These are times that test the more basic understanding, the more long-range outlook of all of us. These are times that check our political and ideological maturity, our staying power and our commitment.
Many familiar landmarks and guideposts have disappeared. The fog has become thicker and more difficult to see through. For some, things that seemed certain and even inevitable have become questionable. For those of us who believe human society will advance through socialism as an inevitable stage in history, these are trying times. Setbacks and defeats do not produce the best kind of materials with which to build confidence and enthusiasm for the future.
The setbacks have had a negative effect on all components of the world revolutionary movement. There has been some loss of confidence in socialism.
Questions are being raised about the science of Marxism-Leninism, about socialism, about the need for a working-class revolutionary party, even to the extent of moves to liquidate the ideological, political and organisational essence of communist parties. Some parties have already eliminated “communist” from their name and their program.
I think these are unnecessary, wrong moves and wrong conclusions to draw. In order to be objective, to arrive at scientific conclusions, we must apply our science to the setbacks. Applying our science enables us to maintain our equilibrium, to stay the course.
History is not just a series of events that have no direction. The forward direction is from slavery, to feudalism, to capitalism to socialism. That is the inevitable direction of history.
Regardless of ups and downs, zigs and zags, forward and backward motion, the sweep of history takes its course. All the processes of history inevitable give rise to the forces that make socialism inevitable. And if socialism were to completely disappear from the face of the earth, societies that have gone backward toward capitalism will have to go through the class struggle once again to move forward toward socialism. Capitalism itself makes this struggle inevitable. It is a hard and tragic lesson, but we are already seeing the seeds of this process in some countries that have gone off the socialist path.
The world’s a different place
The world is a different place today because anti-socialist and counter-revolutionary waves swept many parts of the world – from Budapest to Moscow and everywhere between. It is a tragic fact of history that these anti-socialist waves did not meer any organised resistance in most of these countries and that the communist parties simply collapsed.
It is important to note here that the anti-socialist wave did not succeed in all the socialist countries – not in China, Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea. In these countries the counter-revolutionary tide was turned back.
In these countries the working people are continuing to build socialism under very difficult circumstances. Each of these countries is continuing to build socialism according to their specific circumstances and history.
Of course the setbacks have negatively affected their development. But they are all making the necessary adjustments, especially Cuba, where there is total mobilisation of people and resources. Emergency plans to defend and preserve Cuban socialism have been in place for years.
The Soviet Union is no longer the support base for the smaller socialist countries and the countries in the Third World. The Soviet Union is no longer the same kind of counterforce to world imperialism as it was in the past. This makes the world a different, more dangerous, less peaceful place. The shock waves are still reverberating around the world. Because of this loss, the smaller countries are forced to make concessions, as is the case in Afghanistan, Angola and Ethiopia.
This fact has forced countries like Cuba and Vietnam to take necessary measures to protect their socialist system. Those who are predicting the fall of Cuban socialism, or who are advising Fidel to accommodate in any way, will have to wait a long time, most likely forever.
The new arrogance and brutality of US imperialism is the turning of the Guantanamo naval base into refugee camps for Haitians as a way-station on Cuban soil. It is a glaring example of the “new world order” concept, in which the United States thinks it can treat people as it wishes, without regard to consequences of its actions.
The world is also different because the cold war has receded into the background. The cold war served as the glue that kept the major capitalist countries together. Because the glue has worn off, inter-imperialist contradictions, self-interest centrifugal forces are taking over.
Although the cold war is receding, the military build-up in the United States continues unabated. The United States is developing and launching ever more sophisticated spy satellites and new, more accurate long-range missiles.
One of the newer satellites just returned from a ten-day test run after launching a most sophisticated $300 million spy satellite. The Republicans in Congress support the President’s military program and the Democrats are only cutting the military budget very slightly, and only in production of outdated and worthless military equipment.
It has been a period of monopoly capital in the raw. The brazen arrogance of the right-wing forces has increased as a result of the Gulf War.
The Bush Administration’s pursuit of a foreign policy based on armed might remains its method of choice to dominate the world. It is used not only for military aggression, but to threaten and intimidate other countries.
Bush’s “New World Order”
It has adapted the new slogan, “new world order,” to its evil purposes. Bush and Baker’s concept of a “new world order” includes the idea that there is now only one “superpower”. It includes order through stealth terrorism, order through big power bullyism and bribery, order through the barrel of a gun. It uses a false concept of “new world order” to hide its aggression and its designs for US world domination. It now includes the awesome power of the largest military force and most sophisticated computerised smart bomb technology. Bush’s vision of the “new world order” concept means that the US will enforce its imperialist morality on the world through military “might makes right.”
I do not think we have yet fully comprehended the new danger that comes from the “new world order” concept that sees the US as the “only superpower”. I do not think we fully understand the danger US imperialism poses to countries like Cuba, EI Salvador and Nicaragua.
Unfortunately, the armed struggles going on in Yugoslavia add an additional dimension to the setbacks. And of course there have been new threats by the Bush administration against North Korea, Libya and Iraq. These are some of the new developments we have to deal with.
However, we must not limit our view to the negatives on the world scene. This would be short sighted. The struggles in South Africa are more in keeping with what the future struggles will be like.
The rallying cry of "democracy"
Worldwide, this has been a period of turmoil, distinguished by the rallying cry of “democracy.” This slogan has become a material force for change and has been used for both positive and negative purposes. A popular demand for greater democracy swept through many countries, both capitalist and socialist.
Democracy has long been the battle cry of the world forces of anti-imperialism and national liberation.
In the socialist countries, the slogan was adapted to serve the struggles for a more democratic socialism. There is confusion because both the pro and anti-socialist forces use it.
Democracy became the main rallying cry for the forces fighting to overturn reactionary, racist, militaristic regimes in South Africa, Haiti, Chile and EI Salvador.
In South Africa, the concepts and movements for “land, equality and democracy” are step-by-step tearing down the edifice of apartheid, the most deeply entrenched reactionary, racist capitalist regime in the world.
In the United States, the struggles for civil rights, trade union rights, political empowerment and many other civil and human rights reached a new level in the 1980s.
On the other hand, there are forces who have been able to adapt the freedom and democracy slogans to fit their reactionary purposes.
US imperialism demagogically used the slogan for its policies of aggression. It adapted the slogan to serve as a cover for its support and funding of cut-throat contra gangs the world over.
US imperialism used it to camouflage its efforts to weaken and destroy world socialism. In the name of freedom and democracy, it is working hand-in-hand with Yeltsin and Gorbachev to dismember the USSR. In the name of democracy it supports the anti-socialist, reactionary nationalist forces in the Baltic Republics. It is presiding over the republic-by-republic dismemberment of the Soviet Union.
Reading the handwriting on the Kremlin wall, Bush has now decided that Gorbachev is no longer useful, and has decided to switch support away from the centre and to the republics.
For example, even before the referendum in the Ukraine, Bush announced his decision to recognise the Ukraine as a separate nation. It is clear, the US thinks that support for Gorbachev is no longer the best road to destroy socialism, and has switched its support to Yeltsin and the separate republics, who now hold most of the cards.
Behind the slogan “freedom and democracy”, the US continues to push the socialist countries and especially the Soviet Union onto a path of no return to capitalism.
The support and funding of the contra gangs, the aggression against Nicaragua and Afghanistan, the invasions of Panama and Grenada, the continuing manipulations of the Middle East crisis, all are carried out under the umbrella of “democracy.”
There are so-called democracies that are anything but democratic. Just as there is change that is not really change. The old structures and forms of imperialism have largely disappeared, even though some remain, such as NATO, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
Nonetheless, imperialism remains an active, powerful and extremely reactionary and dangerous force in the world. Its tactics have changed. But if anything, US imperialism, unchallenged and uncontrolled by any counterforce, is more aggressive and militaristic, more racist, more warlike and more arrogant than ever.
Bush’s speeches about the “new world order” dominated by US monopoly capital, speak about making the next two centuries “American centuries.” He uses phrases like: “What we say goes” and “we have the means to enforce our concepts” and “we are the only superpower left on earth”. This presents a new danger to the world, to the Third World countries and to the socialist countries.
In addition to the old style imperialist aggression, new forms of more indirect imperialist enslavement are in place, such as oppression by way of a bottomless indebtedness in which payments on new loans cannot even cover the interest on the old. This is a financial chokehold by the imperialist banks on the Third World countries, as well as increasingly on some socialist countries. And there is the imperialist policy of organising and funding right-wing nationalist gangs in Angola, Nicaragua, Afghanistan.
World capitalist relationships have also changed. But capitalism has not. Japan, and now a united capitalist Germany, have become bigger world powers. The United States, England and France have been forced to make room for the new thugs on the block.
The world capitalist economy is increasingly global. The transnational corporations have grown fat during this period. Capital is more mobile and world markets are more integrated. But capitalism remains states monopoly capitalism.
In the Gulf War, the invasion and occupation of Kuwait was unjust. But the Bush administration used it to mobilise support for its plans to subjugate Iraq and take over its oil resources. In the name of “saving the Middle East from Saddam Hussein”, 250,000 lives were needlessly lost, cities and towns destroyed and the environment devastated for years to come.
The shift in fortunes for US monopoly capital is evident in the fact that within a ten-year period, the United States has fallen from the heights of the biggest, most powerful creditor nation to being the biggest debtor nation in the world. Foreign banks own big chunks of US real estate, corporations and government bonds.
Yet the transnationals did quite well in the 80s despite the economic decline of the US as a world economic power. The auto companies alone reported over $50 billion in profits. The total debt, federal, state, corporate and consumer, is now over $11 trillion. The escalating interest payments on this debt is the Achilles heel of the US economy.
In the sweep of history, US imperialism will not be able to recapture its former status. It has reached its apex and is on the descent. Capitalism will continue to have its ups and downs, but it is on the declining side of history.
How capitalism survives
Capitalism survives by borrowing on the future. It survives by increasing the rate of exploitation. It survives by increasing the racist component of exploitation. It survives by expropriating most of the benefits from new technology. It survives by exploiting the underdeveloped countries and by making the whole world part of its “vital economic interests”.
Capitalism survives, but in the process digs its own hole deeper and wider. Its fight for survival means that survival for the working class and people becomes increasingly more difficult as the overall standard of living declines and their choices keep narrowing. Thus, the class contradiction deepens and the class struggle sharpens. This is an inevitable process.
The systematic flaws in capitalism are not going to disappear. In fact, they will sharpen. In the sweep of history, the setbacks and even the defeats in the socialist countries are temporary. They do not signal the end of socialism or the communist parties. The direction of history in the making continues to move in a progressive direction. The setbacks have not changed this. Socialism is an inevitable stage on the path of advancing civilisation.
The Soviet Union
At this point it seems to me we should not have to argue some questions about the Soviet Union. Are the policies followed by the Gorbachev-Yeltsin group destructive of socialism? The answer is all too obvious.
Do these policies reflect their rejection of the science of Marxism-Leninism? The answer is definitely yes.
Are their policies, step by step, moving the Soviet Union into capitalism? They sure are.
Are they and their policies responsible for the disintegration of the Soviet Union? Unfortunately, yes.
Was or is the disintegration of the Soviet Union inevitable? Absolutely not.
What kept the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics together was the self-interest and mutual benefit that socialism gave them. It was a socialist unity. To the extent that socialism disappeared economically, politically and ideologically, the need for the union disappeared.
Among the basic features of the second phase of perestroika was the dismantling of the planned essence of socialist society. It was the planning that gave socialism stability and cohesion. But planning was abolished. It was like dumping a bag of marbles on the floor and then throwing away the bag. Like marbles, the republics scattered.
There were no ideas or proposals for any kind of new structure, planned or otherwise. This was the main reason for the free fall of the Soviet economy. There were no guidelines or direction of any kind. The disintegration of the CPSU only added an additional dimension to the chaos.
The setbacks are related to the 70-year effort of imperialism to destroy socialism and to the effects of the cold war. They are related to the economic, political and ideological offensive of world imperialism, led by the United States. Much of the offensive was conducted covertly. The softening-up process was a well thought out conspiracy to encourage and promote corruption, nationalism, illusions and lies. The softening-up process was especially focused on the more backward aspects and elements of socialist societies.
The setbacks are also related to a bureaucratic leadership style, right opportunistic influences, illusions about capitalism and discarding of policies based on the class struggle – all of which prepared the ideological and political soil for the work of the enemy ideology. This led to corruption and distortion of the basic tenets of socialism.
Along with weaknesses and mistakes in theory and ideology, as well as political miscalculations, there were big errors in economic policy. As I’ve said, the old structures were dismantled and nothing was provided to take their place.
The setbacks were caused by human error, not because socialism is a failed or unworkable system. In fact, many of the wrong policies were anti-socialist to start with.
In the Soviet Union, the supposed correction of mistakes and the debates around theory got out of hand. The anti-socialist elements were able to get the upper hand. For a period of five years no one defended socialism, its history and achievements. The slander and vilification of the socialist system went mainly unanswered. This led to mass confusion. The corrupt, anti-socialists and the criminals got into positions of power. They took over the mass media. The CPSU went into a tailspin.
There has been a flood of opportunistic statements – volumes and volumes of them for the past five years. The following examples are by leading Soviet personalities:
''The two systems of capitalism and socialism are moving in the same direction.”
“It is strange to speak of the irreconcilability of states with different social systems now that even class conflicts within capitalist countries are being waged not in fierce confrontational forms but predominantly through compromises.”
“The myth that the class interests of socialist and developing countries coincide in resisting imperialism does not hold up ...”
"By pursuing the logic of anti-imperialist struggle, we allowed ourselves contrary to the interests of our fatherland – to be drawn into the arms race and helped to introduce the ‘enemy image’ and to set up technological barriers between the USSR and the USA.”
“Mature capitalism, unlike its early forms, is not interested in deceit, but in the honest acquisition of profit in the course of economic trade.” (Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister in New York Times, 07/01/1990)
“While private ownership has proved to be socially useful throughout the world, our state ownership has only proved it can land the country in a mess.”
“The thesis of class struggle did not win fame for the state and party leaders who espoused it, or for the country and people.”
“Politically capitalism has every right to existence; and we must recognise this right.”
“We take no sides on world contradictions.”
“The ideological division of the world into East and West is a thing of the past.”
The logic of “new thinking”
The logical extension of Gorbachev’s “new thinking” are the actions he took after the attempted coup. He collaborated with Yeltsin in outlawing the CPSU, padlocking the party offices and buildings, silenced the several party newspapers, confiscated party property, files and records. He illegally dismissed the Central Committee and Secretariat and ordered confiscation of their offices; he gave open approval to the witch-hunts, including the arrest of Communists. He then resigned as General Secretary.
He succeeded in disbanding the democratically elected government bodies, the Supreme Soviet and Congress of People’s Deputies and wrested power from the elected government of working-class power, install non-elected, appointed government, with emergency powers to rule by decree.
He has presided over the disintegration of the USSR through the so-called treaty and is now working to break up the socialist economic structure completely, and with it the political and ideological structure. The anti-socialist, pro-capitalist forces have gained the upper hand.
The economy is free falling, inflation is rampant, the underground economy is operating in full swing. An entrepreneurial class is growing with all the corrupt and criminal elements this brings forth. The Soviet working class is staring into the future of a winter of unemployment, scarcity and inflation, now running at about 50 per cent a month.
It’s little wonder that some Yeltsin policies remind you of some Reagan/Bush policies. The latest edition of the Nation exposes why. They all share some of the same advisors. Yeltsin has a long-term contract with the notorious Hoover Institute.
As the Nation put it: “The Hoover advice is simple: Russia should go ‘cold turkey’ and move to capitalism without much central co-ordination or Western financial aid. It should privatise industry promptly and eliminate the state from as many activities as possible.” And Yeltsin pays for this advice.
But there is ample evidence that the Communists in the Soviet Union are regrouping. One of the best signs of the rebirth of the CP was the spontaneous mass turnout for the November 7 demonstrations. There were over 100,000 out in Moscow.
The Communist Party is now illegal in most parts of what used to make up the Soviet Union. All foreign communists have been ordered out of the country by November 15th. This included those married to Soviet citizens. There is no letup in Gorbachev’s anti-communist drive.
There are many unanswered questions relating to the new developments. Many will be discussed for a long time.
In a basic sense, the new thinking of Gorbachev is the thinking that dropped the role of the class struggle, the role of the working class, the struggle against capitalism and imperialism. This new thinking resulted in setbacks around the world. It set the stage for right opportunist trends world-wide. The new thinking is in its very essence right opportunism.
One of the more basic questions being debated, not only in our party but around the world, is the question: what brought about the crisis of socialism?
Socialism will work
The corporate owned and sponsored mass media line is that the crisis of socialism was inevitable because socialism cannot work and the problems are systematic. Some argue, even in our party, that the problems are systematic in both systems, capitalism and socialism.
I have argued that the flaws in the Soviet Union are not systematic. The crisis resulted as a result of serious mistakes made by the leadership.
The truth is that there are no systematic flaws in the basic tenets of socialism; no flaws in the basic concept of public ownership of the means of production; no flaws in the concept of a planned economy or production for the common good. There is no basic flaw in the theories of Marxism-Leninism or dialectical materialism. You can’t blame the crimes of Stalin on socialism, anymore than you can blame the mistakes of Gorbachev on socialism.
The crisis is caused by violations of the principles that socialism is based on. The crisis is caused by introducing capitalism into the structure of socialism. They don’t mix. Socialism can and must be made better, more democratic, less centralised, etc.
On the other hand, the crisis of capitalism is systematic. The roots of this crisis are in the private ownership and control of the means of production.