Saturday, November 11, 2017

USMLO: The Great Revolution That Provided Solutions Valid for Today

This is an editorial from the November 3rd issue of USMLO's Voice of Revolution.  This article and others on 1917, Puerto Rico, imperialism, the Balfour Declaration, the US withdrawal from UNESCO, etc. will be posted at and I will distribute copies locally next week.  This is also my 500th post.   

"The Great October Socialist Revolution took place 100 years ago November 7. It brought forward the new, ushering in the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution.  It firmly settled scores with the old, refusing to accept the institutions and state of the old and instead embarking on a path to build the new, a new that empowered the people and advanced the cause of socialism and the emancipation of all humanity.  It is an example for all today, as it shows the necessity to address the political, economic and cultural problems of the day and provide them with solutions. 

The U.S. Marxist-Leninist Organization salutes the October Revolution and all the workers and communists worldwide defending rights and organizing to follow its path.  We are confident that the path forward it forged is a path forward for workers and oppressed peoples today and one that will enable the peoples to emerge victorious. 

One feature of the revolution is that it provided a solution to imperialist war, by withdrawing from it.  It was said this could not be done, but with the leadership of the Communist Party, the Bolsheviks, it was accomplished.  This firm stand against imperialist war, at a time when many forces supported war, was a vital solution.  It is valid today, at a time when every effort is being made to justify imperialist war, in the name of the war on terrorism. 

 It is said that the U.S. cannot withdraw and bring troops home because supposedly the peoples are not able to govern themselves, provide themselves with solutions of their own making.  Far from it, it is U.S. invasions, wars, aggression and interference that have unleashed violence, destruction and chaos.  U.S. wars are no longer for political purposes, which is also why political solutions are not provided.  Whatever the U.S. cannot control, it destroys. 

The solution required is withdrawal, is Bringing All U.S. Troops Home Now, not tomorrow.  U.S. wars have solved no problem and the broad demand of the majority in the U.S. is to end them all now.  It is to stop funding war, which at present involves almost $700 billion yearly, even more when all the internal police agencies and prisons are included. 

Defending and funding rights abroad and at home is needed.  It is a solution the October Revolution also provided, as it advanced the rights of workers, women, peasants and stood with the peoples of the world.  This was evident in the sacrifice and leadership provided during socialist construction, in WWII and to all the oppressed peoples fighting for their liberation. 

Solutions on the Issue of Democracy

The October Revolution also provided solutions on the issue of democracy, organizing to empower the people themselves.  Today it is said that U.S.-style democracy is the best humanity can accomplish, even though its undemocratic and racist character is evident for all to see.  The bryutal racist police killings continuing with impunity are such that black athletes are once again taking their stand, refusing to stand for the anthem and taking a knee instead.  This action, initially of football players was followed by many, including women's basketball and soccer players, university students, fraternities, little league teams.  Its significance lies in targeting the anthem, a symbol of the U.S. state.  It is directed not only against Trump, but rather against the impunity of the state. 

The U.S. state from its beginning has been based on racism and genocide and impunity to use force against the peoples.  This U.S.-style democracy is mired in deep crisis, as is evident in the fact that the election did not provide legitimacy to the government.  On the contrary, the conflicts within the executive and between it and the military are increasing and played out in public, while the rejection of the democracy among the people is increasing. 

In this regard, the example provided by the October Revolution in building the Soviets and developing new governing structures at all levels while also developing self-defense committees is one to follow.  The revolution did not rely on the old institutions.  It did nor rely on the notion that if the old institutions are filled with better people, with better values, then democracy will prevail.  On the contrary it took up the work of building the new, a democracy of their own making.  This too it what is required today in the U.S.  The old institutions enshrine the old property relations, the old ensemble of relations that keep the war economy going.  A new direction for political affairs is needed and it is the working class that can formulate and advance this new direction, guided by its communist party. 

Every effort is being made to divert from the need for the new, to embroil everyone in being reactive, to Trump, to the latest investigation, to whatever tweet or message is being promoted.  We are to be diverted from the crisis of the rich, their democracy, their war economy -- and the need for solutions.

Communism and the Need for an Outlook        

As part of this, the attack on communism and its supposed failure are being promoted.  This is done to deprive people of an outlook, a way of looking at the world that that enables them to bring about the changes needed by the times.  Supposedly the undemocratic and corrupt U.S.-style democracy is the End of History, meaning the end of development of politics and political institutions.  There is supposedly no alternative to this system, only a choice to make it better -- with great pressure at present to run people for office, get more women to run, get more progressives to run, etc.

An undemocratic system that enshrines private interests and their power to rule cannot be made democratic.  Its pro-war, anti-social character is imbued in every pore.  It is a system stacked against the people and designed to keep them out of power and block any discussion or consideration of their anti-war, pro-social agenda. 

A rigged poker game cannot be made better by having better players at the table.  It is rigged, that is its quality.  The same can be said of U.S.-style democracy, which is in deep crisis and of no use to anyone in this modern day.  As the example of the October Revolution brought forward, what is needed is a new democracy, a new direction, one that settles scores with the old, rather than conciliating with it. 

While those who took up the October Revolution were told their country was too backward to succeed, in the U.S., though conditions are very different, this same chorus that revolution cannot succeed because our working class is too backward can also be heard.  Workers are too bought off, or too comfortable, or too ignorant, etc.  In fact we are home to a modern and advanced working class.  And we are increasingly united with the workers of Canada and Mexico in rejecting the direction of the giant oligopolies.  The problem that exists for solutions is the development of the communist party of the single U.S. working class to lead the struggle for revolution and socialism. 

The communist party is painted as undemocratic and an instrument to oppress the workers and communism itself as a failure.  The rulers attempt to block the alternative of communism because it deprives them of all their privileges and smashes inhuman relations based on ownership of property.  The aim in discrediting communism and spreading endless disinformation about it is to block the working class from discussing and formulating what can be done to build the new, to provide a new direction for political affairs.  What is needed is to put political power in the hands of the people so that their demand for an anti-war government and pro-peace economy can be realized.  And this insistence that there is no alternative is being done at a time when U.S.-style democracy has been reduced to its police powers.  There is no rule of law, only the brutal exercise of police powers.  This requires the criminalization of speech and dissent at home and war and aggression abroad. 

The U.S. Marxist-Leninist Organization sends its revolutionary greetings to the communists of all lands, to the workers of all countries, to all those defending rights and standing against U.S. imperialism.  The internationalism of the October Socialist Revolution is also a vital part of the solutions it provided, one that shines bright to this day.  We too in the U.S. are playing our part to advance the cause of revolution and socialism and are confident that here and worldwide the tide will turn.  Guided by the theory of Marxism-Leninism, the working and oppressed peoples of the world will open the path for the progress of society and the emancipation of humanity.  History is on our side and it is the peoples that will emerge victorious."     

Friday, November 10, 2017

"The October Revolution and the National/Colonial Question"

This article by Bill Fletcher, Jr on the October Socialist Revolution and the national liberation was posted by both FRSO/OSCL (a different organization from the FRSO that publishes Fight Back! and they don't seem to have marked the date at all) and the CPUSA's People's World.  I am posting this as an example of what groups and people are saying on this important anniversary.  Fletcher has to bring up Stalin's definition of a nation, etc. to discuss the 1917 Revolution and the national question, and Stalin's writings can be read online, for example Marxism and the National Question is online at: 

In looking at FRSO/OSCL's website I came across a reference to a "Durham Mobilization," which might have been in the election we just had, but nothing was said about it ( ).  Members have been elected in Durham before, though they might have some competition from the Workers World Party.   

"The October Revolution and the National/Colonial Question 

Many of the reflections on the experience of the October Revolution and the Soviet Union have and will focus on economics, democracy, and to some extent foreign policy.  Yet there is a frequently overlooked chapter that was of great importance to most of what we currently reference as the “global South,” i.e., the national-colonial question.

The “national-colonial question” refers to a designation of the special oppression—including but not limited to colonialism—of peoples (based on alleged race and/or ethnicity) and the subjugation of nations around the planet, most especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America, but also including Ireland, First Nations in the Western Hemisphere, the Chicano people in the US Southwest, and African Americans in the USA.

The national-colonial question was at the heart of the October Revolution because the October Revolution was not only a movement for socialism, but a revolution against empire.  It was a revolution within and against the Russian Empire, a state structure referenced at the time as a “prison house of nations.”  The national-colonial question became central to Russian revolutionary theory, whether explicitly or implicitly (including by omission).  Any revolutionary project had to come to grips with the multitude of peoples within the Russian Empire and the history of virulent chauvinism and oppression including annexations and bloody pogroms (as, most notably, perpetrated against the Jews).

Lenin came to especially appreciate the strategic significance of the national-colonial question, though in the beginning his tendency was represented by more of an active opposition to Russian “Great Nation Privilege” (analogous to what many of us reference as “white privilege” in the USA context) and national inequality.  Lenin spoke strongly against discrimination and chauvinism, and in favor of equality.

Yet this was only part of the equation.  Within the Bolshevik Party, and increasingly from the revolutionaries within the oppressed nations of the Russian Empire, another voice emerged, a voice that received general support—though not unconditional—from Lenin.  This was the voice arguing in favor of national self-determination.  The thesis was straight forward:  nations that were oppressed by others—including but not limited to imperialist states—had a right to determine their own futures even if socialists might not recommend secession.  This, of course, begged the question:  what is a “nation”?

Lenin supported the orientation of Joseph Stalin, an up and coming leader from what we know as “Georgia”, who authored a major work on the question of nationhood.  While in many respects path-breaking, it was largely Eurocentric in its orientation and could not account for the national aspirations of peoples who did not fit into Stalin’s defined categories.  In the context of the Russian Empire, populations such as Russian Jews and Turks of Central Asia did not easily fit within Stalin’s mold and attempts to classify them were often inconclusive, analytically speaking.  In either case, this was the guiding theory until the October Revolution unfolded.

The October Revolution broke ground on the national-colonial question like no previous revolutionary movement.  At the same time, both the theory and practice were contradictory and in some cases, destructive.  Time and space do not permit an exhaustive examination of this, but we will attempt to identify some of the major accomplishments and major limitations of the October Revolution with regard to the national-colonial question.
  • Breaking with imperialist schemes: One of the most significant and understated contributions of the October Revolution was its willingness to reveal the imperialist schemes and agreements that had laid the foundation for World War I.  The warring powers had all sorts of plans for the post-war world and the Bolsheviks unveiled them.  Think Pentagon Papers or WikiLeaks.

  • Self-Determination: This was both a contribution and limitation.  Within the Russian revolutionary movement there were those who actively opposed the concept of national self-determination, seeing that as divisive and distractive.  Lenin disagreed, though not consistently.  The Bolsheviks supported Finland’s secession, for instance.  At the time Finland had a significant revolutionary movement that might have taken power.

  • Conceptualization of the USSR: The very notion of a Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was revolutionary, i.e., that various national republics would come together under one umbrella and agree on a socialist revolutionary project.  The closest parallel to this might have been the Swiss Confederation, albeit a capitalist project.  There have been federations and confederations, but the notion of a USSR was aimed at suggesting a different sort of political and economic integration.

  • Attention to national chauvinism: When the October Revolution first unfolded, there were those, among Russians, who believed that this was a ‘Russian affair.’  The Tashkent Soviet, for instance, was dominated by Russians despite the fact that Tashkent was found in what we now know as Uzbekistan (and, at the time, was part of Turkestan).  The Bolsheviks directly intervened to address the national chauvinism of the Tashkent Soviet.  The October Revolution introduced dramatic changes aimed at ending national oppression and national chauvinism, although in doing so it did not always or fully resolve the underlying contradictions.

  • Inspiration for anti-colonial struggles: Particularly with the 1920 “Congress of the Peoples of the East” held in Baku, Azerbaijan, the October Revolution represented inspiration to anti-colonial, national liberation movements.  Representatives of national liberation struggles visited the USSR and sought from the USSR support for their own movements.

  • National-Territorial Delimitation: One of the more controversial projects of the Soviet experiment occurred under Stalin’s leadership and was largely in contradiction with Stalin’s own concept of the nation.  The Soviet leadership, in order to address the national sentiments of countless peoples, committed to developing and establishing formal “nations” out of peoples, some of which were economically and politically very primitive.  Republics and autonomous regions were created under the theory of advancing these peoples toward nationhood.  One of the challenges which arose from this process was that it also led to the breakup of the predominantly Muslim and Turkic region of Turkestan, in effect weakening the power of that region if considered as a bloc.
Keeping in mind the many unprecedented advances of the October Revolution, there were equally significant drawbacks in the theory and practice of the national-colonial question."

The second part is more critical, and is online at:


Thursday, November 09, 2017

More statements on the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution

To give readers an idea of what various Marxist groups are saying about the centenary of the October Socialist Revolution, here are some links. 

The Movement for the Reorganisation of the Communist Party of Greece 1918-55 (Anasintaxi) published a statement on 1917, "OCTOBER REVOLUTION - Confirmation of Leninist theory of the Proletarian Revolution," at:

Euskal Herria Socialista:!/

The American Party of Labor used this momentous anniversary to "reaffirm [its] commitment to the cause of proletarian revolution and socialism" by announcing that The Red Phoenix will now be printed bi-monthly ( ); if I'm not mistaken it was Internet only previously. 

The CPUSA's website has very few articles on the 100th anniversary, such as this one: , but there are more in the People's World.  From its Editorial Board comes "The Democratic Aspirations of October 1917 Continue Today" ( ).  Managing Editor CJ Atkins focuses on the NEP in "The Soviet past we never knew" ( ).  Lowell B Denny III's The Bolshevik Revolution:  "Unacknowledged inspiration of liberation movements everywhere" ( ) seems to include a positive reference to Stalin as a revolutionary, very unusual for the CPUSA.  More Russian Revolution articles can be found at:

For the Party of Communists USA's commemoration, see the summer issue of their paper, The Worker and possibly the next issue ( ).

The Party of Socialism and Liberation ( recently published a new book, Storming the Gates:  How the Russian Revolution Changed the World ( ), and has some older articles on the October Socialist Revolution, such as "Socialism and the Legacy of the Soviet Union," online at:

The Revolutionary Organization of Labor published articles on 1917 in recent newsletters (posted online at: and ). 

November 6th the Workers World Party posted the 5th article in a series on 1917,
"To the 0.001 percent:  You are celebrating too soon," by Deirdre Griswold:

The Freedom Socialist Party posted "What radicals today can learn from the Russian Revolution" ( ) and a statement from the Committee for International Revolutionary Regroupment, Lessons of the 1917 Russian Revolution" ( ).

The International Socialist Organization's website points to the article "April 1917:  How Lenin Rearmed" at:

Socialist Alternative has several articles, such as "The Legacy of October" ( ) and "The Impact of the Revolution in the U.S." ( ). 

Solidarity ( ) has an article in their paper, Against the Current

World Socialist Website:

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

PLP: The Great Insurrection of 1917

This is one of a series of articles on the 1917 October Socialist Revolution being published in the Progressive Labor Party's Challenge newspaper (online at: )
It is published with a Creative Commons License, so I am reposting it here in full, but there is a comments section on the PLP's website and other articles.  This article describes the uprising in Moscow, which is less well-known than the events in Petrograd (St. Petersburg), the capital of Russia at the time, famously covered by journalist John Reed in Ten Days That Shook the World.   

"Bolshevik Revolution Centennial Series:  The Great Insurrection of 1917

This is the  part of an extensive series about the Bolshevik Revolution and the triumphs, as well as the defeats, of the world communist movement of the 20th century. We welcome your comments and criticisms, and encourage all readers to discuss this period of history with their friends, classmates, co-workers, family, and comrades.

The following illustrates the Bolsheviks’ armed uprising in Petrograd on October 27 / November 7, 1917. It is often called “the Russian Revolution.” In fact, uprisings took place in a great many cities and towns.

In 1917, ordinary people took their lives into their own hands and remade their world. It was the most important event of the 20th century; for the first time in world history, workers seized state power and pioneered a worker-run society. The workers, organized in committees and councils, took over the means of production.

This event shook and influenced the whole world. The Soviet Union was an international beacon of hope for workers’ fighting to destroy the capitalists in their parts of the world.

A hundred years later, the capitalists of the world are still haunted by what our class was able to accomplish. And so, they slander the achievements of our communist predecessors every chance they get, in every media outlet they own. Progressive Labor Party reflects on the mass heroism of our class on this centennial celebration of the Bolshevik Revolution.

The Uprising

After the overthrow of the monarchy, the Bolsheviks and workers formed the Soviets (meaning “worker councils”) of Workers’ Deputies (Moscow Bolsheviks) and of Soldiers’ Deputies. As in Petrograd, there was sympathy for the moderate socialist parties. But by September 24, the Bolsheviks received an absolute majority of seats in district dumas (359 seats out of 710).

On the night of October 24 to October 25, the Bolshevik uprising began in Petrograd. The Moscow Bolsheviks learned about it at noon on October 25 (November 7 on the today’s international standard calendar). That same day, the Party Combat Center was set up to lead the insurrection. That afternoon, the Combat Center began fighting.

Parts of the Moscow troops were on alert and ready to execute only orders issued by the Military Revolutionary Committee (MRC). The MRC were powerful directing bodies of revolt, installing and securing the Soviet power. They stopped the publication of bourgeois newspapers and declared a general strike. Regional MRCs were created, military units that took the side of the Bolsheviks and their allies were put on alert. A provisional revolutionary committee was elected, since the executive committee of the Moscow Soldiers’ Soviet was in the hands of the Bolsheviks’ opponents.

Ten to twelve thousand workers, Red Guards, took to arms. District MRCs sent emissaries to factories and military units. On October 26, the Moscow MRC ordered all units of the Moscow garrison to combat readiness.

However, in Moscow there were perhaps as many as 20,000 Junkers (junior officers), all strongly anti-Bolshevik. The City Duma, headed by the rightwing socialist party, turned into a political center of resistance to the Bolsheviks. It relied mainly on cops and Junkers.

The chief of the Kremlin Arsenal agreed to give weapons to workers. But the Kremlin was blocked by detachments of Junkers. The commander of the Moscow Military District, Ryabtsev, requested loyal front troops while simultaneously entering into negotiations with the MRC.

On October 27, about 300 officers, cadets, and students loyal to the Provisional Government gathered at Moscow University and the Kremlin. The volunteer squad of students was called the “white guards,” the first time this term was used.

At 6 PM, colonel Ryabtsev and the Duma’s anti-revolutionary “Committee of Public Safety” (CPS) learned that troops were being sent from the front. Colonel Ryabtsev declared martial law and ordered the MRC to surrender. They refused. The same day Junkers attacked a detachment of revolutionary soldiers who were trying to break through to the Moscow City Council. Forty-five of the 150 people in the battle were killed or wounded.

Junkers Take the Kremlin

On the morning of October 28, colonel Ryabtsev demanded that the Bolsheviks surrender the Kremlin, claiming that the city was under his control. Not knowing the actual situation, Bolshevik leader Berzin did so. Then two companies of Junkers entered. Surviving soldiers later said that, after the prisoners handed over their weapons, they were shot. The counter-revolutionary forces bayonetted those who tried to flee.

The soldiers fought back. Six cadets and about 200 revolutionary soldiers were killed. Supporters of the CPS gained access to weapons from the Kremlin’s Central Arsenal.

At the call of the Bolshevik Party, the MRC, and city trade unions, a general political strike began. A meeting of soldier committees asked all the military units to support the MRC. By day’s end, the revolutionary forces blocked the city center. From October 28 to October 31, revolutionary soldiers seized the Bryansk railway station and provision warehouses, and stormed the headquarters of the Moscow Military District.

The morning of October 29 (November 11), the red soldiers dug trenches in the streets, built barricades and a stubborn struggle for the center of Moscow began. The Red forces launched an offensive, seizing the city hall. By 9 PM, the revolutionary troops occupied the telephone exchange and began shelling areas occupied by anti-Bolshevik forces, including the Kremlin. A truce was attempted but failed to hold. Anti-Bolshevik forces began to surrender to the forces of the revolutionary MRC.

On October 31 the MRC demanded unconditional surrender from the CPS. The Junkers, along with members of the counter-revolutionary CPS, were forced to move to the Kremlin and the Historical Museum.

On November 2 the shelling of the Kremlin by the Bolsheviks intensified and they occupied the Historical Museum. That night the Junkers left the Kremlin and agreed to disarm. A delegation of the CPS went to the MRC for negotiations. The MRC agreed to free all Junkers, officers and students provided they surrender their weapons.

On November 2, at 5 PM, the counterrevolutionary forces signed a surrender agreement. The MRC ordered a cease-fire, although in some areas the Junkers continued to resist and even attempted an offensive.

Finally, on November 3, the cadets, officers and students left the Kremlin and the building of the Alexander College. Many of them later joined the anti-Bolshevik Volunteer, or “White,” Army. Throughout Moscow, the Junkers were disarmed. A detachment of the Red Guard under the command of Comrade Petrov freed arrested revolutionary soldiers of the 56th regiment, led by the former commandant of the Kremlin’s arsenal, Comrade Berzin. The released prisoners were tortured and hungry. They had been kept without food for five days. Some were sick after all they had experienced as prisoners of the “Whites.” The liberated soldiers immediately grabbed the rifles abandoned by the Junkers and rushed at the colonel who had shot their comrades in the Kremlin, and at the Junkers holding grenades, and shot them on the spot.

On November 3, the manifesto of the MRC proclaimed the power of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. During the uprising, the revolutionary forces suffered between several hundred and 1,000 killed and wounded.

Other Lessons

1. The Mensheviks entered the MRC from a desire “to mitigate the consequences of the insane adventure of the Bolsheviks.” Their participation made the actions of this body less decisive.

2. If the Bolsheviks had not had a very strong and numerous base among the workers and soldiers of Moscow, they could never have beaten the highly motivated military cadets, Junkers, officers, and the regular army soldiers they commanded.

The insurrection in Moscow was a series of hard-fought, bloody battles that took place over a whole week. The armed insurrection in Moscow proves that the Bolsheviks’ support among the workers, peasants, and soldiers, was broad and deep. The Bolsheviks had a strong base, won by years of hard, dedicated work, most of it under difficult, underground conditions."

Monday, November 06, 2017

CPCML: The Greatest Revolution that Shook the World

This is a statement from the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) on the 100th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, published in The Marxist-Leninist Weekly November 4th.  The original post, as well as other articles and reprints of essays by the Party's founder, Hardial Bains, and VI Lenin are posted at:  The US Marxist-Leninist Organization is a sister party of the CPC(ML) (known as the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada electorally, so there isn't confusion with the Communist Party of Canada) on this side of the border. 

"The greatest revolution that shook the world and ushered in the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution took place one hundred years ago on November 7, 1917. The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) salutes this revolution with full conviction that the transition from capitalism to socialism is inevitable. We are confident that the working and oppressed peoples of the world will find their emancipation only with a repeat of the Great October Socialist Revolution. The conditions of imperialism which gave rise to the Great October Revolution still exist at this time. There is still the contradiction between imperialism, and the oppressed peoples and nations; among the imperialist countries and monopoly groups; and between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. As long as these conditions exist there will be struggle to resolve them.

Today the reactionary forces that overthrew the first state in the hands of the working people are in profound crisis. To divert from their crisis and the need for solutions, they continue to use a Cold War portrayal of communism to deprive people of an outlook on the basis of which they can bring about the changes they require. For these reactionary forces, communism is a brutal dictatorship because it deprives them of all their privileges and smashes inhuman relations based on ownership of property. They consider the corrupt and defunct liberal democracy to be the End of History. Attempts are made to divert from the deep crisis in which the bourgeois democracy is mired to make sure the working class does not formulate what can be done to change the direction of the economy and create new arrangements that favour the working class and people. Meanwhile, the liberal democracy has been reduced to its police powers. This requires the criminalization of speech and dissent at home and war and aggression abroad.

The Soviet Union played a crucial role in the defeat of Nazi-fascism and Japanese militarism. The victories of World War II were such that the peoples the world over were marching to the drumbeat of peace, freedom and democracy, looking towards communism to affirm their rights and win national liberation. Following World War II, in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean as well as the imperialist heartlands, the reputation of communism was very high. People were making great advances in their struggles for emancipation and to end colonial and imperialist domination. To stem this advance, the Anglo-American imperialists launched the Cold War to snuff out the peoples' struggle for their rights. Institutions of international subversion and aggressive military alliances were set into motion to stop any attempts at progress. A vast international campaign of lies and distortions was launched to sow doubt about communism and the Soviet Union which had given great hope and inspiration to all peoples fighting for national liberation and social emancipation all over the world. The imperialist agencies introduced bourgeois politics into the workers' and communist movement. Based on gossips about personalities and events, the aim was and continues to be, to deprive the working class of its own outlook.

To this day, the reactionary forces continue to claim that socialism failed in the Soviet Union because there is some inherent flaw in it. What that flaw is, they do not say. This speculation leads some to suggest that scientific socialism is fine in theory but does not work in practice. How can it be that what is sound in theory does not work in practice? This is an unsound proposition and again they do not explain. The speculators also go to great lengths to convince themselves that socialist revolution and socialist construction are phenomena of the past. Socialism and communism, according to them, are finished once and for all. They suggest that the complete restoration of capitalism in the Russian Federation and elsewhere is an irreversible trend.

These speculators overlook how life unfolds. Dialectics teach that the advance of something necessarily involves overcoming the resistance of the old, and ushering in the new on this basis. Capitalism is old while socialism is new. Only socialism can resolve the contradictions inherent to the present conditions and create the new society.

The bourgeoisie, nonetheless, does not wish to admit that not only do the same conditions of imperialism exist at this time, but that the situation has become worse. The collapse of the Soviet Union contributed to the crisis of capitalism in a big way. All the claims that shock therapy would eliminate the problems of the capitalist system have nothing to show, despite putting much of the blame for these problems on socialism and communism. The conditions in the countries which formed the Soviet Union as well as the former people's democracies in eastern Europe are worsening with the rise of poverty, unemployment, dislocation of the economy and all manner of crime and chaos in political and cultural affairs. This is also the case in the so-called western democracies where the destruction of the social contract and welfare state arrangements and all the ills of modern capitalism are destroying the fabric of the societies. The vain hope dangled in front of the eyes of the working class that the "benefits" of the so-called radical reforms would one day reach the working masses vanished long ago. The living and working conditions of the people continue to steadily deteriorate.

The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) is of the opinion that socialism suffered a setback because of the failure to bring about the social and political reforms necessary to develop the leading role of the working class in the economic, political, cultural and other affairs of the society. In place of socialist reforms, capitalist reforms were introduced as of the mid-1950s. The content of the relations between people in the process of production was transformed from one which favoured the people into one that favoured a ruling caste which systematically usurped power by destroying the organs of people's power. A new bourgeoisie arose from the upper echelons of the party, state, army, police and the overthrown exploiting classes.

As the period of retreat of revolution set in worldwide and the initiative passed into the hands of the reactionary forces, even the conception of society was withdrawn by Margaret Thatcher. Along with this retreat, a vicious anti-social offensive was unleashed which has destroyed the arrangements of a civil society whereby the aim of society is to look after the well-being of the people. Nation-wrecking has become the order of the day. Private interests organized into oligopolies have taken over the functions of the state power and run rampant all over the world. It is incumbent upon the working class to take up its leading role by beginning all over again. Starting from the present, the working class is working out a plan of action which serves its own interests and those of the society. It is striving to give rise to a pro-social trend. It has to involve the masses of the people  in discussion and debate as to the kind of system which should replace the present rotting system of capitalist wage-slavery and imperialist enslavement, destruction, aggression and war. In this regard,  the experience of socialist revolution and construction during the 20th century is crucial to achieving success.

At this time of retreat of revolution, when the inter-imperialist contradictions are sharpening, when more and more peoples and nations are awakening to the dangers posed by imperialism to their countries, and when the working class is raising the banner of the pro-social trend against the bourgeoisie, it is incumbent on all revolutionary Marxist-Leninist forces to work out the theory and practice of the revolution. This is the time to prepare, to get ready for the time when the conditions will be ripe for the decisive battles. During this preparation and while dealing with the problems of theory and practice, the working class must not lose sight of the strategic road, the road opened by the victory of the Great October Revolution guided by Marxism-Leninism. This road is still valid and mandatory for all under the present conditions.

The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) takes this opportunity to send its revolutionary greetings to the Communists of all lands, to the workers of all countries, to the Cuban people who are fighting in defence of their revolution and to the people of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea who are fighting for their independence and the reunification of their homeland, to the Vietnamese people and all peoples fighting for the rights of all, all over the world. We salute all fighting forces and call upon them to carry on with confidence for the tide will change and the surging days of a revolutionary flow will come again. Things will turn around and our successes of today will be transformed into final victory.

Guided by the theory of Marxism-Leninism, workers of all countries will be able to work out their own theory and practice according to their own concrete national and international conditions, and mount the barricades of struggle for the victory of world revolution. The working and oppressed peoples of the world will open the path for the progress of society and the emancipation of humanity.

Hail the 100th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution!
Support the Struggle of All Working and Oppressed Peoples and Nations for Their Rights! Workers of All Countries, Unite! Glory to Marxism-Leninism!"

Sunday, November 05, 2017

AWTW: The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future

I plan to post a sampling of what various parties and groups are saying on the 100th anniversary of the October Socialist Revolution.  Here is an interview with Raymond Lotta, Chapter 3 of the Revolutionary Communist Party's You Don't Know What You Think You "Know" About...  The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation:  Its History and Our Future, excerpted by A World To Win New Service.  The entire book, with footnotes and a multimedia timeline is online at:

 "A World to Win News Service of 24 October 2017 contains one article. It may be reproduced or used in any way, in whole or in part, as long as it is credited.

Web site:
To subscribe:

Write to us – send us information, comments, criticisms, suggestions and articles: aworldtowinns[at yahoo period co period uk]  
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution we are reprinting the following from a larger piece entitled You Don't Know What You Think You 'Know' About… The Communist Revolution and the Real Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future. -awtwns

The full article is available as an eBook through, Apple/iTunes, Barnes & Noble. A PDF available through Independent Publishers Group (IPG) or can be downloaded at issue #323 November 24, 2013. Permalink:

1917—The Revolution Breaks Through in Russia

 Question: So, let’s get into the Bolshevik revolution and the conditions of Russian society. In most schools, they don’t even teach the basic facts.

Raymond Lotta: It’s called the Bolshevik revolution, because the communist party was originally called Bolshevik (the word meaning “majority,” referring to the majority of forces grouped around Lenin who resolved to forge a party of revolution).

 The Russian revolution took place in the turmoil of World War 1. The war started in 1914 and lasted until 1918. This was a war in which two blocs of imperialist great powers fought each other. One bloc included Great Britain, France, and the U.S. (and Russia was part of this alliance); and the other was led by Germany with its allies. They were fighting for global supremacy, particularly control over the oppressed colonial regions of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

 This was monstrous, mechanized, modern war. Combatants were gassed, torpedoed, mined, bombarded by unseen artillery, machine-gunned. Slaughter on a scale unseen before in human history... 10 million dead, and another 20 million wounded.11

 When Russia entered the war, all the major parties in Russia and most of the major parties in Europe supported the war in the name of patriotism... all except the Bolshevik Party led by Lenin. It took an internationalist stand, training people to see how this war was not in the interests of oppressed humanity and calling on people in the imperialist countries to rise up in revolution and defeat their own governments.

 Most of Russian society at the time was made up of peasants. They had small plots of land that many of them worked on (almost like sharecroppers of the South in the U.S.). Conditions were very backward and people were locked into tradition. Peasants planted seed according to the religious calendar. Women faced horribly oppressive conditions.

 The cities were places of crowded housing and disease.

 Russia was an empire. The dominant Russian nation had colonized areas and regions of Central Asia (like Uzbekistan), and it also subordinated more developed areas like Ukraine. Russia was called “the prison-house of nations.” Non-Russian nationalities made up about 45 percent of the population, but minority cultures were forcibly suppressed and their languages could not be taught or spoken in schools.

 Russia was an autocratic, repressive society. The Tsar relied on secret police, jails, and surveillance.

World War 1 intensified all the suffering in society. Some 1.5 million Russians died in the war, and three million were wounded. People were going without food. The war set off a “crisis of legitimacy” in Russian society... and a revolutionary climate took hold. Workers rioted and struck for better conditions. Women took the streets. Many soldiers refused to suppress the protests, and mutiny spread. The Tsar was overthrown.12

 But the new government did nothing to change the fundamental conditions facing the masses of people... and it made secret deals with the British and French imperialists to keep Russia in the war.

 Lenin and the Vital Role of Communist Leadership

 Question: But it’s often said that the Bolsheviks were scheming behind the scenes and basically staged a coup in October 1917.

 RL: Nonsense. The Bolshevik Party led by Lenin was prepared to act and lead as no other force in Russian society was. It had grassroots strength and organization in factory committees, in the armed forces, in the soviets. These were the illegal, anti-government representative assemblies of workers contesting for power in the big towns and cities....

 The Bolshevik program and vision resonated widely and deeply in a society in crisis, upheaval, and looking for direction. The Bolshevik Party led the masses of people to see through the various maneuvers of this new regime. It formulated demands for “land, peace, and bread” that spoke to overriding needs in a situation of horrible suffering and privation—but which no other party would speak to. And in October, Lenin and the Bolsheviks led the masses in an insurrection. This was the October Revolution.13

Question: But, again, the way it’s told, the Bolsheviks were just tightening power for themselves.

 RL: Look, a new state power was being created. Immediately, the new government issued two stunning decrees. The first decree took Russia out of the war and called for an end to the slaughter, and called for a peace without conquest or annexation. The second decree empowered peasants to seize the vast landholdings of the tsarist crown, the aristocratic landholding classes, and the church (which itself owned large tracts of land).

 But there was a larger significance to what was happening. That “long dark night,” that darkness of exploitation and oppression, was being broken. For the first time since the emergence of class society, society was not going to be organized around exploitation. And this reverberated around the world.

 In Europe, soldiers, sailors, and workers exhausted by the continuing war followed the news of what was happening in the new society. In Germany, in Kiel and Hamburg, rebel sailors of the German navy mutinied against orders to continue the war. In 1918, insurrections broke out in parts of Central Europe, and were viciously suppressed. There were many countries in Europe where revolutionary situations emerged, and in some revolutions took place. But nowhere else, other than in Russia, did revolution break through and hold on. A big part of the reason was that there was no genuine vanguard party in these societies. But because of the influence of October, new communist organizations spread to different parts of the world. And the Bolsheviks took the standpoint of spreading revolution, and promoted Marxism and vanguard party organization. On this basis, a new international body that coordinated the activity of communist parties and organizations around the world was formed—a tremendous advance for the revolution.

 World capitalism would never be the same. World history had been profoundly changed.

 Question: You’ve painted a picture of who supported the communist revolution in Russia. And why.
But didn’t some people bitterly oppose this revolution?

 RL: Yes. There was civil war between 1918 and 1921. The country was thrown into a state of near chaos and collapse.

 Just a few short months after the 1917 insurrection, reactionary forces inside of Russia, representing the old overthrown order, launched a counter-revolutionary assault against the new regime. Fourteen foreign powers, including the U.S., intervened with troops and military assistance to support the counter-revolution. You know, in October 1918, when the first anniversary of the Revolution was being celebrated, three-quarters of the country was in the hands of counter-revolutionary forces. Think about that.

 The new proletarian state was isolated internationally, and there were acute shortages of food and armaments.14

 Here you can see the vital role of vanguard leadership. The Party took responsibility to coordinate military activity. It developed economic policies to meet social needs and hold society together. It led in creating new social institutions. The revolutionary press and other means of communication spread Marxism and the socialist vision of a new economy, new political institutions, and new values. This ignited a whole new emancipatory “discourse” in society—and this was a very powerful and positive mood-creating factor.

 The new society was facing international onslaught. Yes, the economy was on the verge of collapse at times, and people were suffering. But communist leadership held strong and set out to expand and solidify and mobilize the base among those who wanted to hold on to liberation with everything they had. And people could mobilize and stand up because there were now new organs of proletarian state power that expressed their will and determination.

 A New Kind of Power

 Question: What do you mean by “organs of proletarian state power”?

RL: That’s a good and central question. In capitalist societies, the armies, the courts, the police, the prisons, and—at the very top—the executive branch all serve the capitalists. These organs repress the people when they stand up—take what was done to Occupy, for instance—or even before they stand up, just so they “know their place” in capitalist society—like in stop-and-frisk, in New York and other cities. The legislatures are just talking shops, places to enable the different competing capitalists to wrangle out their disagreements and/or to serve as harmless safety valves for mass discontent. So you could say that those are organs of reactionary state power, or organs of bourgeois—that is, capitalist—state power. Like I said earlier, it’s a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, or capitalist class.

 The socialist revolution has to set up new, revolutionary organs of power representing the proletariat. These organs of power, which should, over time, involve increasing numbers of people from both the bedrock of society and more middle class sections too, have to be able to suppress the counter-revolution. For instance, you need public security forces—but on a completely different basis, serving completely different ends, and behaving in a completely different way than what we have today. But these new organs of power also have to be able to back up the people in making transformations in every sphere, leading them and enabling them to organize their efforts in creating a whole new society on a whole new basis. This is what is meant by dictatorship of the proletariat.

 The masses forged new practices in the really dire situations of all-out civil war. For instance, there was the practice of cooperative voluntary labor, where people came together to maintain sanitation and hygiene of the cities under terrible duress. People were changing human nature, pitching in together and forging new relations based on cooperation. And the new state was giving this backing.

Question: You never really hear about this civil war when the revolution is being referred to. What actually happened?

 RL: The counter-revolution was defeated at great cost. One million people died in the fighting and three million more died of disease during the Civil War. Nine-tenths of the engineers, doctors, or teachers left the country. Some of the most dedicated worker-communists were killed on the front lines. And the working class itself was vastly reduced in size—by the fighting and by the dislocation and destruction, with people fleeing to the rural areas.

 Bourgeois commentators act as though the Bolsheviks were taking over a country that was basically intact and that the imperialists were just benignly looking on. No, things were in this state of near ruin and the imperialists and reactionaries were coming at them. The world’s first oil embargo was applied to the new Soviet state.

 But state power was held on to... and fragile as it was, the Soviet Union was still a beachhead in the fight for a new world. This had everything to do with Lenin’s leadership and the existence of a vanguard party.

 Radical Changes: Women

 Question: But there’s a line of attack that holds that the emergencies and threats became an excuse for the Bolsheviks just to betray people’s hopes.

 RL: Look, this was a revolution fighting for its life, but it was a state power fighting to carry forward a social revolution. Take the oppression of women.

 The revolution moved quickly to take important measures. It abolished the whole church-sanctioned system of marriage that codified male authority over women and children. Divorce was made easy to obtain. This was very important in providing women with greater social freedom. Equal pay for jobs was enacted. Maternity hospital care was provided free; and in 1920 the Soviet Union became the first country in modern Europe to make abortion legal.15 This was way in advance of the capitalist countries of the time, coming when the right to divorce was usually subject to all kinds of religious restrictions if it was even allowed at all, and where women couldn’t even vote in many capitalist countries or had just won that very basic right—and this took place just a few short years after U.S. authorities tortured imprisoned suffragette hunger strikers by force-feeding them.16 Pretty closely connected to this in spirit was the fact that the Soviet Union legalized homosexual relations.

 In the mid- and late 1920s, you had something else going on too. You had struggles against patriarchal customs in some of the Central Asian republics. A lot of this was connected with oppressive Islamic... Sharia law. Women were challenging this, and the socialist state gave backing to women (and enlightened men) involved in these struggles... and was actually encouraging these struggles.

 The government provided funds for local organizations of women. A big focus of struggle was the practice of arranged marriages that still persisted in different areas, and also bridal price... the payments made between the marrying families. For a while, communists from the cities went to these areas to aid the campaigns. And this got very intense at times, with backward forces attacking organizers. And local women activists came forward. In 1927, a major offensive was launched against the centuries-long practice of the forced veiling of women—an oppressive signifier, then and today in the world, of patriarchal control over the faces, bodies, and humanity of women.17

 In Soviet newspapers and schools, there was lively debate about sex roles, marriage, and family. Science fiction works envisioned new social relations. And, frankly, when you compare what was going on in the Soviet Union with the state of patriarchy, enforced patriarchy, in the rest of the world then and now... this does sound like science fiction!

 Never before had a society set out to overcome the oppression of women... never before had gender equality become such a societal focus. People need to know about this. People need to learn from this. We need to learn from the strengths of this, which were by far principal, especially in this period, and we also need to learn from some of the weaknesses in their understanding, which I’ll address a little later.

 Radical Changes: Minority Nationalities

 Question: You mentioned minority nationalities. How was discrimination being taken on? Obviously, here we are in the U.S., and racism is alive and well. But there’s a question among progressive and radical activists about whether socialism, communism, can really tackle racial and national oppression.

 RL: The Bolshevik revolution created the world’s first multinational state based on equality of nationalities.

 The new socialist state recognized the right of self-determination—that is, the right for an oppressed nation to separate itself from an empire or from a dominant nation and gain independence. Finland, for instance, which had been held in a subordinate position in the Russian Empire, became independent. The 1924 Soviet constitution gave formal shape to a multinational union of republics and autonomous regions. That’s why you have this Soviet union... the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which included 12 large national republics and 25 autonomous regions (and many smaller districts and other units). The new central government recognized the right to autonomy—this meant self-government, in republics and regions.

 In a 1917 decree, all minority nationalities were granted the right to instruction in native languages in all schools and universities.18 There were incredibly exciting things that were happening in the 1920s and early 1930s. Many minority nationalities that had no written languages were supplied with scripts. The Soviet state devoted considerable resources to the mass production of books, journals, and newspapers in the minority regions, and the distribution of film and encouragement of folk ensembles.

 Books were being published in over 40 non-Russian languages. Let’s stop right here. What’s going on in the U.S. right now? You see “English only” campaigns in parts of the country! Compare that to the Soviet Union. In the 1920s, Russians were being encouraged to learn non-Russian languages—and great-Russian chauvinism, similar to white-American privilege and dominance, was publicly and strongly rebuked as a poisonous influence in society.

 The nationalities policy called for “indigenous leadership” in the new national territories. The idea was to bring forward leaders from the populations of these areas. And all kinds of efforts went into training Party leaders, government, school, and enterprise administrators from among the former oppressed nationalities.19

 The persecution of the Jewish people—who, by the way, had been overwhelmingly confined to a specific area called “the Pale” under the rule of the Tsar and had been periodically subjected to lynch-mob-like “pogroms”—was ended. After the victory of the revolution, the new state officially outlawed anti-Semitism. Jews entered into professions from which they had long been banned, and occupied important positions of authority in the state administration. Theater companies performing in Yiddish were formed. During the Civil War, the Bolshevik leadership fought against the influence of anti-Jewish ideas among sections of the peasants and others.20

 This spirit of combating national oppression and the active encouragement of ethnic diversity permeated the early Soviet Union. It was one of the defining features of the new society and state.

 Where else in the world were things like this happening at the time? A one-word answer: nowhere. But we do know, or at least people should know, what the situation was in the United States. Segregation was the law of the land. Jim Crow was in full effect. The Ku Klux Klan marched down the streets of Washington, D.C. in full regalia during this time, and the rule of the lynch mob terrorized African-American people in the southern U.S. And in the “enlightened North,” white mobs would run amok through northern cities, killing 23 Black people in Chicago alone in one 7-day rampage in 1919, one of 25 similar outrages in that summer alone—the very year that the “Reds” were fighting a civil war to create a new world in what would be the Soviet Union.21

 When Paul Robeson, the great African-American actor, singer, and radical, first visited the Soviet Union in the early 1930s, he was deeply impressed by the revolution’s efforts to overcome racial and national prejudice and deeply moved personally by the way he was treated both by officials and ordinary people in the new socialist society. Ethnic minorities weren’t being lynched in the Soviet Union like Black people were right then in the U.S. South.22 The new Soviet Union wasn’t a place where racist films like Birth of a Nation, which extolled the KKK, and Gone with the Wind, which glamorized white plantation culture, were being produced and upheld, and still are, as cinematic icons. The new culture in the Soviet Union was promoting equality among nationalities, and celebrating the heroism of people fighting oppression.

 The U.S. and the Soviet Union were two different worlds.

 The Arts

 Question: You’ve mainly focused on economic and political changes. But what happened in the realm of the arts?

 RL: Well, first off, the things I just talked about were definitely political—but they also took in the ways in which people related to each other in social life, and how they even thought about the world, and themselves. And this also got reflected in the arts. From the time the revolution came to power in 1917 through the 1920s and early 1930s, there was tremendous artistic vitality in the Soviet Union. There was a lot of debate about the role and purpose and character of revolutionary art in contributing to building a new society and world.

 You had world-class innovation in the arts. I mean leading avant-garde visual artists like Rodchenko and Malevich, filmmakers like Eisenstein and Dovzhenko23... were creating very exciting work fired by a radical re-imagining of the world, by a desire to radically remake the world... and doing that through all kinds of new and unprecedented techniques, like montage in film.

 You know, I heard the curator of a recent exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art dealing with the early 20th century movement of abstract art. She was interviewed on TV and was asked about where at the time this art was actually influencing society. And she quipped: You know, the only place in the world where the avant-garde ever held state power... was the Soviet Union. She was being whimsical but making a real point.

 Artists in the Soviet Union were doing incredible and pathbreaking work as part of a bold transformation of society and consciousness. One famous architect designed structures to convey internationalism; other architects and urban planners were rethinking the grid of cities and housing, to foster community and cooperation... even involving things like the redesign of household furniture.

 All kinds of views and debates were reaching the public... issues of the importance and role of art, or the relation between artistic experimentation and new social relations. There were all kinds of groupings and associations of artists and cultural workers, journals, manifestos and proclamations.

 And world-class artistic innovation and theoretical exploration became joined to mass needs and, if you want to use the term, “everyday acts.” Especially in the visual arts, where you had these great breakthroughs in poster art, in lithography, that aided the battle against peasant illiteracy.

 There were mass campaigns to overcome illiteracy, and very quickly the Soviet population achieved high levels of literacy.

 You had public health campaigns—I mean basic things like encouraging people in the countryside to practice essential hygiene—where visual artists were called on to help find ways to get the messages across. They festooned trains with bold graphics.

 You had lots of open-air theater, theater to the masses. You had artists taking part in street festivals and pageants... these were very popular forms of mass cultural expression. Poets and satirists had mass followings.24

 My point is that the Soviet Union was an exciting, a great place to be, in the 1920s and early 1930s. Unlike anything else on the planet.

 Joseph Stalin

 Question: You never really hear about those things. What was Stalin’s role in all that? And maybe you could speak to what his role was overall, too. The conventional wisdom is that he was some kind of lunatic or tyrant.

 RL: There’s a lot here. There is, and here I use the phrase of the historian Arno Mayer, there is this “ritualized demonization” of Stalin.25 And let me say straight up... people who just accept this “ritualized demonization” and repeat it... are victims of “brainwashing.”

We have to set the record straight and we have to look at individuals and events in a scientific way, getting at the real context: what was happening in society and the world; how they understood what they were facing; and, on that basis, what were their goals and objectives. In short, we have to demystify.

 Stalin was a genuine revolutionary. The kinds of radical social changes taking place in Soviet society that I have been describing... all this was very much bound up with Stalin’s leadership. Lenin died in 1924. Joseph Stalin assumed leadership of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. Now the question had been posed in the mid-1920s. Could you build socialism in the Soviet Union? Could you do this in a society that was economically and culturally backward?

 Marx had expected that socialist revolutions would break out first in the more advanced capitalist countries—because there you had a large industrial working class and modern industrial economy that could be the basis for a developed socialist economy and society. But that’s not how history developed.

 Lenin said, Okay, we don’t have what was theoretically expected to be the developed base for socialism... these are the cards we’ve been dealt, we have to build socialism and create a better foundation... and we have to promote the world revolution. And the Soviet Union played the initiating role in forming an association of communist parties... this was the Third Communist International.

 But the challenges actually mounted and intensified. A decade into the revolution, 1927, and the Soviet Union still stood alone, as the world’s only proletarian state... and there was no certainty that revolutions would take place in other countries. So, again, could you hold out, and carry out socialist economic and social transformation?

 Stalin stepped forward and fought for the view that the Soviet Union could and must take the socialist road in these circumstances. If you didn’t do this, the Soviet Union, the world’s first socialist state, would not be able to survive. It would not be able to aid revolution elsewhere. Anything less would squander the sacrifices of millions in the Soviet Union, and betray the hopes of oppressed humanity worldwide. This was the orientation that Stalin was fighting for... and Stalin led complex and acute struggles to socialize the ownership of industry and to collectivize agriculture.

 Constructing a Socialist Economy

 Question: Are you referring to the debate over building “socialism in one country”?

RL: Yeah. At the time, this was in the late 1920s, Stalin saw socialist construction in the Soviet Union as part of and contributing to the advance of the world revolution. And he and others in top leadership were expecting a new tide of revolution, especially from Germany. Their thinking was that the Soviet Union could help spark that new wave... although there was still going to be necessity to “go it alone” for a while.

 Question: Could you briefly describe the economic situation in the Soviet Union in the mid-1920s?

 RL: Agriculture was still backward, and couldn’t reliably feed the population. Industry was limited and could not furnish the factories and machines needed to modernize the economy. Russia had been a society where intellectuals were a tiny segment of the population, where only a narrow slice of the population had higher technical and liberal arts education. And, always, there was the looming threat of imperialist attack.

 These were the real economic and social contradictions faced by real human beings trying to remake society and the world.

 The Soviet state under Stalin’s leadership moved to create a new kind of economy. For the first time in modern history, social production was being carried out consciously according to a plan designed to meet the needs of the people and shaped by overall social aims and goals to end oppression and poverty and change the world... a plan that was coordinated as a whole. This was an amazing breakthrough. Production no longer hinged on what could make a profit for a capitalist.

 I’ve talked about the “long dark night” being broken. Here in this one piece of liberated territory in the world, surrounded by hostile imperialist and reactionary powers, something utterly radical was being undertaken. Instead of being exploited by a minority, dominated by a minority of owners... instead of the social product of people’s labor and energy serving the maintenance of the division of society into classes... now there was an economy serving the needs of society and revolutionary change.

 Question: But the way this is portrayed is that there was this top-down master plan imposed on society.

 RL: The First Five-Year Plan in the Soviet Union was launched in 1928. The slogan of the First Five-Year Plan was “we are building a new world.” Millions of workers and peasants were fired with this spirit. In factories and villages, people discussed the plan: the difference it would make for their lives—and for the people of the world—that such an economy was being built. At factory conferences, people talked about how to reorganize the production process. People volunteered to help build railroads in wilderness areas. They voluntarily worked long shifts. At steel mills, they sang revolutionary songs on the way to work.26

 Never before in history had there been such a mobilization of people to consciously achieve planned economic and social aims.

 And let’s ask again: what was happening in the rest of the world? The world capitalist economy was languishing in the Depression of the early 1930s—with levels of unemployment reaching 20 and 50 percent. People were starving in major cities like New York and Berlin, and if you’ve ever seen the movie The Grapes of Wrath you get a picture of what small farmers in the U.S. faced... the richest country in the world.

 Back to the Soviet Union, there was also the transformation of agriculture, collectivization...

 Struggle in the Countryside

 Question: That’s one of the things that people raise to me as a negative thing.

 RL: Well, they’re dead wrong. Collectivization spoke to real needs and contradictions in society... and the world situation the Soviets were facing.

 We have to go back to the Civil War that I was talking about. It had caused tremendous destruction and dislocation to the economy and society. Conditions were desperate. People in the towns and cities were hungry, industry was barely functioning, and peasants were reluctant to grow crops because during the war the government had been channeling large amounts of agricultural produce to feed the army and the population.

 It was necessary to restore and stimulate economic production and to rebuild transport and communications. The revolutionary leadership took certain measures, known as the New Economic Policy or NEP. These included the reintroduction of some private markets and various forms of capitalist ownership and activity—although the socialist state kept control of large-scale industry and banking. And foreign investors were allowed in. These measures were seen by Lenin and the revolutionary leadership as a temporary retreat in order to revive the economy. The NEP did that, but over time, it also gave rise to new problems.

 There were food shortages in the cities, especially with the urban population growing. Land had been redistributed to peasants after the seizure of power in 1917. But through the 1920s, a section of rich peasants were gaining strength in the rural economy that was still a private-based economy of small landholders. The rich peasants, or kulaks, as they were called, had large land holdings, and were consolidating greater ownership. And the NEP had given rise to forces (the popular expression was “NEP men”) who dominated the milling and marketing of grain and finance in the countryside. Social polarization between the kulaks and the poor peasantry was increasing.27

 Stalin and others in leadership felt they had to move quickly to create large units of agriculture in the countryside. This would raise productivity and surround the kulaks. It would also accelerate the “proletarianization” of the peasants, bringing more people into the cities and industry, and lessening tensions between the new society and peasants who were still wedded to private ownership.
Collectivization was a huge social movement that drew in, activated and relied on the poorest farmers as its base, and worked to involve as many people as possible. Dedicated worker-volunteers from the cities went into rural areas to forge collectives. Artists, writers, and filmmakers went to the front lines to tell the stories of what was going on. Traveling libraries were sent to teams in the agricultural fields. In some regions, farms had their own drama circles. Religion, superstition, and mind-numbing tradition were challenged.

 People lifted their heads and became tuned in to what was happening in society overall. They discussed the national plans and national developments. Women, whose lives had been determined by oppressive tradition and patriarchal obligation, became tractor drivers and leaders in the collectives.28

 Question: But collectivization did meet a lot of resistance.

 RL: Yes. On the one hand, this had to do with the class struggle in the countryside—where you had the kulaks and other traditionally privileged forces digging in and mobilizing resistance to the changes and social forces that I’ve been talking about. That was the main thing.

 On the other hand, some of this resistance was connected to mistakes that were made. Mao wrote about this in the 1950s. While recognizing the tremendous and unprecedented character of collectivization in the Soviet Union, at the same time he also had serious criticisms of how Stalin approached it. It took place before the peasants themselves had gained experience cooperating with each other, working the fields and using tools cooperatively. There wasn’t sufficient political and ideological work done, to create the understanding and atmosphere enabling peasants to act more consciously to achieve collective social ownership. And the state took too much grain from the countryside—this put unnecessary pressure on peasants and led to resentment.29

 Changing Circumstances and Changing Thinking

 Question: Wait a minute—what do you mean by “ideological work”?

RL: I mean work to change not just what people do, but to win them over to think in new ways and to unleash their initiative on that basis to transform the world. The lives of small farmers—each person owning their own land, surviving or not by dint of their own efforts, in opposition to others who compete with them—pit them against each other, and this shapes their thinking. Stalin tended to think that if you mechanized agriculture and made it collective, people’s thinking would sort of be naturally transformed; but the whole process is way more complex than that, and you actually have to work on transforming not just what people think, but how people think, well before the revolution, AND through each phase. As I said, this was a point of Mao’s and it’s something that Bob Avakian—BA—has both built on and taken to a new level in the new synthesis of communism.

 So to return to Stalin. He was trying to solve real problems in society, like how to move forward and out of private agriculture at a time when the Soviet Union was facing international encirclement. But, as I mentioned, the approach was a bit mechanical; he was seeing the creation of higher levels of ownership and bigger farms with more advanced technology as the crux of the matter... and downplaying the whole ideological dimension and not grasping that people’s values and thinking have to change, and their relations with each other in production and society have to change, and leadership has to be working on this.30

 The same problem existed in the approach to industrial planning—a mechanical view that by building up socialist heavy industry, you would be securing the material foundations for socialism. But as Mao said, this was years later, “What good is state ownership of factories, warehouses, if cooperative values are not being forged?” And socialist economic development has to be oriented to breaking down gaps between industry and agriculture, between mental and manual labor, between worker and peasant. Stalin paid some attention to overcoming these contradictions, but it was seen as a secondary task in relation to creating a more modern industrial-agricultural foundation.31

 A Turning Point: The Revolution Is Crushed in Germany and the Nazis Come to Power

 Question: As I understand it, there was a clear turn towards more, if you want to use the word, conservative policies overall in Soviet society from the mid-1930s onward. Is that right? And if so, why?

 RL: The Soviet leadership and masses did not get to choose the circumstances in which to make, defend, and advance the revolution. And by the mid-1930s, the revolution was under heavy assault and facing a very unfavorable and perilous world situation. In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria on the Soviet Union’s eastern borders. In 1933, the Nazi party, led by Hitler, consolidated power in Germany.

 As I said, the Soviet leadership had been expecting a revolution to take place in Germany. But the Nazi regime effectively crushed the German Communist Party and began to embark on a program of militarization. At the same time, pro-fascist forces had gained strength in Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania, and the Baltic countries, including Poland. In Spain, the Western powers stood idly, as General Franco led an uprising against the Spanish Republic, actively aided by Hitler and Mussolini. Germany and Japan had signed an Anti-Soviet Pact.

 The growing danger of inter-imperialist war and the likelihood of a massive imperialist assault on the Soviet Union was profoundly shaping economic and social policy in the Soviet Union.

 Question: So what were the implications of that?

 RL: War was looming. And, as with all of the challenges facing the Soviet revolution, there was no prior historical experience for dealing with the magnitude of a situation like this... the likelihood of a full-press onslaught by German imperialism against the Soviet Union. Stalin and the Soviet leadership approached this in a certain way. The assessment was that there had been this big leap in socialist state ownership and the development of the productive forces. And it was time to hunker down and prepare for the eventuality of war.

 There was a push for greater discipline and stepped-up production in the factories to have a war-fighting capacity. There was great emphasis on administrative measures, material incentives (paying people more to work harder), and on management technique and technology.

 The radical social and cultural experimentation of the 1920s and early 1930s was reined in. It was seen as being too removed from urgent production and political tasks and too alienating of the broader ranks of workers and the newer educated technical strata that were rallying around the regime.

 There was a premium put on unity in the face of the growing war threat... and unity was being forged around a kind of national patriotism.

 Internationally the Soviet Union was calling for and attempting to build a global united front against the fascist imperialist powers. It subordinated, and even sacrificed, revolutionary struggles in various parts of the world to the goal of defending the Soviet Union. The Soviet leadership saw the defense of the Soviet Union as being one and the same as the interests of the world revolution.

 All this was very problematic. It went against, and stood in contradiction to, what the revolution was about and to its overall main character. The revolution was facing the need to prepare for attack and war that could destroy the whole revolution. This was real and monumental. But Stalin’s approach was seriously flawed.

 Mistakes and Reversals

 Question: Could you elaborate on that a little—like, how did they justify this turnaround?

 RL: Well, I talked about Stalin’s tendency to see things mechanically and statically—that is, to not see how there are contradictions within societies, processes, individuals—really, everything—that may not be on the surface, but that are actually driving forward change within that thing. You know, like you look at an egg and just by going by the surface you wouldn’t know that there was this potential chicken inside, growing and growing and eventually going to burst out of that egg and become a whole different thing.

 This kind of mechanical or static thinking crept into and began to increasingly color his view of socialism... that there was this socialist state that had to be defended at all costs against the onslaught he could see coming, and a lot of things got justified in the name of doing that defense which were actually undercutting the socialist character of the state.

 For example, Stalin began to make concessions to parts of the population that were still very religious and traditional in their thinking, or were strongly influenced by Russian nationalism, or both. Now, yes, you were 15 years into the new society—but one thing that we have learned is that there are huge sections of the people that don’t give up all that old thinking overnight. So this presents challenges in terms of waging ideological struggle, carrying on educational work, and promoting a scientific world outlook in society, while upholding the right to religious worship. But, as Stalin saw it, you had to make concessions to that kind of thinking and those kinds of forces like the Russian Orthodox Church in order, as Stalin saw it, to strengthen unity for the war effort.

 The government also began to go back on some of the earlier advances around women and gay people, for instance. Some of the tremendous, and at that point in the world unique, advances I talked about earlier—including the right to abortion—got reversed. And the rights for gay people were also reversed. And more generally the traditional family was being extolled and traditional relations were being reinforced. This was both a very serious error and also betrayed a certain lack of depth to understanding the importance of gender relations in the overall transformation of society. And this kind of thing was based again on the assumption that the socialist character of the society was more or less assured and the main thing you had to do was to defend it.

 Now I don’t want to minimize in any way the scale of the threat the Soviet Union faced. Stalin and those around him were the first people to lead a socialist state, they had this tremendous responsibility to defend it, and here was the most powerful army in the world sitting next door with the leader of that army making very clear that he intended to destroy that socialist country. And let’s remember that the Nazis very nearly made good on that threat, and killed some 26 million—yes, 26 million!—Soviet people in the course of trying to do that.

 I’m not saying this to justify these errors in the least. I’m saying this so that we really grasp what they faced and how in the face of that kind of huge pressure we must and we can do better in the future. And without getting into all that now, this underscores the importance of the work done by Bob Avakian in grappling with this whole experience and the way that he has approached this, and through that process developing the new synthesis of communism.

 Question: What about the gulags32 and executions? When you say Stalin, this is probably the first thing people start talking about.

 RL: The international situation I just described—where the very existence of the Soviet Union was in the cross-hairs—also set the context for the purges and repression of the late 1930s.

 And look, when we talk about literally grievous errors, some of what went on during the period of 1936–1938 is part of what we mean. Many innocent people suffered repression: economic officials, military officers, Party members who had been in opposition in earlier years and others who were seen as potential sources of opposition, including people from the intelligentsia. People’s basic legal rights were violated and people were executed on the basis of those violations. So this was, as I said, grievous.33

 Now there are two contending ways of understanding what was going on—and only one of them gets you to the truth. You can declare that Stalin was a monster, a paranoid despot who just wanted to accrue “absolute power”... end of discussion. That’s the line of attack of anti-communist historians and cold-war propagandists.

 Or, you can bring a scientific approach to this moment in the history of communist revolution, to understand what happened and why. You look at what Stalin and the leadership were actually facing at that point in terms of the virtual certainty of massive attack, you look at the fact that there were indeed some counter-revolutionary groups and some elements in the Party and army who seem to have been intriguing with one or another imperialist power in the face of that, you analyze the framework they were using to understand all that, and then you evaluate what was done politically in the face of that. And if there were errors—and as I said, there were, some of them very serious—then you strive to understand what it was in their understanding and approach to those problems that gave rise to these errors.

A Matter of Orientation

 So I want to get into what led to those errors. But before I do, there’s something else to bring to this discussion... as a matter of basic orientation. Even acknowledging the serious excesses that took place, still, what happened in the Soviet Union does not hold a candle to what happened as a result of one single event in U.S. history: Thomas Jefferson’s decision to make the Louisiana Purchase, which played a key role in expanding and prolonging slavery in the U.S.

 One hundred thousand slaves, a third of them children, would be sold in the markets of New Orleans before the Civil War.34 Slaves picked cotton from before dawn to after dark. They cleared disease-infested swamps. They were worked as if they were beasts of burden. Jefferson’s slave-owning peers carried out pervasive and massive rape, barbaric punishments, and even the selling of children away from their parents. Slave owners on the Eastern seaboard, including Jefferson himself, profited greatly by the expansion of slave territory. And in the newly acquired territory, the genocide against the Indian peoples gained terrible new impetus.

 Thomas Jefferson acted consciously and methodically to expand and consolidate the system of chattel slavery, literally. He created a living hell that would last for nearly six decades, all in the pursuit of empire and profit.35

 Or you look at the massive amount of killings carried out by the U.S. over the past decades at a time when nobody could argue that they were facing any kind of serious threat to their very existence—and we’re talking several million killed in Korea, several million more killed in Indochina, the hundreds of thousands killed and millions displaced in Iraq, all of those as a result of direct U.S. military intervention—and that’s not even touching on the many murderous proxy wars they have sponsored in Latin America and Africa—and again, for what? For the maintenance of a worldwide system of exploitation and misery.

 Stalin, on the other hand, made errors, even serious errors, in a situation in which the Soviet Union was in desperate circumstances and facing dire threats. But he made those errors in the context of defending a world-shaking revolution aimed at ridding the world of slavery in its modern form.36

 People have to judge any historical figure, or any historical event, in the whole context of what was taking place, what vital interests were in play and at stake, and what were the aims and objectives of the person or group in question—in order to determine the essence of the matter. At the same time, as I said, we need to evaluate Stalin’s and much of the Soviet leadership’s understanding of the tensions and contradictions in society, and their approach to dealing with this. And there were serious problems.

 Two Different Kinds of Contradictions

 Question: What do you mean by that? Problems in how he was understanding things? Does this tie in with what you said earlier about a static view of socialism?

 RL: Yes. Earlier I mentioned that by the mid-1930s, socialist and collective ownership had been achieved in the main sectors of the economy. The old propertied classes had been overthrown and private capitalism had been pretty much transformed.

 Stalin analyzed that there was no longer an economic basis for exploitation... and therefore there were no longer antagonistic classes in socialist society. The understanding was that there were two non-antagonistic classes: the workers and the collectivized peasants, and then a stratum of new and old intelligentsia and white-collar professionals. The old ruling class had been overthrown by the revolution and civil war. As Stalin saw it, there were remnants of the old order—but, as I said, no antagonistic classes... no bourgeois forces internal to society. And these remnants of the old order... again I’m characterizing the understanding... they could only be propped up externally.

 So the threat to Soviet society was seen as coming from agents of the deposed classes, cultivated and supported by foreign capital. And you had this whole discourse of foreign spies and wreckers, of plots and conspiracies from outside. There was real subversion, but Stalin tended to view all opposition in society as coming, in some way, from the outside. And the struggle against counter-revolution was seen as a kind of counter-espionage operation. It was this mindset that led to the serious mistakes I described earlier.

 But Stalin’s analysis was wrong. In fact, society was teeming with class differences and contradictions. And not all coming from the outside... though, as I’ve been pointing out there was the threat of intervention and war and what’s going on in the world profoundly shapes the struggles in socialist society. All this was discovered by Mao, and on that basis he was able to lead the Chinese Revolution in a profoundly different way of handling these contradictions, and the different kinds of struggle they give rise to.37 And I’ll get into that, later in the interview.

Stalin was mixing up these two types of contradictions. You had people in Soviet society in the 1930s who were raising objections to different policies of the socialist state... really who were dissenting. But Stalin was treating all these differences as antagonistic ones, and he linked all this to external threats... to external subversion. Repression should only have been directed against enemies. But it was used against people who were expressing disagreements and against people who were making mistakes in certain responsible positions. As I said, Mao grasped the problem here and got deeper to the truth of the dynamics of socialist society. And Bob Avakian has built on this pathbreaking insight of Mao, and the experience of socialist society more broadly, and developed a deeper scientific understanding of socialist society and a more expansive vision of the importance of dissent and struggle between contending ideas in that society.

 But Stalin didn’t have this understanding. And he was relying on purges and police actions to solve problems—rather than, and this was what happened during the Cultural Revolution in China... rather than mobilizing the masses to take up the burning political and ideological questions on the overall direction of society and opening things up. Instead there was this whole approach of hunkering down to defend the socialist state.

 And you had this serious departure from internationalism... the Soviet Union backing away from the socialist state’s responsibility to promote the world revolution. There was this view that nothing was more important than protecting the socialist state and that nearly anything was justified in doing this—including entering into a sort of realpolitik, or political intrigue—with the imperialists. Now just to be clear, there is a role for diplomatic relations that socialist states undertake with imperialists—you can’t exist in a constant state of war, for one thing, you’re going to need to trade, and so on—but these have to be on the basis of principle... on the idea that those relations are subordinated to the advance of the revolution. But too often, in navigating that period, this got lost.38

A Crucial Relationship: Advancing the World Revolution, Defending the Socialist State

 Question: But you’ve been emphasizing the real need to defend the Soviet Union, and how this was impacting the decisions Stalin was making.

 RL: Yes, but there was not a correct scientific understanding of this. You see, Bob Avakian identified—and no communist leader and theorist before him even conceptualized things in these terms—that there is this real contradiction between defending the socialist state and advancing the world revolution and at times this can be very sharply posed. This is a key element of the new synthesis of communism, in the further development of the science of communism.

 You don’t let the imperialists just destroy the new socialist society. It has to be defended. But that can come into contradiction with supporting revolution in other parts of the world... in terms of where you are putting resources, how you are carrying out diplomacy, and how you are organizing socialist society, and preparing people ideologically in terms of sacrificing for the whole world revolution. So you are going to have to recognize that contradiction and learn how to handle it.

 Stalin, and even Mao, later, when he led the revolution in China, tended to equate defending the socialist state with acting in the interests of the advance of the world revolution. And again, in evaluating this, you have to remember that this was the first time anyone had ever faced this situation and there was no previous experience to go on, you have to remember the real and existential threat they faced, and you have to remember that both of these leaders never caved in to imperialism and that Mao, in particular, fought for revolution and made advances in the revolution up until his very death. But this objectively amounted to putting the defense of the socialist state above advancing the world revolution.

 It’s not that Stalin and Mao consciously set out to subordinate the world revolution to the defense of the socialist country. Rather, because they understood this extremely complex and sharp contradiction in a certain linear way—revolution would be won in this country, then in that country... and the world revolution would proceed through a process of defending and adding on new socialist countries—because of that understanding, they made errors in policy.

 On the basis of digging deeply into this, Bob Avakian has brought forward new, scientific understanding: the principal role of the socialist state is to be a base area for the advance of the world revolution. It has to defend itself on that basis and be prepared to put its survival on the line in periods when the world revolution can make great advances. And it has to handle the real and very difficult contradictions involved correctly in all of this.39

 So these are some important lessons from what was going on in the Soviet Union in the 1930s.

 Question: And of course, then the Soviet Union was invaded by German imperialism in 1941.

 RL: You know, the history of the Soviet Union, when it was socialist, was a history of a society waging war, preparing for war, or dressing the wounds of war. In June 1941, the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union. They threw the most modern army in the world and most of their military might against the Soviets. Hitler made it clear to his troops that he expected them to discard every principle of humanity in what was to be a war of total annihilation.40

 The Soviets fought with incredible heroism. Twenty-six million Soviet citizens lost their lives in World War 2, more than 1 of 8 in the population.

 But you have this contradiction. The Soviet Union came out of World War 2 militarily victorious. But the revolution was weakened politically and ideologically. By that I mean that the errors I described above had corroded and undercut people’s understanding of the goals of communist revolution and had actually reinforced weaknesses in the way people were attempting to understand the world, and how to transform it. People were still fighting to build socialism and refusing to cave in to imperialism, and this definitely was being led by Stalin. But they also had become muddled in their understanding of the difference between nationalism and internationalism... between revolution and reform... and about what really constituted a scientific approach to nature and society.

 After Stalin’s death in 1953, new bourgeois forces within the Communist Party maneuvered to seize power; and in 1956, Nikita Khrushchev, a high official in the party and government, took over the reins, consolidated the rule of a new capitalist class, and led in systematically restructuring the Soviet Union into a state-capitalist society.41 This was the end of the first proletarian state.

 Question: So how do you put this in perspective?

 RL: The Soviet revolution was about the slaves rising up with vanguard communist leadership—and forging a whole new way to organize and run society, a whole new way to relate to the world... not to plunder and conquer it but to contribute to the emancipation of humanity. Its defeat was a bitter setback, made more so by the fact that people did not have the scientific tools at the time to understand the character and source of that defeat.

 Despite the errors I’ve described, the revolution of 1917–56 represented the first steps, apart from the short-lived Paris Commune, along the road of emancipation, towards a world free of oppression and exploitation. It inspired people throughout the world. But that road has to be forged... the understanding of what it’s going to take has to be deepened and extended. It doesn’t come automatically or spontaneously. There’s a “learning curve,” if you will.

 But to learn and learn deeply requires a scientific understanding of society and how to transform it. It requires the further development of that science... I’m talking about the science of communism. It’s a question of identifying and analyzing the problems and challenges in the process of getting to a classless world... and forging solutions, and developing new insights into how to understand what you are facing.

 This is what Mao Zedong, the leader of the Chinese revolution, did... he took the project of emancipation, the communist revolution, to a whole new place of understanding and practice. This was a new breakthrough for humanity, more radical and more emancipating. And that’s what we’ll get into next."