Greek party debates reasons for the collapse of socialism in the USSR
Review of the Theses of the CC of the KKE for its 18th Congress
The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (CPGB-ML) produced in January an enthusiastic review of the Theses which the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) produced for its 18th Party Congress on 18-22 February 2009, where the Theses were adopted.
An abridged version of CPGB-ML’s review was published in Proletarian issue 28. We are pleased to publish the full version here for the benefit of our readers. [This full version is also available on the CPGB-ML website – www.cpgb-ml.org – with a link to the full text of the KKE Theses]
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) is to hold its 18th Congress in Athens from 18-22 February. The central committee of the KKE has prepared some crucially important theses, which are to be submitted to the forthcoming congress for deliberation and adoption. These theses concern the contribution of the socialist system; socialism as the lower stage of communism; socialism in the erstwhile Soviet Union and the reasons for the triumph of counter-revolution therein; and the necessity for and relevance of socialism.
The KKE’s theses constitute the most important document to come from a large west European party in several decades. It is the first time that a large European communist party has boldly dealt with questions of fundamental importance – questions on which hinge the future of the struggle of the proletariat for its social emancipation. In our view, the positions arrived at by the KKE in these theses are absolutely correct.
With refreshing and disarming candour, which many other parties could learn from and emulate, the central committee of the KKE makes a self-criticism of its own incorrect stance on these questions, tracing the origin of its former position to its own lack of theoretical clarity and its uncritical acceptance of the “mistaken theoretical assessments and political choices of the CPSU”, and the “uncritical adoption of the theses of the CPSU concerning questions of theory and ideology”. Referring to the party’s 1995 National Conference, which criticised the uncritical acceptance by the KKE leadership of “the policy of perestroika, assessing it as a reform policy”, within, and of benefit to, socialism, the theses boldly state that this fact, namely, the uncritical acceptance of perestroika, “reflected the strengthening of opportunism within the ranks of the party in this period”. (All the above quotations are from p20 of the theses)
The central committee of the KKE deserves nothing but praise for its self-criticism, which is but a prelude to the adoption of a correct stance in the service of the development of the working-class movement in Greece and elsewhere.
Having made the above introductory remarks, we wish to make a very brief review of the theses and bring their main observations and conclusions to the notice of the reader. For the benefit of those who wish to gain a detailed knowledge of their contents, we are posting the full text of the theses on our website, for they deserve the widest possible circulation and discussion in the international communist movement.
A. The contribution of the socialist system
This section of the theses summarises the colossal and epoch-making achievements of socialism. The success of the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917 was the starting point “for one of the greatest achievements of civilisation in the history of humankind, the abolition of exploitation of man by man”. The achievements of the Soviet Union range from the eradication of “the terrible legacy of illiteracy”, the provision of a free and universal healthcare system, the “abolition of inequality for women” through “socialised childcare” and ensuring the “social character of motherhood”, the raising of the cultural level of the masses, the abolition of national oppression and establishment of friendly relations among different nations and nationalities on the basis of fraternal cooperation and proletarian internationalism, to the construction of a powerful socialist industry and agriculture and the elimination of unemployment.
Through its achievements, Soviet socialism “proved its superiority over capitalism” and provided “the only real counterweight to imperialist aggression”. The USSR made the “decisive” contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany and the liberation of the peoples of many countries in Europe from the jackboot of the fascist “German occupation forces” at great material cost and the lives of more than 20 million Soviet citizens – bringing in its wake “the overthrow of bourgeois” rule in several central and east European countries.
The victories of the Red Army made, on the one hand, a decisive contribution to the “dissolution of the colonial system” and played on the other hand “a major role in the gains won by the working class … in capitalist societies” through the power of example of Soviet socialism. The bourgeoisie, through fear of its own working class emulating the proletariat of the USSR, was compelled to make economic concessions, provide educational facilities, and to institute healthcare and welfare benefits for the working people.
To develop cooperation and mutually beneficial economic relations “based on the principle of proletarian internationalism”, the USSR and other socialist states founded in 1949 the Council for Mutual Economic Cooperation (COMECON), as a unique instrument for economic cooperation on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and aid between socialist countries.
The theses of the KKE, contrasting Soviet socialist democracy and bourgeois parliamentarism, clearly state that the “dictatorship of the proletariat … presented a superior form of democracy”, while taking a swipe at “bourgeois and opportunist propaganda” which identifies “democracy with bourgeois parliamentarism and freedom with bourgeois individualism and private capitalist ownership”.
In these days of widespread renegacy, characterised by the opportunist desertion from the fundamental teachings of Marxism Leninism on the question of the state and the relation of the proletarian revolution to the bourgeois state, the open and honest embrace by the KKE of the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat, whose job it is to abolish the dictatorship of capital (bourgeois democracy) is in itself a tremendous step forward and a breath of fresh air. (For quotations in the preceding section, see pp1-3 of the theses)
B. Theoretical positions on socialism as the first, lower, stage of communism
This section of the theses opens with a restatement and affirmation of the Marxist teaching concerning the lower and higher stages of communism, represented respectively by the formulas “from each according to his ability, to each according to his work” and “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”.
During the lower stage, as society builds its productive forces, there is the need constantly to update the relations of production – in order to make the latter correspond to the former. Failure in this regard cannot but lead to sharpening of contradictions between them and, in certain circumstances, to the emergence of “exploitative relations, as was witnessed in the USSR in the 1980s”. This is a summarised version of the profound analysis made by Stalin in his last work, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR – a work that the KKE cites approvingly in its theses.
Emphasising the role of central planning (which the revisionists and opportunists disdainfully refer to as the ‘command economy’) in the building of socialism, the theses correctly point out that, even at the lower stage of communism, production is “direct social production”, that the allocation of resources takes place directly, according to a central plan, not through the market.
Under socialism, production aims at securing the maximum satisfaction of the constantly rising material and cultural requirements of the whole of society by means of continuous expansion and perfection of socialist production on the basis of higher techniques. This is the basic economic law of socialism, which clearly defines the purpose of planned economic development. Only when this purpose, as formulated in the preceding sentence, is clearly known, can the law of the “balanced development of the national economy, and, hence, economic planning, which is a more or less faithful reflection of this law … yield the desired results”. (Stalin, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, p41)
C. Socialism in the USSR – causes of the victory of counter-revolution.
This section of the theses begins with an affirmation of the socialist character of the USSR by reference to the “abolition of capitalist relations of production, the existence of socialist ownership … central planning, workers’ power and unprecedented achievements benefiting the whole working people”. Precisely for this reason, the Soviet Union drew “ideological and political fire from international imperialism”, just as the counter-revolution of 1991 that overthrew the socialist system was fully “supported by international reaction”.
The theses correctly go on to say that the victory of counter-revolution does not disprove the socialist character of the USSR, let alone substantiate the bourgeois Trotskyite assertion regarding the impossibility of constructing socialism in that country:
“The developments do not confirm the assessments of several opportunistic and petit-bourgeois trends. Social-democratic viewpoints regarding the socialist revolution in Russia as immature were not confirmed. Trotskyite positions claiming that it was impossible to construct socialism in Russia were disproved. The viewpoint that the society that emerged after the October Revolution was not socialist in character or that it quickly deteriorated in the first years of its existence, and therefore that the interruption of the course of the 70-year history of the USSR was inevitable, is subjective and cannot be backed up by the facts.” (p7)
Although the encirclement of, and the wars waged by imperialism against, the Soviet Union, as well as the Cold War, played their part, the theses correctly assert that it is the “internal conditions … the economic-political relations, with the decisive role of the subjective factor”, that played the crucial role in the victory of the counter-revolution:
“In studying the counter-revolution in the USSR we prioritise the internal factors (without ignoring the influence of external factors) because the counter-revolutionary overthrow did not result from an imperialist military intervention but rather from within and from the top, through the policies of the CP.”
From a certain period, “the party lost its revolutionary characteristics and, as a result, counter-revolutionary forces were able to dominate the party and the government in the eighties”. The KKE quite correctly traces the process of degeneration to the 20th Party Congress (1956) of the CPSU, which adopted opportunist positions on a number of economic, political and ideological questions, which, remaining uncorrected, metamorphosed into a counter-revolutionary force over the following three decades, resulting in the liquidation of socialism and the USSR.
Let the theses speak for themselves:
“The 20th Congress of the CPSU (1956) stands out as a turning point, since at that congress a series of opportunist positions were adopted on economic issues, on the strategy of the communist movement and on international relations. The struggle that was taking place before the congress continued and was then consolidated by a turn in favour of the revisionist-opportunist positions, with the result that the party gradually began to lose its revolutionary characteristics. In the decade of the 1980s, with perestroika, opportunism fully developed into a traitorous, counter-revolutionary force. The consistent communist forces that reacted in the final phase of the betrayal, at the 28th CPSU Congress, did not manage in a timely manner to expose it and to organise the revolutionary reaction of the working class.” (p8)
In a note (no 12) to this paragraph, the KKE goes on to say that there was a sharp debate in the presidium of the Central Committee in June 1957, one year after the 20th Congress, at which Molotov, Kaganovich and Malenkov, supported by some others, “opposed the line of the 20th Congress on both internal and external policies”, consequent upon which the above-named three were shortly thereafter stripped of their rank, while others were demoted by the dominant Khrushchevite group.
The New Economic Policy (NEP), introduced at the 10th Party Congress (1921) at Lenin’s prompting, was a temporary retreat and concession to capitalism, necessitated by the economic dislocation and the near disappearance of the proletariat in the aftermath of the civil war and the imperialist war of intervention. The retreat, as well as its transient character, were part and parcel of Lenin’s brilliantly worked out plan for the building of socialism in the Soviet Union.
Only elements alien, or hostile, to communism emphasise one or other of these aspects, instead of considering them as an integral whole. Lenin never glorified the capitalist market; he never regarded the NEP as anything other than a strategic retreat, designed to give the Soviet regime a breathing space in which to gather strength for the next offensive of socialism.
Things turned out just as Lenin had planned. Once the NEP had served its purpose of restoring production to pre-first world war levels, establishing the bond between the town and the country and restoring the proletariat, the Soviet government brought the NEP period to an end and inaugurated the period of planned industrialisation and collectivisation – a period filled with heroic endeavour and epoch-making glorious achievements.
In view of this, the KKE theses correctly state that such “temporary concessions to capitalist relations that are demanded under certain circumstances and special conditions are not in any way an inevitable characteristic of the process of socialist construction”, adding that the NEP was used in the 1980s (in fact, from the 1960s) “as a cover-up to justify the historic reversal from socialism to capitalism carried out by the policies of perestroika”. (p9)
Yet, the CPSU’s policy of socialist construction did not simply sail through with effortless ease. It had to fight for its victory in the face of fierce opposition, both within and outside of the party, in the midst of sharpened class struggle and hostile class collisions.
Many social strata, to whom socialism spelt an end to their privileged existence, joined forces to oppose construction of socialism through collectivisation and industrialisation. The kulaks, the NEP-men, who had benefited enormously from the NEP, the old exploiting classes, and sections of the intelligentsia who belonged to the old privileged classes joined forces and resorted to acts of sabotage in an effort to stop the march forward of socialist construction. “These class-based anti-socialist interests were reflected in the CP, where opportunist currents developed,” say the KKE theses.
The theses quite rightly go on to point out that the anti-socialist interests in the CPSU were reflected by the opportunist currents represented by Trotsky and Bukharin, whose “positions were rejected by the AUCP (Bolshevik) and were not confirmed by reality” (p9).
In a note (no 17) to this observation, the theses elaborate that, while Trotsky, later joined by Zinoviev and Kamenev, put forward the erroneous theory that the USSR could never construct socialism without successful proletarian revolutions in a large number of advanced capitalist countries, Bukharin opposed the collectivisation of agriculture, advocated the continuation of the NEP, putting forward the slogan that the kulaks could ‘grow into’ socialism. The Bukharinite “tendency expressed in an authentic way the interests of the kulaks, the NEP Menshevik and petit-bourgeois tendencies in the context of Soviet society”, say the theses, adding that “It is not by chance that the ideas of Bukharin were adopted in the policies of perestroika in 1988.”
In other words, had the policy advocated by Bukharin won the day, the restoration of capitalism in the USSR would not have had to wait until the end of the 1980s; it would have taken place at the close of the 1920s or the beginning of the 1930s. Bukharin (and, as a matter of fact, Trotsky, too, whose policy, albeit cloaked in ultra-revolutionary phraseology, would just as much have led to the restoration of capitalism) was an earlier-day Gorbachev, or, to put it differently, Gorbachev was a latter-day Bukharinite.
Opportunists turn traitors
The opportunists within the party, with their vehement opposition to the construction of socialism, were propelled, by the logic of their position and the development of struggle, into making common cause with all those forces hostile to socialism – in order to wage a joint struggle for the overthrow of Soviet power with the help of imperialist secret service agencies.
“Along the way,” say the theses, “several opportunist forces united with openly counter-revolutionary forces that were organising plans to overthrow Soviet power in cooperation with secret services from imperialist countries.” (p9)
In a note (no 18) to this paragraph, the KKE explain that this collaboration between the opportunists in the CPSU and sections of the Red Army on the one hand, and the secret services of Germany, Britain and France on the other, was fully revealed by the Moscow Trials of the 1930s, and fully confirmed by such impeccably bourgeois sources as, for instance, Joseph Davies (then US ambassador to Moscow), both in his confidential memo of 17 March 1938 to the US Secretary of State and his subsequent book Mission to Moscow, which was made into a Hollywood film during the second world war.
Breaking through the wall of imperialist propaganda lies, and treating with well-deserved contempt the assertions of the opportunist gangs of Trotskyites, revisionists, social democrats and other petty-bourgeois elements, the KKE courageously affirms the authenticity of the Moscow Trials, which, far from being ‘Stalinist show trials’, meted out proletarian justice and just punishment to several dozen capitalist restorationists and renegades from the cause of socialism.
In the light of the example of the renegades who met their just desserts at the Moscow Trials, the KKE observes:
“The fact that some leading cadres of the party and of Soviet power spearheaded opportunist currents indicates that it is possible even for vanguard cadres to deviate, to weaken when faced with the sharpness of the class struggle and to finally sever their ties with the communist movement and go on to align themselves with the counter-revolutionary forces.”
As to the collectivisation of agriculture, the theses say that, notwithstanding distortions in the implementation of the plan for collectivisation (which were in any case noted and corrected by the party leadership), “the orientation of Soviet power for the reinforcement and extension of the movement [for collectivisation at accelerated rates] was in the correct direction” – its aim being “the transformation of small individual commodity production into socialised production”. (p9)
As to the correction of distortions in the implementation of the party’s policy on collectivisation, in note 15, the KKE approvingly refer to Stalin’s well-known article ‘Dizzy with success’, in which he criticised these distortions and departures from the party’s policy, and thus helped to put an end to them.
Two basic trends
On the question of political economy, the theses refer to two basic trends among the Soviet economic theoreticians and party cadres: “The consistent current of Marxist thought and politics, under the leadership of Stalin”, which held that the existence of commodity production and circulation, the existence of the market, was incompatible with communism, and that, therefore, it was the function of socialism to abolish the market.
Opposed to this “consistent current of Marxist thought” was the current of revisionism, which, following in the wake of bourgeois economists, put its faith in ‘market socialism’, according to which the continued existence of commodity relations under socialism was not merely a heritage of capitalism, reflecting the incomplete development of capitalism in the economy that the Soviet proletariat inherited, but an inherent need of socialist economy, which required not only the continuation of the market, but also its expansion.
Whereas Marxism holds that capitalism is the highest expression of commodity production, the revisionist economists propounded the view that capitalism merely inherits commodity production, it being the function of socialism to raise commodity production to the highest level of development by “purifying” the market and “freeing” it of the distortions to which it is subjected under capitalism.
The consistent Marxist camp, led by Stalin, waged a vigorous struggle against revisionist theoreticians of ‘market socialism’, such as Nikolai Voznesensky, Yaroshenko, Sanina and Venzher. This struggle reached its culmination with the publication in 1952 of Stalin’s Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, which, as we have already noted, the Greek comrades cite approvingly on more than one occasion. As a result of this struggle, the ‘market socialists’ were routed. They only made their comeback with the victory of Khrushchevite revisionism at the 20th Party Congress, which adopted a series of opportunist formulations on a host of questions in the field of political economy, ideology, philosophy, politics and class struggle.
At one time, only renegades from Marxism and imperialist agents accepted the argument of the bourgeois economists directed against socialism, namely, that there could be no economic calculation in the absence of the market, and, further, that, since socialism aimed at the abolition of the market, it must lead to increasing inefficiency and bureaucracy, resulting in an insoluble crisis, from which the only escape route would be through the reassertion of the market.
With the emergence and development of Khrushchevite revisionism, this argument was accepted lock, stock and barrel and put into effect, with the consequences which are now common knowledge.
After the 20th Congress, the economists against whom Stalin had waged a fierce struggle were brought back and put in charge of elaborating, and implementing, the theories and policies of market socialism. Stalin was attacked in and out of season as being dogmatic. Departures from the fundamentals of Marxian political economy – all in the name of returning to ‘true Leninism’ – became a recurrent feature of Soviet economic policy and practice.
The attacks on Stalin served as a smokescreen for putting into place market mechanisms, which, as was to be expected, far from leading in the direction of the higher stage of communism, on the contrary led back in the direction of capitalism. As part of the same process, these attacks served to malign and denigrate three long decades of Soviet history after the death of Lenin – three decades of unimaginable difficulty and extraordinary achievement by the Soviet proletariat – during which Stalin defended and upheld the Marxist-Leninist position on socialism.
In the language of the theses: “After the 20th Congress of the CPSU, political choices were gradually adopted that widened commodity-money (potentially capitalist) relations, in the name of correcting weaknesses in central planning and the administration of socialist bodies (enterprises).”
And further: “with the promotion of ‘market’ policies, instead of reinforcing social ownership and central planning”, the opposite trend began increasingly to develop, with its ever increasing reliance on market mechanisms. Theories of “socialist commodity production”, “socialist market”, and the law of value as a regulator of production under socialism, were propounded and put into practice following the 20th Congress.
Thus it was that, instead of taking steps for the elevation of collective-farm property to the level of public property, in 1958 the revisionists took the opposite step of selling the machine and tractor stations to the collective farms, which undermined the mechanisation of Soviet agriculture, while at the same time extending the sphere of operation of commodity circulation by throwing into its orbit “a gigantic quantity of the instruments of agricultural production”, a step that could hardly be calculated to promote the advance towards communism.
Subsequent reforms on the agricultural front gave further scope for the extension of the market, through the reduction in the quantities of crops supplied to the state by collective farms and the permission to sell increased quantities of agricultural produce in the market at higher prices. All this could not fail to undermine the collective farms.
No wonder, then, that these reforms were greeted with joy by bourgeois economists as a return to capitalism.
Dismantling central planning
In industry, too, ‘economic reforms’ were introduced and intensified on an extensive scale, which in due course undermined the socialist basis of Soviet society through the systematic application of bourgeois norms such as profit as a regulator of production, the price reform, whereby prices increasingly reflected value (prices of production), the increasing emphasis on material incentives and on the profitability and the independence of individual enterprises, which produced for the market and whose products faced each other in the market as commodities. This undermined and, over time, rendered meaningless centralised planning.
The ‘economic reform’ of 1965, in addition to extending the economic independence and initiative of the enterprises and the reduction of the number of “plan indices required of enterprises from above”, emasculated the remaining indices, turning them from directives, which were binding on the enterprises, to mere ‘guidelines’, which the enterprises could choose to follow or ignore as they saw fit. After being brought under the regime of the ‘reformed’ system, enterprises began to plan their own production, determining even the type and quality of products to be produced.
All this came to be called by the revisionist economists ‘planning from below’, and, in the conditions of the prevalence of this kind of ‘planning’, the ‘central’ economic plan assumed the form of a totality, an aggregate, of the economic plans of the individual enterprises. And, as the individual enterprises often changed their plans in the course of a ‘planning period’, and therefore the central economic plan produced at the beginning bore no resemblance to end results, it is hardly surprising that leading lights among even the revisionist economists should themselves admit of the practical impossibility of compiling a five-year plan and be forced to say that the Soviet economy had become characterised by anarchy (‘indeterminacy’ was the word they used for it, as they studiously avoided using terminology understood by all and sundry).
As comprehensive centralised economic planning was dismantled and replaced by ‘planning from below’, the role of the state was reduced to merely laying down economic guidelines and attempting to influence individual enterprises by use of economic levers of various kinds, such as credit supply, rates of interest, etc. Thus, instead of the associated proletariat engaging in production in the different branches of the national economy, as had been the case earlier, production after the ‘economic reforms’ were instituted was broken up and fragmented (from a social point of view) and increasingly became private production (ie, commodity production).
And commodity production, once it becomes a general form of production, can only mean capitalist production. Calling it “socialist commodity production” does not change it one whit. As Stalin correctly stated, by way of reiteration of the generally-known truth, “capitalist production is the highest form of commodity production”. (Economic Problems, p13)
In the words of the theses, “Through the market reforms, through the detachment of the socialist production unit from central planning, the socialist character of ownership over the means of production was weakened.”
And further, “the theoretical sliding and the corresponding political retreat in the USSR came during a new phase of a further development of the productive forces, which demanded more effective incentives and indices of central planning … That is, it necessitated a corresponding development of central planning in the direction of strengthening the communist mode of production.” (p12)
Instead, the revisionists moved in the opposite direction, which over time was bound to lead, and did lead, to the restoration of capitalism.
Profit as a regulator of production
During the controversy with the revisionist economist Yaroshenko, Stalin criticised Yaroshenko for failing to realise “what aim society sets social production, to what purpose it subordinates social production, say under socialism”, adding that “Comrade Yaroshenko forgets that men produce not for production’s sake, but in order to satisfy their needs.” (Ibid, p78)
And further: “the aim of capitalist production is profit-making … Man and his needs disappear from its field of vision.” The aim of socialist production, on the other hand, is “the securing of the maximum satisfaction of the constantly rising material and cultural requirements of the whole of society”. (ibid, pp79-80)
With the implementation of ‘economic reform’, slowly but surely, private production by individual enterprises, which produced for the market and whose products competed with each other in the market, came to replace comprehensive centralised planned production, and profit (the law of value, which is a law of commodity production that operates under capitalism as a regulator of production) became a regulator of production in the USSR as well.
“We must elevate the importance of profit and profitability”, said Khrushchev at the 22nd Party Congress. The ‘economic reforms’ of Brezhnev and Kosygin further enhanced the role of profit as “one of the economic instruments of socialism. A considerable enhancement of its role is an indispensible requisite for cost accounting.” (‘Economic policy and work for communism’, editorial in Pravda, 14 January 1966)
The criterion of efficiency under this system of ‘cost accounting’ (khozraschot) came to be expressed by what the Soviet revisionist economists euphemistically called the ‘index of profitability’, that is, the annual profits of an enterprise as a percentage of its total assets. In ordinary language, this is called the ‘rate of profit’, an expression at the time avoided by revisionist economists because of its obvious capitalist connotations and connections, which they, as the builders of ‘communism’ could have no truck with! But the ‘socialist rate of profit’ of individual enterprises – rechristened the ‘index of profitability’ – was quite another matter!
Means of production become commodities
Up to the late 1950s, Soviet enterprises were allocated the means of production that they utilised in accordance with the state’s plans for production. Thus, the means of production did not enter the category of commodities. What is more, the produce (except collective-farm produce) belonged to the state too. Under such a system, the rate of profit of an enterprise could have little reality. In order to make it a reality, the economic theoreticians of revisionism conducted a campaign, demanding that enterprises should be made to pay for their production assets, ie, to buy means of production. As a result, the central committee of the CPSU, at its meeting in September 1965, endorsed the principle of enterprises paying for the means of production.
To begin with, the enterprises paid for their production assets by making annual payments to the state budget. Subsequently, they were allowed to pay in a lump sum, which might come out of their own funds or might be financed by a bank loan. Profit being the supreme criterion of production under such a system, enterprises have every incentive to pay for their production assets in a lump sum, as well as in continuing to use obsolete equipment, which has already been paid for, as long as possible.
In this way, step by step, the old system, whereby the state owned the means of production, which it allocated free of charge to various enterprises for utilisation as mere agents of the state and not as owners, was replaced by one under which enterprises paid for their production assets and ended up by becoming owners of those assets. Having paid for the means of production, their purchasers, ie, the various enterprises, acquired the rights of disposal over them. Thus it was that, under the ‘economic reform’, the means of production entered the sphere of commodities.
By 1971, two thirds of the USSR’s total trade turnover was accounted for by the market in the means of production. Be it noted that under the Statute on Socialist State Production Enterprise, the property rights of the enterprise were vested in its director, who could “without power of attorney, act in its name, dispose of the property and funds of the enterprise”.
Since profit had become the supreme deity, at the feet of which revisionist economic theoreticians and their political masters worshipped, the 24th Congress (1971), as the KKE theses note, “with its directives on the formulation of the ninth five-year plan (1971-75), reversed the proportional priority” of department I (the production of the means of production) over department II (that concerned with the production of the means of consumption), since producing articles of consumption was immediately more profitable.
The fact that this retrograde step had negative effects on labour productivity – a fundamental element for increasing social wealth and “the maximum satisfaction of … the material and cultural requirements of the whole of society through continuous expansion and perfection of socialist production on the basis of higher techniques” (Stalin) – did not bother the worshippers of ‘market socialism’. This decision, far from eliminating consumer shortages, only led to the stagnation of Soviet industry.
In the words of the theses:
“The direction which held sway can be judged today not only theoretically, but also by the results. After two decades of the application of these methods, the problems clearly sharpened. Stagnation reared its head for the first time in the history of socialist construction. Technological backwardness continued to be a reality for the majority of industries. Shortages appeared in many consumer products, as well as additional problems within the market”, with enterprises producing “an artificial rise in prices, by hoarding commodities in warehouses or supplying them in controlled quantities.” (Emphasis in the original)
The expanding operation of the market undermined socialist production, “strengthened short-term individual and group interest (with significant income differentials among the workers in each enterprise, between the workers and managers, between different enterprises)” to the detriment of the overall interests of society. In due course, “social conditions were created for the counter-revolution to flourish and finally prevail using perestroika as its vehicle.” (p12)
Thus, through this process was created a privileged stratum – a managerial class – possessed of a sizeable amount of “shadow capital”, secured through a combination of enterprise profits, black-market operations and downright theft of enterprise property, which sought legal recognition through the open privatisation of the means of production and restoration of capitalism.
It is this stratum that became the driving force of the counter-revolution through skilful manipulation of its “position in the state and party mechanisms, the support of sections of the population … vulnerable to the influence of bourgeois ideology and wavering … These forces directly or indirectly influenced the party, strengthening its opportunist erosion and its counter-revolutionary degeneration, which was expressed through the policies of ‘perestroika’ and sought the constitutional consolidation of capitalist relations. This was achieved … with the overthrow of socialism.” (p13)
Parallel with, and preceding, the ‘economic reform’ that, step by step, over a period of three decades, led to the victory of the counter-revolution, restoration of capitalism and the disappearance of the USSR, there was the ideological degeneration of the CPSU. The turning point “for the adoption of revisionist and opportunist views by the leadership of the CPSU and other CPs” was, say the KKE theses, “carried out at the 20th Congress (1956) of the CPSU” with the “subsequent gradual loss of the revolutionary characteristics of the party”, which, sad to say, “the consistent communist forces were not able successfully to counter”. (p14)
By way of drawing a lesson from the tragedy of the counter-revolution in the USSR and eastern European former socialist countries, the theses go on correctly to observe:
“Even if this development could not have been stopped, especially by the 1980s, it is certain that resistance, in both the governing parties and within the international communist movement, would have ensured that today’s struggle for the reconstruction of the international movement would be taking place under better conditions, and that there would exist the preconditions for it to overcome its deep crisis.” * (p14)
In other words, there is room for timely criticism and self-criticism in the international movement. Indeed, such criticism and self-criticism, not the perpetuation of smug, self-congratulatory cabals, are the life blood of our movement and propel it forward.
The theses affirm the Marxist teachings on the dictatorship of the proletariat (which is what Soviet power represented) by defining it as the “state power of the working class which is not shared with anyone … The dictatorship of the proletariat is the organ of the working class in the class struggle which continues” even after the overthrow of the exploiting classes. “The working class, as the bearer of communist relations … as the collective owner of the socialised means of production, is the only class which can lead the struggle for the total predominance of communist relations, for the disappearance of classes and the withering away of the state.” (pp15-16)
Thus, anyone who weakens the party of the proletariat, who weakens the dictatorship of the proletariat, cannot but end up in the camp of those wishing to restore capitalism. And this is precisely what the Khrushchevite revisionists did, beginning with the 20th Party Congress and the adoption of opportunist positions on a whole host of issues of cardinal importance to the preservation and advancement of socialism in the socialist countries, the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat in the capitalist countries, and the national-liberation struggles of the oppressed countries against the allied forces of imperialism and feudalism.
The CPSU, at its 20th and subsequent two congresses that consolidated the revisionism of the leadership, came up with a number of erroneous and anti-Marxian theses. Class struggle in the Soviet Union was declared at an end, there thus being no need for the dictatorship of the proletariat. As a result, the dictatorship of the proletariat allegedly made way for a state of the ‘entire Soviet people’. In similar fashion, the CPSU, instead of being the party of the proletariat, was declared to be a party of the entire Soviet people.
In defiance of Marxian teaching and historical experience alike, the proletarians of the capitalist countries were told that the proletariat could come to power through peaceful parliamentary ways, that the ideas of violent revolution, of the proletarian revolution smashing and overthrowing the bourgeois state power, were outmoded and no longer represented concrete reality.
While social democracy ceaselessly carried on its dirty work on behalf of imperialism, making every attempt at removing “the working class from the influence of communist ideas”, the Khrushchevites preached a rapprochement with social democracy on the pretext that the latter was divided into a ‘left’ and ‘right’ wing – thus “weakening the ideological struggle” against this deadly enemy of the proletariat. (pp17-18)
The revisionist leadership of the CPSU, in a one-sided interpretation of Lenin’s thesis on peaceful coexistence, propagated ‘peaceful existence’ with imperialism as the primary aim of all foreign policy, and portrayed the latter and the leaders of imperialism in pretty colours. In this way, the CPSU leadership, as from the 20th Congress “allowed the development of utopian views, such as that it is possible for imperialism to accept in the long term the coexistence with forces that have broken its worldwide domination. Since the 20th Congress of the CPSU, this notion was also linked to the possibility of a parliamentary transition to socialism in Europe.” (p17)
Through all these opportunist theses, Khrushchevite revisionism disarmed the Soviet working class, undermined the dictatorship of the proletariat and did irreparable damage to the cause of proletarian revolution and national liberation. It opened the floodgates through which countless microbes of bourgeois ideology invaded, and, over a period of three decades, overwhelmed the socialist countries, resulting in the victory of counter-revolution and the restoration of capitalism in the USSR and the eastern and central European socialist countries.
D. Necessity and relevance of socialism
Under this subsection, refusing to be disheartened by the counter-revolutions in the former socialist countries, the KKE theses affirm the party’s faith in the bright future of socialism. Our party programme, say the theses, states:
“The anti-revolutionary overthrows do not change the character of this period. The 21st century will be the century of a new upsurge of the world revolutionary movement and a new series of social revolutions.”
They add: “The struggles which are restricted to defending some gains, despite the fact that they are necessary, cannot provide real solutions. The only way out and the inevitable perspective remains socialism, despite the defeat at the end of the 20th century.”
They go on to affirm, as if to refute the Trotskyite nonsense of world revolution overnight, the Leninist thesis of the uneven development of capitalism in the following words:
“The victory of the socialist revolution, initially in one country or in a group of countries, springs from the operation of the law of uneven economic and political development of capitalism. The conditions for socialist revolution do not mature simultaneously worldwide. The imperialist chain will break at its weakest link.
“The specific ‘national’ duty of each CP is the realisation of the socialist revolution and the socialist construction in its country, as a part of the world revolutionary process. This will contribute to the creation of a ‘fully consummated socialism’ within the framework of the ‘revolutionary collaboration of the proletarians of all countries’.
“The Leninist thesis concerning the weak link does not overlook the dialectic relationship of the national with the international in the revolutionary process, which is expressed by the fact that the passage to the highest phase of communism requires the worldwide victory of socialism, or at least, its victory in the developed and dominant countries in the imperialist system.”(p19)
In the concluding two paragraphs, entitled ‘Epilogue’, the KKE comrades state:
“Our party will continue study and research towards a better codification of our conclusions, including issues which have not been fully dealt with. Equally important is the assimilation of our present elaborations on socialism-communism by all the members of the party and the communist youth.
“It is this duty that will determine the ability of the party to fully connect its strategy with the everyday struggle, to formulate goals for the immediate problems of the working people in connection with the strategy for the conquest of revolutionary workers’ power and for socialist construction.”
The above, then, is our brief review of the Theses of the Central Committee of the KKE, for its forthcoming 18th Congress, on a question of fundamental importance to the international working-class movement. There is much more valuable detail in the theses, which it has not been possible for us to draw to the readers’ attention for reasons of space and time – especially the latter. However, in view of the importance of the theses to our movement, we are, as stated at the outset of this article, posting them on our website in order to facilitate their widest possible circulation.
In tracing the degeneration of the CPSU to the 20th Congress, and in pinpointing the real culprit – Khrushchevite revisionism – the comrades of the KKE have rendered a valuable service to the international communist movement. It is to be hoped that many other communist parties, if they are truly communist and serious about socialism and the emancipation of the proletariat, will follow the example of the Greek comrades, for without settling these historical questions, no real progress can be made in our present struggle for socialism and the overthrow of capitalism.
We in the CPGB-ML express our enthusiastic support for the theses of the KKE. All that remains is for us to wish the KKE a very successful 18th Congress and to send our fraternal greetings to all the delegates in attendance.
Long live Marxism Leninism!
Forward to the victories of socialism under the victorious banner of Marxism Leninism!
Central Committee of the CPGB-ML
27 January 2009.
* Although the KKE’s theses do not mention it, this struggle was conducted by the Communist Party of China and the Party of Labour of Albania, and led to a split in the international communist movement. It is regrettable indeed that more communist parties did not follow the principled lead given by the Chinese and Albanian comrades at that time.