & excuses that Christians find Jews offensive. In contrast to this religious hocus-pocus, Marx emphasises the secular realities. This means an unsentimental analysis of the position of the Jew in society:

We are trying to break with the theological formulation of the question. For us, the question of the Jew’s capacity for emancipation becomes the question: What particular social element has to be overcome in order to abolish Judaism? For the present-day Jew’s capacity for emancipation is the relation of Judaism to the emancipation of the modern world. This relation necessarily results from the special position of Judaism in the contemporary enslaved world. Let us consider the actual, worldly Jew — not the Sabbath Jew, as Bauer does, but the everyday Jew. Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of his religion in the real Jew.”

So saying Marx locates the Jewish reality in money trading, in sacher – or huckstering:

“What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money. Very well then! Emancipation from huckstering and money, consequently from practical, real Judaism, would be the self-emancipation of our time.”

This being so, only a societal change of society to abolish those preconditions of huckstering – can make the Jew impossible:

“An organization of society which would abolish the preconditions for huckstering, and therefore the possibility of huckstering, would make the Jew impossible. His religious consciousness would be dissipated like a thin haze in the real, vital air of society. On the other hand, if the Jew recognizes that this practical nature of his is futile and works to abolish it, he extricates himself from his previous development and works for human emancipation as such and turns against the supreme practical expression of human self-estrangement. We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time, an element which through historical development — to which in this harmful respect the Jews have zealously contributed — has been brought to its present high level, at which it must necessarily begin to disintegrate. In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.”

Bauer argues that the Jews have financial power, and goes so far as to state that it is fiction to say that the Jew is deprived of political rights, given the Jew has so much money power:

“According to Bauer, it is a fictitious state of affairs when in theory the Jew is deprived of political rights, whereas in practice he has immense power and exerts his political influence en gros, although it is curtailed en detail.”

Marx replies that money power is not always consonant with political power:

“The contradiction that exists between the practical political power of the Jew and his political rights is the contradiction between politics and the power of money in general. Although theoretically the former is superior to the latter, in actual fact politics has become the serf of financial power.”

The peculiar power of the Jews arises from the need for money free of restraints:

“Judaism has held its own alongside Christianity, not only as religious criticism of Christianity… but equally because the practical Jewish spirit, Judaism, has maintained itself and even attained its highest development in Christian society. The Jew, who exists as a distinct member of civil society, is only a particular manifestation of the Judaism of civil society… The Jew is perpetually created by civil society from its own entrails. What, in itself, was the basis of the Jewish religion? Practical need, egoism. … Practical need, egoism, is the principle of civil society, and as such appears in pure form as soon as civil society has fully given birth to the political state. The god of practical need and self-interest is money. Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of man — and turns them into commodities. Money is the universal self-established value of all things. It has, therefore, robbed the whole world — both the world of men and nature — of its specific value. Money is the estranged essence of man’s work and man’s existence, and this alien essence dominates him, and he worships it. The god of the Jews has become secularized and has become the god of the world. The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange. The view of nature attained under the domination of private property and money is a real contempt for, and practical debasement of, nature; in the Jewish religion, nature exists, it is true, but it exists only in imagination.”

Indeed Judaism reaches its peak in Christian society, since its social function of money loaning is unique, and very much needed by Christians:

“Judaism reaches its highest point with the perfection of civil society, but it is only in the Christian world that civil society attains perfection. Only under the dominance of Christianity, which makes all national, natural, moral, and theoretical conditions extrinsic to man, could civil society separate itself completely from the life of the state, sever all the species-ties of man, put egoism and selfish need in the place of these species-ties, and dissolve the human world into a world of atomistic individuals who are inimically opposed to one another.

“Christianity sprang from Judaism. It has merged again in Judaism. From the outset, the Christian was the theorizing Jew, the Jew is, therefore, the practical Christian, and the practical Christian has become a Jew again. Christianity had only in semblance overcome real Judaism. It was too noble-minded, too spiritualistic to eliminate the crudity of practical need in any other way than by elevation to the skies. Christianity is the sublime thought of Judaism, Judaism is the common practical application of Christianity, but this application could only become general after Christianity as a developed religion had completed theoretically the estrangement of man from himself and from nature. Only then could Judaism achieve universal dominance and make alienated man and alienated nature into alienable, vendible objects subjected to the slavery of egoistic need and to trading. Selling [verausserung] is the practical aspect of alienation [Entausserung]. Just as man, as long as he is in the grip of religion, is able to objectify his essential nature only by turning it into something alien, something fantastic, so under the domination of egoistic need he can be active practically, and produce objects in practice, only by putting his products, and his activity, under the domination of an alien being, and bestowing the significance of an alien entity — money — on them. In its perfected practice, Christian egoism of heavenly bliss is necessarily transformed into the corporal egoism of the Jew, heavenly need is turned into world need, subjectivism into self-interest. We explain the tenacity of the Jew not by his religion, but, on the contrary, by the human basis of his religion — practical need, egoism.”

Is there a Jewish nation? Marx thinks this is a chimera:

“The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the man of money in general. The groundless law of the Jew is only a religious caricature of groundless morality and right in general, of the purely formal rites with which the world of self-interest surrounds itself. Here, too, man’s supreme relation is the legal one, his relation to laws that are valid for him not because they are laws of his own will and nature, but because they are the dominant laws and because departure from them is avenged.”

Again the social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism ie the emancipation of society from money and mercantile bonds of trading:

“Once society has succeeded in abolishing the empirical essence of Judaism — huckstering and its preconditions — the Jew will have become impossible, because his consciousness no longer has an object, because the subjective basis of Judaism, practical need, has been humanized, and because the conflict between man’s individual-sensuous existence and his species-existence has been abolished.”

The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism.

Source

Marx, Lenin & Stalin on Zionism: Introduction & Preface

This poster was from a campaign waged against anti-Semitism at the end of the 1920's.

This poster was from a campaign waged against anti-Semitism at the end of the 1920’s.

Preface

Bourgeoisie nationalists, whether of Zionist and Pan-Islamic persuasions, both accuse the USSR of the socialist era (from 1917-1953) of racism, aimed against either Jews or Arabs respectively. But, in reality Lenin and Stalin gave an even-handed and single reply, to both the Pan-Islamists and to the Zionists. This reply was to eschew a narrow bourgeois nationalism, in order to create socialism.

In Alliance 30 we attempt to put the recent history of Jewry into a Marxist-Leninist context. This means we will first examine the views of Marx, Lenin and Stalin upon the ideologies of Zionism and its precursors. Next we discuss the Jewish Autonomous Region of Birobidzhan established by the Soviets. Of necessity we examine the so called “Jewish Plot” and the “Doctor’s Plot” in the USSR. This is necessary to sensibly to discuss how it was that the USSR would come to agree at the United Nations, to a recognition of the imperialist-led partition of Palestine, and the planting of the colony of Israel.

In the companion Alliance Number 31, we will examine the views of Lenin and Stalin on Pan-Islamism. The form Pan-Islamism took in the USSR, was known as Sultan-Galiyev-ism. We then briefly examine the versions of Pan-Islamism represented by the Ba’ath Party ideology of Syria and Iraq; and finally we will assess the views of Samir Amin.

A Methodological Foreword Upon Recent Sources For Marxist-Leninists

Alliance has always tried to punctiliously show its source material with as precise references as is possible. This is not an academic peccadillo- to be disdained as “armchair Marxism.” Rather it is essential to root a Marxist-Leninist view of the world in an objective and clear manner. Only this permits any possible rebuttals that are based on facts rather than those of opinion. It has not been necessary to comment on this matter till now. However three new issues have arisen, regarding source materials that directly affect the Marxist-Leninist movement.

Firstly: Certain documents have been released in the Gorbachev era and more recently, from the Soviet archives. This is generally of benefit to Marxist-Leninists, who try to explain the real events inside the former USSR in its Marxist-Leninist days of Stalin’s life time. Previous readers of Alliance, will know that we generally try to highlight the most significant of such documents; and we draw readers’ attention to the confusion that this raises in the bourgeois academic circles. For instance, we previously discussed how the school of so called “revisionist” historians – such as Arch Getty Junior – have tried to struggle with such evidence that contradicts the standard Trotsky influenced bourgeois academic histories. But a caveat must be introduced. It is very unlikely that ALL relevant documents will surface in our lifetime. Moreover, we do not know what documents of Stalin’s and other relevant leading personalities may have been destroyed. All the written archival materials are unlikely to be made available to us anyway, since some of these will be deemed “too sensitive.” Why should the Russian state behave any differently to the British Kew Gardens Archives for instance? We therefore simply raise a caution regarding the appropriate interpretation of documents that may become available. These are likely to be only “spotty” and unlikely to give us all the facts.

Secondly: As a corollary, this leaves some to a continuing abundance of the hear-say, “he said-they said,” type of scurrilous evidence. This leads to a dilemma for the Marxist-Leninists, as to whether to even use this type of evidence at all. But to ignore it is to ignore the charges that the authors lay at Stalin. This does not help Marxists-Leninists currently since one of our current tasks – is to counter the bourgeois historiography and lies. On the other hand, in using these sources it is necessary to be highly selective. Instances are provided in Alliance 30 of two especially problematic sources.

Very little written is available on Stalin’s attitude to the Jewish Question. A new low in scurrilous writing on Stalin is provided by the virulent Arkady Vaksberg in “Stalin Against The Jews,” New York; 1994. Much of the tone and a large measure of the content of this book is scurrilous. For instance – Vaksberg alleges that Stalin did not really research and write the famous article on “The National Question.” Nonetheless we will use the Vaksberg source – albeit with caution – since little else is available on the subject.

Another such problem source is the memoirs of Pavel Sudoplatov, published in 1994. After 1939, he was the officer in charge of the NKVD (later MGB) special operations. Several attacks upon Sudoplatov’s honesty and reliability have been made. Sudoplatov claimed that he organized the assassination of Trotsky under direct orders from Stalin, and that the Soviet atomic bomb was only made possible by secrets divulged by the Danish physicist Niels Bohr.

Both claims are untrue. David Holloway has exposed the latter lie in an article in “Science,” (Holloway D; Science May 27th, 1994), and the former lie is contrary to key facts as discussed by the CL. (CL article reprinted Alliance Issue Number 7.) It is interesting that these memoirs were recorded from Sudoplatov by Jerrold L. & Leona P. Schecter. This same couple first fully published Khrushchev’s memoirs in 1970, in an association between Life magazine & Little Brown Publishers. (See Pavel & A Sudoplatov; with JL & LP Schecter: “Special Tasks”; Boston; 1995 p.xxiii) . It is also not a coincidence that one of the most anti-Communist writers, Robert Conquest, exonerates Sudoplatov of falsification in a glowing foreword.

Of course, Conquest is careful to cover himself by saying that:

“Sudoplatov is by no means immune from error”

(Ibid; p.xv).

Nonetheless Conquest ends by lauding the memoirs:

“But it will be seen that (criticisms-ed) are of little consequence compared with the solid substance we Sudoplatov offers is.. A unique document.. The most valuable of all possible sources for important matters over the whole period of High Stalinism”

(Ibid; p.xiv.)

We reply that the most solid evidence about the period is in Stalin’s own writings. The fragmentary additional evidence must be sensibly pieced together using in addition, Marxist-Leninist theory.

Thirdly: We have increasingly over the last few months/years used sources derived from the world wide web. We caution however that it is sometimes difficult to know who is posting these various documents on the web. We thus attempt to use these documents sparingly. Above all, if web sources are used, we attempt to fully reference the web site.

Introduction

When Zionists attack Lenin and Stalin for their alleged racism against the Jewish peoples, the accusation devolves onto one issue. That issue is that Lenin and Stalin denied at the turn of the century, that the Jewish people had a national status.

After German fascists, aided by Western imperialism launched the genocide against Jews, before and during World War II, a national identity was then formed in the state of Israel. In fact the German fascists helped to weld a later national possibility for Jews in the imperialist stooge state of Israel. This later event was not one that could have been dealt with by Lenin or Stalin in their early writings. In “The National Question,” Stalin had pointed out, that nations come into being and pass away. Obviously a different situation arose after World War II, engineered by imperialism, which before turned a blind eye to the genocide of the Jews. This was part of the overall strategy of turning Germany against the USSR. But some imperialisms, especially the USA promoted the migration of Jews into former Palestine, to consolidate their position against other imperialisms. This created a further tension between the British imperialists and the USA imperialists.

It was not racism that informed the views of Lenin and Stalin. The attitude of Lenin and Stalin was to destroy separatist tendencies that would ghetto-ise and narrow the proletariat. Lenin quoted with approval the words of Ernest Renan, which quickly summarize the views that Lenin had on ghettos and racism of all sorts:

“‘When the National Assembly of 1791 decreed the emancipation of the Jews,'” writes Renan, “It was very little concerned with the question of race.. It is the business of the Nineteenth Century to abolish all ‘ghettos,’ and I cannot compliment those who seek to restore them. The Jewish race has rendered the world the greatest services. Assimilated with the various nations, harmoniously blended with the various national units, it will render no less services in the future than in the past.”

(Lenin, Quoting Ernst Renan of Paris, 1887, in : “The Position of Bund In The Party” 1903)

Source

Marx and Engels on Islam

Marx and Engels

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

Both Marx and Engels wrote only in passing on Islam. However they provide some insights. Their view can be summarised briefly, in three main points:

(i) That the relationship between Jews and the Arabs (Bedouin) was historically, extremely close, and that the Jews had become separated away from the Arabs over time:

“The supposed genealogy of Noah, Abraham, etc., to be found in Genesis is a fairly accurate enumeration of the Bedouin tribes of the time, according to the degree of their dialectal relationships, etc. As we all know, Bedouin tribes continue to this day to call themselves Beni Saled, Beni Yusuf, etc., i.e. sons of so and so. This nomenclature, which owes its origins to the early patriarchal mode of existence, ultimately leads up to this type of genealogy. The enumeration in Genesis is plus ou moins confirmed by ancient geographers, while more recent travellers have shown that most of the old names still exist, though in dialectally altered form. But from this it emerges that the Jews themselves were no more than a small Bedouin tribe like the others, which was brought into conflict with the other Bedouins by local conditions, agriculture, etc. “

Engels Letter Volume 39: written 1853 (see below for full text).

“It is now quite clear to me that the Jews’ so-called Holy Writ is nothing more than a record of ancient Arab religious and tribal traditions, modified by the Jews’ early separation from their tribally related but nomadic neighbours. The circumstance of Palestine’s being surrounded on the Arabian side by nothing but desert, i.e. the land of the Bedouins, explains its separate development. But the ancient Arabian inscriptions and traditions and the Koran, as well as the ease with which all genealogies, etc., can now be unravelled, show that the main content was Arab, or rather, generally Semitic, as in our case the Edda and the German heroic saga.”

Engels To Marx In London Source: Collected Works Volume 39, p. 325. (see below for full text).

(ii) That Judaism was an early form of Christianity, and it was as an “intermediary,” “covering”  Greek world views –  that allowed it to become a world religion:

“It was only by the intermediary of the monotheistic Jewish religion that – the cultured monotheism of later Greek vulgar philosophy could clothe itself in the religious form in which alone it could grip the masses. But once this intermediary found, it could become a universal religion only in the Greco-Roman world, and that by further development in and merging with the thought material that world had achieved.”

On the History of Early Christianity”; written 1894; Find at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894/early-christianity/index.htm

(iii) That when looked at superficially, the history of “the East” did appear as one of “religions.”

“So far as religion is concerned, the question may be reduced to a general and hence easily answerable one: Why does the history of the East appear as a history of religions?”

Marx to Engels, Volume 39: 1853. (see below for full text).

These texts also cover the ground of Oriental Despotism.


TEXT 1:

Engels To Marx In London Source: Collected Works; Moscow 1983; Volume 39, p. 325-328.

Written Manchester, before 28 May 1853

Dear Marx,

So the bomb is at long last about to go off, as you will see from the enclosed scrappy proof and Weydemeyer’s letter. Willich’s manner of extricating himself is strange, at any rate; you will undoubtedly be much amused by these lame circumlocutions and the awkward and embarrassed style. The fellow’s been hard hit. But papa Schramm [i.e. Conrad Schramm-original notes by publisher] would seem to have gravely insulted him in Cincinnati; all grist to the mill. One thing we may be sure of is that the only effect of this statement will be to compromise the chivalrous one even more.

So just because the New-Yorker-Criminal Zeitung!!!!! has published attacks upon him, the gallant Willich feels compelled to break his heroic silence.

‘Putting the case at its highest!,’ In Willich’s case bodies do not fall downwards but upwards! Good-bye to gravity! The fellow’s quite mad. The same old tale of  assassination too! We shall now see the aforesaid Schramm leap promptly into the lists, statement in hand [Willich slanderously represented his duel with Schramm in Spetember 1850, as an attempt by Marx and Engels to get rid of him by having him killed].

To put your mind at rest, I can inform you that the Neu-England-Ztg. today advised me of the dispatch of 420 copies of Revelations [Concerning the Communist Trial in Cologne by Marx] to my address, so they may be here tomorrow or, if the parcel didn’t go off by the last steamer, in a week at the most.

The fellows have the effrontery to send me a letter signed semi-anonymously ‘Office of the N.-E.-Z.’ inviting me to contribute. That’s the last straw!

At all events, it’s a good thing that we now possess in the Reform [Die reform was the organ of the American Workers Association consisting mostly of German emigrant workers. Though officially its editor was the petty-bourgeois democrat Kellner, the newspaper’s tendency was determined to a great extent by Wedemeyer, who became the actual editor in the summer of 1853. Under his influence the paper retained its commitment of the working class for some time. It often reprinted Marx’s and Engel’s articles form the New York Daily Tribune. Marx persuaded his associated (Eccarious, Piper and Dronke) to cooperate with Die Reform, which regularly published articles and reports by Cluss and Wedermeyer, some based on materials from Marx’s letters. Towards the end of  its existence, the petty-bourgeois influence of its editor-in-chief, Kellner, became dominant]. an organ in which, if the worst comes to the worst, we can still make ourselves heard in the polemic against Willich and Co. As a result of the rumpus, Kellner is becoming more and more embroiled.

Weydemeyer’s misprint shouldn’t surprise you. After all, you must know that when Weydemeyer does something, it is always ‘similar’ rather than ‘glorious’.

The little fellow is coming here next Sunday. I am curious to see how he is shaping as a clerk in Bradford. At all events the good Buckup seems to be working him very hard.

Yesterday I read the book on Arabian inscriptions which I told you about. The thing is not without interest, repulsive though it is to find the parson and biblical apologist  forever peeping through. His greatest triumph is to show that Gibbon made some mistakes in the field of ancient geography, from which he also concludes that Gibbon’s theology was deplorable. The thing is called The Historical Geography of Arabia, by the Reverend Charles Forster. The best things to emerge from it are:

1. The supposed genealogy of Noah, Abraham, etc., to be found in Genesis is a fairly accurate enumeration of the Bedouin tribes of the time, according to the degree of their dialectal relationships, etc. As we all know, Bedouin tribes continue to this day to call themselves Beni Saled, Beni Yusuf, etc., i.e. sons of so and so. This nomenclature, which owes its origins to the early patriarchal mode of existence, ultimately leads up to this type of genealogy. The enumeration in Genesis is plus ou moins [more or less] confirmed by ancient geographers, while more recent travellers have shown that most of the old names still exist, though in dialectally altered form. But from this it emerges that the Jews themselves were no more than a small Bedouin tribe like the others, which was brought into conflict with the other Bedouins by local conditions, agriculture, etc.

2. As for the great Arab invasion, you will remember our discussion when we concluded that, like the Mongols, the Bedouins carried out periodic invasions and that the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires were founded by Bedouin tribes on the very same spot as, later, the Caliphate of Baghdad. The founders of the Babylonian Empire, the Chaldeans, still exist under the same name, Beni Chaled, and in the same locality. The rapid construction of large cities, such as Nineveh and Babylon, happened in just the same way as the creation in India only 300 years ago of similar giant cities, Agra, Delhi, Lahore, Muttan, by the Afghan and/or Tartar invasions. In this way the Mohammedan invasion loses much of its distinctive character.

3. In the South-West, where the Arabs settled, they appear to have been a civilised people like the Egyptians, Assyrians, etc., as is evident from their buildings. This also explains many things about the Mohammedan invasion. So far as the religious fraud is concerned, the ancient inscriptions in the South, in which the ancient Arab national tradition of monotheism (as with the American Indians) still predominates, a tradition of which the Hebrew is only a small part would seem to indicate that Mohammed’s religious revolution, like every religious movement, was formally a reaction, a would-be return to what was old and simple.

It is now quite clear to me that the Jews’ so-called Holy Writ is nothing more than a record of ancient Arab religious and tribal traditions, modified by the Jews’ early separation from their tribally related but nomadic neighbours. The circumstance of Palestine’s being surrounded on the Arabian side by nothing but desert, i.e. the land of the Bedouins, explains its separate development. But the ancient Arabian inscriptions and traditions and the Koran, as well as the ease with which all genealogies, etc., can now be unravelled, show that the main content was Arab, or rather, generally Semitic, as in our case the Edda [A collection of Scandinavian mythological and heroic saga and lay: two versions dating back to the 13th Cnetury are still extant] and the German heroic saga.

Your
F. E.


TEXT 2:

Marx To Engels. 2 June 1853; Collected Works; Moscow 1983; Volume 39, p. 330-334.

Written 28 Dean Street, Soho.

Dear Frederic,

The first half of the £20 note has turned up. I am writing this before going to the Museum, i.e. at a very early hour.

I would have sent you long ago the enclosed great Willich’s statement to the      Neu-England-Zeitung had I not assumed that you’d had the thing from Weydemeyer. In conception this second statement is pure, genuine Willich. Others write ‘essays’, he writes ‘facts,’ and only if one has been on a ‘personal footing’ with him does the calumny lose its sting. It is the manoeuvre of your petty partisan. He does not answer for his own Hirsch. Rather, he explains to the public Marx’s ‘motives’ for not refuting his Hirsch. And now he has discovered a terrain where he can operate with a measure of virtuosity. And it is with ‘reluctance’ that the noble man reveals the facts to the ‘public.’ Needless to say, he has preferred to whisper them to the philistines in the privacy of the beer-parlour and, for the past three years, to peddle them ‘contraband-wise’ throughout two hemispheres, juvante Kinkelio. Then his manoeuvring to keep the public on tenterhooks. They forget the facts among which he twists and turns and eagerly await the  facts which are to demolish the ‘critical authors.’ And the noble man is ‘distinguished’ withal, as befits a ‘public figure.’ When he does reply, it will not be to Marx’s uncouth ‘agents’ but to the ‘ingenious’ quill-pushers themselves. Finally, he gives the public to understand that what makes his opponents so cocksure is their belief in his ‘decision’ to retire and, with a roll of drums, this important personage proceeds to announce that he has ‘changed’ his mind.

Tout ça nest pas trop mal pour un vieux sous-lieutenant. [Not too bad for an old second lieutenant] But as for the style of statement No. 2 — bad as it is, it is nevertheless apocryphal. Other hands have been at work on it, probably those of Madame Anneke. At all events, the necessary supplement to Tellering’s pamphlet will now be published by Mr Willich and, the dirty business having been once placed before the public, il faut aller jusqu’au bout [It must be taken to its conclusion]. If Weydemeyer, Cluss and Co. operate with skill, they should now be able to put a spoke in Willich’s wheel and ruin the impact and novelty of the surprises he is holding in store for the public. Nous verrons [we shall see].

The praise you accord to my ‘budding’ English, I find most encouraging. What I chiefly lack is first, assurance as to grammar and secondly, skill in using various secondary idioms which alone enable one to write with any pungency. Mr Tribune has given special prominence to a note about my 2nd article on Gladstone’s Budget, drawing the attention of readers to my ‘masterly exposition’ and going on to say that nowhere have they seen ‘a more able criticism,’ and do ‘not expect to see one.’ Well, that is all right. But in the following article it proceeds to make an ass of me by printing under my name a heading of mine which is quite trifling and intentionally so, whereas it appropriates your ‘Swiss’ thing. I shall write and tell Dana that, ‘flattering’ though it may be if they occasionally use my things for a leader, they would oblige me by not putting my name to trifles. I have now sent the jackasses, amongst other things, 2 articles on ‘China’ with reference to England. If you have the time and happen to feel like writing about something — Switzerland, the East, France, England or cotton, or Denmark, say  — you should do so on occasion, for I am now slogging away with an eye to the fellow’s money-bags in order to make good the 3 weeks I have lost. If you send me something from time to time — de omnibus rebus [anything under the sun]— I shall always be able to place it, for as you know, I am the fellows’ ‘maid of all work’, and it’s always easy to relate one thing to another and to every day. All in all.

As regards the Hebrews and Arabs, I found your letter most interesting. It can, by the by, be shown that 1. in the case of all eastern tribes there has been, since the dawn of history, a general relationship between the settlement of one section and the continued nomadism of the others. 2. In Mohammed’s time the trade route from Europe to Asia underwent considerable modification, and the cities of Arabia, which had had a large share of the trade with India, etc., suffered a commercial decline — a fact which at all events contributed to the process. 3. So far as religion is concerned, the question may be reduced to a general and hence easily answerable one: Why does the history of the East appear as a history of religions?

On the subject of the growth of eastern cities one could hardly find anything more brilliant, comprehensive or striking than Voyages contenant la description des états du Grand Mogol, etc. by old Franoçois Bernier (for 9 years Aurangzeb’s physician). He provides in addition a very nice account of military organisation and the manner in which these large armies fed themselves, etc. Concerning both these, he remarks inter alia [Original is in French- translated by publishers]:

“The main body consists of cavalry, the infantry not being so numerous as is commonly supposed unless all those serving-people and bazaar or market folk who follow the army are taken for true warriors; for, if such were the case, there would, I think, be good reason to put at 2 to 300,000 men the strength of that army alone that is with the king, and sometimes even more, as, for example, when it is known that he will be long absent from the capital city; which would not, indeed, seem so very surprising to anyone familiar with all the strange impedimenta of tents, kitchen, clothing, furniture, and even women quite often, and, consequently, elephants, camels, oxen, horses, porters, foragers, sutlers, merchants of all kinds and servants who follow in the wake of these armies, nor to anyone familiar with the conditions and government peculiar to the country, namely that the king is the sole and unique proprietor of all the lands in the kingdom, whence it necessarily follows that every capital city, such as Delhi or Agra, fixes almost wholly on the militia and is therefore obliged to follow the king whenever he goes campaigning for a time, these cities neither being, nor indeed able to be, in any respect a Paris, but being really nothing but an army encampment rather better and more commodiously situated than if it were in the open country.” [in French, with Marx’s italics]

In reference to the Grand Mogul’s march on Kashmir, with an army 400,000 strong, he writes:

“How and upon what so great an army can subsist in the field, or so large a concourse of men and animals, is difficult to conceive. To that end one can only surmise, and such is indeed the case, that the Indians are very sober and very simple in what they eat and that, of this great number of horsemen, not one tenth, nay, not even one twentieth, eats meat during the march; provided they have their khichri, or mess of rice and other vegetables, whereon they pour brown butter when cooked, they are content. It should also be known that camels are extremely resistant to work, hunger and thirst, live on very little and eat anything and that, as soon as the army reaches camp, the camel-drivers lead them out to graze in the countryside, where they eat everything that comes their way; further, that the same merchants that keep the bazaars in Delhi are obliged to keep them in the field also, likewise the lesser merchants, etc. … finally, concerning forage, all these poor people go roving in every direction to the villages to buy the same and to earn something there, and that their chief and habitual recourse is to scratch up whole stretches of country with a kind of trowel, pounding and washing the little herbs thus scratched up, and taking them to the army for sale…”

Bernier rightly sees all the manifestations of the East — he mentions Turkey, Persia and Hindustan — as having a common basis, namely the absence of private landed property. This is the real clef, even to the eastern heaven.

It would seem to be no go with Borchardt; nevertheless I think the fellow might be prepared to try and obtain recommendations for Lupus from Steinthal, etc., to London merchants. So much, at least, you could compel him to do, and it would mean a great deal to Lupus.

What do you think about the failure of the hudibrastic Rodolpho [An allusion to Ralpho – a charactar in Samuel Butler’s satirical peom Hudibras] Gladstone’s ‘Financial Scheme for reducing the national Debt’?

The day before yesterday the Journal des Débats revealed the true secret of Russia’s impudence. The Continent, it says, must either expose its independence to danger from Russia, or it must expose itself to war, and that is ‘la revolution sociale’. What the wretched Débats forgets, however, is that Russia is no less afraid of revolution than Mr Bertin, and that the whole question now is who can most convincingly simulate ‘non-fear’. But England and France — the official ones — are so abject that Nicholas, if he sticks to his guns, will be able to do what he likes.

Vale faveque [Good-bye & farewell].

C. M.

Have written to Lassalle, who will probably be ready to take receipt of a few 100 copies of the pamphlet and distribute them in Germany. The question now is how are we to get them across? When I was in Manchester Charles suggested it might be done by including them in a consignment of merchandise. You might ask him about this again.

P.S. There’s been a delay over the posting of this letter and so I can include an acknowledgment of the parcel of books and the other half of the note.


TEXT 3:

Engels to Marx. Collected Works; Moscow 1983; Volume 39, p. 335-342.

Written 6 June 1853; Manchester.

Dear Marx,

I had intended to write to you by the first post today, but was detained at the office until 8 o’clock. You will have received both Weydemeyer’s and Cluss’ anti-Willich statements in the Criminal Zeitung, i.e. direct from America. If not, write to me at once. As usual, papa Weydemeyer is too long-winded, very seldom makes a point, then promptly blunts it with his style, and unfolds his well-known lack of verve with rare composure. Nevertheless, the man has done his best, the story about Hentze, the ‘comrade-in-arms’, and the influence of others on Hirsch’s pen is nicely fashioned; his incredible style and his composure, regarded over there as impassibility, will appeal to the philistines, and his performance can, on the whole, be regarded as satisfactory. Cluss’ statement, on the other hand, pleases me enormously. In every line we hear the chuckle of l’homme suprieur who, through ‘personal contact’ with Willich, has, as it were, become physically conscious of his superiority. For lightness of style, this surpasses everything that Cluss has ever written. Never a clumsy turn of phrase, not a trace of gêne [constraint] or embarrassment. How well it becomes him thus to ape the worthy citizen of benevolent mien who nevertheless betrays the cloven hoof at every turn. How splendid, the sentence about ‘revolutionary agencies’ being ‘a swindle’ off which, according to Willich, he lives. The chivalrous one will have been surprised to find among the uncouth agents, a fellow who is so dashing, so adroit, so aggressive by nature and yet so unassumingly noble in his bearing, and who returns thrust for thrust a tempo. So subtly — far more subtly and deftly than himself. If only Willich had the discernment to discover this! But irritation and due reflection will, I trust, give him a little more insight.

It is obvious that we shall have to see this dirty business through to the bitter end. The more resolutely we tackle it the better. You’ll find, by the way, that it won’t be so bad after all. The chivalrous one has promised vastly more than he can fulfill. We shall hear of assassination attempts, etc., the Schramm affair will be glamorously tricked out, and such chimeras will be evoked as will cause us to stare at one another in amazement, not having the faintest idea what the man is actually talking about; at worst he will tell the story about Marx and Engels arriving drunk one evening at Great Windmill Street (vide Kinkel in Cincinnati, coram Huzelio) [In Huzels presence]. If he goes as far as that, I shall tell the scandal-loving American public what the Besançon Company used to talk about when Willich and the formosus [comely] pastor Corydon Rauf [Office Rau is compared to shepherd Corydon, a character in pastoral poems who suffers from unrequited love] were not present. Au bout du compte, [come, to that] what can a brute of this kind find to tax us with? Mark my word, it will be just as pauvre [poor] as Tellering’s smear.

I shall be seeing Borchardt within the next few days. If any recommendations are to be had, you can trust me to get them. But I hardly imagine that Steinthal, etc., have connections of the sort in London. It’s almost wholly outside their line of business. Besides, if only for fear of making a fool of himself, the fellow will attempt to put off doing anything about it up here. If it were not for Lupus, I’d consign the chap, etc. I can’t abide him, with his smooth, self-important, vainglorious, deceitful charlatan’s physiognomy.

If Lassalle has given you a good, neutral address in Dsseldorf, you can send me 100 copies. We shall arrange for them to be packed in bales of twist by firms up here; but they should not be addressed to Lassalle himself, since the packages will go to Gladbach, Elberfeld and so on, where they will have to be stamped and sent by post to Dsseldorf. However, we cannot entrust a package for Lassalle or the Hatzfeldt woman to any local firm, because, 1. they all employ at least one Rhinelander who knows all the gossip, or 2. if that goes off all right, the recipients of the bales will get to know about it, or 3. at the very best the postal authorities will take a look at the things before delivering them. We have a good address in Cologne, but are not, alas, very well acquainted with the people who are the principal buyers here for the firm in Cologne, and hence cannot expect them to do any smuggling. Indeed, what we shall tell the people here is that the packages contain presents for the fair sex.

From all this you will gather that I am once again on passable terms with Charles. The affair was settled with great dispatch at the first suitable opportunity. Nevertheless you will realise that the fool derives a certain pleasure from having been given preference over myself in one rotten respect at least, because of Mr Gottfried Ermen’s envy of my old man. Habeat sibi [Let him have it]. He at any rate realises that, if I so choose, I can become matre de la situation [master of the situation] within 48 hours, and that’s sufficient.

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 orientals 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 land, more especially the great stretches of desert extending from the Sahara right across Arabia, Persia, India and Tartary [Turkestan] 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 publics [public works], provision for reproduction. The British government in India has put a somewhat narrower interpretation on nos. 1 and 2 while completely neglecting no. 3, so that Indian agriculture is going to wrack and ruin. Free competition is proving an absolute fiasco there. The fact that the land was made fertile by artificial means and immediately ceased to be so when the conduits fell into disrepair, explains the otherwise curious circumstance that vast expanses are now and wastes which once were magnificently cultivated (Palmyra, Petra, the ruins in the Yemen, any number of localities in Egypt, Persia, Hindustan); it explains the fact that one single war of devastation could depopulate and entirely strip a country of its civilisation for centuries to come. This, I believe, also accounts for the destruction of southern Arabian trade before Mohammed’s time, a circumstance very rightly regarded by you as one of the mainsprings of the Mohammedan revolution. I am not sufficiently well acquainted with the history of trade during the first six centuries A.D. to be able to judge to what extent general material conditions in the world made the trade route via Persia to the Black Sea and to Syria and Asia Minor via the Persian Gulf preferable to the Red Sea route. But one significant factor, at any rate, must have been the relative safety of the caravans in the well-ordered Persian Empire under the Sassanids, whereas between 200 and 600 A.D. the Yemen was almost continuously being subjugated, overrun and pillaged by the Abyssinians. By the seventh century the cities of southern Arabia, still flourishing in Roman times, had become a veritable wilderness of ruins; in the course of 500 years what were purely mythical, legendary traditions regarding their origin had been appropriated by the neighbouring Bedouins, (cf. the Koran and the Arab historian Novari), and the alphabet in which the local inscriptions had been written was almost wholly unknown although there was no other, so that de facto writing had fallen into oblivion. Things of this kind presuppose, not only a superseding, probably due to general trading conditions, but outright violent destruction such as could only be explained by the Ethiopian invasion. The expulsion of the Abyssinians did not take place until about 40 years before Mohammed, and was plainly the first act of the Arabs’ awakening national consciousness, which was further aroused by Persian invasions from the North penetrating almost as far as Mecca. I shall not be tackling the history of Mohammed himself for a few days yet; so far it seems to me to have the character of a Bedouin reaction against the settled, albeit decadent urban fellaheen whose religion by then was also much debased, combining as it did a degenerate form of nature worship with a degenerate form of Judaism and Christianity.

Old Bernier’s stuff is really very fine. It’s a real pleasure to get back to something written by a sensible, lucid old Frenchman who constantly hits the nail on the head sans avoir l’air de s’en apercevoir [without appearing to be aware of it].

Since I am in any case tied up with the eastern mummery for some weeks, I have made use of the opportunity to learn Persian. I am put off Arabic, partly by my inborn hatred of Semitic languages, partly by the impossibility of getting anywhere, without considerable expenditure of time, in so extensive a language — one which has 4,000 roots and goes back over 2,000-3,000 years. By comparison, Persian is absolute child’s play. Were it not for that damned Arabic alphabet in which every half dozen letters looks like every other half dozen and the vowels are not written, I would undertake to learn the entire grammar within 48 hours. This for the better encouragement of Pieper should he feel the urge to imitate me in this poor joke. I have set myself a maximum of three weeks for Persian, so if he stakes two months on it he’ll best me anyway. What a pity Weitling can’t speak Persian; he would then have his langue universelle toute trouvie [universal language ready-made] since it is, to my knowledge, the only language where ‘me’ and ‘to me’ are never at odds, the dative and accusative always being the same.

It is, by the way, rather pleasing to read dissolute old Hafiz in the original language, which sounds quite passable and, in his grammar, old Sir William Jones likes to cite as examples dubious Persian jokes, subsequently translated into Greek verse in his Commentariis poeseos asiaticae, because even in Latin they seem to him too obscene. These commentaries, Jones’ Works, Vol. II, De Poesi erotica, will amuse you. Persian prose, on the other hand, is deadly dull. E.g. the Rauzt-us-saf by the noble Mirkhond, who recounts the Persian epic in very flowery but vacuous language. Of Alexander the Great, he says that the name Iskander, in the Ionian language, is Akshid Rus (like Iskander, a corrupt version of Alexandros); it means much the same as filusuf, which derives from fila, love, and sufa, wisdom, ‘Iskander’ thus being synonymous with ‘friend of wisdom.’

Of a retired king he says: ‘He beat the drum of abdication with the drumsticks of retirement’, as will pre Willich, should he involve himself any more deeply in the literary fray. Willich will also suffer the same fate as King Afrasiab of Turan when deserted by his troops and of whom Mirkhond says: ‘He gnawed the nails of horror with the teeth of desperation until the blood of vanquished consciousness welled forth from the finger-tips of shame.’

More tomorrow.


TEXT 4:

Engels F: “Bruno Bauer and Early Christianity”; Collected Works Volume 24; Moscow; 1989; p.427-435.

Written May 4-11, 1882.

In Berlin, on April 13, a man died who once played a role as a philosopher and a theologian, but was hardly heard of for years, only attracting the attention of the public from time to time as a “literary eccentric”. Official theologians, including Renan, wrote him off and, therefore, maintained a silence of death about him. And yet he was worth more than them all and did more than all of them in a question which interests us Socialists, too: the question of the historical origin of Christianity.

On the occasion of his death, let us give a brief account of the present position on this question, and Bauer’s contribution to its solution.

The view that dominated from the free-thinkers of the Middle Ages to the Enlighteners of the 18th century, the latter included, that all religions, and therefore Christianity too, were the work of deceivers was no longer sufficient after Hegel had set philosophy the task of showing a rational evolution in world history.

It is clear that if spontaneously arising religions — like the fetish worship of the Negroes or the common primitive religion of the Aryans — come to being without deception playing any part, deception by the priests soon becomes inevitable in their further development. But, in spite of all sincere fanaticism, artificial religions cannot even, at their foundation, do without deception and falsification of history. Christianity, too, has pretty achievements to boast of in this respect from the very beginning, as Bauer shows in his criticism of the New Testament. But that only confirms a general phenomenon and does not explain the particular case in question.

A religion that brought the Roman world empire into subjection, and dominated by far the larger part of civilized humanity for 1,800 years, cannot be disposed of merely by declaring it to be nonsense gleaned together by frauds. One cannot dispose of it before one succeeds in explaining its origin and its development from the historical conditions under which it arose and reached its dominating position. This applies to Christianity. The question to be solved, then, is how it came about that the popular masses in the Roman Empire so far preferred this nonsense — which was preached, into the bargain, by slaves and oppressed — to all other religions, that the ambitious Constantine finally saw in the adoption of this religion of nonsense the best means of exalting himself to the position of autocrat of the Roman world. [Under the Christian tradition, the name of the Roman Emperor Flavius Valerius Constaninus Magnus, who in 330 transferred the capital of the empire from Rome to Constantinople, is associated with the radical turn form persecution of Christianity to the protection of the new religion, although this process had begun under his predecessors.]

 

Bruno Bauer has contributed far more to the solution of this question than anybody else. No matter how much the half-believing theologians of the period of reaction have struggled against him since 1849, he irrefutably proved the chronological order of the Gospels and their mutual interdependence, shown by Wilke from the purely linguistic standpoint, by the very contents of the Gospels themselves. He exposed the utter lack of scientific spirit of Strauss’ vague myth theory according to which anybody can hold for historical as much as he likes in the Gospel narrations. And, if almost nothing from the whole content of the Gospels turns out to be historically provable — so that even the historical existence of a Jesus Christ can be questioned — Bauer has, thereby, only cleared the ground for the solution of the question: what is the origin of the ideas and thoughts that have been woven together into a sort of system in Christianity, and how came they to dominate the world?

Bauer studied this question until his death. His research reached its culminating point in the conclusion that the Alexandrian Jew Philo, who was still living about A.D. 40 but was already very old, was the real father of Christianity, and that the Roman stoic Seneca was, so to speak, its uncle. The numerous writings attributed to Philo which have reached us originate indeed in a fusion of allegorically and rationalistically conceived Jewish traditions with Greek, particularly stoic, philosophy. This conciliation of western and eastern outlooks already contains all the essentially Christian ideas: the inborn sinfulness of man, the Logos, the Word, which is with God and is God and which becomes the mediator between God and man: atonement, not by sacrifices of animals, but by bringing one’s own heart of God, and finally the essential feature that the new religious philosophy reverses the previous world order, seeks its disciples among the poor, the miserable, the slaves, and the rejected, and despises the rich, the powerful, and the privileged, whence the precept to despise all worldly pleasure and to mortify the flesh.

One the other hand, Augustus himself saw to it that not only the God-man, but also the so-called immaculate conception became formulae imposed by the state. He not only had Caesar and himself worshipped as gods, he also spread the notion that he, Augustus Caesar Divus, the Divine, was not the son of a human father but that his mother had conceived him of the god Apollo. But was not that Apollo perhaps a relation of the one sung by Heinrich Heine? [Engels is referring to a charactar in Heine’s satirical poem ‘Der Apollgott’ (from Romanzero), a young blade, a cantor at the Amsterdam synagogue, who imitated Apollo.]

As we see, we need only the keystone and we have the whole of Christianity in its basic features: the incarnation of the Word become man in a definite person and his sacrifice on the cross for the redemption of sinful mankind.

Truly reliable sources leave us uncertain as to when this keystone was introduced into the stoic-philonic doctrines. But this much is sure: it was not introduced by philosophers, either Philo’s disciples or stoics. Religions are founded by people who feel a need for religion themselves and have a feeling for the religious needs of the masses. As a rule, this is not the case with the classical philosophers. On the other hand, we find that in times of general decay, now, for instance, philosophy and religious dogmatism are generally current in a vulgarized and shallow form. While classic Greek philosophy in its last forms — particularly in the Epicurean school [the Epicurean school of materialist philosophy was founded by Epicurius in the late 4th Century BC and existed until the mid-4th Century AD. In thier philosophical struggle against the Stoics, its members refused to recognise the gods’ interference into mundane matters and proceeded from the assumption that matter, which has an inner source of motion, is eternal] — led to atheistic materialism, Greek vulgar philosophy led to the doctrine of a one and only God and of the immortality of the human soul. Likewise, rationally vulgarized Judaism in mixture and intercourse with aliens and half-Jews ended by neglecting the ritual and transforming the formerly exclusively Jewish national god, Jahveh, [Note by Engels: As Ewald has already proved, the Jews used dotting script (containing vowels and reading signs) to write under the consonants in the name of Javeh, which it was forbidden to pronounce, the vowels of the word Adonai, which they read it its place. This was subsequently read as Jehovah. The word is therefore not the name of a god but only a vugar mistake in grammar: in Hebrew it is simply impossible] into the one true God, the creator of heaven and earth, and by adopting the idea of the immortality of the soul which was alien to early Judaism. Thus, monotheistic vulgar philosophy came into contact with vulgar religion, which presented it with the ready-made one and only God. Thus, the ground was prepared on which the elaboration among the Jews of the likewise vulgarized philonic notions and not Philo’s own works that Christianity proceeded from is proved by the New Testament’s almost complete disregard of most of these works, particularly the allegorical and philosophical interpretation of the narrations of the Old Testament. This is an aspect to which Bauer did not devote enough attention.

One can get an idea of what Christianity looked like in its early form by reading the so-called Book of Revelation of John. Wild, confused fanaticism, only the beginnings of dogmas, only the mortification of the flesh of the so-called Christian morals, but on the other hand a multitude of visions and prophesies. The development of the dogmas and moral doctrine belongs to a later period, in which the Gospels and the so-called Epistles of the Apostles were written. In this — at least as regards morals — the philosophy of the stoics, of Seneca in particular, was unceremoniously made us of. Bauer proved that the Epistles often copy the latter word-for-word; in fact, even the faithful noticed this, but they maintained that Seneca had copied from the New Testament, though it had not yet been written in his time. Dogma developed, on the one hand in connection with the legend of Jesus which was then taking shape, and, on the other hand, in the struggle between Christians of Jewish and of pagan origin.

Bauer also gives very valuable data on the causes which helped Christianity to triumph and attain world domination. But here the German philosopher is prevented by his idealism from seeing clearly and formulating precisely. Phrases often replace substance in decisive points. Instead, therefore, of going into details of Bauer’s views, we shall give our own conception of this point, based on Bauer’s works, and also on our personal study.

The Roman conquest dissolved in all subjugated countries, first, directly, the former political conditions, and then, indirectly, also the social conditions of life.

Firstly by substituting for the former organization according to estates (slavery apart) the simple distinction between Roman citizens and peregrines or subjects.

Secondly, and mainly, by exacting tribute in the name of the Roman state. If, under the empire, a limit was set as far as possible in the interest of the state to the governors’ thirst for wealth, that thirst was replaced by ever more effective and oppressive taxation for the benefit of the state treasury, the effect of which was terribly destructive.

Thirdly, Roman law was finally administered everywhere by Roman judges, while the native social system was declared invalid insofar as it was incompatible with the provisions of Roman law.

These three levers necessarily developed a tremendous levelling power, particularly when they were applied for several hundred years to populations — the most vigorous sections of which had been either suppressed or taken away into slavery in the battles preceding, accompanying, and often following, the conquest. Social relations in the provinces came nearer and nearer to those obtaining in the capital and in Italy. The population became more and more sharply divided into three classes, thrown together out of the most varying elements and nationalities: rich people, including not a few emancipated slaves (cf. Petronius), [Engels is referring to Petronius’ Satyricon, where he describes a feast in the house of an emancipated slave, Trimalchionis, who became rich] big landowners or usurers or both at once, like Seneca, the uncle of Christianity; propertyless free people, who in Rome were fed and amused by the state — in the provinces they got on as they could by themselves — and finally the great mass, the slaves. In the face of the state, i.e., the emperor, the first two classes had as few rights as the slaves in the face of their masters. From the time of Tiberius to that of Nero, in particular, it was a practice to sentence rich Roman citizens to death in order to confiscate their property. The support of the government was — materially, the army, which was more like an army of hired foreign soldiers than the old Roman peasant army, and morally, the general view that there was no way out of that condition; that not, indeed, this or that Caesar, but the empire based on military domination was an immutable necessity. This is not the place to examine what very material facts this view was based on.

The general rightlessness and despair of the possibility of a better condition gave rise to a corresponding general slackening and demoralization. The few surviving old Romans of the patrician type and views either were removed or died out; Tacitus was the last of them. The others were glad when they were able to keep away from public life; all they existed for was to collect and enjoy riches, and to indulge in private gossip and private intrigue. The propertyless free citizens were state pensioners in Rome, but in the provinces their condition was an unhappy one. They had to work, and to compete with slave-labor into the bargain. But they were confined to the towns. Besides them, there was also in the provinces peasants, free landowners (here and there probably still common ownership) or, as in Gaul, bondsmen for debts to the big landowners. This class was the least affected by the social upheaval; it was also the one to resist longest the religious upheaval. [Engels note: According to Fallmereyer, the peasants in Main, Peloponnesus, still offered sacrifices to Zeus in the 9th century.] Finally, there were the slaves, deprived of rights and of their own will and the possibility to free themselves, as the defeat of Spartacus [Engels refers to the slave uprising of 73-71 BC in Rome led by Spartacus] had already proved; most of them, however, were former free citizens, or sons of free-born citizens. It must, therefore, have been among them that hatred of their conditions of life was still generally vigorous, though externally powerless.

We shall find that the type of ideologists at the time corresponded to this state of affairs. The philosophers were either mere money-earning schoolmasters or buffoons in the pay of wealthy revellers. Some were even slaves. An example of what became of them under good conditions is supplied by Seneca. This stoic and preacher of virtue and abstinence was Nero’s first court intriguer, which he could not have been without servility; he secured from him presents in money, properties, gardens, and palaces — and while he preached the poor man Lazarus of the Gospel, he was, in reality, the rich man of the same parable. Not until Nero wanted to get at him did he request the emperor to take back all his presents, his philosophy being enough for him. Only completely isolated philosophers, like Persius, had the courage to brandish the lash of satire over their degenerated contemporaries. But, as for the second type of ideologists, the jurists, they were enthusiastic over the new conditions because the abolition of all differences between Estates allowed them broad scope in the elaboration of their favorite private right, in return for which they prepared for the emperor the vilest state system of right that ever existed.

With the political and social peculiarities of the various peoples, the Roman Empire also doomed to ruin their particular religions. All religions of antiquity were spontaneous tribal, and later national, religions, which arose from and merged with the social and political conditions of the respective peoples. Once these, their bases, were disrupted, and their traditional forms of society, their inherited political institutions and their national independence shattered, the religion corresponding to these also naturally collapsed. The national gods could suffer other gods beside them, as was the general rule of antiquity, but not above them. The transplanting of Oriental divinities to Rome was harmful only to the Roman religion, it could not check the decay of the Oriental religions. As soon as the national gods were unable to protect the independence of their nation, they met their own destruction. This was the case everywhere (except with peasants, especially in the mountains). What vulgar philosophical enlightenment — I almost said Voltairianism — did in Rome and Greece, was done in the provinces by Roman oppression and the replacing of men proud of their freedom by desperate subjects and self-seeking ragamuffins.

Such was the material and moral situation. The present was unbearable, the future still more menacing, if possible. There was no way out. Only despair or refuge in the commonest sensuous pleasure, for those who could afford it at least, and they were a tiny minority. Otherwise, nothing but surrender to the inevitable.

But, in all classes there was necessarily a number of people who, despairing of material salvation, sought in its stead a spiritual salvation, a consolation in their consciousness to save them from utter despair. This consolation could not be provided by the stoics any more than by the Epicurean school, for the very reason that these philosophers were not intended for common consciousness and, secondly, because the conduct of disciples of the schools cast discredit on their doctrines. The consolation was to be a substitute, not for the lost philosophy, but for the lost religion; it had to take on a religious form, the same as anything which had to grip the masses both then and as late as the 17th century.

We hardly need to note that the majority of those who were pining for such consolation of their consciousness, for this flight from the external world into the internal, were necessarily among the slaves.

It was in the midst of this general economic, political, intellectual, and moral decadence that Christianity appeared. It entered into a resolute antithesis to all previous religions.

In all previous religions, ritual had been the main thing. Only by taking part in the sacrifices and processions, and in the Orient by observing the most detailed diet and cleanliness precepts, could one show to what religion one belonged. While Rome and Greece were tolerant in the last respect, there was in the Orient a rage for religious prohibitions that contributed no little to the final downfall. People of two different religions (Egyptians, Persians, Jews, Chaldeans) could not eat or drink together, perform any every-day act together, or hardly speak to each other. It was largely due to this segregation of man from man that the Orient collapsed. Christianity knew no distinctive ceremonies, not even the sacrifices and processions of the classic world. By thus rejecting all national religions and their common ceremonies, and addressing itself to all peoples without distinction, it became the first possible world religion. Judaism, too, with its new universal god, had made a start on the way to becoming a universal religion; but the children of Israel always remained an aristocracy among the believers and the circumcised, and Christianity itself had to get rid of the notion of the superiority of the Jewish Christians (still dominant in the so-called Book of Revelation of John) before it could really become a universal religion. Islam, itself, on the other hand, by preserving its specifically Oriental ritual, limited the area of its propagation to the Orient and North Africa, conquered and populated anew by Arab Bedouins; here it could become the dominating religion, but not in the West.

Secondly, Christianity struck a chord that was bound to echo in countless hearts. To all complaints about the wickedness of the times and the general material and moral distress, Christian consciousness of sin answered: It is so and it cannot be otherwise; thou art in blame, ye are all to blame for the corruption of the world, thine and your own internal corruption! And where was the man who could deny it? Mea culpa! The admission of each one’s share in the responsibility for the general unhappiness was irrefutable and was made the precondition for the spiritual salvation which Christianity at the same time announced. And this spiritual salvation was so instituted that it could be easily understood by members of every old religious community. The idea of atonement to placate the offended deity was current in all the old religions; how could the idea of self-sacrifice of the mediator atoning once for all for the sins of humanity not easily find ground there? Christianity, therefore, clearly expressed the universal feeling that men themselves are guilty of the general corruption as the consciousness of sin of each one; at the same time, it provided, in the death-sacrifice of his judge, a form of the universally longed-for internal salvation from the corrupt world, the consolation of consciousness; it thus again proved its capacity to become a world religion and, indeed, a religion which suited the world as it then was.

So it happened that, among the thousands of prophets and preachers in the desert that filled that period of countless religious novations, the founders of Christianity alone met with success. Not only Palestine, but the entire Orient swarmed with such founders of religions, and between them there raged what can be called a Darwinian struggle for ideological existence. Thanks mainly to the elements mentioned above, Christianity won the day. How it gradually developed its character of world religion by natural selection in the struggle of sects against one another and against the pagan world is taught in detail by the history of the Church in the first three centuries.

Source

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