Category Archives: The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.)

Vietnamese Revolutionary Art

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

Introduction

Western Artists and revolutionaries, are familiar with the socialist realist traditions of the USSR, Albania and of China. They also have a deep affection and respect for revolutionary painting from the Spanish Civil War, and from the South American continent especially from Mexico and Cuba. Curiously, art arising from the heroic struggles of the Vietnamese peoples, is much less well known. This is a shame, since the long war of national liberation, resulted in a plethora of great art.

Ho Chi Minh’s shrewd and insightful leadership of the Vietnamese national bourgeois liberation struggle, built a successful United Front. This was dependent upon the recognition that “many currents” would help move Vietnam into independence. A striking example of this viewpoint, is Ho Chi Minh’s view of Confucius, Jesus and Marx as “close friends”:

“The teachings of Confucius have a strong point, i.e., self-improvement of personal virtue. Jesus’ Bible has a strong point, i.e., noble altruism. Marxism has a strong point, i.e. a dialectical working method. Ton Dat Tien’s teaching has a strong point, i.e.Fe; their policies are suited to the conditions in our country, Did Confucius, Jesus, Marx, and Ton Dat Tien share common points? Yes. They all pursued a way to bring happiness to human beings and benefit to society. If they were all alive today, and if they were grouped together, I believe that they would live together in harmony like close friends. I try to become their pupil.“

Ho Chi Minh 1949. Plaque in Ho Chi Minh Museum, July 2004.

With this “broad church” philosophy, Ho Chi Minh succeeded in welding such a powerful anti-imperialist front. Unsurprisingly even the art in the clearly revolutionary phases of this broad front, also reflects a broad range of styles, and even at times of contents. Perhaps this is not surprising, since the Indochinese dominant French imperialism had already stimulated interest in the French art movements.

This article outlines and illustrates some developments in visual arts over the modern era. We apologise that it cannot be anything more than a very brief introduction.

A short background to the traditional arts, showing their legacy to the modern era, may be helpful.

Ancient Vietnamese Art

Naturally, the art history of the Vietnamese peoples is commensurate with their ancient story. The traditional arts in Vietnam faced the ravages of wars and little other than architectural edifices, and some sculptures and pottery, now exists. This shows the mark of a tension between external influences – Chinese and Indian – and more ‘native’ royalty sponsored arts. Largely it was the Cham dynasty that was heavily influenced by Indian art, and remaining sculptures show remarkable similarity.

Another major cultural import was Buddhism, via India directly, but also via South China. Buddhism has left a long lasting artistic and intellectual legacy in the many temples and pagodas that still survive in virtually every village. All these external influences were absorbed, such that by the 10th –11th centuries, the dominant artistic expressions relied upon Chinese Han traditions.

This absorption can be vividly seen in architecture, both in construction styles, and in intellectual legacy. This is vividly exemplified by the Temple of Literature founded in the 11th century. As the official tour plaque says of this shrine to Confucius, his four disciples and the ten learned ones:

“The Temple of Literature was the biggest centre in the country in feudal times, contributing to the training of thousands of scholars for the nation. It was worthy of being called the First University.”

Plaque, Temple of Literature, Hanoi July 2004.

It should not surprise that this plaque lauds Confucius (551-479 BC — Wade-Giles K’ung-fu-tzu or Pinyin Kongfuzi). Although Confucius is regarded as a reactionary in the current era, his contribution to welding a state in China is not challenged. And above all Ho Chi Minh was a dedicated nationalist, whose first mandate was to recognise important steps in the development of Vietnam into a modern, strong, independent and united nation, bridging the so-called three kys (parts of Vietnam).

The existing legacy that we are aware of from Vietnamese arts rests primarily upon porcelains and ceramics, sculpture, architecture, and folk-art traditions. Of these a large mystical non-realist tradition was dominant, incorporating dragons and mythical beings. But they did nonetheless develop realist themes amidst the myths. So even the depictions of the Buddha show a real human shape and a real human expression [Plate 1]. This version of the Bhudda shows him starving but peaceful in meditation.

Notable in these statues is the covering of the wood, with several layers of lacquer [See below].

Plate 1: Statue of Sakyamuni on A Snow Mountain 1794; Height 137 cm

SakyamuniFrom:
Editor: Cao Trong Thiem, “Bao Tang My Thuat Viet Nam”;
Vietnam Fine Arts Museum; nd; p.43

Given the ordinary peasants’ tendency to reduce all pretensions to an earthy reality, folk art usually took an explicitly realist form. The folk art illustrated life’s vagaries with a number of human motifs, as can be seen in the wood-cut traditions of Dong Ho village in Ha Bac Province [Plate 32]. This tradition was to re-surface with the development of poster art in the national revolutionary period.

Plate 2: Catching Coconuts (paper wood-cut print);
Cao Truong Theim; Ibid; p.51

Catchign Coconuts

Many of these techniques as developed over ancient times, left reservoirs of skills that were to find a new use in an entirely different set of traditions emanating from Western art and from the traditions of Socialist Realism. The ancient arts will not be further discussed here.

We will now focus, on the visual arts over the modern era.

Beginnings of Western Type Painting in Vietnam

Under French colonial domination at the turn of hte 19th – 20th centuries, Indochinese intellectuals were drawn to French and Western art movement. This was fueled by the setting up of hte Indochinese Art Academy by a Frenchman – Victor Tardieu – in 1925.

This fostered new technical skills and vocabulary, shortly to be put to profound uses by thw revolutionary artists in the era 1935-1970.

As the Vietnam Fine Arts Academy says:

“Tardieu rendered great service by laying the foundations for Vietnamese modern Fine Arts.“

Editor: Cao Trong Thiem, “Bao Tang My Thuat Viet Nam”; Vietnam Fine Arts Museum; nd; p.25.

Certainly such a strong Western external art influence was also present in the USSR before the socialist revolution.

It was perhaps somewhat less evident in the Chinese national revolution, or in Albanian art. In China, such influences were transmitted in Shanghai, to artists such as Xu Beihong (1895-1953) who went to the Ecole Nationale Superieur des Beaux Arts in Paris [See Clarke David; Modern Chinese Art’; Hong Kong; 2000; p.18]. And of course Chinese developments in modern art and socialist realism, were spurred on by Lu Xun and his espousal of the wood-cut.

But Western art influence was much more immediately influential in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, the earliest tangible expression of this Western influence realism was by artists such as Le Huy Mien [1873-1943; ‘Making comments on literary work”; 1898] [See Plate 3], and Trang Tran Phenh (‘Phagm Ngu Lao’, 1923).

The former depicts scholars debating merits of literary works, a theme not dissimilar from that of the traditional Chinese inspired Vietnamese artists. But the literature being debated now was slowly becoming more likely to do with modern liberation themes, than of poems on the moon.

Plate 3: Le Huy Mien:
‘Making Comments on a Literary Work’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p, 56

HuyMien

While these pioneers utilised the Western medium of oil paints, they restricted their content to local themes, expressed in the highest form of a bourgeois critical realism. By the 1930’s however, the content as well as style, of many painters had become almost identical to the most conventional of the French Impressionist schools such as Renoir. “Little Thuy” (1943) by Tran Van Can (1910-1994) for instance [p.75] [See plate 4], or “Japanese Young Girl” 1942, by Luong Xuan Nhi (1914-) [Plate 5] are clearly overtly influenced by Impressionism.

And this type of content largely came to predominate.

Plate 4: Tran Can Can
‘Little Thuy’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 74

Tran Van Can

Plate 5: Luong Xuan Nhi:
‘Japanese Young Girl’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 77

Luong Xuan Nhi

Residuals of ancient arts were now more found in the mediums used, rather than the contents or subject matter. But if the artists persisted in using the older materials, this had an effect on the subject choice. So artists attracted to old art forms such as painting on silks, rendered beautiful images of life such as Nguyen Phan Chanh’s [1892-1984] “Going to the Rice Fields” (1937) [See plate 6].

Plate 6: Nguyen Phan Chanh:
‘Going to the Rice Fields’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 58

RiceFields

With the later revolutionary influences, Nguyen Phan Chanh, persisted in this art form, making such vivid depictions of real life as “Team of Rattan Weavers” (1960) [See plate 7] and “A Good Harvest Meal” (1960) [p. 59].

Plate 7: Nguyen Phan Chanh:
‘Going to the Rice Fields’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 58

RattanWeavers

This tradition lasted long into the revolutionary period as the dates show. It also was linked to another tradition, that of wood-cuts which spawned in the revolutionary era, the revolutionary propagandist prints.

Perhaps a specialty of Vietnamese traditional arts was however lacquer painting.
As noted above, statuary and sculpture was often coated in a several layers of lacquer. This is a resin extracted from cuts on the bark of a common Vietnamese tree called ca y son (La: Rhus succedanea), which has is collected in total darkness lest it becomes itself dark (Catherine Noppe & Jean Francois Hubert ‘Art of Vietnam’; New York; 2003). When applied by the artist, it gives a special luster to the painted material – usually a wood – that acts as a vivid light. This light can be burnished with various pigments, into several different colours according to the pigment used, but the most common are golds, reds and greens. Each layer needs sanding down, before a new layer can be added, meaning considerable labour. The quality of lacquer derives from the number of coats, the manner in which the patterns can shine out and the expertise of sanding of the surface, which allows under layers to appear as a bas- relief.
An early exponent of the fusion of traditional form with more modern content was Nguyen Gia Tria (1908-1993).

His screen “In the Garden”, consists of 8 panels that show on one side a profusion of stylised banana and palm leaves. The obverse, consistent with the genre of French painting influences discussed, has a series of pretty, languid women redolent of Impressionist male fantasies. It is undoubtedly striking, but remains a purely decorative piece. Perhaps his ‘Clumps of bamboo in the countryside (1939) shows him at both his technical and content best, showing the florid jungle surrounding peasant on a boat passage [Plate 8].

Plate 8: Nguyen Gia Tria:
‘Clumps of Bamboo in the Countryside’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 86

Nguyen Gia Tri

That Nguyen Gia Tria wished to be linked to a more nationalist stream is evident since he professed that he:

“wished to drop his art studies as he felt all his teachers should be Viertnamese. Tardiese persuaded him to stay”;
Noppe & Hubert Ibid; p. 208.

Artistic Currents during the anti-imperialist struggles

It was onto this background, that the experiences of the anti-colonial liberation struggle led a new generation of artists into uncharted areas. Influenced by a stream of aesthetic thought from bourgeois liberalism through to socialist realism, they were largely solidly realist. Many of the artists of the Fine Arts Academy decamped, and taught at “Jungle Schools”:

“The first wave of national opposition against the French rule between 1946 and 1954 attracted a good number of Hanoi Fine Arts graduates who went and taught at the “Jungle School” in Viet Bac. . A natural consequence of the shutdown in the wake of the Japanese crackdown on March 31 1954. Out in the jungle you could still sense the war, but you also felt the power of nature and the cultural wealth of ethnic minorities.”
Noppe & Hubert Ibid; p.212-3

Impressively stirring content was drawn from the Indochinese liberation struggles, and often was grafted onto traditional forms, primarily of lacquer.
The results are far from simple propagandist art.

Marxist-Leninist aesthetics point out that realist content material, is the most effective art to stir the masses.

Too little attention has been paid to the differences between good realist art, and simple propaganda. Marxist-Leninists have long held that the best art both moves people, but is not ‘tendentious’, in the words of Engels. Alliance has empasised the distinction between “propagandist art”, “state sponsored art”, and the best of socialist art (Memorial to Bill Bland – see Table of Contents Alliance 53).

Much of the best of the art stemming from the Vietnamese national liberation struggle is by any standard, a high art.

Clearly tensions of style remained, and a degree of abstractionism was not uncommon, with some abstract paintings throughout the revolutionary era.
But there is little doubt that the predominant weight of paintings over the period from 1945 to the 1980’s, was realist in content.

Naturally the turns of the long war led to their own effects on the artistic climate. Hence the victory of the national liberation struggle at Dien Ben Phu decisively turned mere pastiches of French impressionists into an expression of un-welcome and hostile anti-patriotism.

Sections of the intelligentsia and artists were unwilling to contemplate any further struggle, and any possible move into socialism; and became disillusioned.
As a hostile art history by Noppe and Hubert puts it, the battle of Dien Bien Phu marked a turning point:. It was here that the Vietnamese decisively defeated French imperialism, led by General Giap and Ho Chi Minh. Some artists chose Western abstractionism at this stage:

“Yet if artists (in the Jungle Academy –ed) were first and foremost observers, they were also fighters in an unequal struggle. Within a handful of years patriotic fervour gave way to disenchantment. Bui Xuan Phai was among the first who went back to the city in 1952”.
Noppe & Hubert; Ibid; p. 212.

“A radical change of situation came with the crushing defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954… From then on socialist realism became an imperative.. painters who had joined independent fighters from 1946 and depicted courageous and unpretentious freedom fighters enjoyed the full support of the rural population, suddenly found them gagged by socialist realism only a decade later. Such as Bui Xuan Phoi, Duong Bich Lien, Nguyen Sang, and Nguyen Tu Nghien”.
Noppe & Hubert Ibid; p. 113.

It is not surprising that an Art Forum was established that expressed the aspirations of national liberation, and expected its’ artists to assist in this expression.

It is equally un-surprising that the overt failure of the revolution to move to the socialist path, or the second stage of the Leninist revolution, would lead to the firm and ever stronger enthronement of capital. This was established openly by the so-called Doi-Moi reforms (See Alliance 27: On Ho Chi Minh and Vietnamese Revisionism – at http://ml-review.ca/aml/China/ALLIANCE27HOCHIMINH.htm).

These developments led to a resurgence of abstractionism and vague, moody Vietnamese beautiful ladies in art:

“The Art forum set up headed by Thai Ba Van set the baseline for modern art.. and helped stifle artistic expression, although doi-moi reforms introduced a certain amount of leeway of 1985… All Vietnamese artists felt the burden of censorship”.
Noppe & Hubert; Ibid; p. 219.

Examples of Works in the National Liberation Struggle

To see the currents at play, we should examine the paintings over this period.

In the make-over of traditional forms, some of the lacquer work is very striking. See for example “Recalling One Afternoon in Tay Bac” 1922, by Phan Ke An (b 1923). [Plate 9] see p.103.

Beautiful sun burnished green mountains form a background to a small troop of soldiers crossing a ridge. Here both content and form are perfectly matched. The ‘everyday’ aspect of a troop of soldiers is part of the scenery.

Plate 9: Phan Ke An:
‘Recalling One Fine afternoon in Tay Bac’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 103

PhanKeAn

In “Ham Rong Bridge”(1976) by Tran Oanh (b.1937) [Plate 10], workers are shown against an impressive background of the river in brilliant reds and golds.

Plate 10: Tranh Oanh
‘Ham Rong Bridge’;
Unpublished Source.

TranOanh

There is little doubt that the use of such heavy reds in this late painting, is an allegory for socialism. This use of the red and gold lacquer is made even more explicit in such paintings as the large and impressive 4 panels of the “The Nghe Tinh Soviet” of 1958 by six painters led by Nguyen Duc Nung [Plate 11].

Plate 11: Nguyen Dic Nung, Tran Dinh Tho, Pham Van Don, Nguyen Van Ty, Huynh Van Thuan, Nguyen Sy Ngoc:
“Soviet in the Provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh”
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p.109

NgheAnSoviet

Even some of the abstractionist elements during this period, are sometimes very powerful. Such as for example “From Darkness (1982) by Le Quoc Loc (1918-1987) [Plate 12] (p.102). Surrounding blocks of black and gold shapes of lacquer, depict houses in the night. In one off-centre house, placed high on the wood surface, a gold and red light brightly lights a central room. The red light is the hammer and sickle on one flag, with a second flag composed of a gold five-pointed star on a red background. In front of them are black silhouettes of men and women workers saluting the flag.

Plate 12: Le Quoc Loc
“From Darkness” ;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p.109

LeQuocLoc

Another impressive lacquer painting, that takes as its content material honest working labour, is that by Nguyen Khang (1912-1988) of fishermen, entailed “Fishing in the Moonlight” (1943). (Plate 13). This has a dense black background, against which the somber, hard working fishermen drift in sampans above a sea of multi-coloured fish. Accentuating the three dimensional effect, two fisherwomen standing in the shallows have their arms half visible above and half below the surface of the water. This is especially interesting, in that traditional lacquer and Chinese derived paintings, usually deny any perspective.

Plate 13:
Nguyen Khang; “Fishing in the Moonlight”;
Cao Trong Thiem; Ibid; p. 60

NguyenKhang

This type of artistic tradition continued well into the 1980’s. Nguyen Khang (1912-1989), who we met above, in 1960 did the 3 panel painting “Troops Marching Across a Stream”, in the same impressive lacquer tradition as he had used in 1943 [Plate 14]. At an initial look, all one sees is a dense jungle with groves of bamboo and green profusions. Then one sees that the jungle truly is alive, that the Viet Cong are moving silently across it and fording a stream.

Plate 14: Nguyen Khang; “Troops Marching Across a Stream”;
Unpublished Source

NguyenKhang2

It should not be thought that the materials were confined to lacquer. Oil was also very commonly used. For instance, depicting the road that Vietnam had come through, Huynh Van Gah (1922-1987) showed a harrowing line of Vietnamese refugee prisoners who are being foot-marched by French colonial guards [Plate 15].

Plate 15: Hyunh Van Gah
‘Prisoners’;
Unpublished Source

VanGah

In contrast Nguyen Trong Kiem (1930-1991) composed a haunting allegory of the future – “When a Child was Born” (1960); [Plate 16]. This large painting depicts a newborn child in the arms of its mother, with an army father standing close. All around are the people, evidently poor, against a background of a bombed out city. The meaning is clear, that the new state will provide a new society.

Plate 16: Nguyen Trong Kiem
‘When a Child Was Born’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 133

Kiem

While all these examples of art vary in their degree of “tendentiousness”, little that we have illustrated can be really termed hagiographic. That is not to say that there are a considerable number of images of Ho Chi Minh. Many of these are of Ho in ordinary activities, or in the guerrilla camps, of “Uncle Ho on a Mission in Viet Bac” by Duong Bich Lien (1980) [Plate 17].

Plate 17: Duong Bich Lien;
‘Uncle Ho On a Mission in Viet Bac’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 124

DuongBichLien

While these images certainly exist, the predominant feel obtained from the paintings exhibited in the Vietnam Museum of Arts is of a far broader and higher art activity than can be classified as ‘propaganda’ art or hagiographic art. Rather impressive technical and visually appealing pictures of real and ordinary people are far more predominant.

War Themes

Not even a simple overview as this, of the artistic legacy of modern Vietnam should ignore the war themes. These are in such abundance, that for instance at the War Museum Hanoi, many are not even given the honour of a label illustrating the title or the artist. A selection of these can be found relatively easily, in a publication from the British Musuem of late war drawings, in “Vietnam – Behind the Lines – Images from the War 1965-1975”; Jessica Harrison-Hall; London 2002.

This article will not discuss poster art in any detail. But an interesting historical comparison of the wood cut in Plate 3, shows again how the modern Vietnamese artist harked back to her/his heritage at a number of points. The wood cuts continue the famous Da Hong village traditions. They both depict episodes from earlier wars of national liberation, in particular those against the Chinese Han dynasty who occupied Vietnam for many years.

Plate 17: Pham Van Don; Plate 18: Hoang Tram; ‘Three Generations’; Cao Trong Thiem Ibid p.121;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p.98

PhamVanDonHoangTram

The sheer plethora of art produced regarding the war cannot be quickly précised in a short article, and these examples from the War Museum should suffice. But three pictures from the Fine Arts Museum are worth showing with a little discussion also. So these again revert to the fine arts tradition of using lacquer, and again do so in an ingenious manner.

Le Tri Duong (1949) painted “Breaking Through a Key Point” showing a tank with its barrel aiming at the skies, bursting through a blockade onto a red road, being hailed by 4 guerillas – three women and a man. The red lacquered road and the gold lacquered background are again symbolic. [Plate 19].

Plate 19:
Le Tri Duong; “Breaking Through a Key Point
Cao Trong Thiem; p.170.

LeTriDung

Hyunh Van Gah, who we met above, in “Heat and Gun” shows an impressive confrontation between a phalanx of black-pajama-ed women and one old man and a US marine.

Plate 20: Hyunh Van Gah; “Heart & Gun”:

Cao Trong Thiem Ibid p.123;

HuynhVanGam

In ‘Fire Coordination’, (1974) Le Huy Toan (born 1930) painted in 1974, shows a bleak and frightening landscape composed of bomb craters and shrapnel cascades into the sky, while a single young girl confronts a series of tanks approaching her.

Plate 21:
Le Huy Toan; “Fire Coordination’; Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p.136

NguyenHuyToan

Aftermath of Doi Moi – Faceless Women and Western Reproductions

While the national liberation struggle was victorious, it was never moved beyond that to the socialist phase. The “Chinese” wall identified by Lenin between the two revolutions – firstly the national democratic liberation, and secondly the socialist revolution – was never breached in Vietnam. That Ho Chi Minh was an inspiring and great leader of the Vietnamese peoples, is beyond doubt. However his legacy is largely that of a great national liberation ideologist.

After Ho Chi Minh’s death, and the final liberation of the South of Vietnam, the state erected in Vietnam was controlled by the Vietnamese national bourgeoisie. However within a relatively short space of time, the state was once more marked by an enormous influx of foreign capital. The policy of “Doi Moi” made this quite official. That this influx of foreign capital, was both unlimited, and not without burdens on the Vietnamese people is evident. Unsurprisingly USA capital is not very high on the score sheet, being much lower than Singaporean, Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese capital. Irrespective of which capital inflow is dominant, the net result has been the open and unequivocal development of capitalism in an acknowledged “open market” economy. The result on art has been frankly paralleled. Pictures of languid Vietnamese women, often faceless and often dressed (if not un-dressed) in the now ‘traditional’ white —, abound. Interestingly the market place is full of the heirs of the technically proficient artists of the earlier period. They are now largely reduced to selling the most elaborate reproductions of any Western artist that takes your fancy. From Dali to Picasso to Renoir to Van Goh – all are perfectly reproduced in oils and available at a fraction of what it might cost in the West, were it possible to get such.

Conclusions

Naturally, there are far more pressing concerns for the Vietnamese peoples than their art history.

Many still live in an astounding poverty.

Despite national liberation, life is hard for the Vietnamese peasants, numbering still about 75% of the population. Official figures for unemployment are around 7-10%. Degrees of disparity between rich and poor are growing rapidly, as even officials of the World Bank have recognised, citing growing ginni coefficients for Vietnam.

Vietnam’s art history however, is another affirmation of the Marxist aesthetic viewpoint, that art reflects the society in which it develops. We believe it also shows that the socialist realist tradition – as it was embraced by the Vietnamese liberation artists – is much deeper than simple hagiography. At its’ best, and why should an artist not strive for her or his best? – it is an affirmation of life, and a philosophic reflection upon all of life.

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).

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Source

Utsa Patnaik: On Measuring “Famine” Deaths: Different Criteria for Socialism and Capitalism?

1876_1877_1878_1879_Famine_Genocide_in_India_Madras_under_British_colonial_rule_2

By Utsa Patnaik

Many developing countries which have a high proportion of poor in their population, are typically characterised by a high death rate as well as a high birth rate, with the birth rate exceeding the death rate. The rate of natural increase is given by the difference between the birth rate and the death rate. The actual increase of population is obtained by subtracting from this the net out-migration from the country, if any. In the course of development as health services reach a larger segment of the population, education levels improve and per head real incomes rise, it is expected that not only will the death rate come down but so will the birth rate. The aim is to obtain an even faster decline in the birth rate than in the death rate, if the rate of natural increase is to come down from initial high levels. China however although starting from a worse situation had lowered both the death rate and the birth rate much faster. 

In a class-divided society, average figures do not give a true picture of how bad the situation is for the most deprived, who owing to endemic lack of adequate nourishment are also more vulnerable to sickness or morbidity. We know that endemic poverty, under-nutrition and lack of access to affordable medical services get reflected in a much higher death rate than the average, for the poor segment of the population. By the same logic, a given decline in the average death rate over time in the overall population, while in itself desirable, may well be very unequally distributed, with a very large decline in the already lower- than- average death rate among the top income groups in urban areas as their access to health services improves further, and a very small or non-existent decline in death rate say among the poorest in rural areas with initial high levels of deaths. A decline in the average death rate may be quite compatible even with a rise in the death rate for some segments of the population. 

The difference between endemic high death rate among the (mainly rural ) poor , and what is identified by most academics as ” famine deaths”, seems to be the fact that the first involves the poor dying at a rate higher than the average for the population, but slowly, unobtrusively and over a longer period of time owing to being chronically under-nourished and therefore being subject to higher morbidity; this higher than average death rate being considered nothing ‘out of the way’ given the existing distribution of incomes. 

The second, which is considered not normal or usual and is termed “famine deaths”, involves a sudden rise in nutrition-deprivation and hence sudden rise in morbidity and death rate, usually among segments of the very same group which is poor as a ‘normal’ state of affairs. In short, a sudden upward deviation from the prevalent death rate is thought of as “famine death”. The cause of a sudden and unpredicted rise may be various – a sudden decline in output, or a sudden rise in the price of the basic food staple. The second cause is not necessarily predicated on the first; a sudden rise in food price may take place , not because output is less than usual, but because government follows policies of suddenly increased expenditures, which rapidly expand incomes in the hands of one segment of the population and hence their demand for food, while leaving untouched the purchasing power of another segment of the population, as happened during the 1943 Bengal famine when deficit-financed defence -related expenditures were suddenly raised. 

While China has performed much better than India, it is widely believed that China had a more severe famine than India ever had, during the “Great Leap” period in which millions died; the figure of 27 to 30 million famine deaths is frequently quoted. The main source of this figure in India is Amartya Sen’s writings and speeches which are more widely known and reported than are the basic sources, the work of Western scholars, which he uses. The argument made by him is that the absence of press freedom in China explains the fact that the world did not have any inkling that such a massive famine had taken place at the time. Similarly, Peter Nolan and others have argued that a massive famine took place during the collectivisation drive in the Soviet Union in the thirties. 

In general, the thrust of the argument is that collectivisation produces famine and the absence of a ‘free’ press as in capitalist countries, prevents anyone outside these countries knowing about it until much later- when Western liberal scholars painstakingly uncover the facts through their research. Since collective ownership and production is the very essence of socialist production relations, this appears to constitute a damning indictment of socialism. The picture is complicated by the fact that in China itself, some of those, earlier termed the ‘capitalist roaders , who were always opposed to egalitarian principles of distribution and wanted to dismantle the rural communes (which were indeed dismantled from 1980 onwards), seized upon the alleged massive “famine ” as one argument for an ex post justification for doing so, regardless of the fact that they themselves despite their active involvement in political life were apparently quite ignorant at that time that such a massive famine with 27 to 30 million deaths, had taken place in their own country. 

It would be instructive to look at how exactly this estimate of massive “famine deaths ” has been arrived at by the ever busy Western liberal scholars, which estimates have then been assiduously spread by them and by others to discredit socialism and praise the bourgeois press (thereby, incidentally, ensuring a very good press for themselves). 

In China in 1959-61 there was indeed a large shortfall in agricultural output, as much as 15 percent from normal in 1959 and 25 percent from normal in the next two years and this decline did in fact coincide with the “Great Leap” when the transition from advanced co-operatives to the peoples’ communes took place. At that time a number of reasons including drought in parts of the country, floods in others and attacks of pests were put forward for the output fall. No-one, including the foreign diplomatic corps stationed there, or the ideological critics of collectivisation within the Party, at that time suggested there was massive famine. In India too the sixties were difficult years and output shortfall owing to drought in 1964-5 was severe, although less so than in China and was combined with rapid inflation which eroded real wages and raised poverty levels to nearly 60 percent according to the available World Bank estimates. 

To associate China’s economic difficulties with communes formation would be rather like associating Indonesia’s 1997-8 economic crisis and collapse with the widespread forest fires which took place at that time. In short empirical coincidence is not a causal explanation. The same commune system ensured a massive rise in employment, in food security and health security for the rural population in the next two decades. It was not communes which created economic difficulties; rather, it can be argued that without the newly-formed commune’s egalitarian distribution, the exogenous output decline might have had a far more severe impact in and made recovery much slower than it was in fact. 

When we look at the estimates of death rate and birth rate for China made by US scholars during the years 1959 to 1961, we find that the death rate rose sharply in a single year, 1960, by as much as 10.8 per thousand compared to 1959. But because China in the single preceding decade of building socialism, had reduced its death rate at a much faster rate (from 29 to 12 comparing 1949 and 1958) than India had, this sharp rise to 25. 4 in 1960 in China still meant that this “famine” death rate was virtually the same as the prevalent death rate in India which was 24.6 per thousand in 1960, only 0.8 lower. This latter rate being considered quite “normal” for India, has not attracted the slightest criticism. Further, in both the preceding and the suceeding year India’s crude death rate was 8 to 10 per thousand higher than in China. Of course, each economy has to be judged in relation to its own internal performance; and no doubt the rise in the death rate during the worst years of output shortfall is a bad blot for China on its otherwise very impressive record of rapid decline and good food security. But is it correct to say that “famine deaths” totalled as much as 30 million; and is it correct to imply that absence of press freedom meant that China’s then leaders, despite knowing about such massive deaths, were so cynical and depraved that they could mislead the world successfully? 

In a recent article, published in a Bengali-language journal, Badruddin Umar has provided a powerful explicit critique of the widely accepted argument put forward by Sen on large famine deaths (and hence also a critique of others like Nolan). Umar argues that it is inconceivable that such a large number of “famine deaths” should have been wilfully suppressed by a state in China which had demonstrated its commitment to peoples’ welfare by undertaking measures to reach basic food security and health services to the poor, and which had achieved a much faster reduction in infant mortality and the death rate in the very first decade of independence than had India. We propose here to try to provide an explanation which includes a more realistic estimate of mortality, and also of why no-one including the Westerners in China, even noticed that mortality was higher during these years. 

Most people will accept that in order to qualify to “die” in a famine, and become a famine-death victim, it is necessary to be born in the first place. But about 18million of the estimated 30 million “dead’ in China’s famine, were not born at all ! Most of those non-experts, journalists and others who accept and propagate the ‘massive famine deaths’ in China argument put forward by the academic sophists, do not themselves realise that people who were never born at all, and indeed never conceived at all, are being included to arrive at the 27 to 30 million estimate of “famine deaths” in China. The measurement techniques are designed to mislead, to talk about the “death” of people who were never born. How is this absurd procedure possible? It has come about because not only the rise in the death rate, but also the accompanying sharp fall in the birth rate is being taken into account when estimating “famine deaths”. The birth rate in China declined and fell to a low of 18 per thousand in 1961 compared to 29.2 in 1958. (After 1961 it rose faster than it had fallen, to reach a peak of 46 by 1964). 

The rise in the death rate during 1959-61 compared to the bench-mark year 1958 implies that there was indeed a total excess mortality of 10.5 million persons over the three-year period 1959-61 in China, excess in the sense that if the death rate had remained the same, then the population would have been larger by that many more people. This is the correct estimate of excess deaths, but this order of “famine deaths” is not quite spectacular enough for the liberal scholars. Therefore, the decline in the birth rate which was very steep during these three years, is taken into account and the children who would have been born if the decline in birth rate had not taken place, are added on by them to the estimate, to arrive at a three times higher estimate which is then called the “missing millions” and identified with “famine deaths”. The fact that at least 18 million of the alleged famine victims were never conceived or born, is a minor point for those who want to talk tendentiously about massive “famine deaths” totalling 30 million in China and thereby discredit collectivisation. 

That periods of food shortage do lead to decline in fertility is a fairly well established proposition. Periods of mass mobilisation of males, for military service for example, also get reflected in a decline in the birth rate. There was no military conscription at this date in peacetime China, but there was massive mobilisation of both male and female workers for a stupendous construction effort during this period of early commune formation. The established peasant family living and work patterns were radically re-organised with the formation of the communes: 

* large bands of and men and women set out in teams and brigades for constructing water management systems, cleaning up the environment and eradicating disease-carrying organisms, afforesting hills, terracing and bunding and so on. 

* They spent weeks on the work-sites, and there were communal kitchens and creches to look after children in these years. It is not surprising if this disruption of normal family life in the interests of construction, also contributed greatly to the observed decline in the birth rate as birth decisions were postponed. 

* With stabilisation of the new system, dismantling of communal kitchens and reversion to family life the birth rate again surged to unprecedented heights, peaking at 37.9 in 1964. 

As regards the genuine excess mortality during China’s difficult years, while shortage and difficulties were very real and visible, famine was near invisible to all including the Westerners at that time in China, because China by then was an egalitarian society, not a class society. The undoubtedly severe food shortage was not concentrated in a sharp drop in consumption by the members of a particular deprived class like poor peasants who then died in the sight of all , while others had more than enough to eat, as typically happens with famine in class societies. Food shortage while it was severe, was spread out over the rural consuming population much more evenly and therefore must have led mostly to higher rates, but not immediately or obviously visible higher rates of mortality in the particularly vulnerable segments in an otherwise equal society – parturient mothers, infants and the very old. It is a mistake to think that all real trends are visible to the individuals at the time. 

Thus even though we ourselves in this country have lived through the period when the infant mortality has fallen greatly, it is a matter we are convinced of not from our direct experience of it, but after the numbers have been counted and presented to us. China’s leaders were not guilty of wilful suppression of knowledge of the higher mortality; the knowledge itself was built up much later than the events, and the correct estimate as we have seen is just over one-third of the wrong and sensationalised estimates which are still being circulated. 

On a visit to China in the eighties, at the time the inflated “famine deaths” were being talked about in the West, this author mentioned these estimates and asked some very senior Chinese economists about their own experience of this period. They were extremely surprised and said that while there were cases of more deficiency diseases than usual they were not aware of widespread famine deaths. 

It should be noted that those sophists who designed the above mentioned unique measure of “famine deaths” are very reluctant to apply it to non-socialist countries and have never done so. Their method if impartially and honestly applied would produce more than one episode of large “famine deaths” – on their own definition – in the West European countries, which saw not only a rise in civilian mortality but also a decline in the birth rate during the time of wartime shortages. Even the accurate definition in terms of rise in the death rate, is never applied by them to talk about famine in countries which are not socialist. 

Thus in Russia comparing 1994 with 1990 from the data given by an US academic, we find that the death rate rose from 48.8 to 84.1 per thousand able-bodied persons, as that country plunged into “shock therapy” to usher in a capitalist paradise, and succeeded in halving its national income. No one can say that the press is under censorship in Russia today or that the estimates are not known. But not one of those eminent economists who have deafened us with their estimates of “famine deaths ” during Soviet or Chinese collectivisation, have bothered to apply the same method to current Russian or East European data, nor will they ever do so; for their interest lies not in objectivity, but in a sophisticated vilification of socialism. 

(Courtesy: People’s Democracy, September 26, 1999)

Source

Guevaraism: the Theory of the Guerrilla Elite

che-pistol-big

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

By Cmde MS on behalf of MLOB.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN Red Vanguard Volume 1, 1968

THE THEORY OF THE GUERRILLA ELITE
Table of Contents

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Ibid.-p.19)

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

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

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

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

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

BOURGEOIS OUTLOOK AND SPONTANEITY

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

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

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

(p.23)

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

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

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

(p.20-21).

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

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

(p.59).

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

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

(p.82)

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

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

(p.53).

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

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

(p.126).

CLASS ANALYSIS IN SOUTH AMERICA: THE “THIRD” WAY

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

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

(p.21)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And

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

(p.111).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(p.68)

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

(p.69)

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

Also, in magical vein, we are told that:

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

(p.110).

Would that this were so!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE ROLE OF THE INDIVIDUAL – THE MAXIMUM LEADER – FIDELISM

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

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

(p.67).

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

(p.101).

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

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

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

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

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

(p.96)

It is because of:

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

(p.119)

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

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

(p.89)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(p. 88-89).

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

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

(p. 101)

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

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

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

THE “FOCO” AS SUBSTITUTE FOR THE PROLETARIAN PARTY

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

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

Thus:

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

(p.105)

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

(p.115).

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

(p.105).

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

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

(p.114).

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

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

(p.65)

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

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

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

(p.105)

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

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

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

PEOPLE’S WAR WITHOUT THE PEOPLE

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

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

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

He notes that:

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

(p.47).

But:

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

(p.50)

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

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

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

(p.51)

And another “unique” point:

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

(p.66)

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

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

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

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

(p.46)

and:

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

(p.110)

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

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

(p.64)

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

(p.31)

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

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

(p.41).

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

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

(p.43)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(p.70).

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

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

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

“LEFT” AND RIGHT IN LATIN AMERICA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

believing that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Ibid.; p.18)

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

Such is the face of right revisionism in Latin America.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ASSESSMENT OF THE CUBAN REVOLUTION

The Cuban Revolution represented a phenomenon with two contradictory sides.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus arose the third of Castro’s dilemmas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Castro, who was later to announce demagogically:

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

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

Then begins Castro’s remarkable history –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both deny the revolutionary historical mission of the proletariat;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Cmde M.S. For the MLOB;

Dated 1968

Source

Enver Hoxha: The Fist of the Marxist-Leninist Communists Must Also Smash Left Adventurism, the Offspring of Modern Revisionism

enver_hoxha_1974_oil-painting

From a conversation with two leaders of the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) of Ecuador
October 21, 1968

We are very glad to meet you comrades from Ecuador. Of course, we would like to have more frequent and longer talks with you, because the struggle of the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) of Ecuador, as well as the Marxist-Leninist parties of Latin America, has great importance for the revolution. We consider your struggle as a great assistance to the world revolution and to our Party which always feels the need to learn and profit from the experience of fraternal parties.

Marxism-Leninism, our universal doctrine, applied in the conditions of every country, is enriched with the new experience of all revolutionary parties. The experience of each Marxist-Leninist party gained in the course of its work and struggle against the common enemies, imperialism and revisionism, helps the other parties at the same time. Without this experience we would be limping along.

You comrades, with your revolutionary activity and struggle on the continent of Latin America, with a large population and with wonderful ardent people, are in permanent insurrection, in revolution, in the full meaning of the term. At the head of the people of this continent today there are fraternal Marxist-Leninist parties. Their realistic Marxist-Leninist understanding of the situation of your continent fills the true Marxist-Leninist parties of Europe, Asia and Africa with boundless enthusiasm and inspiration and helps all of us to carry the revolutionary actions of every country through the end on a national, continental or international scale against our common enemies: the imperialists, with the U.S. Imperialists at the head, the modern revisionists, with the Soviet revisionists at the head, and reactionaries of every hue.

The Party of Labour of Albania, the Albanian communists feel very greatly the need for contacts in order to exchange experience with all the fraternal parties, because close co-operations strengthens us reciprocally. Although we are very far apart geographically, in our minds and our hearts we are very close to each other, and the “distance” factor does not constitute an insurmountable difficulty today.

As you may have seen for yourselves during our visits, many changes have been made in our country since the triumph of the revolution. This is due to the correct Marxist-Leninist line of the party and the revolutionary spirit of our people. In order to form a more precise idea of Albania’s state in the past, as the Marxist-Leninists you are, you must compare it with one of the most poverty-stricken, most backward and oppressed regions of present-day Ecuador. Just like your country today, before Liberation Albania suffered greatly under savage feudal oppression. We had no schools. The people were in want of food, clothing, and every vital necessity. Most of the plains you have seen were swamps and marshes before Liberation. Malaria, tuberculosis and many other diseases took a heavy toll of the population, especially of children. But as a result of the peoples’ revolution which our party led, transformations have been carried out on such a vast scale and so rapidly that without boasting we can describe them as colossal by our Albanian standards.

However, as Marxists, taking a realistic view of the situation, we are fully aware that, along with the very great successes that have been achieved, we also have weaknesses and a great deal more remains to be done in the future, in the first place, to raise the level of the working masses still higher, especially their political and ideological level, as well as their economic level; we must work hard to make our country even stronger militarily, to raise the educational and cultural level of our people still higher, and all this only on the revolutionary Marxist-Leninist road.

Our Party is working in these directions. We can say that now we have created a sounder, more powerful base, but the main thing is that everything we have done, everything we have created, we have achieved in unrelenting struggle against the difficulties of growth, encircled by rapid enemies, in such conditions the independence, freedom and sovereignty of our Homeland and socialism were in danger at every moment. We have created these things through struggle to defend and strengthen the Marxist-Leninist unity of the Party and the people, which is a special target for enemy attacks. We have worked ceaselessly to temper this unity. Our strength lies in the ever greater steeling of the party-people unity. This is of vital importance, because the dangers of intervention by means of armed force and every other possible means against our country have been and remain great and unrelenting, both from the imperialists and from the Titoite renegades and the Soviet revisionist militarists who, as the occupation of Czechoslovakia showed, excuse any action of theirs with the interest they allegedly have in the consolidation of “fraternal” states.

In the present revolutionary situations, the Marxist-Leninist parties throughout the world must fight continuously to strengthen their ranks and their Marxist-Leninist unity, to link themselves closely with the masses of people and with one another, because the communist and workers’ movement throughout the world is one of the fundamental factors frustrating the plans concocted against the people by both the Soviet revisionists and the U.S. imperialists, who from day to day are strengthening their fascist dictatorships in order to dominate the world. These Marxist-Leninist parties must increase their vigilance, too.

At all times, but especially in the situations we are living through, our country consistently has enhanced and will enhance its unity and vigilance. To this end, as always, we have taken ideological, political, economic and military measures. All our people are armed in the full meaning of the word. Every Albanian city-dweller or villager, has his weapon at home. Our army itself, the army of a soldier people, is ready at any moment to strike at any enemy or coalition of enemies. The youth, too, have risen to their feet. Combat readiness does not in any way interfere with our work of socialist construction. On the contrary, it has given a greater boost to the development of the economy and culture in our country.

At these moments the Soviet and Yugoslav revisionists, the Greek and Italian fascists know full well that if they dare embark on any adventure against Albania, they will never succeed, but will be dealt mortal blows instead. This we have made clear to everybody at all times. Thus, in general, the situation in our country is sound, secure and with brilliant prospects. However, we must not rest on our laurels on this account, but must work more and more every day.

It is clear to all that a militarist fascist dictatorship exists in the Soviet Union today. But, as is known, where there is oppression there is also movement, therefore, both in the Soviet Union and in the satellite countries, there is revolutionary movement that is steadily mounting. Great pressure is being exerted on the Soviet Union today by imperialism, too. On the one hand, imperialism aims to defeat it as a rival imperialist power, and on the other hand to prevent the emergence of revolutionary movements at all costs, or to put them down immediately if they do emerge, not only in the Soviet Union but also in its satellite countries.

For its part, the Soviet Union is trying to attain two objectives: first, to crush any revolutionary movement which might arise, and second, unable as it is to defeat the United States as a rival imperialist power, it is striving to retain its positions and to ensure that together with U.S. imperialism each of them will rule in the areas which fall within its sphere of influence.

We are very glad to learn that the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) of Ecuador is making progress. The comrades whom you have met immediately informed me about the talks you held and the experience you exchanged. We hold special meetings to keep the Political Bureau of the C.C. continually informed about the very useful and fruitful exchanges between our Party and other fraternal parties. We are very happy that your Party is ceaselessly tempering itself and advancing on the Marxist-Leninist road. Likewise, we are in complete agreement with the views of your Party and are convinced that the road you are following is the right one. There is no doubt that you know better than anybody else the problems that concern you and the most correct way to solve them, always basing yourselves on our ideology, Marxism-Leninism.

Only your Party is in a position to work out your tactics properly, based, of course, on the Marxist-Leninist strategy, because, as the heart of the proletariat and people of Ecuador, it knows better than anyone else the situation in the country and the legitimate aspirations of your people. For this reason, as long as your Party has a correct strategy based on Marxist-Leninist theory and the real practice of the country, the tactics it works out will be correct and revolutionary, too. During our National Liberation War we, too, employed varied tactics, just as you are doing.

Our parties should try to learn and profit from one another. But every party must bear in mind that some things from the experience of other parties are suitable only in the conditions of their respective countries, and many of them may not be suitable in the conditions of other countries. They must elaborate and adopt the experience of other parties when they find they need it and it suits their concrete conditions, otherwise they fall into stereotypism. As for our experience, we cannot tell you whether or not many of our tactics are appropriate for you. It is up to you to study it and choose what you want from it, but we think that you should bear in mind that Marxism-Leninism, the general laws of the proletarian revolution provide the compass which prevents us from erring on this question. Only these laws guard a genuine Marxist-Leninist party against mistakes.

We are clear about these laws and try to acquaint ourselves with them more and more each day, and that is why we have never slid into revisionism, or into Trotskyism, left adventurism, or other anti-Marxist trends.

With these theories, with the dangers and damage they cause, you are better acquainted than we. For instance, Che Guevara was killed. Such a thing is liable to happen, because a revolutionary may get killed. Che Guevara, however, was a victim of his own non-Marxist-Leninist views.

Who was Che Guevara? When we speak of Che Guevara, we also mean somebody else who poses as a Marxist, in comparison to whom, in our opinion, Che Guevara was a man of fewer words. He was a rebel, a revolutionary, but not a Marxist-Leninist as they try to present him. I may be mistaken—you Latin-Americans are better acquainted with Che Guevara, but I think that he was a leftist fighter. His is a bourgeois and petty-bourgeois leftism, combined with some ideas that were progressive, but also anarchist which, in the final analysis, lead to adventurism.

The views of Che Guevara and anyone else who poses as a Marxist and claims “paternity” of these ideas have never been or had anything to do with Marxism-Leninism. Che Guevara also had some “exclairicies” in his adoption of certain Marxist-Leninist principles, but they still did not become a full philosophical world-outlook which could impel him to genuinely revolutionary actions.

We cannot say that Che Guevara and his comrades were cowards. No, by no means! On the contrary, they were brave people. There are also bourgeois who are brave men. But the only truly great heroes and really brave proletarian revolutionaries are those who proceed from the Marxist-Leninist philosophical principles and put all their physical and mental energies at the service of the world proletariat for the liberation of the peoples from the yolk of the imperialists, feudal lords and others.

We have defended the Cuban revolution because it was against US imperialism. As Marxist-Leninists let us study it a bit and the ideas which guided it in this struggle. The Cuban revolution did not begin on the basis of Marxism-Leninism and was not carried out on the basis of the laws of the proletarian revolution of a Marxist-Leninist party. After the liberation of the country, Castro did not set out on the Marxist-Leninist course, either, but on the contrary, continued on the course of his liberal ideas. It is a fact, which nobody can deny, that the participants in this revolution took up arms and went to the mountains, but it is an undeniable fact also that they did not fight as Marxist-Leninists. They were liberation fighters against the Battista clique and triumphed over it precisely because that clique was a weak link of capitalism. Battista was an obedient flunky of imperialism, who rode roughshod over the Cuban people. The Cuban people, however, fought and triumphed over this clique and over American imperialism at the same time…

In our opinion, the theory that the revolution is carried out by a few “heroes” constitutes a danger to Marxism-Leninism, especially in the Latin-American countries. Your South-American continent has great revolutionary traditions, but, as we said above, it also has some other traditions which may seem revolutionary but which, in fact, are not genuinely on the road of the revolution. Any putsch carried out there is called a revolution! But a putsch can never be a revolution, because one overthrown clique is replaced by another, in a word, things remain as they were. In addition to all the nuclei of anti-Marxist trends which still exist in the ranks of the old parties that have placed themselves in the service of the counterrevolution, there is now another trend which we call left adventurism.

This trend, and that other offspring of the bourgeoisie, modern revisionism, constitute great dangers to the people, including those of the Latin-American countries. Carefully disguised, modern revisionism is a great deceiver of the peoples and revolutionaries. In different countries it puts on different disguises. In Latin America, Castroism, disguised as Marxism-Leninism, is leading people, even revolutionaries, into left adventurism. This trend appears to be in contradiction with modern revisionism. Those who are ideologically immature think thus, but it is not so. The Castroites are not opposed to the modern revisionists. On the contrary, they are in their service. The separate courses each of them follows lead them to the same point.

The question whenever the Soviet revisionists fail to prevent the masses of the working class and the people from carrying out the revolution, this trend steps in and, by means of a putsch, destroys what the revisionists are unable to destroy by means of evolution. The Soviet revisionists and all the traitor cliques which led the revisionist parties preach evolution, coexistence and all those other anti-Marxist theories we know. From the terms it employs, left adventurism seems more revolutionary, because it advocates armed struggle! But what does it mean by armed struggle? Clearly—putsches. Marxism-Leninism teaches us that only by proceeding with prudent and sure steps, only by basing ourselves firmly on the principles of the Marxist-Leninist doctrine, only by making the masses conscious can victory be ensured in the preparation and launching of the armed uprising, and only in this way will we never fall into adventurism.

The authors of the theory that the “starter motor” sets the “big motor” in motion pose as if they are for the armed struggle, but in fact they are opposed to it and work to discredit it. The example and tragic end of Che Guevara, the following and prorogation of this theory also by other self-styled Marxists, who are opposed to the great struggles by the masses of people, are publicly known facts which refute their claims: We must guard against the people lest they betray us, lest they hand us over to the police; we must set up “wild” isolated detachments, so that the enemy does not get wind of them and does not retaliate with terror against the population! They publicize these and many other confusing theories, which you know only too well. What sort of Marxism-Leninism is this which advocates attacking the enemy, fighting it with these “wild” detachments, etc. without having a Marxist-Leninist party to lead the fight? There is nothing Marxist-Leninist about it. Such anti-Marxist and anti-Leninist theories can bring nothing but defeat for Marxism-Leninism and the revolution, as Che Guevara’s undertaking in Bolivia did.

This trend brings the theses of the armed uprising into disrepute. What great damage it causes the revolution! With the killing of Guevara, the masses of common people, contaminated by the influences of these anarchist views, will think: “Now there is no one else to lead us, to liberate us!” Or perhaps a group of people with another Guevara will be set up again to take to the mountains to make the “revolution,” and the masses, who expect a great deal from these individuals and are burning to fight the bourgeoisie, may be deceived into following them. And what will happen? Something that is clear to us. Since these people are not the vanguard of the working class, since they are not guided by the enlightening principles of Marxism-Leninism, they will encounter misunderstanding among the broad masses and sooner or later they will fail, but at the same time the genuine struggle will be discredited, because the masses will regard armed struggle with distrust. We must prepare the masses politically and ideologically, and convince them through their own practical experience. That is why we say that this inhibiting, reactionary theory about the revolution that is being spread in Latin America is the offspring of modern revisionism and must be unmasked by the Marxist-Leninists.

Certain leaders of some Latin-American state put in the odd word in a veiled “opposition” to the Soviet Union, but we cannot infer from this that they are really opposed to it. Those words are only pressure and blackmail for the purpose of gaining some advantage, on the one hand, of deceiving the naive, on the other. If the advocates of these theories were to stop serving the Soviets in their imperialist-revisionist expansion, the latter would cut off all aid to them. We know the Soviets only too well. However, this will not occur, because they serve the Soviets admirably. This is why the Soviet revisionists continue to give them aid and keep them alive.

It is the duty of all the Marxist-Leninists to expose this anti-Marxist trend, the advocates of which style themselves Marxist-Leninists and use Marxist terminology only as a disguise without which they would be lost. We must tear this disguise from them and this can be done only through organized struggle on the Marxist-Leninist course, as you comrades from Ecuador and others are doing.

We were very pleased over the way you have gone about strengthening the Party and the correct views you hold on armed struggle. If we Marxists do not thoroughly understand that the party must be strong as steel and this can be brought about only on the Marxist-Leninist road, we can achieve no victory. Our people fought in the past, too, just like your people, but did not win. Very good and able individuals have emerged from the bosom of our people, persons with clear illuminist views and great revolutionary determination, who fought with rifle and pen against the Turks, and later, against other invaders. But they shed their blood and toiled in vain. The bourgeoisie and the feudal lords exploited the victories of the people and these outstanding individuals to foster their own interests, while the people remained as oppressed as before. They came about because there was not even a progressive party, let along a Marxist-Leninist party, to lead our people forward. Only after the founding of the Communist Party were the Albanian people able to realize their age-old aspirations; it was only under its leadership that their sweat and blood were not shed in vain. Hence, it is the leadership by the Marxist-Leninist party which ensures the victory of the people, and not the actions of a guerrilla “centre,” as some people preach.

We rejoice that you comrades of the Communist Party of Ecuador have purged your Party of elements alien to a genuine Marxist-Leninist party. We are very pleased to see that you are clear about how the party should be strengthened and expanded, with what class elements its ranks should be filled, how it should be extended to the countryside, and in the first place, how it should implant itself more deeply in the ranks of the working class. People are not born communists, but they are born pure, and during their life and in the course of the daily struggle they learn, are educated and become communists who will sacrifice even their lives for their ideals. It is very good that you have opened courses and schools for Marxist-Leninist education. This is what we did, too, during the National Liberation War. The learning and assimilation of Marxism-Leninism are essential for and the salvation of every communist and every Marxist-Leninist party.

Even today, this is the course we follow. We have put lessons, work in production, and physical and military training for the defense of the Homeland in the centre of our activity for the education of the youth…

We assure you, dear comrades, that our Party, closely united with the people, has striven and will strive with might and main and with the greatest loyal to defend the purity of Marxism-Leninism, and will work tirelessly to strengthen proletarian internationalism. The Party will do everything to ensure that its efforts and the efforts of the people are understood and t create conditions, not only for the consolidation of our socialist Homeland, but also for the strengthening of the bonds of friendship with all the fraternal Marxist-Leninist parties, so that our Party, too, makes its modest contribution, devoting all its energies, to our common cause, the triumph of the proletarian revolution.

We are very moved by the high appraisal you make of the modest work of our Party. As Marxism-Leninists, we understand very well everything you, dear comrades, said about our Party and its experience. We thank you for all these things and tell you that they are a great encouragement to us, because we know they come from the clear and realistic judgment of Marxist-Leninist comrades. Of course, as Marxist-Leninists, we assure you that this does not make us conceited. On the contrary, it increases our sense of responsibility to make ourselves worthy of at least one per cent of what you say. Therefore, we must fight even harder, must perform our duty even more honourably, to ensure that every action of ours not only does not harm the great cause of socialism in the world, the cause of world revolution, or even that of an individual Marxist-Leninist party or group, but, on the contrary, serves as an encouragement and example for everybody, so that Marxist-Leninist parties grow in number and strength, because, as a saying of the Albanian people goes, just one or two flowers do not mean summer. For the socialist revolution to triumph everywhere more flowers are and will be needed. This is how we understand our internationalist duty.

For us, too, this meeting with you will remain unforgettable, because you told us about the situation in Latin America. We feel ourselves a hundred times stronger when we see that yours is a true Marxist-Leninist Party, with a clear line and perspective. There is no doubt that such a party will certainly triumph. You say that when our Party was founded it had about 200 members. But this did not prevent us in the slightest from winning the masses, leading them, fighting and, together with them, defeating the internal and external enemies, triumphing and setting up the dictatorship of the proletariat.

What great strength we gain to step up our struggle, when we see that your Party in Ecuador is a party with a brilliant future, since it upholds the banner of Marxism-Leninism!

You say you have made mistakes, that you have not seen some things as you ought to. What party has not made mistakes? Our Party, too, had made mistakes in the course of its revolutionary activity, but not in its general line. The important thing is that we have corrected our mistakes immediately, as soon as we have detected them.

What you say about strengthening the work of the party with the organization of the youth and the women is extremely important to the revolution. I have noticed, and you have said this yourselves in your talks with our comrades, that you are very interested in the question of students. This is very good, but you must keep in mind that students are part of the youth, not the whole of it. Likewise, you attach importance to the problems of the countryside and problems of the working class. If you attach importance to the countryside and the working class, you cannot fail to be interested in the problems of youth and women in the countryside, as well. The question now is that you must concretize these issues better. We shall be very happy if our modest experience is of any help to you.

I want to add this, too: our Party was small, our working class at the time when the Party was founded was exceptionally small. Nevertheless, thanks to the great work carried out by the Party, the youth, in the first place, embraced its ideology, Marxism-Leninism. The Party was quick to organize them, and they threw themselves into the war and played an extremely great role in it; they fought as they did, enlightened by the ideology of the working class.

As for the women, right from the start the slogan of the Party was that the armed struggle could not be waged and carried through to victory without them. The Party stressed that, in the first place, the women themselves must understand that, while fighting for the liberation of the Homeland, they would be fighting for the emancipation of women, too. At that time the Party said: If the women do not understand the great idea of the Party about their participation in the war, there will be no genuine liberation war. We attached major importance to this question, for without its solution the women would have become a hindrance to the war, because they had only to say to their husbands or sons, “where are you going?”, “why are you leaving us?”, “they will kill us!”, “don’t go to war!”, “let us mind our own business!”, “what good is the war to us?” etc., and things would have taken another direction.

The Party did its work so thoroughly that the women became ardent propagandist of the line of the Party within their families. “Take the rifle,” they would urge their husbands and sons, “and throw yourselves into the fight for the liberation of the Homeland!” You understand, comrades, what courage this stand on the part of the woman gave the husband or son who seized the rifle and joined the partisans.

Whenever we entered the homes of our people, in city or village, the women gave us every possible help, they linked themselves closely with our war, with the line of the Party. Many of their husbands or sons were fighting in the mountains, and, when we went to their homes for shelter and food, they treated us as their sons, as their closest relatives. See the importance of women and their activity! It was in these conditions that the womens’ organization was set up in our country. Of course, the same process will develop in your country, too. In the beginning we came up against many difficulties, everything was not achieved at once, as you see it today. We know what difficulties there are in the capitalist countries, but they can all be overcome when the line is correct and the party determined.

You, my dear comrades, have helped us greatly in another direction too, in further enhancing our confidence in the future victories of the common struggle. We assure you that we will honourably accomplish our tasks as soldiers of the revolution, as loyal soldiers of Marxism-Leninism. We would like you, dear comrades of Communist Party (M-L) of Ecuador, to consider our Party as yours in everything. Weare ready to give you whatever assistance you consider useful, because as internationalists we are duty bound to do so. If we do not do this, we cannot call ourselves internationalists, cannot be Marxists. We have spared and will spare nothing to give you every possible assistance, as our comrades and brothers, because your internationalist assistance to us is also great.

You also help us with your experience, and if you notice that we may be going wrong in some direction, please criticize us, shake us up with your open criticism, and rest assured that we consider and treat your comrades’ criticism as the most sacred thing. Our people say that he that criticizes loves you, he that does not love you pats you on the back so that you may continue on the wrong road.

Our Marxist-Leninist dialectics teaches us that not everything goes straight, that people’s heads are not all cut into one pattern, that the energies of each individual are not equal, some go straight, others do not. In these conditions, the implementation of the norms of the Party, Bolshevik criticism and self-criticism set people right, keeps the party pure and carries the revolution forward.

These are the relations we want, this is the sincere proletarian love we want to have for one another, and the more we do for one another, for the revolution, the more modest we must be. Therefore, the modesty of communists must be exemplary, like that of proletarians; the efforts and thoughts of communists must be like those of proletarians, the feelings of their souls and hearts must be like those of proletarians. Only thus can our revolution march forward.

We are sorry, dear comrades, that you will be leaving, but rest assured that our hearts are united with yours.

We know that you are very busy. Even greater and more difficult tasks await you in the future, nevertheless, we would be be very happy if you could come more frequently ans stay longer in our country, regardless of the fact that this cannot be done in every instance according to our wishes.

May your great wish be fulfilled, may the day come when we can visit you in your country.

Source

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

CheMuleFull

Rafael Martinez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guevara on Collectivisation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To which Guevara, to our despair, bluntly objects:

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

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

Guevara on Mao

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source

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

J.J. Lawrence: Che Guevara

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I have been asked to write an article on Che, which I am pleased to do. Before I write this article, I must insist that if you have not read anything on Che (apart from this article) you must read a biography on him. Che was the first time I had read on something involving communism, which had a huge influence on me. There are a great deal of articles on Che. I do not want to just write another short summary of his life. I have tried in this article to show key points which had significant impact on him, and why he became the man he was.

‘Because of the circumstances in which I travelled, first as a student and later as a doctor, I came into close contact with poverty, hunger, and disease; with the inability to treat a child because of lack of money; with the stupefaction provoked by continual hunger and punishment, to the point that a father can accept the loss of a son as an unimportant accident… and I began to realize that there were things which were almost as important to me as becoming a famous scientist or making a significant contribution to medical science; I wanted to help those people.’ (Che Guevara, 1960, speaking on revolutionary medicine).

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara was a communist revolutionary, a social philosopher, a medical doctor and became an international figurehead for the communist cause. His dream was to change Latin America into a socialist utopia and end US imperialism there as well as helping the rest of the developing world free themselves of oppression. When I first read about Che, I was blown away, his life, his ideals, a tear came to my eye when I read about his final hour and his murder in Bolivia. From the moment he agreed to join Castro’s revolution, he dedicated his life to the communist cause , his determination was unbelievable. In my opinion there was a number of key points on how Che became the man he was and why he is such an icon to so many today.

(1)

The first “key point” in my view was his asthma. I know some people would not see this as hugely significant but to me it was. From such a young age it affected him terribly, he did not start school until the age of seven because of it. But his mother gave him a good basic grounding in education. The asthma was something to him that would not hold him back, it gave him so much resolve. It was the fact that he had asthma that gave him this determination to succeed and throughout his battles in Cuba, the Congo and Bolivia it affected him terribly. Surely it was physically demanding enough to be a guerrilla fighter and on top of that he had to cope with asthma, he became a severe and a ruthless disciplinarian to his troops who complained and showed physical weakness. He concluded that if he could manage with severe asthma that they should find it much less demanding than him. Overall it installed huge determination in him, his will to take part in physical activity, it would not stop him from being part of the team. One of his decisions to study medicine was his determination to find a cure for his side effects of his drugs he used for asthma. He eventually qualified as a doctor. He knew his asthma was a weakness, but it installed in him, a self determination that would last for the rest of his life.

(2)

His travels of Latin America, without doubt, had a profound impact on Che. He visited numerous countries throughout his travels, as the quote from Che says ‘Because of the circumstances in which I travelled, first as a student and later as a doctor’, he witnessed at first hand the social injustice, US imperialism, the devastating poverty of the downtrodden classes and the ethnic minorities. Just to think what may have become of Che, if he did not travel around Latin America? He visited nearly all of the Latin American countries. He saw what kind of life that some people had to endure, while people suffered in poverty, starving and treated like filth, somewhere down the road a US owned business rakes in the PROFITS while subjecting the workers to wage slavery. Che, in his travels, for example, came into contact with an old woman, who was asthmatic, with a heart condition. This woman couldn’t pay her way.

‘It is then, at the end, that we see the profound tragedy which circumscribes the life of the proletariat the world over. In these dying eyes there is a humble appeal for forgiveness and also, often, a desperate plea for solace which is lost in the void’

As each encounter with social injustice, poverty, US imperialism and disease, occurred, Che began to realize that the whole of Latin America was in desperate need of change. The whole system was corrupt. Che had throughout his travels, already read a great deal on Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin etc., then when he witnessed the devastating effect of capitalism and privately owned businesses (usually US) in Latin America, he knew his beliefs were right. To destroy the current system and once and for all bring social justice, an end to capitalism. To finish that quote with which Che showed his anger at the system:

‘How long this present order, based on absurd idea of caste, will last I can’t say, but it’s time governments spent less time publicizing their own virtues and more money – much more money – funding socially useful projects.’

He found himself in Guatemala, under a new government of Jacobo Arbenz, which nationalized land owned by United Fruit, plus various US multinationals who severely exploited the workers, while they accumulated the profits. Obviously the US were not going to allow their interest to be affected, just because Jacobo Arbenz wanted to give his people a better standard of living. It became clear that the CIA were planning to overthrow the new government, then install a puppet. Eventually the coup won, Che was outraged that the government failed to arm the people. He once again had witnessed US intervention. Che gained valuable experience from his Guatemalan experience, that there must be unity, and to arm the people, he also realized that Uncle Sam would have to be kept in the dark until the revolution was secure. He also met the woman that would become his wife, Hilda Gadea Acosta, she would introduce him to some members of the JULY 26 MOVEMENT. He arrived in Mexico knowing that he was prepared to join any type of revolution that was fighting to overthrow a dictator. This is where Che Guevara met a man who would change his life and the course of history.

(3)

In Mexico, he had heard a lot about the leader of the July 26 movement, now he would meet him. FIDEL CASTRO, this is without doubt, without question, Fidel Castro had the biggest impact on the life of Che Guevara. All of Che’s experiences, his childhood and his travels, he realized that social change was needed. Seeing the US imperialism around Latin America, the devastating poverty of the downtrodden classes, he realized that a revolution was the only way. He needed to find a cause? He needed to find a strong leader?

It had reached the climax for Che, he had found his leader for a revolution, in Che’s own words after meeting Fidel:

‘an extraordinary man. He confronted and solved the most impossible problems. He had an unshakeable faith that once he left exile in Mexico and arrived in Cuba he would fight, and would win that fighting. I shared his optimism. It was imperative to do something, to struggle, to achieve. It was imperative to stop crying and fight!’

For Che, to say something like that, so soon after meeting him, shows what impact Castro had on Che. He talked with Fidel in their first encounter on every conceivable subject, they were like long lost soul brothers.

In the various “key points” I have shown, I feel these were the fundamental factors in the making of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. These various incidents in Che’s life had a huge impact on him, from him suffering asthma, his travels of Latin America and meeting Fidel Castro. They all helped create a man whose life was dedicated to people who suffered at the hands of injustice.

THE REVOLUTION AND BEYOND.

Throughout Cuban revolution, Che was to become a severe and ruthless disciplinarian. He once shot a man for falling asleep on guard duty and ordered executions of deserters etc. Some people have argued that he was too harsh and too severe. But in my opinion he was justified, he became so dedicated to the revolution that nothing on earth could jeopardize it. During the Cuban revolution, Che showed his bravery, his tactical skill, his determination and all this was noted by Castro who eventually promoted Che to commander. He showed that anything he applied himself to he could do, Che Guevara was quite simply, a rare bird. He was without question the best guerrilla fighter in the Cuban revolution, he showed, at times, a complete disregard for his own personal safety. Even when Castro had told him not to take part in some of the battles. He was always determined to lead by example. During the revolution he would meet the woman who would become his second wife, Aleida March. What was an important factor to me about Che Guevara, was educating the new rebels, he set up an education program during the revolution. He was determined to introduce them to Marxism Leninism, Castro didn’t want the communist element to be heard, of course if the Americans got wind of it the revolution might have been doomed. Castro, I believe was always going down the communist road, he just needed to keep it quiet from uncle Sam.

When the rebels had won, and marched into the cities of Havana etc. Che set about leading by example, he was determined to show the people that everyone must make sacrifices in the ‘new Cuba’. Like in all revolutions, traitors and former henchmen of General Batista were still in the air. Some highly publicized trials were held. Over 500 men were convicted for crimes against the people, Che was in charge of the trials and had the last say on the fate of the men. Some people were outraged, friends who knew Che before he joined the revolution were shocked. In my view it was absolutely justified, some of the men executed were guilty of horrendous crimes. Others were a threat to the revolution and deserved to die. It shows an interesting aspect in Che’s character, a man who always wanted to help the people and to bring social justice to the world, but he showed no mercy to the enemies and handed out death sentences to them unemotionally. What is so profound of Che was his dedication, just as he was as a fighter in the revolution. He was determined to see the ‘new Cuba’ have economical stability and make sure it survived. Che was entrusted with the crucial job of forging relations to bankroll the revolution by visiting the rest of the socialist states, such as the Soviet Union, China and various other countries. When he returned to Cuba, he had the great news of securing financial and political support of the two communist super-powers China and the Soviet Union. He worked immensely hard for the revolution, be it going round the world forging alliances with various nations or going to do volunteer labour work on a construction site in Cuba. Seldom do you see a politician doing that at present in England or anywhere. At times he worked 36 hours straight meeting various people to help the revolution. To me these examples of self sacrifice had a huge impact on me, to see a man work so hard, so honestly and all he wanted in return was not a big pay packet but for the rest of Cuba to follow suit. During the Cuban missile crisis, when without consulting Castro the Soviet leader Khrushchev had already done a deal with President Kennedy. Castro was furious, but kept a smile for Khrushchev. Che was furious, he never trusted nor did he ever like the Soviet leader.

It was Che who first denounced the new Soviet imperialism for not giving unconditional support to third world liberation movements etc. It was a part of Che’s character, he would always voice his opinion, whether it be attacking his nemesis, or criticizing the Soviet Union for its faults. History has proven Che correct about the former Soviet Union, with revisionists such as Khrushchev and the eventual collapse of it. Che saw this happening.

CONCLUSION.

Che Guevara had served as a vital cog in the Cuban revolution he felt it was time to leave for another adventure. He decided it was to be the Congo, to assist the rebels there. I believe, and I may be wrong about this, but Che knew he would not grow old peacefully, his heart lay on the battlefield. He left a letter for his children, to be opened if he was killed:

Dear Hildita, Aleidita, Camilo, Celia and Ernesto,

If you read this letter one day, it will mean that I

am no longer alive. You will hardly remember me,

and the smallest among you will have entirely

forgotten me.

 

Your father was a man who acted as he thought

best and who has been absolutely faithful to his

convictions.

 

Grow up into good revolutionaries. Study hard to

master technique, which gives you mastery over

nature. Remember that it is the Revolution which

is important and that each of us, taken in

isolation, is worth nothing.

 

Above all be sensitive, in the deepest areas of

yourselves, to any injustice committed against

whoever it may be anywhere in the world.

 

Yours always, my children. I hope to see

you again.

 

A big strong kiss from

Daddy.

His Congo and Bolivian missions were both disastrous, Bolivia proving fatal. But Che Guevara is an important historical figure, he is a prime example of what can be achieved, by only having huge determination and a dream. He was a dedicated Marxist-Leninist, the amount of effort, blood, sweat and tears he put in to further the cause of his idols was profound. When we look at politicians today who consistently misrepresent the people, it is sickening. Che dedicated his life to help the people, to demonstrate why communism was the only way forward. He was the second most powerful man in Cuba, he was loved by the people, a hero of the revolution. He was married with five children and could have grown old peacefully in Cuba, he gave everything up in Cuba to further the communist cause. He had an epic dream to bring the whole of Latin America into a socialist utopia, through armed revolution. When you realize how dedicated a human being must be to give up everything in Cuba, to help bring socialism to the whole of Latin America is astonishing. I believe the importance of Che Guevara is huge for the communist cause, he shows how communists should dedicate themselves to their beliefs. The NCMLU (Communist Party Alliance) follows the political principles of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, which is correct. But we should take from Che the honesty, dedication and self sacrifice to help the working class. With so much anti-communist feeling around the world, who accuse us of being ‘evil’, we can show them what a communist is and what we stand for. Tell them to read on Che, who only ever wanted to help the downtrodden classes of the world. For me, Che will always hold a special place in my heart, reading about him was the first time I had come into contact with communism.

Reading on him sparked off something inside me to help the communist cause. Upon reading on Che, it has led me to Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. In my opinion we will never see another human being of his kind.

We must all strive to be like Che, to show self sacrifice, dedication to the cause, to fight against injustice, racism and imperialism, to help bring about social equality and change the world. To quote Marx, ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways; the point is to change it’.

I will finish with a part of a speech from Fidel Castro, speaking to the Cuban people after the death of his comrade.

 

‘a man of profound ideals, a man in

whose mind stirred the dream of

struggle…’

 

CHE GUEVARA

1928-1967

Source

Alliance Marxist-Leninist: Who is Saddam Hussein? Portrait of a Fascist Made by Imperialism

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We make it plain that we condemn the imperialist moves against the peoples of Iraq. Does that mean we are for Saddam Hussein?

How do we characterize Hussein?
Bluntly – he is a blood-thirsty dictator and he has suppressed not only the Kurdish peoples, but his own peoples. He has in particular suppressed the Communist and progressives.

For years as a member of the Ba’th Party, he was an instrument of the revisionist USSR’s power in Iraq, and then, he became an instrument of the US imperialists. It was the US imperialists who fed his thirst for blood. This exposes the hypocrisy of the USA’s leaders – when they piously call to depose him for the “good of the Iraqi peoples.”

Irrespective of our detestation of Hussein, at this stage to support in any way USA imperialist goals – is to play into the hands of further sabotaging the needs of the Iraqi peoples. It is the Iraqi peoples who must change their leader. It is the interference of the Western imperialist that has allowed Hussein to first come to power, and then to remain in power. But at this stage, to agree for calls for his desposition by USA and UK war-mongers – would inflict even more damage, death and destruction on the Iraqi peoples. To understand Hussein’s relationship to imperialism a little, enables one to understand the depth of Bush’s hypocrisy.

We carry therefore a short history of modern Iraq, highlighting Hussein’s role.

(i) The Modern State of Iraq

When the Ottoman Empire disintegrated, the Middle East was left in a vacuum. Into this stepped British imperialism, who disputed with France the oil of Mosul. The British won and simply created vassal states. These included in 1920, Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. A kingdom was created under the rule of Faisal ibn Hussain. An arbitrary border between Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia was drawn by Sir Percy Cox, the British High Commissioner in Baghdad.

Iraq was administered by Britain under mandate from the League of Nations until 1932. Then it became an independent state under a new constitutional monarch, King Faisal I. Faisal, as a comprador agent of British rule, ensured British monopoly of the Iraqi Petroleum Corporation (IPC).

Until the Second World War seven successive coups left Iraq divided and unable to develop a national bourgeois revolt. The British played off the Shia Muslim masses against the minority Sunni Muslim rulers, and the Kurds against both Shias and Sunnis. The comprador agents ensured that between 1-3% of the population owned 55 % of all farmland. British monopoly of trade was complete.

King Ghazi – the son and successor of Faisal – colluded with General Bakr Sidqi of the Iraqi army to defy Britain. Even though shortly after Sidqi was assassinated, Ghazi held his course. This made him popular with the masses. He broadcast using a new radio station, messages of defiance to the British rule throughout the Middle East. The British arranged his assassination in a “car accident,” in 1939.

A pro-British agent Nur-Said came to power as a Prime Minister, while a regent took over the monarchy. By 1941 army colonels supported the Rashid Ali Keilani rebellion, which was pro-Nazi Germany. They allied with the Mufti of Palestine, a Nazi agent. The British therefore occupied the country in May 1941. British colonial rule extended till 1946. In 1947 the Portsmouth Anglo-Iraqi Treaty tried to ensure a neo-colonial presence in Iraq, with two Royal Air force (RAF) bases at Habaniyua and Sin Al Thibban.

This was hugely unpopular and led to uprisings – the al-Wathbah (The Leap). Under the leadership of the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP), uprisings forced the withdrawal of the puppet regime of Salih Jabr and the rejection of the Portsmouth Treaty. But the air force bases remained, and by 1955 the Iraqi state was part of the USA led plots to dominate the Middle East via the Baghdad Pact. The Government was led by Nuri al-Said, a comprador for the British at first, and then for the USA.

(ii) Arab Nationalism and the Ba’th party

Saddam Hussein was initially much influenced by the Rashid rebellion and the fate of Ghazi. He quickly joined the Ba’th Party.

The ideas of a so-called “Arab Socialism” were gaining favour. The Ba’th (‘Renaissance’ of the Arabs) party was founded in Iraq in 1954. Michel Aflaq and Zaki Arsouzi, in 1943, had first formed the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party, in Syria. But the Ba’th Party intended to cover all Arab countries. Its’ programme called for land reform and nationalisation of major parts of the economy, and a constitutional democracy. They represented the “middle ground,” the educated petit bourgeoisie, who wanted progressive modern change. The party’s central slogan was ‘Freedom, unity, socialism.'” What did “socialism” mean for the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party? It was a very vague and imprecise ideology, implying “national moral improvement.”

Nasserism was a specific form of Pan-Arabism, led by the Egyptian President Gamel Abdul Nasser. Starting in Egypt, Nasser called for liberation from imperialism the Middle East, using not Ba’th – but Wahda. Wahda (Arabic for “union”) was to renew Arabic “culture.” His Iraqi supporters, called for a Union with Egypt.

As a strategy of the national bourgeoisie in the Middle East, both the Ba’th and the Wahda ideologies aimed to contain the mass movement, emphasising the “Arab peoples,” and denying any class content.

When in 1958, an insurrection against the comprador regime of Nuri al-Said was successful, these two Arab movements seized the opportunity. The new Revolutionary Council of army officers was led by Prime Minster Qasim. He was in alliance with the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP). Imperialist troop maneuvers were foiled by the popularity of the Qasim government. This was a national bourgeois revolt.

But, the Iraqi national bourgeois was weak. A pro-Wahda (ie. pro-unity with Egypt) revolt was launched, but failed. Already the Syrian state had ‘united’ with the Egypt state under Nasser’s leadership. Saddam Hussein was one of a group that tried to assassinate Qasim, but failed. Despite its weakness, the national bourgeoisie was partly successful. Although during this period the ICP was severely hunted and persecuted, the ICP ensured a major agrarian land reform from 1958 to 1963. Moreover the Iraq petroleum Company was subject to Law 80 in 1961 – which limited the company’s rights to only 0.5% of the concession, and secured oil rights of 99.5% for the Iraqi state.

(iii) Ba’th Fascist Rule – From USSR Comprador State to USA Comprador State

But by 1963 Qasim had isolated himself. The Ba’thists created a coup and in a bloodbath massacred the revolutionary forces of the democratic revolution. Communists in particular were massacred. It is clear that the CIA was heavily involved, and numerous sources attest to this.

Almost immediately Law 80 was “side-stepped.” It could not simply be repealed as the Iraqi people were so much in favor of it. But the IPC simply stepped up oil production enormously to recoup their own profits. Another immediate step was to suppress the northern region of the Kurdistan nation. A war of genocidal proportions was launched.

The Arab Union of the United Arab Republic (dominated by Egypt) was declared. However this lasted only a few months for Iraq, and the Union died. Even Syria left the UAR.

Continuing its purge of all left and communist forces, the Ba’th eventually destroyed all opposition. Now it fell to internecine fighting. The leadership tore itself apart in a search for individual power. By 1963 a revolt of the army dismissed the Ba’th party from power. Between 1963-1968 a regime headed by ‘Abd al-Salam ‘ Arif tried to recreate a partnership with Egypt. But this was only temporary. Throughout this period all democratic reforms including those of the Land reform were turned back. Eventually this led to proletarian and peasant revolts.

The Ba’thists gained control of the student movement – led by Saddam Hussein – and helped to bring about the return to power of the Ba’th Party in 1968. At this stage, it was led by Nadhium Kazzar. It was a brutal regime and once more attacked communists and any who continued to call for democratic reforms. Again brutal wars against Kurdistan were led – in 1970 by President al-Bakr.

At this juncture the Ba’th Party became the comprador vehicle for the revisionist USSR. The stimulus had been the refusal of the IPC to undertake drilling and oil exploitation for the Ba’th government in the State controlled territories of Law 80. This led to a dubious alliance with the remnants of the Iraqi CP – termed the National Action Charter. It did not prevent further persecution of communists.

By 1975 the Ba’th party was getting a huge oil revenue – $8000 million – or 6 times the 1972 level. A new very rich bourgeois came into existence. They formed the social strata represented by the Ba’th.

By 1977 Saddam Hussein was the head of the government. He intensified the dictatorial nature of the regime. The “Knight” as he was called – purged all rivals. After the fall of the Shah of Iran – the local puppet of the USA – in February 1979 the USA had to seek a new pliable regime. Hussein simply switched over from the USSR to the USA, who used Hussein’s Iraq. During this period they fostered the long running Iraq-Iran war.

The US not only tolerated – but encouraged Husseins’ barbarous polices. They also fed him all the arms he asked for.

(v) Hussein Falls Into the Trap Set by April Glasbie, US Ambassador

As stated earlier, the borders of the area were arbitrarily set. That between Kuwait and Iraq had long been contentious. But the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq was a careful trap for Iraq. Why had the USA decided to spring this trap? Because the Israeli state was its lynch pin in the Middle East, and was facing considerable attention due to its violently racist and genocidal attacks on the Palestinians. The USA led coalition war against Iraq – “Desert Storm” served its purpose to divert the attention away from the Israelis.

It is clear that Iraq was ‘set up’ – Iraq was “assured” before its invasion of Kuwait that the United States imperialists had no interest in the dispute between Iraq and Kuwait: Four days before President Saddam Hussein ordered the invasion of Kuwait, the US Ambassador in Baghdad, April Glaspie, assured him that ‘we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts like your border disagreement with Kuwait.’

She added that the US Secretary of State, James Baker, “has directed our official spokesman to emphasize the instruction,” first given in the 1960s, “that the issue is not associated with America.” The Guardian has the official minutes of the meeting. . . . US officials do not question their authenticity. The transcript shows that Ms Glaspie expressed considerable sympathy for President Saddam’s quest for higher oil prices, the immediate cause of his confrontation with Kuwait.
“I admire your extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country,” she said, “I know you need funds. We understand that, and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country.” (Guardian, 12 September 1990; p. 7).

Further, on 31 July, two days before the invasion of Kuwait, US Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly, facing the House Foreign Affairs Committee: “Stressed repeatedly in testimony before the Committee that the US had no defense treaty with Kuwait and no obligation to come to its aid if attacked by Iraq.” (Guardian, 20, September 1990; p. 8).

CONCLUSION

Saddam Hussein has been from early on a creature of the USA imperialists. He is a bitter opponent of communists, and of the Iraqi peoples.

But, once again – to assist USA imperialism to depose him now and in the way the intend – is to condemn the Iraqi people to short term destruction, and a longer term dependence upon USA imperialism.

Suggested references:

CARDI: Committee Against Repression and for Democratic rights in Iraq: Saddam’s Iraq _ Revolution of Reaction; London 1989.
Efraim Karsh & Inari Rautsi Saddam Hussein. A Political Biography; New York 1991.

Source

Reactionary anti-communist bourgeois theories that conceal the restoration of capitalism in Soviet Union (1953-1990) Part B

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Reactionary anti-communist bourgeois theories that conceal the restoration of capitalism in Soviet Union (1953-1990) Part B

B. The reactionary anticommunist bourgeois theory of “developed socialism” of the Khrushchevit social-democracy

After the violent overthrow of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and the victory-triumph of the Khrushchevian revisionist counter-revolution in the Soviet Union in 1952, while pursuing the scheduled and systematic policy of gradual restoration of capitalism facilitated by the implementation of capitalist economic reforms, the leading anti-communist group of Khrushchev-Brezhnev of, what is by now, the bourgeois social-democratic Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), sought to formulate a suitable theory to conceal this reactionary process from socialism-communism to capitalism.

In their attempt to formulate a new and suitable “theory” concealing this reactionary process and the emerging society of restored capitalism euphemistically called “developed socialism” (!), the Khrushchevian-Brezhnevite revisionists came up with the well-known theory of “advanced socialism”

Both the theory of “developed socialism” promoted by the Khrushchevian traitors and the theory of“convergence” promoted by the western bourgeois reaction are anti-communist reactionary bourgeois theories because during the period of their dominance (1955-1990) were directed against the communist perspective of the Proletariat, obscured the Proletariat’s communist prospect presenting the restored capitalism of the Soviet Union as “the communist” future while, at the same time, they were in total breach with the objective historic progress of society toward socialism-communism. The class character and content of the two theories was based on the defence of capitalism: the theory of “convergence” defended was traditional capitalism of the Western countries, while the theory of “developed socialism” defended the restored capitalism of the Soviet Union and the other revisionist countries (Details can be found at “Anasintaxi”, no. 373, August 2012, p. 3).

Since the treacherous, renegade Khrushchev-Brezhnev group “managed”, in the 20th Congress of CPSPU in 1956, to present arbitrarily and provocatively the capitalist-fascist Yugoslavia of Tito as “socialist”(!) – a view imposed on the international communist movement (N.S. Khrushchev: “Report in 20th Party Congress, 1956:“Yugoslavia has not small successes in the socialist construction”, a clear proof that the Khrushchevian clicque had decided to follow Tito’s counter-revolutionary, capitalist path – and promoted a kind of “socialism”(!) that would result “peacefully” without the need of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, this group officially confessed and publicly admitted, during the 22nd of Congress of CPSU (1961), that there was neither Dictatorship of the Proletariat nor revolutionary communist party in the Soviet Union of that period and that these had been replaced by the “state of all people” and “party of all people” and mentioned, for the first time, the “transition period from capitalism to socialism” to which the Dictatorship of the Proletariat “corresponded”. At the same time, they formulated the theory of “developed socialism” without using yet the terms that became well known later: “developed socialism” and “advanced socialist society”.

The theory of “developed socialism” promoted by the Khrushchevian renegades constitutes, as it will be shown below, a complete revision and a blatant, crude rejection of revolutionary Marxism.

As a theory, the so-called “developed socialism” has nothing in common with the revolutionary theory of Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin, it amounts to its negation and it is an anti-communist bourgeois theory. The so much advertised, but non-existent “advanced socialist society” was nothing more than the restored capitalism of the Khrushchevian-Brezhnevite period as shown in previous articles. According to the anti-communist Brezhnev, this type of society had already been in November of 1967, that is to say, when capitalism had been fully restored (on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution, he had declared that “In the USSR a developed socialist society has been built).

The theory of “developed socialism” dominated later the new bourgeois constitution (i.e. the constitution of the restored capitalism) of the Brezhnevite period while the euphemistically called “advanced socialist society” found its full expression in this – a constitution which, for the first time, officially legalized and confirmed not only the state-capitalist (articles 10-11) and collective-capitalist ownership (article 12) but also the individual capitalist ownership (articles 13-17) in the Soviet Union’s society of that time. It also legalized the capitalist competition between the autonomous enterprises, the “socialist commodity producers”, and the capitalist profit (article 16). In this constitution, the content of the “advanced socialist society”, that is, of the Soviet Union’s restored capitalism is generally described.

The elements-views from which the theory of “developed socialism” was made are the following: “the party of all people”, “the state of all people”, “transition period from capitalism to socialism”, “three phases of the communist society”, “socialism: a new autonomous mode of production”. Concerning the theory of “advanced socialism” and the euphemistically called “advanced socialist society” there is a vast literature of many articles and books. However, we will make a limited use of them and cite only those extracts that highlight the counter-revolutionary essence of this bourgeois reactionary theory.

1. “Party of all people” or revolutionary communist party?

In the 22nd Congress of CPSU (1961) it is mentioned: “our Marxist-Leninist Party that was born as a party of the working class, has become the party of all people”, an anti-Marxist view which later passed to the new Brezhnevite bourgeois constitution (1977) where it was formulated as: “CPSU exists for the people and to serve the people”. (Article 6 of the Soviet Constitution, 1977)

Some quick comments on the anti-Marxist view “party of all people”:

1. The adoption of this view meant the abandonment of the Marxist theory not only about the revolutionary, new type of party but also about all political parties considered as separate organisations that defend the different interests of particular classes.

2. The Khrushchevian social democrats promoted the well known bourgeois view according to which parties stand above classes and they are, therefore, defenders of the interests of “most” or “all classes”.

3. As known, according to revolutionary Marxism there are no organisations and parties that belong to “all people”, that is parties of all classes. Since, the Khrushchevian revisionists themselves admitted that there was not any more a revolutionary communist party in the Soviet Union of that period, because, according to them, the Marxist-Leninist party had been replaced with the party of “all people”, then the new CPSU, that is the so-called party of “all people” could not be nothing else but a bourgeois, social-democratic party. Consequently, the revolutionary, until the beginning of the 1950’s, CPSU changed its class character: from a Marxist-Leninist party of the working class, it became a bourgeois party: a defender of the class interests of the emerging soviet bourgeoisie.

The character of a party, according to Marxism, is determined first of all by the its ideology and, among others by its programme. The new CPSU, that is, the so-called “party of all people”, was not guided any more by the ideology of the revolutionary Marxism, that is, Leninism-Stalinism, but by the counter-revolutionary ideology of Khrushchevian revisionism (which is a version of bourgeois ideology).

The new CPSU of Khrushchev-Brezhnev as well as the Khrushchevian parties of all countries in the following decades were (and still are) bourgeois, social-democratic parties because: a) they were not guided revolutionary Marxism, b) they had reformist programmes that cannot lead to the overthrow of capitalism, c) they adopted a anti-Marxist view of socialism-communism since they advertised the restored capitalism of the Khrushchev-Brezhnev-Gorbachev period as “socialism”(!), in other words they claimed that there was allegedly “socialism” in the Soviet Union during 1953-1991.

4. Neither socialism can exist nor the construction of socialism can continue without a revolutionary communist party of a new type, that is, of Leninist-Stalinist type. Therefore, after 1953, it was inevitable that the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union finally stopped and the new CPSU, that is, the “party of all people”, was at the forefront of the capitalism economic reforms that completely eliminated socialism and resulted in the full restoration of capitalism by the mid 1960’s.

5. Socialism-communism cannot to constructed without a marxist-leninst-stalinist party, precisely because this party “has always as a primary task the class, political organisation of the proletariat as an autonomous political party and sets the next goal to be the struggle for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat” (MARX-ENGELS: Bd.18, pp.267-268, Berlin 1969) and also it is the party that : first, is the organiser and the leader of the giant work of socialist-communist construction and second, without this party the Dictatorship of the Proletariat possible cannot exist. That’s why Stalin is very right to point out that “the dictatorship of the proletariat is exercised through the Party, that without a united and cohesive party the Dictatorship of the Proletariat cannot exist”, that “the Dictatorship of the Proletariat is possible only through the party that is its guiding force” and that “the Dictatorship of the Proletariat is complete only if it is led by one party, the Communist Party, which does not and cannot share power with other parties” (Stalin, Collected Works vol. 10)

2. “State of all people” or Dictatorship of the Proletariat

In relation to the state of the Soviet Union of that period, it is mentioned in the 22nd Congress that the state of the working class had been transformed to the “all people’s state”: “The state of all people is the new state in the development of the socialist state, the most important landmark in the path of development of the socialist state to a communist self-governing society” (22nd Congress of CPSU, p. 205, Athens 1961) and that “the dictatorship of the proletariat was not any more necessary …” (ibid, p. 208) for the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union. Later, this anti-Marxist view passed to the new Constitution (1977) – from which the term Dictatorship of the Proletariat had been deleted (justifiably so since it had been already been overthrown in 1953) – and which confirms that the Soviet Union was not any more the state of Dictatorship of the Proletariat as it was in the era of Lenin-Stalin but the “state of all people” (“Constitution 1977”, p. 42: The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is a socialist state of the whole people).

The anti-marxist view of the Khrushchevian about the “state of all people” is raising some important questions worth of special consideration:

First, by denying the necessity of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat during an important phase of development of socialism-communism, the soviet revisionists-social democrats and in such an important and central question the reformist Khrushchevian parties abandoned Marxism and it known that nobody can be regarded as Marxist without the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat as Lenin noted: Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. That is what constitutes the most profound distinction between the Marxist and the ordinary petty (as well as big) bourgeois. This is the touchstone on which the real understanding and recognition of Marxism should be tested” (Lenin, “State and revolution”)

Second, it is important to note the open confession and the official admission made by the Khrushchevians that there was no Dictatorship of the Proletariat in the Soviet Union of that period and, it was exactly for this reason why there was no socialism any more. Moreover, the construction of socialism had stopped in 1953 after the death-murder of Joseph Stalin. The continuation of socialist construction in a country without the Dictatorship of the Proletariat is totally impossible and inconceivable. Also, the maintenance of socialism is unimaginable without the Dictatorship of the Proletariat since, for Marx, the concepts of socialism and Dictatorship of the Proletariat are inseparable. As early as 1850, Marx noted that socialism: the class dictatorship of the proletariat as the necessary transit point to the abolition of class distinctions generally, to the abolition of all the relations of production on which they rest, to the abolition of all the social relations that correspond to these relations of production, to the revolutionizing of all the ideas that result from these social relations” (MARX-ENGELS: vol.7, p. 89-90, Berlin 1969).

Third, the Khrushchevian concept of the “state of all people” not only meant a rejection of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat but it constituted a complete revision of the Marxist theory on the state of Dictatorship of the Proletariat, and the state in general, and this is why Lenin emphasized that “the essence of Marx’s theory of the state has been mastered only by those who realize that the dictatorship of a single class is necessary not only for every class society in general, not only for the proletariat which has overthrown the bourgeoisie, but also for the entire historical period which separates capitalism from “classless society”, from communism” (Lenin, State and Revolution.”)

Fourth, the Khrushchevian concept of the “state of all people” bears no relation to Marxism. It is alien to Marxism because according to the Marxist theory there is no state standing above classes, that is to say, “state of all classes” of a society; this is a bourgeois view. On the contrary, the state has always a class character: either it is the state of the bourgeoisie or it is the state of the proletariat. In the period of transition from capitalism to socialism-communism, there can be either the dictatorship of the proletariat or the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. This is why the famous English Marxist George Thomson, in 1971, very rightly emphasized that the “state of all people” declared by the treacherous Khrushchevian clique was in reality “a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie”, or to be more exact, a dictatorship of the new soviet bourgeoisie.

Fifth, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, according to the teaching of Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin, is established right after the victory of the armed Proletarian Revolution and the complete annihilation of the state machinery, is preserved and strengthened and it is absolutely necessary for the whole transitional period from capitalism to socialism. The state of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat is never transformed to the “state of all people” (it is also known that Max and Engels rejected with irony the so-called “free state” in the Critique of the Gotha Program. The Dictatorship of the Proletariat exists until it withers away in the higher stage of communist, in the communist classless society: For the state to wither away completely, complete communism is necessary” and that The state will be able to wither away completely when society adopts the rule: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. (Lenin, “State and Revolution”)

Source

The need for clarity on the nature of the capitalist economic structure of Russia

September 6, 2014
http://www.senzatregua.it/?p=1355
By Emiliano Cervi and Salvatore Vicario

The fight against imperialism is a sham and humbug unless it is inseparably bound up with the fight against opportunism,” Lenin

We already know: the world is in constant flux, the United States is an empire in decline (and of course, for this reason it is more dangerous) and it is faced with more and more influence on the international scene from other countries that tend to undermine those who now hold a dominant position. This is definitely a good thing, from a certain point of view: the more economic and political clashes between these powers, which Lenin called the “most profound contradictions of imperialism,” [1] the more space for those the system tries to overcome making tactical use of any opportunity that the national and international political scenarios in flux can offer.

Communists must be pragmatic and flexible in applying tactics from time to time, just as Marxist-Leninist theory is not a theological dogma but a tool that gives us the ability to understand and analyze the world around us. However, in the bleak scenario that the small circle of communists nowadays provides, it is not uncommon to argue with those who, by carrying this to extreme pragmatism, eventually abandon not only the revolutionary theory to arrive at opportunism, but distort the facts. And this is perhaps even more dangerous.

The USSR, Russia and Putin’s new course

One of the most disturbing (and bizarre, let me say) distortions consists in comparing what the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was with Russia today. The “rehabilitation” of a glorious past, which also includes the revival of the symbols and rituals of real socialism and its open antagonism with the United States has incredibly confused many comrades. It is not uncommon to read comments such as: “Long live Comrade Putin!” or “Putin is rebuilding the USSR!,” “I knew it (the Soviet Union, ed.) would come back.”

Undeniably Russia has concluded the first post-Soviet period of the massive sell-off of the economic, political and cultural wealth of the people to the large speculators, profiteers and gangsters intertwined with the USA and the West in general. These are no longer alcoholic traitors leading the country but a “statesman,” competent and prepared (note his past training in the KGB). These combined factors have helped to create this image, this distortion of reality. Without wishing to dwell on the history of the USSR, we must ask ourselves first, what makes a state a socialist country. It is a fact that the Communist Party must lead the country (as the political vanguard of the proletariat), but this is not essential to determine the nature of the system: instead we focus on the economic structure, which can allow us to dispel all doubt.

Either the means of production are in the hands of the workers, and therefore they have been socialized, or one cannot and should not speak of socialism. One should also pay attention to the difference between the concept of socialization of the means of production and that of nationalization: the latter indeed includes the expropriation of the means of production in order to hand it over to a state entity, but without this affecting the ownership of the property by the bourgeoisie, if we are talking about a capitalist country. For example, in the 1960s many strategic enterprises in Italy were state-owned (energy, steel, etc.), but did this mean that Italy was a socialist country? Who owned the wealth of the country? Was it the workers or the exclusive elite group of entrepreneurs who controlled, and still control, the reins of the economy and national politics?

So the first factor to emphasize, for a communist, is the change of the economic structure in Eastern Europe, primarily in Russia. This was a reversion to capitalist relations of production, as a result of the counter-revolution, where the ownership of the means of production is in private hands and where the production and distribution of wealth is not designed to meet the needs of the people, but to increase the profits of the capitalists, that is, those who hold the means of production in their hands. While the wealth of the USSR was for the benefit of the Soviet peoples, bringing industrialization, services, healthcare, transportation, education, security and peace, today the wealth of the former republics goes to fatten the wallets of the satrap in office, the speculators, banks and the large companies. They are linked with the monopolies (think of Gazprom, Rosneft, Lukoil, Rusal, etc.), banks (Sberbank, VTB-Bank, Alfa Bank, Raffeinse Bank, the private pension fund Blagosostoyanie etc.) and political institutions that actually creates a higher stage, as we shall see in more detail.

We use numbers and statistics to support the argument: in the graph below we can see the evolution of the export of capital for capitalist Russia. In the early 90’s and substantially until the first years of the new decade, the share of Russian capital exported to the rest of the world was essentially irrelevant, both from a statistical and an economic point of view. As mentioned earlier, these were the years in which the wealth of the former Soviet Union was sold off and when the resurgent capital of the country was used to re-appropriate what the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and the building of socialism afterwards had conquered. There was in essence a flight of capital (approximately $15-20 billion per year) to Western banks by the “neo-capitalists.” From this point onwards, however, Russian capitalism opened a new phase, one in which banking and industrial capital began to merge and where the export of capital begins to play a major role: this is the trend that, by consolidating year by year (the global economic crisis only slowed this process between 2007 and 2008) is making Russia a completely imperialist country.

<> Russia, Foreign Direct Investment
<>1991-2012
Source: Our graph based on figures from the World Bank

Source: Our graph based on figures from the World Bank

Beginning in 2000, the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of the Russian monopolies has grown tremendously, reaching $406.2 billion in 2012 (it was $44.2 billion in 2001). [2]

Russia and the characteristics of imperialism

According to Forbes’ list, today there are 110 billionaires in Russia, whose private property is about $320 billion, putting Russia in third place (after the USA and China) in this ranking. The so-called Gini coefficient of the statistical analysis of inequality is equal to 41.7 in Russia.

In analyzing point by point the characteristics of imperialism (we will focus on the first three) expounded by Lenin, we can verify that the concentration of production in Russia was already well developed in the USSR; therefore, the formation of capitalist monopolies did not need many decades, but its concentration was inherited from the socialist economy by imposing private ownership on the means of production.

In Forbes’ list of the largest monopolies in the world there are 28 Russians, including Gazprom, Lukoil, Rosneft and Sberbank. The Russian economy is highly concentrated; in many sectors the level is higher than in the USA and in Germany. For example, in 2006 the proportion that the 10 largest monopolies in Russia contributed to the GDP was 28.9%, while in the USA it was 14.1%. Most sectors of the economy, energy, mechanical engineering, transportation and food production are highly monopolized. We can conclude that in Russia we are dealing with monopoly capitalism, highly concentrated, with a strong state presence.

As for the fusion between bank capital and industrial capital, this took place over time. Sberbank is one of the largest banks in the world, but VTB-Bank, Alfa Bank and the Bank Raffeinse also play a crucial role in the Russian economy: the large banking monopolies are closely linked to or belong to the industrial monopolies themselves. This is the case with Gazprom Bank, Uralsib, Promsvjas Bank. Recently, the Russian Communist Workers Party (RKRP-RPK) released a survey on this issue on its website, highlighting some 20 cases, [3] which we describe below.

Graphic on the property of the Russian oligarchs

Graphic on the property of the Russian oligarchs

The industrial group Gazprom owns Gazprombank and the private pension fund “Gazfond.” This largest Russian industrial monopoly group also owns the insurance group “Sogas” and runs the “Leader,” investment companies and pension funds. The well-known oligarch Vekselberg ownsRenova Holding (based in the Bahamas), which owns the Russian group “Renova,” an international private business company consisting of wealth management companies and investment funds that own shares in metal mines, oil companies, construction machinery, mining, energy, telecommunications, nanotechnology and in the financial sector in Russia and abroad. The Renova Group has strong investments and presence in major Russian and international companies, including world-renowned companies such as UC Rusal, Integrated Energy Systems, Oerlikon, Sulzer and SCHMOLZ + BICKENBACH. Moreover, Renova, has integrated direct investment funds and management companies operating in the energy sector (IES, Avelar Energy), in real estate development, in investment – “Columbus Nova,” telecommunications – “Akado Group,” the chemical industry – “Orgsyntes Group” and precious metals – “Zoloto Kamchatki.” The Renova Group invests in Russia, Switzerland, Italy, South Africa, Ukraine, Latvia, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, etc. The group also owns Metkombank, one of the largest banks in Russia, which aims to become one of the top 50 banks attractive to investors. This large banking group owns the “Non-Ferrous Metals Plant Kamensk-Ural,” a construction company – the “Kortros,” and participates in other major Russian companies.

At the same time, the oligarch Vekselberg owns a part of “UC Rusal,” the largest aluminum producer in the world, and is co-owner of “Norilsk Nickel,” a Russian nickel and palladium mining and smelting company. The oligarchs Alisher Usmanov, Vladimir Skoch and Farhad Moshiri own “Metalloinvest,” one of the largest mining and metallurgical groups in Russia, specializing in steel production, which owns the “Lebedinsky Michajlovskij” ore enrichment plants, the “Oskol Steel Works,” “Ural Steel” and other industries. At the same time until last year they owned the“Round Bank” (formerly Ferrobank), which was sold to their “friend” Leon Semenenko, who owns Hessen Holdings Ltd and Nenburg Finance Ltd, based in Cyprus, which each own 50% of SibConsultGroup LLC, currently the sole owner of Round Bank. In 2012, Usmanov, one of the richest men in the world, formed USM Holdings which includes numerous investments in telecommunications companies such as “Garsdale,” which controls about 50% of “MegaFon,” the second largest mobile phone operator in Russia, which in turn owns 100% of the “Scartel/Yota” company, a 4G provider, 50% of “Euroset,” the largest retailer of mobile phones in Russia. All these companies have interests and men in the Round Bank.

The oligarch Prokhorov owns a multitude of companies; to name just some of them, “Onexim Holdings Ltd” (based in Cyprus), which owns the group “OptoGaN,” producer of high-luminosity LEDs. This group, with headquarters in St. Petersburg and active in Finland and Germany, which is owned by various private investment funds (including particularly those of Prokhorov) and state funds. Prokhorov also owns one of the leading real estate companies in Russia, the “Opin” and “Quadra Power Generation,” leader of the Russian electricity sector. At the same time Prokhorov owns the “Renaissance Credit” bank and the largest investment company, “Renaissance Capital.” He also owns part of “Rusal.” Vladimir Yevtushenko, one of the richest men in Russia, owns a controlling part (64.2%) of the shares of “AFK System,” which owns “MTS-Bank” (which directly controls “RTI Group” the largest Russian industrial holding company that develops and manufactures high technology and microelectronic technology products), 89% of “Bashneft” (one of the major Russian oil companies) and 92% of the electricity distribution networks“Bashkiria.”

In addition to media and retail chains. Oleg Deripaska owns the investment company “Basic Element,” with shares in the energy, industrial, aviation, agro-business, textile, network and financial services sectors. He owns one of the major insurance (joint-stock) companies, “Ingosstrakh,” the big bank “Soyuz,” the private pension fund “Socium,” which serves the largest production facilities of “Basic Element,” one of the largest leasing companies in Russia, Element Leasing. He also owns the GAZ Group, leader in the Russian market for commercial vehicles, which produces buses, cars, electric trains, components, etc.

The “vodka king” Roustam owns the “Russian Standard Bank,” one of the largest Russian banks, the insurance company “Russian Standard Insurance” and “Russian Standard Vodka,” the most important company producing vodka. Agalarov owns the Crocus Group, a leading Russian real estate company, with dozens of construction and logistics companies, and the Crocus Bank. Russian Railways, one of the three largest transport companies (freight and passenger) in the world, owns the private pension fund “Blagosostoyanie,” which is wholly owned by Absolut Bank and a good part of the KIT Finance Bank. Dimitry Pumpyanskiy, through the Group “Ekaterinburg,” owns 98% of the “SKB-Bank,” and 71.1% of “TMK Steel.”

Anatoly Sedykh owns 80% of “United Metallurgical Company” (one of the largest Russian manufacturers of pipes, railway wheels and other steel products for energy, transportation and industrial companies) and 60% of the capital of “Metallinvest Bank.” Mikail Shishhanov owns 98.6% of “Bin Bank” as well as 95% of the construction company “INTEC.” Alekperov and Leonid Fedun have shares in Lukoil and in the IFH Capital group that owns the Bank Petrokomerts. Alekperov also has a stake in the finance company “Uralsib” and in the bank with the same name. The “Vneshtorg Bank,” which is state-owned, owns a construction company, “VTB-Development.” “Sberbank,” state-owned, owns the auto assembly plant “Derveis” in Cherkessk, the construction companies “Krasnaya Polyana” and “Rublyovo-Arkhangelsk” and others. “Rosneft”(part of “Rosneftegaz”) owns the “Russian Regional Development Bank.” The MDM Bank (that began as a foundation and now is one of the largest private banks in Russia) owns the “Siberian Coal Energy Company” (the largest coal producer in Russia and one of the leading exporters). They are shareholders of MDM Bank, large international financial institutions such as the International Finance Corporation, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as well as one of the largest investment companies in Russia, Troika Capital Partners.

The Guta Group is one of the largest industrial and investment corporation and owns the United Confectioners Holding Company, leader in the confectionery market, owning most of the brands in this sector (about 1,700). The company is vertically integrated and performs the complete cycle of operations, from agriculture to the sale of the processed products. The Group owns Guta Insurance and Guta Bank (one of the top 20 Russian banks). It also owns hotels and even hospitals and private clinics. The holding company “Don Invest” includes the Commercial Bank Doninvest, and owns companies in the sectors of engineering and production of food, buses and cars. The Joint Stock Compan, Federal Research & Production Center ALTAI, owns the “National Industrial Land Bank” and a wide range of industries.

Most of the oligarchs have seats in the Duma, direct links with the state functionaries and with the political parties of the Russian bourgeoisie. We can therefore conclude by affirming the existence of a financial oligarchy in Russia, which is reflected in oligarchic political power, not homogeneous in the sense that there are certainly contrasts with oligarchic sectors linked to the “West” which advocate greater liberalization and privatization (already widely foreseen), which over the years have tried to also promote a “color revolution” in Russia.

Graphic on Russian banks
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We have already mentioned the export of capital, pointing out the distinct change over the year 2000. The steady growth of the national economy and the relative strengthening of the main national enterprises have contributed to the rapid increase in the volume of investment, making Russia one of the leading international investors (without a doubt among the first ever in the “emerging” countries). With the acquisition of companies in other countries, Russian companies have access to new sources of resources, technology and markets, increasing their international competitiveness. It is an expansion that reinforces Russia’s geopolitical influence and strengthens its position in the global economy.

According to UNCTAD data, in the first half of the decade of 2000, foreign direct investment increased 3 or 4 times compared to the previous decade, exceeding $10 billion a year, in 2011 increasing 3 times compared to the previous period, where participation in capital and reinvested earningsrose to over $67.2 billion. In the last 3 years, Russian companies have been able to double the size of their foreign assets, as well as increase the size of their revenues more than two and a half times from their own assets.

Russian companies employ more than 150,000 workers abroad, more than twice as many as in 2000. As a result, the accelerated global expansion of major Russian companies has led them to assume the intrinsic characteristics of global multinationals.

The leading position in foreign assets is occupied by the oil, gas and steel companies: Lukoil, Gazprom, Severstal and Rusal, with a total value (referred to as the 4) of more than $50 billion in foreign assets. However the data, in relation to the global economy place Russia below the other powers. In 2012, Russian companies invested more than $139 billion in the acquisition of foreign companies (including the acquisition by Rosneft of BP for $56 billion), ending up with about 427 major operations; many of these operations have absorbed companies engaged in the same activity, so the Russian companies tend to focus their expansion at their core business and not on the diversification of their activity.

Although this trend has been changing since 2012, according to the data of 2012, the volume of direct investment by Russian companies abroad represented 17% of the total value of their domestic investment, and about 20 companies control 40% of all foreign assets.

The export of capital by Russian banks is carried out either in the form of direct investments or of acquisition of foreign services, or by investing in foreign financial instruments, including securities, deposits in foreign banks or loans to legal entities. During the 1990s and the early 2000s, the volume of exports of funds by Russian credit institutions was relatively small, amounting to no more than $3.4 billion a year (but one must not forget that already at that time there was the acquisition by Alfa Bank of the Trade Bank of Amsterdam). Since 2005, the export of capital by the banking sector has accelerated sharply. In 2011, it reached $32 billion, an increase of more than nine times over 2000 (data from the Bank of Russia). With the increase in the financial capacity of the major Russian banks, which have increasingly invested in the expansion of their own international presence through the acquisition of existing foreign companies and the creation of foreign subsidiaries, so that in the first months of 2013, most of the major Russian banks owned their own subsidiary banks abroad. In particular, over the past four years VTB-Bank has established branches in Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia and Georgia, investing more than $400 million, and also consolidating its participation in Western European banks, and opening branches in India, China, Vietnam and Angola. VTB is now able to provide a high level of financial support to Russian companies in over 15 countries of the CIS [Confederation of Independent States], Western Europe, Asia and Africa, , aiming by 2020 to be the first and only global financial institution in banking services of the post-Soviet era

Furthermore, a special feature of the banking sector. which the World Bank has expressly “recommended” as a remedy (advice that was promptly implemented), is to present a high break down of institutes due to barriers to entrance in very low sectors. Also in its report on Russia the World Bank noted this difference with the other BRICS countries, but emphasizes in each case, made the necessary interventions, that the large Russian banks (including the state-owned ones) play a dominant role and have no problems supporting requests for large amounts of capital.

Therefore we can conclude that the economic structure of the USSR and that of Russia are totally opposite and not comparable. It is not a matter of being for or against Russia, or for or against Putin, but of scientifically analyzing the real nature of each country, without the mystification or idealism typical of the opportunists who seek to separate imperialism from its economic base. Starting from this, even the current conflict on Ukrainian territory has to be seen from the viewpoint of a dispute between capitalist giants (such as for example Chevron and Gazprom) and in more general terms of a dispute between the great imperialist powers competing in the division of territories and markets, looking for a better position in the imperialist pyramid, with the bloody intervention on Ukrainian territory by the United States and the EU (whose warmongering escalation has even led to the downing of an airplane with more than 300 dead), which have instigated, financed and organized a sector of the Ukrainian oligarchy that has established a fascist warmongering junta, to put themselves under the influence of the Atlantic bloc and market by preventing Ukraine from joining the Customs Union led by Russia, as was instead desired by another sector of the bourgeoisie. [4]

It is this contention over markets, resources, labor power, routes and territories that is linked to the needs of the institutions of transnational capitalist associations, the various Free Trade Agreements, military accords, etc. whose nature is always determined by the relations of production and the interests of the monopolies, not (exclusively) of geographic position. At the same time, this does not mean that “every imperialism” has the same characteristics, but they do have the same origin in the development of monopoly capitalism and the need to go beyond national confines.

Another enemy or an opportunity?

At this point we can judge that the real nature of this country is well-established, it is by now completely imperialist (though not at the top of the pyramid), where industrial capital has merged with bank capital, and where the big monopolies play a fundamental role. Obviously, however, this country, besides being totally opposed to a socialist system and far from representing any “model” to adopt, is opening up interesting scenarios at the international level: the confrontation with the United States, up to now the most powerful and hegemonic imperialism at the global level, the advance of other “emerging” great powers such as China, Brazil, China, India and South Africa (the so-called BRICS countries) is creating huge rifts in the economic and political balance.

We can therefore say that Russia, as well as China, are the main “enemies” of Yankee unipolarity, which was manifested in particular after 1989 with the barbarity of the wars in former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. To what is this situation related? First, this is due to the uneven development of capitalism, and the crisis which, since 2008 in its most acute phase, has affected the major imperialist centers (USA, EU and Japan), while the countries now grouped in BRICS have experienced a rapid development (although this varied among them) to the point that today they have founded a new international Bank, an alternative to the IMF and World Bank, overturning Bretton Woods [5] after 70 years

These events can be considered positive in the sense that they weaken US domination and open spaces and diplomatic confrontations that can be very useful. For example, the Russian and Chinese opposition to the UN “peace” intervention in Syria, prevented the repetition of the Libyan scene of a few years earlier. This allowed the Syrian government to effectively cope with the hordes of Islamic mercenaries, supplied by the USA and other imperialist powers (such as France), which are now bloodying Iraq. (For further reading, see: http://www.senzatregua.it/?p=1325).

This is an indication of the change in the balance of power at the international level, but does it indicate a change in the level of opposition between the “imperialist camp” and the “anti-imperialist and socialist” camp, as in the years of the existence of the socialist camp? But why was Syria defended while Gaddafi’s Libya was shamefully abandoned? Have the supporters, if one can define them as such, of Putin already forgotten the heroic resistance of the Libyan people, “abandoned” by everyone?

The division of Libya’s economic resources, oil in the first place, among the great powers (without exception) has in fact condemned the experience of the Libyan Jamahiriya: US, European, Russian and Asian monopolies have flung themselves like vultures on the ruins of a country and a people martyred by NATO with the consent of the UN. A socialist country, based on the principle of proletarian internationalism, would never have allowed such a massacre: indeed it was the very existence of the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc that allowed the emancipation and liberation took place in Asia, Africa and Central and South America, accelerating the process of decolonization, establishing an “international law,” based on a balance of power favorable to the people.

Another very recent example is what is taking place in the Middle East: “I support Israel’s fight in an attempt to defend its citizens. I have also heard of the shocking murder of the three young people. This is an act that cannot be permitted, and I ask you to convey my condolences to the families,” Putin said during a long meeting held in Moscow with a delegation of rabbis, led by the Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and composed of the former Israeli Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar, and the rabbis of the Rabbinical Center of Europe (RCE). [6]

Without going into too much detail on the Palestinian issue (for further reading, see: http://www.senzatregua.it/?p=1274) it is evident that, perceiving the various diplomatic tightropes, these are some incredible claims (for an “anti-imperialist”): “I support Israel’s fight” to “defend its citizens.” While the masses of people around the world took to the streets (and are still doing so) to support the right to self-determination and freedom of the Palestinian people against the shameful and terrible acts of war of the Israeli armed forces, the Russian president not only declares support for Israel but adds that this is necessary to defend its citizens. It is clear to everyone how bombing a ghetto (which they did in the Gaza Strip), killing hundreds of women and children, is an act of defense, isn’t it? We are still asking, why “comrade” Putin?

There are economic interests at stake (among the many actions taken one can also count the agreement signed by the Russian president with large financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs and BlackRock? [7] in support of the national companies, the exchange of favors, the different situations of equilibrium to be maintained or changed, and every government legitimately plays the game. That, once again, however, is not that of the popular masses, of the workers and of course of the communists. An example is the struggle for the exploitation of gas and oil fields off the coast of Israel (such as Leviathan, Dalit and Tamar), with Russia’s Gazprom intending to set its sights on these supplies to the Asian markets to prevent them from being exploited by the European monopolies, which would put at risk the monopoly of Russian supplies to Europe. These are the real interests at stake.

The crux of the issue to be resolved is the following: in what way and to what extent can the “New Architecture” (proposed by BRICS) of the world order be beneficial to the people?

One myth to be dispelled is the question of “independence.” We Marxists cannot assess the role played in recent years by BRICS in the international division of labor, with many multinationals that have been established in some of these countries, and the relations of interdependence and dependence developed by these countries with the others, on the basis of which we can state that one cannot speak of “two worlds” but of old and new (monopoly) capitalist powers that converge at the top of the pyramid of the international imperialist system. To repeat what was mentioned before, the uneven development of capitalism, the internal dynamic of capitalism is leading today to a slowdown in these economies, which are suffering from the contradictions and effects of the general crisis. The birth of Brics Bank can only be seen within the inter-imperialist dynamics of the trade in raw materials (the fall in prices of raw materials), the erosion of the heavy investment of the imperialist centers in these countries and their development, which requires “disengaging” from the danger of the financial control of the USA (IMF and WB), developing new economic and political strategies to offset the losses on the European markets and strengthen the interdependence between them, developing their respective markets and carving out more space in the global framework.

The growth of the BRICS has indeed slowed down compared to previous years; China, which in the period 2006-2012 had maintained an average GDP growth of 10.4% is today at 7.4%, the same applies to India, which went from 7.8% to 4.6%. Russia went from 4.3% to 1.4%, while Brazil went from 2.7% to 2.3%. It is in the observation of these dynamics that some comrades often fall into error, that is, they consider today all existing relations as a domination of the “colonial” type by a few imperialist powers (mainly the United States and Germany), defending in this way the supposed common interests between the “bourgeoisie” (which is in fact monopolistic and internationalized) and the “proletariat” of these countries, marginalizing the class struggle, ignoring the analysis of the economic structure of each country (monopoly capitalism) and the objective necessity of extending it to the global market, of connecting it to the processes of globalization of capitalism, of the expansion of international trade and the attraction of investment capital.

The UNCTAD data [8] for the years from 2000 to 2012 show that the inflows of FDI (a very important criterion for determining the internationalization of production) towards the BRICS has more than tripled, reaching $263 billion dollars in 2012, increasing during the period of crisis and in 2012 coming to represent 20% of world flows compared to 6% in 2000. At the same time the BRICS countries have also become important investors, with their Foreign Direct Investment, going from $7 billion in 2000 to $126 billion in 2012, accounting for 9% of world flows. Only ten years ago, their share was 1.1%. China is the largest investor among the BRICS countries (the third overall), with a total of almost $425 billion of FDI in the whole world. Almost half (46%) of the FDI inflows in 2012 towards the BRICS went to China, followed by Brazil (25%), Russia (17%) and India (10%), while the largest share of investments by the BRICS went to the developed economies, particularly the European Union (34%), driven by market research, mergers and acquisitions. Another important share is towards Africa (where China is the largest investor) with a share of FDI that has gone from 14% (in 2010) to 25%, with a particular increase in manufacturing.

The expansion of Russian multinationals in Africa is fairly recent but growing rapidly. RusAl, the largest aluminum producer in the world, is present in Angola, Guinea, Nigeria and South Africa, as well as banks such as Vneshtorgbank, which opened in Angola, Namibia and Ivory Coast, while Renaissance Capital holds 25% of the shares of Ecobank, one of the largest Nigerian banks. The investment among the BRICS was relatively limited until 2012, although it has grown rapidly rising from 0.1 in 2003 to 2.5 in 2011 and this will be the characterization of the next few years (with the Brics Bank).

In 2013, the FDI by the multinationals from countries classified as on the road of development reached $454 billion, a record. Along with the economies classified as in transition, they represent 39% of global FDI outflows, compared to only 12% at the beginning of the 2000 decade. Increasingly, the multinationals of the countries on the road of development are acquiring foreign subsidiaries of multinationals from the developed countries.

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Russia has taken a big leap forward, both in terms of its own outflows as well as in inflows of FDI, which rose from 9th place to 3rd (behind the USA and China) for a value of $94 billion.

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The share of FDI inflows towards the BRICS in 2013 represents 21% for a total value of $304 billion, 10% more than in 2007. The most important fact is that trade among the BRICS countries today already represents 17% of world trade, amounting to $6,140 billion dollars.

russia6

Latin America and the Caribbean have been the region where foreign direct investment has grown most in 2010 (15-25%), in a crisis, at the expense of the industrialized countries, which recorded a regression (- 1%) in the same period. These capitals have been transformed into new plants, offices, productive units, etc. In this way, the region has seen an increase in production of 13%, while at the same period the developed economies have recorded an increase of 8%.

Investments in South America were mainly in natural resources (43% of FDI inflows into the region have gone into the area that produces 31% of world production of bio-fuels, 48% of soy, 47% of copper and 31% of meat), while in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean into the manufacturing industry (54% in the case of Mexico, mostly to the aerospace, food processing, automotive, medical equipment, electrical, electronics and energy sectors, in that order), in both cases, in order to supply the international market. This flow has strengthened the role assigned to these countries in the international division of the market, strengthening the interdependence of these economies, both compared to the economies where the capital is transferred as well as compared to the economies in which the products of these investments are realized, are consumed. The capital is intertwined, and has been redirected from the major centers of production to the peripheral countries, in search of maximum profit.

Let us look at the example of Brazil (the largest recipient of foreign investment and the country with the second largest foreign investment in South America). Immediately evident to the eyes (but often forgotten), the occupation of Haiti by Brazil together with the USA, as well as the sale of arms to Colombia, which contributes to the repression by the regime against the FARC-EP and the popular masses, the peasants and workers. Staying on this issue, in recent years the importance of industrial monopolies of arms has grown significantly in Brazil, as has happened in Israel, one of the countries from which there originated a considerable part of the resources invested, with large capital flows and supplies of resources and arms from Israel to Brazil, for business which during the past 12 years amounted to 1 billion reals. [9]  To continue our analysis of the relations with Israel, one can look at the free trade agreements and the consequent flow between the Zionist state and Mercosur (the same type of analysis could be made of the relations between the latter and the EU).

To better understand the relation between international and national capital in the monopoly stage, in reference to Brazil, we continue with the description by Edmilson Costa:

If we look from the point of view of ownership, we can also see that of these 100 largest economic groups, 58% are of mostly domestic capital, while 42% are controlled by foreign capital. But if we look, for example, at industry, which is the most dynamic sector of the economy, one that creates new wealth, we see that the participation of foreign capital is higher than that of national capital […] the vast majority of the national capital groups are associated, at a certain point of their economic activity, with foreign capital, as long as it is functional, because it opens up areas for action in the international market and to become a major player in international financial flows. These data also clearly show not only the degree of concentration of the Brazilian economy, but above all the level of the relations between national and foreign capital, that is, the organic link between the Brazilian economy and the central economies. In almost all the dynamic sectors of the economy, such as the automobile industry, information technology, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, metallurgy, among others, international capital hegemonises the production process. Similarly, even in the traditional sectors, where national capital has always been in the majority, such as finance, commerce and agribusiness, foreign capital is advancing dramatically in recent years. Monopoly capital is generally concentrated in the large cities, organizing in its logic all the other more vulnerable sectors of capital and interconnecting the Brazilian economy in a subordinate manner to the leading centers and to the financial flows of international capital. The same thing happened in the countryside […] Consequently, this situation puts an end to the old illusions of a possible alliance between the proletariat and sectors of the Brazilian bourgeoisie, as some forces of the left imagine, because this national bourgeoisie is not national and its interests are organically linked to the interests of large international capital.” [10]

Such examples should make it clear that what is developing is a struggle within the global capitalist market for the conquest of shares and positions of the same, on the basis of monopoly interests in search of better conditions for the increase in value of their capital, with strong relations of interdependence (which also achieved temporary international agreements) and at the same time with (ever greater) antagonism at certain levels [11] with the major imperialist powers that exploit alliances with other capitalist countries in one or another region through economic, diplomatic and military means to increase their influence and reduce the support for their adversary.

There is no doubt that the characteristics of the BRICS are different from the imperialist centers (in particular the USA and the EU), but this is only derived from the current level of development of the former. And this often leads to errors. In this later period comes the news of the strengthening of relations between Germany, Russia and China, another clear indication of the change in the international relations of power among the global capitalist powers.

With the Tran Eurasia Express the huge Chinese market will be connected to Europe, passing through Russia; at the same time, these three powers are linked by strong relationships in the supply of gas going from Russia to Germany and in 2018 to China. The maneuvers of the German bourgeoisie show the attempts to become a world (and not just regional) power, unlocking itself (up to a certain point) from the Western bloc to navigate in the global market with more and more interlinking with China and Russia.

The flag of multipolarity cannot be a communist flag, since this is an illusion in relation to the interests of the people, the proletariat and peace, “because there are two worlds in contention, but the continuation of capitalism in its imperialist phase in all these cases […] The new architecture is the prolongation of imperialism through a new division of markets, labor power and raw materials. The change from one imperialist center to another, from one exploiter to another, is not an alternative. […] One cannot deny the communist movement or any country in which it is possible to break the imperialist chain at its weakest link (this is properly the role of the active participation of the class forces in the struggle of the popular militias in the nascent People’s Republics of Novorossija that we support), the implementation of tactics in this sense, but sooner or later antagonisms will be clear”. [12] As mentioned at the beginning, Leninism teaches us a sense of reality to make use of every contradiction produced by the imperialist system, but keeping well in mind the strategic vision in which every step must end up with the strengthening of the independent class perspective, which requires the distinction between the interests of the opposing classes in each and every event that takes place.

To try to unravel the tangle, let us learn from Lenin and from his approach to “multipolarity” and the First World War (it is not unnecessary to note that there has never been such a multipolar world as that which led to the First World War). In “Under a False Flag” [13] (written in 1915, during the First World War), the great Russian revolutionary responded forcefully to the arguments of A. Potresov according to whom (on the basis of Marx) it was necessary to determine the success of which side opened up broader vistas for possibilities desirable from their point of view. It is true, replied Lenin; Marx explicitly poses the question of “the success of which side is more desirable.” But it is misleading, he said, to reiterate that statement a half century later, in which Marx was referring to the confrontation between progressives in the bourgeois movements and feudal, monarchical and absolutist forces.

Therefore, says Lenin, “Marx’s method consists, first of all, in taking due account of the objective content of a historical process at a given moment, in definite and concrete conditions; this in order to realise, in the first place, the movement of which class is the mainspring of the progress possible in those concrete conditions. In 1859, it was not imperialism that comprised the objective content of the historical process in continental Europe, but national-bourgeois movements for liberation. The mainspring was the movement of the bourgeoisie against the feudal and absolutist forces.” […]

Let us suppose that two countries are at war in the epoch of bourgeois, national-liberation movements. Which country should we wish success to from the standpoint of present-day democracy? Obviously, to that country whose success will give a greater impetus to the bourgeoisie’s liberation movement, make its development more speedy, and undermine feudalism the more decisively. Let us further suppose that the determining feature of the objective historical situation has changed, and that the place of capital striving for national liberation has been taken by international, reactionary and imperialist finance capital. The former country, let us say, possesses three-fourths of Africa, whereas the latter possesses one-fourth. A repartition of Africa is the objective content of their war. To which side should we wish success? It would be absurd to state the problem in its previous form, since we do not possess the old criteria of appraisal: there is neither a bourgeois liberation movement running into decades, nor a long process of the decay of feudalism. It is not the business of present-day democracy either to help the former country to assert its ‘right’ to three-fourths of Africa, or to help the latter country (even if it is developing economically more rapidly than the former) to take over those three-fourths.

“Present-day democracy will remain true to itself only if it joins neither one nor the other imperialist bourgeoisie, only if it says that the two sides are equally bad, and if it wishes the defeat of the imperialist bourgeoisie in every country. Any other decision will, in reality, be national-liberal and have nothing in common with genuine internationalism.” […]

We are undoubtedly living at the juncture of two epochs, and the historic events that are unfolding before our eyes can be understood only if we analyse, in the first place, the objective conditions of the transition from one epoch to the other. Here we have important historical epochs; in each of them there are and will always be individual and partial movements, now forward now backward; there are and will always be various deviations from the average type and mean tempo of the movement. We cannot know how rapidly and how successfully the various historical movements in a given epoch will develop, but we can and do know which class stands at the hub of one epoch or another, determining its main content, the main direction of its development, the main characteristics of the historical situation in that epoch, etc. Only on that basis, i.e., by taking into account, in the first place, the fundamental distinctive features of the various ‘epochs’ (and not single episodes in the history of individual countries), can we correctly evolve our tactics; only a knowledge of the basic features of a given epoch can serve as the foundation for an understanding of the specific features of one country or another.”

The proponents of today’s theses on “multipolarity,” namely the progressive role of the monopoly bourgeoisie that is antagonistic to “strong Western imperialism,” reiterate the same opportunist theses which Lenin fought against as they are placed on the positions “of another class, and moreover of an old and outmoded class […].” Therefore it is not a coincidence that the proponents of this thesis are those who speak of “intermediate steps” between capitalism and socialism, who postpone the revolutionary tasks of the working class to an indefinite future, advocating inter-class alliances with a presumed (in fact non-existent) “national bourgeoisie,” that they should form an alliance with one imperialist camp instead of another. A political camp that hides or tries to insinuate itself into the international workers’ and communist movement, sowing confusion, tailism and demobilization, including the Party of the European Left (known for its support, for example, of the European Union and in fact also of NATO) or the proponents of interstate (bourgeois) alliances of southern Europe to end up with the open (so-called) red-brown infiltrating groups [Nazi-Bolsheviks] and a supposed Italic national-bourgeois struggle linked to the “new Eurasian power.” To always say with Lenin, they “have betrayed the standpoint of the class which they are trying hard to represent, are following in the wake of the bourgeoisie.

At 100 years since the First World War, it is once again the struggle between revolutionaries and opportunists concerning the international situation. The recent declaration of the World Federation of Democratic Youth says:

The First World War “was the terrifying revelation of the results of the monopoly stage of capitalism. The millions of deaths and huge disasters involving countries from all continents, will forever be a reminder of the results of the imperialist conflicts and aggression; it will always be a reminder of the fact that the imperialist alliances serve the interests of the bourgeoisie of each country, but not the interests of the people […]

“Today we can see how history repeats itself, with new imperialist alliances, regroupments and continuous increases in military actions. Changes in frontiers and alliances that take place, usually violently, are creating sparks which may lead to wider conflicts and international wars […]

“As part of the international anti-imperialist movement, as progressive young men and women, we honor the victims of the great imperialist war. Our struggle for peace and friendship among the peoples, our struggle to overthrow imperialism is what brings the hope of a better future for humanity, for a necessary progress. As the Great October Revolution was born from the ruins of the First World War, we are committed to defeat imperialism to bring peace between the peoples.” [14]

To really understand all these events we have no other way than to study imperialism and Lenin, who often enlightens us wisely. It is precisely because the world is constantly changing that we need clarity in the process of internationalization of the productive forces, of the competitive struggle and resulting wars between capitalist countries for the redivision of the world on the basis of the uneven development of the capitalist countries and the relation of interdependence between them (the world imperialist system). This means to be politically, ideologically and organizationally consistent in performing the tasks that history imposes on the communists. And these tasks cannot be other than those of fighting the “imperialism at home” (which means, overthrow of the bourgeois power in Italy, withdrawal from the EU and NATO) by all means (rejecting rancid imperialist pacifism), the active solidarity of the proletariat and real international cooperation (for example, with the People’s Republics of Novorossija), the formation of the international unity of the communists, the class independence in the struggle against “any inter-state capitalist alliance” in the realization that the future of the people will be in their own hands only with the overthrow of the bourgeois power in each country, the socialization of the means of production, production and distribution not for profit but for the satisfaction of the needs of the people. The “communist’” organizations and their companions who support the Islamic and terrorist rabble in Syria, the Nazi-fascists in Ukraine in the name of “democracy,” the liberator “comrade Putin” have only two alternatives. Either use Marxism-Leninism as a “toolbox” or finally and honestly declare, which side are you on.

Notes:

1) “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism”, Lenin, 1916, Collected Works, vol. 23, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964, pp. 105-120, available at: http://marx2mao.com/Lenin/ISS16.html

2) http://unctad.org/Sections/dite_fdistat/docs/webdiaeia2014d3_RUS.pdf

3) Article in Russian by the Russian Communist Workers Party, (a member of the Initiative of the Communist and Workers Parties of Europe), which describes the link between bank and industrial capital: http://rkrp-rpk.ru/content/view/11565/1/

4) The intervention in Ukraine by the USA, the EU and NATO is part of a single theater of war that is being developed from Ukraine to the south-east of the Mediterranean to the Middle East and Africa, affecting many countries: Palestine, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Mali, Central African Republic, Sudan, Chad, Ivory Coast, etc. Not to forget the coups (in Honduras and Paraguay), and attempted coups (in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador) in the region of South America. The war in Eastern Europe has the aim of expanding NATO towards the east (as shown by the recent accords at the summit in Wales) with the establishment of bases and fixed detachments ready for action, at Russia’s doorstep.

5) The 70 Years of Bretton Woods, the World Bank and the IMF, by Eric Toussaint. Available in Italian at: http://www.resistenze.org/sito/te/cu/st/custeg23-014866.htm

6) http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/182754

7) “Investors to back Russian groups prior to IPOs.” Article in the Financial Times, June 21, 2012. Available at: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/04a79574-bbc4-11e1-9aff-00144feabdc0,Authorised=false.html?_i_location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2F04a79574-bbc4-11e1-9aff-00144feabdc0.html%3Fsiteedition%3Duk&siteedition=uk&_i_referer=#axzz1zePUgSKP

8) The FDI data can be found at various sources, while reporting this time slight differences, confirming the same trends. The UNCTAD data can be found on the website: http://unctad.org

9) Article in Portuguese on the web-site of the Brazilian Communist Party on the Brazilian war industry and its relations with Israel: The Brazilian war industry and Israel. Available at: http://pcb.org.br/portal/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7669:a-industria-belica-brasileira-e-israel&catid=43:imperialismo

10) The social explosion knocks at the door of the World Cup, by Edmilson Costa (Brazilian Communist Party). Also note the data on the monopoly concentration in the Brazilian economy. Available in Italian at: http://www.resistenze.org/sito/te/po/br/pobref03-014592.htm

11) An example of this is the recent war of sanctions between the USA, EU and Russia, for further reading: The War of Sanctions and the Imperialist Spiral by Alexander Mustillo. Available in Italian at: http://www.senzatregua.it/?p=1322

12) Multipolarity: Two Worlds, or Inter-Imperialist Dispute? By Pavel Blanco Cabrera, First Secretary of the CC of the Communist Party of Mexico. Available in Spanish at: http://elcomunista.nuevaradio.org/?p=1331

13) Under a False Flag, Lenin, 1915, Collected Works, vol. 21, Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964, p. 135-157, available at: http://marx2mao.com/Lenin/UFF15.html

14) Declaration of the WFDY for the 100 years since the First World War. Available in Italian at: http://www.senzatregua.it/?p=1278

Source

Marx, Lenin and Stalin on Zionism: Conclusion & References

This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #30, “Marx, Lenin and Stalin on Zionism.”

CONCLUSION:

1) The Marxist-Leninists have always stood against both anti-Semitism and Zionism.
To be anti-Zionist is not equivalent to being an anti-Semite or anti-Jewish.
It is the Zionists – both in the past and in their current manifestations as the supporters of Israel in its present imperialist puppet state from – that confuse progressives by insisting that they are the same.

2) Revisionists used the tactic of confusing anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism
The distortion of anti-Zionism into anti-Semitism formed part of the revisionist underground campaign to subvert the USSR from socialism.
It reached a peak under the so called “Doctor’s Plot.”

That more will be learnt about all of the episodes discussed in this report, is certain. Until further data becomes clear to Marxists-Leninists however, the role of Stalin in supporting the establishment of a partitioned Palestine for a Zionist Israel – is extremely unlikely.

This was a policy foisted upon the USSR by the revisionists led by Gromyko, Ponomorev and Manuilsky.

LISTING OF THE FULL REFERENCES

Journals

Alliance Marxist-Leninist (Available from address cited page 3 of this report or contact via <hari.kumar@sympatico.ca>;
Compass (Available from: <hari.kumar@sympatico.ca>
Science cited re Sudoplatov’s allegations;
Several Soviet journals have been cited; but were not read by Alliance; & so these are also cited by the authors used by Alliance to compile the information in this report;

World Wide Web Sites Used In This Report:

1) For several citations on the positions of Jews in Europe especially pre-revolutionary Russia: See “Beyond The Pale”; found at the site:
<http://www.friends-partners.org/partners/beyond-the-pale/english/32.html> ;
2) For citations from Lenni Brenner’s book: See: Web site of International Secretariat of the War & Holocaust Tales Ancient Amateurs’ Association; (WHOTAAAN) in 1996; E-Mail: <aaargh@abbc.com>; the book itself is referenced also below;
3) For some citations on cold war and world war II policy of West to USSR; see “A Decade of American Foreign Policy : Basic Documents, 1941-49”; Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Washington, DC: 1950. Found on the WWW: World War II Page WW II Conferences Page; Avalon Home Page: William C. Fray & Lisa A. Spar.
4) For some citations upon the USSR efforts for a bomb; Cold War International History Project; Web Site: “Research Notes: the Russian Nuclear Declassification Project: Setting Up the A-bomb Effort, 1946”; by G. A. Goncharov, N. I. Komov, A. S. Stepanov;
5) For various documents from the USSR archives; here we cite: From A Document On The Web: The Jewish Anti-fascist Committee Jewish in the USSR 21 June 1946: To Comrade M. A. Suslov, Director Section for Foreign Policy Central >Committee of the Communist Party; Site is at: <http://lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/archives/jewi.html>
6) For the quotations from Marx on The Jewish Question – analysed in detail in the Appendix; See: <http://www.marx.org/Archive/arch-z.gif>

Books:

Axell, Albert: “Stalin’s War Through the Eyes of His Commanders”; New York; 1997;
Arch Getty J & Roberta T. Manning Eds: “Stalinist Terror, New Perspectives.” Cambridge, 1993.
Bland W.B.: “The Doctors Case & The Death Of Stalin”; Stalin Society; London nd ca 1992;
Bland W.B.; “Restoration of Capitalism In the USSR”; London; 1981; also at home pages of Alliance.
Bland W.B. for ML Research Bureau; Report No.2; London; nd circa 1992;
Brenner, Lenni: Zionism in the Age of Dictators; 1983, Kent;
Chaney, Preston: “Zhukov”; 1976; Norman Oklahoma=
Dallin D.J. “Soviet Foreign Policy After Stalin”; Philadelphia 1961
Degras J (Ed); “The Communist International 1919-1943; Documents” Vol 1; London; 1971;
Deriabin Peter: “Watchdogs of Terror: Russian bodyguards from the Tsars to the Commissars”; USA; 1984;
Etinger Iakov; “The Doctors’ Plot: Stalin’s Solution to the Jewish Question”; in Editor: Yaacov Ro’i: “Jews & Jewish Life in Russia & the Soviet Union”; London; 1995;
Elon Amos; “Rothschild”; London;
Gromyko A. “Memoirs”; New York; 1989;
Gromyko A.A. & Ponomorev B.N. Edited: “Soviet Foreign Policy; 1945-1980”; Volume II; Moscow; 1980;
Grey I: “Stalin: Man of History”; London; 1979;
Holloway, David: “Stalin and the Bomb”; New Haven, 1994;
Knight, Amy: “Beria-Stalin’s First Lieutenant”; Princeton New Jersey 1993;
Khruschev N.S.: Secret Speech to 20th party Congress; CPSU, In: “The anti-Stalin Campaign and International Communism: A Selection of Documents”; New York; 1956;
Laquer Walter; “A History of Zionism”; New York; 1976;
Levytsky B: “The Uses Of Terror: The Soviet State Security: 1917-1970”; London; 1971;
Leon Abraham; “The Jewish Question-A Marxist Interpretation”; New York; 1970;
Lenin V.I;: “The Position of Bund In The Party”; 1903; Works; vol 7; Moscow 1986;
Lenin “Critical Remarks National Question” In “Lenin On USA”; p. 87; or From Vols 20; Works;
Lenin; “Right Of Nations to Self Determination”; Sel Wks; Vol 1; Moscow; 1977; or Works vol 20;
Lenin V.I: “Does the Jewish proletariat need an independent political party”; Iskra 1903; Works; Mos; 1985; Vol 6
Marx; Letter to Ruge A; March 13th 1843;
Marx., “British Rule in India”: the collection: “Marx & Engels On Britain.” Moscow; 1971;
Marx: “On the Jewish Question” – >Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbucher=- Vol 3 Marx and Engels Collected Works;
Marx; “The Holy Family”; The Jewish Question. Volume 4; CW; Moscow; 1975;
Marx K; “Capital” Volume 1; Chapter 1; Section 4;
Padover Saul K.; “Introduction” In Volume 5, “On Religion”; The Karl Marx Library; New York; 1974
Pinkus Benjamin: “The Jews of the Soviet Union”; Cambridge; 1988;
Ro’i, Yaacov (ed) “Jews & Jewish Life in Russia & The Soviet Union”; London 1995;
Rapoport Y: “‘The Doctor’s Plot’, Stalin’s Last Crime”: London; 1991;
Resis Albert: “Stalin, the Politburo & the Onset of the Cold War. 1945-1946”, no.701, CB Papers; Pittsburgh 1988;
Reale Eugenio: “The Founding of the Cominform,” In M. M.Drachkovitch and Branko Lazitch (Eds): “The Comintern: Historical Highlights: Essays Recollection &Documents”; Stanford (USA); 1966;
Redlich, Shimon: “Propaganda and Nationalism in Wartime Russia-The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in the USSR, 1941-1948”; 1982; USA;
Sudoplatov Pavel &; with JL &LP Schecter: “Special Tasks”; Boston; 1995;
Stalin J.: “Works” Moscow; 1956; Vol 2; “Marxism and the National Question”;
Strizhov Iurii: “The Soviet Position on the Establishment of the State of Israel”; London; 1995;
Tawney R.H. “Religion & The Rise of Capitalism”; London; 1975;
Teller, Judd T: “The Kremlin, The Jews and the Middle East”; p.106.New York; 1957;
Vaksberg Arkady; “Stalin Against the Jews”; New York; 1994;
Wilson E.M.: “Decision On Palestine – How the US Came to Recognise Israel”; Stanford; 1979;
Weinberg Robert; “Stalin’s Forgotten Zion – Birobidzhan & the Making of A Soviet Jewish Homeland, An Illustrated History 1928-1996.” Berkeley 1998;
Wolin S & Slusser R: “The Soviet Secret Police”; London; 1957;
Zubok, Vladislav & Pleshakov, Constantine “Inside the Kremlin’s Cold War – From Stalin to Khrushchev”; Cambridge Mass; 1996.

Source

The Doctor’s Plot

Vrachi-timashuk

This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #30, “Marx, Lenin and Stalin on Zionism.”

Over this entire period another phenomena was taking place, the distortion of a legitimate anti-cosmopolitanism campaign into an illegitimate anti-Semitic campaign. An increasing number of articles in the press accused persons of “Cosmopolitanism,” but:

“More and more the attacks take an anti-Jewish character, as most of the attacked bear distinctly Jewish names, often given in brackets next to their Russified names. From November 1948 onward, the Soviet authorities start a deliberate campaign to liquidate what is left of Jewish culture. The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee is dissolved, its members arrested. Jewish literature is removed from bookshops and libraries, and the last two Jewish schools are closed. Jewish theatres, choirs and drama groups, amateur as well as professional, are dissolved. Hundreds of Jewish authors, artists, actors and journalists are arrested. During the same period, Jews are systematically dismissed from leading positions in many sectors of society, from the administration, the army, the press, the universities and the legal system. Twenty-five of the leading Jewish writers arrested in 1948 are secretly executed in Lubianka prison in August 1952. The anti-Jewish campaign culminates in the arrest, announced on January 13, 1953, of a group of ‘Saboteurs-Doctors’ accused of being paid agents of Jewish-Zionists organizations and of planning to poison Soviet leaders. Fears spread in the Jewish community that these arrests and the show trial that is bound to follow serve as a pretext for the deportation of Jews to Siberia. But on March 5, 1953, Stalin unexpectedly dies. The ‘Doctor”s Plot’ was exposed as a fraud, the accused are released, and deportation plans, already discussed in the Politburo, are dropped.”

Web site Beyond The Pale; Op Cit:
http://www.friends-partners.org/partners/beyond-the-pale/english/62.html

The class struggle in the USSR was culminating in a frenzied atmosphere, where one strand that was being used by the revisionists was a mounting awareness of an anti-Semitic campaign. This melded the closing of the JAFC into the new plot – the so called “Doctor’s Plot”:

“On 12 August 1952, a group of former JAFC members, convicted by the Military Collegium of the USSR Supreme Court, were put before a firing squad. Many other people of Jewish nationality – 110 in all -were arrested in connection with the JAG case on charges of ‘espionage’ and “anti-Soviet Jewish nationalist activity.” At the time of the trial of the JAG members, preparation of the Doctors’ Plot reached its final stage.”

Iakov Etinger; “The Doctors’ Plot,” Ibid; p. 104.

The Doctor’s Plot was according to the Khruschevite revisionists, entirely the fabrication of Stalin, and they claim credit as the ones who exonerated the Doctors named:

“Stalin… issued orders to arrest a group of eminent Soviet medical specialists.. When we examined this “case” after Stalin’s death, we found it to be fabricated from beginning to end.”

N.S.Khruschev: Secret Speech to 20th party Congress; CPSU, In: “The anti-Stalin Campaign and International Communism: A Selection of Documents”; New York; 1956; p.64.

However it is known that Stalin was dubious about the whole notion of the “Doctors’ Plot.”

When he was first informed his reaction was characteristically blunt.
When Stalin first heard about the alleged “Doctors’s Plot” he dismissed it.
It should also be noted that Stalin’s death was certainly not caused by inappropriate medical attention – but in sharp contrast – by the very deliberate lack or withholding of medical attention. (See Bland’s chronology of events in “Death Of Stalin”; Ibid.)

In 1948, an allegation was made by a Dr Lydia Timashuk, described as a “rank-and-file” doctor, against medical experts. She alleged there had been:

“intentional distortions in medical conclusions made by major medical experts who served as consultants in the hospital. She exposed their criminal designs and thus opened the eyes of security bodies to the existence of the infamous conspiracy.”

Rapoport Y: “Doctors’s Plot: Stalin’s Last Crime”: London; 1991; p.77.

Although Khrushchev alleged that Stalin was behind “this ignominious case,” (Khrushchev secret speech op cit; p. 65) other commentators tell us that:

“Stalin had strong doubts about Timashuk’s allegations.”

Grey I: “Stalin: Man of History”; London; 1979; p.461.

And Stalin’s daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva wrote:

“My father’s housekeeper told me not long ago that my father was extremely distressed at the turn events took… She was waiting on table as usual, when my father remarked that he did not believe the doctors were ‘dishonest’ and that the only evidence against them, after all were the ‘reports’ of Dr. Timashuk.”

Alliyeuva S; ibid; p.215.

Again it is only Khrushchev or Sudoplatov, who can confirm that Stalin supposedly “changed his mind” after a full investigation. (Khrushchev N: “Khrushchev Remembers”; London; 1971; p.283).

Victor Abakumov, was placed in charge of the investigation of Dr Timashuk’s allegations. It was in 1950 that the first arrest took place, with that of Dr Yakov Ettinger at the First Ggradeskaya Hospital of Moscow. (Rappoport Op Cit; p. 24).

However in 1951, Victor Abakumov was then himself arrested, on the charge of “lack of vigilance in connection with the “Leningrad Affair”:

“In.. 1951.. Abakumov was arrested.. He was taken to the Lyubanka and put in solitary confinement. Several of his deputies and several dozen state security officers were arrested along with him… The charges brought against Abakumov at that time were that he had not recognised the enemy of the people during his handling of the ‘Leningrad Affair’.. In September 1951 none other than Khrushchev .. Echoed Stalin’s charge that Abakumov and his officers had failed to recognise the enemy of the people in the northern city’s Party apparatus.”

P.Deriabin: “Watchdogs of Terror:Russian bodyguards from Tsars to Commissars”; USA; 1984; p.316-317.

How did the whole matter get started, and who were the players behind it?

As stated above, the accusations were a matter of four years old. They had been put aside as an un-proven allegation. It is speculative, but they might be seen as having been sent by a potentially disgruntled employee.

The allegations were put aside until, the accusation became expedient to serve as a further means of sabotage. In other words to disrupt the faithful Marxist-Leninist ring around Stalin; and to inflame the population with a divisive anti-Semitism.

Dr Lydia Timashuk had been the original complainer, and she received the Order of Lenin for her work, in 1953:

“On 21 January 1953, the newspapers published the Decree of the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium awarding Doctor L. F Timashuk the Order of Lenin ‘for assistance rendered to the government in exposing the murderous doctors.'”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; Ibid; p. 115-7

But the letter “warning of the “Doctor’s Plot” itself had been submitted in 1948.
Timashuk had written to Vlasik, of the MGB Security and a key pro-Stalin figure.
Neither Vlasik, Stalin nor those of the MGB responsible for Zhdanov took action.

The letter warned that during the conduct of medical tests on Zhdanov, there had been a deliberate mis-diagnosis. Dr Timashuk was the head of the Electrocardiography laboratory at the Kremlin Hospital. Not only did she allege that Professors Egorov and Vasilenko (of the Kremlin’s Special Medical Department) insist that Dr Timashuk alter a diagnosis of “coronary thrombosis” to “sclerosis and hypertension,” but that they also falsified a diagnosis on a form previously reported by a “physician in charge” – Dr Maiorov:

“It is now known from recently discovered classified KGB and CPSU Central Committee documents that on 29 August 1948, Timashuk, head of the electrocardiography laboratory at the Kremlin Hospital, sent a confidential letter to General N. S. VIasik, chief of MGB security. It was a political denunciation asserting that on 28 August 1948, the head of the Kremlin’s special medical department, Professor P. I. Egorov, summoned her to take an ECG of Politburo Member A. A. Zhdanov. On that same day she and Professor Egorov, Academician Vinogradov and Professor V. Kh. Vasilenko flew from Moscow to Valdai where Zhdanov was at the time. She took his electrocardiogram and diagnosed coronary thrombosis. She immediately told the professors who had come with her about it. But, she went on, Professor Egorov and the physician in charge, Dr. Maiorov, said that the diagnosis was incorrect, that this was not a case of coronary thrombosis but of functional disorders caused by sclerosis and hypertension. They proposed that she, ‘alter’ the diagnosis and write ‘caution’ without mentioning coronary thrombosis as Dr. Karpai had done on the previous electrocardiograms. Further on Timashuk said in her letter to VIasik that on 29 August 1948 Zhdanov had had another acute heart attack and she was summoned from Moscow for the second time. However, on orders from Vinogradov and Egorov the electrocardiogram was not taken on 29 August but postponed until the following day. ‘It was again proposed in a categorical fashion that I alter the diagnosis, and that myocardial infarction should not be mentioned. I notified Comrade A. M. Belov about it.’ Belov was an MGB official responsible for Zhdanov’s safety .. Timashuk pointed out that the consultants and the doctor in charge of the case “clearly underestimated Zhdanov’s grave condition, for they allowed him to get up and take a walk in the park.’ In her opinion ‘in future that could lead to fatal consequences.'”

We will leave aside the vexed issue of inter-physician agreements at the best of times! Those unfortunate enough to end up in the hands of physicians will know how they frequently disagree! However, to stay with the facts –
the letter was, by the 30th August, with Abakumov – who responded to Stalin in a memorandum:

“On the desk of the State Security Minister V. S. Abakumov.
On that same day he sent a top-secret memorandum to Stalin: To Comrade Stalin, 1. V., I am sending you a statement by Dr. L. F.Timashuk, head of the electrocardiography laboratory, about the condition of Comrade Zhdanov. As is evident from Dr. Timashuk’s statement, she insists that Comrade Zhdanov had a myocardial infarction in the area of the anterior wall of the left ventricle and of the intra ventricular septum. Head of the Kremlin medical department Egorov and Academician Vinogradov suggested that she alter the diagnosis omitting any mention of myocardial infarction.
Enclosed: Statement by Comrade Timashuk and the ECG of Comrade Zhdanov.”

Iakov Etinger, “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 115-7

Since no action was still taken, despite the subsequent death of Zhdanov, Timashuk continued to send more letters – apparently it is true they were at least in some cases, addressed to a known revisionist Kuznetsov. Conceivably it is true then that a revisionist would have delayed the “truth” (if there were any – in Timashuk’s allegations from emerging.
But it was not till 1952, when the case was re-opened. It was re-opened – it is alleged by Professor Iakov Etinger (Younger) – by Stalin himself:

“Zhdanov died on 30 August 1948. After his death Timashuk sent several letters to the Central Committee, setting forth her opinion about Zhdanov’s diagnosis and treatment. At that point the case was shelved. But Stalin returned to it in the summer of 1952, when preparations for the Doctors’ Plot were in full swing.”

Iakov Etinger, “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 115-7

But the re-opening of the case by Stalin would mean that he would have in the interim changed his mind. We have no direct evidence for this.
We have only the assertions from various interested parties like Professor Etinger, and Khruschev, that Stalin now “wanted to launch a case against the Jews.” Other than this incantation, we have not yet heard any concrete evidence that indicates Stalin had changed his mind.

The re-opening of the case has been described by Timashuk herself, in a letter found in the Central Committee Archives.

In her letter she describes being received by Malenkov and being informed of her “service” having been rewarded with the Order of Lenin. But she herself records that she had not believed that the doctors were saboteurs. The inference is that she believed they had been simply “mistaken.” She also describes the revoking of the Order and assurances that she was still considered competent:

“A letter Timashuk sent to the Presidium of the 23rd Congress of the CPSU in 1966 has recently been discovered in the Central Committee archives. It said:
“In the summer of 1952 I was suddenly summoned to investigator Novikov in the MGB investigation department on matters of highest importance and after some time to investigator Eliseev in connection with the case of the late A. A. Zhdanov. I again confirmed everything I had written to A. A. Kuznetsov, in the Central Committee. Six months later, on 20 January 1953, A. N. Postrebyshev (Head of the Central Committee’s Special Sector, Stalin’s personal secretariat) summoned me by phone and I was invited to the Kremlin. There G. M. Malenkov told me that a Council of Ministers meeting and Comrade Stalin personally had just thanked me for my personal courage displayed (that is, four and a half years ago) when I adhered to my professional opinion in the dispute with a prominent professor, and officially commended me and decorated me with the Order of Lenin. I was dumbfounded, for I could not believe that the doctors treating Zhdanov would turn out to be saboteurs. .. On the following day, 21 January 1953, the Order of Lenin was awarded to me and on 4 April 1953, The day the doctors were rehabilitated] the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium repealed the decision on my decoration as erroneous. When I returned the Order of Lenin to the Supreme Soviet, A. F. Gorkin and N.M. Pegov (prominent party and Soviet functionaries) were present. They assured me that the government considered me an honest Soviet doctor and the repeal of the decree on my decoration would not affect my professional prestige or position. I continued working in the Kremlin Hospital as head of the functional diagnosis department. Three years later, in 1956, N. S. Khrushchev sent a secret letter dealing with Stalin’s personality cult to the CPSU Central Committee and mentioned my name there in connection with the Doctor Plots.”

Iakov Etinger, “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 115-7

The work of the previously quoted Iakov Etinger becomes of significant interest, not the least because he was the son of the first imprisoned doctor.

Dr Etinger the elder, was the first implicated doctor in the “Plot,” and he was accused of the murders of Alexsandr Shcherbakov and Andrei Zhdanov.

Dr Etinger was a competent physician who had often been consulted by and on behalf of leading party and Comintern officials. His degrees and competency were never questioned. What was questioned was his motives, and whether he used his knowledge to deliberately mis-treat and kill prominent patients:

“On 13 January 1953, all leading Soviet newspapers carried the notorious TASS communique entitled ‘The Arrest of a Group of Saboteur Doctors’ which accused a number of Jewish doctors of plotting to murder leading Soviet figures using harmful methods of medical treatment. These doctors had allegedly caused the death of Central Committee Secretaries Aleksandr Shcherbakov and Andrei Zhdanov. The provocation was part of a far-reaching plan to link the JAG case with the doctors ‘crimes.’ This was alluded to in the following phrase from the TASS statement:

‘Vovsi (one of the accused physicians) told the investigation that he had gotten orders to kill leading cadres in the USSR from the US-based Joint (the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) via a Moscow doctor, one Shimeliovich, and the prominent Jewish bourgeois-nationalist Mikhoels.”‘

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 115-7

Etinger the Younger’s interpretation of events was that there was a link between the “Anti-Zionist Plot,” and the current plot – designed to provoke suspicions of the Jews:

“The investigation committee wanted Shimeliovich, who had been a member of the JAG Presidium and had already been shot, and Professor Vovsi, Mikhoels’s cousin, to play the role of the connecting link between the JAG and the arrested Jewish doctors In other words, the upcoming trial was meant to ‘demonstrate’ that the JAG were the ideologues of a ramified and deeply entrenched ‘Jewish plot’ that was to be carried out by Jewish ‘doctor killers.'”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 104-105.

In fact it was Riumin who had provoked further investigations into the case.

It was this same Riumin who was anxious to implicate Abakumov as having been “negligent” in his prior investigations.
Riumin also claimed that Abakumov was trying to obstruct the renewed investigation of Riumin.
Riumin’s actions included personal letters to Stalin.

From a point in June of 1951, Abakumov was first expelled from the party, and then in July he was arrested. These details have been written about by a writer in the former USSR named Kirill Stoliarov:

“Kirill Stoliarov summed up the results of his painstaking and profound study of the materials in the case of State Security Minister Abakumov in his book ‘Golgofa’ (Calvary). He writes there:
‘Riumin investigated the Ia. G. Etinger case. He claimed that Abakumov, first, did not permit him to interrogate Etinger as a participant in the heinous murder of A. Shcherbakov.. and, secondly, ordered Etinger… transferred from the inner prison (of the Lubianka) to the Lefortovo Prison, where he suddenly died and thus priceless information on an extensive terrorist plot was buried. This calls for some explanation. In June 1951 (Abakumov) was expelled from the party, relieved from his post on 4 July and arrested on 12 July. A large group of high-ranking State Security Ministry officials were also arrested. All of them were detained on the strength of the information submitted to the party Central Committee.”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 104-105.

Thus Riumin wrote to Stalin that Abakumov was “glossing over” the Etinger affair:

“M. D. Riumin informed the Central Committee that his superiors were ‘glossing over’ the terrorist plans of Etinger and ‘enemy agents’ spearheaded against Politburo members and Stalin personally; they deliberately neglected to record Etinger’s interrogations which made it possible adroitly to conceal from Stalin, mistakes ‘in the struggle against the schemes of international imperialism.'”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 104-105.

Etinger attributes the subsequent arrest of Abakumov to the actions of Stalin. It is unknown however whether this was so, or whether there was little choice in this circumstance but to bide time and order a full enquiry.
In any case Riumin did obtain his goals: both the arrest of Abakumov and the control over the Etinger case:

“Sending such a letter to Stalin was doubtless a risky undertaking. The chances that it would reach him were very slim.
‘But the miracle did occur,’ Stoliarov writes, ‘and in defiance of common sense and chance. .. Stalin got the signal and after carefully thinking the matter over ordered that Abakumov be arrested.’ The Abakumov case was investigated by K. Mokichev, First Deputy Prosecutor-General. Stoliarov notes that Mokichev began the interrogations ‘with facts’ cited by Riumin, namely, that the terrorist aims of the Jewish nationalist Etinger were being ‘glossed over.'”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 107-8.

Abakumov’s testimony showed that he did in fact conduct an investigation and had come to the conclusion that the whole matter was NOT a question of physician sabotage.

In Abakumov’s words “In the course of the interrogation it had become clear to me that all of this had nothing to do with terrorism, absolutely nothing:

“Stoliarov goes on to say: This is what Abakumov testified about Etinger:

Question: Why did you delay Etinger’s arrest and subsequently forbid interrogating him about terrorism, telling Riumin that Etinger would get him ‘bogged down?’

Answer: The leadership of the Second Directorate reported to me that Etinger was hostile. I told them to prepare a memorandum for the Central Committee. The memorandum cited facts proving that Etinger was a dirty swine. (Abakumov was referring to the anti-Stalin views Professor Etinger expressed when speaking to his son, which constituted a counter-revolutionary crime punishable under Art. 58-10 of the RSFSR Criminal Code. Father and son were having a private conversation, which was tape-recorded – K. Stoliarov).

That was in the first half of 1950, I do not remember in which month. However, at that juncture we had no orders to arrest him. After the order from the higher authorities came, I had him brought to me because I knew that he was an active Jewish nationalist and vehemently anti-Soviet.

“You better tell the whole truth, without beating about the bush,” I said to Etinger.

In reply to my questions he promptly answered that there were no grounds for his arrest and the truth was that Jews were being suppressed in this country. When I pressed further, he said he was an honest man, he was treating high-ranking people and mentioned my deputy, Selivanovskii, and then Shcherbakov. At this moment I said he would have to describe what exactly he had done to cause his death. He began speaking in great detail about Shcherhakov’s serious condition and said he had been doomed. In the course of the interrogation it had become clear to me that all of this had nothing to do with terrorism, absolutely nothing. Later it was reported to me that nothing new or interesting had been gotten out of Etinger.”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 108-109.

Etinger then summarises that Abakumov had concluded that Etinger was not a “criminal” but was merely a Jewish nationalist:

“According to declassified documents of the CPSU Central Committee and the KGB, after another regular interrogation of Etinger in December 1950, Abakumov ‘came to the conclusion’ that there were no facts pointing to ‘criminal medical treatment.’ On 28-29 January 1951, Abakumov issued instructions ‘to discontinue working with Etinger,’ that is, to stop trying to make him confess to ‘criminal treatment’ and only stick to the charges of anti-Soviet activity and Jewish nationalism.”

The excerpts from the interrogation corroborate the view that Abakumov did not try to deny – that even physical beating – had failed to produce any evidence that the physician Etinger had been a criminal. But let us return to the verbatim records of Abakumov’s interrogation.

Question: Are you aware that Etinger was transferred to the Lefortovo prison and that conditions there were new to him?

Answer: This is not correct. The inner [Lubianka] and Lefortovo prisons do not differ from one another.

Question: Did you issue orders that Etinger be kept in special conditions, jeopardizing his health?

Answer: What do you mean by special?

Question: Harder than for the other inmates. Etinger was placed in a damp and cold cell.

Answer: There is nothing extraordinary about that because he was the enemy. We are allowed to beat the inmates – I and my first deputy Ogol’tsov were repeatedly reminded at the RGPtb) Central Committee that whenever necessary our chektsty should not be afraid to use physical force against spies and other people who had committed crimes against the state. An inmate is an inmate, and prison is prison. There are no such things as warm and cold cells there. There was talk about a stone floor, but as far as I know all cells have stone floors. I told the investigating officer that we must get the truth from the inmate and I may have said that I did not want him to get us bogged down.”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 109.

It is known that Abakumov wrote to Stalin, protesting his loyalty and that it was at that point, that Stalin had asked to see the records of testimonies for himself:

“From the ‘Matrosskaia tishina’ Prison, Abakumov wrote a letter to Stalin, trying to prove that he was innocent and infinitely loyal to him. The letter said:

‘Riumin’s statement about my alleged hint to Etinger that he should refuse to testify regarding terrorism (the reference is to charges of causing Shcherbakov”s death) is all wrong. There was nothing of the kind and could never be. Had we had any concrete facts to act upon we would have skinned him alive in order not to miss a case like that.’

Abakumov’s letter reached Stalin and he kept it. Three weeks later, the following note came to the USSR Prosecutor”s Office:

‘Comrade Mokichev, at 3 a.m. there was a phone call from Malenkov. He has gotten instructions to send the records of Abakumov’s interrogation to Comrade Stalin tomorrow. The note was dated 19 August 1951, 3:10 a.m. and signed by S. Ignat’ev, the new Minister of State Security.'”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 109-110.

But it was precisely this step that needed to be somehow either blocked – or check-mated – by the revisionists.
Otherwise, Stalin would have been in a position to both free Abakumov, un-ravel the Doctor’s Plot as a fraud, and in the process further reveal the hidden revisionist plots.

The check-mate came in the form of a highly convenient “confession,” but one that was “made” to another trusted revisionist.
The latter was necessary, so that there could be no more possible re-appraisals, until the revisionist coup was carried through.
It was ensured that there would be no opportunity to attempt any further cross-examination of Etinger – for Etinger was now conveniently dead.

At this juncture the short term aim of the revisionists was to be put in charge of the investigation of Abakumov; and to roll out the “Doctors Case.”

The “confession” of Etinger was achieved at this very juncture. This also automatically implicated Stalin”s own personal physician Vinogradov – since the two must have been working in tandem, if one was a criminal:

“At that time Riumin was doing his best to be put in charge of investigating the Abakumov case. According to Stoliarov, Riumin succeeded in getting what he wanted when Col. M. Likhachev, former deputy head of the USSR State Security Ministry investigating high priority cases, arrested shortly after Abakumov, obediently confirmed that before his death Professor Etinger had confessed to causing Shcherhakov’s death. It was a stroke of unbelievably good luck opening vast prospects to Riumin:

the late Etinger had been just a consultant, while Professor Vinogradov, Stalin’s personal physician of long standing, had been treating Shcherbakov.

Etinger could not have worked to kill Shcherbakov without Vinogradov’s consent. Hence, it had been a joint operation.”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 109-110.

Riumin succeeded in taking over the investigation of Abakumov:

“On 22 February 1952 State Security bodies were put in charge of the investigation of the case of Abakumov and his subordinates and the suspects were transferred from the ‘Matrosskaia tishina’ Prison to Lefortovo. As noted above, by that time Professor Etinger was already dead.”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 110.

The question then as to whether Abamumov, was a genuine Marxist-Leninist or not, seems to be answered in the affirmative.
It seems quite clear that the revisionists needed him out of the way.

In that light we believe that he had taken the correct Marxist-Leninist route.
We will come to Beria’s view of him later.

But it is interesting, that the very same revisionist who was so virulently against Abakumov – Riumin – had been especially hostile to the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee:

“In 1951, Riumin had written a report on the hostile intentions of S. A. Lozovskii, I.S. Fefer, L. S. Shtern, B. A. Shimeliovich – 14 people in all. The report said that ‘the evidence has established that during their visit to America in 1943, former JAFC leaders Mikhoels and Fefer were given an assignment by Jewish reactionaries to get the Crimea settled by Jews and have an independent republic established there to be used by the Americans as a bridgehead against the USSR at an opportune moment.’ In late 1951 Colonel Riumin was appointed Deputy Minister of State Security and was made responsible for the ministry’s investigation.”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 109-110.

Etinger’s son, notes that the timing of the “Doctors’ Plot,” was coincident with various similar events throughout the countries developing towards socialism in Eastern Europe:

“The main participants in the Doctors’ Plot were arrested in November 1952. Simultaneously the anti-Semitic drive in the socialist countries of Eastern Europe was being stepped up. The trial of the ‘anti-government conspirators’ took place in Czechoslovakia in late November 1952. The crusade against ‘Jewish bourgeois nationalism’ was gaining momentum and an unprecedented anti-Jewish purge was being prepared throughout the socialist camp with the main developments unfolding in Moscow. In December; subsequent to the CPSU Central Committee Presidium decree of 4 December 1952 ‘On the Situation in the Ministry of State Security and on Subversive Activities in Medical Treatment,’ the Central Committee issued instructions to party organizations concerning organs of the MGB. N. A. Bulganin, then a member of the Presidium, told me that the instructions contained a passage about ‘established facts regarding subversive activities in medicine’ and the comments to the instructions stressed the ‘key role’ of Jewish professors “closely linked with international Zionism and American intelligence.”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 113.

The announcement of the Plot was associated with an attempt to light up an anti-Semitic campaign, by linking it with the use of terms such as “fifth column,” and by publishing lists of names that were apparently of Jewish origin:

“The preparatory phase in the Doctor’s Plot was completed by late 1952. On 13 January 1953, the TASS statement announced the arrest of ‘saboteur doctors.’ On the same day Pravda carried a front-page editorial under the heading ‘Despicable Spies and Murderers Disguised as Professors of Medicine’… the article said:
‘US tycoons and their British ‘junior partners’ know that it is impossible to impose their domination on other nations by peaceful means. Their frenzied preparations for a new world war include planting spies in the Soviet rear and the People’s Democracies in an attempt to succeed where the Hitlerites failed: to create their subversive ‘fifth column’ in the USSR. In other words, a clear hint was being made, that the ‘Jewish bourgeois nationalists’ were this ‘fifth column.’ Unbridled anti-Semitic propaganda was unleashed in the country. The press was rife with Jewish names.”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 114.

At about this time a letter was devised that was to be signed by prominent Soviet Jews.

This would call for the deportation of Jews to resettle them in outlying areas.
A “theoretical foundation” was given by the Philosopher Dmitrii Chesnokov of the Party presidium from the 19th Party Congress. This stated that:

“The Jews had proved to be ‘unreceptive to socialism.’ He wrote a book which was .. (widely) circulated.”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 118-119.

This letter called for punishment against the accused doctors, and to resettle many Jews. It provoked unrest amongst the intelligentsia. It was promoted by another known revisionist – Mark Borisovich Mitin who had supported the anti-scientific campaign of Trofim Lysenko. (See “Lysenko, Views of Nature, Society”; 1990; available, from Alliance p.285).

Nonetheless despite the evident pressure, some notable figures refused to sign:

A. N. Iakovlev, former Central Committee Secretary, who at one time,” headed the Politburo commission for rehabilitation and was well acquainted with many major political “cases” of the postwar years, said that the letter was devised and put into circulation by Chesnokov. Iakovlev recalls that another “philosopher,” Mark Mitin, and “historian”, Isak Mints, collected the required signatures of Jewish scientists and cultural figures. We know that several people to whom the trio turned refused to sign – Ilya Erenburg, People”s Artist of the USSR, Mark Reizen, Hero of the Soviet Union, Colonel-General Ia. G. Kreizer, and composer I. 0. Dunaevskii. Among those who did sign was M. I. Blanter, the author of the famous song “Katiusha”. The full list of those who signed this document is unknown.”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 118-119.

The timing of these events is highly significant. As all this de-stabilisation of the USSR state was taking place, Stalin was both ill and most probably – dying. In some way, all commentators are agreed, the “Doctors’ Plot” was a key hinge around which took place, all the events of the last few days and weeks of Stalin’s life were. We here will only cite Etinger:

“On 5 March, if we are to believe the official version of events, Stalin died. It later came to light that in the last days of the dictator”s life, the CPSU leadership was in session around the clock. On that same day, a joint session of the Central Committee Plenum, the Council of Ministers and the Supreme Soviet Presidium was held. The session adopted a resolution on the reorganization of the country’s party and state leadership. A major decision adopted there was the merger of the Ministry of State Security (MGB) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) into a single Ministry of the Interior headed by Beria, who was also appointed first deputy chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers.”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 118-119.

It is at this point that again we have to re-discuss whether or not Beria was a Marxist-Leninist? For Etinger states that he began an ‘extremely ingenious game’ and started calling ‘Stalin a tyrant’:

“Having taken over the state security bodies, Beria began an extremely ingenious political game. He began calling Stalin a tyrant and suggested that Central Committee members get acquainted with numerous facts showing his cruelty, abuse of power and political terrorism. The country’s new leadership was extremely worried by the fact that Beria had attained full control of the state security organs and could make use of their archives to suit his own purposes – primarily to expose the entire group of Stalin’s successors as accomplices and perpetrators of the massive repressions in the 1930’s. Therefore, the elimination of Beria was a matter of vital importance for the new Kremlin leaders. With his penchant for adventurism, Beria was increasingly becoming the main contender in the struggle for power.”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 119.

However, it emerges that Etinger is using his own personal interviews and friendships with both Bulganin and Khrushchev to substantiate his viewpoint.
This is clearly inadequate!

As stated above, Beria now moved to discredit and stop the fear-mongering and de-stabilisation associated with the alleged “Doctors’ Plot.”
Even so Etinger asserts that Kaganovich attacked Beria”s “sensationalising” of the “Doctor’s Plot” and taking all credit for freeing the doctors:

“Beria used the Doctors’ Plot as his trump card in this struggle for power and demanded that the doctors be immediately released. It is worth recalling Kaganovich’s statement at the July 1953 Central Committee plenum in which he went out of his way to deny that the Doctors’ Plot had any anti-Semitic overtones. He also stressed that Beria used the Doctors’ Plot in order to consolidate his position in the country and to curry favour with world public opinion as the man who denounced the provocation and had the framed victims released. Kaganovich stated: Let us, for example, take the Doctors’ Plot, which some elements have erroneously linked with Jewry as a whole. The party was right in releasing the doctors, but Beria sensationalised it out of all proportion, resorted to his usual method of patting himself on the back and alleging that it was he who had done it and not the Central Committee, that it was he who had set things right and not the government.”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 120.

But undoubtedly it was Beria and his investigations into the events that had led to the pressure for the release of the physicians.

This came after Beria had forced some rather startling revelations into the hands of the Presidium of the Party. We have already discussed this, the murder of Mikhoels and Abakumov’s allegations:

“On 2 April 1953 Beria sent a letter to the party presidium addressed to Malenkov stating:
‘An examination of the materials in the Mikhoels case has revealed that in February 1948, in Minsk, former USSR MGB Deputy Minister Ogol’tsov and former Belorussian MGB Minister Tsanava illegally…. liquidated Mikhoels on orders from USSR MGB Minister Abakumov… In this connection Abakumov .. Gave the evidence… ‘:

‘As far as I can remember in 1948 the head of the Soviet Government I.V.Stalin gave me an urgent assignment – to promptly organise the liquidation of Mikhoels by MGB personnel..'”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 121.

Again we must discuss Abakumov’s testimony. Until further evidence comes to light, we argue that Abakumov was an honest Marxist-Leninist misled into “believing” that an order had come from Stalin. This is the most likely interpretation of the turn of events.

As discussed above, the role of Suslov and Ponomoraev make the murder of Mikhoels a suspiciously pro-Revisionist event.

What was Beria’s attitude to Abakumov?

Again – some might argue here that Beria was not a Marxist-Leninist. But in the light of the other events of his life, we argue that far more evidence is needed to discredit Beria’s Marxist-Leninist credentials. It seems that Beria either could not attempt a “rescue” of Abakumov from jail, or he might have believed that Abakumov was a revisionist or revisionist misled force.

The revisionists who had benefited from Stalin’s death, were anxious about Beria.

Given the revelations, and Beria’s potential for completely un-ravelling the entire revisionist conspiracy, for the moment his insistence upon releasing the doctors was heeded.

It was Beria who ended the episode of the “Doctor’s Plot”

Despite Professor Etinger’s annoyance, it is hardly surprising that in this context, Beria ensured that it was his name – and not that of Khrushchev’s – that would be associated with the ending of the plot and the restoration of order:

“Beria insisted on the immediate release of the arrested physicians. Finally, on 3 April 1953 at 12 noon, the CPSU Presidium adopted a decision to set free 37 doctors and the members of their families being held for investigation in the Lubianka and Lefortovo prisons. The decision was to be published in the central press and broadcast over the radio on 4 April. At this juncture Beria made a brilliant political move. During the night he called the Pravda editorial offices and demanded that the title of the communique on setting the doctors free be altered. The heading now read ‘Communique of the USSR MVD’ instead of ‘Decree of the CPSU Central Committee Presidium.’ Naturally, people reading this communique on the physicians’ rehabilitation got the impression that Beria’s rise to power in the MVD led to his investigation of the Doctors’ Plot and the release of the innocent victims. Beria was scoring points in the struggle for power not only within the country but also abroad, for world public opinion was greatly concerned about the outburst of anti-Semitism in the USSR.”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 122.

The immediate consequences of this were that the revisionists Riumin and Ignate’ev were arrested:

“Two days after the publication of the MVD communique, a Pravda article revealed that the doctors’ investigation had been headed by Riumin, who was ‘now under arrest.’ More than 15 months later, from 2-7 July 1954, the Military Collegium of the USSR Supreme Court heard the case of Riumin, who was accused of crimes specified in Articles 5-7 of the RSFSR Criminal Code. It is noteworthy that in the announcement of the USSR Supreme Court there was no mention whatsoever that the Doctors’ Plot had any Jewish aspect.”

Iakov Etinger: “The Doctors’ Plot”; p. 119-122.

The revisionists later managed to effect the release of their most important ally Ignat”ev.

They did not exert themselves for Riumin.

Both Riumin and Abakumov were shot.

Of course these temporary set-backs showed the dangers to the revisionists of leaving Beria at the top.
He was swiftly toppled by a plot in which Malenkov and Molotov and Zhukov were persuaded to participate.

These final events – sealing the revisionist victory and successful take over of the socialist state of the USSR – have been best dealt with by Bland in the already referenced booklet: “The Doctors’ Case & The Death Of Stalin”; and the Book “Restoration of Capitalism In The Soviet Union.”

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