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The Crisis of the Workers Movement
And, truly, it would be pointless to declare that the preceding conclusions were arrived at without taking account of the recent history of the states in the socialist camp. On the contrary, although all the conclusions are drawn from the laws of historical development of society, from the laws of capitalist economy and the class struggle of the proletariat, obviously the starting point is the practice of socialism.
The historical peculiarities of the formation of socialism in the various countries, permits bringing all the facts together in four groups;
Despite this localization of the socialist boundaries within the framework of nations, the point here is not the national but the political peculiarities. Thus it is not an error that Hungary appears in two groups, the second and the fourth, rather this corresponds to the significance of the experience at different historical stages.
Into the first group go countries which made a real, positive contribution to the cause of socialism, independently encountering definite problems in the construction of socialism and contributing their experience in resolving them. The experience of the second group is also independent, but is a negative experience. The practice of the third group, generally speaking, lies to the side of the fundamental path of the socialist movement.
The policies of Yugoslavia and Cuba were never seriously based on a Marxist foundation, they are eclectic. But their history can be examined as proving ground for testing some particular ideas. And, finally, the fourth group is made up of countries openly imitating, borrowing from others not just the useful experiences (there is nothing wrong with that, it is often worthwhile) but also the mistakes.
The experience of the Soviet Union, of course, has the most significance, having been independent for its whole history. The experience of China from the mid fifties through the demise of Mao Tse-Tung is very important; the preceding period, in essence, was a repetition of the socialist development of the USSR, and with the death of Mao Tse-Tung everything fell into a familiar rut. The political life of Albania in turn, may present the most interest, but its closure and isolationism, make it hard to approach for analysis.
The experience of the Hungarian Soviet Republic (1919) and Chile (1970 - 1973) agree in all fundamental features. In both cases, the socialist forces came to power peacefully; which, incidentally, attests to the overwhelming superiority of the left forces in some concrete historical circumstances. In both cases socialism perished, in the last analysis because of an underestimation of the organizing role of property. In both cases the socialist government made insufficient use of political terror, which is the proletariat's only available means for destruction of counterrevolutionary formations. The non-violent acquisition of power disposed the left forces to the view that the resistance of the bourgeoisie would not go beyond the democratic framework; this was an historic mistake. And when the bourgeoisie cast aside its democratic mask, the proletariat was simply insufficiently hardened and prepared for mortal class combat. Theorists, advocating the peaceful struggle of the proletariat for socialism, would do well to extract the obvious lesson from this. Until such time as the bourgeoisie is decisively weakened, including economically, in the struggle with world socialist forces, all hope for the bloodless victory of socialism remains utopian.
Neither the acquisition of political power nor the rapid expropriation of capitalist property gives a reliable guarantee, for the expropriated property exerts its counterrevolutionary influence through the hope of its return, through calculation of the potential benefits from the restoration of ownership.
While the bourgeoise remains economically powerful, the revolution can only secure itself through the iron terror of political dictatorship.
Happily, the Russian revolution avoided these mistakes. The excesses of the aristocracy, the insolence of the landowners and the unruliness of the bourgeoisie, had prepared the workers for the sternest struggle. Thus the October revolution gave birth to an energetic and decisive dictatorship, which succeeded in holding its ground against both the internal and external, open enemies, and which fell from power a few decades later only as a result of completely different causes.
The history of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the counterrevolution in Russia merits the most profound analysis, and will remain for many years the subject of scientific investigation. But the fundamental conclusions can and must be drawn immediately, for without them the workers movement finds itself at a dead end.
The counterrevolution in the USSR proceeded so quietly and along such an unexpected paths that no one noticed it. The Administration of the USSR now had dictatorial power and, in the course of decades, succeeded in passing itself off as a Marxist-Leninist leadership, succeeded in fooling the workers by playing at democracy. Even the international communist movement, for the most part, did not get close to making a truly Marxist assessment of the events in Russia. But the counterrevolution occurred, and first of all, we must establish that, in fact, it was a revolution.
In 1961 in the Program of the CPSU and thereafter, finally, in the Constitution of 1977, the tasks of the dictatorship of the proletariat were declared to have been fulfilled and the Soviet Union was advertised as a 'state of the entire people.'
But Marxists have always been clear that, while the victorious proletariat cannot, in general, make do without the state, this state can be nothing other than the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. The point is not only that the proletariat is the only class capable of seizing for itself the production of all goods and the realization of all social tasks. The point is, also, that the proletariat is the only class which is not in a position to provide itself with goods by means of theft from other classes. Because of this, whatever the conditions turn out to be, the proletariat remains the only class striving for communism as the highest form of realization of its possibilities and satisfaction of its interests, and this striving is historically inevitable.
Perhaps the 'state of the entire people' is the first rung on the ladder leading to the classless communist society?
Classless society, like all societies, cannot exist without production. Yet if one shall produce while another only consumes, then the division into classes will have been maintained. Therefore a classless society can only be created based on the producing class. The proletariat is an open class, that is a class which can take anyone into its midst, without preconditions such as impractical demands and qualifications.
It is the ruling, privileged situation of this open class which, alone, can exert a destructive influence on the remaining non-privileged layers of society, and by drawing them in to the midst of the proletariat, is capable of leading to a classless society.
The "class harmony" of the 'state of the entire people' is possible only through the abandonment by the proletariat of its communist aims, through slavish agreement by the proletariat to work in the interests of other classes. That the "people's state" can have no other content than the bourgeois was made clear by both Engels and Lenin. For what else can be meant by the "union of the working class, the collective peasantry and the people's intelligentsia," if it arises after the proletariat has held undivided power and replaces the dictatorship of the proletariat?
In the course of the proletariat's struggle for political supremacy, such a union could be spoken of as a convergence of interests at a definite stage of the struggle. After the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, return to such a union can only mean that the proletariat cannot cope with power, that it is drawing the bourgeoisie toward power, that is has capitulated before them. The proletariat has always been oppressed for the sake of enriching the bosses, and this capitalist relation disappears only when it has become the omnipotent boss itself.
Another hope: perhaps the formulation of the 'state of the entire people' is just a terminological mistake? History knows a number of cases when the most democratic banners covered up oppression and arbitrariness, when radical movements were forced to conceal themselves behind respectable slogans. So perhaps in the USSR a firm proletarian dictatorship is being concealed behind modest phrases about the "leading" role of the working class?
No and no!
Does the proletariat of the USSR participate in the distribution of goods?
Does the whole class participate in drawing up and carrying out economic policy? No more than under capitalism! And here is the cardinal answer to the question. We will consider some more theses offered by way of proof of the special situation of the proletariat in the USSR, but we ought not to forget that these theses simply stock up the arsenal of tricks upon which the Administration relies in order to distract the proletariat from class struggle and to cloud its class consciousness.
Universal suffrage. But such rights are enjoyed by the workers of almost all capitalist states and this does not hinder the bourgeoisie in the least from preserving its dictatorship.
Workers representation in the organs of state power right up to the highest levels. Yes, here is one of the trump cards which the card sharps pull out every time when speaking about socialist democracy. But does this give the proletariat any real rights whatever?
The capitalists prefer to seat jurists as the politicians in their parliaments. But does this signify the dictatorship of lawyers, a democracy for attorneys? The power, clearly, lies not with the representatives, but with those who dictate their demands to the representatives, those according to whose will the representatives are hired and fired.
For the higher state organs of the USSR both the criterion for selection and the only right for workers and other representatives is to serve as a unanimous support for all proposals brought to them. Unanimity? Even this is secondary, it is excessive. What is important is whose proposals are adopted.
So whose suggestions are they, who introduces them? These suggestions are introduced only by the highest organs of the CPSU. Reserving for themselves the absolute right to organize every and all elections, controlling means of mass ideological influence, the CPSU predetermines and dictates the results of the voting. The CPSU controls, and in essence predetermines all nomination of candidates, that is to say it directly supplies the composition of all elected bodies necessary to it.
The CPSU subordinates to itself all executive systems from top to bottom and always and continuously sharpens them against dissenters. The CPSU decides everything.
The leading role of the CPSU in all state affairs of the USSR is enshrined in the 1977 constitution. "The devotion of the party to the cause of the proletariat, to the ideas of Marxism-Leninism is proven by the self-sacrificing participation in all struggles which are the lot of Revolutionary Soviet Russia." But are such proofs a guarantee for all time?
History would stop being history if a place in it could be found for this type of guarantee!
There is one guarantee of loyalty to the cause of the proletariat. The Marxist party will remain Marxist so long as service to the proletariat remains for it not only the sole guiding idea but also the sole personal demand of members which must be satisfied in order to remain in the party.
A party which is conducive to the satisfaction of other demands, such as the obtaining power, goods or special privileges, inevitably carries within it the seeds of opportunistic degeneration.
The CPSU renounced the dictatorship of the proletariat not only in words but also in deeds. The working class, even that fraction of it that are members of the party, have absolutely no opportunity to influence the actions of leaders, the taking of high level decisions, the formulation of its theory, its propaganda or its conduct of social and economic policy.
Why? Why in the cruel and dangerous revolutionary period was the party able to remain proletarian? Why in the years of economic construction did its relations with proletariat change so sharply?
Because, as a part of the revolutionary opposition to the autocratic and bourgeois government, in conducting the armed struggle against counterrevolution, the party had only one method of work; raising the consciousness of the masses and mobilizing them, bringing to each the revolutionary significance of Marxist ideas. The spontaneous class control of the proletariat was exercised because ideas unacceptable to the workers, evoking no response in their consciousness and so rejected by the very indifference of the masses, were simply not taken up for implementation.
Because in the following period, with immediate control of the state, the CPSU, in carrying out its policies no longer had any need for the mediation of the proletarian masses, and consequently, liberated itself from their control. In just this way, the party leadership, brought direct pressure to bear on the highest organs of the state, free from any control by the mass of rank and file party members.
Under such conditions, no reason remained for the party bosses to act as spokesmen or defenders of the interests of the proletariat; these interests were inevitably crowded out by the personal interests of the bosses, for nothing stood in the way of satisfying their own interests at the expense of the proletariat.
The party bosses could not rule without the support of definite social forces. The ruling class, the Administration, was just such a force, for the bosses promoted them and controlled all their decisions, they functioned entirely under their control.
This ruling class had long since adapted itself to the party and state apparatus so that with silence and bribes, lies and coerced obedience, they no longer led the masses but commanded them; thus isolating themselves from the worrisome mass movement.
Correspondingly, the Administration not only appropriated goods for the satisfaction of its own wants, but also supplied them to the entire administrative-party layer. And in the bowels of this bureaucratic system, once again under the supervision of the Administration, the questions of prices and wages are decided. Here too, the distribution of labour, that is to say how to supply the proletariat with the very minimum of goods which would maintain their obedience, is determined. Now the real boss is revealed; we see in whose interests, entirely without the class control of the proletarian mass, the entire management system functions.
The counterrevolution had arrived.
How and when did this revolution take place? What forces gave rise to it? Why did the revolution turn out to be so noiseless?
Prerevolutionary Russia at the start of the 20th century was rich with struggling political tendencies. It was for the proletariat to assess them all and to choose one. And it correctly chose Bolshevism, singling it out as the trend which was the most consistent proponent of Marxist, and so proletarian, ideas.
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The bourgeois tendency, having penetrated, could not announce itself at once, because at the centre of the party were to be found leaders, who had been evaluated and recognized by the proletariat before the revolution, who were still deciding the most important political questions. Lenin, and after his death Stalin, conducted politics in the interest of the proletariat. And at most lower levels of leadership there were still cadre who had been drawn in, trained and promoted in the revolutionary struggle. But time passed and, inevitably, they were replaced with other cadre attracted to the ruling position of the party.
The efforts of the party developed all the links of the state system, including within its sphere of activities and direction the gigantic task of managing Russia. Accordingly, a fusing of the state apparatus and the party occurred at every link from top to bottom, and also, inevitably, in party ideological work, an ever larger place was occupied by the current management tasks of the state.
The continued conduct of proletarian policies was a mitigating factor, but, in many and quite decisive forms, this fusion defined the atmosphere in the continuous political discussions at the very centre of the party. Victory in the struggle had predetermined the support of the proletarian mass and this obstructed the leaders from connecting with the mood of the masses.
In turn, the proletariat had the opportunity to choose the leaders, single them out according to their positions and engage them in discussion; this was the very best form for expressing the interests of the proletariat, even if it was only with the narrow circle which constituted the party centre. It is no coincidence that Stalin, with his profound grasp of Marxist theory, continuously participated in such discussions and was always ready to decide questions by appealing to the proletariat.
The conditions for discussion within the party intensified political development and the growth of the party ranks. But they also acted on the state apparatus in a very disorganizing form, since it was drawn into these discussion through the solid links that had been forged. The more management was stabilized, the more these harmful activities became noticeable.
In 1935-1937 the opposition was decisively removed from the party. This had a number of important consequences.
Firstly, the party-state system acquired an extremely monolithic character, which perhaps was the only thing permitting the USSR to withstand the battle with fascism.
Secondly, the proletariat was completely deprived of the possibility of putting forward leaders or of influencing their nomination; from this moment, the interests of the proletariat were defended only to the extent that they were represented by Stalin personally,
Thirdly, Stalin lost the possibility of verifying his political decisions though the support of the masses.
At this point the dictatorship of the proletariat had still not ended its existence, for, to the extent of his abilities, Stalin was devoted to the interests of the proletariat and unwaveringly embodied them in his policies. However, the conditions for the reproduction of the dictatorship of the proletariat were completely lost; it was fated to die with the death of Stalin.
The years 1935 to 1953 were a period if not of a dead, then of a dying dictatorship of the proletariat.
Why was it that succeeding events were unable to produce a leader that was Stalin's equal, if not his superior, in defending the interests of the proletariat?
At this time the structure of society in the USSR was already such that proletarian democracy, the free will of the organized proletariat, had been completely excluded. The monolithic party-state apparatus was now suitable only for the implementation of ideas from the top down, having at its disposal all the means of direct repression, full control of all means of mass ideological influence and complete control of all social organizations. Naturally, this apparatus had no intention whatsoever of tolerating the dissemination of any ideas harmful to its interests, however necessary they might be to the proletariat. And all ideas expressing the interest of the proletariat brought danger with them, since at the very least, they demanded action and continuous effort directed at the achievement of the proletariat's aims. On the other hand the apparatus was quite ready to act in its personal interest, broadening its rights, perquisites and privileges, while not burdening itself with additional duties.
In these conditions the proletariat had neither the possibility of organizing, nor the opportunity to select a new leader, for the leaders upholding proletarian ideas, had not the least opportunity to arrange a mass link to the proletariat. Besides which, it is quite obvious that the consciousness of society, the consciousness of the proletariat was absolutely unprepared to perceive or recognize such general and extremely numerous significant changes, so focused was it on the leader's death. With horrifying impassivity, society became carried away with reprisals against the last Marxist revolutionary and the libelous campaign to expose the cult of the personality.
Such a swift and terrible revolution had no parallel in history, and some historical distance was necessary in order to develop the required evaluation in the consciousness of society.
The party-state bosses, the Administration, separated from the proletariat by a layer of secondary administrative executors now had the opportunity to promote leaders from their midst and, corresponding to their interests, to change them (M. Malenkov, N. S. Kruschev) until such time as they settled on the most suitable. Liberating themselves from the dictatorship of the proletariat, they rapidly demonstrated that they did not intend to recognize any dictatorship in general, that in the future they would dictate, to whatever leader, the fundamental direction of policy. It is no accident that L. I. Brezhnev arrived at his post under the slogan "Stop shaking up the cadre, give people the opportunity to work peacefully." This was the guarantee, essential to the bosses, of the stability of their situation.
The counterrevolution had taken place. In accordance with their profoundly capitalist essence, they transformed the social structure, giving it quite novel characteristics. Relations between the Administration and the workers were instantly degraded to a feudal level. Sovereignty over the distribution of goods together with sovereign ownership of the entire peoples economy, liberated the Administration from the burden of any type of competitive economic pressure; this meant that the pursuit of maximal profits and the accompanying development of production had become unnecessary for them.
The worries of the administration were reduced to this; allowing their serfs to feed themselves, in order to provide for the reproduction of labour power, but only after they had completely satisfied the wants of the bosses - the Administration.
At the same time, the distribution of the goods expropriated from the proletariat, amongst the bosses and within the dictatorial administration, led to a piling up of complications left over from the previous stage of development of the state, which however had now become purely formal demands. The inevitable struggle for the distribution of goods within the administrations itself, therefore took on a petty-bourgeois, penny-pinching character, when for the sake of trivial gains, millions upon millions were destroyed since they belonged to "nobody" and could not be converted into personal property. This unnatural situation was pregnant with permanent crisis, the resolution of which led, every time, step by step, to the revelation and legalization of its capitalist essence, i.e. to bring the form into correspondence with the content.
This strange, never before observed, form of capitalism gave rise to many delusions, both within the country and beyond its borders. This was greatly assisted by the lack of an authentic model of socialism for comparison, by broad propaganda (inside the country it was generally overwhelming) for the pseudo-marxist theoretical fabrications of the bosses, and by the isolation and separation of the socialist world from capitalist problems. This last was interpreted as a particularity of socialism, but was in fact preordained by the feudal structure. But in spite of all the window dressing, the extravagant beautification and commentary, capitalism remains capitalism.
If we imagine a staunch Marxist, accidentally finding himself at the head of the CPSU and utterly determined to return the country to the path of communist development, the path of following the interests of the proletariat, then we can also imagine the insuperable difficulties which would lie before him, what resistance would be offered by the Administration. Even if this leader had the support of the masses available, he would hardly be able to effect decisive change since the jealous Administration would build a wall to cut off all possibilities of organized contact with them.
Of course, no Marxist could ever, even accidentally, find himself at the head of the fully developed systems in the USSR. Yet history does afford the opportunity to examine such a situation through factual material. For Mao Tse-Tung found himself in exactly this situation.
Up until the mid fifties, the political development in China had repeated, at an accelerated tempo, the experience of the USSR. Perhaps there were other reasons, or perhaps it was the events connected with the appearance in the political arena of N. S. Kruschev, that compelled Mao Tse-Tung to wonder about the soundness of a system capable of producing such activities within the highest levels of leadership. Analysis of the situation in China confirmed the terrible danger; with a few national deviations, which, incidentally, aggravated the situation, the Chinese system was a copy of the Russian one. And in China, the alienation of the party from the masses was clearly revealed, shaping their clan of bosses with the characteristics of a parasitic organism.
Obviously, as with any compromise of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie, such degeneration can only be managed and then overcome only on the revolutionary road, only through the mobilization of the masses for revolutionary struggle. The moment at which such a revolution could have been a continuation of what had gone before had already slipped by. This posed a dilemma; whether to go below in order to organize a new revolutionary movement, or to make maximum use of his personal situation, popularity and continuing control over the administrative system to raise the revolutionary consciousness of the masses. This dilemma, under the concrete conditions, had for Mao a unique rational solution. And he energetically took up its implementation.
The policy of the "Great Leap Forward" was a policy of kindling the initiative of the masses, awakening their consciousness of their relationship to current events along a comparatively "peaceful" road. The awakening of consciousness would give hope of a development toward proletarian control over the management system; but the policy did not meet with success. Obedience rather than recognition remained the decisive factor.
Then the "Cultural Revolution" was a direct appeal for reprisals against the bureaucracy that was forming, an attempt to demonstrate to the masses with cruel facts that they were really in a ruling position in the country, that in their collective actions they were all powerful. Then, in the end, when this process too had failed to produce decisive revolutionary change, there was special attention to the theory of regular revolutionary shocks, to the teachings of Marx on the continuity of revolution right up to communism.
Mao Tse-Tung did not succeed in stirring up a new wave of revolution; an unnecessary reminder that revolution cannot be made to order. And what he accomplished for the raising of the consciousness of the Chinese proletariat is difficult to assess. The situation in China was destabilized, and after the death of Mao this produced a continuation of consciousness raising, for it necessitated seeking support for chosen positions. Even if this process did not burst out in a new revolutionary wave, and the authorities succeeded in stabilizing the situation in the country, the memory of the "Cultural Revolution" will, again and again, give rise to flashes of the revolutionary mood.
The death of Mao Tse-Tung for China, just as the death of Stalin for the USSR, signified the end of the period of proletarian dictatorship. The first great wave of proletarian revolutions, which had lasted sixty years, was over; the world wide crisis of the workers movement had arrived.
What has the experience of the existence of the dictatorship of the proletariat in these two powerful countries taught us?
First, that the victory of the socialist revolution and even the full establishment of the proletarian dictatorship, linked with the liquidation of the bourgeoisie as a class, is not a guarantee of the final turn toward communism. If the proletariat cannot find the ability to take upon itself the fulfillment of the most important social functions, if it cannot discover the organizational form, permitting the control of the distribution of goods by the whole class, then the bourgeoisie will be reborn again and again, and will occupy, once more, its privileged position in society.
Second, capitalism proved its vitality, proved that it exists, like a virus, in any socialist society, ready to conduct its quiet struggle for the global liquidation of revolution, for the degeneration of its system and for a noiseless victory. This is to be understood in the following way; the administrative intelligentsia, to which the proletariat necessarily entrusts some important social functions, will shake off control, form itself as a class and this class will be bourgeois.
Third, the important link between the fundamental categories of the proletarian movement was revealed. It had long been clear that proletarian democracy was unthinkable without the dictatorship of the proletariat; but the history of the proletarian state also proves the opposite, that the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot exist without proletarian democracy.
The proletariat carried the tasks of the seizure of power and its defence against open enemies on its shoulders. But then a new task came to the fore; the maintenance of the battle-readiness of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the corrosive environment of commodity-money relations.
It turns out that the proletariat cannot completely trust any social force whatever, even arising in the very midst of the proletariat. In order to realize its control over them it is absolutely essential to maintain a definite level of self-directed organization of the proletariat as a whole, which is always capable of all-proletarian class activity against any individual forces, including against the state.
Communism is a society of the very highest yet entirely self-directed organization; its only source is the self-directed organization of the working class, shaping mass activity. This means that in order to firmly fix upon the path leading to communism, it still remains for the proletariat to lift itself one more rung toward the highest levels of consciousness. Having won important victories in the battle with capitalism, the proletariat then suffered a no less crushing defeat in the silent battle. Nowhere is the proletariat so deprived of rights as in the socialist countries, where all workers organizations are subjected to the cruelest control of the ruling class, where truly, they find themselves in servitude under the ruling bosses and where disagreement and any self-directed activity is ruthlessly suppressed. Nowhere else does the ruling class appropriate to itself, with such effrontery, the exclusive right to represent the entire people. Nowhere else do the media so relentlessly drum into the proletariat's head that it is precisely this that is in the proletariat's own interests. Nowhere else does the material situation of the working class exhibit such a glaring disparity with the level of production. Nowhere besides the socialist countries, do they preach such hypocritical words about the growth of material well-being and cultural development to a proletariat so impoverished and so lacking in rights. Nowhere else do they intone such sanctimonious appeals to virtue and labour heroism, nor spout with such outrageous cynicism the hallowed slogans of Marxism.
The crisis of the socialist movement lead to the degeneration of proletarian socialism into the very ugliest form of socialism; the rotten, predatory jackal-socialism of the administrative bosses who steal from the proletariat not only for the satisfaction of their personal consumption and for the appropriation of wealth but also in order to destroy anything that remains. In prosecuting its petty-bourgeois, internecine struggle over the booty, the ruling class hardly worries about what will be left over for the proletariat. With its bad management, indifference and devil may care attitude, it transforms to nothing or lets rot unbelievable quantities of the labour invested by the proletariat.
...That, which they cover with beautiful phrase "according to Marx and according to Lenin," that, upon which they base their theoretical elaborations, their "renewals" of Marxism, should lead no one into delusion. And capitalism, whatever form it might take, never neglects any means of ideological pressure in its struggle against the growth of the proletarian masses. And this new bourgeois-feudal form of socialism will never, in anything vital, retreat from its capitalist essence.
Both Marx and all his true followers conducted the struggle not simply for socialism but for proletarian socialism; which means all power to the proletariat and democracy for the proletariat. The proletariat must always understand that its own, undisputed and undivided dictatorship is the obligatory condition for progress, for the development of society toward communism.
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In the twentieth century, like it or not, the workers movement of the whole world came under the decisive influence of the events in the socialist countries.
The victory of the proletariat in the October revolution produced a rise in the revolutionary movement in countries even very far removed from Russia, assisted in the birth of many communist parties and in the implanting of Marxist ideas in various working class movements. These revolutionary birth pangs swept over all the continents, yet nowhere was the proletariat sufficiently organized, sufficiently powerful to seize and hold power. After a series of retreats, the bourgeoisie was able to retake and hold their positions. The international development of the revolutionary process was halted.
The victory of the proletarian revolution in Russia served, for the international proletariat, as a powerful emotional jolt which particularly assisted in initiating a mood of extreme leftism. Such activity could not be long-lived.
The wreck of ultra-left adventures, insufficiently prepared to deal with the real situation, brought about a sobering up and demanded from the working class a more profound assessment. This was assisted by events developing in Russia itself. With the rebirth in the USSR of some forms of capitalist relations (NEP), with a return by the proletariat to a policy of concessions, clarity was lost and their perceptions moved from the emotional to the analytic sphere. An ever greater role was played by the assessment of the economic successes of the USSR; but this development was significantly retarded by the destruction brought about by the Civil and then the World War, together with the complications of the revolutionary process itself.
The socialist construction in the USSR continued to stimulate the interest of all workers, but now this was as a grand experiment, on the results of which depended the direction of their own activities and their energy in the class struggle.
The heroic resistance of the Soviet peoples to German fascism and their complete victory over it brought a new emotional impetus to the international proletarian movement and aroused powerful class solidarity. But the associated activities of the proletariat did not have a directly revolutionary direction. The energetic resistance to fascism influenced support for the USSR. The international proletarian forces powerfully defended its right to the socialist experiment and defended their own interest in a general verification of Marxist ideas on a practical level, in the experiences of the socialist state in the USSR. But, in the Second World War, the USSR sustained enormous material losses, which again necessitated attention to the renewal of its economy to make good this set back in economic development. The appearance, in the postwar period, of the countries of peoples democracy in the socialist camp, broadened the framework of the experiment but brought no change in its essence.
It is no accident that the fundamental centre of the revolutionary movement in the following period shifted to the liberation of countries under the yoke of colonialism. Their economic backwardness frequently permitted no hope of success in bourgeois competitive struggle, while the socialist path protected them against the most ruthless exploitation. However, it was also no accident that among them, those possessing a sufficiently developed national bourgeoisie chose the path of cooperation with the capitalist world and did not meet with especially great resistance on the part of their working class.
Such an, if you like "abnormal," theoretically unforeseen shift of the revolution from the most developed countries to the most backward, enables the insight that the decisive factor for the energy of the revolutionary proletarian movement of the entire world, at the contemporary historical stage, is the economic situation of the workers in the socialist countries, and in the first place in the USSR.
The stimulus to activity of humanity is controlled by two factors; the desirability of the aims and an assessment of the cost of achieving them. Whether we like it or not, the energy of the proletarian class and its readiness for revolutionary activity is defined in this way. Besides the constructiveness of the leading ideas, i.e. their suitability for embodiment in the practical activities of the proletariat, we must look at the significance and richness of the results to which they lead, that is at the changes in the political, economic and social circumstances of the workers.
If, at the start of the 20th century, it was the differences between the economic, political and social situations of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie which could act as a measure of the revolutionization of the proletariat, after the victory of October the measure became the comparison of the position of the workers under capitalist and socialist conditions. This is why the development of the socialist economy became the decisive factor in the world revolutionary movement.
The loss of the proletarian dictatorship, the bourgeois degeneration of the socialist camp and the rebirth within it of feudal relations continued to be hidden from the proletariat of the entire world. The consequences of this degeneration were pushed as the unique, utterly "Marxist" development of the proletariat's victory by the mutual efforts of both the bourgeois and the socialist propaganda machines. And although the Chinese propagandists expended considerable effort to disclose the actual situation, their declarations were less authoritative because of the economic backwardness of China itself. The position of workers in the USSR continued to be perceived by the proletarians of all countries as the normal results of Marxist ideas. It is hardly surprising that for the workers of the advanced capitalist countries any struggle for the achievement of such a result produced little revolutionary enthusiasm.
The leaders of the communist parties of the advanced capitalist countries long since understood the unpopularity among the proletarian masses of any ideas tied to a repetition of the Russian experience. However, instead of exposing the facts to a Marxist analysis, instead of separating the tasks and direction of proletarian revolution from the mistakes and perversions which led to the wreck of the dictatorship of the proletariat, instead of deepening the theory, the communist parties themselves took up a superficial propagandist posture, occupied opportunist positions and began to feel "liberated from Marxism." The economic slowing down of the socialist countries, in comparison to the definite successes of the most developed countries of the capitalist camp, gave rise among the proletariat itself in the less developed countries to a tendency and social movement in the direction of "improving and perfecting" the capitalist system. This tendency has nothing in common with either Marxism or the interests of the proletariat, but was precisely what was exploited by the largest communist parties such as the French and the Italians, among others. It was precisely this tendency which served as the foundation for the "new models" of socialism, which gave rise to the vast pseudo-marxist "theoretical" literature and which was the source and support of the pseudocommunist propaganda.
This meant not just a crisis in proletarian ideology, but also a worldwide crisis of philosophy and political economy generally. In our times, the period of the universal crisis of capitalism, the political formations in the world are changing at an ever increasing speed, for capitalism is obliged to continually invent newer and newer tricks to safeguard itself from final collapse. In these condition, any idealist philosophical system is smashed to bits by the sharp turns of reality. Moreover any predictions it makes are inevitably wrong; whereas those founded on an improved point of view, on materialism, receive immediate confirmation. Thus, no positive platform can ever appear justified nor will it be given time to prove its justifiability. On the contrary, it is negative justifiability and construction by refutation which are invariably affirmed. It is no accident that, more and more frequently, elaborations of a "philosophy of universal negation" burst out into print, sometimes embellished with confused practical recommendations expressing the author's desires.
On the other hand, there remains the unique theory capable of understanding and explaining all the twists and turns of capitalist society.
This theory is Marxism.
It is understandable the ruling class avoids it, for it continues to predict its downfall. The causes of the unpopularity of Marxism among the critical left are less obvious. But this results from the attempt, using a Marxist, materialist, interpretation of the present, to comprehend, on this basis, the conformity to law of the existing socialist countries, that is to comprehend them as conformiing to the laws of socialist development. Instead of revealing their capitalist essence, instead of seeing them as extraordinarily complicated, intricate, camouflaged forms, it subjects Marxism to a violent distortion; it "improves" and "enriches" it to such an extent that it can accommodate the countries of the socialist camp in the framework of a presentation of socialist theory.
After this sort of "improvement," Marxist theory, has become such a useless instrument, that with its help it is possible to prove the socialist character of the bourgeois state, the harmony of classes under capitalism and that the intelligentsia is now the seat of revolution. It can prove anything you like; but it is of absolutely no use to anyone for interpreting the processes that are really going on in the world.
Thus arise countless constructions of "true," "orthodox," "authentic" Marxism, which are remarkable for their renunciation of the key principle of Marxism, its materialist foundations and their incorporation of mountains of idealist junk, beginning with the ethical foundation of Marxism and ending with a "Marxified" fideism. But this only replenishes the ranks of the countless idealist theories which are mercilessly smashed to bits by life.
If the underdeveloped countries are still capable of waging a struggle, motivated by their striving to overcome their own backwardness, then the remainder of humanity is living through a great social crisis. This crisis combines the universal crisis of capitalism, the crisis of philosophy, the crisis of Marxism and the crisis of the workers movement. A crisis of this depth arises because while capitalism has almost completely exhausted the social resources needed to maintain its existence, it turns out that the only real alternative, socialism, is bankrupt. This bankruptcy lies in the inability of socialism to provide convincing proof to the masses of its superiority.
The fact that this crisis is a crisis engendered by a mass delusion, that proletarian socialism cannot demonstrate its superiority for a unique, yet valid reason, namely that it does not exist in reality, but is thought by the deluded imagination to exist, this fact will not quickly be recognized by humanity.
What is needed is a decisive argument. And such an argument, opening up a way out of the protracted social crisis, can only be the establishment, in one country, of an authentic dictatorship of the proletariat which realizes its economic superiority and on this basis achieves a fundamental change in the position of the workers. Only the very obvious form of a marked break in the political, economic and social situation of the workers can revolutionize the proletariat of the advanced capitalist countries, indicating to them the path of struggle.
At the present time, once more, only one country, Russia, is capable of taking upon itself this historic mission. The revolutionization of the Russian proletariat, and once again, this is dictated by the difference in situation of the working and ruling classes, has already reached a socially decisive level, and continues to grow. The deepening crisis of the Soviet economy urgently demands a recovery of the vision which would permit a restoration of the dictatorship of the proletariat. But the proletariat in Russia is weakly organized; it is extremely difficult for it to organize and to exchange ideas. If the moment for the repetition of the proletarian revolution slips by, then the crisis in Russia will conclude with the commonplace transformation through the loss of stability in the state economy. This will hardly assist the conduct of proletarian political struggle and will relegate Russia to the faceless ranks of the second rate capitalist powers.
History is not so generous as to grant the proletariat the certainty of decisive victory. But defeat and failure will also enable the accumulation of priceless experience, the development of the theoretical worldview and of proletarian class consciousness, and thus, consequently, the overcoming of future delusions on the path to final victory.