Wednesday, April 19, 2006

On Anti-Revisionism and Unity in the Marxist-Leninist Movement

A response to the call put forward by the Communist Party of the Philippines concerning the 5oth anniversary of the anti-revisionist movement (the contemporary ML movement) and the necessity of renewing our commitment in the struggle against revisionism.

I was just reading over the Proposal for the Unification of the International Communist Movement and the fine companion piece, On Certain Aspects of the Struggle Against Revisionism put forward by the Worker's Party of Belgium and I have some thoughts. I was thinking about how Marxist-Leninists relate to each other, deal with questions of line, hold to principle while building unity in struggle, and so on. In addition to the call put forward by the CPP and two documents mentioned above, I would like to recall for the puposes of this article the document put forward by Mao Zedong in 1957, A Dialectical Approach to Inner-Party Unity.

The paper put forward by Com. Martens contians several points necessary to recognize and which ground possible discussion of this issue. Some of the main arguements really get to the heart of the line struggles that have always been at the center of the anti-revisionist movement.

First there is the question of actually-existing socialism. The line in the ML movement after the 20th Congress of the CPSU, when the Soviet Union, under Krushechov slandered the greatest Marxist-Leninist of the time, Josef Stalin, in order to subvert Leninism and begin to liberalize the economy, the party, the state, and society. As Mao Zedong said at the time, " In the Soviet Union, those who once extolled Stalin to the skies have now in one swoop consigned him to purgatory. Here in China some people are following their example. It is the opinion of the Central Committee that Stalin's mistakes amounted to only 30 per cent of the whole and his achievements to 70 per cent, and that all things considered Stalin was nonetheless a great Marxist" (On the Ten Major Relationships - for a more general treatment of the question of revisionism see my article, Socialism or Barbarism? Review of "Another View of Stalin"). Nonetheless, the Chinese tailed behind the USSR in their criticisms of the Stalin era and made many judgements without a thorough investigation. This lead to some "left" errors.

However, the line in the ML movement (in China this line was advanced by Lin Biao), was that the CPSU was thoroughly revisionist and that the USSR had suffered a coup, was now a bourgeious state, and was no longer socialist but "social-imperialist" and "social-fascist." But can a change in the socio-economic structure of society change overnight, following a political/ideological shift? Marxists do not think so. Such a theory in fact goes against Marxism-Leninism. And this brings us to one of the interesting points that Com. Martens discusses. Krushechov brought revisionism into power in the CPSU, Brezshnev advanced it, and Gorbachov consolidated it with his "restructuring." Socialism didn't "collapse" or "fail" in the USSR. In fact, the struggle against revisionism takes place in the context of what Mao Zedong called the struggle between two lines and two roads, the "two line struggle" between those who would fight for communism and those who would fight for capitalism within the socialist state.

As Lenin had made clear in his Economics and Politics in the Era of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, "Theoretically, there can be no doubt that between capitalism and communism there lies a definite tranition period which must combine the features and properties of both these forms of social economy. This transition period has to be a period of struggle between dying capitalism and nascent communism -- or, in other words, between capitalism which has been defeated but not destroyed and communism which has been born but is still very feeble."

So the bourgeois forces, taking root wherever they can, will fight for liberalization, for the legalization of their old parties, for space to speak their views and to subvert the proletarian state, and the CP fights for our class, to build instituions which serve our class, and to form a true democracy for our class - all without letting the bourgeoisie regain the political and economic reigns of society. The question of actually existing socialism is not principally a question of superstructure - that is, who has the political power (though it factors in, of course), the question of capitalist restoration concerns the relations of production first and formost - it is principally a question of the base. It always is. Such are the ABCs of Marxism.

But within the ML movement today there is a disagreement regarding actually existing socialism. I agree with the line of Freedom Road Socialist Organization, an important ML group which came out of the New Communist Movement during the '70s, on this issue: there are actually existing socialist countries and there is a sharp contradiction (though it is not the fundamental contradiction) between them and the imperialist powers. Other groups, such as the parties around RIM (such as the Revolutionary Communist Party USA), and the "Left Refoundationist" split group from FRSO (which still calls itself FRSO) argue that there are no actually existing socialist countries. Again, in my opinion, this is a fundamentally anti-Marxist position. Revisionism is real. It eats away at socialist countries from the inside, but it doesn't happen overnight, and I would't say that it isn't present in some socialist countries today. It is a disease, and it can be fatal, but it isn't necessarily incurable.

This is one of the main debates within the anti-revisionist movement. Whereas many "Maoist" or MLM groups have taken up this position against actually existing socialism in the name of anti-revisionism, I would hold that it is in fact a form of "left" revisionism, or at least it can be. Notice how the ideological formulation of the "Maoist" movement (MLM) deletes both Stalin and Engels from the standard list of principal theoreticians of the Marxist-Leninist movement (the CPP is not guilty of this), again in the interest of "correcting" or "going beyond" Stalin. This is a dangerous error for the anti-revisionist movement. I, personally, having studied the Stalin era thoroughly, and having analyzed the Chinese experience in detail, don't see much of a reason to place Mao over Stalin. They are in fact incomparable.

But, regardless of this, the proposal put forward by the Worker's Party of Belgium, is, I think, a solid one. Historically, Com. Martens discusses, the ML movement has been divided into four basic camps: the pro-USSR, the pro-Chinese, the pro-Albanian, and the pro-Cuban (also there are "independents"). After 1991, it is important to note, the pro-USSR camp has more or less disintegrated whereas the pro-Chinese camp has grown, largely, into todays Marxist-Leninist-Maoist groupings. The proposal put forward by the Belgian comrades, as I understand it, is that we can put aside these old debates (not debates on matters of principle, but debates such as the old "who is better?" question that you have in the Stalin-Mao-Hoxha question) in the interest of uniting around the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism. This means taking a very critical anti-revisionist position in the interest of unity-struggle-unity, and being on guard against both "Right" revisionism (or "red" liberalism - Right opportunism) as well as "Left" revisionism (or "Left" dogmatism). While these to trends of revisionism appear to be opposed they are actually comrades in arms in the dismantling of the ML movement. Some parties in the ML movement have gone a long way down both of these revisionist roads and it is not good to see. Where some are questioning "Stalinian Marxism" as the fundamental error of socialism in the 20th century, others are talking about the sort of multi-party democracy that Lenin himself always spoke against as an "advance" in the theory and practice of MLM.

All of that being said, I would like to make a proposal of my own. In light of the call from the CPP, and in the interest of unity, I propose that we discuss this question of uniting the internatinal communist movement around a Marxist-Leninist general line. We will need some common ground for discussion, so I would also suggest that we base this dicussion first on our own unity as communists, then we can discuss the documents mentioned above. All of this in the hopes of coming to a new unity. I will take this discussion very seriously, and I hope any who want to participate will do so as well. This is a pressing matter and deserves the attention of all people who would fight for the emancipation of the people of the world.
A final word.
While I don't agree entirely with the line of Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), I have immense respect for them. I think they are a very good party and I give them my full support in their just struggle. The whole world watches with bated breath as the stand on the edge of securing the power of the state in their country and founding the first new socialist country in the 21st century. That being said I will end this little article of mine with a quote from Chairman Prachanda, from his recent interview in the Hindu:
Traditionally, in the international communist movement there are two types of revisionism - right revisionism of class collaboration, and the other, dogmato-revisionism, of turning certain ideas into a dogma and getting stuck to them. This is more among the Maoists. Those who call themselves Maoists are more prone to dogmato-revisionism, and we have to fight against this too.

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Anonymous Lao Hong Han, in the spirit of unity-struggle-unity, said...

A brief correction. It is not the case that the Freedom Road Socialist Organization/OrganizaciĆ³n Socialista del Camino para la Libertad--as distinct from FRSO [Fight Back]--argues that there are no actually existing socialist countries. FRSO/OSCL adopted a resolution at (IIRC)its 1997 Congress upholding Cuba as a socialist country. This has never, to my knowledge, been rescinded.

5:50 AM  
Anonymous leftspot, in the spirit of unity-struggle-unity, said...

Good point lao hong han. It is also my understanding that there was a resolution passed at FRSO's 1997 Congress (before the split) that upheld Cuba as a socialist country. That said, I can't recall seeing anything put out publicly by FRSO [Left Refoundationist] since the split that upholds Cuba or refers to it as a socialist country.

I would ask what FRSO [Left Refoundationist] sees as the distinction between the political economy of Cuba and that of, say, Vietnam, and why one is allegedly socialist and the other is allegedly capitalist. But I don't imagine that FRSO [Left Refoundationist] has a worked out organizational line on such questions.

I think it's one of the drawbacks of a 'left refoundationist' type of approach, that it can easily end up in eclecticism, rather than having a coherent line that can be be proven right or wrong in practice. So for example Cuba is called 'socialist' in a resolution at one Congress, but all countries that drew on the Soviet model are summed up as an overall failure in the 'Crisis of Socialism' document. So is Cuba a socialist country to be upheld, or is it an overall failure that therefore provides mainly negative lessons, or is it an overall failure that is to be upheld?

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous, in the spirit of unity-struggle-unity, said...

Comrade! Both FRSO's organizational ancestors slandered the Soviet Union as "state capitalist" and "social-imperialist" and made cheap McCarthyite inspired shots at the Communist Party of the USA (calling them "slavish to Moscow"). SO FORGIVE COMRADE ZERO'S PERFECTLY UNDERSTANDABLE MISTAKE.

You should join me in awarding Comrade Zero
as the AWESOME self-congratulating leader of the backslapping of the year award instead of raising mild ...um..."criticisms(?)".

6:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous, in the spirit of unity-struggle-unity, said...


5:00 PM  

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