WHY WERE COMMUNIST REVOLUTIONS REVERSED IN THE USSR AND CHINA? THE CONTINUING STRUGGLE AGAINST REVISIONISMA scientific evaluation of history must focus on the study of revolutionary movements. We must draw upon what is positive in these experiences and learn from the negative in order to advance beyond them.
Four great revolutions against capitalism have marked the forward thrust of humanity: the Paris Commune, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR). Each revolution reflected the importance of the principal antagonisms between the capitalist class and the proletariat, or working class.
The struggle for state power is inseparable from the struggle between correct and incorrect ideas about how to win, keep, and consolidate it. This struggle is known as the struggle against revisionism -- the ideas and practice of the class enemy within the communist movement. This struggle will continue until world communism is achieved and consolidated.
Right Opportunism: The Long Term Error of the Communist Movement
Revolutionaries, once in power, have made serious errors that allowed a capitalist class to regain state power. If we understand these errors we can avoid them and defeat revisionism qualitatively and ensure that the next wave of communist revolutions will not be similarly reversed.
The Russian Revolution in 1917 was the first firm victory by workers and peasants to seize and consolidate state power. From the beginning, it was attacked by the international bourgeoisie, most sharply in the fascist invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.
But the tremendous mass struggle to defeat fascism, led mainly by the communist movement, did not result in communism. The leadership of the international communist movement, led by the Soviet Union, advocated winning communism through the parliamentary process rather than by overthrowing the bourgeoisie with revolution and establishing workers power. This strategy put capitalism back on its feet in Western Europe.
In the Soviet Union the roots of revisionism come down to granting concessions to the bourgeoisie. This paved the way for the emergence of a new, "red" bourgeoisie (i.e., communist in name but capitalist in practice).
The concessions granted to sections of the old ruling class rested on the incorrect idea that one part of the ruling class was "better" than the other part. Today, various revisionist groups claim that the liberal capitalists like Barack Obama are better than reactionaries like George Bush, when both back capitalism tooth and nail. The erroneous concessions to capitalism have historically taken the following forms:
1. Communists falsely divide the bourgeoisie into a "left" and a "right" camp and call for an alliance with the "left".
2. After the revolution the privileges granted to the "good" wing of the bourgeoisie are extended because the party and the masses supposedly need the help of "friendly" bourgeois forces. Ideological rationales are dreamed up to justify this.
3. Nationalism, a bourgeois, "cross-class" theory, is promoted. Lenin, Stalin and Mao did not fully realize that nationalism is always reactionary. Like the bourgeoisie itself, nationalism has no progressive aspects.
4. Communists view the "united front" as an alliance between themselves and the "better" section of the bourgeoisie and their liberal mouthpieces. In these united fronts, communists made the biggest concession of all: hiding the communist program from the masses.
Communism, Not Socialism
One of the principal rationalizations for these concessions is the assumption that a large section of the masses, whether peasants or less-conscious workers--cannot be won to communist ideas and practices. The communist revolution must pass through a two-stage process, according to this view. The first stage was called "socialism" -- a state under the dictatorship of the proletariat but with strong capitalist aspects. (The Chinese called first stage "New Democracy", which justified even more concessions to the bourgeoisie and their ideas than did the Russian revolution).
A vital lesson of the failures of the communist revolutions is the realization that the concept of "socialism" is itself revisionist. The idea that a "mixed" state called socialism could be a transitional stage to communism seemed reasonable at one time. But practice has proven it wrong. Wherever "socialist revolution" has won, the working class has lost. This is no accident. Historical experience confirms that every time revolutionaries have made concessions to the bosses, the bosses have been able to use the concessions to regain power. (See Road to Revolution 3 and 4 for a more in-depth discussion).
The Chinese Revolution of 1949 was based on the revolutionary potential of the poor peasants. By the late 1940s the Chinese Communist Party and the revolutionary masses had won control of the Chinese mainland. After winning state power Mao called for a period of "New Democracy" bringing elements of the exploitative national bourgeoisie into the state. But no society can be jointly ruled by several classes. Regardless of terminology, and despite serious weaknesses, what actually existed in China during the "New Democratic" period was proletarian dictatorship. But "New Democracy" was ideologically flawed, enabling the bourgeoisie to acquire footing and maneuverability in the party, the state apparatus, and the economy.
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) raised the question of the class nature of state power. The concessions granted to the bourgeoisie by the policy of New Democracy had enabled a new ruling class to emerge. It differed in form from the old ruling class, but its capitalist essence remained the same.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was at the heart of this new ruling class. Most of the Partys leading cadre had become a "red" bourgeoisie. But in the GPCR the masses fought to win power back from these revisionists.
The CCP leadership had realized that the Soviet Union had become revisionist, but offered only a superficial criticism of this world-historic reversal. The CCP never critically examined socialist construction in the Soviet Union or China, nor did it repudiate the theory of concessions to the bourgeoisie or reject nationalism. China's "red" bourgeoisie attacked the Soviets because the Chinese masses were too advanced politically to swallow the obviously capitalist Soviet line. But in the GPCR the Chinese masses began to take seriously the idea of overthrowing the "red" bourgeoisie and reconquering state power.
The GPCR helped inject a number of vital ideas into the world revolutionary movement:
1. The absolute primacy of political incentives over material incentives.
2. The primacy of politics over technique: not "expertise" but the masses' understanding and implementation of communist ideas.
3. Intensified struggle against revisionism. The left in the GPCR recognized that Soviet "aid" created deadly illusions about revisionism.
4. Intensified struggle against imperialism and its nationalist partners.
5. The revolutionary doctrine that the masses are more important than weapons and can defeat any imperialist war, including nuclear war.
Underlying the GPCR was the premise that class struggle grows sharper after the seizure of power.
Two distinct elements participated in the GPCR: a left, represented by a minority of Party cadre, by the Red Guard movement, and by revolutionary workers' councils; and a right, represented by Liu Shao-chi, Deng Xiaoping and later by Mao himself. The initial actions of the GPCR had nothing to do with Mao. Mao and the forces allied with him used the left in a struggle against the more exposed rightists.
Maos own apparatus and many honest forces in the mass movement elevated him to the status of demigod. He became the "red sun in our hearts" and could do no wrong. Mao gave lip service to the revolutionary aspirations of the masses while deceiving and manipulating the left with this cult.
The GPCR was crushed by the late 1960s. Communist elements were defeated and workers power was reversed. The key error in the GPCR was made by the left, when it failed to separate itself ideologically and organizationally from Maos forces, having been duped into the bourgeois cult of personality around Mao.
The PLPs rejection of nationalism, socialism, and all forms of two-stage theory has been attacked as ultra-left. But carrying out our line in practice has been the way we attempt to demonstrate the validity of our analysis and strategy for revolution. Our party initiates struggles, provides leadership for many struggles, and joins with those who are prepared to join with us on specific issues. We continue to "serve the people" in this way. We are mindful of the following tasks:
1. Root out all ideas that justify alliances with the ruling class.
2. Steel ourselves and our friends to recognize nationalist traps, mainly by fighting racism.
3. Make sure that the dictatorship of the proletariat and communism are always put forward in all party agitation.
4. Wipe out all vestiges of cultism. Every member of the party must be able to present the party line and be empowered to criticize all members and leaders.
5. Become immersed in mass work, in mass organizations. Win people to the Party.
6. Improve and expand our international, industrial, and military work.
By discussing, applying, and enriching this line our party will deepen its ties to workers in this country and internationally. We have a world to learn -- and a world to win.(A much more detailed discussion of these vital issues is contained in the PLP documents "Road to Revolution III" and "Road to Revolution IV".)
Contact the Progressive Labor Party at firstname.lastname@example.org,
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