From People's Voice
Newsletter of the Marxist-Leninist Collective
(Communist Party of New Zealand Reconstruction Collective)
March 1997

These Marxist Principles Cannot be Destroyed

There are various groups and parties in New Zealand claiming to be the correct upholders of Marxism- Leninism - the scientific system of philosophical, economic and political views constituting the world outlook of the working class that guides it in its historic mission of transforming the world by gaining political power, ending capitalism and all exploitation and building socialism as the first stage of communism.

Bach of these organisations believes the others are distorting some vital aspect of Marxism-Leninism. Each strives to win the others over to its viewpoint.

Marx had a firm approach on the subject of uniting. Lenin quoted him in "What is to be Done' in 1902:

"[Marx] sharply condemns eclecticism in the formulation of principles: If you must unite, Marx wrote to the party leaders, then enter into agreements to satisfy the practical aims of the movement, but do not allow any bargaining over principles, do not make 'concessions' in questions of theory. This was Marx's idea, and yet there are people among us who strive - in his name - to belittle the significance of theory.

"Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. This thought cannot be insisted upon too strongly at a time when the fashionable preaching of opportunism goes hand in hand with an infatuation for the narrowest forms of practical activity.

And that should be our approach.

The destruction of the first working class state, the Soviet Union, accompanied by the barrage of anti-communist propaganda, has disorganised the world's working class and produced a fertile field for erroneous theories.

At this stage it is worth noting Marx's attitude when it was obvious that the Paris Commune (the first proletarian seizure of power) was likely to be defeated in 1871:

"If the Commune should be destroyed, the struggle would only be postponed. The principles of the Commune are eternal and indestructible; they will present themselves again and again until the working class is liberated."

Marx was not disheartened by a set-back. He had discovered the law of social development that makes communism inevitable. Nor should we be disheartened by the destruction of the socialist camp.

Dictatorship of the proletariat

The principles of proletarian revolution are eternal and indestructible and will present themselves again and again until the working class has achieved its historic mission of ending class exploitation.

The most important principle of the Commune recognised by Marx was that the working class must be equipped to defeat and smash the violent state force of the capitalists and replace the dictatorship of the capitalists by the dictatorship of the proletariat.

After the death of Marx there were self-styled "Marxists" who tried to revise this eternal and indestructible principle by claiming that the situation had changed, that universal suffrage, democracy and reforms had done away with the need for the proletariat to forcibly remove the forcible state apparatus of capitalism.

Lenin exposed the falsity of these revisionist ideas in his articles "Marxism and Revisionism" (1908), "Differences in the European Labour Movement" (1910), "Reformism in the Russian Social-Democratic Movement" (1911), "Collapse of the Second International" (1915) and "Imperialism and the Split in Socialism" (1916).

In these works Lenin exposed the material base that produced those opportunists who were "socialists in words" but "joined the bourgeoisie in every serious crisis."

Expanding on the subject of revolutionary force Lenin had this to say in "The Military Programme of the Proletarian Revolution" (1916):

"An oppressed class which does not strive to learn to use arms, to acquire arms, only deserves to be treated like slaves. We cannot forget, unless we become bourgeois pacifists or opportunists, that we are living in a class society, that there is no way out of this society, and there can be none, except by means of the class struggle.

"In every class society, whether it is based on slavery, serfdom, or, as at present, on wage labour, the oppressing class is armed. Not only the modern standing army, but even the modern militia - even in the most democratic bourgeois republics, Switzerland, for example - represent the bourgeoisie armed against the proletariat. This is such an elementary truth that it is hardly necessary to dwell upon it.

"It is sufficient to recall the use of troops against strikers in all capitalist countries.

"The fact that the bourgeoisie is armed against the proletariat is one of the biggest, most fundamental, and most important facts in modern capitalist society. And in face of this fact, revolutionary Social-Democrats are urged to 'demand disarmament'! This is tantamount to the complete abandonment of the point of view of the class struggle, the renunciation of all thought of revolution. Our slogan must be: the arming of the proletariat for the purpose of vanquishing, expropriating and disarming the bourgeoisie. These are the only tactics a revolutionary class can adopt, tactics which follow logically from the whole objective development of capitalist militarism, and dictated by that development. Only after the proletariat has disarmed the bourgeoisie will it be able, without betraying its world- historical mission, to throw all armaments on the scrap heap; and the proletariat will undoubtedly do this, but only when this condition has been fulfilled, certainly not before."

Be prepared

Only extreme dogmatists would say this means we must rush out and arm every worker with a rifle right now.

The essence of this principle is that the working class must be shown the reality of the state force that keeps the minority exploiting class in power, the reality of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. This entails preparing the working class to respond appropriately at every stage of the class struggle from strikes to revolutionary action.

It is a measure of the capitalist propaganda successes that many socialists nowadays bend over backwards to avoid using or explaining phrases such as "revolutionary struggle", "seizure of state power', "smashing the capitalist state machine" and "dictatorship of the proletariat".

Marxist-Leninists, taking the political level of their audience into account, carefully explain their meaning. To completely avoid such Marxist terms leads to avoiding the realities the terms represent. It is yielding to enemy propaganda to such an extent that it is helping that propaganda.

Indeed this is what the capitalist propaganda is designed to do - to force a retreat from the principle by forcing a retreat from the word or phrase that has been smeared.

Proletarian Internationalism

The smears against the words "socialist" and "soviet" were designed to whittle away support for the achievements of the first workers' socialist state, to undermine the eternal and indestructible principle of proletarian internationalism.

The Soviet workers were able to hold state power and build socialism in one country only as long as they had the strong support of the working class in other countries. Lenin made this clear right from the start.

This is the principle of proletarian internationalism, the application of the slogan "Workers of all countries unite. We have nothing to lose but our chains. We have a world to win."

The working class and oppressed people of the capitalist countries benefitted from the successes of socialist construction in the Soviet Union. The capitalists could not afford to exploit and oppress their own peoples to the fullest extent while there was the example of what workers could achieve with their socialist system.

In 1926, in a report to the Seventh Enlarged Plenum of Executive Committee of the Communist International, Stalin warned what would happen if proletarian internationalism was not operating and the Soviet Union was destroyed:

"The Party holds that the 'national' and international tasks of the proletariat of the U.S.S.R. merge into the one general task of emancipating the proletarians of all countries from capitalism, that the interests of the building of socialism in our country wholly and completely merge with the interests of the revolutionary movement of all countries into the one general interest of the victory of the socialist revolution in all countries.

"What would happen if the proletarians of all countries did not sympathise with and support the Republic of Soviets?

"There would be intervention and the Republic of Soviets would be smashed. What would happen if capital succeeded in smashing the Republic of Soviets?

"There would set in an era of the blackest reaction in all the capitalist and colonial countries, the working class and the oppressed peoples would be seized by the throat, the positions of international communism would be lost.

"What will happen if the sympathy and support that the Republic of Soviets enjoys among the proletarians of all countries grows and intensifies? It will radically facilitate the building of socialism in the USSR.

"What will happen if the achievements of socialist construction in the U.S.S.R. continue to grow? It will radically improve the revolutionary position of the proletarians of all countries in their struggle against capital, will undermine the position of international capital in its struggle against the proletariat, and will greatly heighten the chances of the world proletariat."

History shows that the international support for the Soviet Union was eventually eroded and that capital succeeded in smashing the Republic.

And the period of the blackest reaction has started. Internationally nearly a quarter of the world's population goes hungry as their countries are plundered; there is a growth of military and neo-fascist regimes under imperialist patronage; harsher imperialist pressures are being exerted on more nations; wars are being fought by imperialist proxies; organised crime works in partnership with giant monopolies and finance capital and state agencies. Locally there is the sabotage of effective trade unions, the liquidation of the Communist Party, the growing unemployment and poverty, decreasing health, housing, education and social services, etc. etc. And this is just the beginning.

The enormous propaganda onslaught against the Soviet Union increased and reached new intensity after World War Two. The news media of press and radio was strengthened by television "documentaries." Novelists, playwrights, artists and entertainers were handsomely rewarded for anti-communist smears.

Inside the Soviet Union the dictatorship of the proletariat was also under attack. During the war, as Malenkov pointed out in his report to the 19th Congress of the CPSU in 1952, the party had replaced its political leadership with that of "managing institutions." This had given rise to self-seeking bureaucrats, suppression of criticism, cronyism, false reports and corruption, he said, also attacking "vestiges of bourgeois ideology."

After Stalin's death in 1953, these bureaucrats became more entrenched and more self-seeking. They usurped power from the working class. The dictatorship of the proletariat no longer existed. The socialist economy, with the profit motive introduced in some areas, started on a decline that ended in the full capitalism we see today.

Khrushchov, in his 1956 report to the 20th Congress of the CPSU, referred to peaceful transition to socialism in this way:

"The historical situation has undergone radical changes which make possible a new approach to the question. The forces of socialism and democracy have grown immeasurably throughout the world and capitalism has become much weaker... In a number of capitalist countries... the working class... is in a position to defeat the reactionary forces opposed to the interests of the people, to capture a stable majority in parliament and to transform the latter from an organ of bourgeois democracy into a genuine instrument of the people's will."

This was making peaceful transition a general principle instead of an event that could only take place in exceptional circumstances, such as where the capitalists had been unable to build an effective state force that could be used against the workers or to call on the state force of another capitalist country.

This gave the green light to a multiplicity of opportunist theories that did away with the basic Marxist-Leninist principle of the revolutionary proletariat smashing the violent capitalist state apparatus. It negated the principle of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie being replaced by the dictatorship of the proletariat.

They recognised only the class struggle and did not extend it to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. They became acceptable to the bourgeoisie.

The events in the Soviet Union and the socialist camp provided increasing ammunition for the western propagandists.

The anarchy of Soviet capitalism was depicted as socialism and proof that socialism did not work.

The Trotskyists, whose specialty is attacking the left from the left, gained new recognition and patronage that resurrected their movement from the political dungheap.

In the capitalist countries, the communist movement was splitting into various groups and revising the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism by agreeing there was a new era that demanded new principles and theories.

This was also typified by the Yugoslav revisionist leader Tito in 1959 when he said "Today the world has entered an epoch in which nations can relax and tranquilly devote themselves to their internal construction tasks.... We have entered an epoch when new questions are on the agenda, not questions of war and peace but questions of cooperation, economic and otherwise, and when economic cooperation is concerned there is also the question of economic competition."

Today we can see the horrific outcome of such a line in Yugoslavia. This line painted over the realities of the fierce struggle between the imperialist camp and the socialist camp, of the rivalry between imperialist powers, of the struggle of oppressed people against imperialist domination.

Most of all it does away with the reality of the class struggle, the capitalist state force, proletarian internationalism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

It has revised all the basic eternal and indestructable principles of Marxism-Leninism.

Hallmark of a Marxist

Lenin in "State and Revolution" (1916) said:

"It is often said and written that the main point in Marx's teachings is the class struggle; but this is not true. And from this untruth very often springs the opportunist distortion of Marxism, its falsification in such a way as to make it acceptable to the bourgeoisie. For the doctrine of the class struggle was created not by Marx, but by the bourgeoisie before Marx, and generally speaking it is acceptable to the bourgeoisie.

"Those who recognize only the class struggle are not yet Marxists: they may be found to be still within the boundaries of bourgeois thinking and bourgeois politics.

"To confine Marxism to the doctrine of the class struggle means curtailing Marxism, distorting it, reducing it to something which is acceptable to the bourgeoisie.

"Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is what constitutes the most profound difference between the Marxist and the ordinary petty (as well as big) bourgeoisie. This is the touchstone on which the real understanding and recognition of Marxism is to be tested.

"And it is not surprising that when the history of Europe brought the working class face to face with this question as a practical issue, not only all the opportunists and reformists, but all the 'Kautskyites' (people who vacillate between reformism and Marxism) proved to be miserable philistines and petty-bourgeois democrats who repudiate the dictatorship of the proletariat."

The basic principles of Marxism, emphasised by Lenin, are eternal and indestructible. Tactics must change according to local levels of development and circumstances, but the underlying principles cannot be changed.

And the same applies to Lenin's contributions to Marxism, for Marxism- Leninism is "Marxism in the era of imperialism and the proletarian revolution."

Imperialism has not changed its basic features since Lenin analysed them in "Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism" in 1916.

The special features of imperialism that Lenin defined, still operate:

1.. The concentration of production and capital develops to such a high stage that monopolies play a decisive role in economic life

2.. The merging of bank and industrial capital creates finance capital and a financial oligarchy

3.. The export of capital has developed as distinct from the export of commodities

4.. International monopolies share the world among themselves

5.. The struggle between imperialist powers for redivision of the world means imperialism is inseparable from imperialist wars

6.. Imperialism, as the highest and last stage of capitalism, is the epoch of proletarian revolution.

Other Diversions

The leading revolutionary role of the proletariat can be diverted, obscured and usurped in other ways. It can be submerged in broad united fronts before it has developed its own organisation, let alone leading role.

It is a fact that the national democratic stage of the revolutionary process is necessary before the socialist stage in colonial type countries.

But to say that the proletariat of a developed capitalist nation like New Zealand must unite with local "patriotic" capitalists against foreign capitalists is a form of social-chauvinism that keeps the local bourgeoisie in power. It is paving the way for junior and would-be NZ imperialists to compete with foreign imperialists.

To encourage such a "patriotic front" before the proletariat has developed its theory, organisation and political party is to hand over leadership to the organised capitalists, to become submerged and impotent "activists" and "mass workers."

Even with colonial style countries where a two-stage revolution is necessary, if the proletariat does not establish a leading role in the national-democratic revolution, then it cannot advance to the stage of socialist revolution and proletarian dictatorship.

If there is no proletarian dictatorship (a socialist form of economy does not necessarily mean the proletariat holds state power) then capitalism and imperialism develop. We have the example of modern China (having won its national democratic revolution by building a patriotic front) now well on its way to becoming an imperialist superpower.

To side with New Zealand monopolies against foreign rival monopolies means abandoning class struggle in favour of the local bourgeoisie and is really agreeing with Kautsky's argument that the socialists of all belligerent powers have an equal right "to defend the fatherland."

Doing away with the leading role of the revolutionary proletariat, lays the basis for, and encourages, various forms of social-chauvinism, of cooperation with the local bourgeoisie against rival bourgeoisie.

Opportunism and its social chauvinist form divert real revolutionary class theory, organisation and struggle.

As Lenin said in "Socialism and War" (1915):

"Opportunism and social chauvinism have the same economic basis: the interests of a tiny stratum of privileged workers and of the petty bourgeoisie who are defending their privileged position, their 'right' to crumbs of the profits 'their' national bourgeoisie obtain from robbing other nations, from the advantages of their position as the ruling nation etc. Opportunism and social chauvinism have the same ideological-political content: collaboration of classes instead of class struggle, renunciation of revolutionary methods of struggle, helping one's 'own' government in its embarrassed situation instead of taking advantage of these embarrassments for revolution.

We repeat Lenin's words "Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Background to this article

In November 1996, a forum "In Defence of Marxism-Leninism" was organised in Auckland by the Workers' Institute for Scientific Socialist Education.

Papers were delivered on behalf of the Socialist Party of Aotearoa, the Organisation for Marxist Unity and the Marxist-Leninist Collective (MLC).

The MLC contribution is the article in this issue of the People's Voice.

In the discussion that followed, a visiting leading member of the Communist Party of the USA said that Marx had written that peaceful transition to socialism was possible.

This is true. And it is equally true that Lenin ripped into Kautsky for misusing the same quotation, for turning exceptions into general laws thereby distorting reality and serving the class enemy.

Lenin (in "The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky") points out that there are no historical laws relating to revolution that have no exceptions and Kautsky was befogging the situation when he said "Marx... was of the opinion that in England and America a peaceful revolution was possible, that is, by democratic means."

Lenin pointed out that in the 1870s - when Marx made his reference to England and America - there were exceptional features.

The necessity for revolutionary proletarian violence against the bourgeoisie "is particularly created," said Lenin, "as Marx and Engels have repeatedly explained in detail (especially in the 'Civil War in France' and in the preface to it), by the existence of a military clique and a bureaucracy. But it is precisely these institutions that were non-existent precisely in England and in America and precisely in the 1870s, when Marx made his observations (they do exist in England and America now.)

"Kautsky the 'historian' so shamelessly falsifies history that he 'forgets' the fundamental fact that premonopoly capitalism - which reached its zenith actually in the 1870s - was by virtue of its fundamental economic traits, which found most typical expression in England and in America, distinguished by a, relatively speaking, maximum fondness for peace and freedom.

"Imperialism on the other hand, that is, monopoly capitalism, which fully matured only in the twentieth century, is, by virtue of its fundamental economic traits, distinguished by a minimum fondness for peace and freedom and by a maximum and universal development of militarism.

"To 'fail to notice' this in discussing the extent to which a peaceful or violent revolution is typical or probable is to stoop to the position of a most ordinary lackey of the bourgeoisie," added Lenin.

We believe that the track record of the modern capitalists shows that they are prepared to use the maximum deception and violence to defend their rule. To conceal this reality means to disarm the working class at all levels of struggle.

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