Chapter 17 – Two options – submission or revolution
by Peter Cohen
“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
– Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, quoted in The New York Times, 26 November 2006
It is seldom that a prominent member of the ruling class publicly admits the existence of class conflict. Buffett refers to “the rich class”, but he is in fact a capitalist, one of a tiny minority who own and/or control the means of production, distribution and exchange, and who accumulate wealth by exploiting the majority of the population.
Buffett says the ruling class is winning, but he does not indicate the state of affairs that will result from a possible victory. The probability is that the socio-economic structure of societies in the imperialist nations will resemble Russia, or even Indonesia, the Philippines and Bangladesh.
Although Buffett says that his class is running a class war, they did not launch it. Class warfare, or conflict, or struggle, has existed ever since class society arose thousands of years ago. And the existence of the conflict does not depend on the participants being aware of it.
The interests of slaves and masters, serfs and lords, peasants and landlords, wage-earners and employers are in conflict irrespective of their consciousness or their volition. For example, the owners of a corporation may or may not be conscious of class struggle, but the basic antagonism between their interests and those of their employees still exists.
The logic of corporate economy is unavoidable. Maximizing profits is not a selectable option for the owners. It is an imperative. Profits must be maximized, or the corporation risks either collapse or acquisition by another owner.
Maximizing the payoff for the owners requires minimizing the payoff for the workers who produce the goods and/or services that the corporation sells. One man’s meat is another man’s poison, like it or not.
This was evident to Aristotle more than two thousand years ago. He pointed out that the Greek ruling-class minority would not be able to lead its comfortable life if the products of labor were distributed equally, for this would mean that everyone would have had to work. Maintaining “our way of life” required appropriating the products of slave labor, which in turn required perpetuating the system of slavery.
Aristotle, the great expert on the sociology and politics of the Greek city, always proceeds on the basis of a class analysis and takes it for granted that men will act, politically and otherwise, above all according to their economic position (de Ste. Croix, 2001).
Irrespective of public pronouncements, ruling-class opposition to the Communist movement is based on similar reasoning. If the national income and the products and services generated by the working class were to be distributed in its own interest, the owners of the system would be deprived of their wealth and would be forced to work for their livings or flee to safe havens in other countries. That is what happened after the October Revolution in Russia.
There is an important difference between ancient slave societies and modern capitalist societies, however. Production technology in classical Greece was extremely limited, so that a long working day would have been unavoidable even if everyone had had to participate in production. As Karl Marx pointed out, the technology available in the mid-19th century would have enabled reducing the working day substantially in a society based on equitable distribution. It is not a coincidence that by 1932 the working day in the Soviet Union had been reduced to seven hours, although the country was still at an early stage of industrialization and available technology was not nearly as advanced as it is today.
For the first time in history, technology has been created that could liberate mankind from drudgery. But the potential is unrealized because of the logic of corporate capitalism – the majority work for the benefit of the minority, not for their own.
If visitors from outer space were to arrive in Sweden on a weekday afternoon they would be amazed to find that the systems for production and distribution comprise a complex social network of millions of people who continuously cooperate and coordinate their efforts in order to produce and deliver goods and services. The visitors would be even more amazed to discover that these millions of people are working to generate profits for a tiny minority of the population.
The logic of the corporate economy reflects the basic contradiction in modern capitalist society, between the social nature of production and the private appropriation of profit by a minority.
The establishment of the Soviet Union eliminated this basic contradiction and set an example for the workers and peasants of the rest of the world. It also deprived Western capitalists of the substantial profits that had been generated for them by exploitation of the Tsar’s subjects.
That is why the Soviet Union was attacked in 1918, and that is why the attack continued throughout the 20th century.
The long war on the Soviet Union was a class war. It had nothing to do with promoting democracy, freedom, or human rights. It was aimed at promoting the interests of the Western ruling class. It was a clear manifestation of the irreconcilable conflict between capitalism and Communism, between the interests of the ruling minority and the working majority.
The class war, or conflict, or struggle remains the central fact of human life on this planet. Warren Buffett clearly understands that the class war continues today on all fronts. The sooner everyone else realizes this, the closer we will be to the end of the capitalist system.
(Ben Stein, the author of the NYT article, describes Buffett as “one of the smartest men on the planet”, which supposedly proves that the size of your bank account is the prime measure of your intelligence.)
The invisible profit motive
The post-1945 conflict between the West and Soviet Union, often erroneously called the Cold War, is of course widely treated in mainstream histories of the 20th century and in contemporary media accounts. But since the existence of the class struggle is ignored or denied, discussions of the causes of the conflict usually do not include the need for Western capitalists to eliminate any and all obstacles to profit maximization. The profit motive is generally invisible, even in such objective analyses such as Christopher Layne’s The Peace of Illusions.
Instead, the causes of the conflict are identified as everything from Stalin‘s pathological lust for glory and the Soviet desire for world domination – in the most vulgar versions, according to NSC Directive 68 – to the incompatibility of Western and Soviet interests that are almost always defined as “political”, “ideological” or “geo-strategic”. Soviet fears of renewed attacks by the West after the end of the War of Intervention are ascribed to paranoiac tendencies about “perceived threats”. It is often implied that Western antagonism to Communism is understandable, because Communism is an evil system of enslavement and the leaders of the West desire only to liberate the slaves.
Similarly, in most of the books by Western experts cited in previous chapters, the economic and social programs and policies of Communist governments are rarely discussed. They are as invisible as the profit motive. There are however a number of exceptions, such as Robert C. Allen, David F. Schmitz and Robert W. Thurston, as well as Alexander Werth and other journalists such as Walter Duranty, the New York Times’ Moscow correspondent in the 1930s.
Invisible socio-economic programs
The general reluctance to discuss Communist programs and policies is perfectly natural, because they benefit the working class and are thus opposed by Western capitalists. It would be difficult to explain this opposition without coming dangerously close to an admission of the reality of class struggle. And anything that illustrates its factual existence is outside “the arena of discourse”.
The denial of class struggle also explains why mainstream accounts of Fascism (as in Carl J. Friedrich, Hannah Arendt, Robert Paxton and Peter Hayes) are devoted to hiding the incontrovertible fact that it is a specific manifestation of a capitalist society. As we have seen, German and international capitalists supported Fascist governments because it served their interests to do so – Fascist governments promised to wage a brutal class war to suppress the working class and obliterate Communism. Since this support cannot be explained without discussing class society and class conflict, the historical reality must be ignored. But “Whoever refuses to discuss capitalism should keep silent about Fascism”, as Max Horkheimer said (Chapter 3).
The invisible capitalist holocaust – global war on humanity
The insatiable need of capitalists to maximize their profits at the expense of the majority of the world’s population is driving a war against humanity on a global scale, a war that also involves continuous degradation of the environment in which humanity currently exists. Like profit maximization, the capitalist holocaust is not a selectable option. It is an absolute necessity for the owners of the system if they are to achieve their goal. Any and all opposition must be eliminated or at best neutralized.
The weapons of destruction are both economic and military, and the results are evident. But they are not recognized as symptoms of the capitalist system.
For example, the slave wages paid in neo-colonies and to a growing extent within the imperialist nations are known, not least because they are occasionally reported in the mainstream media. They are generally regarded as unfortunate phenomena arising from the greed of irresponsible individuals or companies. They are not regarded as unavoidable outcomes of profit maximization.
The same applies to other symptoms, such as wars of aggression, poverty starvation, unemployment, slavery, child labor, prostitution, trafficking, lack of education, health care, clean water or adequate housing, genocide (as in Palestine) and ethnic cleansing. In accordance with the teachings of Karl Popper, these phenomena are regarded as non-repetitive events that have no connection with each other or with anything else.
The capitalist holocaust as a global war is a reality that cannot be acknowledged by the leaders of the capitalist system, the propagandists, or the victims of the Western propaganda industry. Ideologically the capitalist holocaust is as invisible as a sunset to a blind man.
Criticism of the evils of capitalism
However, over the past 15 years there seems to have been a powerful upsurge in public criticism of various aspects of the capitalist system. The criticism takes a variety of forms, from mass demonstrations to events such as the World Social Forum as well as books, articles and documentary films.
The destructive effects of capitalism are sometimes described as objectionable in themselves, and sometimes as symptoms of the system. As far as I can see this reflects the two dominant alternative positions among the critics – reform the system, or replace it.
Many people have made valuable contributions to revealing the destructive effects of capitalism, as well as the methods used by major corporations and the governments that serve them. Several of these people have been referred to previously.
In recent years the most prominent critics have included, Susan George, Naomi Klein, Diana Johnstone, Edward Herman, Nobel laureate economists Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, journalists such as Barbara Ehrenreich, John Pilger, Robert Fisk and Pepe Escobar, and organizations such as Oxfam. Information about the deadly effects of capitalism is widely available on the Internet, in uncountable blogs as well as sites such as globalresearch.ca, truth-out.org, antiwar.com and thirdworldtraveler.com
Identification of malignant symptoms is often a preliminary to proposing a cure which will eliminate the disease that causes them. But the above critics either do not suggest any solution at all, or limit themselves to advocating Keynesian economic policies (such as increased government spending to boost buying power) and more regulation of “rogue capitalism”.
Many descriptions of the financial crisis that arose in 2008 have suggested that the market economy was somehow under control before the financial sector was deregulated (as by Reagan and Clinton). It can of course be argued that the various types of regulatory codes that were in force prior to 1990 prevented the worst excesses, but even if they did the historical record outlined in previous pages shows that capitalism was on the rampage throughout the 20th century, irrespective of Roosevelt’s New Deal or the development of social insurance systems in Western Europe.
The argument for restoring and/or increasing regulatory codes ignores the fact that regulation had no effect on the deterioration of the condition of the working class, i.e. on the class struggle. Real wages have been in general decline ever since the mid-1970s, unemployment has risen continuously and is still increasing, and working conditions for those who have jobs have been steadily getting worse in both the imperialist countries and the neo-colonies.
According to a report released on 26 September 2011 by the International Labor Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 20 million jobs were lost in the G-20 countries between 2008 and 2011. There are no indications that 20 million more jobs will be available in the foreseeable future.
Regulation did not prevent the launching of devastating wars of aggression ever since 1945, or massacres as in Guatemala and Indonesia. It did not have any significant effect on poverty, starvation or the development of a global production system based on slavery. Nor did regulation do much to prevent continued environmental destruction.
The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and other organizations for the promotion of capitalist interests have implemented their policies without noticeable difficulties.
On the other hand, there is no doubt that since the mid-1880s efforts to regulate the activity of capitalists and corporations have in general had positive effects on the condition of the working class in the imperialist countries. These efforts have reflected the class struggle, but their effects have been transitory and have been of little or no value to the bulk of the world’s population that inhabits the neo-colonies. Their condition has been consistently ignored for more than 150 years.
Given the historical record and the powerful position of the capitalist class in the imperialist countries, reforming capitalism is a futile dream. The gigantic problems generated by the capitalist system cannot be solved within the framework of the system. It must be overthrown.
The great Irish socialist James Connolly correctly described the effects of trying to avoid the effects of capitalist domination without replacing capitalism itself:
If you remove the English Army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts will be in vain. England will still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs. (Socialism and Nationalism, 1897 http://www.redbrick.dcu.ie/~sinnfein/Deafhocail.html)
Advocates of socialism
It is of course impossible to estimate how many people have realized that the capitalist system cannot be reformed or cured, and that it must be replaced by socialism, but judging by the scope and intensity of the propaganda war the number seems to be significant.
Outside the established Communist parties the people who advocate socialism represent a number of different political positions, but they share several viewpoints, chiefly antagonism to the Soviet Union and the Communist movement in general, an aversion to organized political action, and a reluctance to outline practical strategies for the overthrow of capitalism.
The text below deals with four members of what may be called the anti-Communist Left, whom I have selected because their ideas seem to be representative, judging by comments on the Internet and elsewhere.
Noam Chomsky and Immanuel Wallerstein are both well-known and occupy prominent positions in the unorganized anti-capitalist movement. They both do star turns at the annual World Social Forum. Michael Lebowitz and Marta Harnecker are self-proclaimed Marxists and advisers to the Chávez government in Venezuela, which is one of the few that is committed to resisting the forces of imperialism.
Noam Chomsky on capitalism and socialism
Chomsky’s general view of capitalism was expressed in an interview published in 1991, available at http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/1991—-02.htm
He starts by stating that the terms “capitalism” and “socialism” are devoid of content, and that
There’s nothing remotely like capitalism in existence. To the extent there ever was, it had disappeared by the 1920s or ’30s. Every industrial society is one form or another of state capitalism. But we’ll use the term “capitalism,” since that is more or less its present meaning (emphasis in original).
Since Chomsky offers no definition of capitalism past or present, it is worth repeating the section “What is capitalism?” from Chapter 3:
What is capitalism?
In a modern society, the means of production include land, buildings, equipment, tools and raw materials. The criteria that define a society as capitalist are:
- The vast majority of the people who work to produce the goods and services required by society do not own or control the means of production. These are owned and controlled by a small minority of the population. In order to survive, the people who do the work have to sell their labor-power to the owners.
- The owners control the means of production through private companies that are in competition with each other for e.g. market shares, raw materials, investment capital and investment opportunities.
- The reality of competition forces the owners to accumulate as much capital as possible, i.e. to maximize profits.
- The purpose of production is therefore to enable the owners to maximize profits.
In many capitalist countries, various types of companies are state-owned, such as those supplying basic inputs for an industrialized society in the form of electricity, gas, water or transportation. In most cases this has occurred because either the so-called free market could not supply these inputs efficiently or reliably, or the majority of the population was able to exert enough political pressure to compel nationalization.
The small minority that owns the bulk of the means of production in the private sector normally exerts a good deal of influence on the management of important state-owned firms, to the extent that they can be said to control them. And the government normally aims to ensure that such companies serve the needs of the minority.
Chomsky goes on to say that capitalism suffered a catastrophe from about 1975 onward, apparently referring to the onset of permanent stagnation, and that the “economic collapse” extended to the Soviet Union, “which has even less to do with socialism than our system has to do with capitalism”. Evidence that the capitalist economic crisis spread to the Soviet Union is scanty.
The interviewer is obviously uncomfortable with Chomsky’s lack of precision, and asks him to “Explain a little more what you mean by state capitalism”. Chomsky’s response is vague, if not evasive. He refers to a recent
…move toward one kind or another of state-interventionist forms. As an example, the Reagan-Bush administrations are the most protectionist since World War II, doubling the percentage of imports subject to various forms of restriction.
This is followed by a comment on the so-called Tiger economies “in the Japanese periphery” which were state-capitalist societies according to him. He gives the example of South Korea, where the flight of capital was controlled, and the state not only terrorized workers but was able to “…regulate the capitalists too”.
The rest of the interview consists of comments on the Carter, Reagan and Bush administrations. No additional information is given about the nature of state capitalism.
We are left to conclude that the main features of state capitalism, as opposed to “true” capitalism, are intervention by the state and protectionism in the form of tariff barriers and restrictions on imports. (At a meeting of economic policy advisers during his first term, president George Bush Jr. explained that the biggest problem with imports is that “most of them come from abroad”.)
Chomsky’s view of the state, capitalism and the relation between them is ahistorical. He apparently believes that the state is a sort of abstract entity, divorced from social classes, which Chomsky rarely mentions. But a state is not an abstraction. It is a social construct which at any given point in time reflects the balance of forces between the contending classes in a society. Its personnel and its leaders come from and are connected to these classes.
The struggle for control of the state is part of the class struggle. The class that controls the state naturally does its best to ensure that when the state intervenes in the affairs of society – which it does continuously – the intervention will be in the interests of the controlling class.
In capitalist societies the ruling class has always expended a great deal of effort to seize and maintain control of the state. Chomsky’s idea that there once was – possibly – some sort of pure capitalism which existed without state intervention is divorced from historical reality.
For example, capitalism developed fastest in the UK, where the evidence for state intervention on behalf of the capitalist class is overwhelming. The series of Enclosure Acts from 1750 to the mid-19th century threw millions of agricultural laborers off the land, so that they were forced to gain a livelihood by selling their labor power to capitalists, who of course purchased it as cheaply as possible.
British wars for colonial dominion represent state intervention on a gigantic scale. It was the state that recruited and equipped the armed forces that fought and died for the capitalists. It was the state that financed them, creating a huge national debt through the Bank of England, which the British public has had to bear. We have seen that World War 1 was a war between imperialists. The state was responsible for organizing and administering the armaments programs that preceded it as well as recruiting and equipping the armies, which involved intervening in the economy by purchasing huge amounts of war materiel from companies owned by capitalists. Industrial capitalists and bankers in the UK, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary and the US contributed nothing to the cost of the state-run war. On the contrary, they made money from it.
State intervention was also a standard component in the growth of capitalism in the US, not only in the form of wars. One of the most ludicrous and illustrative examples took the form of enormous subsidies paid by the state to railroad builders in the mid-19th century. The establishment of the American transcontinental rail network was of course one of the key enablers for the development of capitalism in the US. Many of the details of state intervention on behalf of American capitalists are given in Matthew Josephson’s The Robber Barons.
As for protectionism, it has always existed. All the major industrial capitalist nations developed behind tariff walls that ensured capitalists of a captive domestic market. Chomsky’s claim that protective tariffs are evidence of a new system that is not capitalism is without foundation.
Chomsky does not seem to understand that the core of capitalism consists of ownership of the means of production by a tiny minority, i.e. capitalists. If as he claims capitalism disappeared by the 1920s or 1930s, to whom was the ownership of the means of production transferred? Who owns them today?
It is painfully obvious in Western Europe, the US and Japan that the state is controlled and run by capitalists to further their own interests. Chomsky’s claim that in South Korea the state was regulating capitalists is absurd. The capitalists who controlled the state ensured that it implemented strategies which prevented foreign capitalists from penetrating their domestic market, at least until pressure from those same capitalists forced them to lift restrictions.
Chomsky makes no mention of the fact that a good deal of the growth of Tiger Economies such as South Korea and Taiwan depended on their positions as Most Favored Nations (MFN), which was given to them by the American state, which intervened for political reasons and enabled them to penetrate the US market. The pressure to open their markets was based on a threat to cancel their MFN status.
In a later interview in 1999 Chomsky modified his view of state capitalism, claming that it had always existed.
Systems like capitalism and socialism and communism have never been tried. What we’ve had since the Industrial Revolution was one or another form of state capitalism. It’s been overwhelmed, certainly in the last century, by big conglomerations of capital corporate structures that are all interlinked with one another and form strategic alliances and administer markets and so on. And are tied up with a very powerful state. So it’s some other kind of system – call it whatever you want. Corporate-administered markets in a powerful state system (emphasis added).
In this confused passage Chomsky reveals himself as a philosophical idealist in the worst tradition of Plato. He apparently believes that at some point in time someone invented something called capitalism and then wrote a manual which exists somewhere, but no one has ever implemented its instructions. Chomsky does not indicate whether he has read it.
There is no user’s manual for capitalism, however. Like the state, it has never existed in the abstract. It grew out of a specific set of historical circumstances, and like all socio-economic systems has evolved and changed over the years. But it has retained its essential features in terms of property relations and production relations. “Call it whatever you want”, says Chomsky rather petulantly. Then let us call it capitalism and stop playing silly word-games.
Chomsky clarified his view of capitalism to some extent in an unpublished interview, http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/19891103.htm
Well, free-market capitalism existed to an extent in England for a while in the mid-19th century, but it didn’t last very long. Ever since then, there’s been one or another form of state coordinated economy.
Capitalism is thus equated with an undefined “free-market capitalism”. But by the mid-19th century the British state had been intervening in the interest of capitalists for some time, e.g., enacting helpful legislation to enable control of markets and labor power, fighting wars and arresting or shooting workers, as at Peterloo, near Manchester, in 1819.
There is no basis in fact for the assertion that ever since the mid-19th century the capitalist economy that developed in the leading industrial nations was “state-coordinated”. Among other things, the recurring economic crises that have plagued the capitalist economy ever since the mythical “free market” disappeared indicate clearly that the economy was not coordinated, by the state or any other institution.
Anarchism, the state and the overthrow of capitalism
In every capitalist society, both the economy and the state are controlled by the capitalist class. It therefore seems axiomatic that socialism cannot be developed unless the economy and the state are controlled by the working class. So the first step must consist in seizing power from the capitalists.
Noam Chomsky is an anarchist, or libertarian socialist, by his own account. In Notes on Anarchism he quotes Rudolph Rocker, an anarchist historian:
For the anarchist, freedom is not an abstract philosophical concept, but the vital concrete possibility for every human being to bring to full development all the powers, capacities, and talents with which nature has endowed him, and turn them to social account. The less this natural development of man is influenced by ecclesiastical or political guardianship, the more efficient and harmonious will human personality become, the more will it become the measure of the intellectual culture of the society in which it has grown.
The goal of establishing a society in which every human being is free to develop his/her potential to the fullest is a cornerstone of Marxism. But this goal cannot be achieved as long as capitalists remain in power.
As far as I can see, neither Chomsky’s texts or the limited number of other anarchist writings with which I am familiar contain suggestions as to strategies or methods which could be used to unseat the capitalist class. This is not surprising. I am not aware of any country in which an anarchist movement has succeeded in overthrowing the ruling capitalist class. In virtually every country where capitalism has been overthrown, the revolutionary movement has been led by Communists, whom Chomsky and other anarchists regard as the embodiment of evil, just as capitalists do.
Communists maintain that the overthrow of capitalism and the seizure of state power by the working class is a prerequisite for the development of socialism. Chomsky’s and other anarchists’ opposition to – and apparent hatred of – Communists is linked to the anarchist view of the State.
Chomsky agrees with Rudolph Rocker that “…the problem that is set for our time is that of freeing man from the curse of economic exploitation and political and social enslavement”. But Chomsky insists that “the method is not the conquest and exercise of state power, nor stultifying parliamentarianism”. The economic life of the people must be reconstructed from the ground up and built “in the spirit of Socialism”. The State represents “political guardianship” (see Rockler above), which is a major obstacle to the development of socialism.
Chomsky quotes another anarchist who claims that the State has no useful function in “an economic organization where private property has been abolished”, i.e. where capitalist property relations have been abolished. The task of the Revolution is “to finish with the State”.
Chomsky quotes Engels, with obvious disapproval:
The anarchists put the thing upside down. They declare that the proletarian revolution must begin by doing away with the political organization of the state… But to destroy it at such a moment would be to destroy the only organism by means of which the victorious proletariat can assert its newly-conquered power, hold down its capitalist adversaries, and carry out that economic revolution of society without which the whole victory must end in a new defeat and a mass slaughter of the workers similar to those after the Paris commune .
Chomsky then refers to Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876), who according to Wikipedia “…has also often been called the father of anarchist theory in general”. Bakunin warned that the existence of the State in a socialist society would lead to bureaucracy, which would become an obstacle to socialist development. Chomsky:
The question of conquest or destruction of state power is what Bakunin regarded as the primary issue dividing him from Marx. In one form or another, the problem has arisen repeatedly in the century since, dividing “libertarian” from “authoritarian” socialists.
The issue of state power is thus one of the main components in the anti-Communist Left’s antagonism toward the Soviet Union. The general line was summed up by Chomsky in 1989 in the unpublished interview referred to above:
From a political point of view the Soviet Union’s a disaster, and I think it’s been since Lenin and Trotsky terminated any hope of Soviet socialism… Anyhow, currently there’s no doubt it’s a disaster.
Chomsky does not mention that the Soviet economy went into a nose-dive because in 1988 the Gorbachov government destroyed the central planning system. This was the culmination of more than 70 years of “disaster”.
In the same interview Chomsky repeats the standard Western version. He claims that the Bolsheviks came to power by a coup (see Richard Pipes). This myth has been discussed in previous chapters (see Rabinowitch, among others). The Bolsheviks had enormous mass support.
According to Chomsky, in 1917-1918 Russian workers spontaneously organized production in soviets and established workers’ councils. These were destroyed by Lenin and a repressive State was established. Chomsky:
Lenin reconstructed the Tsarist systems of oppression, often more efficiently – Tscheka (sic!), KGB, and other techniques of control and oppression – I think from that point on there was nothing remotely like socialism in the Soviet Union. I think it was in fact a – in my view it was a precursor of later forms of totalitarianism. [The KGB was not established until 1954, 30 years after Lenin’s death.]
Chomsky does not mention that the new Soviet security forces were not repressing the working class. They were combating counter-revolutionaries. Apart from the fact that the term “totalitarianism” is meaningless, Chomsky seems to be suggesting that the Fascist regimes in Germany and Italy were modeled on the Soviet Union, again a repetition of standard Western propaganda.
It is highly significant that a search of Chomsky’s site on key words Russia, civil war, 1918, intervention, returns almost nothing. Except a few off-hand references to a “civil war” Chomsky pays no attention to the invasion of Soviet Russia by the armed forces of 14 nations, nor to the massive financial and material support provided by Western capitalists to counter-revolutionary forces, nor to Winston Churchill’s demand that Bolshevism be strangled in its cradle (Chomsky is a bitter critic of Churchill).
The reason for Chomsky’s avoidance of the foreign intervention that cost the lives of 14 million Russians is obvious. The armed struggle 1918-1922 shows that Engels was right when he pointed out that destroying the political organization of the state would make it impossible for the working class to maintain and consolidate its power.
Assume for a moment that the Bolsheviks had dismantled the state instead of seizing control of it, and that workers had been encouraged to spontaneously organize a new society. Not only would the security forces have disappeared, but it would have been impossible to organize an army to defend the new society, since an army requires centralized administration and command. Railways and electricity supplies, which were largely limited to the cities, would have become unmanageable without centralized administration.
It is not difficult to understand the consequences. The new society would have been overrun by the forces of Western capitalism within a few years, and the anarchist dream of a State-less society in a world dominated by capitalism would have been revealed as a fiasco.
Assume that the Soviet State had been allowed to exist until the foreign troops had been driven out and the counter-revolutionary domestic forces had been defeated, and that in 1925 the State had been dismantled. Assume as well that the anarchists and the rest of the anti-Communist Left were agreed that Russia, the most backward country in Europe (see Nove) had to develop an industrial base and reorganize the agricultural sector – without centralized administration and allocation of resources.
Again, the consequences seem to be obvious. There would be no centralized military organization to defend the country. Would the various regions within the previous Tsarist empire have been spontaneously organized into a union? By whom? How would a rational distribution of resources have been organized without centralized administration? Industrialization requires increased production of iron and steel. Would the huge Magnitogorsk project have arisen spontaneously without central planning and administration? Would agricultural production have been modernized without centralized decisions?
Within a few years, the new society would have been overrun by its capitalist enemies and the Soviet working class would have been re-enslaved.
However, we are not limited to theoretical discussion about the need for a state to protect a socialist revolution. The history of Spain in the 1930s provides a real-world example.
Following the revolt led by General Franco in the summer of 1936, the forces of the Spanish Republic drove Fascists out of a number of regions, which led to the flight of many landowners and factory-owners. Groups of anarchists often took over the abandoned property and set up anarchist collectives.
Gaston Leval (1895-1978) was a French anarchist who from 1915 onward spent a good deal of time in Spain. Like Chomsky and most other anarchists, he was fiercely anti-Communist and anti-Soviet. His Collectives in the Spanish Revolution (1975)describes some of the agricultural and industrial collectives, principally in Aragon, the Levante, Castile and Catalonia.
In Leval’s judgment the agricultural collectives were definitely superior to the industrial establishments. He claims that the former represented “genuine socialism” while the industrial collectives were “a workers’ neo-capitalism, a self-management straddling capitalism and socialism”. He also discusses the socialization, as he calls it, of health-care services, mainly in Catalonia. He states that in many if not most collectives children were required to work, at least from the age of 15.
In the introduction to the original French edition of his book Leval claims that 5-7 million people were involved in the Spanish anarchist collectives. In the introduction to the English edition the translator refers to Frank Mintz, another French anarchist, who estimated that about 1.5 million people were involved in worker management of industrial facilities, and that in July 1937 the number of agricultural collectivists was at least 400,000 but dropped to around 230,000 by the end of 1938. The translator thinks Mintz’ figures are too low, but does not provide any other estimates. In any case the disparity between the two anarchists’ numbers indicates a very large degree of uncertainty.
Wikipedia quotes Burnett Bolloten in The Spanish Civil War: Revolution and Counterrevolution who claims that the reports by leading Spanish anarchists “overplayed the voluntary nature of collectivization, and ignored the more widespread realities of coercion or outright force as the primary characteristic of anarchist organization”. Coercion is contrary to anarchist principles, especially to those promoted by self-styled “libertarian socialists” such as Chomsky and Leval. Wikipedia quotes other authors who claim that although there may have been coercion it did not play a major role.
Regarding the command structure in the collectives, Leval writes (in a footnote) that work discipline in “the new social order was generally speaking more strict [than in the capitalist order] because there was a concern not to fail, but to provide a greater administrative ability and greater production…” A statement such as this from a Soviet official would provoke immediate charges of “Stalinist tyranny” from both Chomsky and Leval. A number of charters of anarchist collectives are reproduced or excerpted in Leval’s book, and they indicate very strict control of working life, including fines for absence, lateness or non-performance.
Irrespective of the above, the most important issue is the fate of the anarchist collectives following the seizure of the state by Franco’s Fascist forces. The collectives that had not already been swept away by advancing Fascist troops were of course destroyed in short order. They had arisen under the protection of a relatively but insufficiently strong state governed by a coalition that included socialists and Communists. When that protection disappeared, they had no hope of surviving. The historical reality shows that Engels was right.
However, historical reality is not always one of Chomsky’s main concerns. In an interview “On War and Activism” in 2005 he stated that
So take say, the one example of a more or less anarchist society that did manage to exist for a while, namely revolutionary Spain in 1936. There was an external threat, several, The immediate external threat was the Franco invasion from North Africa, with mostly North African troops in fact [the army garrisons in mainland Spain were scheduled to revolt almost simultaneously]. There was an invasion, and there was complex interaction [whatever that means]. Within about a year, the anarchist society had been destroyed, but not by Franco. It was destroyed by the Russians and the West, who didn’t like each other, but they had a common aim: destroy revolutionary Spain. And they cooperated on that together with Franco nationalists, and after about a year, they succeeded, and then it turned into a conventional civil war.
According to Leval almost all the anarchist collectives he describes were either set up in 1937, a year after the Franco revolt, or were flourishing by then. Chomsky claims that they were destroyed in that year. But Leval writes that the collectives in Republican-held territory survived until Franco’s victory in 1939. He is in agreement with Chomsky in that he accuses Stalin-manipulated Communists of trying to sabotage the anarchist collectives.
I am unaware of any credible evidence that the Soviets and the Western capitalist powers collaborated with Franco to destroy the anarchist collectives. A reasonably objective description of how the US and the UK conspired to strangle the Spanish Republic is available in Douglas Little’s Malevolent Neutrality: The United States, Great Britain and the Origins of the Spanish Civil War (1985). Britain’s role is also described in Richard Lamb’s The Drift to War.
In the wake of Chomsky’s imaginary Soviet-West-Franco conspiracy “it (sic!) turned into a conventional civil war”. This conflict involved the presence of large numbers of Italian troops as well as the Nazi Luftwaffe and U-boat squadrons, which hardly distinguishes it as conventional.
As early as the autumn of 1936 the international Communist movement had started work on the formation of an International Brigade that would fight to defend the Spanish Republic. Between 30 and 40 thousand volunteers from many countries enlisted in the Brigade. Large numbers of them entered Spain from France. The anarchist contribution to this attempt at defending the elected government of Spain was not particularly distinguished. According to Wikipedia,
The operation [formation of the International Brigade] was met by communists with enthusiasm, but by anarchists with skepticism, at best. At first, the anarchists who controlled the borders with France were told to refuse communist volunteers, and reluctantly allowed their passage after protests.
The reference to anarchists being told to refuse entry to Communist volunteers is puzzling. Who instructed them to do so? Was there some sort of centralized anarchist command? In any case, as far as I can see Chomsky makes no mention of the disgraceful behavior of the anarchists in refusing to allow anti-Fascist volunteers to enter Spain.
I do not know if any anarchist organizations outside Spain ever provided support for the Republic’s battle against the Fascists. Chomsky does not suggest that they did.
When the Spanish socialists and Communists lost control of the Spanish state, the remaining anarchist collectives disappeared in short order. Nothing could demonstrate more clearly that the anarchist notion of developing socialism without a state is a fantasy.
Lenin’s comments on anarchism in 1901 are still appropriate, which may account for the venomous hatred of him on the part of Chomsky and other anarchists:
Anarchism is bourgeois individualism in reverse. Individualism is the basis of the entire anarchist world outlook… Anarchism is a product of despair. The psychology of the unsettled intellectual or the vagabond and not of the proletarian (Notes on Anarchism, 1901).
Immanuel Wallerstein and historical choreography
Immanuel Wallerstein is one of the world’s best-known sociologists. He was president of the International Sociological Association for some years. A long list of his honors, fellowships and honorary degrees is given at www.iwallerstein.com The quotations below are from U.S. Weakness and the Struggle for Hegemony (Monthly Review July-August 2003), What Cold War in Asia? (http://www.iwallerstein.com/what-cold-war-in-asia-an-interpretative-essay/), and another article in Monthly Review January 2002, of which I have only excerpts. Emphasis has been added.
Wallerstein is a proponent of a “world system theory”, which I shall not discuss here, mainly because it is an unnecessary academic abstraction that adds nothing to our understanding of capitalism, or of anything else, for that matter. Interested readers should consult Wallerstein’s writings and judge for themselves.
Wallerstein’s view of the war between capitalism and Communism that has dominated the world since 1918 is quite simple, in every sense of the word. He has not to my knowledge produced any analyses of the period 1918-1945. He claims that the so-called Cold War, i.e. the conflict between the post-1945 US and the USSR, was “a choreographed arrangement in which nothing ever really happened for forty years”. The Soviet Union was in “collusion” with the US to ensure that there would be no “substantial changes in the arrangement.”
This arrangement was based on the agreement reached by Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at the Yalta Conference in February 1945. According to Wallerstein,
The three countries made, in effect, a kind of deal that involved a division of the postwar world into two spheres of influence. In Europe, the line of division was specific and was drawn across the middle of Germany. At the end of the war, the Soviet Union’s sphere covered approximately one-third of the world, running from the Oder-Neisse line in Germany to the northern half of Korea. The American sphere covered the other two-thirds of the world.
The text of the Yalta Agreement is available at http://www.h-net.org/~hst203/documents/YALTA.html There is no mention of spheres of influence in it, or of a line of division in Europe “drawn across the middle of Germany”. The section dealing with Germany states that when the war is ended it will be divided into zones occupied by the Allied powers, and that German militarism and Nazism shall be destroyed. As we have seen, the Western powers ensured that Nazis were restored to power in Western Germany, but this is of no significance for Wallerstein.
There is nothing in the text of the Yalta agreement to suggest that any sort of choreography was in progress. Wallerstein sidesteps the contradiction between his interpretation and the facts by claiming that the Yalta agreement mysteriously “encompasses more than just what happened at Yalta itself”. I have no idea what this means.
The following is typical of the “proof” adduced by Wallerstein for his collusion hypothesis:
Let me review the history. There were of course repeated political “crises” in Europe. The first was the Berlin crisis, which derived from the complicated boundaries in Germany, such that the city of Berlin was surrounded by the Russian zone of East Germany. The Western powers sent supplies to their occupation zones in West Berlin by land transport across the Soviet zone. In 1948, the Soviet Union closed the land route, which effectively meant that the western (US, British and French) sectors of Berlin were blockaded. The US decided to fly in planes to feed and otherwise re-supply the people of its Berlin zones. The reason the Soviets did not shoot down those planes as they traversed East Germany without authorization, which of course they could have done, was because of the key rule of Yalta: that there would be no shooting. Eventually, the Soviet Union lifted the land blockade, and the world was back to status quo ante (emphasis added).
The Berlin crisis was thus merely window-dressing. Of course the boundaries established between the Allied zones of post-war Germany comprised a factor in the crisis, but their significance is ignored by Wallerstein, who avoids explaining why the Soviets blocked land access to Berlin in 1948.
Early in that year the US and the UK had announced that their zones would be fused in a “Bi-zone”, in which a new currency would be issued. This was a violation of the Potsdam agreement of August 1945, which specified that Germany was to be treated as a single economic unit. It can hardly be termed “collusion”. The Soviets correctly interpreted the Bi-zone and the new currency as a prelude to the division of Germany and the formation of a new state (see Chapter 11, also Layne, who shows that this was the goal of US policy).
The US-UK action was also a violation of previous agreements that a solution for the German problem would be based on a unanimous decision. The Soviet blockade of Berlin was an attempt to force the Western powers to adhere to previous agreements.
Wallerstein’s statement that the aircraft bringing in supplies “traversed East Germany without authorization” reveals his ignorance. In the first place, there was no “East Germany”, only a Soviet zone of occupation. In the second place, according to Wikipedia:
The Berlin Air Safety Centre (BASC) was established by the Allied Control Authority Coordinating Committee on the 12 December 1945. Operations began in February 1946 under quadripartite flight rules… Paragraph 4 of the Rules Begins: “The Berlin Air Safety Centre has been established in the Allied Control Authority Building with the object of ensuring safety of flights for all aircraft in the Berlin area. The Safety Centre regulates all flying in the Berlin Control Zone and also in the corridors extending from Berlin to the boundaries of adjacent control zones.”
BASC was located in the former Allied Control Authority building on Kleistpark, Berlin. The BASC coordinated air traffic in and out of Berlin and was responsible for air safety in the three corridors established in 1946 as well as in the Berlin Control Zone, the airspace within a 20-mile radius of a pillar in the cellar of the Allied Control Authority Building.
Each of the three corridors were (sic!) 20 miles wide and linked Berlin with the Western Zones of Occupation of Germany (later West Germany). The three corridors were open without restriction only to the Four Power nations, United Kingdom, United States, France and USSR – other nations wishing to use the corridors had first to request and obtain permission from BASC. (Emphasis added.)
Wallerstein has no basis for asserting that the planes supplying Berlin needed authorization for their flights, and I cannot understand why he insists that they did.
Of course the Soviets could have shot down the aircraft, as Wallerstein points out. They could have done lots of other things as well. For example, they could have bombed the airfields in Britain from which the planes took off. However, shooting down unarmed cargo planes belonging to countries with which the USSR was not at war would have been a crime under international law. It would also have resulted in the deaths of the crews. In addition, it would almost certainly have triggered a nuclear strike by the US against the Soviet Union.
During World War 2 the UK, the US and the Soviet Union had agreed on a joint occupation of Iran to ensure Allied control of that country’s oil supplies. They also agreed on an equal division of oil concessions. By the end of the war the US was refusing to accept Soviet claims under the agreement. The Soviets had troops in Iran, and refused to withdraw them unless the agreement was honored.
The unindicted war-criminal Truman was furious, and in 1946 personally told Soviet UN Ambassador Andrei Gromyko that unless the Soviet troops left Iran within 48 hours “We’re going to drop it on you”, meaning an atomic bomb. Secretary of State Byrnes said that in case of a confrontation “Now we’ll give it to them with both barrels”. The Soviets withdrew their troops from Iran, and Truman later bragged that they did so within 24 hours. (See Kaku and Axelrod, who give four separate sources.)
By 1948 the US had developed the PINCHER and BROILER plans for nuclear assault on the Soviet Union (see Chapter 10), and given the US track record the Soviets had every reason to believe that they would be attacked. The USSR had experienced the horrors of war only a few years before. The Soviet refusal to shoot down the cargo planes supplying Berlin was not based on a non-existent “key rule” of Yalta. It was based on common sense. It cannot be interpreted as “collusion” except by someone like Wallerstein, who is out of touch with reality.
After the Berlin crisis ended the world did not return to the status quo ante, as Wallerstein claims. The world was only a few steps away from the creation of a new German state, dominated by Nazis and integrated in the capitalist war against the Soviet Union.
Another farcical example of Wallerstein’s delusional view of history is his account of causes of the First Gulf War in 1990-1991. He writes “Saddam Hussein started the first Gulf War. He did it deliberately. He did it deliberately to challenge the United States… And he got away with it”.
Saddam Hussein did not start the first Gulf War. The US did. Saddam was lured into invading Kuwait by the first Bush administration, which wanted a pretext for establishing a military presence in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East. The invasion also gave the US an opportunity to launch a criminal war of aggression that became a prototype for subsequent wars.
Saddam did not invade Kuwait in order to challenge the US. The conflict between Iraq and Kuwait regarding oil and territorial rights dates back to the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, in which the British and the French drew the modern map of the Middle East. The Iraqis had always considered Kuwait to be a natural part of their territory.
By mid-1990 the Iraqi government had repeatedly charged Kuwait with cross-drilling, i.e. illegally tapping Iraqi oil deposits by sinking bore holes on a slant beneath the Iraq-Kuwait border.
In July 1990 Saddam was given a green light to invade Kuwait by April Glaspie, then US ambassador in Baghdad. The full text of her discussion with Saddam Hussein is given in Guerre du Golfe, by Pierre Salinger and Eric Laurent (1991). See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_Glaspie Wallerstein does not know what he is talking about.
Some of the things that happened 1945-85
If Wallerstein actually believes that nothing ever really happened for forty years after the end of World War 2, he must have been looking in the wrong direction.
The things that happened during this period include the establishment of socialist regimes in Eastern Europe, the US/UK-supported civil war in Greece which ended when Tito closed the Yugoslavian border to the Greek Communist forces, wars, revolutions and establishment of socialist regimes in China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Angola, Mozambique and Afghanistan, a US-backed coup d’état in Indonesia accompanied by mass slaughter of Communists, a successful socialist revolution in Cuba, a devastating war against the socialist government in Afghanistan, financed and launched by the US, and the defeat of the armed forces of South Africa by the Angolans and the Cubans, which led to the downfall of the South African apartheid regime.
These and other events were manifestations of the conflict between capitalism and socialism, i.e. the international class struggle, and it can be seen that the so-called Cold War was not very cold. It was definitely not collusion. It was a continuation of the war against Communism which began in 1918. Since 1945 the war has been fought politically, economically and militarily on many battlefields throughout the world, and the balance of the opposing forces has shifted repeatedly.
Wallerstein claims that the Chinese, Cuban and Vietnam revolutions were implemented by “people who didn’t agree with Yalta”, which is a vicious and gratuitous distortion of historical fact, implying that the Soviet Union was trying to block these revolutions. The Soviets played a major role in supporting them both before and after decisive military victories had been obtained.
The subsequent and ultimately disastrous rift between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China was based on a complex set of factors. Wallerstein offers no analysis whatsoever.
As in the case of the Berlin crisis, Wallerstein’s collusion hypothesis is based on the supposition that the Soviet Union did not engage in direct combat with the US because this would have violated “the rules of Yalta”. He refers to the Vietnam War and asks:
Did the Soviet Union send in troops? No. They did not. Did they help militarily with supplies? Yes, because the Vietnamese made use of the fact that Cold War rhetoric required the Soviet Union to do so.
Wallerstein offers no evidence that the Vietnamese made use of Cold War rhetoric. Once again he demonstrates his ignorance and lack of common sense. What does he think would have happened if the Soviets had sent troops into Vietnam? Does he not understand that the US would have taken this as an excuse to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike on both Vietnam and the USSR?
According to Daniel Ellsberg, the US threatened nuclear war at least 36 times between 1945 and 1990. I have not seen any evidence that the Soviet Union did so. One of the closest calls was precisely in Vietnam. When the US base at Khe San was under siege by the Vietnamese it seemed that a repetition of the disastrous French defeat at Dien Bien Phu was in progress.
In the spring of 1968 The Observer ran a series of articles by a journalist who had managed to visit the base. He quoted an American officer who said that the Vietnamese could have overrun the base any time they chose, and wondered why they didn’t do so. Ellsberg revealed the reason. The US government had warned the Vietnamese that if Khe San fell, Hanoi would be nuked.
It appears that Wallerstein seriously believes that if the Soviet Union had been in conflict with the US it would have launched an attack, and the fact that it did not is proof of “collusion” and “choreography”. I find it difficult to believe that anyone with even a superficial knowledge of modern history could formulate such nonsense.
Luckily, people who combined ineptitude, ignorance and a lack of common sense were not allowed to reach key positions in the Soviet military establishment. For if a Soviet Wallerstein had done so, he would long ago have happily pressed the red button and we would all have been annihilated.
The world revolution of 1968
Wallerstein’s historical fantasies reach a climax when he claims that in 1968 there was a “world revolution” which caused great trouble for the US and “had an impact on mentalities across the world”.
Dialectical materialism flies out the window and we are faced with a new type of Zeitgeist. This spirit began operations by inflaming the “mentalities” of a few thousand mostly middle-class students at the Sorbonne, who advocated making love and not war in order to change the world in a manner that was not very clearly defined.
The “revolution” of 1968 in France was a largely petty-bourgeois revolt against a variety of social constraints, mainly sexual. It had the nefarious effect of distracting many otherwise sensible people from an examination of the realities of the class society in which we live. When a delegation of students visited the Citroën plant in central Paris, the workers at the plant listened to what they had to say and then dismissed them as ignorant dilettantes, which they were.
Wallerstein writes that “the Old Left – communist parties, social-democratic parties, and national liberation movements – had not changed the world and something had to be done about it. We were not sure we trusted them any more”.
In the first place, lumping social-democratic parties together with communist parties is another distortion of history, unless Wallerstein is referring to CPs that adopted so-called Euro-Communism. In the second place, the world changed considerably after the end of WW2, seen from the point of view of the working class. In the third place, just who is “we”?
I suspect that Wallerstein is referring to a nebulous agglomeration of self-styled socialists and progressives who were not affiliated with political parties. These people had no perceivable impact on Western class society in 1968 or at any time thereafter. If Wallerstein has any material proof to the contrary he should offer it.
The most important point is that a revolution, in the generally accepted sense of the word, involves fundamental change. I did not notice any such change in 1969 or in following years, in France or in any other Western country. I have noticed that since 1968 the same capitalist class has been in control, the same anti-Communist policies have been being implemented, and the general condition of the working class has been deteriorating in the countries under capitalist control, despite the presence of the “world left”. The revolution of 1968 is a figment of Wallerstein’s musings.
Control of the state – Wallerstein sides with the anarchists
Wallerstein has written contemptuously of an “outmoded Leninist strategy” according to which control of the state is the necessary first step in building socialism.
This of course gives the game away. For without control of the state, there can be no socialism. Abstaining from control of the state is equivalent to positioning the goal of socialism in a future that is so far distant it cannot be imagined.
Neither Chomsky nor Wallerstein understands that the primary function of the state is to maintain the established order of things, and in a capitalist society that means maintaining capitalism. It does not mean allowing advocates of socialism to establish a new society within the framework of the one that exists.
Wallerstein apparently believes that in the US and other capitalist countries the people who control the military, the security apparatus, the judiciary, the education and health-care systems, the ministries of finance and foreign relations, intelligence agencies and other state structures of presumably secondary importance should be left to get on with their jobs, so that “we” can develop new non-Leninist strategies for escaping the evils of capitalism and building socialism.
One thing is certain. For capitalists, control of the state is essential. Wallerstein, Chomsky, Leibowitz, Harnecker and people who share their ideas about the irrelevance of working-class control of the state will therefore never be in danger of attack from the owners of the capitalist system.
The “new socialism” – Leibowitz and Harnecker
Michael A. Lebowitz is Professor Emeritus of Economics at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. Marta Harnecker is a Chilean psychologist, writer and journalist (Monthly Review, July-August 2010). After the Pinochet coup in 1973 she fled to Cuba, where she lived for many years. Lebowitz has been and may still be a “ministerial advisor” to the Chavez government (according to John Gregson of Leeds Metropolitan University). Harnecker appears to have close ties with the Chávez government as an adviser.
In The Path to Human Development: Capitalism or Socialism?, posted at www.globalresearch.ca on 13 April 2009 and referred to below as The Path, Lebowitz attempts to define “socialism for the twenty-first century”.
The text is remarkable in several ways. Firstly, it pretends that no one has ever tried to establish a socialist society before. There is no mention of the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam or any other country that succeeded in overthrowing capitalism and building socialism. It thus implies that the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela is the first attempt to do so. This is even more remarkable in that Lebowitz refers three times to “revolutionary practice”, and six times to “practice” as a means of implementing socialist ideas. There are 29 references to Karl Marx in the text. But after Marx there are apparently no examples of “revolutionary practice” to be found. The historical record is blank
Lebowitz starts by posing the question “What do we want?” (Emphasis in the original.)
We want to be all that we can be. And we want this not only for ourselves. We want our families and our loved ones to be able to develop all of their potential —that we all get what we need for our development. To each according to her need for development… The idea of a society that would allow for the full development of human potential has always been the goal of socialists.
This is true, of course. As indicated previously, Communists have always emphasized that the development of socialism will allow us to develop our potential to the full. The question has always been, how do we create a socialist society that will enable such development?
Lebowitz refers approvingly to the Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela, which emphasizes human development as well as
…a democratic, participatory, and protagonistic society… in the economic sphere, which is why Article 70 stresses “self-management, co-management, cooperatives in all forms”.
This reflects the “elementary triangle of socialism” that is defined by Harnecker in Latin America & 21st Century Socialism: Inventing to Avoid Mistakes (Monthly Review, July-August 2010). The elements of the triangle are:
- Social ownership of production
- Social production organized by workers
- Production for communal needs (often written as “communal need”).
Central planning of the economy is out of the question (see below, The Anti-Communist Left and the Soviet Union). Lebowitz and Harnecker apparently believe that the new socialism will be developed in the context of a capitalist society, as in Venezuela. If they have any suggestions or strategies for overthrowing capitalism in a specific country or in a general sense as a prerequisite for building socialism, I have not been able to find them.
Lebowitz and Harnecker are not very specific as to the nature of “social ownership” of production, which presumably comprises the means of production. Harnecker writes that social ownership includes “everybody”, which must include members of the existing bourgeoisie as well.
There is no indication of how ownership will be defined. Will workers own shares in the plants where they work? Will a worker’s share(s) be transferred if he/she moves to another job? To whom? Who will own the hospitals? The schools? The universities? Who will own municipal property such as land, water treatment facilities or waste dumps?
Will there be national road, rail and air transportation systems? Who will own them? Will they be managed centrally, or by local groups of workers? How will their activities and maintenance be coordinated?
In The spectre of socialism for the 21st century, the keynote address to the annual meeting of the Society for Socialist Studies, Vancouver, June 5, 2008, Leibowitz states:
Social ownership of the means of production is critical because it is the only way to ensure that our communal, social productivity is directed to the free development of all rather than used to satisfy the private goals of capitalists, groups of individuals or state bureaucrats. Social ownership is not, however, the same as state ownership. Social ownership implies a profound democracy – one in which people function as subjects, both as producers and as members of society, in determining the use of the results of our social labor.
This formulation is as opaque as the author’s comment on satisfaction of communal needs and purposes (sic!), which
…focuses upon the importance of basing our productive activity upon the recognition of our common humanity and our needs as members of the human family. Thus, it stresses the importance of going beyond self-interest to think of our community and society. As long we produce only for our private gain, how do we look at other people? As competitors or as customers – i.e., as enemies or as means to our own ends; thus, we remain alienated, fragmented and crippled. Rather than relating to others through an exchange relation (and, thus, trying to get the best deal possible for ourselves), this third element of the elementary triangle of socialism has as its goal building a relation to others characterised by our unity based upon recognition of difference; through our activity, then, we both build solidarity among people and at the same time produce ourselves differently.
Leibowitz quotes Hugo Chávez:
We have to re-invent socialism…But we cannot resort to state capitalism, which would be the same perversion of (sic!, presumably as in) the Soviet Union.
However, in a section on the progress of the Bolivarian Revolution Leibowitz writes:
There has been an expansion of state property, which can be a threshold to socialist property (because it is possible to direct state property to satisfy social needs). In addition to the expansion of state sectors in oil and basic industry, to last year’s acquisition of strategic sectors such as communications, electric power and the recovery of the dominant position for the state in the heavy oil fields has been added this year so far a major dairy company and most recently the steel company (SIDOR) that had been privatised by a previous government. Further, the offensive against the latifundia [large estates] has resumed with several land seizures… and new state companies (including joint ventures with state firms from countries such as Iran) have been created to produce means of production like tractors.
In the first sentence Leibowitz at least admits that the state can manage its property to satisfy social needs, but it is not clear whether these correspond to the communal needs to which he and Harnecker refer repeatedly. Leibowitz does not indicate whether the state steel company and other new state companies will be dismantled and transferred to local owners in the near future in order to build the new socialism.
Contradictory statements about the role of the state occur frequently in the Lebowitz and Harnecker texts. But they consistently evade dealing with the central question – who controls the state and what does the state control? It may be that in a distant future there will be no need for a state, and new forms of coordinating and controlling the national economy will have been developed. But that day is far away.
In a world where the forces of capitalism are strong enough to attack any country that attempts to build socialism, a strong state with centralized control of the economy and the armed forces is a prerequisite for survival. It is obvious that Lebowitz and Harnecker share the illusions of the anarchists that the world of the future can be realized today without going through the bothersome process of defeating and overthrowing the forces of capitalism.
Harnecker even writes of “a peaceful transition to socialism”. This is essentially a denial of class and class struggle, and is a very dangerous illusion. History shows that the ruling class will use every means available to combat any attempt to transform “the natural order of things”. There is clearly a danger that people who share Harnecker’s illusion will not be prepared to resist.
Class and “social sectors”
Harnecker devotes a good deal of space to discrediting the “old Left”, i.e. Communist parties in the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. This requires her to directly or indirectly create straw men whose alleged ideas and strategies have become irrelevant.
For example, she claims that as the New Left developed in Latin America a guerilla commander in El Salvador was the first to insist
…that the new Latin American revolutionary subject (sic!) could not be just the working class, that there were new revolutionary social subjects…
I do not understand the term “revolutionary subject” and Harnecker does not define it. It may mean a person who is engaged in a revolution, or it may mean a person who is supposed to benefit from the revolution. In any case, Harnecker clearly implies that someone made a big mistake by limiting the notion of revolutionary activity to the working class. I am not sure whether Harnecker means that this someone focused only on the industrial working class. But she is surely aware that Communist parties in the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam and elsewhere have always emphasized the need for an alliance between the industrial and agricultural working classes. So we may assume that she uses the term “working class” to cover both sectors.
According to Harnecker the new Left in Latin America
…decided to go beyond hegemonism (that is, imposing leadership from above, taking over positions and giving orders to the rest), and beyond the steamroller politics that imposes lines and actions by force. They began to understand that it was a question of winning hegemony, that is, that wider and wider sectors of society accept as their own the policies of the given [new] political organization.
Again, the person or persons guilty of hegemonism are not identified. However, in terms of “winning hegemony” (achieving leadership) by persuading increasingly larger sectors of society to accept policies proposed by the government, that is exactly what the Soviet government did in the 1920s and 1930s with respect to industrialization, collectivization and education.
Harnecker goes on to explain that the New Left has understood that it has to “coordinate various agendas and not to elaborate on a single agenda from above”.
In reaching the conclusion to abandon the workerist [sic!] approach, which is only concerned with the working class, the left came to understand that the new political instrument must respect the plurality of the new subject and take on the defense of all discriminated social sectors: women, indigenous peoples, black people, young people, children, pensioners, people of diverse sexual orientations, people with disabilities, and others. The left realized that the point is not to recruit for one’s political organization. Rather than clasping to its bosom all the legitimate representatives of those who struggle for emancipation, the organization should be a body that coordinates all their different lives into a single project.
Harnecker is again implicitly rejecting the concept of class and class struggle. She wants to abandon the “workerist” approach and concentrate instead on “the plurality of the new subject”. This apparently means that the new subject comprises everyone.
However, in a capitalist society exploitation of the working class is the primary source of capital accumulation by the owners of the system. That is why all successful revolutions have focused on the urban and agricultural working class as the main mover. But the historical record is obviously of no concern to Harnecker.
It is revealing that Harnecker uses the word “discrimination”, instead of “exploitation”, which is at the core of capitalism.
Harnecker implies that the Old Left paid no attention to the de facto enslavement of women. On the contrary, all successful Communist-led revolutions have involved substantial improvements for women, who do not comprise a “sector”. They comprise half the population.
The Soviet Union was the first country in history to consciously emancipate women from the slavery of the traditional nuclear family. This was also true of other socialist countries, in particular the DDR, where legislation for women’s equality included subsidies to single mothers to ensure their economic well-being. It is also significant that by the end of the 1980s over 90% of adult women in the DDR (1980: 73,2%, 1989: 91,2%) had jobs of their own, while the corresponding figure in West Germany was about 55% (1980: 37,0%, 1989: 55,5%. (See Gunnar Winkler (ed.), Frauenreport ’90, 2nd edition, 1990; the figures should be viewed with caution: the percentage of part-time workers was/is higher in Western Germany.)
In Venezuela, some women enjoy comfortable lives as members of the bourgeois class. Harnecker may be worried that they are subject to discrimination.
Dividing society into “sectors” that eliminate class distinctions is a guarantee that political strategies will be based on false grounds, and that class struggle will be relegated to the background. Young people born in bourgeois families have very little in common with young people born in working-class families, excepting their age and gender. Their interests are not compatible, any more than the interests of the bourgeoisie and the working class are. The same applies to children. As far as people with diverse sexual orientations are concerned, I agree that they should not be subject to discrimination, but at the risk of sounding callous I do not think that their predicament is a central problem in the capitalist world.
Harnecker reaches a peak of confusion when she says that the Left organization (presumably but not surely a political party) should coordinate all the different lives of people in the “discriminated social sectors” into a single project.
What is the nature of this project? If it is the triangle of socialism, I do not understand how the lives of children will be coordinated in it, apart from providing them with free quality education. Nor do I understand how the lives of “black people” are to be coordinated, unless some sort of special department for them is to be established, which sounds suspiciously like concealed racism. Then again, there is the question of which pensioners will find their lives coordinated, and how this will be accomplished. There will of course be no central organization for determining pension levels and administering payments. That will be left to the “subjects”.
Since Harnecker’s cloudy “single project” implicitly excludes class analysis, it necessarily rejects the Marxist-Leninist concept of a vanguard party whose membership is working-class and whose task is to lead the struggle against capitalism. This concept does not automatically imply “steamroller politics that impose lines and actions by force”. It implies among other things being responsive to its members and focusing on the development of class consciousness in order to enable effective, concerted action.
- When I wrote these lines (September 2011), the class struggle in Greece was coming to a boil. The Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Greece (KKE) was, and still is, deeply involved in the conflict. In the interest of promoting the New Left and 21st century socialism, Harnecker and Leibowitz should contact the leadership of the KKE immediately and explain to them that their activities and organization are obsolete. There is no need today for a militant party that leads the working class in the struggle against capitalism. The KKE should be disbanded and the ex-members should be encouraged to form discussion groups in order to develop “agendas” and identify a “single project” that will liberate them and the various “sectors” of Greek society from capitalist domination. We should all wish them the very best of luck.
Building a decentralized socialist economy
It would be of great interest to learn how a socialist economy in Venezuela would function without central planning. According to the “elementary triangle of socialism” promoted by Harnecker, production is aimed at satisfying “communal need” (which must be a misprint for “needs”). Apparently there will be no regional or national needs to satisfy, such as development and maintenance of infrastructure, including production and distribution of electricity, which will be taken care of by local organizations.
Without a central planning function, this will obviously lead to an enormous waste of resources (with accompanying negative environmental impact) since there will be no central management of a grid for rational distribution of power. Each local electricity board (if such Soviet-style bureaucratic institutions are permitted) will engage in inefficient small-scale production and distribution.
But national needs will always exist. How will the nation’s resources be identified and allocated under the new decentralized system?
If a town or a cooperative decides to build a new hospital, they will not be able to determine whether the new facility is redundant, since there will be no centrally administered national health-care system. Once the hospital is built, the necessary personnel will have to be recruited. In the absence of a centralized Soviet-type registry of health-care workers, whoever owns the new hospital will be forced to spend a good deal of time on telephone calls, e-mails and visits to other communal organizations in order to locate them. If these personnel are already occupied, which is probable, the owners of the new hospital will have to persuade them to quit their jobs and move, perhaps by offering them higher wages and pension benefits.
Building the new hospital will require steel in one form or another. How will this and other construction materials be obtained? More telephone calls and visits? Without central planning, how will the workers who run the steel mills be able to plan production on a monthly or annual basis? Will they simply wait for orders to drop in? The resulting situation will be very similar to the inherent anarchy of the market economy. The same problems will arise in connection with construction of new educational or transportation facilities.
The question of funding new construction as well as maintaining and upgrading all types of existing facilities is not discussed by Leibowitz or Harnecker, for a very good reason. If the funds are not allocated centrally, they will have to be generated locally. This means that all facilities must focus on accumulating profits, which would of course be a giant step backward toward a non-socialist economy. It is not certain that Lebowitz and Harnecker are aware of the problem.
The anti-Communist Left and the Soviet Union
The goal of socialism as a society “that permits the full development of human potential” is repeated continuously by Chomsky and other anarchists as well as by Lebowitz and Harnecker. I have not been able to find a statement of socialism’s goal by Wallerstein.
In The Path to Human Development Lebowitz writes (emphasis in the original):
We want to be all that we can be. And we want this not only for ourselves. We want our families and our loved ones to be able to develop all of their potential – that we all get what we need for our development. To each according to her need for development.
There are two points, though, that we need to stress. First, if we are going to talk about the possibility of human development, we have to recognize that a precondition for that development is sufficient food, good health, education, and the opportunity to make decisions for ourselves. How can we possibly develop all our potential if we are hungry, in bad health, poorly educated, or dominated by others? Secondly, since we are not identical, what we need for our own self-development obviously differs for everyone.
Having “the opportunity to make decisions for ourselves” is extremely vague. If it refers to components of self-development such as deciding on a course of education and an occupation, it is difficult to understand why Leibowitz et al. reject both the Soviet Union and Communist China for not having enabled such development. The unprecedented individual development of members of the Soviet urban and agricultural working class between 1918 and 1941 is surely worthy of mention, as extensive resources were allocated to create conditions for self-development, including health-care and educational systems. This also involved central planning and interaction with local and regional administrations, which may explain Leibowitz’ silence.
It also involved large-scale programs for eliminating illiteracy in a country where in 1917 70-80% of the adult population could not read or write. This also poses a problem for advocates of a purely local and municipal approach to development, by “sectors”. Obviously, illiterate people cannot organize an educational system. Centrally planned development is the only viable alternative.
The story of John Scott’s wife Masha, his description of thousands of workers in Magnitogorsk enthusiastically attending schools after work in order to make up for centuries of lost time, his father-in-law’s wholehearted support of the new collective farm, and the voices of Soviet citizens quoted by Werth (Chapter 16, Part 2) give some indication of the scale of development. I have never seen evidence that anyone in the USSR was forced to follow a course of study or to choose an occupation they did not want.
Not only do Leibowitz et al pretend that there was no development of human potential in the USSR 1918-1941, but they also ignore the circumstances in which this development occurred.
Meaningful discussion of the history of the Soviet Union is impossible without consideration of the fact that it was under siege during its entire existence. Like the bourgeois propagandists, the anti-Communist Left pretends that the War of Intervention never took place, that the leaders of the Western world were not scheming to “strangle Bolshevism”, that Western capitalists did not finance and equip the Nazi war machine that launched Operation Barbarossa, and that the Soviets did not have to allocate very large resources to military defense. Nor is any mention made of the loss of 25 million lives 1941-45, which might conceivably have had an effect on the internal situation in the Soviet Union after 1945.
It would have been impossible for the USSR to withstand the capitalist onslaught without a centrally planned economy, a centrally administered strategy for industrialization, and a centrally controlled military establishment. It may be that the anti-Communist Left actually believes that the centralized economy of the Soviet Union should never have come into existence, or that it should have been dismantled after 1945. In the first instance the USSR would have disappeared by 1941, and in the second by 1955, and its population would have been re-enslaved by Western capitalists.
It is unfortunate and unavoidable that centralized structures often become breeding grounds for bureaucracy, which is why Lenin, Stalin and other Bolshevik leaders struggled continuously and warned against bureaucratic tendencies in the Communist Party and the administrative system. The account of Stalin’s conflict with the First Secretaries (Chapter 16, Part 2) illustrates the internal conflict within the country. Bureaucrats strengthened their positions in particular after Khruschev became head of the government, and the Communist Party began to show signs of a dangerous disconnection between the leaders and the mass membership, as the Right deviation became stronger.
However, focusing exclusively on the negative effects of centralized structure gives an inaccurate picture of the Soviet Union. In the first place, as stated above it ignores the reality of continuous siege. In the second place it ignores the advances in the condition of the urban and agricultural working class.
In capitalist society, one of the main obstacles to self-development of human potential is a shortage or lack of money. For most people in the West, the pursuit of happiness involves a lifelong pursuit of money, and when they are not pursuing it they are worrying about it, about their jobs, their salaries, their life insurance (if any), their savings (if any) and their pensions, among many other things.
In the Soviet Union, especially after 1945, people did not worry about money because rents and the necessities of life such as food and clothing were priced at such low levels that the cost in money was negligible. The individual did not have to bear the cost of health care, education or retirement. Opportunities for free education were unlimited. The pension age was set at 50 for workers in heavy industry and 55 for everyone else. You could of course go on working if you wanted to.
The attitude of Soviet citizens to money was expressed to me dramatically in December 1990 in the course of a visit to Leningrad. The effects of Gorbachov’s destruction of the economy were visible everywhere. On the Nevski Prospekt in Leningrad old men sat behind upturned wooden crates displaying their World War 2 medals, which they hoped someone would buy for a few kopeks. Old women sat huddled behind small piles of carrots or cabbage, also hoping for a sale. They may have been the beneficiaries of Chomsky’s victory for socialism.
I was visiting Nina Andreyeva, the leader of the Bolshevik fraction at the last Communist Party Congress. My interpreter was a professor of French and French literature at the Leningrad Institute. In the summer of 1941, at the age of six months, he had been rescued by Red Army troops from a burning village in the Ukraine of which he was the only inhabitant. He was raised in a Soviet orphanage. At the age of twelve he discovered that he was fascinated by the French language, so he devoted himself to studying it and pursued a successful academic career. It is doubtful whether he had or has any counterparts in the West.
We were discussing the current situation, and he said “We never used to think about money. We could sit up until 2 in the morning on a Wednesday night, talking about books or music or politics. Now I get up every morning at six o’clock and start hunting for potatoes to feed my grandchildren”.
I have also met a number of people who grew up in the DDR, and without exception they are shocked by the money fetish in the West. A woman from East Berlin who was lucky enough to find work because she is fluent in five languages told me in 1996 that even after six years of reunification she could not get used to the fact that money is the main and sometimes only subject of conversation among her new fellow-citizens.
Given the burning interest of the anti-Communist Left in creating conditions for development of human potential, their silence on the disappearance of the money fetish in the Soviet Union and other Eastern socialist countries is inexplicable.
The conditions that enable development of human potential must include, in addition to universal education, widespread access to and participation in cultural activities (see Chapter 16, Part 1).
The following is from Ernst Mandel’s Beyond Perestroika (1991). Mandel was an adherent of Leon Trotsky and an adamant critic of the Soviet Union:
The Soviet Union today  is not only modernized and urbanized, with an urban majority which is already second generation: it is a society which, in terms of scientific and cultural qualifications, is one of the most developed in the world. A quarter of all the world’s scientists are Soviet and 40 per cent of its working class has some form of diploma in higher education. Soviet workers have an interest in science and in literary and artistic culture to an extent that bears no comparison with the workers of any other country. The scale of the production of literary and scientific journals, of novels and collections of poetry, is indicative of this.
Under these conditions, the continued existence of a mediocre living standard, of an oppressive and brutal political regime, of structures of domination and control which are both ineffective and universally rejected, has become intolerable for the mass of the Soviet people and not just for the intelligentsia.
The last sentence indicates Mandel’s antipathy to the USSR, but it also contains a striking contradiction. If the government of the Soviet Union really was oppressive and brutal, and maintained intolerable structures of domination and control, it is scarcely credible that it would have invested extensive resources in the development of culture, including large-scale production of books and periodicals that were sold at prices which barely covered cost, a flourishing non-commercial film industry, concerts, theatrical performances and museums, and in support of the regional cultural heritage of the Soviet republics.
…under Stalin’s “nationalities policy” the Uzbeks, Tadjiks, Bashkirs, Kazahks and the rest became equal partners of the Russians and Ukrainians. Better still, the Soviet regime took special pride in improving the lot of these backward people, and making them feel genuinely grateful to the Russians: and it is, of course, perfectly true that if, under the Tsarist regime, as much wealth as possible was pumped out of the Russian “colonies” of Central Asia, the Soviets pumped wealth and money into them. If there was, at times, resistance, even violent resistance, against the Soviets in Central Asia, it was not for economic reasons, but almost exclusively for religious reasons, the Soviets’ atheism being wholly unacceptable to certain traditional Moslem communities (Alexander Werth, Russia: The Post-War Years, 1971).
In the absence of government funding, the workers themselves would have had to finance and manage production of books, periodicals, movies, concerts and exhibitions, and also to fund maintenance of theaters and museums. This is not credible either. Where would the workers have secured the necessary funds, which must have been very large? Since private property did not exist in the Soviet Union, there was no stock market, and the workers did not exploit each other for monetary gain, there was no possibility of accumulating the capital required.
Two alternative conclusions can be drawn. One is that the Soviet government was not oppressive and brutal and did not maintain structures of domination and control.
The other is that Mandel’s description of the government is correct, but for unexplained reasons the government invested continuously in creating conditions for promoting the educational, occupational and cultural development of the entire urban and agricultural working class. I cannot understand what these reasons could have been. It is possible that an explanation can offered by Chomsky or others in the anti-Communist Left, but this is improbable because they normally make no reference to the “scientific and cultural qualifications” of the Soviet people as described by Mandel and UNESCO.
The anti-Communist Left bears a very serious burden of guilt. They have alienated 2-3 generations of young people from meaningful political activity in Communist parties by brain-washing them about the Soviet Union and persuading them that “activism” will effect significant change, which it will not.
What was wrong with the Soviet Union?
The condemnation of the USSR in the propaganda financed by the leaders of the West has been discussed previously. Within the anti-Communist Left, Chomsky dismisses the Soviet Union as a catastrophe from start to finish, using terms that occur frequently in Western propaganda, while Leibowitz says that it was not a “good society”. One of the most compact, venomous and representative indictments that I have seen is in Harnecker’s Latin America & Twenty-First Century Socialism, in which she explains that the “facets” of Soviet socialism that were correctly rejected by the New Latin American Left included:
…statism, state capitalism, totalitarianism, bureaucratic central planning, the kind of collectivism that seeks to homogenize without respecting differences, productivism (which stresses the growth of productive forces without being concerned about the need to protect nature), dogmatism, atheism, and the need for a single party to lead the transition process.
I am not familiar with the term “statism”. According to Wikipedia it is “a political philosophy that emphasizes the role of the state in politics or supports the use of the state to achieve economic, military or social goals”. Soviet governments did not subscribe to any such “philosophy”. Neither did they live in an anarchist dream world. They knew that unless the state pursued the economic and military policies that it did, the Soviet Union would be annihilated. I leave it to Harnecker to demonstrate the contrary.
As indicated in the discussion of Chomsky above, the term “state capitalism” is devoid of meaning. It is difficult to understand how it could be applied to the Soviet Union, since capitalism involves private property, as the means of production, distribution and exchange are owned by a small minority of the population, who accumulate profits by exploiting the people who actually run the systems. Harnecker will have to explain the nature of capitalist exploitation in the USSR, and identify the people who accumulated profits. She might consider that Joseph Stalin led a very frugal life, and that Molotov died with an estate totaling 500 rubles.
In this connection, Harnecker’s analysis of the Soviet Union in the section “Social Ownership of the Means of Production” is incoherent. She starts by referring to the importance of “the way the social product is distributed”. The rest of the section does not explain how this was done in the Soviet Union. Nor does it explain that the social product was distributed widely according to need, among the Soviet Republics as well as the other Comecon countries.
Harnecker’s claim that “totalitarianism” was one of the “facets” of the Soviet Union is absurd. Firstly, totalitarianism can hardly be a facet. Secondly, the theory of totalitarianism was invented to enable equating capitalist Nazi-Germany with the socialist Soviet Union. The theory (as formulated by e.g. Hannah Arendt, Carl Friedrich and their followers) is so obviously unsustainable, that even proponents such as Zbigniew Brzezinski were forced to abandon it.
As for “collectivism that seeks to homogenize without respecting differences”, no evidence is provided to prove this standard Western accusation.
“Productivism” is defined by Wikipedia as “…the belief that measurable economic productivity and growth is the purpose of human organization (e.g. work), and that ‘more production is necessarily good’”. Harnecker will have a very hard time proving that the Soviet government shared this belief. Of course it was obvious that the Soviet Union would have to increase production in order to survive and develop, but the purpose was not growth in itself. The purpose was to build socialism. As far as environmental management is concerned, it was largely unknown and/or ignored in all industrial countries until about midway through the second half of the 20th century. Negative environmental impact was certainly a regrettable aspect of production in the USSR, but it can hardly be considered as a perversion of socialism.
The accusation of “dogmatism” is so vague that it can hardly be discussed. Were Soviet governments dogmatic? How? Of course there were plenty of individual dogmatists in the Soviet Union, as in every other country, socialist or capitalist.
The accusation of “atheism” is perhaps the high point of Harnecker’s indictment and is astounding, coming from a self-proclaimed Marxist. The Soviet Union did not promote belief in and worship of a non-existent god. How horrible! It may be that Harnecker is thinking of the “worker-priests” and prelates in Latin America who have openly sided with the working class, and have often paid with their lives for doing so. However, there were no worker-priests in Russia. The Orthodox Church was an integral part of the cruel repressive apparatus of the ruling class and nurtured illiteracy, fear and superstition, as in many Catholic countries such as Poland, Spain and Ireland. This was also true in Cuba. After the revolution of 1959, the Cuban state promoted atheism and severely restricted religious activities, especially those of the Catholic Church. I do not know if Harnecker has publicly condemned state-sponsored atheism in Cuba.
According to the Irish poet Paddy Kavanagh, in the 1920s and 1930s it was common for Catholic priests in County Monaghan to threaten farmers on their death beds that if they did not deed the farm to the Church they would be refused absolution. On one occasion the three sons of a dying farmer took turns sitting in the doorway of the cottage with a shotgun to hand, in case a priest showed up.
As for the need for a single party to lead the transition to socialism, it should be obvious that in a world dominated by capitalism the need for a unified opposition is a top priority, especially when a country is subject to continuous external threats, both economic and military. Does Harnecker expect the transition to socialism in Venezuela to be led by a bourgeois political party, or by several socialist parties with different “agendas”? The historical record shows that capitalism has never been successfully combated by anything but a strong working class (urban and rural) movement led by a strong Marxist-Leninist party.
Harnecker’s condemnation of the Soviet Union as an atheist totalitarian state matches the standard mainstream Western version of history. In general she reflects the attitude of the anti-Communist Left, as a few hours’ exploration of the Internet shows.
The historical blackout
Another striking parallel between the anti-Communist Left and the Western propaganda machine is the blackout on major events such as the War of Intervention, Western support of Fascism in the run-up to Operation Barbarossa, the continuous nuclear threat against the Soviet Union after 1945, or the support provided by the USSR for international revolutionary movements.
In Harnecker’s case the blackout on the international role of the Soviet Union is also personal. Having fled Chile after the Pinochet coup in 1973 and found refuge and employment in Cuba, she might at least have shown the decency to point out that the Cuban Revolution would not have lasted 10 years without the active support of the “atheist totalitarian” USSR and the rest of the Comecon group. She might also point out that Cuba long ago implemented centralized economic planning, which she condemns as “statism”.
Harnecker might also have mentioned the support, including substantial sums of money, that the Soviet Union provided to revolutionary movements throughout the world from the 1920s onward, in e.g. China, Korea, Vietnam, Angola, Mozambique, South Africa and Central America. This would have been impossible in the absence of a strong Soviet central government. The cost was borne in solidarity by the citizens of the USSR. Such actions are assuredly regarded by Harnecker as mistakes that are to be avoided by the “new socialism”.
However, the fundamental and most important indicator of the blackout shared by the Western propaganda machine and the anti-Communist Left is the refusal to discuss and/or evaluate the improvement in the condition of the Soviet working class (urban and rural).
The decisive factor for evaluation of a society is the condition of the working class, i.e. the majority of the population who actually produce the goods and services that are required for society’s survival and development.
There is no question that between 1918 and 1989 the condition of the Soviet working class improved to an extent that has no historical parallel. This is a fact that no amount of criticism – justified or unjustified – can alter.
It is understandable that Western propagandists ignore this reality. The motives of the anti-Communist Left are not so evident, but they are clearly connected with a distorted view of the Soviet Union.
The anti-Communist Left and the dismemberment of the Soviet Union
In March 1991, 76% of the citizens of the Soviet Union voted “Yes” in a referendum on whether the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics should be maintained (see above). The vote was reported in the Western media, including Dagens Nyheter, Sweden’s largest daily. I have not seen any claims that the referendum was rigged.
Although the term “democracy” recurs continuously in the writings of the anti-Communist Left, and the Soviet Union is considered to have been undemocratic almost by definition, I have not found any mention of the referendum as an expression of the popular will. This may or may not be due to ignorance. In December 1991 Boris Yeltsin presided over the dismemberment of the USSR, in open defiance of the expressed will of the people. This should have aroused cries of protest from the anti-Communist Left, but I have not heard them.
In any case, the outcome of the referendum is not compatible with the notion that the Soviet Union was a brutal, oppressive, totalitarian state. If it was, the fact that approximately three out of four Soviet citizens wanted to maintain it is inexplicable.
Ignorance may also explain the absence of meaningful comment or analysis of the counter-revolution that was implemented under Gorbachov’s leadership (see Chapter 16, Part 1). For example, the late Howard Zinn, a hero of the anti-Communist Left, wrote in Beyond the Soviet Union, Z Magazine 2 September 1999:
Yes, I was “very glad” the Soviet government was overthrown, and at the point where Gorbachev was in power, and “glasnost” and “perestroika” appeared to have a certain future, I saw the possibility of a socialist but democratic Soviet Union that would retain the social programs without the cruelties of the police state. Exactly why that possibility was crushed I confess I don’t know.
At least Zinn admits his total ignorance of events in the Soviet Union during the 1980s. The rest of his article demonstrates his ignorance of the history of the USSR in general. Like Chomsky, he shows no concern for the condition of the Soviet working class after 1991, and in fact rejoices in their misery.
Harnecker writes that the Soviet Union “hurtled into the abyss”, which tells us nothing at all. The phrase itself could not have been written by a Marxist. According to John Pilger, in 1989 there was “an anti-Stalinist revolt”, an equally meaningless assertion in the light of the referendum of March 1991 (“Behind the Arab Revolt is a Word We Dare Not Speak”, The Guardian,25 February 25, 2011). Pilger apparently does not know that in 1988 Gorbachov destroyed the central planning system on which the economy of the Soviet Union depended.
Ignorance of Soviet history appears to be endemic and possibly willful among the leading members of the anti-Communist Left. For example, in Freedom Next Time (2007), Pilger refers to Mike Davies’ Late Victorian Holocausts which shows that
…as many as 29 million Indians died unnecessarily in famines willfully imposed by British policies… Stalin in the Ukraine would subsequently match this, infamously; and this was Harold Pinter’s point: we know of Stalin’s crimes; we know next to nothing of our own.
Since there is no evidence whatsoever that Stalin willfully caused a famine in the Ukraine, or anywhere else, and even the arch-fabulist Robert Conquest has been forced to abandon his claim of a genocidal famine, Pilger is either lying outright or doesn’t know what he is talking about. He does not specify Stalin’s other “crimes”.
In addition to ignorance, the silence of the anti-Communist Left regarding the events of the 1980s is probably related to the general view that the Soviet economic system was a failure, and simply imploded. In that case it is difficult to explain why Gorbachov had to spend five years or more disabling it and introducing capitalism.
In more general terms, Chomsky views the Soviet Union as a catastrophe from start to finish, a “monstrosity”, the antithesis of socialism. In the unpublished interview of 1989:
Anyhow, whatever date we put on it, there’s no socialism in the Soviet Union… It doesn’t exist. It never has existed.
Chomsky therefore calls the fall of the Soviet Union “a small victory for socialism”. The fruits of this victory included the restoration of capitalism and the premature deaths of 3 million people for want of health care in Russia alone during the 1990s (report in The Lancet, in January 2009 – see Chapter 16, Part 1). This corresponds to about half the deaths in the Holocaust of the Jews. Other fruits of socialism’s victory presumably include trafficking of millions of women and young girls as well as a drastic decline in life expectancy.
Wallerstein sees nothing to regret in the disappearance of the USSR and offers a highly original interpretation:
The collapse of the Soviet Union was, from the US point of view, an absolute geopolitical catastrophe, because it eliminated two things. It eliminated the Cold War arguments that the US had used to insist that its immediate allies and the rest of the non-communist world follow the political lead of the United States, because they were arrayed against an enemy called the Soviet Union. Secondly, it eliminated the role of the Soviet Union in restraining people who were more or less on its side from engaging in actions that might possibly lead to military confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union.
Wallerstein offers no evidence to show that since 1991 the non-Communist world has not followed the political lead of the US. On the contrary, the available evidence shows that it has. Nor does he offer evidence to prove that the Soviet Union restrained revolutionary movements. As for the unidentified people whom the Soviet Union restrained from action against the US, what have they been doing for the past 20 years?
Wallerstein’s comments on the effects of the dismantlement of the Soviet Union include the following (2002):
The collapse of the Soviet Union was not a disaster for the world left. I am not sure I would even call it a setback. It not only liberated us collectively from the albatross of a no longer useful Leninist strategy and rhetoric, but it also imposed an enormous burden on the world liberal center [presumably adherents of capitalism], removing the structural support they in fact received from the Leninist movements, which had held in check popular radicalism for a long time by their guarantees of ‘shining tomorrows’ via a faith in a Leninist developmental present.
If prior to 1991 unspecified popular radicalism was “held in check” by unspecified Leninist movements and the unspecified “world left” was liberated in that year, it would seem logical for Wallerstein to list some of the subsequent achievements of the world left. I do not know of any. I do know that the new Fascism has been gaining strength over the past 20 years, and I have not seen indications that the so-called world left is doing anything to stop it.
The fall of the Soviet Union may not have had any adverse effects on Chomsky, Wallerstein, Pilger and the rest of the anti-Communist Left. But it has been an unmitigated catastrophe for a large majority of the former citizens of the USSR, including the entire working class. Extreme poverty, malnutrition, very high rates of unemployment and super-exploitation of those who are able to find jobs are some of the most evident symptoms. Life expectancy has declined drastically, and infant mortality is 10-12 times higher than in Western Europe. Diseases such as diphtheria and tuberculosis, which had been virtually eradicated by the Soviet health system, are now common. Virtually the entire structure of social benefits and services has been obliterated. Higher education and subsidized summer vacations were among the rights of workers in the USSR and other former socialist countries. They are now luxuries that working-class families cannot afford.
The UN estimates that millions of women from the former Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries have been forced into prostitution and sex-slavery because there is no work for them (see above). Many of them are married, but there is no work for their husbands either. Venereal diseases and AIDS are spreading rapidly because these women are often infected by the time they return home after being burned out in Western Europe. There are millions of homeless children in the USSR and Eastern Europe, and child prostitution is rampant.
Those who drove from Sweden to Prague in 2000 to participate in the demonstrations against the IMF could observe young, mostly teenage prostitutes in the Czech Republic soliciting trade along about 20 km of highway south of the German border.
Additional details on the post-1991 holocaust in the former Soviet Union are given in Chapter 16, Part 2.
The collapse of socialism in the USSR and Eastern Europe has also had disastrous effects for the working class in other countries, such as Cuba, North Korea, Angola, Mozambique, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, where the loss of support and equitable trade generated tremendous economic strain and turbulence.
People living in many non-socialist countries are also suffering as a result of the Soviet Union’s collapse. As early as April 1994 the American economist Michael Tanzer pointed out (Monthly Review) that
The former USSR no longer can or will act as a subsidizing supplier of capital and technology for …state ownership or as a barrier to Western political and/or military intervention in opposition to state ownership.
This statement does not fit very well with Chomsky’s and Wallerstein’s triumphal claims of victory for socialism.
The working class in Western Europe has also suffered, as both conservative and social-democratic governments have found it easier to apply neo-liberal policies in the absence of the Soviet Union, which for decades served as a benchmark. This is one reason why the fall of the USSR is referred to in propaganda as an inevitable consequence of socialism, instead of a counter-revolution.
The criminal dismemberment, bombing and plundering of Yugoslavia by the West would never have occurred had the USSR been in existence. It is also extremely improbable that the US would have dared to attack Afghanistan and Iraq.
US imperialists benefit from the dismemberment of the USSR
Wallerstein asserts that the fall of the Soviet Union “was a disaster for the United States…” Far from being a disaster for the US, the fall of the USSR has enabled American imperialists to, among other things:
- Establish a military presence in the Balkans, where Western capitalists have seized raw material deposits and production facilities.
- Establish a military presence in the Middle East
- Participate in the exploitation of the working class in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe
- Extend its political influence and military presence in the Baltics, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Rumania and Georgia.
- Establish military bases in the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, which are to be used as springboards for accessing the enormous untapped mineral resources of the former USSR
- Initiate the privatization of Vietnam.
- Accelerate the recolonization of Africa, e.g. by the criminal attack on Libya.
To my knowledge, over the past 20 years the leading representatives of the anti-Communist Left have not commented to any significant extent on the above phenomena, or expressed any regret for the demise of “that awful Soviet Union” in the words of a university-educated former classmate of mine.
The reasons seem obvious. Firstly, history shows that the Soviet Union was the main bulwark – however imperfect – against the forces of imperialism, which the anti-Communist Left cannot admit.
Secondly, despite all the rhetoric about democracy, worker’s control of production, and the need to develop everyone’s human potential, the anti-Communist Left is not concerned with the condition of the working class. If they were, they would long ago have produced some sort of analysis of the improvement in the condition of the working class in the Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries, as well as in China and Vietnam. And they would have protested against the socio-economic disaster in the former socialist countries after 1990.
The anti-Communist Left has never to my knowledge provided a serious analysis of Soviet history. Such an analysis would deal with questions such as what was progressive, what was retrograde, what was avoidable, what was unavoidable given the time and circumstances, including capitalist encirclement?
Thirdly, the anti-Communist Left is not really committed to building socialism. They are committed to discussions about the evils of capitalism, about how socialism should be built, and about how it should not be built. The abstract level of the discussion is illustrated by Chomsky’s claim that the fall of the Soviet Union was a victory for socialism, by which he means the anarchist conception.
Above all, the general agreement that the working class should abstain from seizing control of the state is a de facto commitment to maintaining the present state of affairs. As Stalin said of the Right deviation in the 1930s, (Chapter 16, Part 2), “…they are not willing to do the things that are necessary to build socialism”.
Does capitalism have to be overthrown?
Since capitalists are committed by necessity to defeating any attempt at socialist development, it seems self-evident that the overthrow of capitalism is an absolute prerequisite for building socialism. Given the size and complexity of the capitalist system, it also seems self-evident that overthrowing it requires a unified political organization.
However, none of this is self-evident to the anti-Communist Left. There seem to be two general lines of thought. One is that the system will disappear under pressure from “activists”, “networks” and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as those which participate in the World Social Forum (WSF) and similar events. According to Wikipedia, the WSF
…tends to meet in January at the same time as its “great capitalist rival”, the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. This date is consciously picked to promote their alternative answers to world economic problems in opposition to the World Economic Forum.
The nature of these alternative answers varies widely, but as far as I know none of them has included suggestions for overthrowing capitalism.
The WSF has been convened annually since 2001, and it does not appear to have had any significant impact on the capitalist system. The same applies to the many networks and organizations that can be visited on the Internet.
The second general approach to the problem of capitalism’s existence is typified by Harnecker’s prediction that there will be a peaceful transition to socialism. This is not a new idea. It has been promoted by certain self-styled adherents of socialism ever since the 19th century, and the absence of any evidence of its validity has not dulled its appeal.
In the 1930s, the American journalist Marquis Childs wrote a book praising Sweden as a middle road between socialism and capitalism. In subsequent years, Sweden (and sometimes Denmark and/or Norway) has often been highlighted as a successful example of the peaceful road to socialism. Sweden has also been criticized, of course, as when president Eisenhower said that Swedes were “addicted” to socialism and had the world’s highest alcohol and suicide rates as well as a very low economic growth rate, none of which was true. References to Sweden as “socialist” occur regularly in the Western mass media.
This misapprehension needs to be corrected.
As pointed out previously, in a capitalist society the means of production are owned by a tiny minority who accumulate profits by exploiting the working class. In a socialist society, the means of production are owned by the working class.
Sweden is not and has never been socialist. It is a capitalist society. The systems for production, distribution and exchange are owned or indirectly controlled by less than 1% of the population, principally by the Wallenberg family. Some years ago The Economist reported that the concentration of power in the hands of the Wallenbergs has no parallel in any other country, and corresponds to ownership of 40% of the major listed corporations on the New York Stock Exchange.
Sweden has (or has had) a relatively advanced system of social insurance, which is confused with socialism only by the ignorant, especially in the United States, where programs that tend to benefit the working class (such as Social Security) are condemned as “socialist”. As in other Western European countries, the Swedish system includes pension insurance, unemployment insurance, health insurance, disability insurance, family allowances and rent subsidies.
These benefits are generated by an insurance system, not by a socialist economy. The insurance premiums are paid by the working class. As in other Western European countries, this insurance system developed out of class struggle. The Communist Party of Sweden (SKP) played a leading role in the struggle for social insurance.
Social insurance has always been opposed by Swedish capitalists, who see it as an obstacle to maximization of profits. Since the dismantlement of the Soviet Union, the system has been subject to violent attack by right-wing parties and by the Social Democrats, who have been instrumental in eroding its benefits.
Since 1990 the Social Democrats and the overtly right-wing parties have promoted a massive program of deregulation and privatization – theft of the people’s property – that is probably the most advanced in Western Europe, with the possible exception of the UK. The program is based squarely on the policy of the European Union.
During the 80 years or so since the first Swedish Social-Democrat government was formed, the power of Swedish capitalists has steadily increased, and the Social Democrats have given up their original vague goals of establishing a socialist society by peaceful means. Anyone who is searching for an example of the peaceful road to socialism is advised to disregard Sweden.
How will the peaceful transition be implemented?
If we assume that a peaceful transition to socialism is possible, we must also assume that it will be on two fronts, one political and one economic. We are also justified in assuming that it will occur within a few decades, since a horizon of 50 years or more is of little benefit to those who are currently caught in the capitalist system. The key question is, who will lead and/or implement the transition?
In Latin America and Twenty-First Century Socialism, Harnecker states that in some cases the “actors” on the Left who drive the transition may be working class parties, indigenous or peasant movements, “a sector of the military”, or charismatic leaders. She was more precise in a 2002 interview which as far as I can see is representative of the anti-Communist Left:
Well, you know that defining the Left is complicated. I believe that we need to change the definition of Left that existed in times past, when we used to think that the Left was the same as revolutionary, was the same as Marxist, was the same as [a] political party. I have a definition in a recent book titled The Left After Seattle, where I maintain that being a leftist means to fight or be committed to a societal project that opposes the capitalist logic of profit-making and that seeks to build a society with a humanistic logic.
It doesn’t matter if people are members of parties or social movements or if they are independent actors or not. Their core belief must be a point of view that differs from capitalism. I believe that that is the Left, which goes far beyond a party, of course. It’s very interesting to see how today the principal worldwide manifestation of a call to forces of this type comes from the World Social Forum, based in a Latin American country.
The Left is thus not revolutionary, not Marxist, and not organized in a political party. It consists of all sorts of people who share a “core belief”, within or outside organizations or movements, and “goes far beyond a party”. The World Social Forum calls to “forces” of this type. The WSF has been making this call for 11 years, but as previously noted it has had no noticeable effect on the capitalist system. It may of course have had positive effects on Wallerstein’s “mentalities”, but no one has identified them as yet.
It seems elementary to me that a large, amorphous collection of people who share a core belief and do not have a common organization will not be able to successfully combat the highly organized and deadly forces of international capital by peaceful means. Perhaps someone can demonstrate the contrary.
It may be that according to the anti-Communist Left the people who share a core belief in socialism are not supposed to combat the forces of capital, that in some way socialism will grow out of workers’ cooperatives, electoral majorities and other manifestations of the popular will, without the need for open conflict, and that this will occur within the context of a capitalist society.
Or it may be that the capitalist system will disappear as a result of pressure from activist and networks, or because of other factors. At that point the true socialists – anarchists – will begin the construction of a socialist society without a state.
However, it seems equally elementary to me that unless the amorphous Left achieves political power, it will be at the mercy of the existing capitalist-controlled state. Let us assume that the Left is not amorphous, that it has achieved some degree of organization, and that it follows the peaceful path in major capitalist nations such as France, Germany, the UK or the US. Let us also assume that it participates in elections and wins a majority in the national legislature, as in Venezuela.
There may be people who believe that the capitalists who control the state as well as the means of production, distribution and exchange will remain passive, accept the majority’s electoral decision, and silently but reluctantly observe the progress of the peaceful transition to socialism.
History shows that this will not happen. The ruling class will not surrender political power simply because a majority of their subjects want them to do so. As soon as there is any sign that the socialist movement is gaining ground, they will use the existing government to respond with every weapon in their arsenal, including extensive disinformation campaigns, judicial persecution, charges of electoral corruption and fraud, mass arrests, hit squads and martial law. If the Left in question has any leaders, they will be arrested on fraudulent charges as soon as the election results are recorded. Due process of law will be suspended indefinitely, as it has been in the US.
The Left will have two alternatives. They could resort to legal proceedings and organize peaceful demonstrations against the injustice. Or they could launch a revolt, which would of course involve large-scale violence.
The situation is comparable on the economic front. Assume that over a period of 5-10 years worker-owned cooperatives have been established within the existing capitalist society. These cooperatives will be mainly agricultural, because the chances of starting a manufacturing enterprise that can compete successfully in the market economy are very small if not non-existent. Since the essence of socialism is the ownership of the means of production by the working class, whatever the anti-Communist Left may say, at some point the workers in manufacturing companies will have to take over the plants. Not to mention the banks. Unless of course the owners surrender their property to the working class voluntarily, which is unlikely.
The peaceful solution would be for the workers at e.g. the Peugeot factory outside Paris to send a delegation to a meeting of the Board of Directors to inform the owners that henceforth the Peugeot company will be owned and controlled by the workers. At the same time, the workers could place ads in the major media informing the public of their decision.
The reaction of the owners is not difficult to foresee. The police would be called in to arrest the workers’ delegation, security forces would be deployed to protect private property, and the entire work force would be threatened with instant dismissal unless they returned peacefully to their proper stations.
The above may seem cynical, but in the absence of any explanation of how ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange is to be peacefully transferred from the capitalists to the working class, or more precisely to “everybody”, according to Harnecker, I do not understand how the peaceful transition to socialism will be accomplished.
The peaceful road to socialism is a pipedream. In the real world, which is the only one we know, the peaceful road will lead nowhere as long as the ruling class is in power. And the ruling class will never surrender its wealth, power and privileges without a fight.
Two options – submission or revolution
Two options are available to the working class and the growing numbers of the impoverished ex-middle class. One option is continued submission.
This does not exclude protests and demonstrations against phenomena such as new wars, the steady degradation of living and working conditions for the majority of the population, or the destruction of existing judicial structures. Nor does it exclude exposure in various media of the cruelty of the system. However, it does exclude organized resistance aimed at overthrowing capitalism.
As the new Fascism continues to evolve, the ruling class will tolerate dissent, within limits, as long as it does not comprise a serious threat to the existing “natural order of things”. The anti-Communist Left will in general be out of harm’s way, since it does not constitute a serious threat. Food riots and other spontaneous manifestations of discontent will be dealt with severely, of course.
The other option is revolution. This is not to say that conditions for successful revolution exist at present in the imperialist nations, but the increasing desperation and rage among the majority of the population is fertile ground for development of a revolutionary movement
The strategies and tactics required for a successful movement naturally vary between countries, and may include everything from participation in the electoral process to general strikes.
Actions must be coordinated toward a common goal – overthrow – of capitalism, and this requires organization. Otherwise protests will continue to be sporadic expressions of opposition.
Organization is the basic weapon of the working class, and it is the absolute prerequisite for success. The only type of organization that can succeed in overthrowing capitalism and establishing socialism is a unified Communist Party based on the principles of Marxism-Leninism. The article in Wikipedia on Marxism-Leninism is unreliable, and is discussed below.
History shows that the only successful revolutions against capitalism have been led by Marxist-Leninist parties. The people who participated in those revolutions can justly be proud of being Communists. People in the imperialist countries who want to participate in similar struggles will have to rid themselves of the fear of being “branded” Communists. This fear is based on acceptance of the mainstream Western version of history, and one of the goals of this book is to expose this version as propaganda for the ruling class.
The establishment of the Paris Commune in March 1871 marked the first time in history that that workers overthrew the bourgeoisie and established their own state, although it lasted only a few months. The main problem was that there was no working-class party which could formulate goals, strategies and tactics. The rapid development of the Commune was based on spontaneous and in many cases uncordinated action. Another problem was that there was no possibility of establishing an alliance with agricultural workers.
In May 1871 the Commune was destroyed by the bourgeois-controlled army, the same army that had ignominiously capitulated to the forces of the new German Empire led by Bismarck. About 30,000 Parisian working class men, women and children were massacred in the name of restoring the natural order of things. The killings are not generally regarded as a reflection of capitalist terror. http://www.marxists.org/glossary/orgs/p/a.htm
According to Lenin the greatest lesson to be learned from the Commune was the need for a working-class party that is focused on revolution, united by democracy and discipline, and bound to the working class.
The three main characteristics of a Marxist-Leninist party are that it is the vanguard of the working class in the struggle against capitalism, it applies democratic centralism, and it is committed to the “mass line”.
The vanguard of the working class
The role of the party is to be the vanguard of the working class in its struggle against capitalism. The party is the politically conscious, most advanced section of the working class. The degree of consciousness among the working class as to the nature and function of capitalism and its political structure vary widely, from intuitive anger and resentment to knowledge of Marxist analysis.
One of the vanguard party’s main tasks is to educate the working class. This involves raising the level of class consciousness among the workers, so that they realize that the struggle is not against individual greedy owners or corrupt politicians who serve them, but against a system whose sole function it is to maximize profits for capitalists at the expense of the working class. The owners and the politicians are simply replaceable representatives of the system.
Raising the level of class consciousness also involves smashing one of the central myths of capitalist society – that the interests of the owners of the system are identical with those of the working class and the rest of the population, that the working class is dependent on the owners for its well-being, and that the workers should be grateful for the benevolence of the ruling class, who “give” them jobs, among other things. This was clearly expressed by Charles Wilson, a president of General Motors who was appointed Secretary of Defense [War] by President Eisenhower: “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country”.
The fact is that the owners are totally dependent on the working class. It is the workers who produce the goods and services which generate profits. The owners produce nothing of practical value, except financial contracts. This is one reason why the propaganda industry devotes so much effort to canonizing certain symbolic figures, such as the bandits Bill Gates and Steven Jobs, who are supposed to have changed our lives. These and other robber barons such as George Soros, Warren Buffet and Donald Trump are lauded as “entrepreneurs”, which means that they are nothing more than businessmen who will stop at nothing in their pursuit of profit and are adept at finding new and more disreputable ways of doing so.
Bourgeois propagandists and members of the anti-Communist Left often criticize
Marxist-Leninist parties for arrogance in assuming that they can contribute to the education of the working class. But a youngster who enters school or a student who enters an engineering college is not expected to acquire knowledge through a process of osmosis. In all Western educational systems, it is generally expected that people known as teachers will be instrumental. The teacher possesses knowledge which the student does not have, and the teacher’s main task is to transfer this knowledge to the student with the help of lectures, books, classroom lessons and appropriate technical equipment. I have never heard teachers criticized for arrogance because they are teachers.
If the members of a Marxist-Leninist party have more knowledge of Marxism, dialectical materialism, class analysis, and the history of capitalism and imperialism than most workers do, there should be no rational objection to their transferring this knowledge to other members of the working class. The real nature of the objection is of course unexpressed – educating workers in Marxism is dangerous and subversive because it will contribute to seizure of power by the working class, and power is reserved for those who already have it.
A genuine Marxist-Leninist party does not assume a position of superiority over the working class. It is part of the working class, from which it derives its strength. A vanguard party that is not bound to the working class is no party at all – like a basketball coach without a team.
Unity and discipline within the party are prerequisites for effective action, as they are in all political parties. In a Marxist-Leninist party they are based on free discussion and criticism. Issues of policies and tactics are discussed by the local and regional units, and decisions are reported through the higher units that they elect, up to the central leadership.
When all the members have had their say, the decision of the majority as expressed by the central leadership is binding. Everyone is expected to support the decision. Those who insist on criticizing it internally or publicly and/or refuse to implement it are at risk of expulsion, since a disunited party is essentially crippled. One of the reasons for the conflict between the leadership of the Bolshevik Party and Trotsky was his insistence that party members should have the right to form factions which could openly oppose majority decisions. This would have led to rapid disunity and paralysis.
The expectation that all members of a political party will support the leadership’s decisions even if they were opposed to them is not unique to a Marxist-Leninist party, of course. Members of political parties in the West are expected to do the same, as exemplified by the institution of party whips in the UK parliament, the US Congress and elsewhere. A prominent member of the Swedish Right (Moderata Samlingspartiet) was expelled a few years ago for openly criticizing the European Union, although the party is pledged to support it. His colleagues with similar views kept their mouths shut.
The difference between a Marxist-Leninist party and the traditional Western party is that central decisions in the latter are not normally based on discussion and decision at all levels of the organization.
For example, in the spring of 2008 it was obvious that the leadership of the US Democratic Party had been purchased by Wall Street. It was not so obvious that the head of the party intended to bail out financial institutions with public funds, no matter what the cost, which is presently estimated at USD 13-16 trillion. Or that he intended to continue and intensify the Bush administration’s wars of aggression and its attack on civil liberties within the US. It is highly doubtful that these and other issues such as the privatization of Social Security and Medicare were ever discussed by local units of the Democratic Party.
The “mass line”
The concept of democratic centralism is close linked to that of the mass line, which involves systematically working to ensure and intensify interaction between the party and the working class. It also involves working to promote interaction with other groups within society that are willing to join in the struggle against capitalism. This is often expressed by Marxists as the slogan “from the masses, to the masses”, the term masses being inclusive of the working class and other groups.
Successful implementation of the mass line also requires that the party can openly identify and rectify its mistakes, which were often discussed at party meetings and congresses in the Soviet Union, especially during the period when Stalin was head of the party. The general outlines of the mass line were expressed by Lenin on many occasions, and also by Mao Zedong in his famous Red Book.
The people, and the people alone, are the motive force in the making of world history. The masses are the real heroes, while we ourselves are often childish and ignorant, and without this understanding it is impossible to acquire even the most rudimentary knowledge.
We should be modest and prudent, guard against arrogance and rashness, and serve the Chinese people heart and soul.
Our point of departure is to serve the people wholeheartedly and never for a moment divorce ourselves from the masses, to proceed in all cases from the interests of the people and not from one’s self-interest or from the interests of a small group, and to identify our responsibility to the people with our responsibility to the leading organs of the Party.
The organs of state must practice democratic centralism, they must rely on the masses and their personnel must serve the people.
Our duty is to hold ourselves responsible to the people. Every word, every act and every policy must conform to the people’s interests, and if mistakes occur, they must be corrected – that is what being responsible to the people means. http://www.paulnoll.com/China/Mao/Mao-17-Serving-People.html
Conscientious practice of self-criticism is still another hallmark distinguishing our Party from all other political parties. As we say, dust will accumulate if a room is not cleaned regularly, our faces will get dirty if they are not washed regularly. Our comrades’ minds and our Party’s work may also collect dust, and also need sweeping and washing. The proverb “Running water is never stale and a door-hinge is never worm-eaten” means that constant motion prevents the inroads of germs and other organisms. To check up regularly on our work and in the process develop a democratic style of work, to fear neither criticism nor self-criticism, and to apply such good popular Chinese maxims as “Say all you know and say it without reserve”, “Blame not the speaker but be warned by his words” and “Correct mistakes if you have committed them and guard against them if you have not” – this is the only effective way to prevent all kinds of political dust and germs from contaminating the minds of our comrades and the body of our Party. http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/works/red-book/ch27.htm
The party’s political program
Obviously, the political program of a Marxist-Leninist party depends on the specific conditions within the country in question. But in general, Marxist-Leninist policies involve:
- Abolition of private property in land and buildings. Many home-owners and small farmers would probably regard this with horror, but my understanding is that most of them do not actually own their homes or farms. They occupy the property at the discretion of a bank or banks. Surely it would be preferable to pay low rent to the state than to bear the burden of a mortgage.
- Confiscation of individual wealth above a level to be determined by the party.
- Development of an agricultural program focused on collectivization and the elimination of corporate agri-business. The rate of collectivization is of course dependent on specific national conditions.
- Nationalization of all industrial companies and all their assets, including plant, land, cash and securities. No compensation would be paid to the owners, who have already extracted profits from the labor of others. Particular attention should be given to pharmaceutical and food-processing companies, which are major health hazards. All local sources of poisoning such as McDonalds and other fast-food joints would be closed and converted into restaurants that serve healthy food at low, state-subsidized prices. Nationalization would of course include the weapons industry and its domestic suppliers.
- Nationalization of all transportation, communication and energy systems. Their services would be provided at minimal cost to the public.
- Nationalization of health-care. Small private clinics should be phased out if necessary. There is no reason for anyone to extract profits by providing health care to people who are in need of it. Health care would be free of charge.
- Nationalization of all educational facilities, from day-care centers to universities and technological institutes. Private schools would be abolished. Educational policy would include prohibition of video games and movies that glorify violence.
- Elimination of the propaganda industry known as advertising. The former employees could apply their talents to producing information programs for state, regional and local authorities.
- Criminalization of prostitution, as in the Soviet Union and other socialist states. The prohibition is not based on abstract moral or religious grounds. Prostitution is simply one more example of how capitalism degrades human beings, in that prostitutes sell access to their bodies. Pornography is yet another expression of this degradation, and the fact that hundreds of millions of people fulfill their sexual needs by masturbating in front of pictures is an accurate indication of the sexual dysfunction that is inherent in capitalist society.
- Comprehensive review of the penal and judicial systems, which in all capitalist countries are often markedly racist and heavily biased against the poor and in favor of the ruling class and their representatives. Reform of the penal system would also involve bringing criminal charges against war criminals such as William Clinton, both Bushes, Tony Blair, Javier Solana and all the others named in the bill of indictment submitted by the American Association of Jurists to the Hague Tribunal in 1999, as well as the cohorts of torturers and murderers who implemented their criminal policies.
In terms of the environment, the party would implement a revolutionary policy. Everything we do has some sort of environmental impact, but most of it is generated by production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. Present environmental policies usually focus on how to reduce this impact and simultaneously maintain existing production systems.
A Marxist-Leninist analysis would involve focusing on the question of what we produce and why we produce it. For example, it is generally assumed that “we” need more energy, but the question of why we need it is rarely discussed. An environmental policy based on analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of current production and production methods would inevitably lead to the elimination or drastic reduction of a wide range of products, from automotive vehicles and airplanes to the sea of plastic junk that engulfs us at present.
The party’s international policy would be based on promoting global peace as well as solidarity between the working classes of all nations.
A Marxist-Leninist party always has short-term and long-term goals. The former include struggle to improve the current condition of the working class, e.g. working hours and conditions, pay scales and social benefits. This is in contrast to social democrat parties which at best aim at improving such conditions but do not share the long-term goal of overthrowing capitalism and building socialism.
It has often been the case that Marxist-Leninist parties have formed alliances with other organizations with a similar approach to short-term goals. Such alliances are known as popular or united fronts. Labor unions are of course the most obvious partners in such alliances, but they have also included other organizations.
A good example of a successful popular front is the Frente amplio in Uruguay, which comprises eleven or more different organizations, including the Socialist Party of Uruguay and the Communist Party of Uruguay. Elected in 2004 and again in 2009, the Front has achieved significant progress in reducing poverty, and in improving health care and working conditions, although Uruguay is still a capitalist society.
One of the most interesting accomplishments of the Frente amplio has been the arrest, trial and sentencing conviction to long prison terms of the gangsters who comprised the dictatorial Junta that ruled the country from 1973 to 1985, torturing and killing political opponents under leadership of the US government as part of Operation Condor.
The popular front has a long tradition in both Latin America and Europe. The socialist-communist coalition government of Léon Blum in France in the mid-1930s was moderately successful until it was brought down by an artificial financial crisis engineered by the ruling class. At about the same time, the seventh Comintern Congress in Moscow called for a united front of all anti-Fascist organizations in Europe in order to combat the clear and present danger.
A recurring problem with popular fronts is that they are subject to internal divisions and not least to infiltration and manipulation by representatives of the ruling class, or the right-wing as it is sometimes known. The anti-Communist propaganda war also plays a major role in provoking dissension between Communists and non-Communists.
Another weakness is that such fronts often focus on a single issue, such as the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, and then disintegrate for lack of a political framework, or when the issue is no longer relevant. The problem is that many of the organizations and participants in such anti-war movements are unable to see the war as a manifestation of the capitalist system, and their opposition (as in the USA in the 1960s and 1970s) is based largely on humanitarian grounds, without a broader political perspective.
There is obviously a great need for a popular front in the present situation, and the possibilities for organizing it vary widely. One of the main obstacles to formation of an effective popular front is the anti-Communist Left, which has an endemic aversion to Communists and seems to be convinced that “activists” and “networks” are the answer to the problems of capitalism.
In a number of European countries there appears to be a working basis for an alliance between the Communist Party and the trade unions, as well as other parties that are opposed to the present anti-working class programs. The strongest popular front in Europe at present is in Greece, and it should serve as an example to other countries.
Typical Western view of Marxism-Leninism
The Wikipedia article on Marxism-Leninism contains 130 footnotes. It is an extremely tendentious compendium of the mainstream Western view of history. A few examples are sufficient. The article states that Marxism-Leninism “supports the creation of a totalitarian single-party state”, which is nonsense. In general, any text that uses the word “totalitarian” or applies it to the Communist movement or to socialist countries is not to be trusted. In addition, J. Arch Getty has shown that the “totalitarian model” cannot be applied to the Soviet Union in the 1930s (Origins of the Great Purges).
According to Wikipedia a centrally planned economy is a “command economy”, which In the Soviet Union resulted in “…massive industrialization but at the expense of agriculture that (sic!) declined drastically between 1928 and 1940”. The figures given by Tauger (see Chapter 16, Part 1) show that this is not true.
Wikipedia’s assertion that the current “market socialist economy” in the People’s Republic of China is “an alternative Marxist-Leninist economy” shows that the author(s) of the article does not understand Marxism-Leninism.
The War of Intervention 1918-1922 that resulted in the deaths of 14 million people is termed “a brief Allied military intervention by the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Italy, Japan and others against the Bolsheviks”.
The section on Stalin’s “extreme totalitarian state” contains the usual unfounded accusations, including the charge that he “unleashed an unprecedented level of violence”, which he did not (see Thurston and others). Stalin is also charged with dismantling “the remaining elements of democracy” when in fact he tried unsuccessfully to democratize the entire political structure of the Soviet Union (see Chapter 16, Part 2). As usual, Wikipedia alleges that:
This process of collectivization included “dekulakization”, in which kulaks were forced off their land, persecuted, and killed in a wave of terror unleashed by the Soviet state against them. The collectivization policies resulted in economic disaster with severe fluctuations in grain harvests, catastrophic losses in the number of livestock [caused by kulaks], a substantial drop in the food consumption of the country’s citizens [temporarily, after bad weather affected harvests in 1931-1932], and the intentional Holodomor famine in the Ukraine. Modern sources estimate that between 2.4 and 7.5[ million Ukrainians died in the Holodomor famine.
But the collectivization policies did not result in economic disaster, and there was no intentional famine in the Ukraine or anywhere else. The “modern sources” are worthless. The above passage and the following are enough to discredit the entire article.
The Soviet Union promoted various anti-fascist fronts across Europe and created agreements with France to challenge Germany. With the Suddeten (sic!) agreement in 1938, Soviet foreign policy reversed, with Stalin abandoning anti-German policies and adopting pro-German policies. In 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany agreed to both a non-aggression pact and an agreement to invade and partition Poland between them, resulting in the invasion of Poland in September 1939 by Germany and the Soviet Union and the beginning of World War II, with the Allies declaring war on Germany.
To my knowledge the Soviet Union signed one agreement with France, in 1935. It was subsequently cancelled by the French after the fall of the socialist Léon Blum government. Wikipedia makes no mention of the Soviet Union’s continuous attempts (up to August 1939) to form an alliance against Nazi-Germany. The “Suddeten agreement” must be code for the Munich Agreement, with which the UK and France delivered Czechoslovakia into Hitler’s hands, as part of “the carving up of Europe”. (I have never before seen the term Sudeten agreement as a euphemism for the Munich capitulation.) The Soviet Union protested strongly; it did certainly not adopt pro-German policies.
The Soviet-German non-aggression pact of 1939 was a direct result of the Western powers’ refusal to form a united front against Germany. It did not include an agreement to invade Poland. Nor did it result in the invasion of Poland by Germany. The invasion had been previously planned and scheduled for September. The Soviet Union occupied eastern Poland to prevent a further German advance. The claim that the Soviet-German pact triggered the start of World War 2 is infantile nonsense. As to the Allies declaring war on Germany after Poland was attacked, they certainly did – formally. But they remained militarily passive until France was attacked in the spring of 1940.
Wikipedia’s account of the events of the 1930s is a gross distortion of history, based on obvious lies. Anyone who is interested in the nature of Marxist-Leninist parties should look elsewhere.
However, the article does include the following texts under the heading “Components – Social”. It is unclear whether the enumeration of Marxist-Leninist policies is an accusation. In any case the article omits comparison with social policies in capitalist countries.
Improvements in public health and education, provision of child care, provision of state-directed social services, and provision of social benefits are deemed by Marxist-Leninists to help to raise labor productivity.
The text implies that raising productivity is the purpose of such improvements and benefits. Of course they contribute to enhanced productivity. But in Marxist-Leninist terms they are considered as the basic rights of the working class.
The historical Marxist-Leninist states of Central and Eastern Europe treated housing, education, health care, and child care as universal social entitlements.
The article does not mention that rents were extremely low, that education, health care and child care were free of charge, that students in higher educational facilities received stipends to cover living costs, and student loans were unknown.
In elementary school we learned that food, clothing and shelter were the basic requirements for human life. Rent in the Soviet Union was maximized to 3-4% of disposable income. Rental costs for housing in the imperialist countries now account for 30-60% of disposable income. On 13 October 2011 The Guardian article Private rents unaffordable for families in most English boroughs reported that
The Shelter Rent Watch found that average private rents were unaffordable for ordinary working families in 55% of local authorities in England. Typical rents charged by private landlords were more than a third of median take-home pay, the widely accepted measure of affordability (emphasis added).
Shelter said research showed that 38% of families with children who were renting privately had cut down on food to pay their rent.
Old homes will kill up to 200 older people a day, warns Age UK, according to the Guardian (22 October 2011), and the number of deaths has been increasing over the past three years. One of the reasons is “sharp price hikes by energy companies” which of course were unknown in the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, although the article makes no mention of this fact. The death toll for 2009-10 was 26,156, or about the same as the number of people killed at Katyn, who were supposedly executed by the Soviet Union. Perhaps an enterprising researcher could explain why elderly people are dying for lack of heat in Great Britain, one of the world’s richest countries.
According to Wikipedia,
Marxism-Leninism advocates universal education with a focus on developing the proletariat with knowledge, class consciousness, and understanding and support for communism.
The basic focus is on enabling the working class to fully develop their potential as human beings, a goal which to my knowledge has rarely if ever been formulated by the governments of capitalist societies.
Marxism-Leninism supports the emancipation of women and ending the exploitation of women. The advent of a classless society, the abolition of private property, society collectively assuming many of the roles traditionally assigned to mothers and wives, and women becoming integrated into industrial work has (sic!) been promoted as the means to achieve women’s emancipation. Women’s committees have been set up in communist parties since 1920 under the influence of [the] German communist Clara Zetkin. [The future advent of a classless society is not a “means”.] The Soviet Union recognized the “double burden” of housework and paid employment for women. Soviet law encouraged women to work outside the home and a high rate of female workforce participation was achieved in the Soviet Union. However the Soviet Union continued to view housework as a woman’s responsibility [such views varied widely]. Data by (sic!) the United Nations indicates (sic!) that the Soviet Union in 1970 had the highest percentage of employed women in the world.
I leave it to the reader to determine how closely Marxist-Leninist or capitalist societies conform to the following principles of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
- (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
- (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
- (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
- (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
- Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
- (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
- (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
No turning back
As of October 2011 the capitalist holocaust is rolling on, while the system is in deep crisis, perhaps the worst ever.
Of course, the crisis is not reflected in corporate earnings, which seem to be the main measure of economic health according to the mass media. The profits have been generated mainly by intensified exploitation of those who still have jobs, in the form of lower wages, longer hours, no over-time pay and drastic degradation of working conditions.
But despite the bleatings of the mass media, in terms of the economy as a whole, which includes people, there has never been a “recovery” from the crash of 2008, as shown by the Baltic Dry Index as well as the continued increase in unemployment, poverty and starvation.
As indicated in Chapter 15, the financial implosion in 2008 was only the latest and largest manifestation of the general crisis that became evident in the early 1970s. Numerous financial crises since 1980s were forecast by Marxist economists but treated as unwelcome surprises in the mass media, just as many people in southern England regard the first snows of winter as unprecedented and inexplicable phenomena.
Marxist economists are banned from Western mainstream TV. Bourgeois economists were banned from public TV in the Soviet Union, which was naturally interpreted in the West as repression of free speech.
For the majority of the world’s population, including the working class in the imperialist countries, living conditions have been deteriorating steadily over the past 40 years. Credit has been the main life preserver in the imperialist countries, as both the working class and middle class have plunged deeper and deeper into debt. But credit is now more or less exhausted.
Certainly the financial implosion of 2008 made matters worse, as it accelerated the increase in unemployment and served as an excuse for further reductions in social services and social insurance.
It also exposed the extent of financial speculation and the enormous growth of fictitious capital. The capitalist financial sector is de facto bankrupt. The burden of sovereign, corporate and consumer debt is so great that it can never be paid off. One indication is the enormous risk exposure in terms of so-called structured financial instruments such as derivatives. Financial institutions are generally allowed to exclude this type of risk from their balance sheets, which is not surprising.
For example, according to the third-quarter report by the US Office of the Currency Comptroller, in the USA the gross nominal sum of outstanding derivative contracts is USD 333 trillion dollars of which only four banks account for 95.9% of exposure. The exposure of these banks – J. P. Morgan, City, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs – is far greater than their combined assets, a large part of which comprise relatively worthless mortgages and other debt instruments.
For the moment, the illusion of the stability of financial institutions is being maintained by quintuple-entry bookkeeping, massive injections of public money, and the ignorant compliance of journalists (i.e. stenographers) in the mass media.
As the depression deepens, another financial crash is inevitable within the near future. It will lead to even greater levels of integration of government and capital, as well as increased concentration of power among a handful of financial institutions.
Meanwhile, profits must be maximized despite shrinking or stagnating markets. This inevitably entails relentless repression and exploitation as well as the conquest of pockets of resistance, as in the criminal war on Libya, which was designed to enable Western corporations to seize the country’s oil reserves. This war was the prelude to the attempted recolonization of Africa.
Establishing a uniform global level of wages on the model of the European Union is one of the main priorities of the ruling class. The preferred level is at or beneath the subsistence minimum. Probably the best forecast of the future is Engel’s’ The Condition of the Working Class in England.
Given the imperative of profit maximization, the ruling class has no choice but to continue its global war on humanity. In terms of population, the resulting social structure will probably consist of (probably less than) 0.01% super-rich, 0.99 rich, 10% their immediate servants, and 90% slaves. The new Fascism is essential for maintaining this structure.
Revolts such as the current (October 1011) “Occupy Wall Street” will occur. The appropriate response involves expressions of sympathy and understanding by experienced ruling-class media manipulators, who insist that “we need to initiate a meaningful dialogue”. This means that the leaders, if any, of the protests must be identified and neutralized by various means, not excluding appearances on TV talk shows and/or cash payments. As long as the protesters are not organized in a political party dedicated to overthrowing capitalism, they have nothing to fear except water cannon, beatings by police, and unlawful arrest. Without such organization, the protests will probably die out by the summer of 2012 (which they did).
In short, if the capitalist global war on humanity continues unchecked, the majority of the world’s population can look forward to a long, dark night which will end in environmental catastrophe or nuclear annihilation, most probably triggered by Israel.
If on the other hand organized revolutionary Communist movements seriously engage the ruling class – by ballot, prolonged general strikes, bullets or other means – the resulting conflict will be extremely bloody and in the short term chaotic. As Mao Zedong said, “A revolution is not a tea party”.
Organizing such a movement requires an understanding of the nature and function of the propaganda war, and not least its distortion of historical reality.
As long as the subjects of the ruling class continue to be bamboozled by anti-Communist propaganda, as long as they believe that capitalism stands for freedom and democracy and Communism for slavery and exploitation, instead of vice versa, as long as they accept the denial of classes and class conflict, the chances of building a strong revolutionary movement are slim.
But once the working class and the increasingly disenfranchised middle class realize that their masters have hoodwinked them, and that a genuine Marxist-Leninist movement is the only road to freedom, the end-game will begin. “The great only appear to be great because we are on our knees. Let us rise!”