POLITICAL TRANSITION PERIOD FROM CAPITALISM TO COMMUNISM
Lenin put forth the matter of transition to socialism from capitalism in his issue “State and Revolution” depending on Marx and Engels. He handled the matter in three essential stages. First: the stage of political translation from capitalism to communism, second: the economic structure and state during the first stage of communism (socialism) and third: abolishing process of the state and economical base during the upper stage of communism.
Lenin stresses the fact that first stage will essentially be a political transition period. What the utopic socialists and opportunists were not able to realise was the necessity of the state-proletariat dictatorship- in order to break the resisting power of all exploiters. Lenin puts forth the matter in the section “Transition Process to communism from capitalism” like the following:
“There exists the revolutionary transition period to communist society from capitalist society (quotes Marx in between capitalist society and communist society). This is the political period which is nothing else than the state -proletarian revolutionary dictatorship.”
“The matter was being put formerly like this: Proletariat must overthrow bourgeoisie, conquer political power and establish its revolutionary dictatorship in order to provide its liberation.”
“It is being put in a different way now; Transition process to communism from a capitalist society developing towards communism is improbable without a “political transition period” and the state during this period must only be proletarian’s revolutionary dictatorships.”
We will be dealing how the transition period from capitalism to communism was realised in the Soviet Unions, China and other socialist countries. Let us emphasise two points: Transition process in Marx and Lenin goes till communism (socialism) and secondly, transition process has essentially political character. This theory has been proved to be correct in various forms being enriched by the practices of all socialist countries. This is because socialism has been realised in countries having relatively underdeveloped productive force. Thus the transition period carried an economic character as well as a political one. Lenin has put this situation in his article “Economic relation and politics during the period of proletariat dictatorship” in 1918 like this:
“Theoretically, the existence of a transition period -in between capitalism and communism- which has to carry the properties and signs of both socio-economic forms, is out of question. This transition period will be a period of struggle between being born communism and capitalism in the theorise of death. The obligation of this historical process having a temporary character must be clear not only for a Marxist but also for anyone knowing a little about the evolution theory.”
In this context, it was put forth that transition to communism was not only a political transition but also carried economic dimension which was of great importance.
“Socialism means abolishing of classes.”
“It is obliged to overthrow the big land owners and capitalists at first order to abolish the classes. A part of our task has been materialised, yet this is only a part of it and furthermore not the hardest one. The second required step is abolishing the distinction between a fabric worker and a peasant, changing all into workers. This can not be solved all of a sudden. This is a harder task compared with the first one, and will be dealt with in long terms. This is not a matter to be solved by overthrowing a class. It can only be solved by reorganising whole socio-economy, and evolving to wide social production from petty meta production. This transition period will be very long inevitably. Hasty and incautious legislative and managing prevention can only delay and foil us in this transition. The unique way to speed it up is with providing a rearrangement in the whole process of agricultural technical from its top to the roots.”
As Lenin points out above, the economic dimension of transition process is abolishing of classes, and evolving of peasants into workers. In this formulation current? It is and furthermore current than ever. Because, the basic failure of socialism in the present time has been in chaining the peasants into “workers.” The peasants organising under colhoses are not workers yet.
The class character of the state during the translation period is “proletarian dictatorship” “Socialism means abolishing classes. Proletarian dictatorship has done all of its best in order to abolish classes. Yet it is impossible to manage it at one blow.”
“During the period of proletarian dictatorship classes exist and will continue to exist. When the classes abolish will be no need for dictatorship. But without the existence of proletarian dictatorship classes can never abolish.”
Is this very vital formulation of Lenin current? Must it mean that classes and thus the need for proletariat dictatorship abolished, if peasants are organised in the colhoses and intellectuals are gained for the side of socialism? Lenin’s words are current especially for the time being.
Since Lenin’s formulations about the economic-politic character of transition period were not taken in care by the communist parties of socialist countries, and socialism paid a big price for this. The above put formulation were not only leading that time’s policy of the power in Soviet Union but putting forth the characters of transition process as a whole.
1- Socialism is abolishing of not only the exploiting classes but all other classes as well.
2- Proletariat Dictatorship is indispensable in order to abolish classes.
Communist Parties could not perceive the deferent phase contents of transition process and its being enriched during the socialist countries practices. When they established public and collective proprietorship, they thought they have reached “socialism” -what Lenin and Marx call the first stage of communist society-. Thus for them the state must have shaped due to this and the target was transition period was not completed in all aspects. Therefore the target must have been transition to communism (socialism) instead of super stage of communism. And this situation was a different situation from the first phase of communism being born from capitalist society as put forward in Marx and Lenin. In Marx and Lenin (as put forth in State and Revolution) there was naturally the communist society being born from capitalist society after “political transition”. The practice a transition process to communism being born from a socialist society but not from a capitalist one. Therefore the economic and political properties of the first stage of communist society put forth in Marx and Lenin must be perceived precisely.
THE FIRST PHASE OF COMMUNIST SOCIETY-ECONOMIC STRUCTURE-
“Socialism” -in the way put forth scientifically in Criticism of Gotha Programme by Marx- is a target for the time being, which must be realised and remembered more than ever -despite the approach made to it, remains as a target still-. This must not lead us to the conclusion that humanity have not experienced solecism yet -as some of the opportunists think-. Peoples of most countries could not manage in establishing the first phase of communism -socialism- in complete aspects but made an approach. During this period right deviation caused a big destruction and a distinction backwards. All of these must inspire us for a better perception of solecism, the first phase of communism. Lenin was pointed out in “State and Revolution” that it was a farce to create a problem from distinction between the first and the super phases of communism. But it is a serious responsibility, for the time being to put forth the distinction points between communist society and socialism and the first -super phases of communism.
Mark indicated that it was an obligation to supply fund in two levels from the product by community’s labour, after the part of it being used for the individuals consuming is put aside. Firstly, a spare fund must be kept for the continuity of production and renewing of the production materials. Secondly, management expenditure (must decrease gradually) for social expenses; expense for education, health (increase gradually), and a fund source must be provided for the unemployed people. (This plan of Marx has been materialised even during the level of present time’s solecism, but it had difference: Management expenditure increased with defence expenditure and this situation hindered the development of productive forces.)
On the other hand according to Marx; “socialist society”, the first phase of communism is a communist society as the way it “origins” from capitalist society. He quotes:
“What we are confronted with here is not a communist society growing on its bases but contrarily it is a communist society in the way originating from capitalism. Thus it carries the marks in all aspects -economic, moral and intellectual- of the former society from the bosom of which it comes out.”
The practice of socialism has provide this theory to be correct basically. Yet our times socialism has not developed like the “socialism” put forth by Marx. And thus the first phase of communist society would shape on a socialist society which grew on its own particular basis. Therefore it is of great importance to perceive the basic properties of socialism Marx and Lenin put forth in order to reach the communist stage. Lenin quotes the these of Marx defining the basic characters of “socialism” like this:
“Marx indicate the developing course of communist society which is obliged to start with abolishing only the unjustness of individual proprietorship over production materials, but which is intalent to eliminate at one blow the other injustices, which is the sharing of consuming goods according to labour instead of required amount.” (State and Revolution)
A narrow framed comparison of present socialism experience and “solecism” determined by Lenin depending on Marx is sufficient to realise in which aspects our times socialised countries approached communism and thus what their phase is. Meta production and as well the value law have function in the socialist countries. During the sharing process not only the labour efficiency but also the quality of it is considered. These naturally occur because “justice system can be superior neither that the economic condition of the society nor than the civilisation level, which is in accordance with economy.” What is unnatural is to apply a programme augmenting these inequalities, even bringing back capitalist measures instead of a one to eliminate this situations existence.
To give a summery: The scientific theory of socialism put forth by Marx and improved by Lenin contains these points in economical aspects:
1- The entire production materials is under the proprietorship of society.
2- There is not meta production, value law does not operate.
3- Productive individual acquires the remuneration of one’s labour from the social product after deducting collective funds. This is yet a bourgeois right.
These three properties include the production relations of the first phase of communist society (socialism). Lenin examines the state’s general structure and characters in “Revolution and State”.
THE FIRST PHASE OF COMMUNIST SOCIETY “THE STATE”
Lenin determines the economic base of state’s existence during the first phase of communist society like this:
“(…) It will be utopic to think that after a short period of time capitalism is destroyed, people will learn to work for society without the existence of any sorts of judicial rules.”
“(…) For this reason besides of the common proprietorship over production materials is protected, the necessity of a state, which is obligate to save the equality in working condition and sharing process of products, continues.
“Since there are not anymore capitalists or classes or thus a class to be quashed, the state will abolish.”
“But as the ‘bourgeois justice’ approving the actual inequality continues to be saved, state has not disappeared completely yet. In order the state to abolish completely, an exact communism must be realised.” (Revolution and State)
It is possible to perceive these essential points from the vital determination of Lenin:
1- Since there is not any class to be quashed during the first stage of communism (Taking in consideration the later determination of Lenin, we must add to this “since the classes abolished”) state starts to abolish.
2- Despite this, since sharing process is arranged still according to bourgeois right, state also exists. On the other hand people can not learn to work for society by themselves.
3- The task of the state is to provide the equality of sharing and common proprietorship over production materials.
What Lenin refers while defining the starting of state’s abolishing, is the state’s coming out off being a political state.
“State stops to be a political state as it reduces its essential tasks to be under a sort of supervision being materialised by the workers.”
Lenin reminds the part which quotes the polemic of Engels with anarchists in the course of his deepnote. In the discusses part Lenin quotes these words by Engels:
“(…) All the socialists agree to acknowledge the together abolishing of state and political authority after the future social revolution, or in other words public tasks will lose their political character and evolve into simple administrative tasks caring about the interests of the society.”
Lenin comments Engels:
“This last expression which is suitable to be misunderstood, is a referring to the abolishing period of state; a time comes when a state which is gradually abolishing must be called a state which is not a political one.”
In fact, the matter of political state which is very suitable for misunderstanding, have always been perceived wrong by the communist parties of socialist countries. Revisionists alliterated Lenin’s words about the first stage of communism, adopted them to a socialists which has not reached that stage yet and started to give up proletariat dictatorship with tales of “Popular State.”
Yet, Lenin’s formulations are quite clear. During the transition period when the class existence continues, proletariat dictatorship also continues. When the classes abolish ad the working people learn to manage, state comes of being a political one and starts “abolishing”.
SUPER STAGE OF COMMUNISM
While dealing with the economic and political situation of communism’s superstage, he puts forth the matter only with its principles and says that the data are not sufficient yet to do furthermore.
“The economical base for the complete abolishing of state is communism which provides the climate of development as it abolishing all the contradiction between mind and arm labour and thus one of the particular contemporary inequality sources.”
“(…) But what will the acceleration of this development be or when will the abolishing of task division or contradiction between arm and mind labour be provided; or when the evolving of working process into its “first vital need” be completed; these are what we do not and won’t know.”
“(…) Therefore we have the right to discuss only the inevitable abolishing of state and while we do this, we must leave to suspend the concrete points of the matter like the length of this period or its dependency degree to development speed of communism’s super stage. Because data for us to find a solution to this matters do not exist yet.”
In the present time more data exist to make theoretical research about communism’s superstage. Nevertheless a direct theoretically discussion or research about the superstage of communism is unnecessary for the time being.
Therefore it will be sufficient to put forth two theses in addition to theses of Lenin about the abolishing process of contradiction between mind and arm labour -which he defines as the economic base of communism’s superstage. First, as long as imperialism is a force two socialist countries. Secondly even after the threat of imperialism does not exist anymore; if most of the socialist countries in the world are not prepared for a transition to communism’s super stage or if they have not reached at least the first stage of communism, the transition to the super stage of its quite hard.
Castro says concerning the second theses:
“In some of the countries the construction of communism is being discussed. (…) This world is divided as underdeveloped and industrialised countries or as countries having high labour efficiency and countries labour efficiency. In such a world a nation initiate to construct communism in one country before the productive force and technology is not developed priority in the underdeveloped countries of the world?”
“(…) We must not expect a big affluence while other countries are in need of our help in the future. We must bring up our children in a way that when our urgent needs are supplied or target must be far from affluence. Our essential ideal and task must be to help the ones coming from the back.”
TRANSITION PROCESS FROM CAPITALISM TO SOCIALISM IN SOVIET UNION
When the Bolsheviks the power in November 1917, they did not know how to establish socialism. It was obvious that managing establishment of socialism would be with a series of experiences. In this aspect the words quoted by Lenin (May 1918) explain the situation:
“All that we know, the only absolute definition made by the most competent experts on the development of capitalist society, and the greatest thinkers anticipating the development of capitalism was that; transition was inevitable historically and was obligate to follow particular main path; the private proprietorship over production materials was sentenced by the course of history, would be dissolved and proprietorship of the exploiter would be taken one day. This was determinate with a scientific exactness and we knew this when we held the socialism flag, declared ourselves socialist, founded the socialist parties and changed the society. We knew these when we acquired the power with the aim to make socialist reorganisation. But we did not know the concrete forms of the transition or concrete speed of reorganisation and we could not know. Only a total experience of millions could guide us about this case ” (Utopic and Scientific Socialism)
For this reason after the Bolsheviks took the power many right and “left” policies came out till the establishment of socialism. Until NEP which started in 1921, there was two main deviations in the Bolshevik Party. The fist was repudiating the vanguard role of the party basically. It was the right deviations defending that socialism could be established at one blow and economy mass have been transferred to trade union since the power has already been taken. The second was the “left” tendency been defended by Trotsky and Bukharin. Its proposal was to make a quick industrialisation by militarising labour. Lenin and Bolsheviks rejected this ideas. Lenin’s plan to establish socialism was different. This plan was materialised partly till 1921. He defines it in October 1919 in his important article under the title “Economy and Politics during the Proletariat Dictatorship”:
“Generally, we managed the probable thinks to be done immediately with only one revolutionary blow. For instance on the first day of proletariat dictatorship- on the 26th of October (8th of November 1917) private proprietorship over lands was abrogated without paying any compensation to the big land owners- or in the other words their possession was ended. In a few months the properties big capitalists, fabric and big manufacture owners and share companies, banks and also the railways were expropriated. All the measures like the organisation process of big industrial production by the state and the transfer of fabrics and railways from being under “workers supervision” to being under “workers management” have been realised in most aspects. Yet it started recently concerning the agricultural field. And similarly organising various forms of small former co-operatives belonging to the evolving process to communist agriculture from small meta agriculture, has started recently. We can say the same for the case of distribution of products by state instead of private trade.”
Yet materialisation programme of socialism in this way was applied partly. The reason for this was not only the civil war conditions. Main problem was to teach the workers to direct the production and to eliminate the petty meta production. Under these circumstances the programme put forth by Lenin had “extreme hastiness”. For this reason Lenin started to think about another programme for the establishment of socialism in 1918.
“(…) Then (in 1918) we were taken -obviously with extreme hastiness- all sorts of economic prevention which were impossible to be regarded anti-socialist despite of this, because of the economic situation of Society Republic during that period, I regarded state capitalism to be a forward step.”
According to Lenin “the unique enemy of socialism is the petty bourgeois economic situation and petty bourgeois element”, therefore state capitalism is the only way to overcome petty bourgeois economy. But Lenin’s programme; transition to socialism with state capitalism under the proletariat dictatorship -which he considered to be a problem withdrawal-, would be materialised in 1921. It was put forth that socialist prevention were measured in “extreme hastiness”. And all the problem was not restricted with these.
Civil war condition forced Soviet Power to realise “war communism” was even in front of the policy applied with hastiness. Lenin defines “war communism”:
“We could not construct industry under the blockade circumstances, surrounded by enemy from every side being broken of Siberia, world and south part producing cereals and coal regions. We had to risk to have the most dangerous extreme points and apply “war communism” without hesitation. (Working Classes and Peasantry)
“War and demolition forced us to apply “war communism”. This policy was not due to proletarians economic tasks, it could not be. It was a temporary prevention “.
After the civil war ended in 1921 the condition came out for the materialisation of state capitalism programme which Lenin regarded to be a “probable withdrawal” in 1918. But a price came out as the consequence of extreme measure “war communism”. It became an obligation to give concession to the peasants allowing the free trade with essential tax. Thus NEP would be materialised by two levels; by state capitalism and free trade. Lenin puts forth this situation with striking style:
“We consider state capitalism as a ‘probable withdrawal’ in 1918 but after overcoming a civil war period ending victoriously in 1921, we were confronted with a great inner political crisis of Soviet Russia. This inner crisis brought the discontentment of the important part of peasants and workers. We saw the great amount of peasant masses reacting to us for the first time -and I hope for the last time- in Soviet Russia. Yet this occurred instinctively, unconsciously. How did this very important situation for us occurred? We have gone much forward in our economical attempts, before we prepared a sufficient base for ourselves. Masses felt what we accepted a few weeks later and couldn’t express openly in that period; A transition to exact socialist forms and distribution was beyond our power and a deadlock would be inevitable, if we did not realise our withdrawal within a framework of simpler tasks. Probably the crisis started in February 1921. We accepted the transition to new economic politics with majority in the spring of that year.”
During the civil war years war communism was realised in order to save proletariat dictatorship. With the same reason it was necessary to advance peasants and biggest devotion, because under the proletariat dictatorship in order to have its continuity, the “awful tribulations was experienced by the majority of workers classes”.
Transition NEP had also international dimension. Proletariat revolution movement in Europe during those times was at the stage of withdrawal and preparation for revolution. For this reason Lenin accepted NEP as “giving a tribute” to bourgeoisie”.
TRANSITION PERIOD IN SOVIET UNION AND NEP
NEP was considered to be priory a tactical “withdrawal” by both the opportunist of 20s and our present time. This was wrong. Certainly NEP was a withdrawal compared with socialism’s construction programme measured partially in 1921. Because it aimed transition to socialism with state capitalism and trade freedom. Yet, NEP was the consequence of Soviet Union’s concrete economic conditions and Lenin was devising this even in 1918. Therefore we must see NEP as the transition process from capitalism to socialism and struggle in Soviet Union, instead of regarding it a “withdrawal” in general. Thus we never fall into the opportunists understanding sentencing NEP as a “withdrawal”. As Stalin points out:
“NEP, what occurs in us now is not the one sided restoration period of capitalism, but it is a double characterised process of developing both capitalism and socialism. It is the period full of conflicts of the socialist elements struggle against capitalist elements. It is the period of eliminating capitalist elements by socialist elements.” (Leninism’s Principles)
NEP was a phase that Bolsheviks were obligate to apply and could not skip over during transition to socialism in the Soviet Union. It was the first important experience occurring during the construction of socialism and thus had an international importance. It would lose this importance with occurrence of new transition forms by revolutions in other countries. We must draw attention to the point that NEP and similar economic policies are methods to be used due to the particularity of transition forms to socialism for each country.
Stalin says about NEP:
“In fact NEP does not suppose a connivance for withdrawal and private trade it also put forth a resuscitation of capitalism under the supervision of state. This period has marked the beginning of NEP.”
“In fact NEP takes in account socialist elements starting an attack against the capitalist elements; restriction gradually the influence area of private trade; and socialist circles establishing an increasing sovereignty over private circle an the victory of socialism over capitalism.” (1929, Capitalism’s Big Crisis and Soviet Economy)
HOW AND WHY NEP STARTED
Lenin pointed out that state capitalism was necessary for the preparation of socialism’s objective base and the workers learning industrialisation from bourgeoisie. Therefore state capitalism was a block against petty-peasants. In this aspect he proposed organising petty-peasants in co-operatives, and applying “cooperative” capitalism instead of petty-peasant capitalism.
“Contrary with private capitalism, the cooperative capitalism under the Soviet direction is a form of state capitalism and thus useful for the time being in certain aspects. Since essential task (which remains after the tax taken) means to sell extra product freely, we must do all we can in order to mobilise this development of capitalism -because free markets means development in capitalism.”
Therefore NEP is to develop state capitalism, which is a way to establish socialism’s objective base and to provide workers direction in industry, in accounting control and supervision and besides it means to gather peasants in co-operatives having capitalist characters.
“As policy of privileges (state capitalism) becomes successful, it will provide us a few big and perfect enterprises-compared with ours-and established on the developed contemporary capitalism. After a few ten years this enterprises will belong completely to us. As the co-operative policy becomes successful, the consequence will be rising of petty economy and it’s transition to wide production on the bases of volunteer unity.”
For Lenin, state capitalism under the leadership of the proletarian state in a country like Russia where productive forces are under developed was the only form in order to transit to socialism. There was no other way to eliminate petty meta production. By this way peasants would gather in co-operatives. Exchange of products between big scaled industry and peasant co-operative capitalism would be provided without the need for private trade. This would create the conditions for transition to socialism and socialist exchange of products.
Yet, we cannot say improvement and consequence occurred in this way. As Stalin points out, state capitalism could not develop because of bourgeoisie’s resistance in Russia and the aggression international capitalism. Therefore the development in industry was materialised with socialist method rather than a capitalist one. Thus co-operative matter gained grade importance.
Cooperativization was regarded to be a part of state capitalism before. But it started to be part of socialist proprietorship after Lenin’s article in 1923 under the title “For the matter of cooperativization.”
“Since the worker class holds the power and state is the owner of all the production materials, what remains as a task is to gather the people in co-operatives (…)…(this)… Is this not the whole thing required in order to establish a socialist society by the help of cooperativization?”
NEP AND “LEFTIST” DEVIATION
We will deal with the “leftist” Trotskist thinking which put forward in 1924, in the beginning that socialism could not be established in the Soviet Union without a world revolution. We will try to put forth the understanding of leftist about the establishment of socialism.
The idea of Trotskyism and afterwards “leftist” group of Trotski-Kamanev- Zinoviev which is known as “united opposition” was based on quick industrialisation before socialist production relations are established in the rural area. If this path, which pretends to be leftist and a bourgeois one indeed, could conquer glory, quick industrialisation policy would be materialised by peasants exploitation. This would be due to the “socialist primitive accumulation” model of Preobrajensky (famous economist of leftist opposition) which is based on the expropriation of agricultural products and income with the tax and price policy and by treading on peasants like during the development of capitalism. This would the end of socialist power. Socialism’s establishments means socialist production relations being established by the proletariat dictatorship. This is the production relations opening way (not preventing their improvement) for productive forces and providing their free improvement. After years as Stalin answered rightist Yaresenko, he was at the same time answering the “leftist” deviation which is rightist basically:
“No one can deny the giant progress of the productive force of our Soviet industry during the period of 5 year programme. Yet, if we did not set the socialist production relations instead of old capitalist production relations in October 1917, this progress could not be realised.”
“No one can deny the giant progress of our agricultural productive forces during 20-25 years. Yet this progress could not be realised if we did not see collectivist production relations in rural regions in 1930s instead of capitalist production relations” (Last Writings).
“Leftist” Trotski-Zinoviev opposition ignored Marxist-Leninist production relation theory while they proposed “quick industrialisation” policy before productive forces could be improved by exploiting peasants with states power. The base of the “leftist” oppositions understanding was the distrust in revolution and worker class and peasants being gained in favour of socialism.
“What does the distrust in the victory of socialist establishment in our country mean?”
“This is at first not believing that the basic masses of the peasants will be directed in the matter of socialist establishment because of the particular conditions of our country’s development.”
“Secondly it is not believing the talent of our proletariat, holding the leading positions, that it will provide the basic masses of the peasantry participate in the socialist establishment.”
The “leftist” group of Trotsky-Zinoviev-Kamanev did not believe that peasantry could be gained in favour of socialism and the socialist production relations could be established in the rural areas. This mean to attack on only one “foot” without the peasantry and to start the quick in the industrialisation.
“What would have happened if we had started and attack to the Kulakh (the big landowners living in especially in Ukraine) production before we owned the possibility to establish the Kolhose and Savhose production?
“Our attack would have failed, our weakness would have been proved. We would have left the ‘middle’ peasant to the hands of Kulakhs, would hinder socialism’s establishments and live in hunger.
“We would also today face great difficulties.”
NEP IS ENDING
Through the end of 1920s some improvement was realised. As the consequences of the Bolshevik Party’s effort’s in the rural area’s, peasantry was gained in favour of socialism, and the Kolhose-Savhose organisation and production reached the degree to our come Kulakh’s. Bolshevik Party has realised this development and decided to speed up collectivisation and to attack the Kulakh’s, in the 15th congress (December 1927). While NEP was ending a new period was starting. The time came to start the socialist organising in rural regions.
The collectivisation process of peasantry could not be a spontaneous one. Proletariat expropriated the production materials after coming to the power. In the same way it would gather petty peasants in collective farms and liquidate Kulakhs and establish socialist production relations in rural regions under the leadership of party. It will be useful to quote the way how this collectivisation case was held from Stalin:
“The appearing problem is that: Has the time come to attack? Has the attack hour rung?”
“Yes, the moment has come.”
Later on Stalin explains “how” they started the attack. This attack has great importance and richness in case of socialist production relations establishment.
“How did the party start this attack?”
“(…) Campaign… It started with a broad self-criticism process within the party”
“(…) Party has declared that we have to put forth all our defects about our activity with the purpose to strengthen Soviet power and improve the regime.”
“Party initiated a wide campaign against bureaucracy later on and decided to clear the hanger-on, bureaucratic and petty-bourgeois elements off the “party”, (…) co-operatives and other institutions.”
The first stage of the attack starts with a “cleaning” within the party and state organs. If the political power did not have the position to direct and finish the attack, it would be impossible for the attack to achieve a result. The second stage of the attack was to mobilise the masses.
“The direct participation of workers in state mechanism and the supervision of Soviet’s operating by worker class created a big wave of enthusiasm and a liveliness among the workers class.”
“Party started later on the “socialist racing” -which market a new attempt- among the masses working in the fabrics and working places.”
“One must be blind in order not to see the revolution which changed the view of working places and fabrics in the mass psychology and their style to handle the work.”
Party strengthened firstly itself and state mechanism in order to gain victory in the attack in rural regions. And then it created a strong social base. This base was the worker class. Proletariat democracy and production’s development united above a strong base. And thus the third stage of the attack started.
“Party later on activated country’s financial source with the aim to improve Sovhoses and Kolhoses. 25.000 vanguard workers were given under the supervision of Colhoses. It was provided for the high qualified peasants in the Kolhoses to participate in Kolhose administration. A series of course were arranged and thus the required base was provided to have cadres capable of continuing Kolhoses operating.”
“And last party reorganised itself. It armed its media again. It reorganised the struggle it will give in two fronts. It exterminated Trotskysts, broke the rightist resistance in all fields and insulated the compromisers. By this way it realised the unity basing on the Leninist path. This was obliged for the attack to be victorious.”
The transition of the Bolshevik party to a new historical period in 1928 was 1917 October revolution’s being completed as the establishment of socialist production relations. Therefore, it opened way for the free development of productive forces. This could be provided only with such a transition in the production relations. And this transition could be provided only under party’s leadership and mobilisation of masses with socialist spirit under the proletariat dictatorship. Because the evolution in the production relations is at the same time a change in which masses, party and social and political institutions participate and renew themselves. As exterminating obstacles facing productive forces brings obligation for a change in production relations, a change in production relations as well brings an obligation for a political change.
The distinction between Marxism-Leninism and all sort of opportunism appears on the base of perception of the relation between productive forces and production relations and between production relations and superstructure. 1928 Bolshevik attack was the best example for the priority given to the change in production relations to open way for productive forces, to a change in superstructure for a change in the production relations. In this aspect, the base of the Bolshevik’s attack was unionising the party and mass activity, and later on the construction of socialism.
“The character of Bolshevik attack was at first to mobilise masses against the capitalist elements in our country… And inspire a competition spirit among the working levels for the completing process of socialism construction.”
THE RIGHTIST DEVIATION APPEARING AS NEP IS ENDING
The Bukharinist right deviation which especially appeared during the 1928 Bolshevik attack, defends that socialism can be established spontaneously. Kondratiev, a Bukharinist economist was proposing these: the social difference in agriculture was normal, industrialisation must have been slowed down, the wages must have been congealed (stop function for a certain period of time intentionally), the sources must have been transferred for consumption industry, agricultural taxes must have been reduced, and productive co-operatives must have been established in stead of collectivisation. It was clear that without revolution in production relations and spontaneously it was impossible to reach socialism.
Bukharin’s policy was nothing than the reflection of the Kulakh’s policy to the party. Stalin was pointing out that if the rightist deviation sovereignty in the party, socialism would not be established in the Soviet Union.
“The unluckiness of the rightist is that although they acknowledge the means socialism has in our country, they do not want to accept that the required key for the evolution of our economy to socialist economy is to intensify industrialisation.”
“They think that socialism can be realised without class struggle and without attacking capitalists, in a secret way and comfortable.”
“It can not be said that the rightists reject the possibility of the peasants to participate in the campaign initiated for the establishment of socialism.”
“Yet, although they accept this openly (…), they do not accept that the Kolhoses and Sovhoses are the best methods for peasants masses participation in the establishment of socialism.”
“They think that the Kulakhs can be assimilated in socialism.”
“If the rightist deviation had success in our party, the worker class would be disarmed and the capitalist in the villages would be armed and the change of capitalist reconstruction would increase.”
In summary, in the end of the transition phase starting from capitalism till socialism’s construction when the time came fro attack, the rightist deviation rejected the establishment of socialist production relations with class struggle under the leadership of party and exterminating the capitalists. It claimed that socialism could be established spontaneously and the Kulakhs would disappeared by time.
THE IMPORTANCE OF IDEOLOGICAL STRUGGLE, PARTY PATH, PROLETARIAT DEMOCRACY DURING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF SOCIALISM
The struggle between socialism and capitalism continues within the party and state mechanism during the period of socialism’s base construction. It becomes clear once again in this period that opportunism means submission to bourgeoisie. In this aspect, it is obliged for the party the leading vanguard fighter of the proletariat dictatorship not to leave the struggle for even one moment.
Party, as the leading vanguard power reflects the social class conflicts in the society, which is according to dialectic. Therefore party becomes strong by liquidating opportunism and revisionism. It is against dialectic to put forward from this point that divisions will always occur in party. Because party reflects the social class conflicts in the society indirectly, the ideological discussions within the party becomes sharp only during the sharp landmarks. Ýdeas’ difference being only as seeds till that time do not damage party’s unity. During sharp turning points when party will make attempts or withdraws, opportunism then occurs in the party. It is as well wrong to comment on this situation reaching a conclusion like “unity cannot exist in party,” as to see party unity absolute having a conclusion like “ideological difference can never exist in party.”
The development of Bolshevik Party during socialism’s establishment period is of great importance as an example.
During the October Revolution period Bolshevik Party was in an “unity” in not idealist meanings but in a dialectic one. Yet, when the matter how transition would be realised or whether socialism would survive or not appeared, the ideological conflicts within the party also came out. The ideological conflicts in the party reflected the period and social scene during that time. But since the period did not evolve into another one, party was able to possess these ideological conflicts in its bosom.
When period changed it was required to find absolute solution for the conflicts within the party. Transition to NEP brought Trotskyst “leftist” deviation in the party. This deviation was rejecting NEP and thus was serving bourgeoisie basically. The discussion having started between Stalin and Trotsky continued with the participation of Zinoviev and Kamenev to the sides of Trotsky. And when “left” opportunism attempted to hold the party and tried to change the economic policy of party which was due to the period, Trotskyst group was expelled from the party.
Stalin acted together with Bukharin against the united opposition. It can be only the opportunists’ attitude to explain this as “bourgeois policy.” Stalin was together with Bukharin, because he was defending the party policy against the “left” opposition during that period.
But when the aggression policy against bourgeoisie and kulakhs was initiated from all sides, the rightist deviation occurred. It was rejecting to participate in attacks and intending to hinder this. Party should expel the rightist deviation in order to achieve in aggression policy and realised this in the 16th Congress of the party.
Bolshevik Party was in exact unity during 1930s. But this unity was not on idealist base. It was in accordance with that period.
During 1930s socialist production relations were established in Soviet Union. In other words there was accordance between the productive forces and production relations. Also the super-structure rising on such a base was in accordance with the infrastructure. Therefore, the unity of super-structure and the party, leading vanguard force of it, was due to the period. Yet this did not mean that there were no conflicts or diversions within the party. Similarly this did not mean that there was no contradiction between the production relations and productive force.
“Unity” is not a category containing no contradiction; contrarily “unity” can only be the contradictions` unity. The case of “unity” is a case when the contradictions are dissolved within a whole and they do not gain antagonism. “Unity” and “accordance” expresses such a situation. The 30s of soviet Union had the character of such a “case”. The contradictions in party or in superstructure or on economical base were being solved without gaining antagonism in the course of time. It would not be correct to see this situation as absolute and unchangeable.
The main theoretical experience to be taken from the ideological struggle period of Bolshevik Party is dealing with the conflicts occurring in the party and solving them according to the period and evading of both hasty and spontaneous manners for their solution.
Stalin studies the relations between party and proletariat dictatorship in Leninism’s Matters. For him party is the materialises of proletariat dictatorship. Leadership of party is basis, thus “party dictatorship” and proletariat dictatorship are not equivalent but proletariat dictatorship is “party dictatorship” on basis.
What does this indicate? This indicates the importance of party’s path-whether it is correct or not- are the ideological struggle within the party and party’s policies determined according to time and period.
Stalin was right, when he mentioned that proletariat dictatorship is party dictatorship on basis. This formulation is current today. Party must be the leading vanguard power of proletariat dictatorship during all the transition period, or in other words until the transition to communism.
This must not mean that proletariat dictatorship can be materialised spontaneously. Party realises proletariat dictatorship providing a supervision from bottom to the top, with a correct path and policy and providing “trust” between the people and itself.
In order to carry out the necessities of the period and to mobilise the revolutionary dynamics of the society, not to submit to spontaneousism and “to change possibilities into realities” – as Stalin mentions-, there must be a correct party path at first.
“(…) in order to make possible things real, there are some necessary conditions. One of them is the role of party which is of great importance and never must be neglected.”
What does the correctness of the party mean?
“Party’s path can be correct with some conditions: Masses must believe to its correctness and support it actively; party must not be satisfied by examining the general path, it must prove its correctness in practice from day to day, and it must fight against any type of deviation from general path, and it must establish unity of party ranks and a deep discipline.”
Stalin attributes the correctness of party path to two basic points: Mass support and its being proved to be correct and materialised from day to day. Every path which provides masses’ activity is not correct and as well every path in lack of mass support is not wrong. Party path must be correct also in the aspects of methods, timing and slogans used to reach the targets.
The correct perception of party path is of great importance, because if the path is wrong and is realised, conflicts, even which will not be intransigent, can be intransigent. Stalin explains this with an example:
“Rightist opportunists suppose (accept??) that there are not any intransigent conflicts between peasantry and worker classes in our regime. (…) Kulakhs will be assimilated in socialism and the alliance of peasant-workers will be materialised spontaneously like a destine in the regime.”
“This has no base and as well it is wrong. Only the ones who suppose party or better to say the power party will leave the fate of workers and peasants to coincidences, can think this way.”
“As a result a division between the peasant and worker class is not out of probability.”
Stalin defines in Leninism’s Matters that party must realise proletariat dictatorship by gaining the trust of masses and following a correct policy.
Stalin summarises the situations when the two sided trust or in other words the correct path do not exist: If the party’s authority is based on force but not trust; if it follows a wrong policy; if it follows a correct policy but realises it despite the masses are unprepared, in these situations connections and trust to each other will be broken between party and class.
Is the these of Stalin about party or relations between party and class correct? They are correct.
His theses are not current for only 20s. They have a warning character concerning the time being. Unfortunately, most of the communist parties in socialist countries did not take them in care, since they were blinded by the rightist path.
It is required to touch on the matter of supervision from bottom lastly.
Supervision from bottom to top in the system of proletariat dictatorship can not be provided without democracy and control within the party.
What is supervision within the party? This contains two essential points: First, the healthy operating of criticism – self-criticism mechanism within party. And second, party must merge in masses by close connections. Party must both teach and learn from masses. Party must both lead and give account to masses. Party must lead its members and must be controlled by them at the same time.
The matter of supervision within party is not different from mass supervision. Stalin criticises Trotsky’s understanding to legitimate cliques occurring within the party and his understanding of even establishing different parties:
“Trotskysm does not understand that freedom of intellectual groups to make intrigues has nothing to do with democracy within party; the self-criticism campaign party has initiated and great activity of party masses are the actual and real signs of democracy within the party.”
The matter is not limited with democracy and supervision within party. The operating of proletariat dictatorship is due to party’s operating in general basically. But if the party is not controlled by other proletariat organisations and institutions and if the proletariat dictatorship in complete aspects. Stalin mentioned that proletariat dictatorship is realised by the help of Soviets, trade-unions, co-operatives, youth organisations and other mass organisations. He aimed to explain the matter of relation between proletariat democracy and party and other institutions, and between people and party-proletariat dictatorship. Democracy within party is self-criticisms and supervision of masses. Proletariat democracy is fighting against bureaucracy and mass supervision.
As Lenin mentions:
“The fight against bureaucratic deviations of Soviet organisation can be provided by strengthening the relations between Soviets and people.”
“This close relation between the “people,” working people and Soviets created special ways of removing clerks and other control mechanisms from bottom. It is required to improve these with heart and soul. (…) Nothing can be more foolish to make Soviets frozen organs which are adequate by themselves. Determined more than ever, we must be in favour of a strong and intact government, which will give no quarter to tyrants, and of dictatorship of persons during particular activity periods only because of some aspects of executive duty.
Yet, despite of this it is obliged to develop methods or forms of control from bottom in order to prevent Soviet government’s principles to be overshadowed and to exterminate bureaucracy untiringly.”
It cannot be put forward that Stalin’s and Lenin’s points about the meaning of democracy within party and proletariat democracy in general, have lost their currency. Contrarily, their real content has importance more than ever today. If the communist parties of socialist countries had taken these in care, bureaucracy would not have become so rigid and the people would not have been so far from Soviet organisations and bourgeois ideology, which had ended historically, could not have been able to affect so much with propaganda.
PROBLEMS OF THE CONSTRUCTION OF SOCIALISM AND THE TRANSITION TO COMMUNISM IN THE SOVIET UNION
With the “1928” offensive on the bourgeoisie, bourgeois relations were abolished in the countryside and the cities. Socialist relations were established. This, of course, was not done immediately in a year; however, the year 1928 was a beginning and within a few years socialist relations of production achieved complete harmony with the forces of production and the construction of socialism began.
The establishment of socialist relations of production in “1928” was not a result only of internal conditions; external conditions also played a role. The failure to happen of the expected revolution was forcing the Soviet Union into the establishment and construction of socialism at a great speed. The fact that the world capitalist system went into a great crisis in the same year had enabled socialism to “gain time.” Thus, as Stalin said, either they would close the 100 year gap in 10 years or they would perish.
It has always been said, not only by the bourgeoisie, but also by opportunism, that Stalin forced the people and collectivised particularly the small peasants “by force” in the establishment and construction of socialism. Yes, there was some “force,” but this was the mobilisation of the dynamics in the Soviet Union, of the creative powers of the people. Were it not for the voluntary participation and support of the people, neither could socialist relations have been established nor could the construction of socialism have been successful. Under Stalin’s leadership, the proletarian dictatorship used forced against those who wanted to prevent this development. At the same time, after winning over the “majority” of the working class and the peasantry, the proletarian state also “forced” those who refused to be persuaded. It could not have been otherwise. As early as 1926, Stalin wrote in “The Problems of Leninism”:
“But how is the minority treated if it refuses voluntarily to agree to or accept the majority’s wishes? If it enjoys the confidence of the majority, can the party force the minority to accede to the majority’s wishes? Must it do so? Yes, it can and it must.” (The Problems of Leninism, p. 154, Sol Publishing)
The process which started in 1928 involved just such a “forcing.” It could not have been otherwise, because while it did not enjoy the support of the majority a year or two previously, the Bolshevik Party did enjoy it in “1928” and it forced the minority on that basis. That is correct politics.
Thus, the establishment of socialist relations with the “1928” offensive removed all the barriers in front of the forces of production. Thus started the legend of the construction of socialism so fluently described by Anna Strong in her book “The Stalin Period.” This legend was based on complete harmony between the forces of production and the relations of production, and between the relations of production and the superstructure (not only the “state,” but all of the superstructure, including its ideology, its culture, its conception of the new man, its philosophy and its traditions).
It may be thought: Was there no harmony between the relations of production and the forces of production until then? No, there was not, because up to the establishment of socialism the bourgeois relations of production were still the major barrier to the forces of production. Thus there was a political struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and also an ideological struggle between the two within the party. The main antagonism was between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Until the resolution of this antagonism and the establishment of new relations of production, the unfettered development of the forces of production is unthinkable. As Mao says: “First the relations of production must be changed and only after that can the forces of production be developed widely. This is a universal rule.” Stalin also pointed this out many times. For example, he explains the difference between the pre-“1928” period of construction and the following period as follows:
“In the period of reconstruction [pre-1928] it was necessary to re-open the old workplaces unconditionally and to help agriculture. All this was to be done on the basis of the old economy. Today, it is necessary to reconstruct our national economy and industry completely on scientific foundations and with the facilities of modern technology.” “The main problem in the construction of industry is to eliminate capitalist elements.” (Stalin, Çaðrý Publishers, p. 62)
A number of points need to be touched upon concerning the legendary process of construction in the Soviet Union.
In the establishment of socialist relations of production, is it necessary that the forces of production be raised to a certain level through “state capitalism”? What does the experience of the Soviet Union mean in this respect?
We can resolve this problem on the basis of the argument about whether the proletariat can take power in a backward country. As is widely known, the opportunists thought that it would be suicide to take power in a country where the forces of production were “adequate”; whereas the Bolsheviks claimed that the objective basis had to be assessed in terms not of one country but of all the imperialist world and its weak link, and this is what the Bolsheviks did. However, the question of what had to be done after taking power in a backward country was unresolved. In spite of “hurried” attempts, Lenin advocated the “state capitalist” method; he then added “free trade” and co-operative capitalism to this. Lenin said “I must stress once again that the only possible foundation for socialism is large scale machine industry. Anyone who forgets this is not a communist.” (Pencere Publishers, p. 140). Lenin expressed similar views frequently. Taking this as our starting point, that is, after establishing “large scale machine industry,” would it be right to claim that socialist relations of production can be constructed on this basis and only on this basis? Is this the way Lenin’s suggestion of “state capitalism” must be interpreted?
This is a very important question and the success and failure of the experience of the other socialist countries depends on the answer to this question.
It would be wrong to interpret Lenin as having said that the development of the forces of production is of the essence before the establishment of the relations of production or that the development of the forces of production has priority over the establishment of the relations of production. That is because Lenin was concerned with the problem of winning over to socialism the small peasantry who remained a fundamental problem until the establishment of socialism in the Soviet Union. It is from this stand-point that he put both state capitalism and free trade onto the agenda, even though this may be a step back. Again, Lenin expectation from state capitalism was that the workers would learn to run and control production. All these are in the sphere of the relations of production. In the Soviet Revolution the peasants were with the Bolsheviks against Tsarism and the large landowners, but the winning over of the peasantry to socialism was a long process. On the other hand, as this was the first experience of socialist revolution, the workers did not know how to run production; there were no socialist intellectuals (engineers and technicians). It is for these and other reasons that, in Soviet socialism, the establishment of socialist relations of production passed through NEP and covered a long period. This does not indicate that the Soviet socialist experience gave the forces of production priority over the relations of production. As in every socialist revolution in the Soviet socialist experience too it was necessary for socialist relations of production to be established before the forces of production could develop. The process of establishment went through many intermediate stages.
It would, however, be wrong to take the matter no further. The establishment of socialist relations of production cannot be reduced to a “juridical” transformation in property relations. A revolution in the relations of production must also mean that the new relations of production are in harmony with their own superstructure. What does that mean? It means that man, the living subject of the relations of production, believes in socialism and makes sacrifices, that the party implements correct policies, that traditions of the new man arise and develop. If this were not so, could Soviet power have survived merely with the “revolution in property relations’? Could the priority given to the relations of production have had any meaning if it were not for the Soviet worker’s sacrifices for his power to bear terrible pains, often praised by Lenin? Would it have been possible to talk of socialism if it were not for the workers’ and peasants’ profound belief and joy in socialism and for the great sacrifices made for the establishment of the socialist relations of production? Obviously not. Just as the forces of production mean nothing without the relations of production, relations of production mean nothing without the appropriate superstructure.
From this point of view, the establishment and construction of socialism in the Soviet Union is a perfect example of harmony. In this example, relations of production had priority over the forces of production, and the superstructure over the relations of production. (Let us point out, however, that having “priority” does not mean that, in the final analysis, it was “determining.” But in terms of the living history created by men, what matters is “priority.” Opportunists and revisionists have always been slaves to history’s “determining” “dead” basis.)
It goes without saying that socialist industrialisation was created with great socialist joy. Here we shall briefly touch upon the economic accumulation upon which industrialisation was created.
Marx thought that socialism would be created upon a developed capitalist foundation. He thus wrote that it was sufficient that certain funds were taken from large scale machine industry production and assigned to the development of production. However, the Soviet experience was different. Socialism had to create its own basis of production. How was the necessary accumulation required for this to be obtained? Foreign “aid” was out of the question. What was to be done? This accumulation was obtained through economising (bringing costs down to the lowest possible level) from light industry, agriculture and heavy industry.
This path of accumulation of Soviet industrialisation also showed the way to later socialist experiences. In addition, “foreign aid” from other socialist countries and primarily the Soviet Union was added to this accumulation, creating the conditions for more rapid and easier industrialisation. However, we cannot consider the question of industrialisation independently of the relations of production and of the state of the superstructure. It is for this reason that many of the countries which set out on the road to socialism after the Soviet Union could not avoid falling into crisis because of industrialisation. Thus, it is very important for socialist industrialisation that the sources of accumulation are secured and that this is done with socialist joy and sacrifice. In other words, socialist industrialisation depends, after the question of accumulation (not “after” in terms of importance), on the organisation of labour in a socialist way, that is, on socialist work discipline, socialist culture and morals. Lenin dwelt upon this question at length. According to Lenin, the raising of labour productivity carries fundamental importance, because there can be no socialism without the development of the forces of production. But this depends on the socialist organisation of labour. Here are some of Lenin’s words on this matter:
“The communist organisation of social labour – and socialism is the first step in this direction – is based on the free and conscious discipline of … working people and it will be based on this more and more as time goes on.” (UBS, p. 180)
“Communism means greater labour productivity than capitalism, it means the higher productivity of voluntary, conscious and united workers who use advanced techniques.”
“Communism will begin when ordinary workers start to work to raise labour productivity without fearing tiring efforts, with enthusiasm and self-sacrifice; when they start to work not for themselves and their ‘close’ relatives, but for their ‘distant’ relatives, in other words for all of society. It will not begin before then.” (p. 189)
Therefore, it is not possible to consider socialist industrialisation and the development of the forces of production, in other words the raising of labour productivity independently of the socialist organisation of labour, of socialist morals and culture. And indeed, as socialism develops, the socialist organisation of labour, that is, free, conscious, voluntary labour and communist morals will assume even greater importance. This, at the same time, means the resolution of the question of accumulation. In the first stage of the construction of socialism, accumulation depended on factors mentioned above and the organisation of labour was shaped accordingly.
The enthusiastic working of workers and peasants under “one-person” management (edino-rachalie) and discipline. Clearly, as socialism developed, the socialist organisation of labour had to develop faster, because the development of the material basis of socialism towards the material basis of communism would only be possible through the socialist organisation of labour. In saying that after light industry, agriculture and the budget heavy industry should contribute to accumulation, Stalin was also pointing out which source accumulation had to be based on as socialism developed. However, this then depended basically on the communist understanding of the managers in the workplaces. Yet, the further development of socialism could not be left to the understanding of the “one-person” management; what was then necessary would leave its place, as socialism developed, to the “collective” organisation of labour. Only in this way could communism come about as both the development of the forces of production and the development of the relations of communist production and culture. This, however, did not happen; the development of the forces of production was taken as separate from the socialist organisation of labour and from communist culture, and industrialisation (that is, the raising of the productivity of labour) was necessarily was (and is) attempted to be achieved on the basis not of the socialist organisation of labour and of communist culture, but on the basis of first a “bureaucratic” and now a capitalist manner.
The matters of socialist industrialisation and the organisation of labour cannot be considered complete without touching upon the question of distribution.
As we shall see below, the socialism which was implemented in the Soviet Union was not the “socialism” put forward by Marx and Engels as the first stage of communism. It was economically backward and, in this sense, distribution was shaped not in accordance with the first stage of communism but according to the economic basis of socialism. This was normal.
Under “socialism,” distribution takes the form of to each according to his work, that is, according to the “quantity” of the labour he has spent. However, according to today’s socialism, where the economic basis of “socialism” is being prepared, distribution was (and is) based on the “quantity and quality” of labour. This means that material as well as spiritual incentives are used, qualified labour receives a higher “wage” than unqualified labour, intellectuals who take part in production and indeed political intellectuals receive a higher “wage” than qualified labour. Distribution depends on the economic base and cannot be superior to it.
In the first stage of communism the equal wages system (uravnilovka) is applied; that is, the labourers receive a share (“wage”) of the social product based on the quantity of the work they do. Yet, at the very beginning of the process of construction of socialism, Stalin waged war against uravnilovka.
” ‘Equality’ has brought us into such a situation that an unqualified worker has no advantage in rising to the level of qualified workers.”
“Nobody can accept that a tool-maker should receive the same money as a street cleaner.” (Stalin, Çaðrý Publishers)
Therefore, uravnilovka cannot be valid under socialism. Distribution according to the quantity and quality of labour found its expression in the Stakhanov movement. In the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union, the Stakhanov movement was an example both of the creativity of human beings and of distribution, because at the basis of the Stakhanov movement or of socialist competition there lie advanced technology and piece-rate wages. It was inevitable, on the technological basis of that period, that socialist competition and work for society would take the form of distribution according to quantity and quality of labour. Stalin assesses the Stakhanov movement as follows:
“First of all, the Stakhanov movement represents a new elevation of socialist competition, a new, higher socialist stage of it… In the past, about three years ago, in the first stage of socialist competition, socialist competition was necessarily not dependent on new techniques. In truth, we then had almost no new technology. The current stage of socialist competition – the Stakhanov movement – is, on the contrary, necessarily dependent on new techniques. That is, there could have been no Stakhanov movement without advanced technology.” (Stalin, in Y. Küçük, p. 385)
We may conclude the following from Stalin’s important comments above: Firstly, in the first stage when technology is backward, socialist competition means sacrifice almost without rewards; it cannot be otherwise. Secondly, in the second stage when technology is relatively advanced, in the “Stakhanov movement” stage, socialist competition means, at the same time, receiving a share related to one’s contribution – and the most common form of this is piece-rate wages – from the existing development. What about later? Stalin does not indicate this, but it may be deduced from his method. Thirdly, as technology develops, socialist competition will gradually turn into working for society and the individualistic system of ‘piece-rate wages according to contribution’ will gradually disappear. That is because people will begin to receive the return for the work they do for society not as an ‘individual wage’ but ‘socially.’ The higher stage of socialist competition will only emerge upon the technical foundation which makes this possible; but this will not happen on its own. If the communist organisation of labour and communist culture are not achieved, workers will still insist on the old relations of distribution. And this would impede the development of the forces of production: The individual fund must shrink as the share of the social product allocated to social funds rises; but if the socialist organisation of labour is not achieved, the workers will insist on keeping the individual fund “high,” on receiving a share based on the quantity and quality of their labour, in spite of the fact that the social fund has grown. This would mean the slowing down of the development of the forces of production and would lead to crisis. This is one of the fundamental problems of socialism today.
The fundamental law of a social formation is the law which enables the working and the movement of that society regardless of the will of the individuals. However, the fact that the law is independent of the will of individuals does not mean that it is absolute and unchanging, that it appears and disappears suddenly, that it operates on its own. Let us look at the basic law of capitalist society. Production for profit came into existence together with capitalism. But it did not remain as an absolute, unchanging law. At the beginning of capitalism this law operated in all its ruthlessness and workers were made to work for up to 20 hours per day and exploited. The struggles of the working class changed the way this law operated. At the same time, the development of capitalism itself expanded the scope of this law. As Stalin put it, the law of surplus value became the law of maximum profit.
Stalin discovered that socialism also has a fundamental economic law:
“Is there a fundamental economic law of socialism? Yes, there is. What are the main lines and requirements of this law? The main lines and requirements of the fundamental economic law of socialism may be formulated more or less as follows: The maximum satisfaction of society’s constantly growing material and cultural needs by constantly developing and improving socialist production on the basis of a superior technological foundation.” (Final Writings, p. 98)
Is this law discovered by Stalin correct? Undoubtedly it is. However, it is wrong to think of social laws as if they were laws of nature. Social laws do not operate on their own; they may be impeded by reactionary forces. Stalin criticised those who thought that there is, anyway, a basic economic law and that it would operate on its own, and he explained the difference between social and natural laws. Stalin’s views on this matter are today more important than ever.
“It is said that economic laws have an inherent nature, that their effects cannot be prevented, that society is powerless against them. This is wrong. This attitude means idolising the laws and seeing oneself as their slave. It has been proved that society is not powerless in the face of the laws; society can know the laws, limit their sphere of effect and use them in its own interests.” (. 65)
Stalin’s words carry great importance from the point of view of socialist society and its development towards communism. The laws of socialist society and particularly the fundamental economic law and the law of the harmonious development of the national economy, are laws in the process of development. Therefore, from the point of view of the current stage, it is very important that the superstructure intervenes and does not abandon the process to its spontaneous development, because the effects of the laws of socialist society may be limited by the revisionists and indeed, these laws may be replaced by the laws of capitalism. That is why Stalin’s words below carry great importance in understanding how the laws must be considered:
“(…) The law of the harmonious development of the national economy gives our planning institutions the possibility of planning social production correctly. However, possibility and reality must not be confused. They are two different things. In order to turn the possibility into reality, we must analyse this economic law, we must dominate it, we must learn to know it completely and implement it. We must prepare plans which exactly reflect the requirements of this law. It cannot be said that our annual plans and five-year plans completely reflect the requirements of this law.” (p. 67)
The “possibility” in the sense of the existence of the economic law and “turning the possibility into reality” by dominating the law. This operation is of great importance when we consider that there is a long process of development between socialist society and communism. We have argued that there are economic laws in socialist society, but that these laws are in the process of development and that, therefore, the superstructure carries great importance in “turning the possibility into reality.” What does the fact that the law is in the process of development mean? It does not mean that the law is “created.” Stalin says that economic laws are laws which sustain “the regularity of processes which affect economic life.” This means that in so far as they reflect the regularity of economic processes, the laws are in “development.” Could the laws’ effects in today’s socialist society and in communism be the same? Clearly not. This is also true of the fundamental economic law of socialism. Formulated briefly, this law discovered by Stalin is “production for society.” It is known that there are attempts today to push this law to the background and indeed to replace it with the law of “production for profit.” Therefore, is it not obvious that this law too is in development; that greater efforts must be made to “turn the possibility created by this law into reality”?
It is necessary not to consider the fundamental economic law and the other laws of socialism as laws which operate automatically; to keep the doors wide open for the operation of these laws and to wage a struggle against those who wish to limit the effects of these laws.
The construction of socialism in the Soviet Union has not been a socialism envisaged in theory. We cannot conclude from this that the theory of communism is incorrect. The question is to determine the problems which socialism today needs to overcome in order to reach “socialism” as the first stage of communism. These were described by Stalin. One of the fundamental differences between today’s socialism and the “socialism” envisaged in the theory manifests itself in the sphere of distribution. We have briefly touched upon this. Another difference is the existence of commodity production and the theory of value.
Why is there commodity production? The answer to this must be sought in the objective structure of today’s socialism.
“In the current situation, there exist here two main forms of socialist production: State production and the production of the kolkhoz, and it cannot be claimed that the people are partners in the kolkhoz. In the state enterprises the means of production and the products themselves belong to all the people. In the kolkhoz enterprises, although the means of production (the land and the machinery) belong to the state, the output belongs to the various kolkhoz which provide the labour and the seeds.”
“At present, the kolkhoz do not accept, in their relations to rent, any economic relations other than the changes which arise from the exchange of commodities.” (Final Writings, p. 74)
Beside commodity production, there is between the towns and the countryside commodity production and exchange through foreign trade. This is unavoidable today, at the stage of socialism where the differences between town and country have not been abolished. However, this cannot and should not be said to correspond to the existence of socialism. One of the fundamental problems of socialism today is that not only is the sphere of commodity production not being limited, but it is gradually being expanded. And this is inevitably giving rise to capitalism.
“Wherever there is commodity production and commodities, the law of value inevitably operates.”
“In the Soviet Union, the sphere of influence of the law of value covers the circulation of commodities, the exchange of commodities in the form of buying and selling, and particularly the exchange of commodities for personal use.”
“However, (…) the law of value is also operative in the spheres of production. (…) The truth is that with us the consumption goods necessary for meeting the expenditure of labour power in the production process are produced and realised as commodities based on the effect of the law of value. The law of value affects production particularly in that area. Thus, financial autonomy and productivity, cost prices, prices, etc. have a daily importance in our enterprises today. That is why our enterprises cannot and must not abandon the law of value.” (Final Writings, p. 78)
“The law of value is the ruling principle of capitalism.” That is why, although the effect of the law of value is extremely limited in socialist society, this effect must further be limited and must completely be eliminated particularly in the sphere of production. Yet, one of the fundamental problems of the socialist societies has been that far from limiting the effect of the law of value, they have increased it. After the establishment of socialist relations of production, what kind of changes will and must the socialist state, that is the proletarian dictatorship, go through in the process of socialist construction? In other words, will the proletarian dictatorship continue to exist?
Stalin’s words in his report to the XVIII Party Congress (1939) constitute an answer to these questions. These words which are extremely important and must, from the point of view of the question of the state in socialism today, be read critically, are worth quoting at length:
“Since the October Revolution, our socialist states passed through two main phases in their development.
“The first phase covers the period from the October Revolution to the elimination of the exploiting classes. (…) in this period our state had two main functions. The first was the oppression of the overthrown classes within the country (…) The second was the defence of the country against external attack (…) There was a third function: The economic organisation and cultural and educational work of the organs of our state which aimed at developing the young shoots of socialist power and re-educating the people in the spirit of socialism. But this new function made no serious progress at that time.
“The second phase covers the period from the elimination of capitalist elements in the towns and countryside to the complete victory of the socialist economic list, that is to the acceptance of the new constitution. The specific task of this period was to organise the socialist economy throughout the country and to eliminate the final remnants of capitalist elements; to organise the cultural revolution, to organise a faultlessly renewed army for the defence of the country… As a result, the functions of our socialist state changed. As exploitation has been eliminated, exploiters no longer exist and there is no longer anyone to oppress, the task of military oppression within the country has become unnecessary, it has disappeared. The task of oppression has given way to the function of the defence of socialist property against those who steal public property. The function of defending the country against external attack has remained unchanged. (…) Now the specific task of our state is peaceful economic organisation and cultural and educational work.” (Questions of Leninism, pp. 730-731)
Stalin thus says that in that period the final victory of socialism was achieved, that passage to the first phase of communism was completed and that the next target was to move to the higher phase of communism, and he sees the state, as in the quote above, as the state of the first phase of communism, as “a state which is inclined to disappear, but does not begin to disappear and, on the contrary, becomes stronger because of the capitalist siege.”
It is obvious that the “state” Stalin is talking about is not, in the general sense, a dictatorship of the proletariat, because it essentially does not have the task of domestic oppression and abolition of the classes.
Are Stalin’s comments above correct? If the passage to the first phase of communism really been completed or if the comments had been made as a general “theoretical” point about the first phase of communism, they would undoubtedly have been correct. However, the Soviet Union had not yet reached the first phase of communism. In this respect, Stalin’s comments on the second phase of the state are incorrect. They would have been adequate if they had been related only to the “appearance” of the Soviet Union at the time, because Soviet society was really in peace, the only problem was the external imperialist threat. However, “appearances” are misleading. What was important was the structure of the internal contradictions of society. Moreover, the imperialist threat as purely an “external” threat was also an “appearance.” The imperialist threat can find supporters within the country; in this sense, it should also have been taken into account that the imperialist threat was also an internal threat.
The basis of Stalin’s mistake was that he thought that socialism had reached the first phase of communism (More about this later). On that basis, the state too was evaluated as the state of the first phase of communism. This mistake of Stalin’s later became the main source of revisionism; the concepts of “people’s state,” “democracy without dictatorship” were based on Stalin’s mistake, though no source was indicated.
In fact, until the first phase of communism or, more accurately, as long as imperialism continues to exist as a world-wide threat, the state must exist not as the “workers” and “peasants’ state” but as a proletarian dictatorship throughout this period. Moreover and as a defining factor, as Lenin shows, the state must exist as a proletarian dictatorship as long as classes are not abolished, that is until all the people have been proletarianised. The state can only lose its function as a “political state” and begin to wither away when the proletariat begins to abolish itself as a class, and this is a process which can begin after classes and strata other than the proletariat are proletarianised. The dictatorship of the proletariat must continue until this process is reached.
Today one of the fundamental results of socialism has been the revision of this universal principle of Marxism-Leninism concerning the state.
The following comments are made in the history of the Bolshevik Party on the period after the acceptance of the new Soviet constitution in 1936:
“In 1936 the USSR was completely different. (…) The exploitation of man by man had been abolished never to return.”
“The political basis of the USSR consists of the Soviets of Working Peoples Representatives which developed and strengthened as a result of the overthrowing of the power of the landlords and capitalists and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.”
“The economic basis of the USSR is the socialist economic system and socialist ownership of the means of production. The principle of ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his labour” has been realised in the USSR.”
“Thus the Constitution showed that the USSR had reached a new stage of development, a stage where the construction of the socialist society would be completed, a stage of gradual transition to the communist society where the communist principle of ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’ will be the guiding principle of the life of society, and the Constitution thus legalised a fact which opened a new age.” (History of the CPSU(B), pp. 426, 428, 429, 430)
Stalin also says:
“Our Soviet society has already today, in its essence, realised socialism and created the socialist order; in other words, it has reached the stage which Marxists call the first or lower stage of communism. This means that the first stage of communism, that is socialism, has already fundamentally been put into practice in our country.” (Stalin, Questions of Leninism, p. 628)
This is all very clear; Stalin says that the first stage of communism has been reached, that the proletarian dictatorship has turned into “the state of the working people” and that the aim now is to pass on to the higher stage of communism. Was this true? Let us dwell on this matter.
How was the transition to the higher stage of communism to take place?
This question began to be discussed in the Soviet Union after WW2 in the 1950s. There were no differing views on the transition to the second stage of communism. But there were two main tendencies on the question of how this transition would take place. The first tendency was the Marxist-Leninist movement represented by Stalin and the second was the right deviation starting with Jaroschenko and reaching Gorbachev. It can in a way be said that the fate of the Soviet Union was being drawn in the debate between Stalin and Jaroschenko. While Jaroschenko argued that the higher stage of communism would be reached with the “rational organisation of the forces of production,” i.e. with spontaneity, Stalin criticised this as a right deviation and put forward the three preconditions for the transition to communism:
“1- Firstly, the development of all social production must be ensured, not through a fictional ‘rational organisation’ of the forces of production, but by giving priority to the production of production goods.”
“2- Secondly, in gradual stages, the kolkhoz must be made profitable and ultimately provide profits for all of society, kolkhoz property must be raised to the level of national property and, again in gradual stages, a system of product exchange must replace the circulation of commodities, so that the central power or any other central social economic (organisation) can use all the products of social production to the benefit of society.”
“3- Thirdly, a social and cultural development must be ensured which will enable all members of society to develop in all areas of their physical and mental abilities.” (Final Writings, pp. 125, 126, 127)
The realisation of the conditions listed by Stalin could have ensured the transition not to the higher stage of communism but to the lower stage. In spite of that, Stalin was thinking of the transition not to the lower but to the upper stage.
“Only when all these preconditions as a whole are met will it be possible to pass from the socialist formula of ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his labour’ to the communist formula of ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.’ ” (p. 128)
If the conditions listed above by Stalin had been met, only the socialist formula of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his labour” would have been fully met. That is because in the Soviet Union distribution was done according to the “quantity and quality of labour” because of the economic and social order, and this created great wage differentials in society. The reason for this, in addition to the backwardness of the economy and related to it, was the existence of kolkhoz property and commodity production. Thus, had the three conditions correctly listed by Stalin been met, the pre-conditions would have been prepared for the complete abolition of “the contradiction between mental and manual labour,” formulated by Marx and Lenin as a condition for the transition to the higher stage of communist society.
While his formulation of the “three conditions” based on the existing situation was correct, Stalin was wrong on the target to be reached (the higher stage of communism).
What did this mistake cost?
Though he argued that the “three conditions” could not be met, that in other words the contradiction between the forces of production and the relations of production could not be resolved through Jaroschenko’s “rational organisation of the forces of production,” and that the contradiction between the forces of production and the relations of production would not “degenerate” if correct policies were implemented, Stalin was not adequately aware of the danger of a right deviation. That is because Stalin thought that a revolution like that of 1928 would not be necessary in a society about to make the transition to the higher stage of communism; so he believed that the forces which would resist would easily be defeated.
“(…) In a socialist regime, events usually do not reach the point of a conflict between the relations of production and the forces of production; society has the chance to harmonise in time the backwards relations of production and the nature of the forces of production, because it does not have in it a declining class which can organise the resistance. Certainly in a socialist regime too there will be forces of idleness which do not understand the necessity of changing the relations of production; but it will be easy to deal with them without allowing a conflict to arise.” (p. 109)
In fact, in the existing conditions, a revolution was necessary in order to meet the three conditions; a revolution starting in the party, the superstructure and continuing in the sphere of the relations of production. That is because in socialism there exist classes and strata, political forces which represent the old relations of production; the kolkhoz peasantry, the intellectuals, part of the working class and political forces in the superstructure will undoubtedly resist. Given that socialism is the abolition of classes, this cannot be achieved without a revolution. Thus it is very important that the communist party has a correct revolutionary perspective and that the proletarian dictatorship keeps a tight hold on things.
Clearly, Stalin had seen that the relations of production could become a serious obstacle to the forces of production if an “incorrect policy was implemented” and, in that sense, he was aware of the danger. But Stalin’s mistake was to think that where the correct policy was implemented “the forces of idleness would easily be dealt with.” In the existing conditions a correct policy would ensure victory, but this did not mean that forces which had an interest in the continuation of the existing structures could easily be dealt with.
Though in the 1950s Stalin became aware of the danger of a right deviation and saw that on that path the relations of production could become an obstacle to the forces of production, he fell short in the sense that he failed to see that the three conditions could only be met through a “revolution.” This arose from the fact that he thought they were at the stage of transition to the higher stage of communism; because he thought that at such a stage there would be no strong resistance if a correct policy was implemented. The course of events has today shown Stalin’s mistakes.
Defending Stalin does not mean ignoring his mistakes. That is also what Mao did. Mao’s theses on the transitional period expose Stalin’s mistakes and complete his theses. In that sense, Mao’s theses are worth quoting:
“We can separate the transformation from capitalism to socialism into two stages: One is from capitalism to a socialism which we may call underdeveloped socialism; the other is from socialism to communism, that is from a relatively underdeveloped socialism to a relatively developed socialism, i.e. to communism.” (Birikim Publishers, p. 55)
“The transition to communism is, of course, not a matter of one class overthrowing another. But this does not mean that there will be no social revolution, because the replacement of one type of relations of production by another is a qualitative step, a revolution.” (p. 59)
“(…) This will greatly foster the development of the forces of production. For a while this will remain as a socialist all-people’s property and will only after a certain period turn into a communist all-people’s property. Thus, people’s property itself will move from distribution according to labour to distribution according to need.” (p. 68)
Mao’s theses on the transition from capitalism to communism represent an enrichment of the theses of Marx-Engels, Lenin and Stalin on the subject.
THE MAIN THESES OF REVISIONISM
It is the social and political forces which wanted the existing relations of production and the superstructure to remain unchanged which enabled revisionism to come to power in the Soviet Union. Revisionism is not a subjective phenomenon which suddenly emerged at the 20th Congress with Kruschev.
As we have already seen, as the existing relations of production and the superstructure became an obstacle to development, socialism in the Soviet Union reached a cross-roads in the 1950s. Either a “revolution” starting in the superstructure and continuing with the transformation of the relations of production would clear the way for the forces of production and the journey towards the first stage of communism would continue; or they would be stuck at the point where they had then reached. The fact that the CPSU did not evaluate the situation and start a “revolution” helped the social and political forces which had an interest in preserving the existing structure to achieve dominance in the party and the superstructure. At the same time, revisionism also gained strength by implementing a policy of collaboration with imperialism.
This situation may not have arisen. The problem was, as Stalin had put it, to turn possibilities into reality. This was not done. Turning possibility into reality would have been possible by winning the kolkhoz peasants and the intellectuals over by relying on industrial and sovkhoz workers, and eliminating the forces which formed an obstacle to development in the superstructure and the social structure. However, the failure to see that the transition from socialism to the first stage of communism was only possible through a “revolution” in the superstructure and the relations of production caused the neo-Bukharinists who were in favour of the preservation of the existing structure to gain control of the party and the superstructure.
Like Bukharin’s theory that the transition to socialism would be spontaneous, the revisionists expounded the theory that a spontaneous development of the forces of production would ensure the transition to the higher stage of communism. In fact, such a development could ultimately only result in pushing the economy and the superstructure into crisis and preparing the ground for capitalist restoration. That is because in today’s socialism the level of development of the forces of production does not represent an objective obstacle to the establishment of capitalist relations. Between feudalism and capitalism, the level of the forces of production objectively prevents the transformation of capitalism into feudalism. But, where socialism is not at least moving from the first stage of communism towards the higher stage, there is no such objective obstacle.
Therefore, throughout the transition period, if the determining importance of the superstructure is ignored, if the development of socialism is abandoned to spontaneity, if a development towards communism is not ensured through “revolutions” in superstructure and the relations of production, this would carry with it the danger of capitalist restoration.
The Power of Revisionism is the Weakening of the Proletarian Dictatorship and of Socialism
According to Marxism-Leninism, the state must remain as a dictatorship of the proletariat in the process of transition between capitalism and communism as long as classes have not been abolished and the imperialist threat continues. This is a universal thesis.
Based on the claim that the first stage of communism had been reached with the conclusion of the first stage of socialism, revisionism expounded the theory that the proletarian dictatorship had been transformed into the “peoples state” and thus revised this universal theory of Marxism-Leninism.
“The historical task of the proletarian dictatorship which arises with the socialist revolution … as the final victory of socialism is ensured, the state of the proletarian dictatorship becomes the state of all the people, which is the expression of the interests and the will of the people.” (Political Economy, Nikitin, Sol Publishers, pp. 253-254)
“The state of all the people” is a state which corresponds to the relations of production which prevent the transition from socialism to the first stage of communism, which paves the way for the proletariat to share power with other classes; it is a weakened form of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The dictatorship of the proletariat means that the proletariat is the ruling class and holds state power. However, as the proletariat also defends the interests of other labouring classes, it hold power in a “special alliance with them. This concerns the form of the state. Therefore, the soviets are the direct expression of the dictatorship of the proletariat.”
The dictatorship of the proletariat cannot exist without the proletariat (the communist party as its leading force) in power; because the dictatorship of the proletariat is a “semi-state.” Only the proletariat can abolish both itself and the other classes and the state. The loss of power by the proletariat or its sharing with other classes, the interruption of this process, means that the state becomes permanent. Therefore, the holding of power by the proletariat in a special alliance with other classes and the sharing of power with other classes must definitely not be confused. As long as classes exist in socialism, power must be in the hands of the proletariat. The fate of the abolition of classes and the state, i.e. of the transition to communism depends on this. Lenin says:
“… The essence of the dictatorship of the proletariat is not only or even mainly force. Its main characteristic is the organisation and discipline of the proletariat, of the advanced guard of the working people, of their leader, whose aim is to build socialism, abolish the division of society into classes, turn every member of society into working people, and to eliminate the grounds of the exploitation of man by man.” (quoted in Stalin, Problems of Leninism, p. 132)
This very important comment by Lenin exposes all the distortions of the revisionists. By transforming the dictatorship of the proletariat into the “state of all the people,” by including all classes in power (the expression of this is that the socialist bureaucracy holds power on behalf of all the people), the revisionists are obstructing the proletariat’s aim of abolishing all classes, turning everyone into workers.
It is also wrong to see the power of the revisionists as “the power of the bourgeoisie.” The social basis of the neo-Bukharinists’ power is not the bourgeoisie, but the social forces in favour of the preservation of the existing relations of production. These forces are the intellectuals (technicians, enterprise managers, bureaucrats, etc.), the kolkhoz peasantry and part of the workers.
Even in 1928, in conditions where the bourgeois relations of production continued to exist, Stalin saw the victory of the right deviation as a weakening of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
“In the framework of Soviet development (…) the victory of the right deviation in our party would mean the strengthening of capitalist elements in the country. And what would that mean? It would mean the weakening of the dictatorship of the proletariat, a greater chance of capitalist resurrection. Therefore, the victory of the right deviation in our party would mean an increase in the necessary conditions for the resurrection and domination of capitalism in our country.” (Problems of Leninism, p. 258)
Can this evaluation made by Stalin in the conditions of 1928 be considered to be correct in the conditions of the 1960s? Clearly not. As the bourgeoisie had not yet been abolished as a class in 1928, the victory of the right deviation meant that the bourgeoisie’s chances of gaining power would increase. Whereas in the 1960s the bourgeoisie no longer exists as a class in the Soviet Union. In these conditions, the power of revisionism does not directly mean the beginning of the danger (or the process) of capitalist restoration and the increase of the bourgeoisie’s chances of gaining power. The power of revisionism means the weakening of socialist relations of production and of the proletarian dictatorship because of the attempt to preserve existing structure, it means the creation of the conditions for the danger of capitalist restoration. In this period, despite everything, the class essence of the state remains a proletarian dictatorship. The beginning of the elimination of socialist institutions and relations in the superstructure and the base comes onto the agenda when reformism comes to power.)
The Revisionists Abandon the Transition Period to Spontaneity
“Socialism,” the first stage of communism, is a social formation where classes do not exist, everybody is a “worker,” there is no commodity production, everybody receives a share of the social product based on their work, the state begins to stop being a “political state.”
The fact that the socialist revolution took place in a country (countries) where the forces of production were relatively backward, made it necessary that the relations of production corresponded not to the first stage of communism but to a lower level. This meant that socialist relations of production were twofold, public and collective, commodity production continued, and distribution was based on the quantity and quality of labour. Thus, the transition process was divided into two: the first stage, the stage of transition from socialism to communism.
The revisionists interpreted the completion of the first stage of the transition process as the passage to the first stage of communism and theorised it as such. Thus, the existing structure was to “develop” spontaneously towards the higher stage of communism without necessitating any “revolution.” In reality, they were attempting to theoretical excuses for the preservation of the existing structure in an unchanging, absolute way.
It is possible to find this theory in all books of political economy written in the Soviet Union. For example, Nikitin writes:
“The transition period covers the whole historical period which starts with the victory of the proletarian revolution and the creation of the proletarian dictatorship and ends with the establishment of socialism, the end of which is the first stage of the communist society.” (Political Economy, p. 250)
This “apparently” correct thesis has in fact skipped the second stage of socialism (of the transition process). According to Nikitin, the stage where public and collective property co-exist is the first stage of communism, and the higher stage of communism will be reached as collective property disappears on its own. The aim of this revisionist distortion is to remove the transition from socialism to communism through a “social revolution,” because revisionism claims that the forces of production will develop spontaneously and there is no need for a social revolution.
“(…) The transition [to the higher stage] happens without a social revolution because socialism and communism are the two stages of the same social and economic communist formation. The transition to communism happens in conditions where exploiting classes do not exist, and all members of society, workers, peasants and intellectuals are interested in the utmost in the establishment of communism.” (p. 433)
The transition from the first to the higher stage of communism is a separate discussion and the current problem. However, the transformation of collective property into all the people’s property, i.e. the “proletarianisation” of the peasantry, the intellectuals’ transformation and forsaking of their excess wage interests and political privileges, the workers’ (particularly qualified workers) transformation and forsaking of their receipt of the return of their labour according to the quality of the labour cannot come about without a “social revolution.” The revisionists take the revolution off the agenda and apply their famous “theory of the productive forces” to the process of socialist development.
“As the forces of production develop, socialist relations of production also gradually become perfected and gradually change.” (290)
The Marxist-Leninist thesis that in socialist society too the relations of production can become a barrier to the forces of production is thus revised. According to the revisionists, kolkhoz property will spontaneously be transformed into all the people’s property with the development of the forces of production.
“Given that the kolkhoz-cooperative form of property is gradually reaching the level of all the people’s property, the development of the forces of production causes the degree of socialisation of kolkhoz property to rise. As the establishment of communism proceeds, the two forms of property will merge to form, in the future, one communist property of all the people.” (292)
The essence of revisionism is spontaneity. In 1928, the Bukharinists argued that the transition to socialism could be spontaneous. In the 1960s the revisionists argued that the transition to communism could be spontaneous. In Stalin’s words, as long as possibilities are not turned into reality, kolkhoz property will not turn into all the people’s property and intellectuals will not forsake their interests. The revisionists pushed the Soviet Union into crisis by applying the theory and practice that the transition from socialism to communism would happen without a social revolution. In this sense, the situation today represents the bankruptcy of revisionist theory and practice.
The Revisionists Declare the Capitalist Economic Categories Which Unavoidably Exist in Socialist Society to be Unchanging
In the first stage of socialism, the existing level of the forces of production and the emergence of property in two forms make commodity production and, accordingly, the law of value unavoidable. However, commodity production and the law of value must be abolished as unavoidable elements of socialist production. And this depends on the transformation of kolkhoz property into all the people’s indivisible property and on the creation of the new man. The revisionists declare the capitalist economic categories which unavoidably exist in socialist society to be unchanging. Indeed, they go further and include these elements within the objective basis of socialism:
“The planned management of the socialist economy is based on the application of all the economic laws of socialism and, primarily the law of even and proportional development (which makes planned management necessary) and the law of value which determines the balance between the costs of production and the results of production, and the equivalence of all domestic economic relations.”
“The unity, inseparable mutual connectedness and interdependence of these laws provide the objective foundation upon which the planned and centralised management of the economy, the enterprises, those basic nuclei of economic organisms come together with a broad active economic autonomy.” (The Principles of Marxist Political Economy, pp. 129-130, Sol Publishers, Lev Leontiev)
The declaration of the law of value as an unchanging law of socialism and the expectation that the transition to communism can take place on that basis necessarily causes the other categories of capitalism also to be brought into the socialist society. For example, some begin to theorise that the “market” can be suitable for socialism. The declaration of commodity production and the law of value as unchanging elements of socialism means the weakening of socialism and the creation of the ground for the development of capitalist relations. That is because although commodity production and the law of value are not in themselves capitalism, they inevitably create the conditions for capitalism if they are not eliminated.
The Revisionists Seek the Motive Force of Socialism in Material Incentives
What is the motive force of socialist society? In other words, what is its law of motion arising from its fundamental law?
Years ago, Engels developed important formulations in Anti-Dühring on what the motive forces of capitalism and socialism are. According to Engels, the motive force of capitalist society is the anarchy of production; socialist society replaces this with planning. Thus, humanity moves from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom. The superiority of socialism and communism over capitalism is that production and other social activities are rationally planned. In other words, the motive force of socialism and communism, its law of motion is planning, man’s domination over the blind laws of the economy. In this sense, planned life is not only man’s ideological transformation, but also man’s technological transformation in the sense of man’s domination over objective laws independent of man’s will.
Has planning become the main motive force of socialism in the development of socialism to the present? Clearly, the giant steps taken by socialism enable us to answer in the affirmative. However, planning was applied together with the law of value. For planning really to become the motive force of socialism, there must be a revolution in the relations of production and the superstructure, commodity production must be abolished and the law of value must be eliminated. Planning can only really become the motive force of socialism if man’s socialist transformation is not ignored.
By defending the existing relations of production and inevitably gradually pulling them further back in the process, and by ignoring man’s socialist transformation and completely tying it in to economic interests, revisionism became an obstacle to planning becoming the main motive force of socialism. According to the revisionists, the motive force of socialist society is man’s individual interests and these interests mean that in socialist society “wages” are paid according to the quantity and quality of labour.
“The experience of the Soviet Union and of the other countries of the socialist camp has shown that the most complete possible application of the economic law of distribution according to labour and payments according to the quantity and quality of labour is, in socialism, the motive force of social progress.” (Lev Leontiev, The Principles of Marxist Political Economy, p. 137)
The acceptance of the principle of distribution, indeed of a principle of distribution which is not fully communist, as the “motive force” in socialist society is a revision of Marxist political economy. If the proletariat in power, which aims at abolishing itself as a class and move to communism, accepts the payment of higher “wages” as the “motive force,” it cannot fulfil its aim. Such an attitude cannot be that of communists, but of revisionists wishing to preserve their privileges and higher wages.
“Peaceful Co-existence” is the Politics of Collaboration with Imperialism
The principle of peaceful co-existence in international relations was put forward and applied by Lenin. However, neither Lenin nor Stalin understood or applied this to mean collaboration with imperialism and withdrawing support from the international revolutionary movement.
The revisionists distorted this principle and transformed it into a principle of permanent compromise with imperialism, reducing and even withdrawing support from the international revolutionary movement. The revisionists reduced the “struggle” with imperialism to an “economic race”.
“The peaceful co-existence of socialism and capitalism means an economic race between … states in different social systems.” (Nikitin, p. 423)
The fundamental international policy of a socialist country can and must never be compromise with imperialism. The revolutionary policy takes it as a fundamental task to counter imperialism’s threats of war and aggression and to give the international revolutionary movement maximum support. That is because the ultimate victory of communism will be achieved not through collaboration with imperialism, but through eliminating it. Therefore, the basic policy of socialist countries cannot be economic competition with imperialism. The revisionists’ approach cannot and has not led to any result other than strengthening imperialism.
THE KRUSCHEV PERIOD
As we have already seen, a “revolution” had become necessary in the Soviet Union by the 1950s and particularly the 1960s. Either the non-communist form of property in the relations of production (the kolkhoz) was to be transformed into communist property, the non-socialist form of distribution (according to the quantity and quality of labour) was to be abolished and replaced by the complete application of the principle of “to each according to his work,” the “one man” system in the enterprises was to be replaced by a “collective” system, the “capitalist” economic categories inevitably used in socialist society were to be eliminated and replaced by “the socialist exchange of products,” and this revolution in the relations of production was to begin at the party and the superstructure; or a crisis was to be caused by choosing the path of the preservation of the existing structure though spontaneity; or else there would be dissolution at the superstructure and the relations of production and “reforms” would be undertaken which would prepare the ground for capitalism.
Kruschev’s success in establishing his domination in the party and the state and his announcement of this at the 20th Congress showed that the third option had begun to be implemented. From this point of view, the 20th Congress is of historical importance and is the exact opposite of the 16th Congress. Kruschev’s attack on Stalin at this congress is not a personal attack but a direct attack on the socialist system.
Domestically, Kruschev implemented political and economic reforms designed to resolve the existing socialist society’s problems and contradictions not in a forward looking but in a backward-looking way; internationally, he began to implement a policy of open compromise with imperialism; he put forward the theories of “peaceful co-existence” and “peaceful transition” and reached a compromise with Tito’s reformism. It could be said that Kruschev was the Soviet Union’s Tito.
However, it was difficult for Kruschev’s political and economic reforms to succeed. There were two main reasons for this: Domestically, there was a strong “opposition” to Kruschev’s reforms, he could not act as he wanted and indeed often had to give in to the “opposition.” Externally, on the one hand Kruschev was under intense pressure from the international communist movement and he had reluctantly had to approve the “Moscow Declaration” and the “Declaration of the Communist Parties”; on the other hand, imperialism, implementing an aggressive policy and worried in the face of national liberation movements, showed no great interest in Kruschev’s smiling face. In these conditions, the Kruschev period was doomed to remain a temporary period.
Kruschev’s economic and political reforms clearly expose his true face. Let us now dwell on these.
The reforms in the sphere of politics were based on the attack on Stalin, the elimination of “Stalinists” in the party and the institutions of the state, and the creation of a “liberal” atmosphere in the country. Kruschev did not find in himself the strength to implement a reform designed to eliminate completely the institutions of the proletarian dictatorship.
Kruschev’s economic reforms mainly involved the strengthening of kolkhoz property. The means of production in the hands of the kolkhoz which belonged to the state were handed over to kolkhoz property. Thus, the means of production were turned into commodities and the sphere of commodity production was expanded. In addition, in order to enrich the kolkhoz, the prices of the mandatory deliveries of products were raised and the kolkhoz began to get richer by selling their products to the state at a high price. The policy of forcing the sale of certain products to the state at low prices was abolished, further enriching the kolkhoz. Furthermore, Kruschev undertook a “land reform” and enabled kolkhoz peasants to own private land.
However, the turning of the means of production into commodities and the abolition of the MTS (agricultural machinery and tractor stations) pushed the kolkhoz into indebtedness in order to buy machinery and, as a result, they began to sell their products at higher prices. Consequently, though agricultural output initially increased to a certain extent, it gradually began to fall and the crisis in agriculture deepened. In response, Kruschev even implemented some “left” policies, confiscating private land and cattle. The reforms had been undertaken in order to “raise agricultural output,” but the result was crisis.
In industry too Kruschev implemented two main types of reform. He introduced the regional management system (sovnarkhoz) in order to break the power of the central plan. Secondly, he increased wages and allowed workers to move from one enterprise to another, in order to “increase production.” However, the main reforms in this field were implemented after 1960. These reforms are known as “libermanism.”
Soviet economists of that period had become aware of the problem which began in the 1950s and made itself increasingly felt in the 1960s. The problem was that the giant advances in the forces of production has started to slow down. That is, the existing relations of production could not speed up the development of the forces of production.
What was to be done?
Up to that point, production depended on industrial enterprises which used state funds meeting and indeed exceeding their plan targets. The industrial enterprise enjoyed financial autonomy in respect to meeting at least the plan target, purchasing goods other than the means of production, using social funds (a small portion of these funds were used for material incentives), calculating productivity in terms of the difference between the cost of production of the product and the quantity of product, etc. The industrial enterprise was managed according to the principle of “one man” and this was brought together with the voluntary, creative labour of the workers. In other words, in order to meet and exceed the plan target, the industrial enterprise made use both of the law of value and of the workers’ voluntary, creative labour.
When, starting in the 1950s, the problems arose of the development of the forces of production with a more intensive technology and of raising labour productivity, it was inevitable that the type of enterprise and relations described above would change. In order to raise labour productivity and to move to more intensive technology, it was first necessary to mobilise the workers, to change enterprise relations from “one man” management to the “collective” method in order to benefit from the workers’ creative powers and ensure that they identified with the plan and with production; and to accelerate scientific work for technological development, i.e. to mobilise the intellectuals for a technological leap. Clearly, all this depended on a campaign to be launched in the party and the superstructure and on the elimination of the rightists. That is because the development of the forces of production at a higher tempo was not just an economic but also an ideological issue.
However, the reformist and revisionist leaders found a different “solution” to the problem. This solution consisted of increasing the regulatory role of the law of value over planning, putting distribution under the influence of the law of value and giving managers and experts financial incentives. In order to do this, the industrial enterprise had to become “autonomous,” had to produce on the basis of calculations of profit, and had to benefit from this profit to a greater degree. (Clearly, such a “solution” could not stop there; autonomous enterprises on the road to production for profit would soon naturally want the establishment of a free market, prices to be determined on the market, and production on the basis not of the plan but of market demand.)
According to the reformist economists, such autonomy for the enterprises would ensure that production would develop independently of people’s conscious-planned efforts. In other words, they wanted to switch from planned production, which is the motive force of socialism, to anarchic production, which is the motive force of capitalism. The reformist movement represented a retreat from “free,” “conscious,” i.e. planned production and a “surrender to necessity.” This proved that the process of producing for needs and turning labour into an inalienable part of life, i.e. the process of transition from capitalism to communism cannot come about spontaneously, and that the managing-leading role of the party and the superstructure has a crucial role in this process. Any neglect in this area inevitably leads the reformist economists and managers to abandon the socialist economy to spontaneity.
It would be useful at this point to compare the type of industrial enterprise (kozrashot) shaped in accordance with the views of the reformist economists and the previous socialist enterprises.
– Before the reforms, the industrial enterprises paid no interest on the funds (“capital”) received from the state, i.e. the means of production were not commodities; the kozrashots started to pay interest on state funds.
– Before the reforms, profitability was only used for purposes of calculation in order to produce more productively; in the kozrashots profitability became the stimulus. The kozrashot produced in order to earn more.
– Before the reforms, there was distribution according to the quantity and quality of labour, but there was an insignificant amount of material incentives; a small portion of funds allotted to social activities was used for material incentives. After the reforms, the earnings left behind after interest was paid on state funds were left to the enterprise and, of course, the managers and technicians benefited most from this. And this inevitably led to the enrichment of the managers and technicians.
– Before the reforms, workers were given the consciousness of working for the general interests of socialism, socialist competitions were organised. After the reforms, workers began to work only for themselves, and the managers and technicians to work for greater gain. This meant the transformation of human relations within the enterprise from relations of solidarity to relations of interest.
It is clear that the kozrashots which emerged after the 1960s had nothing to do with socialist enterprises. The kozrashots were given a legal basis with a new law in 1965 (according to this law they were autonomous in terms of numbers of personnel, raising labour productivity, determining the average wage, setting cost prices, etc.) and we do not know how widespread they had become by the Gorbachev period. We may deduce from the fact that they demanded the market in the Gorbachev period that the kozrashots, which were responsible of a small portion of production at the beginning, had gradually become widespread. An enterprise which has become so autonomous would inevitably demand the market. It is also worth pointing out that the kozrashots which in the 1960s went no further in the Soviet Union than an “experiment” emerged more strongly in the socialist countries of Eastern Europe. The reform movements in Eastern Europe were called “The New Economic Policy” and the kozrashots began to spread together with the market.
Kruschev’s reformism, which gathered speed after 1960, found domestic and international conditions not to be conducive as we have seen above, and it was ended, in a sense, with his removal from power in 1964.
THE BREZHNEV PERIOD
Understanding the difference between Brezhnev and Kruschev is important, particularly from the point of view of the present. Brezhnev and Kruschev undoubtedly made use of each other’s revisionist theses; in this sense we may even talk of a “continuity.” However, leaving the matter at that would be to reduce Brezhnev’s replacement of Kruschev to the level of “a conflict between cliques.”
How are we to evaluate the right deviation which followed the establishment and construction of socialism? As we have seen, given that the bourgeoisie was abolished as a class in the country, the right deviation is a deviation which, when it became necessary for the existing relations of production to be changed, opposed the change and abandoned “change” to spontaneous development. The essence of the right deviation has always been spontaneity. When Stalin criticised the right deviation in 1928 he said that the right deviation did not deny the possibility of socialism, that they accepted the necessity of the establishment of socialism, but that they thought that this would happen spontaneously, without a class struggle.
At a different time, in criticising Jaroschenko, Stalin also described how the right deviation was formed in the new conditions. According to Stalin, Jaroschenko thought that the transition to communism was possible spontaneously through “the rational organisation of the forces of production.” Thus Stalin showed that in conditions where the construction of socialism was completed but the transition to communism had not yet taken place, the right deviation was a view which argued that it was possible to make the transition to communism without changing the existing relations of production and the superstructure, through the development of the forces of production, and that this view had nothing to do with Marxism-Leninism. In this sense, it is important that Stalin called Jaroschenko a “Neo-Bukharinist.”
At the stage of the transition from socialism to communism, the right deviation which is a slave to the “theory of productive forces” creates the conditions not for the direct coming to power of the bourgeoisie, but the conditions for reformism which is a movement aimed at resurrecting capitalist relations and eliminating socialist relations in the superstructure and the base; it thus serves reformism. We can thus argue that there is continuity between revisionism and reformism, but it is important to understand the difference between them. Revisionism is a movement which domestically pushed socialism into crisis through spontaneity and prepared the ground for reformism, and internationally implemented a policy of secret alliances with imperialism; its social base was not the bourgeoisie, but the forces in favour of the preservation of the existing socialist relations of production. Reformism is a movement which domestically tries to eliminate socialism and resurrect capitalism, and internationally defends and applies an open alliance with imperialism; its social base is made up of those who have become rich enough to want to become bourgeois and the imperialists.
Kruschev was a reformist; it was his misfortune to have come to power too early. Brezhnev was a revisionist, a follower of Bukharin and Jaroschenko; his historic mission was to put an end to the reformism which was too early and to delay the attempts of reformism to eliminate socialism.
While slowing down Kruschev’s reformism, Brezhnev also showed his relatedness to him by not abolishing the reformist policies.
Brezhnev’s attitude to socialism became very apparent in his approach to the reforms in the Eastern European countries. Brezhnev supported these movements on condition that they “would not leave the socialist bloc” and would “not eliminate the communist party’s leading role”; in other words, he did not intervene. Thus, while making no military intervention in East Germany, Poland and Hungary where reform policies were implemented, Brezhnev did not hesitate to intervene militarily in Czechoslovakia who abolished the party’s leading role and demanded to leave the Warsaw Pact. (An irony of history: although the revisionist Brezhnev represented the interests of socialism in the face of Dubcek’s revisionism, this rightful intervention which attempted to prevent capitalist restoration was called a “social-imperialist” movement by the Chinese Communist Party.)
Brezhnev understood the struggle against imperialism to mean “economic competition” and put this into practice; however, he also gave support to national liberation movements, albeit reluctantly. Brezhnev showed that his support for national and social liberation movements was reluctant by mainly supporting “progressive” juntas against imperialism and by forming alliances with revisionist communist parties in underdeveloped countries.
Brezhnev was neither a reformist nor a revolutionary; depending on the conditions, the opposite was also true, i.e. he was a little bit revolutionary and a little bit reformist. He slowed down the reformism of Kruschev, but he preserved the existing bureaucratic structure. the “peoples’ state” by further strengthening the communist party and he made no changes in society other than the development of the forces of production.
Although in 1976 the role of the communist party was enshrined in an article of the constitution and it was declared that the “advanced stage of socialism” had now been reached, in reality the relations of production and the cumbersome state had become obstacles to the forces of production and the crisis was around the corner. Because the workers were being made to work only with material incentives, poor working practices, alcoholism and absenteeism had become widespread; the wage differentials between qualified and unqualified workers and between managers and experts and the workers had increased; the communist party had lost touch with the people; the people’s confidence in the state had ebbed; the proletarian dictatorship had lost its liveliness. Far from kolkhoz property turning into all the people’s property, even the Kruschev reforms had not been overturned, commodity production had not been replaced by the socialist exchange of products; side by side with planning, the law of value had gradually increased its influence. How could a country with such relations of production be claimed to have reached the stage of “advanced socialism”? The contradictions between the forces and relations of production and between the base and the superstructure had intensified. The contradictions now had two possible solutions. Either the existing contradictions were to be resolved through Marxist-Leninist methods, or reformism would be allowed to step in. This was the end of the Brezhnev period.
The intensification of the contradictions within the Soviet Union coincided in the 1980s with a falling off of the national liberation movements and a new aggressiveness by US imperialism under Reagan and a new cold war; and the followers of Brezhnev handed power over to the reformist Gorbachev with their own hands. Thus, after the early arrival of Kruschev’s reformism and upon the grounds created by revisionism, Gorbachev came to power in conditions of the second cold war.
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF SOCIALISM IN CHINA
In 1949, after the national democratic revolution was completed and the large landlords and the comprador bourgeoisie were expropriated and the means of production were nationalised, land reform was implemented. China’s difference from the Soviet Union is in its relations with the peasantry. As the CCP was essentially based on the peasantry and gave it leadership in the civil and national war periods, and as at the same time it started solving the land question in that process, the land revolution and the process of the gathering of the peasants in co-operatives started together after the revolution. It may be said that the peasantry, the fundamental social force of the Chinese revolution, also played a fundamental role in the establishment of socialism.
The period 1949-52 is one when the counter-revolutionaries were crushed, the party was renewed with the “three evils” (corruption, profligacy and bureaucracy) campaign and the bourgeoisie was taken under control with the “five evils” (bribery, tax evasion, stealing state property, cheating on state contracts and stealing economic information) campaign.
In the process of the establishment of socialist relations of production, started in 1952, the main contradiction was between the working class and the bourgeoisie. Mao said in June 1952:
“As a result of the overthrow of the landlord class and the bureaucrat-capitalist class, the contradiction between the working class and the national bourgeoisie has become the main contradiction in China; therefore, the national bourgeoisie must no longer be described as an intermediate class.” (Mao, Selected Works 5, Aydýnlýk Publishers, p. 87)
But, as we have already seen, the situation was different in the countryside; the co-operative movement had started without waging a war against the rich peasants. Therefore, the transition period in China is basically the “transformation” of the national bourgeoisie. This explains the difference between the transition periods in China and the Soviet Union.
“In the NEP period, the Soviet Union’s policy against the rich peasants was limited, because they needed their cereals. In the early stages after liberation our policy against the national bourgeoisie was similar. They started to act against the rich peasants and put forward the slogans of eliminating the rich peasants and implementing collectivisation throughout, only after the collective farms and the state farms could produce 400 million pood of cereal [half the volume of kulak production]. What about us? We acted differently and the rich peasant economy was really eliminated as early as the land reform.” (Mao, Critique of Soviet Economics, Birikim Publishers, p. 131)
In China, collectivisation started together with land reform and the peasants were won over to socialism. However, as industry was at a backward level in China, public property was limited to the extent of the nationalisation of the compradors’ means of production. The means of production of the national bourgeoisie were not nationalised, but “transformed” through the method of state capitalism.
“Our transformation of national industry went through three stages: Private production under orders from the state, the buying and selling of private production by the state, the running [of both individual units and whole production complexes] by the state and the private sector in partnership.” (Mao, Critique of Soviet Economics, Birikim Publishers, p. 131)
Thus, the socialist relations of production which began to be established in China carried in themselves state capitalist relations. In October 1953, Mao explained the specific characteristics of the establishment of socialism in China as follows:
“The aim of the transition line is, in a sense, the resolution of the question of ownership. State property must be spread by setting up new state enterprises and by modernising and expanding the old ones. Of the two types of private property, the working peoples’ property must be transformed into collective property and the bourgeoisie’s property into state property. (Integration with socialism through the joint management of state and private capital) Only in this way can the forces of production develop and China’s industrialisation be completed.” (Mao, p. 154)
In summary, the establishment of socialist relations of production in China involved certain characteristics specific to itself. The gathering of the peasants in co-operatives started not with a policy of concessions, but directly with the land revolution. However, in China, the co-operatives were also the owners of the means of production.
The socialisation of industry was implemented on the basis of two property relations: Public property and state property (partnership of public and private).
In 1956, when socialist relations of production were essentially established, in Mao’s words, they carried these specific characteristics.
As we have seen in the preceding pages, the period (or process) of transition from capitalism to communism essentially goes through two stages. The first stage is from capitalism (or from a capitalism where feudalism is strong and industry weak, as in China) to the establishment of socialism; in this period, socialist relations of production (public property in industry, collective property in agriculture) are established and the material basis for this is constructed. The second stage is the period of transition from the establishment of socialism to the first stage of communism. In this stage, the relations of production and the superstructure are made fully communist, i.e. kolkhoz property is turned into all the people’s property, relations in the production process are turned into truly collective relations, distribution is fully based on the principle of from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs, and the superstructure is shaped accordingly.
What stage was China at in 1956?
Mao’s comments clarify this point. When the 8th Party Congress took place in 1956, China had essentially completed the establishment of socialism, but this was incomplete both in the sphere of the relations of production and at the political-ideological level. The fact that it was “essentially” established did not mean that it was “fully” established. Therefore, in 1956 China had established socialist relations and passed into the stage of the construction of socialism and, at the same time, it was at the stage of completing the establishment of socialism in the base and the superstructure; that is China was, in a way specific to itself, at the first stage of socialism. It may be said that China was living through both the 1920s and the 1930s of the Soviet Union.
In his important article “On the Correct Understanding of the Contradictions Within the People,” written in February 1957, Mao examined the specific structure of the establishment of socialism in China:
“Alas, our socialist system is newly established; it is not completely established and completely consolidated. In the joint industrial and commercial enterprises of the state and private capital, the capitalists receive a fixed rate of interest in return for their capital, so there is still exploitation. As for the form of property, these enterprises are not yet completely socialist. Some of our agricultural and handicrafts co-operatives are still semi-socialist; even in the completely socialist co-operatives there are concrete problems of property to be resolved.”
“(…) In summary, socialist relations of production have been established and these are in harmony with the development of the forces of production, but they are still far from perfect and this incompleteness is in contradiction with the development of the forces of production. Apart from the harmony and contradiction between the relations of production and the development of the forces of production, there is also both harmony and contradiction between the superstructure and the economic base. The superstructure which consists of the state system, the laws of the democratic people’s dictatorship and socialist ideology under the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, plays a positive role which facilitates the victory of the socialist transformation and the organisation of labour in a socialist manner; this is in harmony with the socialist economic base, with socialist relations of production. But the existence of bourgeois ideology, a certain bureaucratic style of work seen in the organs of our state and inadequacies in certain parts of our state institutions are in contradiction with the socialist base.” (Mao, Selected Works 5, p. 452)
In this perfect assessment Mao describes the basis for the fluctuations in socialist development which China later could not avoid. The problem was to extricate socialism from this vortex (the co-existence of socialist and bourgeois relations, and socialist and bourgeois ideology). Without fully establishing socialist relations of production and ridding the superstructure and the party from bourgeois influences, it was not possible to create the material basis of socialism in China.
The specific formation of socialism in China created two main tasks. Mao explains the first as follows:
“We have to understand that ten-fifteen years are required, starting now, to create the foundation of a modern industry and modern agriculture in China. Only then… will it be possible to say that our socialist economic and social system has an adequate material base (currently it is far from being adequate) and that our state (the superstructure) is fully solid and our socialist society is essentially established.” (Mao/5, p. 552)
Mao wrote these words in July 1957, at a time when he had declared war on bourgeois ideology. Earlier in 1957, in March, when he attached importance to the development of the forces of production and implemented policies of concession to the bourgeoisie, he had written:
“The socialist system has essentially been established in our country. We have essentially won a victory in the transformation of the ownership of the means of production, but on the political and ideological fronts we are far even from an essential victory. In the ideological sphere the question of who will win the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie has, in reality, not yet been resolved.” (Mao/5, p. 498)
Thus, based on the formation of the socialist structure, Mao put forward two tasks. This situation created the material basis for the coming to power, in one period, of the “left” deviation which attached no importance to the development of the forces of production but concentrated on the ideological struggle against the bourgeoisie; and, in another period, of the right deviation which gave no importance to the struggle against bourgeois relations and bourgeois ideology but only attached importance to the development of the forces of production. Both deviations based themselves on one of the two tasks described by Mao. The reason why the base and the superstructure could not sit on a solid foundation in China was that this dual situation was never resolved. When Stalin was in a similar situation in 1928 he cleared the way for the socialist forces of production by launching an offensive “on all fronts” against the bourgeoisie. Mao never succeeded in winning the victory Stalin had won.
It is worth pointing out: Mao’s assessment that “it is not clear whether capitalism will win or socialism,” because continuing bourgeois relations at the base still had an influence on the superstructure, has been argued in our country and internationally by opportunists to be valid for all the socialist countries regardless of the stage they were at and they used this assessment as a criterion especially for the Soviet Union. This was incorrect.
The year 1956 is an important date in Chinese history. As we have seen above, socialist relations of production had essentially been completed, but they were far from being perfect, the bourgeoisie continued its existence at the base and the superstructure. Therefore, what needed to be done was to launch an offensive against the bourgeoisie on all fronts as Stalin had done in 1928. However, the CCP was not able to launch such an offensive. Indeed, in 1956 Mao retreated against the bourgeoisie because of international conditions.
External conditions must always be considered together with internal conditions, because it is impossible that the former would not have an effect on the latter. The 20th Congress of the CPSU in February 1956 caused the CCP to review the Soviet experience. In addition, counter-revolutionary movements in Hungary and other East European countries in 1956 constituted a reason for Mao’s retreat against the bourgeoisie. And in February 1957 Mao wrote his important article “On the Correct Understanding of the Contradictions Within the People.” In short, while 1956 should have been a launching pad for the future in China, it in fact became a year of retreat for external reasons.
In April 1956, before the 8th Congress of the CCP, Mao wrote an article called “On 10 Main Relations.” He explains why:
“… There were certain matters which needed to be discussed. One matter of particular importance is the emergence in the recent period of certain mistakes and errors made in the process of the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union.” (Mao/5, pp. 323-324)
It would appear that Mao was concerned not to repeat the mistakes and errors brought to light by the Soviet revisionists. But this was not the problem, because the Soviet Union and China were at different stages. Clearly this did not mean that the “mistakes” and “errors” of the Soviet experience should not have been taken into account by China, but on condition that fundamental principles were not abandoned.
The 10 main relations described by Mao are very important insofar as they analyse the Soviet experience and resolve the problems faced by the Soviets. However, the application of these lessons to Chinese conditions resulted simply in creating the ground for the right and “left” deviations.
The 10 main relations described by Mao were the following:
1) Heavy industry must be considered together with agriculture and light industry;
2) Priority must be given to industrialisation in all regions;
3) Economic development strengthens industrialisation;
4) The terms of trade must be reduced in the exchange of agricultural goods and industrial products;
5) Everything must not be concentrated in the hands of the central authority, the initiative of local authorities must be increased;
6) Lessons must be learned from abnormal relations between nationalities as in the Soviet Union;
7) Unlike the Soviet Union, the existence of democratic parties has consciously been allowed in China;
8) A policy of transforming counter-revolutionaries must be implemented, other than the hopeless ones;
9) Right and wrong must be differentiated and those who make mistakes must be won over;
10) Critical lessons must be drawn from the experience of not just the Soviet Union but of all countries.
Obviously, the 10 main relations, claimed by opportunists to be “the specifically Chinese road to socialism” are in fact nothing but the assessment of the Soviet experience. The essence of the assessment is the reduction of heavy industry to the level of light and agricultural industry and the defence of peasant interests. Were these views of Mao correct? If it were a policy for the period in question, it may have been accepted as correct. However, the 10 Main Relations was a policy accepted at every stage of socialism in China. In that sense it cannot be accepted to be correct, because, as Lenin and Stalin frequently indicated, the material basis of socialism is heavy industry and the priority of heavy industry is not open to discussion. The issue is to win the peasants to socialism in the process of the construction of heavy industry and not to plunge them into poverty as in capitalist conditions. However, the countryside has to be subjected to the city until the rural-urban contradiction is abolished. Otherwise, it will not be possible to proletarianise the peasantry. As a result of the fact that the peasantry was a fundamental class and constituted the great majority of the population in China, Mao subjected socialist development to the peasantry.
In 1956, in parallel with world events, Mao pursued a policy of retreat in China. He called this the policy of “let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought discuss.” Mao abandoned this policy in July 1957. What is important, however, is that in adopting the policy of retreat, Mao set out by criticising Stalin in the sphere of philosophy. In January 1957 Mao said:
“There was a substantial degree of metaphysics in Stalin and he taught many people to follow metaphysics.”
“He refers, as the fourth feature of dialectics, to the internal contradictions which exist in all things, but then he only considers the struggle between opposites without at all mentioning the unity of opposites.” (Mao/5, p. 421)
The criticism in the field of philosophy is made subject to political tactics:
“Stalin failed to see the link between the struggle between opposites and the unity of opposites. Certain people in the Soviet Union refused to accept such a thing as the unity of opposites, and think that things must be either this or that. As a result, political mistakes are made. We are attached to the concept of the unity of opposites and we adopt the policy of let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred ideas compete.” (ibid., p. 423)
Thus, in setting out the policy of “hundred flowers” which was a necessary tactical policy in that period, when the bourgeoisie had not yet been abolished as a class, Mao criticised Stalin in order to shape the philosophical basis of the policy. Mao must also have known that the unity of opposites is temporary and the struggle of opposites is absolute and that it was not possible for Stalin not to know this principle of dialectics. However, philosophy was sacrificed to politics.
Mao showed his attachment to the “unity of opposites” in a political comment he made in the article “Contradictions Within the People” written in February 1957:
“The class struggle between the working class and the national bourgeoisie… is a class struggle within the ranks of the people.” (ibid., p. 443)
This comment by Mao was tactically correct in that period, but it was wrong to sacrifice Stalin philosophically to that end. Indeed, in July 1957 Mao put an end to the tactical retreat and launched an ideological war against the bourgeoisie.
The year 1956-57 was extremely important from the point of view of Chinese history, because it showed the route and method of the development of socialism in China. In this sense, the articles 10 Main relations and Contradictions Within the People must be considered and evaluated together.
In 10 Main Relations Mao explained that in China socialism could not develop as it did in the Soviet Union and he rejected the fundamental importance of heavy industry, attaching great importance to the interests of the peasantry. In his article Contradictions Within the People, he argues that the struggle against the bourgeoisie must essentially be waged at the ideological-political level. Thus, the development of socialism in China is either with only an ideological-political struggle against the bourgeoisie or with neglect of this struggle. In other words, the foundations of right and “left” deviations were laid in 1956-57. In fact, as Stalin showed in 1928, the struggle against the bourgeoisie must be waged on all fronts, both ideologically-politically and economically.
In July 1957 Mao started the ideological struggle against the right deviation within the party. Mao’s comments in this period show that a policy of retreat had been implemented since the middle of 1956.
“In the second half of last year there was a relaxation, a conscious relaxation in the class struggle. (…) This was not a concession from principles, but a necessity arising from the conditions.” (Mao/5, p. 569)
Thus, the “relaxation,” in other words the policy of “a hundred flowers” was ended and the policy of offensive against bourgeois rightists was started. Mao’s analysis of the situation is of interest:
“The rightists are denying the successes scored in the cause of the people. That is the first point. The second is, which road are we to follow? One takes us to socialism, the other to capitalism. The rightists want us to turn around and choose capitalism. The third is, who is to lead in the construction of socialism? The communist party or the bourgeois rightists? The rightists say that they do not want the leadership of the communist party.” (ibid., p. 528)
The ideological struggle against the bourgeoisie, which was waged in the Soviet Union through the 1920s, was waged in China in 1957, at a stage when socialism had essentially been established.
“… The debate on three matters is now developing. The socialist revolution arrived so fast that the party’s general line on the transitional period could not properly be discussed either within the party or in society generally. This may be compared with a cow grazing.
The cow swallows the grass without chewing it and then regurgitates it and starts to chew it slowly.” (ibid., pp. 533-534)
“This debate took place in the Soviet Union in the 1920s… And it is taking place in our country this year, in the 1950s. If we do not achieve victory in this debate, we will not be able to continue our forward march… This debate is a great event of world importance.” (ibid., pp. 522)
Thus, in 1957 China re-lived 1952. And Mao once again commented on the main contradiction:
“… the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, between the socialist and capitalist roads is undoubtedly today Chinese society’s main contradiction.” (ibid., pp. 568)
Was the “great debate” won in China? Was the bourgeoisie-proletariat contradiction resolved? We are still far from being able to answer these questions in the affirmative. It may be said that socialism in China has not reached the level of 1936 in the Soviet Union. Why? Because in China fundamental importance was not attached to heavy industry, the interests of the peasantry were always considered to be in the forefront. Because the ideological-political struggle against the bourgeoisie did not reach a decisive result.
As we have already seen, Chine was essentially a peasant society. Although the peasants were gathered in co-operatives, this fact did not change, petty bourgeois ideology continued to exist in strength. The appearance of petty bourgeois ideology as “socialist” ideology took two forms: firstly, petty bourgeois utopian socialism; secondly, the liberal socialism criticised by Mao. Moreover, the bourgeoisie’s continued existence in the form of ‘state capitalism’ in China further exacerbated this situation. In other words, there was no strong working class in China upon which the establishment of socialism could be based. It was thus inevitable, or it appears inevitable, that the development of socialism would carry the ideological-political stamp of the petty bourgeoisie, that the communist party would constantly be embroiled in ideological debates, that a fundamental importance would not be attached to heavy industry. It did not appear possible that socialism would win in China the victory that in won in the Soviet Union in less than 10 years.
“THE GREAT LEAP FORWARD”
In 1958 Mao abandoned the policy of industrialisation on the “Soviet model” which he had applied in 1952-56 and attempted a new road. This was based on certain lessons drawn from the Soviet experience. We may summarise the conclusions reached by Mao or, in other words, the principles on which the Great Leap Forward (GLF) was based, under two headings: Firstly, considering heavy industry in conjunction with light industry and agriculture and indeed prioritising an industrialisation based on agriculture, rather than giving priority to heavy industry; secondly, considering and implementing the relations and distribution in the units of production not on the basis of one man management and rewarding work according to the quantity and quality of labour, but on the basis of collective management under the guidance of the party and rewarding work according to the quantity of labour.
The “model” of the establishment and construction of socialism may involve characteristics arising from each country’s particular conditions, but it is universal. We may list these universal characteristics as follows: the nationalisation of the means of production; the gathering of peasants in co-operatives and the abolition of petty production; the creation of a material basis for socialism by attaching importance to heavy industry; the provision of a material-technical base for the co-operatives; the continuation of commodity production as long as public and collective ownership continues; the fact that the establishment and construction of socialism can only be achieved under the leadership of the proletarian dictatorship (democracy) and of the communist party. As for the organisation of production: the Soviet experience brought together “one man management” and “the initiative of the masses” (the Stakhanov movement). But this cannot be said to be a universal model of organisation. The condition may give rise to a form other than “one man management.” We may universalise this principle as the bringing together of the guidance of the party and the initiative of the masses.
Mao made fundamental changes to this “model” and began to apply the GLF. The model of the GLF was the “communes.” The communes had ownership of the means of production. The communes were units which undertook not only agricultural but also industrial production. The communes were the fundamental essence of socialism.
“The importance of the people’s commune is that it is the fundamental level at which industry, agriculture, the army, education and commerce will become integrated with our social structure. At the moment the communes are organisations of management at the basic level. (…) The commune is the best organisational form for the transition from socialist ownership to (the present) complete public ownership and from complete public ownership to communist ownership. In the future, when the transitions are complete, the commune will be the basic mechanism of communist society.” (Mao, Critique of Soviet Economics, Birikim Publishers, p. 145)
As we have seen above, an understanding of socialism based on petty bourgeois peasant ideology was strong in China in spite of the fact that the peasants were gathered into co-operatives, because the working class had not yet become the fundamental force of socialism; as a result, the conditions were strongly present for the view that socialism could be reached by being fundamentally based on the peasants. The view of the communes as the “fundamental mechanism” of socialism and communism is proof of the deviation of the GLF into “left” or peasant socialism. Kolkhoz or communes can never be the fundamental mechanisms of socialism and communism. Such a form of socialist property is more backward than public property and it will be abolished in time. The proletarianisation and transformation into communists of the kolkhoz and commune peasants at the ideological and political level is only possible with the abolition of kolkhoz and commune property. However, the GLF appears to be a movement designed to ensure this. In this respect, Stalin’s “Response to Comrades Sanina and Verger” in his “Final Writings” is a critique of the view that the transition to socialism in China could be done on the basis of the communes. It is important that Mao did not find this criticism by Stalin to be right. (see Birikim Publishers, pp 140 and 146)
Relations of production which correspond to the first stage of communism were attempted to be applied in the people’s communes, without taking into account the stage of socialism China was at. The “egalitarianism” which Stalin called “primitive communism”; neglect of the law of value; attempts at setting up heavy industry with “backyard” techniques; the application of the Anshan Law rather than the Magnitogorsk Law to the units of production (the communes); these are all parts of the GLF. Let us briefly dwell upon them.
As we all know, in the first stage of socialism, distribution is based not only on the quantity but also on the quality (qualified labour) of work. Whereas in the communes a “communist form of distribution” was applied in a situation where the forces of production were backward.
“… in discussions of the wage form, it is advocated that piece-rate wages be the basis and hourly wages only complementary [meaning the Soviet experience]. We are doing the exact opposite.”
“We have put into practice the hourly system and rewards. For example, the ‘forward leap’ awards of the past two years.” (ibid., Birikim Publishers, pp 92-93)
As we all know, in the first stage of socialism, the law of value unavoidably plays a supplementary role alongside planning. And yet, the law of value was not taken into account in the GLF and tons of steel produced with “backyard” techniques was of no use at all.
In opposition to the Magnitogorsk Law which is based on the principles of one man management, work discipline, the workers’ voluntary and conscious labour and which is valid in the first stage of socialism because of its basic characteristics, Mao put forward the Anshan Law which did not gain widespread currency in the period of the GLF. The Anshan Law includes the following principles: the primacy of politics; strengthening the party leadership; launching effective mass movements; establishing the “two participations, one reform and three unities” (the participation of the cadres in productive labour and of the workers to management; reform of the irrational and old rules; co-operation of workers-cadres-technicians); rapid advance towards technical inventions and technical revolution.
The importance of the Anshan Law cannot be underestimated. However, the Anshan Law could not have been implemented in a society still only at the first stage of socialism, where workers were technically and culturally backward, where they did not have the consciousness of work discipline as a crucially important element. That is because the essence of the Anshan Law is to abolish the difference between mental and manual labour, to abolish the difference between the masses and the party through the “primacy of politics” and mass mobilisations. Clearly, it would not have been possible to implement the Anshan Law before the establishment of the material and cultural basis of socialism. In this respect, the Anshan Law limits the establishment of socialism to the sphere only of relations of production. The Anshan Law formulated by Mao as the “primacy of politics” is, in essence, the attempt to establish socialism on a backward technological base.
Mao counterposed the “primacy of politics” and the raising of labour productivity. Giving primacy to politics does not mean pushing labour productivity to the background. Lenin always thought of the raising of labour productivity in conjunction with Soviet power and the workers’ voluntary and conscious labour. Lenin said “We shall completely achieve socialism to the extent that we are able to bring together the latest advances of capitalism with the Soviet management system and Soviet power.” That precisely is the “primacy of politics” and the “aim of politics.”
“Socialism cannot be thought of without large scale industrial techniques based on the latest advances of modern science.”
“At the same time, there can be no socialism where the proletariat is not in power. That is the basics of the matter.” (Lenin, ISK, p. 426)
The GLF was an attempt to establish utopian communist relations on the basis not of an advanced technology but of backward techniques. That is the only meaning of Mao’s “primacy of politics.” The implementation of the Anshan Law without the establishment of an advanced technological basis can have no other meaning.
In short, while the GLF was correct in the sense that it meant a switch from the “relaxation” policy of 1956-57 to a policy of ideological offensive against the bourgeoisie, this offensive took a “left” direction and petty bourgeois utopian socialism was put into practice.
THE GREAT PROLETARIAN CULTURAL REVOLUTION
The policy of the Great Leap Forward was abandoned in 1961. As much as the incorrectness of the line, the unfavourable natural conditions and the ending of Soviet aid also played a role in this.
The policy which came into implementation in 1961 was one where distribution was done on the basis of the quantity and quality of labour,; commodity production was permitted and the law of value operated; in the production process the Anshan Law was not applied and expert management and the initiative of the masses was brought together; and heavy industry was relegated to third position behind light industry and agriculture. That is, while essentially a correct policy was pursued, it also carried rightist tendencies within itself. The main indicator of this was that in a country where petty bourgeois ideology was widespread and influential, there was no struggle against bourgeois ideology.
The CCP was essentially on a correct path in that period. The proof of this at the international level was that the CCP represented Marxism-Leninism against Soviet revisionism. However, as we have already seen, the Chinese conditions, the specific structure of socialism was causing a rightist line to be dominant at certain periods and a “left” line at others. After 1961, the right deviation gradually gained strength within the party. It should be pointed out that it was a consequence of the “left” line that the leaders of the Cultural Revolution exaggerated the strength of the rightist deviation, saw all those who emphasised the material basis of socialism as rightists and branded as rightists all those who were not “left.”
The ripening of the conditions for the Cultural Revolution in the country was essentially a result of the strengthening of the right deviation. However, the real causes which created the Cultural Revolution were not in the country, but abroad. The gradual strengthening of Soviet revisionism created the conditions for the Cultural Revolution in China.
The Cultural Revolution must not be assessed from the point of view of conditions in China. Every revolution is at the same time internationalist; similarly, every revolution under conditions of socialism is also at the same time internationalist. Like the 1928 revolution in the Soviet Union, the 1966 Cultural Revolution is also internationalist. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’s (GPCR) internationalist aspect is in the forefront. That is, the GPCR is essentially an offensive against the revisionism which arose in conditions of socialism. In this sense, it could be said that a revolution which should have happened in the Soviet Union in the 1960s happened in China in the same period. From the point of view of the general development of socialism, the GPCR is the realisation in one place of the revolution which was required in another place. Thus, socialism surpassed itself in the same historical period, but in different places. This represents the internationalist essence and the importance of the GPCR.
History sometimes plays such strange tricks. What should happen in one place happens elsewhere or the need for one revolution is met with another revolution. We can see this in bourgeois as well as socialist revolutions. For example this is how Lenin explains through this characteristic of history the fact that the revolution which should have happened in Germany in fact happened in Russia:
“(…) history took a very strange turn; in 1918, it gave birth to the two halves of socialism without any relation to one another, standing side by side within the shell of international imperialism like two chicks. In 1918 Germany and Russia had become the most striking forms of the material realisation of socialism, on the one hand in terms of the economic, productive and socio-economic conditions and, on the other, in terms of the political conditions.” (ISK, pp. 426-427)
We have quoted Lenin above because of the similarity. In the 1960s, a revolution against revisionism had become necessary, but the dynamics to realise this were absent. In China, the dynamics of the revolution were present, but because the conditions in the country were different, the GPCR could not avoid a “left” deviation in national terms, although it was correct internationally. This was possibly the price paid for the fact that socialism had surpassed itself in two different places. In “the two halves of socialism without any relation to one another,” in two different situations, socialism could only surpass itself in this way, occasionally deviating to the “left.”
We have said that the GPCR was essentially internationalist and that, in that sense, it is a great historic lesson and method. Let us now turn to the question of what the GPCR meant in Chinese conditions.
The GPCR was a revolution in the spheres of the relations of production and the superstructure. To that end, the existing relations of production were completely changed and all rightists and “supporters of the capitalist road” were eliminated from the ranks of the party and the state. According to the leaders of the GPCR, China would have been taken back to capitalism if there had not been such a revolution.
Were the conditions then really present for a “revolution”?
As we have already argued, the establishment of socialism (the relations of production) was essentially completed in China, but bourgeois relations continued to exist at the base and the superstructure. Thus China was both at the stage of the construction of socialism and at the stage of the elimination of bourgeois relations which prevent the establishment of socialism from the base and the superstructure. In particular, the elimination of the bourgeoisie in the sphere of ideology was discussed, because of the widespread influence of petty bourgeois ideology in China. What Mao forgot was that petty bourgeois ideology and influence cannot be eliminated simply at the ideological level. The influence of petty bourgeois ideology would continue until large scale production was made dominant, i.e. until the construction of socialism was completed. That was the basic reason why Mao gave primacy to politics and theorised the struggle of two lines within the party.
Was 1966 the “1928” of the Soviet Union? Was it time for the elimination of the existing bourgeois relations and ideology in order to constitute the material basis of socialism?
All this questions show that China was still at the first stage of socialism, at the stage where bourgeois relations had to be eliminated in order to constitute the material basis of socialism. Even if we agree that the GPCR was undertaken for these reasons, the matter goes beyond that. The GPCR aimed at the transition not to the first but to the higher stage of communism. The internationalist essence of the GPCR played this “trick” on it in the country’s domestic conditions.
At the time the conditions did not exist in China for the transition from the lower to the higher stage of communism. In this sense, the material conditions for the GPCR were definitely absent. Thus, right from the beginning, without the material conditions, the GPCR could only “make the transition” to the higher stage of communism in the spheres of “politics” and “relations of production.” It could be said that, from the point of view of its own internal conditions, the GPCR was the revolution not of its own day but of the future. In terms of international conditions, it was a radical critique of Soviet revisionism.
It is for this reason that the GPCR, without a material basis, deviated into petty bourgeois utopian socialism domestically and, while it emerged on a correct basis internationally, as a result of occasional “left” deviations it could not avoid characterising Soviet revisionism as “social-imperialist.”
The fact that the GPCR was an “early” revolution devoid of a material basis in the sense of creating the communist society becomes apparent when we look at the policies it implemented. Here we shall make use of C. Bettelheim’s book “The Cultural Revolution and Industrial Organisation in China.”
Accumulation and Industrialisation
Socialism in China was still at the first stage of its development. The peasants were gathered in communes. The form of property in industry was not yet socialist in the full sense; that is, alongside state ownership, the ownership of small industrial enterprises existed in a widespread way in the form of co-operative ownership and there were “state capitalist” enterprises. What needed to be done in these conditions was the development of heavy industry and the gradual abolition of small industry, through central planning. And this depended primarily on the voluntary, conscious labour of the masses, and the establishment of heavy industry on the basis of accumulation provided by light industry, agriculture and heavy industry.
However, as socialism was seen simply as the “transformation of the masses” during the GPCR, it was attempted to build a communist society without a material base. In this society heavy industry was not important; the provision of the accumulation necessary for heavy industry was not important.
“What is most striking about the development of the forces of production in China is that this development is not closely based on any previous accumulation, but is clearly depends on a renewal of and by the masses.
“Technical transformations in capitalist society are very closely dependent on a previous accumulation of capital and on the domination of this. This, in this situation, is the domination of dead labour on living labour. In the socialist development of the forces of production, while this same accumulation is wholly necessary, it begins to play a secondary role alongside the totality of the labourers who constantly make changes in the means of production.
“In factories visited in China, it can clearly be observed that the scale of production does not closely depend on the volume of investments.” (pp. 128-129)
Here, the emphasis on the role the creative initiatives of the masses play in the development of the forces of production is important and correct. In the Soviet Union the Stakhanov movement was an example of this. However, to counterpose the “accumulation” required for the development of the forces of production to the initiative and creativity of the masses and indeed to relegate it to secondary position is to ignore the laws of development of the forces of production. The alternative to the capitalist type of accumulation is not the creativity of the masses. The initiative and creativity of the masses and the development of technology influence each other mutually under socialism. Without technological development, the creativity of the masses would be blocked; similarly, without the creativity and voluntarism of the masses, technological development would be blocked. In this respect, it is important that Stalin said that the Stakhanov movement emerged on the basis of technological development. Those who think of socialism on the basis of a backward technological base have always been the petty bourgeois utopian socialists.
“The transformation of the type of development of the forces of production must be related to certain other changes currently being implemented in China. That is the reason for the extraordinarily rapid development of the medium and small enterprises.” (p. 128)
“In China, where the laws of expanded capitalist reproduction are about to be smashed, it is shown that technological development takes a different form and that modern forms of petty production can be wholly efficient and often more efficient than the larger ones.”
“Such a development of the small and medium enterprises clearly corresponds to a political tendency… This tendency clearly manifests itself in the existence of new relations of production and new forces of production.” (p. 130)
There is not much to be said. This is the theory of a “socialism” based on small industry in China. This too is a socialism, but it is petty bourgeois socialism. As Bettelheim indicates, in China the laws of reproduction have been abandoned to capitalism and they have been replaced by the laws of small industry. Bettelheim thus makes the mistake made years ago by Jaroschenko who also claimed that the laws of reproduction belong to capitalism and cannot be valid under socialism. The difference is that Jaroschenko’s mistake was a theoretical mistake made in a country where the laws of reproduction were operative and had a different aim. The mistake in the GPCR was made in order to provide the ground for petty bourgeois socialism and was implemented in practice. (For Stalin’s criticism of Jaroschenko see Final Writings, pp. 138-139)
In reality the alternative to expanded reproduction is neither the creativity of the masses nor small and medium industry; As Lenin indicated, expanded reproduction is the necessary material basis of socialism when it is brought together with the dictatorship (democracy) of the proletariat. The GPCR forgot this fact.
Planning and Decentralisation
Any approach which imprisons socialism onto a basis of small and medium industry would naturally be strongly hostile to central planning. In the GPCR the central plan was replaced by the “unified plan.”
“Chinese planning has characteristics specific to itself. The plan has to be based on the masses to the maximum extent, it is not a matter which simply requires ‘expertise’. It is a political matter. It is the unity of political directions (the general line and concrete commands) from the party and the enterprise of the masses.” (p. 80)
Certainly, planning is part of the party’s political sphere. However, the party cannot see planning generally as “a political matter.” Planning is an economic matter under the leadership of the party.
Certainly, planning must be based on the enterprise of the masses. However, planning cannot be left to the masses’ needs of the moment and their initiative.
“The concept of the ‘unified plan’ is a fundamental concept in the struggle against the centralism of the leadership. What is under question is the creation of the conditions which give the producers the possibility of having real control over the means of production directly.” (p. 78)
The control of the plan by the masses and their contributions are, of course, extremely important. However, this cannot be taken as far as abandoning central planning to the control and creativity of the masses. With the glorification and implementation of decentralisation during the GPCR this is what was done.
“Decentralisation is explained by the liveliness of the Chinese economy and the reduction to a minimum, in every field, of the organs of management. This decentralisation is anyway one of the conditions for the participation of labourers in management and of the development of socialist forms of management. Such a decentralisation actively blends with a plan to the extent that it is concretised through the plan before the enterprise’s own interests and subjected to the interests of the whole.” (p. 76)
In the Soviet Union and particularly in the socialist countries of Eastern Europe the autonomy of enterprises led to the enrichment of enterprise managers. In Yugoslavia, self-management appeared to be concerned with control and management by workers in all respects, but in the end it also led to the enrichment of enterprise managers and experts, and to the development of the market economy. During the GPCR, the only guarantee that the enterprises would not degenerate in this way was the socialist consciousness of the masses. Is this sufficient? Is it not clear from the concrete situation today that it is not sufficient? What is important is the technological development of the socialist enterprise to an extent which allows direct control by the workers and, relatedly, the workers’ cultural development. Without these pre-conditions, all kinds of broad autonomy for the enterprise may lead to the enrichment of the managers and experts. However, as it was thought during the GPCR that the contradictions between town and countryside and between mental and manual labour had been eliminated, no problem was seen with giving autonomy to the enterprise as if the higher stage of communism had been reached.
How Were The Contradictions Between Town-Countryside, Mental-Manual Labour Eliminated During The GPCR?
In spite of the fact that its material basis had not yet come into existence, the GPCR began to eliminate the contradictions between town and countryside and between mental and manual labour. How come?
This was made possible through simple industry, i.e. through the spreading of small and medium industry across the countryside and the setting to work of managers and experts in manual labour. Here is utopian socialism!
“[In the countryside of China] hundreds and thousands of small and medium industrial enterprises are being created.”
“The development of simple industrial enterprises was the beginning of a profound break in the opposition between towns and countryside. This opposition has currently begun to disappear.” (pp. 132-133)
Need we stress that the contradiction between town and country can only be resolved on the basis of advanced technology? To think, in spite of this, that the contradiction between town and country can be resolved by making simple industrial enterprises widespread in the countryside is a utopian petty bourgeois perception. The same perception can be obser4ved in the resolution of the contradiction between mental and manual labour. Would there be a contradiction left between mental and manual labour if the workers participate in management, though they may not understand it, and the experts participate in manual labour? That was the simple logic of the GPCR.
“The establishment of the triple unity groups (worker-technician-cadre) and, at the same time, the participation of engineers and technicians in manual labour, began to abolish both the differentiation between engineers and technicians on the one hand and workers on the other, and the former’s superiority over the latter. This movement was strengthened by the profound transformation of the educational system.” (p.120)
Need we say that the elimination of the contradiction between mental and manual labour can only be possible with the cultural-technical-ideological transformation of workers on the basis of advanced technology? The issue is not the establishment of a communism on the basis of simple industry, but the establishment of a communism on the basis of advanced technology.
We have thus presented the GPCR’s main utopian implementations.
To summarise: the GPCR was, on the international plane, a mass movement and a method against Soviet revisionism, in a different place; in this sense it contains an internationalist and historic essence. It is an historic experiment which shows how, during the development of socialism, the struggle must be waged against the leading groups which represent a barrier to that development and it illustrates the initiative and creativity of the masses, participation in and control of management, participation in and control of the plan, the fostering of proletarian democracy. That is the real essence of the GPCR, the essence which we should claim as ours.
In addition, the GPCR is a movement which fell into a “left” deviation and attempted to implement a utopian socialism, because it took place in a country where the material conditions did not exist. Consequently, its reaction against Soviet revisionism on the international plane caused it to characterise the latter as “social-imperialism” and thus cause great harm to the international communist movement. These are the aspects of the GPCR which must be rejected.
The End of the Cultural Revolution and the Accession to Power of the Right
In the period of the Cultural Revolution which started in 1966 and lasted for 10 years, the “left” was in power in China. The fact that the “left” was, in essence rightists was manifested in two main ways after 1969.
On the international plane the “left” deviation reacted against Soviet revisionism by characterising it as “social-imperialism” and thus completely swung to the right. The 9th Congress of the CCP in 1969 was an expression of this. In conditions where the crisis of imperialism was intensifying, socialism in China opened its doors to the US. Nixon’s visit to China in 1971 was an event on a world scale. The socialist bloc was thus truly breaking up, China was taking sides with imperialism. The effects of this were very great on the international communist movement. Splits began to take place in communist movements which supported the CCP which had until then represented Marxism-Leninism in the face of Soviet revisionism; movements which were guided simply by taking their politics over wholesale from abroad fell behind the CCP without undertaking a proper analysis of the situation.
The “left” deviation in China ultimately gave rise to the power of the right. The right deviation has often been the price paid for a “left” deviation. After the deaths of Chou En Lai and Mao, the sharpening power struggle within the party and society was won by Deng, the representative of the right. The 11th Congress in 1977 was one where the leaders of the Cultural Revolution were eliminated and a new period was started.
The 8th CCP Congress in 1956 had determined that socialism had essentially been established in China and the main task now was the construction of socialism. The 11th Congress in 1977 formally set the same task after 21 years. The intervening 21 years had not formally changed the task, but had changed the nature of those in power. This led to the task being undertaken not on a socialist basis, but on the basis of allowing capitalism to develop in the base. Deng’s words “the colour of the cat which catches the mouse is not important” were the best expression of this.
How had the right come to power?
We attempted to answer this question within the framework of our writing. Let us here summarise its main points.
The establishment of socialism in China was achieved in 1956. However, this was far from being complete in the superstructure and the base. Bourgeois ideology and bourgeois relations continued their existence to a great extent. The bases for this were the large peasant masses and the “transformed” bourgeoisie.
Though it was gathered in communes, the peasantry in particular was a source of petty bourgeois ideology.
In these conditions Mao naturally set out two tasks. Firstly, bourgeois relations and especially bourgeois ideology had to be eliminated from the superstructure and the base. Secondly, given that the establishment of socialism was essentially completed, socialism had to be constructed in order for socialism to exist on solid foundations.
While the relations of production were essentially established at the base, the material basis of socialism had not yet been established; while the dictatorship of the proletariat had essentially been established in the superstructure, bourgeois influences and ideology continued to exist … These were the fundamental problems facing socialism in China.
In similar conditions, Stalin had launched a war on all fronts to consolidate the relations of production at the base, abolish the bourgeoisie as a class, eliminate bourgeois ideology and remnants in the superstructure and thus opened the way up for socialist construction. However, in the Chinese conditions Mao lacked the strength to undertake these tasks “on all fronts,” because there was no strong proletariat on which he could base himself in fighting “on all fronts.” He necessarily had to base himself on the peasantry and apparently had to put the struggle against bourgeois ideology to the fore. Given that it was not possible to proletarianise the peasantry on a modern technological basis, this at the same time meant the transformation of the peasantry at the ideological level. However, the matter did not rest there. Being based fundamentally on the peasantry and giving ‘primacy to politics’ brought petty bourgeois utopian socialism with it.
In short, the fact that one of the two tasks set out by Mao, “socialist construction,” could not be fulfilled because of objective and subjective reasons (1961-66 was a period when it was partially fulfilled), necessarily meant that the tasks of the elimination of petty bourgeois ideology from the superstructure and the consolidation of the superstructure came to the fore. The unavoidable price paid for this was the deviation to the “left,” to petty bourgeois socialism. The GPCR was the fulfilment of the “political” task at its most advanced; from then on started the decline.
In these conditions, the power of the right was limited to allowing the development of capitalism at the base and opening the doors all the way to imperialism. The cost of 21 years of giving “primacy to politics” was the coming to power of the right which allowed capitalism to develop; the benefit was that the right was prevented from reforming the dictatorship of the proletariat.
What is internationalism? At its broadest, it is the solidarity and organisation of the proletarian and communist movements, which are formally “national,” for the purpose of a world revolution, i.e. for the elimination of capitalism throughout the world, and it is the viewing by these movements of their own “national” revolutions in the light of this perspective. In this sense, every “national” revolution is, at the same time, a part and a position of the international revolution.
Depending on international conditions and the situation of the communist movement, internationalism may emerge in a variety of forms; it may emerge as an organisation.
In the time of Marx and Engels, the world conditions appeared conducive to a world (European) revolution. However, the communist movement was not organised, “national” parties had not emerged. In setting up the First International, Marx and Engels did not want to leave the international working class without an organisation in the face of a probable world revolution. With the development of the First International to that end and the foundation or the preparation for the foundation of “national” communist parties, the First International fulfilled its mission. The Second International was organised upon that basis. However, conditions of “peace” which lasted until the first world war strengthened revisionism in the “national” communist parties. In the joy of their election victories, these parties forgot the revolution based on violence and attached their hopes onto a peaceful transition. This development lasted until the political end of the Second International when the “national” communist parties backed their own bourgeoisies in the first world war. However, internationalism was not dead. Under Lenin’s leadership, the Bolshevik Party set up the Third International as the leading party of internationalism and world revolution after the October Revolution in 1919.
The foundation of the Third International is closely related to the survival of the October Revolution and the Soviet Union under imperialist siege. At the foundation of the Third International it was thought that the Soviet revolution would give a boost to the world revolution, that it would become a headquarters of the world revolution; that the world revolution or at least revolutions in several European countries would ensure the survival of the Soviet Revolution. The essence of the debate between Lenin and Stalin and the other opportunists (Trotsky, Zinoviev, etc.) was not about this. The essence of the debate was whether the Soviet Union could sustain the dictatorship of the proletariat with its own internal resources and establish socialism and thus contribute to the world revolution… Trotsky said that without the world revolution the Soviet Revolution could not survive; he never believed that the Soviet Union could survive on its own. Lenin and later Stalin, on the other hand, never mechanically counterposed the world revolution to “the establishment of socialism in one country.” According to them, making a contribution to the world revolution was only possible through the survival of the proletarian dictatorship and the establishment of socialism in the Soviet Union. That is why Stalin asked in 1925:
“If not a foundation for the world revolution, what then is our country which is a country of ‘socialism in the process of establishment’?” (The Principles of Leninism, p. 174)
In the period between the foundation of the Third International and the end of the second world war, i.e. the period when socialism was “one country,” internationalism was, in essence, a relationship between “socialism in one country” and the world revolution. The core of internationalism was the issue of whether the Soviet Union would survive or not; the differentiation of Marxism-Leninism and opportunism across the world emerged in the approach to this fundamental point. In that sense, it would be useful briefly to look at the debates which took place up to the stage when the programme of the Third International was accepted and at the views of Lenin and Stalin.
Before the October Revolution, the fundamental difference between Lenin and the opportunists was the issue of whether there could be a proletarian revolution “in one country,” in a “weak link” of capitalism, without a world revolution. All opportunists argued that there could be no proletarian revolution in one country. On the basis of the law of the unequal development of imperialism, Lenin, on the other hand, argued that there could be a proletarian revolution in a country where the contradictions were sharpest – in Russia – and he was proved right.
After the October Revolution, until 1925 when the expectation of revolution in Europe was alive, it was a widespread view that the Soviet Union could not survive unless there were revolutions in several European countries. Lenin said that NEP was, at the same time, a “bribe” given to the bourgeoisie until such time as these revolutions happened. In July 1921, in his Report submitted to the 3rd Congress of the Communist International, he explained the situation in that period as follows:
“(…) We were saying to ourselves as much before the revolution as after, Either the revolution will break out in the developed capitalist countries immediately or, at least, soon, or we will perish. In spite of this belief, we did everything we could to preserve the Soviet system at all cost, in all conditions; because we knew that we were working not only for ourselves but at the same time for the international revolution.” (p. 477, IK)
Lenin’s words were clear. The question was what to do while waiting for the international revolution. Lenin answered this: “To preserve the Soviet system at all cost.” The link between the international revolution and the Soviet Revolution could only be preserved through the survival of the Soviet Revolution and the continuation of the alliance with the peasantry (NEP was an expression of this). The Trotskyists, on the other hand, were making everything dependent on a revolution in Europe, denying the importance of the proletariat’s alliance with the peasantry. They were thus advising that a proletarian power which could not survive and fought the peasantry should wait for the international revolution. While they rejecting the alliance with the peasantry and talked a lot about world revolution, the Trotskyists were in reality causing great harm to the international revolution. How could a revolution which could not survive make a contribution to the world revolution?
Up to 1924, this was the essence of the debate between Lenin-Stalin and Trotsky, as Stalin wrote in Questions of Leninism. Was a contribution to be made to the international revolution through the survival of Soviet power by making an alliance with the peasantry, or was the opposite the case?
Stalin put the matter as follows in Questions of Leninism:
“But establishing the power of the proletariat in place of the power of the bourgeoisie in one country is not yet the complete victory of socialism. (…) Therefore, to develop and support the revolution in other countries is the main task of the revolution which has succeeded.” (p. 41)
However, as the expected revolutions did not break out in the European countries, indeed, as capitalism when capitalism gained relative stability as of 1925, the issue was no longer whether the proletarian dictatorship could survive or not, but whether the victory of socialism, i.e. the socialist relations of production could be established or not. Still, the perspective of revolution in capitalist countries, of the world revolution was not being set aside and it was not set aside. Stalin expressed the issue as follows in 1925:
“This formulation [the formulation in the quote above] would lead to the view that it is impossible to organise the socialist society with the forces of one country, and this, of course, is wrong.” (p. 163)
“We can establish socialism all the way to the end and together with the peasantry under the leadership of the working class we shall establish socialism.” (p. 165)
Thus it was expressed by Stalin that socialism can be established even without revolutions in advanced capitalist countries. This is a new dimension in the issue of “socialism in one country” and “world revolution” an, of course, it has been correctly put forward by Stalin, because it would have been impossible for Soviet power to survive without establishing socialism in the expectation of the European revolution. The fundamental difference between Marxism-Leninism and opportunism, between confidence and faith in the forces of the revolution and lack of faith showed itself one again at this point.
Stalin also envisaged that “security” against the imperialists’ attempts at restoration from the outside would be possible with revolution in several countries and that this would ensure the “definite victory of socialism” (p. 165). This was an important “theoretical” formulation; we shall consider to what extent this can be confirmed or not.
In the period of the debate on the relation of “socialism in one country” to the “world revolution” the Third International’s principle on international tactics was the “United Workers’ Front”. This tactical principle corresponded to the period of preparation for the revolution.
The 4th Congress of the Comintern and the Period of the Offensive
The Comintern’s 6th Congress which met in July 1928 approved its programme and, at the same time, set out the international tactical principle. 1928 was an important year. It is the year when in the Soviet Union the offensive was started on all fronts for the establishment of socialism. This was a correct policy.
This situation, i.e. the establishment of socialism in the Soviet Union was, at the same time, an important issue for the world revolution and, indeed, it had become the fundamental form of the international proletariat’s interests in that period. While in 1924 the issue was “the main task of the revolution which has started is to develop the revolution in other countries,” by 1928 it had become the survival of socialism in the Soviet Union in order that the revolution could develop in other countries, in the interests of socialism world-wide. Was this a correct policy? Yes, it was, because the survival of socialism in the Soviet Union was a crucial task for the interests of the international proletariat. As early as 1927, Stalin said:
“There have formed two camps and two positions as a result of the danger of war: the position of supporting the Soviet Union unconditionally and the position of fighting against the Soviet Union. It is a question of making a choice between these two positions because there is no third position and there cannot be.” (Documents of The Third International, p. 123)
The Programme of the Comintern says:
“In case of the imperialist countries attacking the Soviet Union and a war against her, the response of the international proletariat must be: a struggle aimed at overthrowing the imperialist governments through courageous and determined mass action, under the slogan of an alliance with the proletarian dictatorship and the Soviet Union.” (our emphasis)
“The colonies, and particularly the colonies of an imperialist state which attacks the Soviet Union, must take advantage that the armed forces of imperialism are busy elsewhere and must fight against them with all their strength and must thus take advantage of the situation to overthrow imperialist domination and gain full independence.” (Documents of The Third International, pp. 178-179)
Thus, the link was made between support for the Soviet Union and revolutions at a “national” level. However, all this was possible if there was an imperialist attack against the Soviet Union. That is, this showed how the alliance of the international communist movement and the Soviet Union be formed in case of an imperialist attack. This was also in line with the Comintern Programme’s general content:
“The Programme of the Communist International is the programme of the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat throughout the world, it is the programme of world communism.” (Belge Publishers, p. 128)
In summary, this was the picture in 1928: an attack was expected against the Soviet Union because of the intensification of the crisis in the capitalist-imperialist countries. In the same period an attack was launched against the bourgeoisie on all fronts in the Soviet Union. In these conditions, the task of the international proletariat is alliance with the Soviet Union and taking advantage of the crisis to make the revolution. This was undoubtedly the correct policy, because the alliance with the Soviet Union was taken as the main link and it was argued that this alliance would be strengthened with revolutions at the “national” level.
However, it cannot be said that the application of this tactic in the present day’s concrete conditions would be the correct policy. The failure to make a correct description of the rising fascism in Europe resulted in the main attack being directed not against rising fascism, but against social democracy and, indeed, the left wing of it. That is because no difference was perceived then between social democracy and fascism and, indeed, it was thought that “social democracy is the mass base of fascism.”
The 7th Congress of the Comintern which met in 1935 eliminated the mistaken assessment of fascism and the mistaken tactic arising from this. Only then could the general tactic of the international communist movement, set by Stalin, be placed on solid foundations. In this respect, the 7th Congress must be considered as a self-criticism of the tactic of the 6th Congress, because the Comintern’s tactic of “class against class” of 1928 was replaced by “the united front” in 1935.
The Abolition of the Third International
Had the Communist International, organised as a “world party” for “World Revolution,” fulfilled its task when it was abolished in the summer of 1943? From the point of view of putting into practice a general tactic corresponding to a tactical period, we can answer “yes.” In that sense, the very abolition of the Comintern itself was part of the success of the general tactic.
As we have seen above, the general tactic of the Comintern was that the international communist movement makes an alliance with the Soviet Union so that the Soviet Union could survive under imperialist siege and under attack by imperialism, and that revolutions in various countries strengthen this alliance.
While there may have been mistakes in the application of the general tactic at “national” levels, the Comintern had fulfilled its task in this respect; its abolition was part of the success of the general tactic in terms of the fulfilment of this task, i.e. communist parties could organise the revolution according to their own conditions, anti-fascist alliances could more easily be put into practice, a world-wide “democratic front” could be established in the face of fascist attack. Indeed, after the war, the victory of the Soviet Union and the victories of a number of democratic, socialist revolutions were proof of this. In other words, the international communist movement’s approach to revolution in alliance with the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union’s understanding of the establishment of socialism and of the fight against fascism as support for the revolutions in other countries were proved during and after the second world war with both the victory of the Soviet Union and the revolutions in other countries. International solidarity and alliance had been proved by life itself.
The Comintern had also fulfilled its task in another sense. As we all know, the international communist movement was in a general state of disorganisation after the first world war. The Comintern was necessary as a world party in order to pull together the international communist movement, purge it from opportunism and Bolshevise it. This development, in itself, gave rise to tactic and organisational conflicts between the Comintern and the communist parties of various countries; this was unavoidable, because the parties of various countries were different and the Comintern naturally could not have the flexibility and ability to set different tactics for each country. As a result, the Comintern gradually became unnecessary as a world party; and this had in practice become apparent in conditions of war. As a result, as was indicated at the abolition of the Comintern, “national” communist parties had started to demand that the Comintern be abolished. That is why the Comintern reached the end of its life organisationally. This situation was expressed as follows:
“In the past quarter century, events and the experience of the Comintern have shown that the organisational form chosen at the 1st Congress of the Communist International in order to bring workers together and fitted the needs of the beginning of the rebirth of the workers’ movement, gradually aged with the growth of the workers’ movement in individual countries and the growing complexity of their tasks, and indeed became an obstacle to the further strengthening of national workers’ parties.” (Belge Publishers, p. 283)
If that is so, it may be asked: Why was world revolution targeted, why was the International set up as a “World Party”?
The developments of events did not confirm this prediction (world revolution) and the form of organisation (world party) appropriate to it. Events then and now have shown that “world revolution” will be achieved over time with revolutions happening in individual countries or in several at a time, but not within one moment or one period. Therefore, there is no need for a world party. The explanation of the decision to abolish it was an expression of this. We cannot claim that the Comintern’s aim of “world revolution” was wrong, because this aim, world revolution, is the strategic target of the international communist movement regardless of how it is achieved. It is a universal principle that every “national” revolution is part of the world revolution and must serve it.
In short, from the point of view of the tactic of alliance with the Soviet Union and the strengthening of this alliance with revolutions, in order to rescue the Soviet Union from imperialist siege, the Comintern has completed its tasks.
The Comintern has also completed its tasks from the point of view of rescuing the international communist movement from disorganisation, the creation and strengthening of “national” communist parties.
From the point of view of making the world revolution as a world party, the Comintern has not been able to fulfil its task. Developments, the world condition did not allow this; this was not the Comintern’s mistake, because the aim of world revolution is not a mistake. However, developments could not have been known in advance. What is important is how and through which road the aim is to be achieved and the adoption of the political and organisational tactic on the basis of the conditions. The Comintern was a necessity in the 1920s; it was no longer so in the 1940s. It would indeed have been a mistake if the Comintern had not been abolished then, because developments made a different path, a different organisation necessary on the road to world revolution. What was important was that the International’s perspective was also defended under changed conditions by the international communist movement.
The Foundation of the Kominform
The Kominform (the Communist Information Bureau) was founded in 1947. It was not an organisational continuation of the Comintern. Its aim was the communication of the experiences of the international communist movement in a mutual relationship between the movements, the ensuring of international communist solidarity and the discussion of ideological issues. Undoubtedly, it was an “organisation” suitable to the new process. Although it was dispersed in 1956, the line it set out preserved its validity with meetings of communist parties in Moscow.
The importance of the Kominform was that the “relationship” between the world communist movements must concretely be preserved for the unity and solidarity of the international communist movement and for ideological unity and struggle. This necessity made itself accepted through the 1950s and indeed the 1960s. However, the ideological debate and split between the CCP and the CPSU not only abolished a relationship within the international communist movement even at the level of the Kominform, but it destroyed the common ground against imperialism. The main culprit was the revisionism which developed within the CPSU.
Internationalism in the 1960s
Until the aftermath of the second world war, the essence of internationalist politics was to take the survival of the Soviet Union as the main link and to strengthen the alliance with the Soviet Union for that purpose, and to strengthen this alliance trough revolutions in case of war against the Soviet Union (also in case of war among the imperialists). In the international conditions of that period, socialism was “one country”; the general interests of socialism did not mean that the Soviet Union would do nothing. The Soviet Union’s main task was to realise the establishment of socialism, both to defend the Soviet Union and support other countries’ revolutions against attack.
The picture which emerged after the second world war showed the victory of internationalism. Socialism had broken out of the framework of “one country” and had become a “system.”
In such conditions, i.e. after the 1950s, internationalism did not, of course, change in essence: it continued to mean the living solidarity of the proletariat in power and the international proletariat marching to power and the oppressed peoples. It took new forms. Given that socialism was a system, the task of the socialist countries was to defeat the aggression of imperialism and give more active support to the national liberation and socialist struggle. (A living example of internationalism was given during the Korean revolution.) Such an internationalist policy would also mean the strengthening of the safety of socialism because of the spreading of revolutions and the weakening of imperialism. In addition, the main task of the semi-colonial, colonial peoples and the proletariat in capitalist-imperialist countries was no longer to ensure the survival of socialism in “one country”; it was to weaken imperialism through revolutions and thus ensure the strengthening of socialism on a world scale. While the essence was unchanged, there were changes in the tasks; the main link was now national and socialist liberation wars. The victory of socialism on a world scale could only be ensured through revolutions. (This description of the main link is still valid today.)
Kim Il Sung formulates internationalist politics as follows:
“By constantly strengthening the socialist camp and its unshakeable unity of its power… we can give strong support and heart to the anti-imperialist national liberation wars of the peoples of dependent countries and colonies, and to the revolutionary struggle of the working class in the capitalist countries…” (p. 161, Aydýnlýk Publishers, “Let Us Raise the Flag of Marxism-Leninism and Proletarian Internationalism”)
“To abandon the principles of class solidarity and to reject the joint action and struggle of class brothers under the excuse of independence [independence of the communist parties] would cause great harm to the development of world revolution and, moreover, causes the revolution in their own countries to fail.” (Kim Il Sung, ibid., p. 165)
Naturally, this general tactic and strategy is enriched with concrete tactics in different conditions. For example, after the 1950s, during the cold war started by the USA, the tactical task of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries was to invalidate the cold war, to defend peace; without for a moment forgetting to give support to national liberation wars and the world revolution.
Another example is that in the 1960s, at a stage when the Vietnamese and other national liberation wars were intensifying, the main tactical task was to form an anti-imperialist united front, to give active support to the struggle of the oppressed peoples and to consider the principle of “peaceful co-existence” in this light. From the point of view of the communist movements of the oppressed countries, there could be different tactical changes in accordance with changing conditions, but their main task remained unchanged: To intensify the revolutionary struggle.
The right deviation which arose within the CPSU and became dominant in the party did not perceive and apply internationalism in this way. According to Kruschevite revisionism, “peaceful co-existence” was the main principle against the danger of war and everything had to be shaped according to this. Even the revolutions in other countries had to advocate “peaceful transition.”
It is said in the 20th Congress Report:
“The Soviet Union’s principle of ‘peaceful co-existence’ … [is not] a tactic or conjunctural, it is the fundamental principle of Soviet foreign policy.” (Two Congresses, pp. 183-184, Intex Publishers)
“… We are establishing communism in our country and standing against the waging of war in a determined manner. We emphasise today, as we did in the past, that the establishment of a new social order in this or that country is an internal matter for the people of those countries.” (p. 155, ibid.)
“… Either peaceful co-existence or a horrible war of destruction. There is no third way.” (p. 155, ibid.)
As can be seen, the Soviet revisionists counterpose the establishment of communism to revolutions in other countries. The Soviet revisionists deny that the spreading of revolutions in other countries is the main way to weaken imperialism and remove the threat of war. Under the psychosis of the threat of war, they saw compromise with imperialism as the only solution. But to what point? To what point can capitalism and socialism, two opposite systems, “peacefully co-exist”? Having put aside the main aim, the general interests of communism, the world revolution, at the tactical level too the revisionists made the policy of compromise with imperialism a “general and unchanging principle.” Therefore, the main culprit for the weakening of internationalism is revisionism in the Soviet Union. The CCP, on the other hand, represented Marxism-Leninism against Soviet revisionism in the 1960s.
“The principle of peaceful co-existence can only be applied to relations between countries with different social systems, not to relations between the oppressed and the oppressor classes or between the oppressed classes and the ruling classes.” (p. 45, Workers of the World, Unite!, Bilim ve Sosyalizm Publishers)
“The socialist countries support the revolutionary struggle of people in other countries; in return, these struggles serve to support and defend the socialist countries.” (p. 169, ibid.)
Similarly, Che was also a supporter and activist of an internationalist policy.
“(…) [In conditions where] the imperialists blackmailing humanity with the threat of war, the correct response is not to be afraid of war. Attacking ruthlessly and without interruption at the point where the enemy is faced at the front, that must be the general tactic of the people.” (Two-Three, More Vietnams, p. 14)
“The strategic aim of this struggle must be the destruction of imperialism.” (p. 23, ibid.)
We have thus shown how in the 1960s internationalism was split by the Soviet revisionists and what the correct internationalist approach should be. The following will complete the matter.
What form should the support of the socialist countries take? Should it only be in the form of diplomatic, economic support and military equipment? Or should it be in the form of voluntary participation in the war?
Undoubtedly, the internationalist support of a socialist country must not be limited to the diplomatic, military, economic fields; support must include voluntary participation in the revolutionary war. That is because national and social liberation wars are undertaken for the victory of world communism, for the present security of the socialist countries. If the people of the socialist countries cannot perceive the national and social liberation wars as their “own” wars, how can we talk of their internationalism? The sacrifices once made by the oppressed peoples and the world proletariat for the success of “socialism in one country” should not be forgotten. The success of world communism depends on an internationalist spirit.
The issue of what form should the support take is one of the indicators of the fundamental difference between Marxism-Leninism and revisionism. The Soviet Union and certain other countries gave economic, political, military support to the extent that it fitted in with their own international policies. And anyway, the Soviet Union gave these kinds of support mostly to countries where “progressive” juntas were in power.
Support finds its real meaning with the sending of volunteers. Che’s words below are unforgettable words on what form internationalism should take.
“(…) Vietnam is tragically alone.. (…) The progressive world’s solidarity with the Vietnamese people has the pleasure of a bitter mocking similar to the plebs’ shouts of support for the gladiators in the Roman circus. The issue is not to wish success to those who are attacked, but to share their fate, to be their comrades in death or victory.” (Che, ibid., p. 12)
The whole essence of internationalism is hidden in these words.
The CCP which had proudly carried the flag of internationalism against the CPSU in the 1960s, then swung to the right at the end of the 1960s and the 1970s to such an extent that it went into an open alliance with imperialism. In this process which started with Nixon’s visit to Ch ina and the Three Worlds Theory, the CCP fell into the position of the social-chauvinists in the first world war. Thus, the split in internationalism turned into a complete breaking up and caused such great losses for the struggle for socialism that the price is still being paid today.
According to the Three Worldist CCP, the world was divided into three parts: The first part consisted of the two super-imperialist states and, of these, the Soviet Union was more aggressive than the USA. The second part consisted of the capitalist European countries and an alliance should be made with these against the two superpowers. The third part consisted of the countries outside the other two parts, and regardless of whether the regime in these countries were socialist, capitalist or fascist, this “third world” was the basic force of the revolution.
Against the Three Worldist CCP, the CPSU had become a party reluctantly carrying the flag of internationalism. However, the internationalist flag was truly waved by Cuba, North Korea and the peoples waging national and social liberation wars.
The breaking up of internationalism by the CCP and the Soviet revisionists increased imperialism’s boldness, gave it courage. The forces of socialism had never been so dispersed, so stricken from the inside in the face of imperialism. The imperialist offensive which began in the 1980s with Reagan’s election strengthened reactionary tendencies throughout the world. Fascist coups, massacres, direct American attacks followed one another. As the development of national and social liberation wars which had intensified in the 1960s and 1970s slowed down after the Nicaraguan revolution, imperialism’s aggression increased and it became clear that the socialist countries could not resist this under the leadership of revisionism.
After the end of the 1970s, the Three Worldist CCP completely opened the way for capitalism in the economic sphere; opened its country up to the imperialist market. The imperialist monopolies launched themselves onto the Chinese market with great appetite.
In the second half of the 1980s, as a natural consequence of their inward rottenness, the Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries yielded to imperialist aggression. A policy of open compromise with imperialism started with Gorbachev’s rise to power; one concession followed another in the military, economic and political fields. The partial support given to national and social liberation wars was completely withdrawn. The “Brezhnev Doctrine” was abandoned and Eastern Europe was abandoned to the mercy of the imperialists.
Thus the degeneration which started within the Soviet Union and the policy of open concessions to imperialism first caused the collapse of the Soviet Unions’ security “cordon.” The Eastern European countries abandoned to the imperialist monster fell one by one; Rumania, which had not fallen, was bloodily overthrown. Reformist administrations came to power and the process of capitalist restoration was started.
The Soviet Union also joined this process.
What do these bitter, truly bitter experiences show?
Firstly, they show the consequences of the right deviation which emerged in the communist parties of the socialist countries and gained control of these parties.
Secondly, they show that the security of the victory of socialism created by revolutions in several countries, referred to by Stalin, is not enough at all. Maybe in the 1920s and 1930s revolutions in several countries may have been enough for the security of the victory of socialism, because the whole world could obviously not have been expected to become socialist. However, after the 1980s, it was not understood that this was not enough. The interests of the socialist countries were counterposed to the national and social liberation wars. The existing socialist countries were thought to be enough. In fact, on the one hand the socialist bloc was breaking apart and, on the other, imperialism was getting more aggressive. Therefore, the spreading of the world revolution and the weakening of imperialism would have been the only correct approach. In the 1960s and especially the 1970s internationalism was represented by the national and social liberation wars. This breaking up of the socialist system was also a harbinger of the future. It may be said that if the events of the end of the 1980s did not happen in the 1970s, the intense tempo of the national and social liberation wars played an important role in this. Imperialism was using its main forces to suppress the national and social liberation wars; at the same time, the socialist countries could not, in these conditions, move towards reformism at full speed.
When in the 1980s the intensity of the national and social liberation wars ebbed away (and the revisionism in the socialist countries played an important role in this), imperialism concentrated all its forces on the cold war.
Today, the flag of internationalism is held by socialist countries such as Cuba and North Korea and by the national and social liberation warriors, i.e. the communist movements in the oppressed countries. Undoubtedly, the imperialist offensive has made us suffer great losses. The greatest help to the people of the socialist countries in repelling the internal and external imperialist offensive will be given by the intensification of the national and social liberation wars.
The cause of communism has in the past survived great problems. It will also survive this one; because communism takes its strength from the working class and the oppressed peoples; because communism is the only social order of the future and this is a scientific truth.