Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Today, I will present the seventh installment of “State and Counter Revolution: A Critical History of the Marxist Theory of the State” by Tom Clark, a former comrade of mine from the long departed Communist Workers Group (ML).  Today's post will include Chapter Five.  

As another friend, Rick Atkinison,  writes in his background to the work:

The over-arching point of Mr. Clark’s critique was that the petty bourgeois intelligentsia, whether advocating for imperialism or socialism and regardless of the social structure within which they live, could only continue to exist as part of a parasitical strata.  It is “parasitical” because in order to be “free” to pursue interesting ideas, conduct “principled” debate, research, write, etc. the intelligentsia must be supplied with the means of subsistence without “having to actually work for a living” (Ibid.).  The essence of petty bourgeois ideological work, whether capitalist or socialist, then, is simply to define and proselytize “how the privileged status of their kind is to be secured.”

Tom writes in Chapter Five presented below:

In his most definitive statement, Dimitrov declared, “... according to Marxist-Leninist principles, the Soviet regime and popular democracy are two forms of one and the same rule – the rule of the working class in alliance with and at the head of the working people from town and countryside.  They are two forms of the dictatorship of the proletariat...” (DSW Vol. 3, p.352).

The fact that there were now two general forms of proletarian dictatorship was explained on the grounds that “...the road to socialism in different countries may differ, in accordance with the historical national and other peculiarities of these countries...” (Ibid. p.154).  A people’s democracy is thus “...enabled to realize the transition from capitalism to socialism, without the establishment of a Soviet system, through the rule of a popular democracy, on condition that it gets “stabilized and develops, with the aid of the USSR and other people’s democracies...” (Ibid. p.318).

Implicit in this line of reasoning is the recognition that the Soviet and parliamentary forms are not radically different after all, and that in the end it is armed force, not the structure of government, that decides.  In the USSR, the rule of the CPSU ultimately rested on, not an armed citizenry organized into Soviets, but the Red Army apparatus.  And as it turned out, in Bulgaria and other East European countries, the rule of the Communist Parties also rested on the Russian Red Army.






And Now...


The State and Counter-Revolution: A Critical History of the Marxist Theory of the State.
by Tom Clark



The post-war people’s democracies that developed in Eastern Europe and China embodied the main features of the Popular Front government advocated at the Seventh Congress of the Communist International.  Politically, they were based on a multi-party, parliamentary system that included all the anti-fascist elements of the wartime Fatherland Front movements.  Economically, they nationalized the most vital monopolized industries and allowed smaller capitalist industries and agriculture to continue business as usual.

The theoretical status of the people’s democracies, however, was obscured by uncertainty over the future relations between the USSR and the West.  If the wartime alliance was to be preserved, the communists had no wish to offend anyone with loose talk of ‘dictatorship’, whether revolutionary democratic or proletarian.  Consequently, until 1948 theoretical discussions of the people’s democracies were by and large phrased in ‘apolitical’ terms, and were not associated with earlier communist theses on the state.

The communist theoretician Eugen Varga, for example, wrote in 1947 that the people’s democracies were “...something entirely new in the history of mankind...” (Cited in Kase, People’s Democracies, Sijthoff, Leyden, Netherlands, 1968, p.18).  They allowed capitalism, and yet protected the interests of the people.  In a few years, however, the theoreticians would discover that despite multi-party composition, parliamentarism and capitalism, the people’s democracies were indeed forms of “the dictatorship of the proletariat” after all.

A. Eastern Europe

As consideration for his outstanding theoretical contributions to the communist movement, Dimitrov was allowed to further develop the principles of the People’s Front from the vantage point of leader of the new Bulgarian state.

Representative of the cautiousness with which the communists set about consolidating their governments, Dimitrov at first urged moderation and gentle persuasion towards the “patriotic industrialists” and state bureaucrats.  The Bulgarian industrialists, Dimitrov advised in 1945, should “...drive out among their class the wreckers and parasitic elements...” and give “... free reign to their initiative and enterprising spirit....”  If the industrialists serve the people, “...this will be appreciated by the workers and they will have a positive attitude toward the production initiatives of the industrialists...” (DSW Vol. 2, p.241).

The Fatherland Front, in Dimitrov’s view, “...is a lasting militant alliance of workers, peasants, craftsmen and intellectuals.  It has and should be in it representatives of the patriotic industrialists and businessmen....”  And although private property is preserved, “...private initiative...is limited in favor of the state, of the public and national interests...” (Ibid. p.242).  Thus a section of the industrial and financial bourgeoisie was allowed its economic superiority, as well as a role in government, providing that it did its share to maintain the unity of classes.

The working class was likewise advised to avoid excesses.  The task of the trade unions, Dimitrov explained in 1946, was “...not to replace the employers, but rather to help increase production... Their task is to establish strict labor discipline and increase labor productivity...” (Ibid.  p.305).  At the same time, however, the workers were given the formal right to strike if the industrialists were not forthcoming.
Although the new government was proclaimed to be a “...new, people’s state...” (Ibid. p.306), it was populated by much of the old bureaucracy, and consequently became the target of popular resentment.  But since “smashing” was not on the agenda, Dimitrov simply urged the workers to develop “...a new attitude...” towards the state and  “...to rid ourselves of survivals of the old, hostile attitude...” (Ibid. p.508).
The nature of the new Bulgarian state was formulated in mid-1946 as being “...a people’s republic with a parliamentary regime...”, which was, however, “... a people’s republican government, and not ... a bourgeois republican one...” (Ibid. p.397).  The main difference, according to Dimitrov, was that although the state protected capitalist private property, capitalism would “...not be allowed to doom the working people...to starvation and poverty...” (Ibid. p.398).  On the other hand, “...Bulgaria is not going to be a Soviet Republic, but a people’s republic, in which the great majority of the people...are going to play the leading role...” (Ibid. p.397).  The state was thus neither bourgeois democratic nor proletarian socialist, a thesis Dimitrov had been working on for some time.

By 1948, relations between the USSR and the West had degenerated to such an extent that in order to preserve its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe the Communist Part of the Soviet Union issued a new line on the people’s democracies.  Nationalist and pro-Western elements were to be suppressed, nationalization and economic reforms were to be accelerated, and the role of the communists vis-à-vis their coalition partners was to be increased.  The theoretical rationalization for these maneuvers was provided by the thesis that the people’s democracies were simply variations of the dictatorship of the proletariat and should act accordingly.

Apologizing for his earlier appeals to the patriotic industrialists, Dimitrov subsequently wrote that at the time “...we were still speaking of the possibility of coordinating the interests of private industrialists and merchants with the general interests of the state at a time when the whole set-up made it possible to take radical measures for the elimination of the rule of big business in the national economy...” (DSW Vol. 3, p.312).  In this connection, Dimitrov thanked the CPSU for its “...advices and elucidations...” which allowed the CP Bulgaria “...to quickly correct our mistakes...” (Ibid. p.313).

In reality, the indefinite status of the people’s democracies, cooperation with the big bourgeoisie, conservative economic policy and the like was no mistake, but a deliberate policy fostered by the CPSU in order to postpone any premature confrontation with the United States and Western Europe.

Once Dimitrov had been advised and elucidated, he quickly connected the category of people’s democracy with its historical predecessors.  In an article of early 1948, Dimitrov traced the present people’s democracies to the wartime Fatherland Front, which in turn resulted from the 1930’s effort to broaden “...the worker-peasant united front into an anti-fascist popular front...” (Ibid. p.157).  The worker-peasant united front likewise connected to the previous efforts of the Bulgarian September 1923, uprising.  Dimitrov did not bother to inform his readers that every successive stage of the Comintern’s united front policy embraced wider and higher strata of the middle class and bourgeoisie, and that even by his own reckoning at the time, the Anti-Fascist and Fatherland Fronts were in no way meant to be proletarian dictatorships.

Objectively, however, Dimitrov was correct.  The people’s democracies were in essence identical to every previous thesis on revolutionary democratic, proletarian dictatorial, or simply “popular” governments.  In every case, the communist intelligentsia was given a prominent role, only the biggest bourgeois enterprises were to be nationalized, the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie accommodated, and the working class provided with “a positive attitude towards production”.

In his most definitive statement, Dimitrov declared, “... according to Marxist-Leninist principles, the Soviet regime and popular democracy are two forms of one and the same rule – the rule of the working class in alliance with and at the head of the working people from town and countryside.  They are two forms of the dictatorship of the proletariat...” (DSW Vol. 3, p.352).

The fact that there were now two general forms of proletarian dictatorship was explained on the grounds that “...the road to socialism in different countries may differ, in accordance with the historical national and other peculiarities of these countries...” (Ibid. p.154).  A people’s democracy is thus “...enabled to realize the transition from capitalism to socialism, without the establishment of a Soviet system, through the rule of a popular democracy, on condition that it gets “stabilized and develops, with the aid of the USSR and other people’s democracies...” (Ibid. p.318).

Implicit in this line of reasoning is the recognition that the Soviet and parliamentary forms are not radically different after all, and that in the end it is armed force, not the structure of government, that decides.  In the USSR, the rule of the CPSU ultimately rested on, not an armed citizenry organized into Soviets, but the Red Army apparatus.  And as it turned out, in Bulgaria and other East European countries, the rule of the Communist Parties also rested on the Russian Red Army.

Since Soviets were no longer the absolute and universal form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, it followed that other Commune features were also no longer universal.

Dimitrov admitted that “...true, the old bourgeois state machine was not completely smashed...” following the war, but that the new government was nonetheless “...created and gradually improved...” (Ibid. p.303).  In lieu of “smashing”, Dimitrov listed the major changes in the Bulgarian state and society as being 1) elimination of the capitalists as a class, i.e. not individually, from leading roles in the economy and state; 2) agrarian reforms, which incidentally did not include nationalization of the land; and 3) the intelligentsia were now serving the people (Ibid. p.199).

By way of emphasizing the identity of the people’s democracies and the Soviets, Dimitrov quoted Stalin’s comments on the 1936 Soviet Constitution and declared that in Bulgaria, too, “...our society now has two fundamental social classes: the working class and the class of working farmers, which have no contrary interests.  The progressive intelligentsia stands and works by their side...” (Ibid. p.199).  This harmony of class interests was declared, however, at a time when the “working farmers” were engaged either in petty production or in cooperative production, both of which were capitalist, when rich farmers and other petty entrepreneurs were accommodated, and when the intelligentsia, as in the USSR, still maintained an economically and socially privileged position over the working class.  The people’s democracies in the parliamentary form thus perpetuated the same class relations as the “dictatorship of the proletariat” in the Soviet form.

Like the Bulgarians, the Polish CP began with a liberal-labor programme of economic reforms and class reconciliation, and prior to 1948 made no pretense at proletarian dictatorship. In 1947, Wladyslaw Gomulka reassured high society that “...under the present conditions no dictatorship of the working class, and even less a dictatorship of one party is necessary or intended.  We believe that the government in our country can be carried out through all democratic parties cooperating with one another...” (People’s Democracies, p.20).

Among the democratic reforms, the old Polish Senate was abolished by referendum in 1946 and a one-chamber parliament, the Seym, established.  This slight modification of the parliamentary structure was proclaimed a major step forward that was compatible “... with the principles of true democracy...” (Rozmaryn, The Seym and People’s Councils in Poland, Polonia Publishing House, Warsaw, 1958, p.13).

The class composition of the Polish Seym during the 1957 session divided into workers (15.5%), peasants (15.5%), intelligentsia and professionals (57%), and miscellaneous strata (12%).  Despite the preponderance of the intelligentsia in the government (the Seym deputies plus professional government bureaucrats and Party officials), the figures were declared to be a “...clear expression of the social character of Parliament in a State where power belongs to the working people of town and country—to the workers, peasants and working intelligentsia...” (Ibid. p.18).  In addition to the united Social Democratic and communist party, the Polish United Workers’ Party, the government included the United Peasant Party and a bourgeois Democratic Party.

While the Seym was entrusted with national policymaking, the People’s Councils elected in each district assumed local functions.  Indicative of the actual power of the Councils, all major industries and utilities were to be under the exclusive control of the Seym ministries.  The People’s Councils were given the right to consult with and advise the army, but had no active control over it.  Thus the local organs of power existed simply to implement the decisions of the national government.

Although the Seym and People’s Councils were to be “working institutions”, after the example of the Commune, legislative and executive functions were practically and officially divided between the Seym and the government Ministries.  The 1958 Polish Constitution declared that “...the highest organ of State authority is the Seym of the Polish People’s Republic...” which  “...passes laws and exercises control over the functioning of other organs of State authority and administration...” (Constitution of the Polish People’s Republic, Warsaw, 1958, p.16).  On the other hand, “... the Council of Ministers is the supreme executive and administrative organ of State authority...” (Ibid. p.24).  The combination of executive and legislative functions thus reduced to the power of the legislature to appoint members of the executive, an arrangement common to many ordinary parliamentary governments.

In Czechoslovakia, the CP promised in 1945 that the new government would be “...a people’s democratic state with a new, refreshed, democracy...” (Kase, People’s Democracies, p.11).  Like Dimitrov and Gomulka, Gottwald initially viewed the new people’s state as a theoretical hybrid.  In 1946, Gottwald stated that “...what the classics of Marxism have anticipated in theory, namely, that there is another path to socialism than via the dictatorship of the proletariat and the Soviet state form, was proved here in practice.  This path is being followed by Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Poland and Czechoslovakia...” (Ibid. p.21).  Here Gottwald refers to the “battle of democracy” of the Communist Manifesto and Marx and Engels’ other comments on behalf of parliamentary transition.

In East Germany, the postwar division of the nation and the previous decade of Nazi rule further complicated the situation.  While the other people’s democracies were declared to be proletarian dictatorships in 1948, East Germany did not achieve that status until 1952, i.e. after the Cold War had set in.

Where the other people’s democracies were based on the Fatherland Front and other partisan organizations, the German communists had no wartime apparatus to build on.  Thus instead of anti-fascist enthusiasm, the communists sought to promote post-war reconstruction on the basis of national guilt.  As Ulbricht stated in 1945, “...the perception of this guilt is a prerequisite for our people finally breaking with their reactionary past and entering resolutely upon a new road...” (Ulbricht, Whither Germany? Ziet Im Bild Publishing House, Dresden, 1966, p.117).  Although fascism had its social basis in the petty and big bourgeoisie, the German workers were, in effect, treated by their own communist intellectuals as war criminals.

According to Ulbricht, the new government would be “...an anti-fascist, democratic regime, a parliamentary-democratic republic with all democratic rights and liberties for the people...” (Ibid. p.123).  Consequently, the government was named the German Democratic Republic (GDR), and not a People’s Republic.  Noting the difference between this new republic and the Weimar regime, Ulbricht explained that “...our democracy is different, firstly, in that the industrialists, bankers and big landowners have no say in our society.  This is a very vital difference...” (Ulbricht, On Questions of Socialist Reconstruction in the GDR, Verlag Zeit Im Bild, Dresden, 1968, p.55).  The difference was not so vital, however, given that the biggest industrialists and capitalists had already fled to West Germany, and the capitalists who remained were allowed to continue their business pending nationalization in the 1950’s.

While the party leaders were convinced of the national guilt and the need for a gradual, democratic reconstruction, the German workers were not.  In June 1945, Ulbricht was forced to explain that “...many workers want to establish socialism at once.  But how is this to take place in view of the ideological devastation which penetrates deeply into the ranks of the working class...” (Ulbricht, Whither Germany? p.123).  Ulbricht further cautioned, “...in addition to the united front of the workers we want the united front of all anti-fascist-democratic forces, the bloc of the anti-fascist-democratic parties...” (Ibid. p.125).  This class unity was facilitated in part because “...men and women from bourgeois circles have been thrown out of their customary ways of life...” (Ibid.) by the war.  Ulbricht should have added that their customary ways of life were interrupted only because the fascists lost.

As with the other people’s democracies, the success of the GDR was predicated on the “unity of the working class”, meaning the unity of the socialist intelligentsia.  In later 1945, Ulbricht stated that “...the struggle for socialism cannot be conducted without a high degree of organizational and ideological development of the working class and without unification of the Communist and Social Democratic Parties...” (Ulbricht, On Questions of Socialist Reconstruction, p.60).  That unity was achieved the following year with the formation of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED).

In 1948, the SED had to account for the fact that unlike the other people’s democracies in Eastern Europe, the GDR was not yet a proletarian dictatorship. This was no small task, considering the fact that in terms of government coalition, communist-Social-Democratic unity, parliamentary structure, and mixed economy, the GDR shared the main features of the other people’s democracies.  As a compromise, Ulbricht explained that since the GDR served the people, “...the democratic system in the Soviet occupation zone, therefore, is not capitalist.  Nor could it be described as socialist...”(Ibid. p.149).  It was, in short, what the people’s democracies had originally been viewed as: a ‘non-bourgeois’, non-proletarian, popular state.  A state, in fact, of the German middle class.

Developing this line of reasoning further, Ulbricht turned to Lenin for theoretical substantiation.  Lenin’s theory on the state, he explained, “...led us to recognize in 1945 that it was necessary to abolish ruthlessly the fascist machinery of state and transfer all key positions into the hands of the working class...” (Ibid. p.165), i.e. into the hands of the party.

But in answer to Lenin’s question “what is to replace the old smashed machinery”, Ulbricht presented not Soviets but “...a more advanced and democratic system...established together with other democratic forces...” (Ibid.).  Thus instead of State and Revolution, Ulbricht urged the Germany workers to study Lenin’s 1905 Two Tactics: “...The Leninist theory on the path towards socialism, laid down in his work Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution is of particular significance for the German working class movement...” (Ibid.).  With this recommendation, Ulbricht underlined the SED’s proposition that the task before the workers was not to develop a proletarian state, but a democratic one.  And this in a country rotten ripe with capitalism and overdue, by all previous judgments, for working class revolution.

Ulbricht really had no need to divert the working class via Two Tactics or any other democratic appeals.  If he had studied the actual development of Lenin’s reasoning on the state and the actual outcome of the Soviet form, he could have theoretically justified everything the SED wished to accomplish, including the preservation of the Democratic Front.

The SED did not announce a plan for socialist reconstruction until 1952.  Ulbricht reassured the middle class that the party had no intention “...to take the path of expropriating the small private owners...” since to do so would “...burden the state needlessly...” (Ibid. p.207).  Following the decision to proceed with socialist reconstruction, the phrases “workers’ and peasants’ power” and “workers’ and peasants’ state” were introduced, as well as the proclamation that “...in the GDR, the historical interests of the working class, the intelligentsia and the class of working peasants are being served by the state...” (Ibid. p.240).  The GDR was thus at last in line with the class basis of the USSR and other people’s democracies.  By 1957, Ulbricht was able to announce that the GDR “... is the first state in German history in which the working class in alliance with the working peasantry and the other working strata exercises political power, i.e. has established the dictatorship of the proletariat...” (Ibid. p.359).

Another exceptional situation occurred in the development of Yugoslav people’s democracy.  As with the other communist parties, the Yugoslav communists relied on the wartime People’s Front as the embryo of the new government.  At the Second Congress of the People’s Front, Tito posed the rhetorical question: “...Does the CP Yugoslavia have any other program but that of the People’s Front?  No, the CP Yugoslavia has no other program.  The program of the People’s Front is its program...” (Marbury, The Soviet-Yugoslav Controversy, Prospect Books, NYC, 1959, p.11).  Although Tito was later accused of Menshevism by the CPSU on this account, his dedication to the People’s Front was completely in line with the activities of the other communist parties from 1935 onwards.

Unlike the other people’s democracies, however, the Yugoslav communists attempted to establish a greater independence from the USSR and devote themselves wholly to their own national development.  The polemical expression of this conflict of national interests because so sharp that in 1948 the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform) declared that the CP Yugoslavia had placed itself “...outside the united Communist front and consequently outside the ranks of the Information Bureau...” (Ibid. p.45).  The price of its national independence would be national isolation, a situation that suited the Yugoslav communists just fine.

The most amusing moments of the Soviet-Yugoslav split were provided by the mutual recriminations and charges of violation of Marxist-Leninist principle.

The CPSU accused the CP Yugoslavia of dissolving the Party into the People’s Front, a form of Menshevism, although it was in fact the CPSU itself that had engineered united front fusion in the world movement.  The Yugoslavs responded that the CPSU’s accusation was in reality “...a criticism of these democratic tendencies in our Socialist development...” (Ibid. p.90), and countered that some people’s democracies were characterized by “...an anti-democratic system of bureaucratic despotism...” (Ibid. p.89).  The Yugoslav party stated that far from returning to capitalism, capitalist elements in Yugoslavia were being contained.  The CPSU associated this view with “Bukharinism”, although in fact the pro-Soviet people’s democracies were also reassuring all and sundry that their own capitalists were under control and refrained from harsh “class struggle” phrases.

As in every major polemical exchange in the communist movement, both sides inadvertently spoke the truth.  The Yugoslavs were indeed Mensheviks, Bukharinites and economic liberals.  The Cominform parties were indeed bureaucratic and despotic.  But what was really at stake was not a matter of principle or fidelity to a particular aspect of Marxist theory, but raw national interests.  The USSR wanted favorable trade relations, i.e. national exploitation, and a wider defense perimeter against the West; the Titoites wanted simply to retire to the comfort of their national shell and be the state power.

Theoretically, the Yugoslav party did very little in the way of revisionism that had not already been accomplished by the Russians.  In the Draft Programme of the Yugoslav League of Communists of 1958, the party affirmed that “...there is only one Socialism, but the roads leading to it vary...”, a thesis that had already been advocated by every people’s democracy.  In its criticism of official bourgeois democracy, the Programme pointed to the “...diminution of the real role of parliament...” and declared that therefore “...the system of bourgeois democracy is quite unsuitable as a long term instrument of the socialist forces, even if they are in complete control...” (Programme of the League of Yugoslav Communists, International Society for Socialist Studies, London, 1959, p.123).  On the question of peaceful transition, the Programme cautioned that although the parliamentary road was feasible, it “...in no sense means that the working class should renounce revolutionary means of struggle (Ibid. p.124).  On these issues, the League was in fact slightly to the left of the CPSU-related parties.

The most distinguishing feature of the Yugoslav people’s democracy was its emphasis on “social self-management” and the use of Workers’ Councils.  But as stated in the Programme, the main task of the Councils was not political rule, but simply to “... manage the means of production on behalf of the community...” (Ibid. p.130).  In practice, the Workers’ Councils were and still are only a variation of management-worker bodies common to many ordinary capitalist countries, which attempt to increase labor productivity and ensure labor discipline by giving the rank and file a voice in management affairs.

In the end, state power was still to be invested in the national legislature, the Federation, which according to the Programme “...will continue to...be in charge of duties and functions in the common interests of society as a whole such as the security of the socialist order in general, the fulfillment of the social plan in the economy, a unified system affording equal conditions and equal rights and duties for all...” (Ibid. p.135).  Thus although the workers may freely voice their complaints and advice at Council sessions, the communist intelligentsia retains control over the military and all significant state functions.

B. The United States and Great Britain

In the United States, the spirit of people’s democracy was manifested in the CP USA’s support of the liberal-labor Wallace ticket of the Progressive Party during the 1948 elections.

The Resolutions of the 14th National Convention of the CP USA stated that “...the Progressive Party is the result of 100 years of struggle by the progressive forces for a great mass party of the people...” (Political Affairs, September 1948, p.775).  The actual platform of the Progressive Party, however, was based on a doctrine of “progressive capitalism” and social reforms that would leave the system as a whole intact.  The CP agreed to disagree with the Progressive Party leadership on this point.  In its own election platform, the CP USA consequently explained that “...we support measures to nationalize the basic industries, banks and insurance companies, but point out that such measures can only be useful as part of the fight to realize a people’s democratic government in the U.S....” (Ibid.  p.940).  On the other hand, the people’s democracy was to be achieved by peaceful, parliamentary means.

The British CP was much more inventive than the American, and attempted to transcribe the experience of the people’s democracies to an advanced imperialist country.

In a 1947 work, Looking Ahead, Harry Pollitt outlined the major theoretical propositions on which the 1951 British CP programme would be based.  By way of assuring his readers that they would not be subjected to the CP’s familiar dogma, Pollitt stated that “...communists have never said that the Russian Revolution of October, 1917, is a model which has exactly to be copied...” (Looking Ahead, CP Great Britain, London, 1947, p.87).  And, contrary to what the reader might had heard elsewhere, “...Lenin was no lover of violence...” (Ibid. p.88).  The new people’s democracies have shown how “...the people will move towards socialism without further revolution, without the dictatorship of the proletariat...” (Ibid. p.90).  Generalizing this experience, Pollitt concluded that “...there exist today new possibilities of advance to Socialism in Britain, also, new ways in which power can be removed from the hands of the capitalist class...” (Ibid. p.91).

That Pollitt recognized that the CP Britain’s parliamentary programme must be harmonized with traditional Leninism is shown by his statement that in order “...to carry through our programme means that important changes in the State machinery will be necessary...” (Ibid. p.91).  But instead of “smashing”, Pollitt’s changes only amounted to adding working class, i.e. Party, members to the existing bourgeois-democratic state apparatus: “...We believe that workers and children of workers...are as capable as the sons of rich financiers, landowners and industrialists of becoming generals, organizing armies and navies, looking after the peace and securing their country, organizing the Civil Service and administering industry.  We believe that every step taken to strengthen representation of the majority of the people in the State apparatus...is a step along the road to Socialism in Britain...” (Ibid. p.86).  In short, the socialist intelligentsia and a proposed new middle class stratum of ex-workers should be given more of the state ‘action’.  In this way, “...British democratic institutions will be preserved and strengthened...” (Ibid. p.92).

C. China

The basic document of the People’s Front in the Chinese revolution is Mao Tse Tung’s 1940 On New Democracy.  In a paraphrase of Lenin’s line on the role of national movements in the era of imperialism, Mao wrote that since the national movements were objectively allied to the world socialist movements, “...here democracy does not belong to the old category...” of bourgeois-democratic revolutions, but “...belongs to the new category—it is a new democracy...” (Mao Tse Tung Selected Works, Vol. 2, p.341).  The aim of the Chinese revolution should therefore be to establish “...a new-democratic society and state under the joint dictatorship of all the revolutionary classes...” (Ibid. p.344), including the national bourgeoisie.

But where formerly Lenin’s line on the national and colonial question had stipulated that in order to be truly revolutionary the national movement must not restrict communist activity, Mao’s line avoided any ‘narrow’ criteria.  All that was necessary was that the movement be anti-imperialist: “...no matter what classes, parties or individuals in an oppressed nation join the revolution, and no matter whether they themselves are conscious of the point or understand it, so long as they oppose imperialism, their revolution becomes part of the proletarian-socialist world revolution and they become its allies...” (Ibid. p.346).

Where formerly the Soviet form was upheld (and had even been achieved) as the most suitable vehicle for the revolution, Mao substituted in its place a parliamentary government in line with the CP China’s united front agreement with the KMT.  The dissolution of the Soviet base areas in the 1930’s was not simply a tactical maneuver, but became incorporated into the party’s general line.  As Mao explained, “...the new-democratic republic will be different from the old European-American form of capitalist republic...” but will also “...be different from the socialist-republic of the Soviet type...” which is not now “...suitable for the revolutions in the colonial and semi-colonial countries.  During this period, therefore, a third form of state must be adopted...namely, the new-democratic republic...” (Ibid. p.350).  The economic policy of new-democracy was accordingly restricted to nationalization of only comprador and monopolized industry, limited land reform, and encouragement of all capitalist industry necessary for national development.

In theory, the new-democracy was simply Lenin’s “revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry” plus the political participation of the national bourgeoisie.  But as we have seen, even Lenin encouraged the participation of “revolutionary bourgeois democrats” in the democratic revolution, and further, viewed the Soviet form as an at least provisional expression of the “people’s revolution”.  In order to dissociate the Chinese Soviets from their earlier role as a revolutionary-democratic form of government, it was necessary for Mao to identify the Soviet form with a strictly socialist government, and portray the democratic-parliamentary form as a new historical event.

After the success of the revolution in 1949, Mao stated that “... the people’s democratic dictatorship, led by the proletariat and based on the worker-peasant alliance, requires that our Party conscientiously unite the entire working class, the entire peasantry and the broad masses of the revolutionary intelligentsia...” plus “...representatives of the urban petty bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie who can cooperate...” (Mao Tse Tung Selected Works, Vol. 4, p.372).  Further, “... we must unite with the national bourgeoisie in common struggle.  Our present policy is to regulate capitalism, not to destroy it...” (Ibid. p.421).

The political expression of this multi-class alliance was the National People’s Congress, a parliamentary and multi-party system that was declared in 1949 and first convened in 1954.  Although the issue of a Paris Commune-type structure would be raised during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960’s, Mao made no attempt to explain why Soviets, which had been appropriate during the 1920’s and early 1930’s, were no longer so in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

Since the democracy was a new type, not really bourgeois and not yet proletarian, the economy was likewise unique.  By 1953, Mao was able to write that China possessed “...a state-capitalist economy of a new type.  It exists not chiefly to make profits for the capitalists, but to meet the needs of the people and the state...” (Mao Tse Tung Selected Works, Vol. 5, p.101).  All that was needed to achieve socialism was for the open capitalists to disappear, a feat that was accomplished by buying off the larger urban bourgeois and incorporating the rural bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie into larger production units, i.e. collectivization.  The bourgeoisie remained, but with its social status hidden in the rural communes, and the state and party bureaucracy.

Despite what the name might imply, the commune structure introduced by the Great Leap Forward in 1957 was primarily an economic unit, and coexisted with a parliamentary political structure.  The later introduction of political communes during the Cultural Revolution, as we will see below, was only a brief flirtation with the middle class democratic enthusiasm of the Paris Commune and was soon replaced by the old parliamentarism.


By the time of the 20th Congress of the CPSU in 1956, the people’s democracies were so well established that all that remained was to generalize their experience to the world movement.

In his discussion of people’s democracies at the 20th Congress, Khrushchev cited Lenin’s observation on the likelihood of various roads to socialism.  But where Lenin had stated that all roads would eventually lead to the universal, Soviet arrangement of socialism, Khrushchev stated that “...now, alongside the Soviet form of reorganizing society on socialist foundations, we have the form of people’s democracy... It has been thoroughly tried and tested for ten years and has fully proved its worth...” (Gruliow: Current Soviet Policies, Vol. 2, Praeger, 1957, p.37).  The development of the people’s democracies was “...creative Marxism in action...” and signified that “...achieving these former need not be associated with civil war under all circumstances...” (Ibid. p.38).

In support of this latter statement, Khrushchev recalled, not Lenin’s 1919 declaration on the inevitability of civil war, but his April, 1917, proposals for a peaceful transition to socialism.  And, in a paraphrase of Marx’s and Engels’ views, explained further that “...the use or non-use of violence in the transition to socialism depends on the resistance of the exploiters, on whether the exploiting class itself resorts to violence...” (Ibid. p.38).

Khrushchev further noted that concurrent with the question of violence, “...the question arises of whether it is possible to go over to socialism by parliamentary means...” (Ibid.).  The only new feature in Khrushchev’s line on this issue was his view that the Bolsheviks in 1917 had no alternative, and thus used Soviets as “...the only correct road in those historical conditions...”.  But, “...since then, however, the historical situation has undergone radical changes...” (Ibid.).  Thus instead of being a new form alongside the Soviets, the people’s democracies were portrayed as a new form replacing the out-dated Soviet form.

As in the people’s democracies, the class basis of the parliamentary road was to be “...the working class...the working peasantry, the intellectuals and all patriotic forces...” (Ibid.).  These classes would “...win a firm majority in parliament and ... turn the parliament from an agency of bourgeois democracy into an instrument of genuinely popular will. (Applause)...” (Ibid.).

To reassure the Congress that this thesis was firmly grounded in orthodox Marxism, Khrushchev stated that “...Marx and Engels pointed out that the working class is capable of turning universal suffrage ‘from a means of deception, which it has been hitherto, into an instrument of liberation’...” (Ibid.).  By citing Engels’ 1894 comments in the preface to The Class Struggles in France, Khrushchev only reaffirmed the truly “last word of Marxism on the state” that Lenin had deliberately avoided mentioning in State and Revolution.

Although the CP China and the Party of Labor of Albania, as well as the various new Marxist-Leninist groups that emerged internationally during the 1960s and early 1970s, date the development of modern revisionism at the 20th Congress, Khrushchev in fact only restated what had already been formulated and unanimously approved by all the parties during the previous decade.  If anything, Khrushchev should be credited for reestablishing what Marx and Engels really taught on the question of the state, since the peaceful, parliamentary path was much more consistent in their writings than the left, more working class phrases Lenin stressed.

Following the 20th Congress, the major Communist Parties endorsed Khrushchev’s line on the people’s democracies, and agreed at the 1957 meeting of communist and workers’ parties that “...the leadership of the working masses by the working class, whose nucleus is the Marxist-Leninist party, is carrying through the proletarian revolution in this or that form and in establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat in this or that form...” (Ulbricht, On Questions of Socialist Reconstruction, p.362).  The indifferent “this or that” phrasing may have been inexact from a scientific standpoint, but it at least relieved the parties from having to explain how the people’s democracies actually related to the previous theoretical categories of the international movement.

At the 21st Congress CPSU in 1959, Khrushchev announced that “... some of the people’s democracies have already entered the stage of completing the construction of socialism...” (Gruliow, Current Soviet Policies, Vol. 3, p.56, Columbia University Press, NYC, 1960), and that the development of the socialist camp had presented “...real possibilities for eliminating war as a means of settling international issues...” (Ibid. p.58).  Events were so favorable, in fact, that “... the danger of capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union is ruled out...” (Ibid. p.68).

As for the unity of the international movement, Khrushchev stated that “...all the socialist countries are building socialism, but they do not do it by stereotype...” (Ibid.), i.e. all sorts of parliamentary combinations are allowed.  This liberal accommodation was especially necessary for China’s Great Leap Forward and use of ‘left’ catch phrases.  As Khrushchev told the Congress, “...the CP China is employing many original forms of socialist construction.  But we have no disagreements with this party...” (Ibid.).

Khrushchev’s most notorious formulations were incorporated in the CPSU’s new Programme adopted at the 22nd Congress in 1961.

In his report on the party programme, Khrushchev stated that “... the draft...poses and resolves a most important new question of communist theory and practice—the evolution of the state of the dictatorship of the working class into a state of the entire people... A state of the entire people represents a new stage in the development of the socialist state...” (Gruliow, Current Soviet Policies, Vol. 4, p.101, Columbia University Press, NYC, 1962).  The advantage of the new state was that “...every worker, every peasant, every member of the intelligentsia can say: ‘We are the state, its policy is our policy’...” (Ibid. p.102).  If the state now belonged to the whole people, it followed that the ruling party was likewise now a party of the whole people.  The dictatorship of the proletariat thus yielded to a higher, ‘supra-class’ unity.

With these formulations, Khrushchev raised to theory what had been occurring in practice all along.  The interpretations given to the dictatorship of the proletariat by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin had been predicated on the class cooperation of the workers, middle class and intelligentsia, i.e. “the people”.  All had used or at least condoned the use of the phrase “people’s revolution” as a synonym for proletarian revolution.  And all shared the primary assumption that the proletarian character of the party and state was determined first and foremost by the party intellectuals.  The phrase “proletarian dictatorship” was needed mainly to reassure and contain the working class, to rally it for national development.  And, as in the 1960’s USSR, once that control was firmly established, the phrase was really no longer necessary.

The metamorphosis of the state naturally embraced the transformation of the democracy on which the state had previously rested.  As stated in the Programme, “...proletarian democracy is becoming more and more a socialist democracy of the people as a whole...” (Ibid. p.23).  This thesis was unnecessary, since even by Lenin’s more ‘left’ statements, proletarian democracy was all along democracy of the “whole people”, i.e. for the petty bourgeoisie as well.  The CPSU’s intent, however, was simply to purge “proletarian” from the state vocabulary.

Khrushchev elaborated additional ironies in connection with the practical arrangement of the new people’s state.  The party, he explained, had set itself “...the task of drawing every citizen without exception into management of public affairs...” (Ibid. p.103), a feat that would be accomplished by improving the standard of living, improving popular representation, conducting national discussions, establishing more popular control over administration, and by accountability of state officials.  Thus the conditions which in 1917 Lenin had put forward as essential measures to even commence socialist construction were in 1961 introduced as new measures well after socialism was already declared to have been accomplished.

As for countries still deprived of states of the whole people or people’s democracies, the CPSU Programme promised that “...in present-day conditions in a number of capitalist countries the working class headed by its vanguard has the possibility, on the basis of the workers’ and popular front and other possible forms of agreement and political cooperation among various parties and public organizations, of uniting the majority of the people, winning state power without civil war and ensuring the transfer of the basic means of production to the hands of the people...” (Ibid. p.9).

To reassure the more militant communist parties, however, the Programme also warned that if the ruling class should resort to violence, “...the possibility of a non-peaceful transition to socialism should be born in mind...” (Ibid.).  Given that even when the parties did advocate violence they made no practical steps to arm the working class, this caution was really no major revision of the CPSU’s previous line.

E. The Question of the State In the Split of the International Movement

During the post-war development of people’s democracies, as during the 1930’s united front period, all the communist parties agreed that the popular front and parliamentary coalition strategy should be pursued wherever possible.  At the same time, it was also agreed that in exceptional circumstances, as in China during the late 1940’s, civil war was possible and theoretically acceptable.  All the parties, including the CP China, were “in this or that form” pursuing parliamentary policies, and thus had no basis in principle for ideological disputes.  Even the Titoites, for all their ‘principled’ opposition to the CPSU, did not take matters as far as a fundamental polemic on parliamentary versus Soviet forms.

Khrushchev’s summation of the experience of the people’s democracies and his original theoretical contributions at the 22nd Congress occurred, however, at a time of growing conflict of national interests between the USSR, on the one hand, and China and various East European countries, on the other.  It is safe to assume that even without Khrushchev’s formulations, some basis for ideological differences would have been found behind which the national conflicts could unfold.  As it was, the issue of peaceful parliamentary transition, state and army of the whole people, and so on, were convenient ideological issues on which to differ, and eventually, on which to split.  The real aim of the struggle, i.e. escaping from the USSR’s sphere of influence, was thus achieved on the excuse of defending (or, as in the case of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, refuting) Marxist-Leninist principles, a method designed to rally working class and popular support for what was essentially a bourgeois-nationalist conflict.

One of the more vocal supporters of the CPSU, the CP USA had for more than 20 years invested its energy into parliamentary and coalition politics, and therefore welcomed the 20th Congress line and the elevation of people’s democracy as the new modus operandi.

In an article on the 20th Congress, CP USA Chairman William Foster wrote that just as Marx and Engels had themselves corrected the Communist Manifesto on the issue of “smashing”, and Lenin had corrected Marx re “the Continent”, the CPSU was now correcting Lenin on the question of parliamentary transition.  It was all part of a valid historical development of theory in relation to changed conditions.  Although the theory necessarily changed, some aspects simply reoccurred at a higher level.  For example, Foster explained, the consolidation of the people’s democracies “... involved making many changes in the bourgeois constitutions, or even rewriting them—the re-organization of the government apparatus—which is the present-day ‘breaking up of the state’ stressed by Marx and Lenin...” (Political Affairs, April 1956, p.16).  If Foster had done his homework, however, he would have found that even Engels at times viewed “smashing” as a matter of legal, parliamentary revisions, and that far from being a present-day phenomenon, such tactics had been advocated for more than 60 years.

In his proposals for the revolution in the United States, Foster stated that the party should support “...when the majority of the American people so decide, a people’s front government, whatever its specific form, within the framework of the present U.S. Constitution; that is, it should be established by legal, democratic action...” (Political Affairs, May 1956, p.14).  The CP USA and other CPSU-allied parties have continued to defend the parliamentary strategy, differing at times with the CPSU only on the issue of political autonomy, i.e. independence from the CPSU, of the parties themselves.  By the 17th National Convention of the CP USA in 1960, the popular front strategy was renamed the Anti-Monopoly Coalition, aimed at, as might be expected, establishing an “anti-monopoly government”.  During the rampant anti-imperialist upsurge of the student movement in the late 1960’s, the party even proposed replacing the Anti-Monopoly Coalition with an Anti-Imperialist Coalition, a move designed to make the party more attractive vis-à-vis the Maoist and new Marxist-Leninist groups.

During the same period, the French CP further developed its tactics of parliamentary coalition with the Social Democrats.  The Italian CP introduced the variation of “structural reform”, i.e. “smashing” under the status quo.  The Spanish CP emphasized polycentrism in the world movement and became a vanguard of the so-called “Euro communism”.  And so on.  Although in every case these theoretical variations were introduced as amendments to changed conditions, all objectively fell within the general category of “people’s democracy”, which in turn falls within the general Marxist-Leninist category of “proletarian power”.

As the most vocal opponents of the CPSU, the CP China began to pick at the 20th and 22nd Congress decisions although it had not previously disagreed with the CPSU on the issues of parliamentarism or viability of nonviolent paths to power.
At a Central Committee meeting following the 20th Congress, Mao defended the bulk of Stalin’s political activity and stated that “...Khrushchev’s report...says it is possible to seize state power by the parliamentary road, that is to say, it is no longer necessary for all countries to learn from the October Revolution.  Once this gate is opened, by and large Leninism is thrown away...” (Mao Tse Tung Selected Works, Vol. 5, p.341).  Evidently Mao did not feel that the CP China’s own dissolution of the Soviet base areas, parliamentary combination with the KMT, or even his own rejection of the Soviet form for new democracy was any retreat from Lenin’s theses.

Significantly, the main lesson of the October Revolution which Mao wished to retain was not violent tactics, the Soviet structure, nor Lenin’s later rejection of parliamentarism, but the Bolsheviks’ ability to mobilize the masses to restrain overt Right-wing elements, i.e. using the masses as a lever for intraparty power struggles.  In a warning to the CP China’s Right wing, the group most responsive to Khrushchev’s report, Mao declared that “...you are afraid of the masses taking to the streets, I am not, not even if hundreds of thousands do it... Great democracy can be directed against bureaucrats, too...” (Ibid. p.344).  During the Cultural Revolution ten years later, Mao put this threat into practice.

In 1957, Mao elaborated his defense of revolutionary phrases and accused Khrushchev of renouncing violent tactics altogether.  The communist parties, Mao wrote, “...should be prepared for two possibilities, one for peace and the other for war.  In the first case, the Communist Party demands peaceful transition from the ruling class, following Lenin in the slogan he advanced during the period between the February and October revolutions... However, the bourgeoisie will never hand over state power of their own accord... Then there is the second possibility.  If they want to fight and their fire the first shot, we cannot but fight back.  To seize state power by armed force -- this is the strategic slogan...” (Ibid. p.495).

Firstly, if as Mao affirms the bourgeoisie will never hand over state powers peacefully, then there are not two possibilities, but only one inevitability.  To state this, however, would have meant refuting Lenin’s tactics between the February and October revolutions and exposing his parliamentary-peaceful illusions.  Secondly, since the bourgeoisie will inevitably resist, it is strategic suicide to wait until it “fires the first shot”.  Even Marx admitted that the defensive is the death of the revolution.  But in order to advocate an armed offensive, Mao would have had to refute both Engels and Lenin: Engels for having supported the “first shot” thesis in the first place, and Lenin for having defended it.  And thirdly, if Mao was going to allow for such inconsistencies in his own standpoint, he had no fundamental basis for attacking Khrushchev.  Khrushchev, too, allowed for “two possibilities” and stressed that the violent option should be kept “in mind”.  Khrushchev simply emphasized peaceful parliamentarism, while allowing for violence.  Mao emphasized the possibility of violence, while in principle defending peaceful parliamentarism.  The tactical dispute could not have come to any substantial differences of principle so long as both sides remained within the principles of Marxism-Leninism.  The general theory advocated and accommodated both views.

Mao’s 1957 argument was restated in one of the major documents of the Sino Soviet split: A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement from 1963.  In this article, the CP China called upon the other parties to “...resolutely defend the revolutionary principles of the 1957 Declaration and the 1960 Statement...” (Proposal, FLP, Peking, 1963, p.3), although both documents—signed by the major parties—only defended the basic features of the people’s democracies.  Among those principles, the CP China cited “...world peace, national liberation, people’s democracy and socialism...” (Ibid. p.4).  But, according to the CP China, the CPSU’s support of peaceful transition “...violates the revolutionary principles of the 1957 Declaration and the 1960 Statement...” (Ibid. p.5).

The CP China conceded that “...in specific historical conditions, Marx and Lenin did raise the possibility that revolution may develop peacefully...” but “...there is no historical precedent for a peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism...” (Ibid. p.21).  The communist parties must therefore prepare “... for two eventualities, while preparing for a peaceful development of the revolution, it must also fully prepare for a non-peaceful development...” (Ibid. p.22).  As for Khrushchev’s “state of the whole people” and other theses, the CP China reminded the other parties that “...representative bourgeois figures have always called the bourgeois state a ‘state of all the people’, or a ‘state in which power belongs to all the people’...” (Ibid. p.40).  Thus instead of a thorough analysis of the question of the state, the CP China simply resorted to the cheap polemical device of guilt by association.

So hard-pressed was the CP China to find credible ideological differences with the CPSU, its Proposal is ridden with half-truths and multiple falsehoods.

The 1957 and 1960 statements of the various communist and workers’ parties were designed to substantiate and generalize the experience of the people’s democracies, and consequently upheld the parliamentary road to socialism and parliamentary structure of the people’s democratic governments.  The CPSU did not violate those statements, but only reaffirmed them as the general line of the world movement.  Likewise, although the CP China mentions Marx’s and Lenin’s allowance for peaceful transition, it does not analyze under what conditions that allowance was made.  To do so, in fact, would have supported the position of the CPSU, and not the CP China.  As for there not being a historical precedent for peaceful transition, all of the various people’s democracies were based on a peaceful class collaboration.  The violence that did occur, i.e. WWII or the Chinese civil war, was not the violence of proletarian revolution, but of inter-imperialist rivalry and national independence.  Thus it was the CP China that was in reality violating the reformist principles of the 1957 and 1960 statements, by stressing the ‘left’ catchphrases that had long been abandoned by every other party, including at times the CP China itself.

The Chinese Party sharpened its attack the following year in a polemic entitled On Khrushchev’s Phoney (sic) Communism.  The upper levels of Soviet society were described as being “...degenerate elements from among the leading cadres of Party and government organizations, enterprises and farms as well as bourgeois intellectuals...” (On Khrushchev’s Phoney Communism, FLP, Peking, 1964, p.24).  As the Cultural Revolution a few years later would show, however, a degenerate upper class was not limited to the USSR alone.
As an added argument, the CP China reminded the CPSU that from October, 1917, to the New Economic Policy, Lenin “...laid great stress on adherence to the principle of the Paris Commune in wage policy...and only bourgeois specialists were to be paid high salaries...” (Ibid. p.25).  This statement is phrased so as to defend the CP China’s own practice of granting higher pay and privileges to specialists, and to criticize the CPSU’s granting privileges to all government and party officials.  But even this limited criticism is based on a falsehood, since originally Lenin viewed the special treatment of professionals as a departure from the Commune, as a retreat from the offensive on capital.  Typically, the Chinese CP did not bother to recite the other Commune features the CPSU had deviated from, since the CP China had never incorporated them into their own government in the first place.

The CP China made up for this deficiency during the Cultural Revolution.  In the “Sixteen Point Decision” adopted by the 11th Plenum of the Central Committee during August 1966, the party called for the transformation of the cultural revolutionary groups and organizations into permanent organs of the proletarian Cultural Revolution.  Those organs were to be elected by the masses themselves, and the representatives subject to recall if they did not perform adequately.  But that was all.  The dissolution of the standing army, abolition of parliament, combination of parliamentary and executive functions, etc. were not formulated nor implemented.  The spontaneous seizure of arms by students and subsequent violent confrontations between Cultural Revolution factions became such a threat to law and order, in fact, that by the spring of 1967 the Commune measures were dropped and the “three-in-one combination”, which insured Red Army, i.e. state, control, was introduced.

Objectively, the Cultural Revolution was fought out between petty bourgeois democrats, on the one hand, and the gradually consolidating state monopoly bourgeoisie, on the other.  True to his word, Mao was not afraid to stir up the masses in order to restrain the Party Right and bureaucrats.  And stirring up the masses, in turn, necessitated the most ‘left’ catchphrases Marxism-Leninism could afford, i.e. the Commune.  Once these phrases had done their work, however, they themselves became an impediment to national economic development.

F. A Soviet Interpretation of State and Revolution

On the 50th anniversary of the publication of State and Revolution, the CPSU published a commemorative article in World Marxist Review that attempted to harmonize Lenin’s theses on the state with the practical experience of the people’s democracies.  The article is particularly interesting since although State and Revolution was dedicated to a more radical democratic and largely antiparliamentary programme, the Soviet authors had little difficulty abstracting its essentially reformist and parliamentary content in defense of people’s democracy.

In order to avoid the inconsistencies in Lenin’s views, the article not only ignores Lenin’s other writings on the state between 1917 and 1923, but also limits the review to only specific issues raised in State and Revolution.  As the authors state, “... we propose to deal only with some of the questions discussed by Lenin.  We certainly lay no claim to a comprehensive survey of Marxist-Leninist theory of state and revolution...” (Ladygin and Lebedev, “A Weapon in Our Struggle” World Marxist Review, Vol. 11 #3, March, 1968, p.51).  That is understandable.  Certainly no one would want to lay a claim to, let alone actually do, such a comprehensive survey.

Following this modest declaration, the authors proceed to reveal what they consider the essential links between State and Revolution and the postwar socialist camp.

On the question of violence in the revolution, the authors stress that by violence Lenin meant social coercion, and coercion, in turn, can occur in many forms, i.e. it does not necessarily mean armed force.  In addition, “...any sharp contrast between armed and peaceful forms of the revolution, making an absolute of either, is bound to be artificial...”(Ibid. p.52).  This interpretation, while contradicting Lenin’s formal support of armed violence in State and Revolution, is actually true to Lenin’s practical activity during and after 1917, as has already been demonstrated by Lenin’s views on peaceful transition, suffrage for the bourgeoisie, and so on.

On the issue of the Soviet form of government, the authors draw a parallel between the spontaneous formation of Soviets in 1917 and the creation of Fatherland Front committees during WWII.  In the people’s democracies, “...an essential role in the socialist revolution was played by the National Committees or organs of the Fatherland (Popular, National) Front...” (Ibid. p.52).  Likewise, in some cases “... organs of the People’s Army led by the proletarian vanguard, can become the embryo of revolutionary power...” and “… in some developed capitalist countries the Communist Parties believe that, given a changed alignment of social forces, traditional democratic institutions can carry out socialist reforms....” (Ibid.)  The authors point out, however, that “...these diverse views...are based on the principles enunciated by Lenin...” (Ibid.).  Here, too, the authors are on the mark, since although State and Revolution promotes Soviets over parliamentarism, Lenin himself at one time viewed the Constituent Assembly as a suitable organ for socialist transformation.

To reinforce the parliamentary path to power, the authors cite the 1957 and 1960 declarations of the communist parties which affirm the possibility of transforming “...parliament from an instrument of serving the class interests of the bourgeoisie into an instrument serving the people...” (Ibid. p.53).  Does this contradict Lenin?  No, the authors reply, because of the “...appearance of new features in bourgeois parliamentarism...” such as “...more active parliamentary intervention into political life and in ‘the real work of the state’...” (Ibid. p.54).  In fact, the 1957 and 1960 statements do contradict Lenin, but only in those instances in which he took a left line towards parliamentarism.  Since Lenin was not consistent in that standpoint, the authors are fully justified in updating his line to suit ordinary parliamentarism.

On the question of “smashing”, the authors state that “... Lenin had in mind chiefly the military bureaucratic apparatus...” and affirm “...the validity in our day, too, of Lenin’s proposition that the [military] machine must be destroyed as a preliminary condition for the victory of any real people’s revolution...”.  On the other hand, “...Lenin never advocated total destruction of the bourgeois machinery of government...” (Ibid. p.53) and cite in support of this statement the use of banking, public health, and so on.  What the authors imply, however, is that although Lenin advocated smashing the repressive apparatus, he did not necessarily advocate smashing the parliamentary apparatus.  By emphasizing the need to destroy the military, courts, etc., the authors stress what is most consistent in Lenin’s work, and leave themselves room to justify parliament, an issue on which Lenin himself equivocated.

State and Revolution, in the authors’ view, is therefore still valid for the contemporary movement.  Although the dictatorship of the proletariat is still necessary, the working class itself is changing in composition.  The “...higher percentage of skilled workers...” now means “...more effective working class leadership...”.  In addition, white-collar workers are becoming “...a new section of the working class...” and the interests of the workers and middle class professionals “...are being more closely harmonized...” (Ibid. p.55).  That is to say, the working class itself is becoming more middle class, and that in itself will ensure the viability and success of future people’s democracies.

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